Tag: winter

Kohlrabi, Kale & Black Rice Salad

January is a funny old month. We’re trying to break old habits and exercise more, eat better, sleep longer… But it’s a cold, dark month and maybe sleeping more is really the best suited resolution for January!!!

Last week I wrote not about a new year’s resolution as such but about setting a positive intension for the year which included to nourish myself. Cue healthy salad recipe… ha! But I don’t just mean with food, obviously that’s part of it. But also to nourish my mind and body, maybe by spending less time on social media and more time meditating. More time strengthening and practising yoga. More time traveling and experiencing new things. Those kind of nourishing things.

We’re one month into the new year and it’s been going fairly well so far. I’ve been receiving treatment for an ongoing bad back and a niggling knee injury that brought any of last years cycling ambitions to a complete end. I’m doing daily strengthening exercise to rebalance and realign my posture which has been the cause of both injuries. I’ve practised mindfulness daily and I’m still struggling with the social media bit…. but I’m not going to be too hard on myself : )

Food-wise I’ve been eating pretty well for the last year or so. I’ve cut down heavily on refined sugar, wheat, alcohol and any processed foods. I eat a balanced diet, jam-packed with local, seasonal vegetables! What’s more I really feel the difference. The feeling after eating a fresh, flavour-packed, filling meal to a processed meal or snack laden with sugar of wheat is unbelievable. Light and energised or heavy and sluggish, this is what has helped me easily sustain a healthy balanced diet.

The great thing about having transitioned to a healthy, nourishing diet is that I don’t feel guilty about having the odd, not-so-nourishing meal or snack. I know that for 80-90% of the week my body is thanking me for eating well with energy and concentration levels to suit. So if time gets the best of my healthy, advanced food preparation or I’m in a situation where being vegan means my only option is chips, its ok and I don’t have to feel bad, I can just move on knowing the next thing I eat will probably be much more nourishing. 

We got there in the end… cue healthy salad recipe, for the 80-90% of the week when you want something fresh, flavour-packed and filling to leave you feeling light and energised. This salad will definitely not disappoint!
Kohlrabi kale and black rice saladvegan winter salad

Kohlrabi-and-kale-salad copy

Kohlrabi was one of those strange vegetables I have never encountered until I signed up for a weekly, local and organic veg bag. I was like, kohl-you-what-now!? So I did the usual thing I do with unknown vegetables, roast them and hope for the best… and it was ok. It wasn’t until I discovered this recipe using raw kohlrabi from Love and Lemons that I realised kohlrabi is totally amazing! 

I have made many a meal inspired by the spicy kohlrabi noodles from Love and Lemons, depending on what other vegetables are to hand. I wanted to share this version (my new favourite) before the kohlrabi season comes to an end. They should be back by around mid-late summer, so not too long to wait if you do miss this season.

Kohlrabi, Kale & Black Rice Salad
Serves 2-3

100g Black rice
1/2 Large kohlrabi
Large handful of cavolo nero or kale
1 Carrot
Handful of tender stem broccoli 
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1tbsp rapeseed oil
Red chilli to taste
Handful of fresh coriander 
2 tsp sesame seeds

For the kohlrabi marinade:
2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp rice mirin
Juice of 1 lime
A few slices of red chilli, to taste
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1cm piece of ginger, grated

  • Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together in a large mixing bowl. Peel and finely slice the kohlrabi into thin match sticks and add it to the marinade, and mix thoroughly. Place in the fridge whilst you prepare the rest of the dish.
  • Place the rice in a saucepan and pour over roughly double the amount of boiling water. Bring to the boil and simmer for around 40 minutes until tender. (Check the rice now and then to make sure it doesn’t boil dry, adding a little water when necessary.)
  • Wash the cavolo nero or kale and slice down wither side of the tough stem and discard. Roughly chop the remaining leaves and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the rice vinegar and rapeseed oil and massage into the leaves until they start to soften then set aside.
  • Wash the broccoli and steam over the rice or over a pan of boiling water for 10-15 minutes until just tender. Rinse immediately under cold water to stop it cooking any further.
  • Wash and peel the carrot then, peel into ribbons.
  • Once the rice is cooked, rinse through cold water to cool. 
  • Remove the kohlrabi from the fridge and add the kale, carrot, chopped coriander and rice, and mix together. Spoon into a large serving bowl. Arrange the broccoli pieces on top, pour over the remaining marinade, sprinkle with sesame seeds and sliced chilli and serve.

Amy x

Winter Bumblebees?

Winter is a reclusive season, a time for silence, reflection and dormancy. It seems so still out there without bees buzzing about but we’re lucky we can be sure that they will emerge once again next year. There is something deeply reassuring about the repeating seasons and cycles of the natural world.

Hedera Helix

Ivy bearing bright yellow pollen in December

The typical lifecycle of a bumblebee is for queens to go into hibernation over the winter months and to emerge in spring to forage and produce eggs to build up a colony of female workers and males for the summer. Later in the season she produces new queens who go out and mate with the males. The old queen and the colony then die off leaving only the young mated queens to hibernate overwinter and start the cycle once more the next year.

I thought all bumblebees follow this cycle and all are in hibernation throughout December, January and February so I was shocked last week to find this one in our garden collecting big balls of bright yellow Ivy pollen on its legs. Usually this time of year it’s honeybees I’ve seen on Ivy.

Bombus Terrestris

After some research I found out that in some parts of the UK this bee, the Buff Tailed bumblebee [Bombus Terrestris] has now become active throughout the winter too.

It is estimated that Buff Tailed queens are visiting 6000 flowers a day at this time of year in order to collect enough nectar to maintain the heat required to brood her eggs. When she is away from the nest foraging the eggs will cool so her trips need to be short and its important she finds forage close by. It is often overlooked that we should grow plants that provide nectar and pollen throughout the winter for the non-hibernating honeybees and now also the Buff Tails! Key plants for the Buff Tails over winter are Mahonia, Strawberry Tree, Vibernum Arrowwood Dawn, Winter Honeysuckle, Rhododendron, Clematis and Ivy.

bumblebee in december 1

Having not seen a bee for a while, I was very excited to see the Buff Tailed. What a resilient little bee out and about now! There is however a slightly unnerving side to the story of my winter bumblebee sighting. With some further research it seems that this winter appearance could be a result of commercially bred, non-native bumblebees escaping from farms into the wild and mating with the Buff Tails, creating a winter hardy hybrid bee. Maybe this is what I’ve seen? BWARS [The Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society] is carrying out a study on the winter activity of the Buff Tails this year so I submitted my sighting to their website.

“Captive nests, not of the British sub-species, are now used by commercial tomato and fruit growers for pollination. Unfortunately, some sexuals may escape and inter-breed with wild bees.” BWARS

This sounds a bit concerning! Bees shape our landscape with their pollination trips and if the behavior of the bees changes, then so do plant responses.

Should we focus on increasing the intrinsic biodiversity of our farms to ensure healthy wild bee populations so we don’t need to import commercially bred species of bumbles? Yes! And why is importing non-native bees not regulated to prevent hybridisation and the spread of disease? There must be a lot of money in the bumblebee breeding business for the government to be overlooking this!!

The alternative explanation for the Buff Tails activity over winter is climate change with mild winter weather disturbing their hibernation earlier. If our winters continue to warm, it seems more bees will respond by being more active and we will see changes to our whole pollinator and plant cycles.

Bee tongue

This active winter behaviour has only been observed since the late 1990’s and is still a bit of a mystery to us. Whatever the cause for this winter activity, I sure was pleased to see her but its also reminded me that we are living through changing times for the little bees, for the planet and for us.

Who knows what winters will be like in 30 years? I hope our wild bumblebees will still be around safely dreaming their overwintering dreams underground : )

Merry Christmas bee lovers. Watch out for those Buff Tails!