Friday, 14 February 2014

Triumphant Teasel and the Great Cheese Challenge

There are 700 named cheeses produced in Britain and I am on a mission to try them all. Fellow cheese fanciers will understand that the magnitude of this task might prevent a blogger from posting for a good few weeks. For those 
non-turophiles among you, my feeble excuse for posting absolutely nothing of late is that we moved into a house without a phone line. (Thankfully the property was fitted with a fully functioning fridge filled with cheese, so I used my time wisely).


Perfect conditions for a move
We awoke for the first time in our new home on Christmas Eve and although there is still plumbing* and door hanging to complete, we do at last have Wi-Fi, so I am back in the blogosphere and having a fascinating time catching up with your posts.


home heaving with builders is hardly a relaxing place to hibernate with a laptop, so occasionally I feel obliged to peel myself away from the screen and work off my cheese hips in the garden. I refrain from tidying borders until spring as seed heads provide nutritious food for birds and once the seeds are gone, the husks and broken stems make excellent minibeast and ladybird sanctuaries. Consequently, at this time of year I focus my gardening efforts on that exhausting duo of calorie burners: staring at borders and compiling lists. 


My most recent border patrol had me reminiscing over the extraordinarily extended and valuable performance by Dipsacus fullonum (teasel). Although it is a plant we see growing naturally around the pond and in the paddocks, I use it in the farmhouse garden because of its significance for wildlife. It also happens to add structure to the borders for very little financial outlay and does a fabulous job of linking our garden with the countryside beyond. In summer, its nectar-rich flowers are much loved by bumble bees, hoverflies and butterflies. If you have never watched teasel come into bloom, you are missing a treat. The purple flowers open in a most intriguing order, demanding daily inspection (usually with a mug of coffee in hand) to see what is going to happen next. 


For all its fascinating unfurling, I love teasel most when it is going to seed. Glorious in the autumn sunshine, it raises its skinny teasel arms in triumph. 
Tah dah! Teasel, champion of the goldfinch seed chart and all-round good plant. Sow in spring and since teasel is a biennial, it will suppress weeds with its rosette of leaves for months on end and flower the following year, after which you will be able to marvel at your own triumphant teasel’s bulging biceps. 


For more information about beautiful British Cheese, visit http://www.britishcheese.com

52 comments:

  1. A new home and a new garden, sounds very exciting! Sounds like you're starting to settle already in your new abode and good to hear your initial musings on your new place. Looking forward to hearing more updates and how you get along in your new home and garden :)

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    1. Thank you! We are delighted to finally move in, although we are now in the middle of the two-steps-forward-one-step-back phase of the build (or at least I hope it is the middle). We start the garden in the last week of February - if I were a betting gardener, my money would be on snow in Norfolk on Feb 26th.

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  2. Congratulations on your new home. Must be exciting to think of what all you are going to do to not only your home but also your new garden.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. Thank you! It is exciting, although I confess that I prefer designing gardens to interiors. I keep focussing on watching the sun set from the drinks terrace (which is where the removal van is parked in the first photo). Clearly there is a little work to do before I achieve this dream!

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  3. I hope your new home is watertight and windproof at least! I like cheese but it doesn't like me. Teasel is beautiful and I love the last image with the thorny spikes curling around it. I'm glad you back on-line.

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    1. The timing of this awful weather has meant that any leaks are fixed immediately and we know that the roof has survived some extremely high winds, which is reassuring. It has been a testing time for the barn and so far, it has passed with flying colours. Another storm is brewing now - we'll see how it does this time.

      Thank you, I am glad to be back on-line, although I am sorry that cheese doesn't like you. I'm a coeliac so I know how rotten it is to watch other people enjoying food you love. You have my sympathies.

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  4. I was wondering where you had got to - now I know. At long last you have moved in - I hope you feel the wait was worth it. I had a fine batch of teasels last year - the bees absolutely loved them. I am stuck on only five cheeses so far - only 695 to go.

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    1. It has been a very long build, but it was worth the effort and it was great to move in over Christmas when we were all able to be at home. 695? I envy anyone with 695 cheeses to try!

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  5. I sowed teasel on our plot years ago with wildlife in mind but the trouble was it self seeded everywhere so it had to go. Not a very well behaved plant is it?

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    1. Teasel has a reputation for seeding itself about freely, but it isn't a problem here - even the plants around the paddock and the pond don't cause problems - we see a few every year, but certainly not enough to worry about. I would think it is because we are blessed with a lot of seed-eating birds. One thing is certain, if it seeds where it isn't wanted, it should be removed as soon as possible, or we'll have the devil of a job to remove it later!

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  6. So that's why you've been missing from my reading list for a while. The cheese tasting sounds like a great way to get through the move.

    The dried teasel is so elegant. I love your image of staring at borders and making lists. We are having a week of warm sunny weather and it's tough not to get the pruners going but there will be more freezes and all the little creatures in the garden still need a place to hide.

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    1. Step away from those pruners Shirley and grab a pencil and notebook! You're right - a week of warm weather would test even the most resolute wildlife gardener - although I would like the opportunity to assess my resolution rather than the ability of my home to withstand these constant storms. Enjoy your weekend - I hope it stays warm and sunny for you.

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  7. That is wonderful! Congratulations on your new home. You must be very excited about that. And very busy!

    700 cheeses to try! Now, that's one heck of a goal!

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    1. Thank you Martha. It is a busy time, but it's fun and I am building up my own biceps carrying boxes of books. Where HAVE all these books come from?

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  8. A new home and a new garden, how fabulous. I bet you will have lots of fun.

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    1. Thank you. It is a lot of fun. I have just found a photo of me in the barn we now live in which was taken 10 years ago. It has been a long wait!

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  9. Congratulations on your new home, looking forward to seeing your new garden!
    Your quest to taste the 700 cheeses in Britain sounds interesting, I like most of what’s labelled cheese, but being on a gluten free and lactose free diet it is limited what I can eat, although some of the more mature cheeses contain very little lactose and are fine in small portions. Hope to see you around more often now that your Internet connection is sorted :-)

    PS! When you are finished tasting all the 700 cheeses produced here in Britain, think of all the cheese you can move on to taste from other countries! I bet you have never tasted ‘Brown Cheese’ from Norway, or ‘Gudbrandsdalen Mesost’ which it is actually called. It is so delicious, you can buy it from Ocado in their Speciality/International/Scandinavian section, it taste absolutely wonderful on toasted hot cross buns!

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    1. Thank you! And thank you for the tip about Ocado and Brown Cheese. I will be checking it out. I wouldn't have thought of putting cheese on hot cross buns, but I will give it a whirl. I suspect that it is going to be a match made in heaven.

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  10. You crack me up! I love cheese, too, despite being severely lactose intolerant. Are teasel and thistle the same plant? I love those teasel arms, too. Triumphant seems like the perfect word to describe them. :o)

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    1. Teasel isn't a thistle. I am shocked at how many lactose intolerant bloggers who love cheese there are on this planet. Something needs to be done about it!

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  11. I have never seen teasel. I love how the arms curl up. I was thinking about how it looks like a little valentine, but I liked your description of arms raised in triumph much better. Either way, though, it's a fun design! Congratulations on a new home. It will be so much fun to see what plants pop up throughout the year, and to design new areas. Plus, you have the perfect excuse to go plant shopping!

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    1. Like we need an excuse to go plant shopping! Teasel does look like a little valentine. Perhaps we should start sending bouquets of teasel heads in February instead of red roses.

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  12. I'm sure you are going to have plenty of fun of seeing what's growing in your new garden. Congratulation on your new home. I've read too that teasel can be a real pain - it grows on a vacant plot near my house, those seed head are a marvel aren't they.

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    1. Sadly there are a handful of trees in our new garden and nothing else as it was concrete, a farmyard, a nissen hut and a boar pen before we converted the barn. By this summer we will have a garden.

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  13. Good to see you back in the blog-o-sphere! I agree totally about Teasels , and feel they are very under rated. I grow them in my borders and will forever see them holding up their little twirly arms in triumph !!Lovely image !

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    1. Thank you! It is great to be back. Glad to see that you are a fellow teasel fan.

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  14. A new home for the new year - hope you're settling in well... a fridge full of cheese sounds like a good start! Will there be some cheesy blog posts to document your challenge over the next few weeks/months?

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    1. Perhaps we should start a Cheesy Tuesday meme.

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  15. So pleased to read your post. Such exciting news and a garden just waiting for your magic wand. As for Teasel..I love it too but the reseed thing got me down so it had to go.

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    1. Oh imagine if we could just wave a magic wand... no back ache... no need for rabbit fencing.... no need to shift tonnes of top soil. On the other hand, there would be a lot of sorry gardeners around. What a shame about your teasel. If it's any consolation, I am feeling a little bit like that about one of my favourite plants, Cerinthe major. It is everywhere - who would have thought it could make a good lawn seed? Beautiful though.

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  16. You moved! That is a gold carat excuse for not blogging for a while if ever I heard one. I am glad to learn that you too gaze out over an area that a lesser mortal might describe as a wasteland and see and glorious piece of garden - or drinks terrace. Or possibly cheese eating terrace? For some reason I always struggle to get teasel established in my garden. I am determined to succeed this year, it is too beautiful in death and too useful to wildlife not to grow. Dammit. Grow!

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    1. You tell it! A cheese eating terrace? Now there's an idea.

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  17. Congratulations on moving into your home! Will we get to see photos? The architecture of the dried teasel seed head is fabulous. I wasn't that familiar with this plant. And here's to eating cheeses and to the hard work of staring at borders and making garden lists!

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    1. Good idea! I will take some photos and give you a house tour.

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  18. Congrats on your new move !
    Oh to be able to sit in my garden again with my lap top will be fabulous .
    We had a snow storm weekend past and another bout of snow yesterday ~ but I know eventually the little crocus and the rest of the flowery gang will find their way up to the sun.

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    1. Snow! We haven't had any yet this winter (we will probably wake to find we are deluged in the morning). I had a hope-of-summer sandwich al fresco yesterday - this involves eating cheese coupled with salad and thoughts of summer while wearing thermals, coat, hat and if necessary, gloves. It will not be long before you are outside with your laptop and lunch.

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  19. Ah! I love cheese, but I am getting out of it because the way cows are treated in America in the name of getting dairy from them -- simply horrible and real animal cruelty. I think in the UK, you still have all those small farms where cows are treated nicely. Yes, they also exists in the US but the cheese are not produced using such cruelty-free methods.

    Teasel -- looks really beautiful. Oh! I wonder if they will grow in our zone 6 or not. Then, perhaps I should get some.

    You are so true -- just staring at my yard and thinking about all the planting really make me burn calories ;-)..

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    1. We do have some wonderful farms. I visited one not too long ago here in Norfolk where they make a number of excellent cheeses. We are fortunate if we are able to visit the producers of our food. So many people do not get that opportunity.

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  20. Congratulations on your move - I wondered when you'd be back! I've heard that teasels are a must-have addition to the garden but have avoided them as they grow so tall. I think I might have to cave in for this one though …

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    1. Thank you! I love having teasel in the garden. The rosette of leaves seems to take up more room than the flower spikes. I have got some growing in terracotta pots. I shoved them there because the borders were full and then forgot about them (I rediscovered them last weekend). They should flower this year - their rosettes are smaller in pots and I am interested to see how they perform in flower. I will let you know if the whole terracotta pot/neglect combination is a winner for smaller gardens.

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  21. Wow, another gardener who is moving/relocating! Everyone seems to be doing it at the moment! I am in the same boat and the time I have left in the current garden I have been blogging about is seven days. I'm very excited but sad at the same time. I'll be following your new adventures in a new home and garden because I know something very similar is about to happen to me.

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    1. Enjoy your final few days in your old garden, Sunil - and very good luck with the move. I look forward to hearing about your new home and garden very soon.

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  22. We moved much the same time as yourself, doesn't half take it out of you. Cheese, I love but its always, cheddar, cheddar, cheddar.Teasel I am also fond of, it didn't grow in Aberdeen, now that we have moved further south, I am keen to give it a go.

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    1. Alistair - if you don't eat some Cheshire Cheese soon, you'll be drummed out of the county! The great thing about moving a distance is being able to grow new plants. I have only moved elsewhere on the same farm, so I don't imagine my plant palette will be massively different, although I am looking forward to a few microclimates the garden appears to be harbouring. I hope you are settling in well and that you have recovered from the rigours of the move.

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  23. Congratulation on the move, though you were very brave doing it so close to Christmas. I love teasels, especially as wildlife love them too, but I don't grow them in my garden because I'd be inundated with them as they self seed so readily. I'm a big cheese fan too, especially the crumbly cheeses like Wensleydale and Lancashire.

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    1. I love Lancashire Cheese too - and Wensleydale. Have you visited the cheese factory in Wensleydale? It's fab.

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    2. I have, yes, it's a regular haunt when we visit the Dales. I love that they have so many samples to try.

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    3. They do! And it would be rude to leave without tasting them all.

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  24. I've only heard of teasel (is it popular for tea?), but never seen it. I love those curly arms it has! I hope you're settling in - I know what a long process moving and settling in is! I recently discovered how much I like cheese, but after gaining so much weight this winter from eating said cheese (and what is cheese without some good bread and wine?) without being able to get out in the garden to work it off, I have decided that I'd better make cheese a food for summer!

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    1. The dry teasel heads were used in the wool industry for teasing cloth. I have just googled teasel tea and it seems there may be such a thing, but I think I'll stick to coffee and leave the teasel for pollinators and finches. I can only imagine how much you must be willing summer to arrive so you can hit the cheese again. Here's to sunnier days!

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  25. We do not have teasel here, but I saw a lot of it during our recent trip to England. Unfortunately they were all past blooming.

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    1. I think you may have an excuse to return!

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