To ensure human longevity, let nature replenish the forest.

The autumn forest is a funfair of curiosities. Every fungal fruiting body is a standing surprise, endowed with molecules that reveal a knowledge no less than extraordinary.

For hundreds of years, the kingdom of fungi has been overlooked as a minor or even odious aspect of nature, compared to the kingdom of trees and flowering plants. The digital generation is now discovering that fungi are fascinating. The corridors of exploration run deep in human consciousness, through fields and woodlands, connecting all lifeforms across the land. People are captivated. …

The extraordinary survival tricks of nature’s earliest trees.

If you walk through any moorland or mountain range, you will see normally noticeable plants, like trees, lichens, mosses, ferns and horsetails. As you trudge through these wide open landscapes, you will be trampling on many small and seemingly insignificant plants underfoot. But take note, because one plant family stands out. As small as the lycopsids may be, their ancestors were once mighty trees that dominated the land when almost all other life was wiped out.

Having lived through the worst mass extinctions to date, these plants hold secrets to the Earth’s deep past.

A wander through the science and symbolism of majestic oaks, as we search for a way home to forests.

Along the country lane, a solitary row of oak trees arches towards the road as if to offer a safe passage to all who pass. The winter branches are bare and the rain-soaked wood is black against the grey sky. These oaks are exposed to the full force of storms, climate and petrol fumes. They also suffer the runoff from pesticides used on nearby farms.

As I pass the lane I feel a twinge of regret.

In the Devon landscape these isolated oaks appear not as Tolkien’s Ents, but as bronchial silhouettes. Perhaps like you, I have my own perspective…

How a peculiar fruit captured hearts and imaginations across the world.

It wasn’t long ago that I ate a pomegranate and relished it for the first time. Not that it was the first time I had tried the fruit.

Before I was eight, my mother gave me a pomegranate sliced into halves to eat with a toothpick. She told me not to make a mess because the juice stains. So I sat for a long time, stabbing each ruby jewel — as if the only way to eat a pomegranate was painstakingly carefully. …

Before the arrival of junk food, Greece, Italy, and Spain held the secret to longevity, fueled by recipes using these delicious ingredients

Photo: Couleur/Pixabay

In 1950 Elizabeth David published her revolutionary A Book of Mediterranean Food. It was full of ingredients that no one could buy. Seventy years on and almost everyone in the UK has easy access to a year-round range of fresh fruit and vegetables, including the ones I’m talking about below. It’s strange then that 71 per cent of people don’t eat five-a-day, imposing on themselves the highly processed descendants of post-war rationing foods: necessary then but just big business now. I’ll be discussing the cause of this (it’s not poverty) in my next article. …

This month is about appreciating the lively hedgerows peaking with herbaceous plants and shrubs, with a nod to local folklore and traditional food customs.

Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

Food histories connect localities with the international flows of people, plants and produce across the ages. Highlighted are the points of human ingenuity for domesticating and distributing edible wild plants that brought valuable fruits and vegetables to our tables. Looking back into the past it is astonishing how we adapted to the seasons and landscape, becoming ever more resourceful and inventive in times of need. It’s important that we don’t altogether lose this knowledge of the natural resources that have sustained us, but we are doing so.

As we’ve been busily rationalising our systems, enjoying cheap foreign imports, quibbling about…

As the hungry gap comes to a close, we look forward to leafy salad greens and new potatoes from April onwards.

Salad image from Pixabay

Throughout April and May we’re still reliant on year-round stalwarts such as cabbages, mustard greens and ‘grow-in-the-dark’ chicory, and perhaps the last of the purple sprouting broccoli. We’ve certainly reached the lowest ebb for fresh and local produce. Except for rhubarb, no shop-bought fruits actually qualify as in-season and locally grown, not until apricots, berries and nectarines return in June. For now we can count on imported bananas and pomegranates that taste good at any time of year.


This month winter stews are replaced by springy soups, flavoured with aromatic green herbs.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

“March is a rude and boisterous month… possessing many characteristics of the winter, yet awakening sensations perhaps more delicious than the two following spring months; for it gives us the first announcement and taste of spring.” William Hone, The Year Book (1828)

Winter stores are depleted —fresh apples and pears are truly over until September — the hungry gap begins. From March until July locally grown, seasonal produce is at its lowest ebb, until summer fruit and vegetables return in abundance. As you see the first springing of wild flowers and green herbs, look out for wild garlic growing in…

Photo by Scott Warman on Unsplash

Just before you hop off the Veganuary bandwagon, late winter’s harvest still has much to offer

To eat in season all year round we need to know which produce is available locally each month. Perhaps the best reason for doing so is that food tastes better at the time it’s harvested, it costs less and you learn how to make better use of ingredients and reduce waste.

February is the last month of winter and the tail end of the cycle before new crops are sown again in March. Those available now are mainly folate-rich brassicas that are more resilient to the cold than summer-loving runner beans, asparagus and peas. Brassicas are known for tasting sweeter…

Photo by ja ma on Unsplash

Eating food that is grown locally in season is a smart lifestyle choice with nice rewards

The ascent of veganism has seen humble vegetables rise to become culinary stars, even featuring on the front page of glossy foodie magazines. This might just be advertising and marketing doing what they do best: taking a drab product and turning it into the next Must Have. But to see a lowly brassica elevated to the distinguished ranks of a juicy rib-eye (all hail the cauliflower steak) or succulent chicken (cue spicy buffalo cauliflower wings), is intriguing. …


Writing about the science and symbolism of plants, and sometimes other things.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store