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