Archive for plants

Lady Jane is Always the First to Bloom

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I always summer my Amaryllis bulbs in the garden and rest them for a couple of months in the fall.  I bring them up into the sunlight in late January to have some beauty in the cold days of winter.  I’ve had Lady Jane at least 20 years.  Happy Spring!!  [Click here for a link for full instructions that I posted earlier.]

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Spaghetti Squash: A Garden Thug with Tasty Possibilities

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Here it is in the fullness of its growth. It spread from its bed to the right and smothered the asparagus. Vines that went through the fence and got outside were swiftly nipped off by deer or who knows, it might have come in the house!

I like to try a new vegetable every year but I was an innocent when I decided to try out spaghetti squash, having no idea it would be so aggressive.  The squash themselves average about a foot long.  The vines on the other hand easily spread 20 feet.  They are a winter squash type and are ripe when they turn yellow and the skin is no longer tender.  I planted two hills and got about 25 squash.

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The ripe squash

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I get an inescapable mental image when I see them like this and understand if you do too.  Ignore that. To begin, you need to cut them in half and bake them at 400º until you can pierce the skin with a sharp knife.  If you cut them crosswise you get longer strands. I found it easier to take the seeds out before baking them but it can be done afterwards as well.

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Pull at the strands with a fork and separate them as you go along.

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This is the palette from which we can create our dishes.  I tried using it as I would angel hair pasta but I found that it got lost in heavy sauces such as marinara or Bolognese.

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It worked very well in place of pasta sheets for a cheese lasagna.  I layered it about an inch thick and pressed it down gently with a spatula.  (above: lasagna plated, below, lasagna in the pan).

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Here it is with the classic “Aio e Oio.” It makes an excellent side dish, here with maple glazed salmon filet and caramelized Brussels sprouts.

I found it really works well with lighter sauces.  I sauteed it to dry it out some then made the sauce and added the squash, turning it in the sauce until all strands were coated.  Aio e Oio (Roman garlic, olive oil and red hot chili pepper with parsley) is wonderful.  I also tried it with a sauce of olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and basil and that was terrific as well.  Be sure to salt it as you saute it as it is very bland all by itself.

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Svalbard 3: Going Ashore

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We snuck up very carefully on this sleeping mass of walruses so as not to disturb them.  They were hauled out at Torellneset, a place which receives approximately 4″ of precipitation annually, making it a true “polar desert”

We left Longyearbyen on June 16th, bound for the furthest north we could go, stopping to go ashore every day, provided there were no Polar Bears in the area.  We stopped at Rauldfjorden, Spitsbergen the next day and climbed a hill to get a close look at a 1600’s whaling era cairn and an old grave.  Our passage flushed a Purple Sandpiper from her nest in a “broken wing” display.  I took a very quick look and saw three well camouflaged lovely speckled eggs.

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Our ship “Plancius” seen from the hill above Rauldfjorden.  On the shore below you can see the remains of a seasonal cabin used by fox hunters.

One activity I was particularly impressed by was beach clean up.  We went ashore at Jacobsenbukta, a bay on Woodfjord and each of us gathered debris to take back to the ship where it will be carried back to Longyearbyen for disposal.  The amount and variety of trash was depressing and we only made a dent, but this company is trying to make a difference.

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Picking up trash on Jacobsenbukta

Our next trip ashore was to visit an island released from shore by the retreating Monaco Glacier within the past few years.  The three glaciers in this bay clearly demonstrated the effects of climate change upon arctic glaciers.

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The Monaco Glacier is collapsing as seen from the build up of silt along the edges and this island which was covered just a few short years ago.

Our final trip ashore was at Tordenskjöldbukta where we hiked across the tundra to two small lakes.  We encountered reindeer, birds, Beluga whales were spotted and the spring flowers were in bloom, a beautiful ending to our cruise.

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The reindeer on Svalbard have very short legs and are notably smaller than other reindeer, about the size of a large dog.  Below are a few of the plants we saw, the yellow is a Polar Buttercup and the other three I believe are species of Saxifrages.  164 species of plants have been described on Svalbard, rare for so far north.

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My Beautiful Aubergines

Almost too beautiful to eat...

Nearly black and glistening, almost too beautiful to eat…

Sorry!  “Eggplant” simply does not do justice to this lovely vegetable (well, technically a fruit).  I’ve tried a different (to me) method of preparing them for dishes like Aubergines Parmesan and Moussaka.  I trimmed the tops and bottoms, sliced them into lengthwise slices, about 1/3″ thick but instead of frying up the slices, I brushed each side lightly with olive oil and baked them at 400º until browned, turning once.

This was far easier than frying them, uses less oil and took only about 20 minutes.

This was far easier than frying them, uses less oil and took only about 20 minutes.

After they were all browned, I made three Moussakas, one for now and two for later.  I baked two in baking dishes lined with tin foil and froze them.  after they were frozen, I took them out of the baking dishes and stored them in the freezer.  This winter I’ll just take off the tinfoil and put them back into the baking dishes for an easy meal.

Moussaka, ready for the freezer.

Moussaka, ready for the freezer.

Moussaka is a dish I first encountered in Greece many years ago.  It’s a ground meat,tomato and onion filling between precooked Aubergine (eggplant) slices and topped off with a custard of milk eggs and feta cheese, plus seasonings.

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Planting an Orchid Keiki (Baby)

Here's what the flower of the Mother plant looks like.

Here’s what the flower of the Mother plant looks like.

We had a blessed event in our house when one of my orchids formed a Keiki (Hawaiian for “baby”).  I have been watching it develop over the past year and have decided to separate it from its mother and plant it today.  I bought the mother plant at Venamy Orchids about four years ago when my friend Mary took me there for a breath of spring.  It’s a Phaelenopsis named “P. Maysang Angel’s Heart” and is white with pink spots.  I give the steps I took to remove and plant it with the pictures below.  Wish it luck out on its own.

The Keiki is at the center.  It has two healthy-looking roots with lovely active tips.

The Keiki is at the center. It has two healthy-looking roots with lovely active tips.

Using sterilized clippers, I cut the stem the Keiki was on down about an inch.

Using sterilized clippers, I cut the stem the Keiki was on down about an inch.

I wanted to make sure it was well hydrated so I set in in a dish of water for about five minutes (just the roots, not the leaf junctions).

I wanted to make sure it was well hydrated so I set in in a dish of water for about five minutes (just the roots, not the leaf junctions).

And here it is, nestled into an empty space in its mother's slat basket.  I put a support stick in to keep it straight.

And here it is, nestled into an empty space in its mother’s slat basket. I put a support stick in to keep it straight.

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Blackberry Season in East Boothbay

From these...

From these…

Labor Day Weekend is when our favorite woodland path yields its crop of blackberries.  We prepared ourselves before our daily walk by taking bags to hold the expected bounty and we were not disappointed.  After a pleasant hour seeking out the little jewels, we had enough for a pie.

to this...

to this…

For us, the flavor of a wild blackberry pie is unsurpassed but the berries are very seedy, so we strained the seeds out of all but one cup of the largest and juiciest.  A cup of berries would give us plenty of seeds to capture the berry pie experience.  I use tapioca as a thickener and added a little extra because the seedless berry pulp was very liquid.  The pie turned out to be a little juicier than I intended, but oh, so delicious.  We enjoyed that epitome of New England breakfasts; pie!

to the reward!

to the reward!

Is it a blackberry or a black raspberry?  The difference is in the rasp, or core, of the berry.  With raspberries, black or red, the rasp comes off with the stem leaving the berry hollow.  With blackberries, the rasp stays in the berry and the stem comes off clean.

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When and How to Harvest and Store Your Garlic

There will be no Vampires at our house!

There will be no Vampires at our house!

I have taken all your great suggestions to heart and tried to incorporate them into my new video.  The most often voiced suggestion was that you wanted to see my face, so here goes…(it is what it is!)  Our videography is a little shaky and I look like the proverbial “deer in the headlights,” but the information is valid.  [Maybe I should have changed out of my gardening clothes?]  Here it is:

 

 

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