Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Orchid Show, Glasgow Botanic Garden

Scottish Orchid Society display

Earlier this month, the Glasgow Botanic Garden hosted a wonderful orchid show in the Kibble Palace (one of two main glasshouses). Orchids are really spectacular plants. The variety of sizes, colors, textures... even scents! One lovely plant smelled just like vanilla, which makes perfect sense as vanilla comes from a Mexican orchid. Not only are they gorgeous, they give us one of desserts most-loved flavorings!

A pretty pair of paphs
Another pretty pair of paphs

The variety that I am drawn to the most are the Paphiopedilum, a variety of Lady's slipper orchid (two pairs of Paphs are shown above). Different Lady's slippers can be found where I spend my summers in northeastern Vermont, so these are my favorites. There are plenty of other lovelies as well, including some that I think look like psychedelic Holstein cows. Please enjoy the orchid eye candy!

The usual suspects

Orchid smorgasbord

What do you get when you take a Holstein cow,
dip it in butter-yellow and magenta,
and turn it into an orchid?

This post is dedicated to the memory of my cousin Freddie, an avid orchid grower and lover. He passed away on 30 April 2012 and he will be missed dearly. My orchids will always remind me of you, Freddie.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Community Garden Update

Yesterday it was time to do some more sowing in the community garden bed. Spinach, Rainbow Chard and Kale seeds were all added to the garden. A couple weeks ago Rocket (Arugula), Tsoi Sim (an Asian green), Chives, and Little Gem Lettuce seeds were planted.  The rocket and tsoi sim are showing cute little pairs of leaves already. Pretty soon we'll have food!

Our janky pea trellis
Yesterday during our work session in the garden we decided it was time to put up a trellis for the peas. This trellis will win no beauty pageants, but hopefully it will provide something for our Sugar Snap peas to climb up. They are growing taller day by day and in about a week they should reach the base of the trellis. We also planted out another two rows of peas that had been started in the greenhouse- they're looking very nice. I still can't wait to get my hands on some of those pea shoots!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pea shoots!

This photo was recently sent to me by one of my fellow gardeners- pea shoots! Our little peas are growing like gangbusters. I can't wait until they're big enough that we can start harvesting some of the shoots. They have such a delightful spring-like flavor! Yum...

Pea shoots in a raised bed; taken by D., a fellow gardener

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

An Epic Salad

Yes, that's right, I just called a salad "epic."  This one truly is. 

I had Easter dinner with some friends here in Glasgow on Sunday and my contribution was a starter. Lamb would be served as the main course and I went around and around and around trying to come up with a good recipe to start off the meal. Mushrooms on toast? Crab and artichoke dip? Some sort of quiche or tart? I was feeling pretty stumped. Then my other half suggested a kale salad I'd made before with a lemon-shallot-vinaigrette and shaved Parmesan. Hmmm, that was intriguing (and tasty), but I wanted something with a little more oomph for a holiday meal.

Martha Stewart to the rescue! I love Martha, always have. This is the first time in about 15 years that I haven't had a subscription to her magazine and it's a little odd. However, I do have access to her website and it saved the day. This recipe was published in January 2012- the month after I cancelled my subscription and moved to the UK. I am so glad I found it, even if it was a couple months behind.

I knew I was going to like it; the two main components, kale and butternut squash, are absolute favorites of mine. The extras that went into it are also good: caramelized shallots, toasted nuts, and cheese. I wasn't totally stoked on all the ingredients- hazelnuts aren't my favorite and aged goat cheese is a little tricky to come by here. I had sliced almonds in the fridge and I love Manchego cheese so swapped those ingredients in. Also, as I started the recipe and cut open the butternut squash, the seeds looked too good to pass up. I brined and toasted them and added them to the salad as well. They added a dash of spice and just the right sort of crunch, a hollow crunch, to compliment the toasted almonds. This salad does require a bit of multi-tasking and managing things in the oven, but it's totally worth it. The recipe said it serves 6-8, but it was polished off by five of us. I think that's the mark of an epic salad.

Kale & Butternut Squash Salad
modified from Martha Stewart
Serves 6

1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 large shallots, thinly sliced
Sea salt
Black pepper
Spicy Paprika
Olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice (about the juice of one lemon)
1 1/2 bunches kale (~200 g)
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Cleaned butternut squash seeds
4 ounces (150 g) Manchego cheese, shaved

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Toss butternut squash with olive oil, sea salt, pepper and a dash of spicy paprika, spread onto a baking sheet. Roast until soft and a little caramelized, tossing occasionally, about 45 minutes.

2. Toss thinly sliced shallots with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in a baking dish and roast until lightly caramelized, about 30 minutes.

3. Thinly slice the kale into ribbons (remove stems if they are too tough). Combine lemon juice with 3 tablespoons olive oil, some sea salt and pepper; shake until emulsified. Toss kale with dressing in the salad bowl, massaging the dressing into the kale leaves. Weigh kale down with a small bowl or plate to encourage marinating. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.

4. Toast almonds in the oven, keeping an eye on them to prevent burning, about 5 minutes.

5. Brine and toast butternut squash seeds. Clean seeds of pulp, then mix with water, a dash of olive oil, and salt in the following proportions: 1 cup seeds: 2 cups water: 2 tablespoons salt. One butternut squash yielded 1/4 cup of seeds so I used 1/2 cup water and 1/2 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes. When brined, drain seeds then spread them on a baking sheet. Toss with a dash of olive oil, sea salt, and spicy paprika. Put in oven and roast for about 15 minutes, tossing and testing them occasionally.

6. Add the squash, shallots, almonds, toasted seeds, and Manchego to the kale in the salad bowl and toss to combine. Enjoy!

Friday, April 6, 2012


The daffodils at the Glasgow Botanic Garden are putting on a spectacular show, with the diversity of daffodils beautifully displayed.  Below are a selection of the astounding variety this humble spring bulb can exhibit.

Some of them are brightest yellow.

 Some are yellow and small, and some have twisted petals.

Some of them appear depressed, while others seem perky and pleased. 

Some of them are pale, pale yellow, and some are yellow and orange.

Some of them are white and yellow.

Some are white and orange. 

Some of them are purest white, and some have doubled centers. 

Some are mixed with all their fellows.

Some form stands alone.

Every spring the daffodils appear and we smile at their cheery yellow faces.  But this year, take a closer look and marvel at what variety can be found in a single field of daffodils.  What are your favorites?  I am quite partial to doubles and orange & whites myself.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mountain Mint

Mountain mint

You see the picture above?  And that tiny green plant with about four leaves in the center?  It's mint!

Last week I was working out on the Isle of Arran in the most spectacular March weather Scotland has ever seen.  As I was hiking along, mapping what rocks were where, I spied what looked like mint growing out of some basalt outcrops (a.k.a. black rocks).  I didn't think it would be mint, as I've never associated it with the Scottish countryside.

Upon inspection, however, I found that it had the tell-tale square stalk that is characteristic of mint.  And once I had pinched off a couple of leaves it was clear: definitely mint!  Once I noticed that first clump I found more of it dotted here and there, always where rocks were exposed and often under slight overhangs.

Mint is one of the only edible plants that I remember being taught to identify.  My mother had a patch of mint in her yard that was threatening to take over the world (which is why it's good to keep it planted in a container).  One day in the garden she picked a sprig of mint and told me, "Look, see the square stem? That's mint; all the mint family have square stems." 

How nice to be in the Scottish countryside recalling a lesson I'd had over twenty years ago in a Connecticut garden.

More mountain mint

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