Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Change of Perspective

Have you ever looked up and noticed the amazing patterns formed by overlapping leaves backlit by sun? It is one of my favorite things about this time of year. While walking the dog a few weeks ago I looked up as we wandered and was mesmerized by the variety of leaves and the varying heights of the trees, all accompanied by the occasional birdsong. I enjoyed it too much to let it pass and walked back up the street, took out my phone, and shot the following video while I wandered back down the street. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into the Glasgow canopy.

I had some technical issues making this video small enough to post. I will work on getting a version with much better resolution up soon!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Generous Neighbor

Walking along the street today, I noticed a lovely lilac stretching out over the sidewalk. It was just about the same shade of lavender as the lilac my grandmother had in her yard. I adored that tree and would stand under it when it was in bloom being enveloped by its amazing scent. I loved to stick my face into the beautiful mess of flowers and just breathe.

I did the same today on the sidewalk, stopping to enjoy a moment of peace and nostalgia. At that same moment, the owner of the lilac tree came home and said to me, "Feel free to pick one and take it home with you. The season is so fleeting we should appreciate them while they're here." I couldn't agree more and thanked her profusely, pulling down a branch and tearing off a lovely pair of blooms.

Now my flat is graced with the intoxicating smell of lilac and I am feeling quite content.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Blooms of Glasgow

Okay, so I'm a week late and I can't even let myself call this a "Belated" Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. I don't care though- there are too many pretty flowers not to share them even if it's not the 15th!

The gardens are really taking off here in Glasgow. After a very cold week last week, it looks like summer has finally arrived! The lilacs started blooming earlier this month and the air around them smells heavenly. Some rhododendrons are still going strong and the azaleas have erupted into a rainbow of color. I spied my first peony this week and lots of other strange plants are blooming, too. All in all, it's a great time to be enjoying the lovely blooms of Glasgow.





Friday, May 11, 2012

First International Fascination of Plants Day!

What are you doing next Friday? Do you live in Europe? If so, I encourage you to check out the website for the first international "Fascination of Plants Day"! It is being launched by the European Plant Science Organisation to encourage people to think about what plants are, what they do, what they are used for and just how generally amazing they are- you know, to get people fascinated with plants!

As an avid gardener and plant-lover I am very excited with this program. On the main page, there is a link to a list of participating countries so you can browse through the list of happenings wherever you live. Here in Glasgow the Botanic Gardens will be hosting the "Plants Life People" exhibit at the Kibble Palace from 11:00-16:00 on Friday, 18th May. I think I'll just have to duck away from the office for a jaunt over to the Botanics to check out this intriguing program.

The University of Glasgow Plant Science Research Group has also set up a flickr pool here to gather images of plants in honour of FoPD. The pictures will be held under a creative commons license so people can use them for educational purposes. If you have pictures of plants that you'd like to contribute, sign up and become part of the action! Or even if you aren't interested in contributing head over and take a look at some of the amazing photos they've collected (over 650 images so far!).

If you don't live in Europe, why not make the 18th your own personal Fascination of Plants Day? Spend some time watching a plant, add some photos to flickr, sow a few seeds, or think about where your food comes from. Anything to celebrate the wonderful diversity of the plant world that keeps us so well fed.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I am completely obsessed with pepitas, or toasted pumpkin seeds. I have to confess, it wasn't until I made the epic kale salad that I actually bothered with making pepitas. I am kicking myself that it took me so long! They are crunchy and salty and nutty- a delicious addition to salads or great for a mid-afternoon nibble.

Now, I'm not going to lie and sing about simple they are to make. However, they're not complicated, they can just be a bit time-consuming. I've found that the biggest obstacle is wrestling the seeds away from the stringy squash innards. Don't worry if you don't manage to get all the squash off, it won't taste bad once they're roasted, it'll just be a slightly different texture.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The general idea with pepitas is to use the seeds from any winter squash or pumpkin rather than throwing them away. When you carve a winter squash open (any variety will work), you inevitably scoop out the seeds which are attached to stringy squash flesh. The usual recipe stops there and the assumption is that these morsels of goodness are tossed in the trash or the compost heap. But wait! Stay your hand! Toss that goopy mess into a colander and start picking all the seeds out! It's not glamorous work. Just get into it and don't let the texture bother you (it always reminds me of the Wright family's haunted house when I was a kid- I know it featured bowls of peeled grapes as eyeballs, and apparently pumpkin seed pulp must have also been involved).

Once you've got the seeds separated, the hard part is over. Just brine them in water for 10 minutes, then roast them in the oven for about 20. The general guidelines I follow can be found at the Kitchn here. The best thing about them? You can toss them with any flavourings you want! So far I've gone with salt and spicy paprika, but I think I might try a churro-inspired cinnamon-sugar version next. Or I could go totally bananas and go with the mix that makes up chamoy, one of the strangest, most addictive Mexican candies: salt, sugar, chili, and lime juice. It won't be quite the same without the tamarind paste, but somehow I think it will work.

Hmm, it looks like I need to make something with squash for dinner so I can get more of those seeds!

How about you- do you ever make pepitas? What's your favorite spice combo? Do you know of a good trick for separating out the seeds? Let us know!

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Hidden Garden: Edinburgh

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to have a visit from my mother-in-law. We started the trip in Edinburgh with a literary pub tour, and the following day we wandered from Waverly Station down the Canongate to Holyrood Palace (official home of Her Majesty when in Scotland). There were quite a few brass plaques along our route that she (my mother-in-law, not the Queen) wanted to read, channeling her own mothers habits. One of the signs read: Dunbars Close Garden.

I always love a garden so we ducked off the main drag to take a look. It was wonderful! According to our pub tour, the closes (courtyards) originally held livestock; this one had been converted into a series of lovely gardens. Each area of the garden had a particular geometric layout with worn stone benches for sitting and contemplating. I was thoroughly enchanted to find this lovely little corner of solitude so close to the tourist throngs of Edinburgh. If you ever visit, be sure to keep an eye out for hidden gardens.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

New Vegetable: Flower Sprouts

When I moved here to Scotland, I wasn't expecting to find vegetables I hadn't met previously in the abundance of California farmer's markets I was leaving behind. Silly, girl. Wandering the aisles of Marks & Spencers (it's kind of like a fancy Trader Joe's, but without the fabulous Roasted Tomatillo Salsa that I miss so much) I spied a package of "Flower Sprouts." The bag was steamed up and I couldn't see what the wee veggies inside looked like. I turned the package over and saw a purpley-green Brassica of some variety that looked like fluffy brussels sprouts. It was marketed as a new vegetable exclusive to M&S, and despite how obnoxious that was, I had to give them a go.

A selection of flower sprouts

Flower sprouts are indeed a new vegetable variety, perfected in 2010 by Tozer Seeds after ten years of patient cross-pollinating and perfecting. The vegetable is a cross between brussels sprouts and curly kale and that's just what they look like. They grow in little rosettes up a stalk, like brussels sprouts, but the sprouts are more open, loose and curly, like kale.

To prepare them, I went with one of my favorite recipes for all leafy greens: Potstickers with Garlicky Greens. The flower sprouts were okay in this preparation, but not spectacular. This recipe works wonderfully with kale and chard, but there was just too high a stem:leaf ratio with the flower sprouts. I think the best preparation for them would be to treat them more as brussels sprouts than kale. It's the end of their season now but if I see them again, I will slice them in half and saute them in garlic butter with a dash of crushed red pepper. I think that will set them off perfectly!

Have any of you come across flower sprouts before? How would you recommend preparing them?

Reference: Background on flower sprouts was gathered from this BBC article.

p.s. Spellcheck wants to change 'Brassica' to 'Brassier' - hilarious.
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