In A Vase on Monday-The Pumpkin Chronicles

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In a Vegetable on Monday, Part Two. My gourd collection from last week was looking pretty good so I decided to add to the arrangement with an heirloom pumpkin for Halloween. Today is Halloween in the US, traditionally the time to carve a pumpkin into a Jack O Lantern then go door to door seeking chocolate (or that is how I think of it).20161028_185146

This is a Jarrahdale Pumpkin, totally non traditional and it hails from Australia. My father was an enormous fan of pumpkin carving so in his honor, I carve a pumpkin every Halloween. I decided to research this one a bit to see if it was edible – it is, and reportedly has sweet, melon like flesh perfect for pies. My husband is regionally famous for his pumpkin pies – so I read on to find that I should roast the pumpkin for 20-30 minutes if I wanted to save the flesh and then scoop out the flesh and continue with my ‘decorative use’.

Upon the completion of the short roasting time, the shell had changed color a bit and the flesh was slightly softer, but not cooked, so I chiseled it out with a serrate knife, being careful to use my not so nice knife in case it snapped. The pumpkin looked a bit like a crocodile so I carved a mean face into it. The flowers may offset the meaness.

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Not so sure about the flesh, I just collected it and put in back in the oven to roast and set about arranging the flowers.

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Starting in the front, the yellow flowers are Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis) the coral star shaped flowers are Dwarf Red Ixora, with a bit of Asian Sword Fern. The red and green leafless stems are from a Firesticks Pencil Cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli), red and yellow flowers are Parrot Flower (Heliconia psittacorum), red bell shaped flowers are from Firecracker Plant (Russelia), the grey foliage is from Flapjack Kalanchoes and a leaf from Split Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron selloum) completes the arrangement. The flowers are in a glass I put into the pumpkin, there is also a tealight candle in there, but I have mixed feelings about lighting it.

About this time, I took the pumpkin out of the oven, let it cool, had a taste and discovered it it really good and does taste of sweet melon – unfortunately, after all that I ended up with 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree. Pumpkin bread, anyone?

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Here is a much more traditional Jack O Lantern from years past, Happy Halloween!

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A Plethora of Papaya

Fall is Papaya season in South Florida. My neighbor has a tree and has been sharing his bounty. These are Mexican Papayas, slightly less sweet than the more pear shaped Hawaiian Papaya – the latest one in my kitchen weighed in at 5 pounds. My neighbor uses a dehydrator to save them. Not being a fan of dried fruit, it is a challenge for me to figure out how to eat five pounds of Papaya with only two people.

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The first order of business was to bake some Papaya Raisin Bread, these freezes well and I will enjoy it for weeks. Click for recipe

The Bread:

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The bread used about 1/5th of the fruit. I decided to make a Grilled Chicken Salad for dinner. The chicken was marinated in balsamic vinegar, garlic, rosemary, olive oil and red pepper flakes. The salad was made with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, celery, fresh herbs, boiled eggs and yes, papaya. Divine. I had papaya and vanilla yogurt for dessert.

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Several times.

Faced with papaya overload and some pork chops in my refrigerator, I did some sleuthing online for another dinner dish. Aha, a stir fry -Thai Style Papaya Pork Click for recipe

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This was so good we made it twice.

And that was the end of the Papaya, all five pounds! Til next year.

Mangoes in Mass Quantity

July in South Florida means a couple of different things, heat, humidity and Mangoes. Lots of Mangoes. This year is a bumper crop. I am philosophizing the rainy winter produced many flowers followed by many fruits.

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Followed by many baskets of Mangoes, which I find irresistible.

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These are Haden Mangoes, from my neighbor the chef, who I suspect just eats his mangoes. I ate some of them, but my husband is not a big fan of plain and won’t eat them straight. So, I made a Mango Amaretto Cake. Not very pretty, but delicious. Last year my Mango effort included a Mango Rum Cake which I believe lasted longer due to its higher alcohol content. Something to consider if your household is not highly populated.

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After a few servings of the Mango Amaretto cake, I decided to take a more savory adventure with Mango Salsa for grilled fish (Pacific Swordfish in this case). The salsa is made with mango, red bell peppers, sliced green onions, cilantro, lime juice and honey.

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Great stuff, and I still had some leftover to have with my Blueberry Bread  from my lasr fruit overload and vanilla yogurt.

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Just when my Mango supply dwindled to this another basket was left on my front porch.

What to do? Bake some Mango Pecan Bread, of course.

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I used the same recipe as my Blueberry Pecan Bread and it turned out fine. This is not particularly sweet for a quick fruit bread but the resinous quality of the mango shines through.

On to my next culinary adventure in mangoland. Another neighbor gave me some Speckled Perch, a local freshwater fish. So, here it is – pan sauteed Perch in lemon butter sauce with Mango Tomato Sauce served with Parmesan Herb Rice and Sauteed Mixed Veg.

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Still have Mangoes. The only thing left to do is make granita. It can be eaten straight up, with vanilla ice cream, yogurt or vodka if you are feeling frisky.

The remains of the day and this is all I have left!

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Compost

Blueberry Madness

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The height of blueberry season is upon us here in the US. My husband is famous for his pies, see photo above for reason. I was tasked with blueberry procurement for pie production. Five cups were ordered, five pints were purchased. Oops. I was faced with an extreme overabundance of blueberries.

The pie was baked, tasted and deemed delicious. We still had a lot of blueberries, having recently read a blueberry feature in Better Homes and Garden, I decided to try Blueberry Corn Salad:

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An interesting idea, corn with a garlic lemon vinaigrette and spices. A bit weird, but good. Still, blueberries speak of baked goods to me and I still had some left. I thought Blueberry Pecan bread sounded like a good idea and freezable. Found a recipe for just the thing with a pecan crust on top. Baked it up, this is good and freezes well, so I will have some for later:

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Then, the horrible truth revealed. I still had some of the blue things left. And didn’t want to eat anymore at the moment. Realizing dogs could eat blueberries and they are actually good for them, I whipped up some Oatmeal Peanut Butter Blueberry Dog Treats:

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The overabundance of blueberries, finally conquered. I walked the dogs and gave them a treat. Everyone was happy.

In A Vase on Monday – Butterscotch Pudding beats the Rose Bowl

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I started to use a Rose Bowl for this arrangement, but the bowl must have sensed my true feelings about Roses (too much trouble and ugly shrubs when not flowering) the flowers were just not sitting right so I had to go to a more straight sided container. See picture above, Rose bowl on the left and Fostoria on the right. The picture is to clarify which Rose Bowl  I was writing about, my husband asked if I was blogging about football this week. The other Rose Bowl is a college football game.

I have a set of these Fostoria glasses, inherited from my mother in law. My husband refers to these as the Butterscotch pudding bowls because that is what she served in them. I really don’t know what they are, it is an oddly sized container for food or drink but works well as a vase. Here is a better picture of the Fostoria.

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To me the star of the arrangement is a new arrival in my garden, the orange Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera), research tells me this plant blooms nearly year round and is a desert tropical that likes regular water. I wonder what these people are smoking who come up with these descriptions sometimes, no doubt something horticultural. Regular water on your desert tropical. Apparently it comes from a weird desert.

The balance of the arrangement contains more Justicia – J. brandegeana, the Red Shrimp Plant in darker red. The lighter red is buds of the Heliconia psittacorum, the white flowers are Bridal Bouquet Plumeria (P. pudica). Greenery is Asparagus and Boston Ferns.

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All this talk about Butterscotch Pudding has inspired me to make some. I think from scratch……Just have to find a recipe with actual Scotch as an ingredient.

 

 

 

Pineapples and their Cousins

 

A common element in South Florida gardens is the pineapple patch. Almost everybody has one, from a northern perspective, it seems kind of weird. Grow your own pineapples? Why not? Even one of our neighbors, his yard could be described as nouveau retch, is seen regularly hand watering his pineapples.

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Pineapples are in fact a Bromeliad, which are currently my favorite tropical perennial. Among the many Bromeliads I have planted that are purely ornamental I am afraid I have fallen prey to the trend and now have a pineapple patch between my citrus trees. I eat pineapple just about year round and the tops kept rooting in the compost heap. Unfortunately, the above is my patch, not too pretty.

Pineapples have an interesting history. Originally from the area where modern day Brazil is located, they moved via canoes paddled by traveling natives north to the Caribbean Islands where sea captains picked up on them and carried them home. One early accounting of the discovery of pineapple recounts a meal served by the Caribe tribe where a plate of pineapple rested next to a cauldron of boiling cannibalized humans. I think I would have asked for the fruit plate.

A status symbol on the dining tables of colonial America, pineapples were often rented for centerpieces and then sold after a few uses for eating. Thus the pineapple as a symbol of lush hospitality was born. The prevalence of pineapples as a decorative element may be explained by its being cheaper to carve decorative pineapples into bed posts or garden ornaments instead of renting them by the hour.

The Treasure Coast of Florida, the area I currently call home was once home to a large pineapple plantation. In 1895, Jensen Beach, Florida was named the Pineapple Capital of the World, shipping a million boxes of pineapples a year during the summer season. Later that year a devastating freeze decimated the crop, followed by a few tragic fires and fungal diseases that finished off the pineapple industry by 1920. Agricultural pursuits were redirected towards citrus. Wild Pineapple plants can still be seen on Hutchinson Island and are attributed to the original owner of the plantation, John Jensen.

Like many other popular plants, pineapples have also been bred for Ornamental use. Here are two prettier pineapple plants.

In A Vase on Monday -Caribbean Delight

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This is a Caribbean Delight as the centerpiece of the arrangement is a Dwarf Jamaican Heliconia (Heliconia stricta) – I believe. The lady I bought this from didn’t seem entirely sure of the ID and I have never seen one before. I am, however, a sucker for a well priced Heliconia and hopefully the garden will not overrun with Dwarf Jamaicans. Heliconias can be pretty creepy.

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The dark foliage is from Piecrust Croton (Codiaeum variegatum  ‘Piecrust’) and I love the contrast. The fine textured foliage is  Asparagus Fern (Asparagus aethiopicus). The Croton I planted, the Asparagus Fern just appeared in the back garden one day. I cut some every now and again and that seems to keep it in bounds. Asparagus Fern is rumored to be invasive, I think the spot it popped up in is not its happy place.

The crystal Rose Bowl belonged to my mother, I think I bought it for her – but that memory just won’t quite gel. It is a nice crystal Rose Bowl. I have Rose issues so it is unlikely to ever see any Roses. I am quite happy about the Heliconias – at least they are red!

It is Valentine’s Day as I write this. This vase is going to be our centerpiece for dinner.

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Here’s the table setting Portmerion Rose China and here is dinner:

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Mustard crusted Rack of Lamb, Mashed Potatoes and Steamed Green Beans. Not particularly Caribbean, but oh so good. Followed by Chocolate Brownies with Vanilla Ice Cream. Hope everyone had a great Valentine’s Day.