In A Vase on Monday – Winter Wildflowers

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Oftentimes when I start my vase I have to decide between tropical and well, non tropical seeming flowers. This week’s decision was in favor of the non tropical which are in fact somewhat tropical. For some reason, even though I live in a frost free area populated with Mangoes and Birds of Paradise the climate is considered subtropical. My favorite Florida plant material author, Frederick Stresau, calls this area Tropic Florida. No one else does. I like the title.

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Tropic Florida is home to some amazing wildflowers, so amazing in fact they will take over. Last week I think Chloris was featuring Bidens, on her blog not the B. alba from my garden-a relative.  ACK, I have Bidens running out of my ears and can only hope I have pulled enough out. The onset of cooler weather brings the reseeding annuals out of their slumber and starts a new season of flowers.

The components of this vase are either native to Florida or something that just appeared in my garden. The hat is hardly necessary this time of year, but hand pruners are a must..

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The white flowers are Spanish Needles (Bidens alba) cute but annoying. The yellow daisies Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis); red and yellow daisies, Native Gallardias; deep blues, native Porterweed; red spikes, Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea); the grasses flowing in the background, Muhly Grass (Muhlbergia capillaris).

The vase? A Portmerion canister I received as a wedding gift. Thinking I would complete the set I held onto it for almost 25 years.. The canister remains alone in my mother’s china cabinet, awaiting flour and sugar containers with similarly abandoned Botanic Garden pieces.

The first harvest from the garden, 12 green beans with a cherry tomato (one,very tasty)

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Happy Monday!

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Garden Bloggers Foliage Day – Tropical Fruit

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Having spent most of my life much further north of South Florida, I enjoyed eating tropical fruit, but never knew what they looked like while growing. I have included tropical fruit trees and plants for shade and foliage in my new garden, the fruit is a bonus. Some of the fruit producing plants I have in my garden now I had never heard of – because, well, in my opinion, like many things you have to grow up eating them to appreciate the fruit.

Above is the foliage of the Sea Grape (Coccoloba uvifera).  This is a native tree that produces clusters of grapes in the summer that are mostly seed and taste similar to figs. Natives of Florida and birds like the fruit.

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This is Mango (Mangifera ‘Nam Doc Mai’) a Thai Dessert Mango. Delicious and easy to grow. The leaves were burned by Hurricane Irma.

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Silvery backed leaves from a Pineapple I grew from the top of a fruit bought at the grocery store. I have no idea what kind it will be. Pineapples are very easy to grow here and my new hometown, Jensen Beach was once considered the Pineapple Capital of the World. Here is a link to an article I wrote about how to grow pineapples  Link.

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This is a Rangpur Lime, grown from seed by my neighbor. Rangpur Limes have orange skin and are incredibly juicy. I believe these are not well known because they do not keep very well.

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This is a Papaya, I believe Hawaiian, although I won’t be sure until it bears fruit. I grew this from seed last year. Curiously, I sometimes see Papayas growing wild on construction sites. Papayas are native to South and Central America and a bit of an acquired taste. I like them in pork stir fry, bread and sliced.

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The new foliage on a Cuban Avocado tree. Cuban Avocados are the size of footballs and I had never seen one until landing in South Florida. The fruit is a bit sweeter and creamier than Hass Avocado and the rare avocado that is true to seed. A friend grew this for me with a seed from her tree, which she got from a Cuban guy!

The trees are integrated into my back garden along with vegetables and a native pollinator area. Everything but the Mango was grown from seed so I have a few years yet before I will taste the fruit.

Gardening in many cases is all about patience. Someday soon I will have some fantastic salsa and guacamole.

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!

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.