Orchid The Jungle Queen

Orchid, exotic from the far east.  Exquisite , dainty, fragile, simply gorgeous.  my late father an orchid enthusiast had well over 100+ plants in his collection.  As I am the photographer in the family, I captured these beauty every time I am in his garden.

Caring orchid in the tropic which is their environment is easy, but in another part of the world thy need a lot of pampering.  More important humidity, warm temperature, no soil needed just add bark in their container.  In the wild orchid grows latched on to trees, they absorbed food through their leaves.

I remember as a child growing up in the tropic, when my mother needed vanilla, she would go to the garden and harvested the slender dark bean.  fresh vanilla has a strong distinctive taste.  So delicious taste better than those bottled vanilla extract.  these photos taken all with film Canon SLR macro lens.

 

 

 

Devil Flowers

Arum flowers (arum maculatum) are one of my favorite and although it is devoid of sweet smelling fragrances their shapes are beautifully sensual and photogenic. Among the weirdest species I came across were those found on the hills of Crete (Greece). The shape is amazing with its long thick spadix protruding from its very dark purple spathe. Botanically is called dracunlus vulgaris.

Many names are given, Voodoo lily, Dragon flower but I like to call it Devil flower not only because it gives me that somber feeling when looking at it, but it also sends out a terrible smell which reminds me of the unique Amorphophallus titanum that only grows in the rainforest of Sumatra Indonesia.

This particular gigantic flower which can reached up to the height of 10 feet also gives out a similar foul odor. Originally found in the Mediterranean and the Baltic regions, the Devil flower only blooms around spring time.

 

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How to roast a perfect engagement chicken

The title and recipe intrigued me so much I have to make it.      A fashion editor gave this recipe to her assistant who made the chicken for her boyfriend, who a month later, asked her to marry him.  How is that for a recipe.  to make story short the assistant gave the recipe to others similar to chain letter but with beautiful result.  When the fashion editor heard about her recipe she called it engagement roast chicken.

If you have not roast a chicken which is my favorite you need to know how to prepare before roasting.

Remove giblets, these are the neck, gizzard, heart and liver, usually packed in small paper bag inside the chicken cavity.  Wash chicken inside and outside, then take a paper towel pat the chicken cavity and outside.

Before roasting, use your fingers to remove the fatty flaps under the skin near the cavity (so there is less fat to trim later)

Tuck the wing tips under the chicken to secure tips and prevent them from burning and to help steady the bird.

Bring the legs together and tie with kitchen string or in a pinch, heavy duty  thread. to secure.  This help the chicken brown evenly.

If using a standard meat thermometer, insert point into thickest part of thigh, next to body (be sure point touches meat, not bone)  If using an instant read thermometer, start

testing after 10 minutes of toasting, placing thermometer point in thickest part of thigh.  Because instant read thermometer is not oven safe, remove it if chicken needs to roast longer.

Coming  back to the story of the engagement roast chicken,  this is truly a delicious meal.  I made it many times over, still do, easy to make.  Try the recipe, give it to a friend and who knows……………..wedding bells in the horizon.

1 whole chicken (approx.3 pounds)
2 medium Lemons
Fresh Lemon juice (1/2 cup)
Kosher of sea salt
Ground black pepper

Place rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 400F. Wash chicken inside and out with cold water, remove the giblets, then let the chicken drain, cavity down, in a colander until it reaches room temperature (about 15 minutes).

Pat dry with paper towels. Pour lemon juice all over the chicken (inside and outside). Season with salt and pepper. Prick the whole lemons three times with a fork and place deep inside the cavity. (tip: If lemons are hard, roll on countertop with your palm to get juices flowing.)

Place the bird breast-side down on rack in a roasting pan, lower heat to 350F and bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and turn it breast-side up (use wooden spoons!); return it to oven for 35 minutes more.

Test for doneness, a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh should read 180F, or juices should run clear when chicken is pricked with a fork. continue baking if necessary. Let chicken cool for a few minutes before carving. Serve with juices.

Keep it simple. I served the roast chicken with steamed new potatoes, toss with fresh parsley from my herb garden. Boiled green beans, sliced carrots and steamed asparagus, cut tough ends, mix the vegetables then top with butter.  Delicious.

If you want to serve with a glass of wine, Gallo of Sonoma is a good choice, smooth with a touch of citrus or your favorite wine.

Bon Appetit

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Summer Gardening Tips

Mid-summer my garden still thriving in spite of the heat. Usually in the month of August here in the McKenzie valley, Oregon warm not overly hot without humidity. Since late spring when all seedlings are in the ground, I have been faithfully weeding, watering, and fertilizing to keep them healthy until harvest day. Next summer, if you want to keep your garden growing and being able to harvest a bountiful vegetables from your garden, you might want to consider this.

In addition using well-known water wise techniques such as drip irrigation and mulching, try grouping your vegetables according to their water needs when you plant them. That way you can vary their amount of water you give different plants of your garden. In general try giving your crops no more water than they need, rather than as much as they can withstand.

Mulching the plants is also beneficial suppressing the weeds and keep the moisture in. Use chemical free grass clippings this is important because you do not want toxic substance in your vegetables. They also can kill your plants. Compost as well as shredded leaves are good for mulching and an added benefit for the vegetables.

To fertilize I use a combination or compost tea and 2 tablespoons of fish powder per gallon diluted with water. I make my own compost tea, you can get them in the nursery, but, do ask how they make their compost. You do not want to feed your plants with unknown ingredients.

 

 

Lao Culinary Journey

Although I am not too familiar with Laotian cuisine, my trip to Luang Prambang was an eye opener for tis traditional food.  I tried some of its many good restaurants serving local dishes.  A stopover at Tamarind for its delicious yummy  ping gai grilled marinated chicken served with sticky rice, al fresco luncheon in a lovely Lao Lao tropical garden tasting the traditional laap an appetizing minced chicken salad with sticky rice.

A relaxing dinner in an colonial style building of Tamnak Lao while getting local with its delightful grilled  followed by or lam vegetable meat stew and of course a  visit across the Nam Khan river using the hanging bamboo bridge and spend an afternoon at the popular Dyen Sbai while munching away savory local snacks.

khai peng or Mekong is the traditional local snack. Nori style algae these crispy thin sheets of green riverweeds dipped in hot seasonal oil sprinkled with sesame seeds are served with jaew bong aromatic chili dip specialty of Luang Prabang. I love this local chili paste made of chilies, palm sugar, garlic, kafir lime, galangal and dried buffalo skins. Delicious with sticky rice !

 


Like many Asian food a variety of spices and local herbs are used in their cooking and being curious I tried Or Lam the traditional meat stew with its unusual taste of sakhan the local spicy wood Another typical northern Laos dish is the Laap or meat salad which can be made with chicken, duck or pork. My minced chicken laap flavor with local herbs (chili, mint, Asian basil) and fish sauce I had at Lao Lao garden was simply divine. As for drinks and being in a tropical climate, while many like to immerse themselves in the local  ,beer lao,  I love to quench my thirst with fresh tamarind juice.

I also had a go with its many French style cafés while enjoying the Mekong vista. An afternoon pause at the Saffron café can be quite rewarding after cycling around town and for a real French style breads, is my daily morning visits to Le Banneton bakery … and here are some shots I took journeying into the land of northern Lao cuisine …which gives a numbing sensations of the palate with a lingering bitter sweet aftertaste (somewhat similar to the sichuan pepper chilies.   The stew is a mixture of eggplants, young bamboo shoots, pork, dried buffalo skins, phak tam ling local greens cooked with lemongrass, chilies and local spices.

Another typical northern Laos dish is the Laap or meat salad which can be made with chicken, duck or pork. My minced chicken laap flavored with local herbs (chilli, mint, Asian basil) and fish sauce I had at Lao Lao garden was simply divine. As for drinks and being in a tropical climate, while many like to immerse themselves in the local beerlao, I love to quench my thirst with fresh tamarind juice.

 

 

 

Rhodes…..Crusader Castles and Ottoman Splendor

They were the Knights Crusaders who lead the Holy wars in the Middle Ages. Among them were the legendary Knights Templars and the Knights Hospitallers. These Christians soldiers recognizable through their long coats with a cross were powerful groups backed by the highest level of society, economically prosperous and politically influential. After the fall of Jerusalem into the hands of the first crusaders in the 11th century the Knights Hospitallers was created in response to the need of caring for the poor and sick pilgrims coming to the Holy Land. The Knights Hospitallers were closely linked to the Hospital of Jerusalem. After the downfall of Byzantine Empire and the rise of Islam the Knights Hospitallers who later differentiated themselves from their military counterpart the Templars, finally established their stronghold on the island of Rhodes. And so our story began …The year 1309 and they were called the “Knights of Rhodes”.

They built fortresses around the island and succeeded in holding off Muslim attacks until they finally succumbed under Suleiman The Magnificent who took over the island to become part of the Ottoman Empire. Remnants of the fabulous centuries of the Knights Hospitallers can still be seen in Rhodes Old Town as well as ruins of some of their fortresses perched on hills. Besides military architecture that makes up the island landscape, are the beautiful Ottoman buildings in Rhodes Old Town. Even if the Greek Orthodox religion is predominant, there is still a minority of Muslim Turkish community – legacy of the Ottoman Empire…


Rhodes Old Town a World Heritage site is an amalgamation of fabulous architectural accomplishment illustrating different settlers from Byzantine Empire to the Order of Saint John Knights Hospitallers and the Ottoman Empire. I love scouring the alleys of Rhodes Old Town which make me feel as if I am thrown back into the time of the Crusaders. The street of the knights is where the action takes place. Knights from different origins would

have their flags placed in front of their houses. Walk through the many streets lined with Knights palaces interwoven with beautiful mosques, public baths and stop by the Ottoman cemetery with its mosque and an elegant minaret. So now let’s go on our historic walk and discover some fascinating places in Rhodes …

 

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Garden Peas

Home grown peas always taste better than store-bought.  Growing your own is easy and you do not need a large garden to grow this nutritious vegetable.

Pisum Saticum the botanical name for garden peas.  Loaded with vitamin A, B, C, Riboflavin, Protein, Carbohydrate, calcium, Iron, Phosphorous and Potassium.  Adding peas to your diet also has health benefit.  They are excellent nourishment and strength restoring.  Peas contain nicotinic acid reportedly recommended for reducing cholesterol in the blood.  Steam diced carrot and peas , mix with meat, or sprinkle on salad.  Anyway you use peas they are healthy nutritious.

Garden peas was discovered at all place in Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand by an archeological expedition at approximately 9750 B.C.  This is a much earlier finding than the peas found bronze age (approximately 3000B.C.) lake dwellings in Switzerland and Savoy.  The Greeks also cultivate peas and they were brought to Britain by the Romans.  Peas were the first vegetable to canned and later deep frozen.

Peas are cold weather crop, so plant them early.  I started mine in the greenhouse in flats in early February, then transplanted outdoors in early spring depending weather condition.  Green Arrow variety is my first choice shelling peas, they are prolific producer, long pod up to 10 peas per pod, excellent pea taste.  Pick them early when they are still tender.

Many diseases affect peas.  the most common is pea root rot (Fusarium or aphanomyces euteiches) which causes browning and dying of the foliage from the ground up.  Another pea disease to watch is the powdery mildew, those white powdery mold on the leaves, stems and pods in hot weather.  Choose resistant variety.

 

When done with harvesting, pull the stalks and spread them on the ground in a sunny area of the property to dry.  when they all look brown and brittle I use my gas driven mower and mow the stalks into shredded particles.  Dried pea stalks have nitrogen  content that is beneficial for compost and the garden.

Peas are good for freezing too.  shell the peas, spread on a cookie sheet then put in the freezer for several hours or until peas are frozen.  Fill one gallon plastic bag with the frozen peas, depending how often you use, it will last until next planting or longer.

 

 

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