Archive for July, 2015

A Passion for Passiflora

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There are few plants I love more than the common maypop, Passiflora incarnata. There are also few plants that I have failed with as consistently since moving to the Southwest. I think it might be our alkaline soil and water that they dislike. This spring, in what has become a yearly ritual, I ordered a plant. I tried amending the soil in that area with acidic cottonseed meal and gypsum. Then I walked away and, beyond regular watering, did nothing more, which made it all the more marvelous when I spotted the first flower.
The passionflower produces a tropical-tasting fruit in cold winter areas. Quite possibly the single best seafood dish I ever made in my life involved seared scallops on a plate coated with a slightly sweet sauce of coconut milk flavored with shallots, a little lemongrass and ginger, and passion fruit juice. The flowers are lovely. A tea made from the leaves is an excellent home remedy for insomnia, and I have read that the shoot tips can be cooked as a vegetable, although I’ve never tried it and don’t vouch for that use.
Mostly, the Maypop gladdens my heart just by existing. But if I ever get any fruit, I do plan to recreate that sauce.

Red, White, and Blue Cobbler

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The tart or pie cherry is a pretty yard tree all season, and gorgeous in full fruit, with the glowing colors of a Russian enamel. This year my pie cherry tree bore heavily for the first time, and after making a new supply of tart cherry liqueur (no sugar this time,) I made a few cherry cobblers.
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First, catch your cherries. They need to be the bright lacquer-red pie type, not the darker sweet cherries, which will turn a rather dreadful color if you try to cook them.
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Next, pit enough of them to make 1 1/2 cups of pitted cherries. This will serve 2 gluttons or four normal people. I have a pitting device from OXO that pits four at a time, but it’s still tedious work. Be certain to run your clean fingers through the pitted cherries several times to find any pits that you missed, so that no teeth are cracked later.
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If you eat sugar, it’s very simple from here on. Add a handful of wild blueberries or (from my yard) fully ripe clove currants or serviceberries ¬†for the blue element, sweeten to taste, and make your favorite biscuit dough but sweeten it a little more than usual. Put the cherries and berries in a buttered 7 inch tart pan, top with artistic globs of the biscuit dough, and bake at 375 until the dough is done and browning attractively. If you eat low-carb it’s a little more complicated but not much. Sweeten the cherry mixture to taste with half erythritol and half Sweet Perfection oligofructose, working the sweeteners in with your fingers so that they don’t cake, and add a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Make the topping as follows:
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup of Swerve sweetener confectioners type
1/3 cup Sweet Perfection oligofructose
1/4 cup butter, cold
2 egg yolks
Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir well with a fork. Work in the butter, cutting it in with the fork until the largest remaining butter pieces are the size of baby peas. Add the egg yolks, working them in with a fork until the mixture is fairly well amalgamated. Drop on top of the cherry mixture in the small buttered tart pan, pat it out just a bit with your fingertips (it will be sticky and messy,) and bake at 375 until the dough is cooked through and coloring. This dough doesn’t brown evenly as sugar-containing doughs do, and you have to watch carefully so that it doesn’t burn. Serve hot with low-carb
vanilla ice cream.
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Happy Independence Day!
The gorgeous image of a cherry branch second from the top was on a Google page and I can’t find an attribution for it. If anyone knows who the photographer is, please let me know so that I can give credit.

The Solar Impulse II has landed in Hawaii!

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No garden talk today, because it’s a major day in aviation history and also in the history of clean energy. The Solar Impulse II, a zero-fuel solar-powered plane, landed successfully after flying from Japan to Hawaii, by far the longest and most dangerous leg of its trip around the world. The pilot for this part of the trip, Andre ¬†Borschberg, has now shattered all previous records for long-distance solo flight by a large margin, and did it in an entirely solar-powered craft. This means that he flew day and night for 5 days and nights, never sleeping more than 20 minutes at a time. Think about it.

For more, check out their reports at Solar Impulse.