Friday, February 12, 2010

Oderatus, sinuata

Why am I awake and typing madly at 7am? Who knows? But the coffee and toast are made and I'm cozy in bed listening to the cold rain, glad that it's watering the sweet-pea and bachelor's-button seeds planted yesterday up in the garden. Oh, sweet peas! How I love them. They smell so incredibly sweet, especially the old-fashioned ones, which were specifically bred & cultivated for their scent. Their Latin name is "Lathyrus odoratus"--as you might expect, anything with "odoratus" in the name is a good thing.

Most really sweet-scented flowers use their perfume just like you do--for sex! Since they can't hit the bars, they have to get the hotties to come to them, by sending out a waft of tasty, tasty scent to attract the creepy-crawly pollinating bugs who'll climb in for nectar. Presumably, flying past a rose is like walking past a doughnut shop for a bee--irresistible.

On their way down to the nectar bar, they get powdered in pollen, which is full of the plant's genetic material. Then they head off to flower #2 (because each flower only offers a tiny siplet of nectar, so everyone can get a little lovin') and track the previous flower's pollen all over the floor. Which makes the plant babies (fruits with seeds, to grow more plants) happen.

Not surprisingly, many flowers are only perfumey before they're pollinated. Once they get knocked up, as it were, they don't bother. Sweatpants and dirty hair after that! The flower itself often drops its petals and dies off shortly after pollination, so the plant can put its energy into fruit & seed production. If you're growing flowers for cutting, it's important to be able to visually identify your flowers' status pre- and post-pollination, because a flower that hasn't been pollinated will last a lot longer in a bouquet than one that has.

Sweet peas, though, just spread their gorgeousness around for the sake of it, since they self-pollinate before the flowers even open. Thank you, sweet peas! Since I've always had such limited gardening space, I've always felt strongly that any plant had to pull its weight and be either edible, a useful companion plant (like alyssum or marigolds, which repel aphids from other plants), or a banquet for the pollinators (bees love anything blue, hence the bachelor's buttons). But now I'm mellowing and making space for that which is simply shamelessly pretty, too.

My latest favorite is Salpiglossis (also called Stained Glass Flower or Painted Tongue), which I fell in love with out at the farm at UCSC. I had one last year, bought at the fabulous Flora Grubb, called Chocolate Royale, which produced a big ball of really beautiful deep, deep maroon-brown velvety flowers, all summer long. Plus, I love that its Latin name is Salpiglossis sinuata--so belly-dancer-ish!

And in your gardening news: stop by new gardening/groovy stuff shop Succulence on Sat, Feb. 13, for their grand opening party. I met co-owner Amy Shelf at the Underground Farmers Market last month, and she's just as nice as can be (she and her husband run 4-Star Video on Cortland Ave; Succulence is out back). Plus, she'll have some of her groovy preserves and pickles on hand. I'm going to go and remind her about her offer of a lemon-marmalade-making date...

And Pam Peirce, doyenne of gardening in the Bay Area's kooky microclimates, has recently revised and updated her classic reference book, Golden Gate Gardening. She'll be talking at Flora Grubb at 1pm on Sat., Feb. 28th.


community classifieds said...

Heard about great food served there.


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Anonymous said...

Nice article

Bobbie Singh Allen

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lesliedp said...

Hi Stephanie- I have a question- I am in the middle of making strawbery jam and came upon your posts on chowhound. I had stared with a recipe of 2 quarts hulled and crushed berries (4 cups) and 7 cups sugar with 2 Tbs. fresh squeezed lemon juice. It also called for a puch of liquid pectin which after reading your recipe I am no longer going to use. Do you think if I just follow your recipe it will still set even though there is a lot more sugar? I have a few more hours to let the berries and sugar macerate so I thought I would reach out and ask for your opinion! Many thanks!!!

Stephanie J. Rosenbaum said...

Hi Leslie,
Thanks for your note! Yes, I believe the strawberry jam recipe will still work without the pectin. It will probably set pretty fast because of the high sugar content, so do keep an eye on it so that it doesn't scorch, burn, or get too dark and caramelized. Also remember that the strawberry mixture will foam up a lot during that first boil, so use a large pot that can accomodate at least 2x/3x the amount of fruit you're using. Good luck!
best wishes and happy jamming,

Lesliedp said...

Thank you so much Stephanie! Ok need your opinion- I made it and... too gummy! Ugh! I did not use a candy thermometer- I think I must have cooked it too long- but at least I did use a big pot! I don't think there is anything I can do to fix jam that is too gummy (right?) so I am going to jump back in and try again!

I am going to use the recipe you gave. Just a question- how long would you say the last 2 boils last (the syrup and them the addition of the berries)? I don't want to make the same mistake twice! Thank you for all of your help!!!!!!!! Is it easier for me to give you my email address?

Au├čenleuchten Edelstahl said...

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Sonnenschein said...

A nice article I must say once

Karen said...

Thank you for the Strawberry Gazpacho recipe on Bay Area Bites. I love the festive photo! I'm going to have to try it; it's way too hot to cook! I'm a fan of desserts too, especially when I can enjoy them w/o baking them. Battledish & Sally's After Dark have a seasonal dessert & port/madeira pairing on Jul. 13. I'm so there, and hope you can enjoy it too!

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Thank you for your time and good luck with the competition if you decide to enter!