Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category

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Green apricot salad

June 9, 2012

A day or two I stumbled across a recipe for using unripe peaches. You know the sort: they look ripe and promising but in reality they are never, ever, going to ripen and nothing you can do is going to change that. The recipe was from Food52’s Genius category and you can find it here.

Here we sometimes get a problem with nectarines in August so I was intrigued. But, it’s a little still too soon for the main nectarine crop (we’re still in cherry and strawberry season) so I filed the recipe until later in the year …

… only for a neighbour to drop by this morning with a bag of apricots in his hand.

About half of the fruit were underripe so were prime candidates for testing.

And the result?

Absolutely fantastic.

From crunchy flavourless apricots to juicy, glistening fruit in less than
ten minutes.

While the apricots were doing their thing I knocked up a leaf salad with some cold chicken and shavings of parmesan and then added the apricots and their dressing. Sadly we were too busy eating it to have the sense to take photos but you can see the gorgeousness of the fruit in this photo from the original recipe.

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Pomegranates

June 2, 2012

Just how do they do it?  How is it possible for a fruit tree to thrive on neglect and to oscillate between ugly-as-hell and drop-dead-gorgeous?

It’s the time of the year when we fall in love with the pomegranates all over again.  Lush greenery, abundant growth and masses and masses of the most beautiful and showy scarlet blossom.  And all of this from trees which get no care or attention, no watering or feeding, no pruning.

Blossom

Scarlet blossom

The empty house next door has a mature tree, perhaps 20 feet tall, and we have a similar one just next to our back door.  Their tree gets no attention as they only visit the house once or twice a year; ours gets some fairly inept pruning once a year and that’s it.  In return each produces hundreds of massive pomegranates each year.

Next door’s pomegranate tree

Between you and I, I prefer them right now when they are full of blossom.  The colour, that sharp pop of orangey-red, is a reminder that summer is really on its way.  And as the flowers are pollinated and the fruit sets the blossom falls away from the tree and makes the most gorgeous red confetti on the ground.

A sprinkling of blossom

And all this from a tree that, in winter, looks like it should be chopped down to put it out of its misery.  It’s hard to imagine a tree that looks more desolate and unloved than a pomegranate in January.  But right now … it is just gorgeous.

Taken January 2010

Plenty of fruit to come

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Snow photos

March 1, 2012

It snowed yesterday.  That’s a fairly unusual event here; it’s the second time we’ve seen snow in the last five years.  We tweeted during the day, you know we tweet, right?  Find us here if you fancy.

In between trying to keep warm (13° C or 55° F inside during the day) we raced around the garden trying to get decent photos.  We didn’t have much success; light falling snow isn’t easy to capture on camera.  But by the end of the afternoon just a little snow had settled.

Snowy chair

The Fluffs, the 9 months old kittens who adopted us last summer, were absolutely baffled.  Born in the height of summer they have found it hard to adjust to rain; snow was just too confusing.

Confused cats

The garden plants seem to be unscathed but they all had a sprinkling of snow during the day.

The lavender

The lilies should be flowering around now.  Only time will tell what impact this year’s cold has had.

Arum lilies

The sweet peas were making good progress; here they need planting in the depths of winter so they can flower in the spring.

Chilled sweet peas

Across the road the banks of wild fennel and other high growth looked pretty and entirely different to usual.

Banks of wild fennel

A dusting of snow

Today the skies are clear and bright, although the temperatures are still low, so that’s probably the last of the snow.  Tourists will be arriving soon and expecting it to be much warmer.

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Back again

May 23, 2011

We only meant to be away for a week, or two, honest!  But time slipped away, and the longer things went on the harder it was to get going again.

For a while now we’ve been talking about re-starting things but hadn’t got just the right post to kick off with.  And then Rita from the Netherlands emailed.  From time to time people leave comments or drop an email, perhaps to ask a question or just to say hello.  In Rita’s case she wanted to let us know that she loved the blog and had read it from start to finish but was now concerned.  We hadn’t posted in so long, had something happened?

So, having emailed her to let her know that we are still alive, if somewhat lazy, we are now officially back.

Summer has finally arrived, having been long-delayed and much-anticipated.  The garden continues to grow like crazy, although everything took a battering during a horrendous hail storm a week ago.  The clementine tree escaped unharmed and we appear not to have lost a single of the 10,000 or so fruit that are developing.  Yes, this is the same tree that produced 3 ripe fruit this year.  We may have to rename it and call it fickle from now on.

In the village life continues as normal.  Unexpectedly kafenio wars have broken out with a rival coffee shop setting up for business 100 feet from the long-established shop.  Tension runs high amongst the villagers (in a slow, mellow and laid-back sort of way obviously) as they wait to see if any sort of retaliation follows.

Meanwhile our battle against encroaching wildlife continues.  Last year’s pomegranate rats have yet to make an appearance but in the meantime we are engaged in the epic battle of Man vs Swallow.  Our old friends the swallows returned in early March from their winter in Africa and decided that the empty properties to the left and the right and behind us weren’t suitable for building nests in.  Where they really wanted to be was in the house.  With us.  Frequently.  So as the days and nights warm up we continue to try to find ways to convince them that their place is outside and ours is inside.  It may be a long battle.

Now that we’re back up and running there should be more soon.  Until then, a series of photos from before and after that hailstorm.

Winter-flowering jasmine

Beautiful arum lilies

After the storm #1

After the storm #2

After the storm #3

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Kleftiko ovens

September 17, 2010

Traditional cooking is a corner-stone of Cypriot family life.  Every weekend, every holiday, every festival is an opportunity to gather family together and spend time together, preferably whilst eating.

When we lived in Aradippou our neighbours had a traditional kleftiko oven next to their house.  Technically it was built in their driveway but every good Cypriot knows that the street is a perfectly good place to leave a car so why not utilise the driveway for something useful?

We’d been in the house a month or two when we were woken early one morning, perhaps 3 or 4am, by an unusual noise outside.  A quick check out of the upstairs windows showed the source of the noise: the neighbours were lighting their kleftiko oven.  Clearly there was an upcoming celebration that we weren’t aware of.

Kleftiko is a lamb dish, although in Cyprus young goat is sometimes used.  The lamb is cooked very slowly over the course of many hours resulting in meat that is tender enough to cut with a spoon.

According to local legends the dish was made from stolen sheep and to disguise the cooking process from the shepherd the lamb was cooked in a pit in the ground so that no smoke could be seen.  Today the dish is cooked in an external wood-fired clay oven.  A wood fire is lit in the heart of the oven and then allowed to burn very low; meat, and later potatoes, are added in shallow containers. The oven is kept sealed with clay until the cooking process is complete, many hours later.

On that first occasion it was too dark to get photos but the neighbours obliged by lighting the oven again a month or two later.  The second photo shows quite how fierce the wood fire is at the start of the process.

For anyone who is interested in trying kleftiko without the expense of building their own external oven there’s a nice recipe on the Waitrose website here.  With such a relatively short cooking time the dish won’t be as meltingly tender but should still be a nice taster of how superb good kleftiko can be.

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Photo: Dragonfly

September 9, 2010

We had a tiny visitor to the garden recently, a bright red dragonfly.  He (she?) was kind enough to stay still long enough for Ian to get a photo or two.

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The garden, mid-August

August 30, 2010

This post may be late but the photos were taken around the middle of the month.

This August, our fourth on the island, has been a record breaker.  The intense high summer heat has been higher than usual and more troubling has lasted much longer than it normally does.  Cypriot tradition states that the weather starts to ease after the big holiday on August 15, the Assumption of the Virgin.  This year that simply hasn’t happened.  Now, in the last days of August, the temperatures are as high as they were as the start of the month.  The forecast suggests that by the middle of next week we might see a drop of one or two degrees.

Meanwhile the Government continues to issue severe weather warnings and the Fire and Forestry departments battle to deal with local wildfires, many of them believed to have been started deliberately.  The blog is still receiving a fair number of visitors who are searching for information about Cyprus heatwaves.

The garden has gone into a strange summer hibernation; apart from the citrus and the bougainvillea nothing is growing.  Regular watering is preventing things dying but the plants seem to have slipped into a stasis mode.  Once the temperatures drops they should start showing signs of life once more but for now they are in a deep sleep, and not looking particularly photogenic as a result.

The citrus trees are taking things in their stride though; tiny green fruit are slowly growing and swelling.  The new season lemons are some way off being ripe and for now the only yellow lemons in the supermarkets are imported.  It is the time of the lemon drought in Cyprus.  Happily we’ve still got supplies of both frozen juice and sliced lemons to see us through.

New season green lemons

The mandarin tree is still giving some cause for concern.  Last year we had hundreds of fruit, this year we feared that we had none.  Blossom was very sparse and no blossom means no fruit.  We’ve now spotted a few clusters of tiny mandarins, and they look to be progressing well, but it is a very poor crop compared to last year.  It looks like we might get 30 or 40 mandarins as opposed to the thousand or so we had last year.  Clearly we missed a vital part of the annual maintenance but what?

Tiny mandarins

Our old friend, the yucca plant, produced another set of offsets before the temperature got too high.  We missed the chance to remove them when they were very small so a hacksaw may be needed to separate them from the main tree now.  They are incredibly resilient; remove them from the tree and put them straight into a pot and they will start to grow.  They will even cope with being put straight into the ground with no other care.  They will grow in the poorest soil with no additional feeding and only minimal watering.  In Aradippou a friend gifted us half a dozen offsets; within two years they’d grown to over four feet tall and were producing offsets of their own.  To be honest, anyone with a yucca here is always looking for someone with a new garden who needs fast growing plants.

More yucca offsets

And finally while the bougainvillea continues to grow it is also starting to drop its coloured bracts.  And a plant as large as ours has an awful lot of them.  This carpet below would fill five or six dustbins … if only the heat would ease so that we had the energy to shovel them up.

Bougainvillea carpet