Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category

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Exploding cucumbers

August 8, 2010

We’ve recently spent a couple of weeks dog-sitting which has had some unexpected benefits. During morning and evening walks we’ve been exploring parts of the village that we hadn’t seen before. Having Fido on a lead seems to give some legitimacy to wandering down unmarked lanes, peak around hidden corners and the like.

One of the other amusements has been finding patch after patch of ripe exploding cucumbers.  At this time of year the plant produces seed pods which are the size and shape of a very small cucumber.  Once ripe the pods explode when gently tapped, releasing both seeds and a liquid.  The force within the seed pod is so great that the seeds can be propelled 15 feet or more as they explode.

Time after time the intention was to take a camera and grab a photo or two to add to a blog piece about these extraordinary, and highly entertaining, plants.

Today it seems that Nigel from Tales from the Marshes has beaten us to it, complete with photo.

Enjoy!

Exploding cucumbers Here’s one of the things we’ll miss from Cyprus, and we only encountered it during its fruiting season just before we left the island. Exploding cucumbers do what it says on the packet – as they ripen they build up a high pressure inside and, when lightly touched, the small, hairy cucumber-fruit bit pops violently. Clearly a great strategy for dist … Read More

via Nigel’s tales from the Marshes

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The colours of summer

July 23, 2010

Sometimes life here is just so pretty!  On a wander through the village we came across a bougainvillea growing over the wall of a courtyard garden.  The contrast of the vibrant pink of the plant against the blue of the wall, which almost matched the colour of the cloudless sky, was just gorgeous.

Happily we’d had the foresight to take the camera with us.

Bougainvillea over a blue wall

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The garden, mid-July

July 21, 2010

The builders have gone, the garden still looks mildly chaotic, summer is here with a vengeance and the yuccas are in flower.  Such is life here at Aradippou Tales.

Who knew that yuccas produced beautiful creamy-white flowers each year?  Well, perhaps lots of people did but we certainly didn’t until we moved here.  Perhaps they only flower under certain conditions?  We were out and about a week or so ago and spotted a yucca in flower: it was only when we got home and investigated that we discovered ours was too.  In our defence the tree is twenty feet tall and the only way to see the top is to climb up the outside stairs.

At some point later this year the yucca will need some care and maintenance, the removal of old leaves if nothing else.  It is not an easy job: twenty feet of tree, razor sharp leaves and a fair amount of catching up due to the previous owner’s belief that pruning or cutting back a plant breaks its spirit.

In the meantime we’re enjoying the sight of the gorgeous flowers.

Yuccas, from below

Yuccas in flower

Elsewhere one of our mystery plants appears to be suffering in the heat.  This plant grows and grows and grows during the spring putting on nearly five feet of growth in as many weeks.  Come the summer heat it begins to collapse back on itself but  at the same time produces a dozen or more flower stalks.

MadAlex said it was a lily of some sort; we are not so sure.  It may be a white agapanthus but we’re really not sure.  For one thing it is significantly bigger than they normally grow, that could just be the Cyprus effect though.

Mystery plant

Flower stalks

Elsewhere the fig tree growing behind the house is covered in fruit.  So far they are only small but once more there are hundreds of them.  Also in a growth spurt is the garden bougainvillea: it is absolutely covered in coloured bracts.

Fresh figs

Obligatory bougainvillea photo

And finally this month a tiny piece of thievery.  When the empty plot next to us was cleared a half pithari was uncovered.  Pithari are common sights here in Cyprus; we have already have two in the garden, one containing the bougainvillea and the other our recently planted lavender.  But there’s always room for another, they make such fantastic planters even when they are broken or in two parts.

This newly revealed pithari remained in the cleared plot for week after week with Mands lusting after it.  Because the entire village is built on a slope houses are often set at different levels.  Despite being the next plot over the ground is actually 10 feet below us so getting the pot out would mean climbing down the drop and lifting the heavy pot out or carrying it on a 10 minute trek through the village.

Perhaps not the best plan when, technically, the pot wasn’t ours.  So the pithari remained where it was.

After the builders were finished onsite the scaffolders came back to take down the scaffolding.  After plying them with mugs of strong tea and freshly baked lemon cake Mands cheekily asked them if they’d be able to help with a tiny job.  Pointing out the pithari she explained that it didn’t actually belong to us but that no one else, including the owner, seemed to want it.  The scaffolding boys caught on very quickly: it’d be a shame for it to go to waste they said.   Perhaps if they re-homed it into our secret garden we could make use of it?

Half an hour later they’d man-handled it up from the lower plot and positioned it against a couple of walls.  It’s now sitting there waiting while we decide what to plant it with … and while we see if the rightful owner comes to reclaim it.

The acquired pithari

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More German lemons

July 13, 2010

The German obsession with lemons continues.

We were standing down in the garage-that-isn’t-a-garage this week talking about the next work to be done when a group of German tourists walked by.  They peeked through the gate as they walked past; we said hello as we always do.  Ian commented that, before they’d seen him, the two adult males of the group had tried unsuccessfully to pick a lemon overhanging the wall.  That’s fine, as far as we’re concerned the lemons hanging over the wall are fair game; we pruned the tree to leave them there, referring to them as the tourist lemons.

As we were discussing the ongoing tourist love of the lemons one of the German men walked back to the house accompanied by one of the children, a boy aged perhaps six or seven.  We hello’d once more, or rather Guten Tag’d to be polite, and the small boy launched into a carefully prepared question.

Could he … would it be possible … would we mind

he said before getting caught up with both nerves and speaking in English to strangers.   We helped out by preempting his second attempt.  Did he, perhaps, want to pick a lemon?  His face split into a huge smile, indeed it was a lemon he wanted.

At this time of year there are very few ripe yellow lemons about.  The next crop are coming along well but they are currently small and green and without a drop of juice.  They look very much like limes.  Still we managed to find one of the remaining ripe lemons and his father lifted him up so he could pull it off the tree.

Satisfied with his possession he and his father both thanked us politely and went on their way to catch up with the rest of their group.

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Cyprus Cost of Living #5

July 10, 2010

The Guardian recently had an article in their Life & Style section about the spice saffron.  Their tagline for the piece was “It’s hard to produce and more costly than gold“.

These things are undoubtably true: each stem of saffron started life as a stigma on a crocus.  Each bulb flowers only once each year, producing just two or three stigma which must then be harvested by hand.  The writer of the article was provided, by Harrods, with a sample:  2g of saffron produced by over 400 flowers and costing £25 (at the time of writing about 30€ or $37).

Saffron’s usage, and cultivation, goes back an incredibly long way:

For as long as there have been people, people have known about saffron. A dye from its stigmas colours 50,000-year-old cave paintings in what is now Iraq. Ancient frescoes on the Greek island of Santorini depict a goddess watching – or perhaps blessing – a woman picking saffron, presumably for medicine. No one knows how old this painting is: a volcano buried it in around 1500BC, and the work could have been hundreds of years old even then.

Now here’s the oddity: saffron, and many other herbs and spices, are surprisingly inexpensive in Cyprus.  That’s not to say that it’s possible to buy premium grade saffron cheaply but it is certainly cheaper than the UK.

At the time of writing Carrefour are selling 30g of Syrian saffron for 3€; that is about 7% of the price of the saffron sold by Harrods.

For anyone coming on holiday to Cyprus it would be a great shame not to reserve a corner of the suitcase for a supply of herbs and spices bought from any of the supermarkets.  In the space it would take to re-pack a novel it should be possible to re-stock the kitchen stocks of herbs and spices for a year.

Saffron, peppercorns, coriander, mustard seeds and crushed chillis are all great buys here.

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Tried & Tested: Frozen Lemons

July 1, 2010

Having two mature lemon trees means that we have masses of fresh lemons for much of the year.  However, even when our lemons were sourced from UK supermarkets we went out of our way to get every last bit of use from them.

To make sure that they were ready to hand whenever needed, and had no chance of going off, we do the following:

  • Slice, overlap on a freezer-proof tray and freeze.  The slices behave best if they aren’t flat on the tray so use the ends to provide a support at one end of the run of slices
  • Once fully frozen separate the slices, bag and keep on hand until the next time a gin and tonic, vodka and tonic or glass of coke is poured
  • Because the lemon is frozen it’s possible to dispense with, or at least reduce the amount of, any ice needed

Frozen lemon slices

To squeeze the very last use out of the lemons:

  • Retain the end slices
  • Once frozen bag up separately to the slices and keep until kitchen-cleaning day
  • Boil the kettle, put two or three frozen lemon ends into a microwave-proof dish and add cold water
  • Make a cup of coffee
  • Place the lemon bowl in the microwave for two or three minutes on hot, go away and drink the coffee
  • Once it’s drunk return the kitchen, remove the bowl from the microwave and wipe down all the inside walls and surfaces with a cloth.  The lemon-scented steam generated by the bowl of water will have loosened any baked-on food, the lemon oil and juice will have fragranced and disinfected the microwave

Feel cheerful at the lack of effort involved in cleaning the microwave and the economy of using nothing but lemon ends which would have been discarded otherwise.

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Filthy jobs

June 22, 2010

While the builders have been here we’ve been catching up on a whole bunch of jobs, as well as dealing with things that have arisen as a result of the work that they’ve been doing.

As previously mentioned they have partially re-built the garage.  We call it a garage but it isn’t: the door to the street is actually fixed in place and is neither hinged nor in a position to open.  Anyway, part of its construction is a huge wooden beam positioned as a lintel above the door-that-isn’t-a-door.

The beam is gorgeous, but filthy.  So while the builders have been busy on the roof Ian took the opportunity to clean up the wood.  The plan was to clean the whole thing with wire brushes, removing any debris and dead wood, then treat the wood with insect and mould repellent and then feed and protect the wood with a generous coat or two of linseed oil.

The first phase was, without doubt, a horrible filthy job.  But it provided a fantastic, and unexpected, photo opportunity.

Ian and his wire brush collection

To give some context, this is the beam post wire-brushing.

The lintel, post-brushing