Floral notes – January 2018.

Does anyone out there grow paprika peppers?  I’ve used sweet paprika in a few recipes but just recently discovered smoked paprika when I made a spice mix for use as a dry rub in grilling. Now I’ve been putting smoked paprika on everything: scrambled eggs, baked potatoes, slow cooked beans…and as everyone but me seems to have already known, it elevates deviled eggs to a seriously crazy pinnacle of excellence.  I’m curious, what are your favourite ways to use this fantastic little spice in cooking? (Tell me how you use other types of paprika as well!). And if you’ve grown the peppers, please tell me about your successes (or failures) with them.  I don’t think I can easily grow them here without the benefit of a greenhouse, but I am nevertheless very interested….

I came across a fascinating article about the history of embroidery – although it references 900 years of the craft, it’s a very brief overview so it won’t take you long to read.  The photos are fantastic, too.  Check it out here.

Whether you’re a reader or a writer, you may enjoy this little piece posted up at Tor.com – it’s a thought-provoking take on writing botany into fantasy fiction.  How do you name and describe plants that exist in worlds that aren’t real?  Stuff like this is why writing is so fun….

Oh yes, and let’s cycle back to food: I posted a recipe for zucchini and salmon loaf up at Grit.com last week. Use fresh salmon if you have it. If you’re vegetarian, I think you could make a variation with scrambled tofu.  And throwing in a few diced mushrooms and red or yellow peppers would be pretty yummy, too.  Don’t forget the smoked paprika!  ♥


Floral notes: June 2016.


Whew!  Nine days in, and I can tell this is going to be one busy month…I think I’ve already spent 184.5673 hours of it watering my gardens.  We broke a heat record on Monday and the plants have been practically scratching at my window, begging for a drink.  This, when many parts of the world are suffering from flooding. I hope everyone affected is safe.

I have a bunch of fascinating links to pass along this month – hope you enjoy these!

National Geographic posted their winning images from their 2016 Travel Photographer of the Year contest – these are spectacular!

This slideshow profiling wild tulips from all over the world is truly incredible – move through the link and click the arrow on the right hand side of the first page to get started on the flower photos.  Even if you don’t have time to click on any of the other links I’ve given you today, take a couple of minutes to check this one out – you’ll understand why when you see it.

Considering espaliering your fruit trees?  Think BIGGER.  Trees meet architecture in this photo compilation.  

Canada has been gifted with a gorgeous new tulip in advance of the 150 anniversary of Confederation, to be celebrated next year.  ‘Canada 150’ is red and white, just like our flag.

English artist Rebecca Louise Law exhibited another of her deconstructed flower arrangements in Berlin – what a way to celebrate spring!

Here is a fascinating article about the origin of Canada’s most famous apple, the McIntosh. 

This is a candy terrarium.  Yep, it’s edible.  You won’t believe it, either.

And, finally, some stuff I posted elsewhere over the past few weeks:

I’ve put up a recipe for a flourless Rhubarb Oatmeal Cake on Grit.com – you can use either fresh or frozen rhubarb for this one.  And then top it off with a big mound of vanilla ice cream.

Vanilla ice cream…the only way to deal with a heat record.  Plus, if you get it served in a cone, you can water the garden while you eat.  Win-win.

(Clipart credit.)

Recipe: Shrimp with Holy Basil.


I stuck to my usual veggie and herb staples this year in my beds at the community garden: spinach, potatoes, shallots, garlic, Swiss chard, parsley (both Hamburg and Italian), carrots, and sweet basil.  I couldn’t resist trying something new, however – this year it was holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum, syn. O. sanctum; also called tulsi), the seeds of which I discovered at Harmonic Herbs, an Alberta seed company out of Barrhead.

Holy basil is often confused with Thai basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflora), but although they both originate in the same part of the world, they differ in flavour and appearance.  My holy basil plants are very short (about 10″) – I’m sure this is due to my growing conditions, as they are supposed to reach about 2 feet.  The bees are completely gaga over the blooms so I haven’t pinched them off.  This is one fragrant, glorious basil!  I can’t recommend it enough:  the clove-like, peppery oils in the leaves are insanely delicious!

It seems that there is a dearth of recipes using holy basil on the ‘net, so I perused the contents of my fridge’s condiment rack and made something up.  I’m not into wildly spicy food, so this just has a minor kick, to my taste – feel free to alter this as desired.

Shrimp with Holy Basil

Place 2 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan and heat.  Add:

1 chili pepper, deseeded, destemmed, minced finely

3 cloves garlic, minced

Saute just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.


1 large shallot (or 1 small onion)

2 scallions, trimmed, chopped finely

Cook 2 minutes, then add:

1 tbsp oyster sauce

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp fish sauce

1/4 cup chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

20 large raw shrimp (I prefer them deveined and peeled)

Cook until the shrimp turns pink.


20 leaves holy basil, washed and finely chopped

Cook just until the basil is wilted, about 30 seconds.

Remove from heat and serve over hot cooked basmati rice. Serves 2.

(Metric conversion tables here).

Do you grow basil?  What is your favourite kind?  Did you grow any “new-to-you” plants this year?  Are you pleased with how they’ve performed?

Fireweed jelly.


We recently travelled to northern Alberta and on our return trip, we stopped to harvest some fireweed flowers – I’ve had it in mind for a few years now to make jelly with them and finally had a chance to collect some nice bunches. Fireweed grows prolifically here in the south, as well, but you don’t often see it in the city – it seems that I spot it most regularly when it’s in a national park or on private land. Up north, it’s…free range. Or something like that.  😉

We have had the longest heat wave I think I can ever remember here on the Prairies, so to drag out the boiling water canner and make jelly in an already scorching kitchen wasn’t a prospect I was terribly keen on, but this jelly was sooooo worth it! I daresay I love the flavour more than the rose petal jelly I made a couple of years ago (do you remember that?). The fireweed does indeed taste a bit like roses, but it’s far fruitier – and how can you match that incredible colour? I was very impressed – this will definitely be on my list of must-makes every year from now on. The recipe I used may be found here; you have to make the juice first before getting started on the jelly.  Don’t omit the lemon juice, as it contributes to the vibrancy of the colour.

Have you tried any new canning recipes out this year? (Jam, jellies, pickles, chutneys, salsa…etc.). And if you don’t can, have you grown or eaten any new types of fruits and veggies that you’re now a big fan of?

Carrot Potato Garlic Soup.

Well, I guess that means Summer 2011 is really and truly in the books:  I pulled the rest of the carrots out of the community garden plot on Sunday.  Jack Frost has made his presence known on a few occasions over the past couple of weeks, and it was time to get the veggies out of harm’s way.  The falling leaves and the cooler temperatures have caused me to switch on my “soup mode” – it doesn’t help when you go to the supermarket and all of the covers of the food magazines feature brilliant photos of the latest twists on butternut squash soup (how many times can you remake a classic like that one, anyway?).  There’s nothing better than going out for a walk in all that autumnal splendour and then coming inside for a steaming hot bowl of vegetable soup.  Especially if you grew the veggies yourself.

Here’s what I did with my carrots:


2 cups scrubbed, trimmed, chopped fresh carrots

5 or 6 baby red potatoes, peeled, chopped

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1/4 – 1/2 tsp pureed gingerroot

1 – 2 tsp fresh minced thyme

pinch fresh dillweed

3 – 3 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 tbsp margarine or butter

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

freshly cracked pepper to taste

Heat butter and olive oil in a large soup pot; add carrots, potatoes, garlic and gingerroot.  Cook at medium temperature for 3 – 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add chicken stock, thyme, and dillweed.  Bring to a rapid boil, then lower heat and cover.  Simmer gently 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Carefully puree hot soup with a hand blender and add freshly cracked black pepper to taste.  Serves 2 (healthy portions).  Delightful with thick slices of homemade bread spread with fresh spiced apple butter….  🙂


How are you using the produce from your garden?  What are your favourite go-to autumn foods?


Recipe: Cardamom Loaf.

I recently dug up a recipe for cardamom loaf, and having bought a small bag of the ground spice a few months ago to flavour a curry, I thought I’d give it a shot in baking.  I love the taste of cardamom – it’s sort of like nutmeg, sort of like ginger, pleasantly sweet and yet with a bit of a zing (but not quite as zippy as ginger itself).  While stirring up the ingredients for the cake, I realized I knew nothing about cardamom – does it grow on trees, like nutmeg?

Actually, no, cardamom does not grow on trees, although it is a sizeable plant, reaching a height of up to 6 metres.  I refer to green cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), the kind that is most widely available for purchase in supermarkets in Canada; there is another kind called black cardamom (Amomum cardamomum – say that a few times in rapid succession!) which is described as more “astringent” in flavour.  The reason for the gingery taste resemblance is due to the fact that cardamom is part of the same family, Zingiberaceae.  Wild cardamom is found all over India and Sri Lanka, and cultivated plants are grown everywhere in Asia and in the Middle East.  A mainstay of Indian cooking,  black cardamom is used most often in curries, being a principle ingredient in the spice mix garam masala.  The individual seeds are also sometimes chewed like a breath-refreshing gum (I read that Wrigley’s uses the flavour in one of their manufactured gums, but I cannot verify that, and there was no confirmation whether or not that particular type of gum is for sale in North America or if it is found overseas somewhere).

Green cardamom is most often used in Scandinavian baking, no doubt the cultural origin of my loaf recipe.  It is also used as a drink flavouring:  in the Middle East, green cardamom pods are ground together with whole coffee beans and boiled (sounds delicious!).  In south Asia, green cardamom is used medicinally to treat a variety of ailments, from tooth and gum infections to sore throats, to banishing kidney and gall stones, and even as an antidote for snake and scorpion bites.

Unfortunately, there appears to be a dearth of photographs of the flowers on the Internet; green cardamom apparently possesses pale green flowers on long stalks that can reach up to one metre in length…and one of the flowers on each plant is always white, with faint violet streaks.  As this is likely the male flower (both males and females are on one plant), I can understand the colour variance, but it would be lovely to see it in a good photograph.  The pod-like fruit are pale green as well, and darken to brown with maturity, producing many valuable, delicious seeds.






1/2 cup margarine

2/3 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 cup milk

In large bowl, cream margarine and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  In separate bowl mix together flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt.  Stir flour mixture into creamed mixture alternately with milk until well combined.  Pour into greased loaf pan.  Bake in 325 F oven for 55-60 minutes.  Let cool in pan 5 minutes before turning out onto rack to cool completely.  Yield:  1 loaf.