Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I Kissed the Hibiscus

It’s hibiscus season again. The plants in my backyard (and side yard as shown) are in full, incredible bloom! I have seen various flowering plants – I understand there are over 200 varieties – but each year these come up with blossoms that knock my socks off. It’s quite a display for a plant whose name means “delicate beauty.” Perhaps that refers less to the physical characteristics of the hibiscus than to its essence. Lots of benefits have been ascribed to the hibiscus.

Have you ever had hibiscus tea? I must have. It’s pretty hard not to have tasted it. Hibiscus is in lots of herbal teas and comes available with blueberry, coconut, vanilla, pineapple, even sangria flavors among others. Yogi Tea, Tazo, Republic of Tea, Stash, even Lipton all have hibiscus varieties.

Have you shampooed with the flower? I haven’t but it is tempting. It supposedly nourishes hair and slows premature graying (a little late for me, there). I wonder if it colors the hair. This might be something to experiment with.

Have you eaten hibiscus? No, not yet, though I have eaten nasturtiums. I’ve been reading that the flowers can be added to salads, is available as hibiscus honey and syrup, and can be made into tea at home.

Have you used hibiscus medicinally? Can’t say I have. This needs looking into. The plant has a long history of medical use. Claims have been made for its use as an antioxident, as a help in keeping the digestive tract functioning regularly, can help in weight loss, etc. There’s quite a long list of healthy possibilities.

Have you kissed a hibiscus flower? I did yesterday, in appreciation. What a pleasure to have this dazzling plant growing in my yard. I kissed the hibiscus not because of its useful values, which seem to be extensive, but because of its nature. It is what it is and can be appreciated on many levels. Even on the most obvious one – its delicate beauty.

What does hibiscus mean? http://www.flower-meaning.info/hibiscus.php

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Garden State

Around this time of year I am really happy to be a resident of New Jersey. We have such incredible produce. New Jersey tomatoes, corn, and blueberries are abundant. Of course there are early asparagus and strawberries, and then lettuce, broccoli, garlic, eggplants, cucumbers, spinach, peaches, apples, cherries, pears, plums, and more. Later come the cranberries and pumpkins. There are lots of pick-your-own farms, some organic, for the freshest produce possible and even more farm markets for the next best thing. And more supermarkets are carrying local produce from farms around the state.

This year we planted tomatoes, three different Jersey varieties, in my side yard. Yesterday I harvested the first one! It was warm in my hand as I gently tugged it off its stem. It felt as if I was holding sunshine. The watermelon vine we planted at the same time is slowly snaking its way around the plot which already seems way too small for it; if it produces viable fruit, next year we will offer its successor more space. We are learning, going back to our roots, so to speak. After all, our house sits on what was once a potato field.

One of the state nicknames is The Garden State, well earned I believe. There are others to reflect different times in the state’s history and development, not always flattering. But then everything is flexible, even states. People change, society shifts, culture moves along. I seem to have as well, from former city girl to harvester of Jersey tomatoes, in my New Jersey garden. Nice.

More historic nicknames for New Jersey: http://www.netstate.com/states/intro/nj_intro.htm

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mama Mallard

Meet Mama Mallard with two of her four beautiful ducklings. They live on a pond in the midst of a townhouse development, across from a shopping mall. They were strolling near a backyard patio oblivious to me and the others sitting there. Or rather unconcerned with us; I guess they are used to having people around. I spoke softly to her, complimenting her on her lovely family. She waddled over and looked at me. Then the ducklings came, too, and scrambled around the tile and pulled at the grasses on the edge. They settled in for a little nap on a tuft of grass about five feet away. Mama Mallard was vigilent while the babies slept. And then it was time to move on. Mama started walking and quietly quacked. The babies roused and followed her in single file. Papa Mallard joined them, his green head glistening with iridescence and his body language showed pride.

“Congratulations,” I called out. I got a “Quack” in response. “You’re the Duck Whisperer,” said one of my patio companions. “They were responding to you!”

It wasn’t the first time other beings have responded to soft talk: a llama in Machu Pichu, seagulls on the beach, a rabbit in my backyard. Why shouldn’t they? We talk to our pets and expect them to respond. I think all creatures respond to gentle intention. Babies certainly do, why not ducklings? The language may be foreign but the way something is said, the tone and spirit, we all can understand. Gentleness and respect work wonders. Wouldn’t it be great if we remember that when we speak to each other?

Fun notes about Mallards - for the kid in all of us:

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sunflowers - I Hope

I guess it was inevitable that we have sunflowers in our backyard. We buy black oil sunflower seeds for our visiting birds. Their table manners are questionable and there is a carpet of shells and some discarded seeds underneath the feeders, which is where this little one is growing.

There is irony here. We have planted seeds in the past in various parts of the garden with all expectations of exuberant, large, enticing flower but they were always decimated by our local critters before we got one full blossom. So we stopped trying. Now, of its own accord, a sunflower is growing. It must like the soil better than that in our garden though it seems that sunflowers are not all that difficult to grow. And there are many varieties from giant to mini.

Perhaps it is better this way. We appreciate the flower all the more for its survival. The flower, with petals so cheery it’s hard not to smile when I see it, is a treat in itself. And then there are the seeds - who hasn’t crunched a seed or two or more (lots more)? I hope this one makes it to full, seed expression. But even if it doesn’t I know that it is helping to the backyard community. It has my good wishes for a healthy, seedful life.

Have any recipes to share?

All about sunflowers:
http://www.gardenersnet.com/vegetable/sunflowr.htmSome nutrition facts about the seeds: http://vegetarian.lovetoknow.com/Sunflower_Seeds_Nutrition