Ew, no thanks??

In a survival situation, you have to take advantage of everything available to eat! It won’t be long before we must eat them. The ever growing populations of the world will at some point force us to eat new things like this beautiful cricket. Isn’t he gorgeous?

For the record, 100 grams of cricket contains: 121 calories, 12.9 grams of protein, 5.5 g. of fat, 5.1 g. of carbohydrates, 75.8 mg. calcium, 185.3 mg. of phosphorous, 9.5 mg. of iron, 0.36 mg. of thiamin, 1.09 mg. of riboflavin, 3.10 mg. of niacin and .05% fat.

Have a happy weekend! 🙂

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Zapatilla/New World-Lady’s Slipper/Phragmipedium caudatum

Phragmipediums are other types of slipper orchids, but these hail from Central and South America. These relatives of the Asian slipper orchids are indigenous to the mountainous areas in Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Bolivia, Brazil, and as far north as southern Mexico. This genus was founded in 1896 when botanist Robert Rolfe separated these orchids from Cypripediums, another slipper orchid genus. The name of the genus is derived from the Greek phragma, which means “division”, and pedium, which means “slipper” (referring to the pouch). It is abbreviated Phrag in trade journals.

Phragmipediums are rapidly growing orchids that produce complex but uniquely amazing blooms. Many flowers are long and hanging, and in some cases, may measure up to 30 inches (76 cm.) from the tip of the dorsal sepal to the tip of lateral petal. Phragmipediums are terrestrial (grow in the ground) or lithophytic (grow on rocks), but a few species can sometimes be epiphytic (grow on trees). The tree dwellers are primarily the long-petaled caudatum types. Some species prefer to grow in the splash zone of waterfalls and on streambanks and can often be submerged during periods of heavy rain. These streams and waterfall dwellers include the species caricinum, kaieteurum, klotzschianum, lindleyanum, longifolium, pearcei, and sargentianum.

Phragmipedium caudatum (this is the largest orchid that exist) is considered a complex, i.e. it could contain several species or subspecies, based on differences in flower size and color. The cream-colored flowers are laced with greenish stripes. The lateral spiraling, drooping petals are red-tinted and very long, even reaching the soil. They grow on wet, moss-covered hillsides.This plant typically flowers in the spring months in the northern hemisphere from March through June. The green sheath appears from the middle of the growth, and the spike can grow at a very rapid pace, usually providing 2-5 flowers per spray. The sprays are held away from the foliage with 20-24” long stems. Many of the members of the genus have moss-green flowers, and these seem to be the “easy” ones, from lower altitudes.

Phragmipediums used to be expensive plants. Fortunately, Hawaiian growers have perfected the culture of these orchids and have made them commercially available as blooming size plants. Now the cost of Phragmipediums is very reasonable so that more people are able to enjoy and grow these orchids in their homes. Phragmipedium genus is a small group of orchids, comprised of only about 30 species, a few varietal forms and one natural hybrid. The popular species include P. boissierianum, P. caudatum, P. longifolium, P. sargentianum, and the recently discovered P. kovachii. These species have also contributed to a number of excellent hybrids that are increasingly becoming popular. These newer hybrids tend to be more vigorous and easy growing, plus they are available in a broader range of colors compared to most of the species.

Over the last century, orchid prices have gone down dramatically. This is not because demand has gone down; it’s because supply has gone up. Once a rich man’s hobby, orchids are now within reach of anyone, regardless of income. Scientific advancements and economic progress in recent years gave rise to modern growing techniques, faster transportation, and efficient distribution of orchids. Furthermore, state of the art breeding techniques and advanced reproduction methods have made it possible to have vigorous varieties and clones that are easy to grow and flower. All these developments combined have resulted in wholesale prices of orchids that are a mere fraction of their prices in the past. Today’s modern orchids have indeed gone mainstream. Troop down to your florist, your neighborhood nursery, your home improvement store, or even the local grocer and you can find inexpensive orchid alternatives to suit your fancy.
Source: ezinearticles

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Happy Valentine’s Day – to all my readers!

Here’s wishing a Happy Valentine’s Day to all my readers! Today’s the special day to celebrate love and romance. Even if you don’t give them a gift, just hearing it could make someone’s day. I wish you love, happiness and all the benefits of relentless optimism.

In case you don’t have a date for tonight, here are some recommended readings for you: 😉

The True Origins of Valentine’s Day– Anyhoo, where did Valentine’s Day come from?
African People in the New World– Read about the history of Africans in Latin America.
The Titicaca Frog– The latest aphrodisiac that hit the streets of downtown Lima!
Chaya – Tree Spinach– An incredibly nutritious plant that is a staple of the Mayan diet.

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Cardón azul/Sapphire Tower/ Puya alpestris

The genus Puya supposedly contains over 100 species, most native to the higher elevations in South America. Despite the large number of species in the wild, only a dozen or so are ever seen in cultivation and only a few are ‘common’. These are bromeliads, and like most bromeliads, these plants are primarily monocarpic (die once they finish flowering).

Puya alpestris is absolutely amazing – native to the higher elevations of central Chile. It doesn’t form an edible fruit but the flowers will have you salivating. Despite their made-out-of-plastic appearance, they are “real.” Sapphire Tower has a sensational rosette of serrated spiny leaves. It probably has the thinnest, most elegant leaves of all Chilean Puyas. It will form a spike filled with blue-turquoise flowers. Puya alpestris is supposed to be the most hardy one of all Chilean Puyas.

The plant forms a rosette of spiny silvery-green leaves about 3 feet long. The blooms are pollinated by birds, which love to sit on the outward-pointing tips and drink the nectar inside. It takes about 6-8 years to reach flowering size. The flowers are shocking, sapphire-blue flowers held on 4-5 ft spikes. This is a most extraordinary color with the deepest sapphire blue and a green overtone. It’s said to give off a rich, burnt sugar fragrance. For several years the clump will gradually enlarge until it is about 2 feet tall. Usually by this time several pups have started.

The Huntington has more than 20 kinds of Andean puyas, from several sources – probably the finest collection in North America. A large collection came from James West, who was a member of T. Harper Goodspeed’s expeditions to the Andes. Goodspeed wrote about those exploits in the botanical travel classic Plant Hunters in the Andes (1941). Myron Kimnach, the former botanical director of The Huntington, also helped expand the collection.

Puyas bloom from late winter throughout the spring, and come in a variety of spectacular colors, including brilliant yellow, teal blue, royal blue, green, purple, and near black. Amazingly, all puyas have a very special characteristic—after they bloom, their petals twist together, perhaps to protect the ovary from cold and insects.
Source: huntingtonblogs

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Dalia/Mexican Shell Flower/Tigridia pavonia

Dahlias are considered one of the most spectacular garden flowers. There is a great variety of form in Dahlias, from the showy dinner-plate size to the bright, little single ones. There are 30 species and 20,000 cultivars of Dahlias.

Originating from regions in Mexico and South and Central America, Dahlias were revered by native tribe’s people, such as the Aztecs, for decoration, food and medicine. New world collection trips brought dahlias to Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. Initially, they were entertained as food plants, but this did not succeed, and by the early 19th century ornamental varieties began to appear. In the late 19th century some tubers were shipped from Mexico to the Netherlands and only one survived; that of the colorful red-flowered Dahlia juarezii. This plant was bred and selected with other previously collected Dahlia species, which resulted in the dazzling array of different sizes and floral forms and colors. In fact, these are parents to almost all Dahlia cultivars on the market today. Most dahlias are bushy plants, of varying sizes, and have deeply lobed leaves in shades of green and sometimes burgundy and dark purple. They are carefully organized into groups defined by floral size and floral form.

Tigridia pavonia is an outdoor flowering bulb, with sword like narrow leaves and very showy 3 to 6 inch diameter flowers. A central cup is three-segmented, and three larger segments form a triangular shape. The inner cup is usually speckled, the outside segments are in a vivid solid color such as pink, red or yellow. Each individual flower lasts a mere day, but others subsequently bloom, extending the season to several weeks over summer. Many species are easy to grow in pots, but survive best if protected from rain in the winter. Flavors, according to William Woys Weaver, range from spicy apple to carrot, though some are “quite bland.” He recommends peeling, dicing and parboiling them for five minutes with diced carrots as the basis for a salad in a homemade mayonnaise base.

In some cases, such as that of the tree dahlia (Dahlia imperialis), these plants could reach up to 20 feet in height. That wild, treelike species was called Acocotli by the Aztecs, meaning “water cane.” They valued the plant especially as a source of water for traveling hunters. Even to this day, dahlias will store large reserves of water in their stems — one reason they succumb so quickly to hard frosts.

The introduction of brilliant red D. juarezii in 1872, sent to Holland from Mexico, led to another breeding frenzy, and all the dahlia hybrids that we know today descended from the crosses made with this variety in the 1870s. In spite of that, only about five original hybrids survive from the 1800s: ‘Kaiser Wilhelm’ (1893), ‘Nellie Broomhead’ (1897), ‘Tommy Keith’ (1892), ‘Union Jack’ (1882), and ‘White Aster’ (1879). All the other thousands of dahlias shown in garden books of the period are now extinct.

Seeds for dahlias were sent to Spain in 1789 for the three basic species then known: D. atropurpurea, D. pinnata and the aforementioned D. imperialis. The early breeders of dahlias in Europe were primarily interested in developing the plant as a food source (especially the tubers), but those experiments never met with much success. When double forms of the flower began to emerge in the early 1800s, interest shifted entirely to the flower and breeding what is known today as the pompon (ball- or globe-shaped) dahlia.
Source: motherearthnews

Dahlia Salad

3 large carrots, diced, preferably a mix of yellow and orange
1 pound dahlia tubers, pared and diced
1/2 pound fresh green string beans, cut into diamonds
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
3 tbsp vinegar (tarragon, chervil or dill vinegar recommended)
Mayonnaise to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 hard boiled egg, quartered
Mixed herbs (dill, parsley, chives), chopped

Steam the carrots, Dahlia tubers and beans for 5 minutes or until still slightly “al dente.” Put the vegetables in a large mixing bowl and add the oil and vinegar while still hot. Let the vegetables cool, and then add mayonnaise to taste so it coats all the vegetables evenly. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a serving bowl and garnish with the egg and chopped herbs. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature. Serves 4 to 6.

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Congratulations, Giants!

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Verbena/Purpletop vervain /Verbena bonariensis

This plant has quite a long history in cultivation, dating back to the early 1700’s. It is a native of Argentina and Brazil and derives its species name from the city of Buenos Aires. Verbena belongs to a plant family with more than 250 species of annual or perennial flowering plants. Some verbena varieties are also natives of Europe. Verbena flowers vary distinctly in color with the most common being mauve, red, apricot, white and pink. V. bonariensis is commonly known as purple top and sometimes as Argentinean vervain, South American vervain, purple top vervain, or purple top verbena.

Verbena bonariensis is a tall and slender-stemmed perennial. It can grow to 4 ft (120 cm) tall and can spread to 3 ft (90 cm) wide. At maturity, it will develop a woody base. It produces tall, spiky stems that rise well above the plant. At the tip of each stem, the plant produces clusters of tiny violet-colored flowers. The clusters bloom up to 2 inches across and self-seed. The flowers appear in midsummer and continue until first frost.The stem is square with very long internodes. Leaves are ovate to ovate-lanceolate with a toothed margin and grow up to 4 in (10 cm) long. Fruits separate into 4 individual nutlets.

So far, the non-native Purpletop Vervain has rarely escaped from cultivation and become naturalized in Illinois. When wild plants do occur, they rarely persist for very long. Purpletop Vervain was introduced into the United States from Argentina and Brazil as an ornamental garden plant. In Illinois, it has been encountered as a naturalized plant in a weedy area along a pond among cattails (Coles County), and it has been found growing wild at a construction site near the Urbana Free Library by the webmaster (Champaign County). Outside of the state, Purpletop Vervain has been found in such habitats as fields, roadsides, weedy meadows, and other disturbed areas. It is often cultivated in flower gardens.

Because these flowers attract the Monarch, Red Admiral, Checkerspots, and other butterflies, it is a good choice for the butterfly garden. While this species is regarded as invasive in some areas of the United States, it appears to prefer highly disturbed areas in Illinois, rather than high quality natural habitats. Sometimes Purpletop Vervain is incorrectly referred to as ‘Brazilian Vervain,’ which corresponds to another South American species, Verbena brasiliensis. Brazilian Vervain has escaped from cultivation in southeastern United States, but there are no records of this species naturalizing in Illinois. Unlike Purpletop Vervain, Brazilian Vervain produces distinct cylindrical spikes of flowers within each floral cyme of the inflorescence.
Source: illinoiswildflowers – Wiki

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Welcome, February!

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Chago/Mauka/Mirabilis expansa

Mauka is just one of several root and tuber crops that originate from the Andes – it was enjoyed by the Incas, and is a common ingredient of many dishes that are baked underground using hot stones.

It is cultivated as a root vegetable in the Andean region, at cold, windy altitudes above 2700 meters. The above-ground portion dies back with frost, but the root is quite hardy. It grows to a height of 1 meter, and bears edible tuberous roots that can reach the size of a man’s forearm, with a dry weight composition of about 7% protein and 87% carbohydrate. Yield can reach 50,000 kg/ha given two years maturation time. Great interest in this root crop has been generated by its ability to be grown in conditions that do not favor other root crops.

The roots of some forms if eaten directly can irritate the mucus membranes, and should be sun-dried and boiled before eating to eliminate the irritating substance. Bolivian forms are more often irritating than Ecuadoran forms. The cooking water of the M. expansa makes a satisfying sweet drink while leaves may also be eaten as a leaf vegetable or used raw in salads. Once the root has been exposed to the sun the astringent, bitter taste is replaced with sweetness. One of the traditional preparations the boiled roots are mixed with honey and toasted grain. Ecuadorians have both sweet and salty preparations.

Mirabilis expansa was an important root crop to the Inca empire and was considered a “lost” crop until being rediscovered in the 1960’s and 1970’s in three separate distant locations in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. There is a possibility that the plant’s continued use and survival in three separate locations was due to the Inca policy of transplanting valuable food crops and communities throughout the empire.

The stems are cylindrical and are divided by nodes, from which pairs of opposite leaves arise. The leaves are ovulate or cordate, 3 to 8 cm long, 2 cm wide and somewhat coriaceous. The nervures and edges have reddish areas. The inflorescences are on long, slender terminal branches, are 3 to 6 cm in length and are covered with hairs which frequently have small insects stuck to them.

The stems are salmon-pink in colour when they are below ground. They are generally smooth and fleshy, up to 50 cm long and 5 cm wide. The swelling process of the stems and the accumulation of nutritive substances are typical of Nyctaginaceae; they are the result of cambium activity creating irregular peripheral tissues around the external part of the stem. Towards the centre, several elliptical rows of isolated xylem vessels may be seen. The basic tissue is parenchymatous with an abundance of water, many starch grains and some cream-colored.
Source: mundoandino

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Ejotes/French beans/Phaseolus vulgaris

After abandoning the idea of an Indian origin, today experts agree on the American origin of beans. Both Virgil and Calumella did mention a Phaseolus, but they apparently meant a different legumen of the genus Dolichos, because beans were never found in archa-eological findings from the Mediterranean area. On the other hand, remains of beans dating over 7,000 years were found in the excavations of ancient Mexican and Guatemalan cities. And yet beans did not originate in that area either. While Mexico and Guatemala abound in wild forms of this legumen, they are probably only an area of diversification. The area of origin of the bean is now considered to be South America (Peru and Columbia).

Beans were first introduced into Europe by the Spanish conquistadors. In Italy, they were known to be widely grown in vegetable gardens as early as 1569. From Europe, beans later spread to India, Africa, Indochina, and the rest of the world. Today, they are a major crop thanks to their nutritional properties and particularly as a good protein and energy (From Il Divulgatore)
Phaseolus vulgaris beans are tender and slender with green, rounded pods, 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) long. The pods are eaten whole, including the immature seeds, when they are still young, juicy and tender. They have a delicate texture and sweet flavor. The part eaten are the pods and the seeds. The seeds of the mature pod are knows as flageolets and can be eaten and used as you would do with peas. They can be called green beans or pole beans. Green beans grow on a vine and are actually pods with little beans inside them. Green beans are a delicious side dish for any meal. They can be found Italian style, French style, and simply cut.

French beans are a fat free food that contains vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, and protein. They don’t have a lot of carbohydrates which don’t adversely affect the blood sugar. You can eat all you want and still be healthy. Good source of vitamin C, carotene and a variety of minerals, some fiber but very little protein; low in calories, as most vegetables.
Source: giorgini

Green Beans with Browned Butter

3/4 lb fresh green beans, cut in half
2 tablespoons butter (do not use margarine or vegetable oil spreads)
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

In 2-quart saucepan, place beans in 1 inch of water. Heat to boiling. Boil uncovered 6 to 8 minutes or until crisp-tender (they shouldn’t be “squeaky” when you bite into one); drain. Keep warm.

Meanwhile, in 1-quart saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Be careful not to let butter burn or it will taste bitter. Stir in pecans. Heat, stirring constantly, until butter is golden brown. (If bottom of saucepan is dark, it may be difficult to see the difference between brown butter and burnt butter. Try spooning a little of the butter onto a white plate to see the color more clearly.) Immediately remove from heat. Pour butter mixture over beans; toss to coat. Sprinkle with lemon peel.

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