Poinsettia Miracles

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Starring the close of each year and darkest, darkest night, the Poinsettia’s striking winter appearance hails worldwide wishes of generosity and good cheer.

A Plant of Many Miracles…

Love

Rooted around miracles and the power of love, Mexican legend paints a heartwarming story around the Poinsettia.  While details vary, it’s essentially about a meager child having nothing to offer the baby Jesus except some roadside weeds. Once placed on the Christmas Eve altar, however, they miraculously transformed into brilliant red and green flowers.  Can you imagine witnessing the unfolding of such beauty, like the ugly duckling turned swan, or springtime buds bursting into bloom?  You know, it’s how your heart feels when overflowing with love.  How you feel when giving (or receiving) from the heart.

Abundance

Exemplifying the giving season, Poinsettias achieved stardom once sold under the botanical name Euphorbia Pulcherrima.  Nearly 70 million plants now sell from Thanksgiving to Christmas, generating $250 million in sales.

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Diversity and Individuality

The Poinsettia garners its name for world traveler, botanist and diplomat, Joel Roberts Poinsett. He introduced the plant to the U.S. in the early 1800s after falling in love with it near Taxco Mexico.

Today, more than 100 varieties of Poinsettias range from burgundy to red, salmon to apricot, yellow to cream and white, and solid to marbled, not to mention the dyed blue and purple ones or those speckled with glitter.

 

The United States commemorates December 12th, the date of Poinsett’s death, as National Poinsettia Day.

Care

As much as I love gardening, and can rarely bear discarding any broken plant stems  (several cuttings are rooting on my windowsill now), I admit I never gave Poinsettia’s their proper care.  Sure, I didn’t toss them  after the holidays when their bracts (often called flowers) fell, and a few hung around awhile as green house plants, but I didn’t keep them in total darkness so they would turn red for the holidays next year — a process Certified Nursery Consultant, Rick LaVasseur calls photoperiodism.  A process I call a miracle if I remember to do it.

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Spirituality

Also known as the Christmas Eve Flower or Flowers of the Holy Night, some Christians symbolize the plant’s shape as the Star of Bethlehem which guided the Wise Men to Jesus, and the red color as the blood of Christ.

The meaning of the Pointsettia reflects standard Christmas and New Year wishes for Joy, Love and Hope – my universal wish for the coming year.

God gave me a memory so that I may have roses in December.  But, I have the Poinsettia too.

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Nature’s Circle of Comfort

Seeing these rounded hay bales in expansive green fields began to stir something deep within a few years ago that felt strangely comforting. 11-2-18 004 hay bales

I hadn’t observed this prior to practicing Qigong where I first felt a gentle, circular energy flowing between my hands.  The movements soon enriched my gardening activities and evolved my thinking about continued life which led me to the Tao and a spiraled understanding of nature and our connectivity to the universe.images

Yin-yang‘s circular energy symbolizes life’s continuum and oneness; that nothing is 100% black or white, right or wrong; we need one to have the other.  Hours accelerate around the clock transforming day to night through the calendar of winter to spring, summer to autumn, season to season, year to year, era after era, wrinkled newborn to withered senior.  This energy of oneness incorporates ourselves, others and the universe.

It is said that with Qigong (or Tai Chi) practice, you begin to view all of life as part of this circle. I have and am grateful for it.  I see the circular trees, the ever lasting round sun and moon, the flowers that know to return year after year, the rounded hay bales at harvest.  I use to fear death as a finality of life.  But Qigong, gardening, and being in nature have taught me otherwise.  This freedom from despair over my eventual death or that of loved ones is healing.  Perhaps that is why the hay bales are like Mother Nature’s hugs, offering a soothing kinship with nature and all that is around me.

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Where did all the tomatoes go?

If you don’t start your own vegetable plants — like I usually forget to do in March, you’re probably like me and purchasing starter plants from a local greenhouse.  The problem I always run in to — especially for cherry tomatoes and peppers, is they’re usually packaged four to six plants to a flat which is way more than I need.  Luckily, another customer felt the same so I happily gave half of them away right at the checkout this year.  Still, I ended up with too many, particularly when a few plants returned on their own.  (I never have the heart to rip out and discard these orphans.)

But, I do toss tomatoes that split on the vine which turned out to be about a third of the crop this year.  After giving plenty away, making some tasty bruschetta, salads, and popping into the juicer for some added Lycopene, I’ve frozen several bags for when I’m puttering in the kitchen on a cool autumn Sunday.

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A day’s harvest…

This week I added some of those fresh tomatoes and red bell peppers to a meatless version of a southwestern pie that I make this time of year:

 

Have fun with the ingredients.  Try it for dinner tonight and let me know how you like it.

Fish in the Grass

Heavy rains make weeds grow freely

but

also easier to remove.

Rainstorms

flood the pond.

Fish are swimming in the yard.

Not so lucky for them

but the heron is happy for food

and the grass will be fertilized.

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Photo by Tyler Butler on Unsplash

This is my gardener’s perspective on a Chinese folk story called “An Old Man Lost His Horse – Sai Weng Shi Ma.”

From Taoism to Shakespeare’s, “Nothing is good or bad.  It’s thinking that makes it so,” the lens widens as the circle of learning continues.

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Misfortune, that is where happiness depends;

happiness, that is where misfortune underlies.”

 

Have You Seen the Rose Bush?

The whole is some of everything

if we but open our eyes to see.

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Growing pains

do not require suffering.

Pruning

encourages growth.

Endings

are beginnings. 

Instead of shooing away challenges

welcome the fortitude of character

as an expansive, cleansing belly breath.

Out. In. Up. Down.

We are the sum of everything —

life experiences,

thoughts, feelings, paths taken.

The Prickly Fine Print

I often viewed challenges as problems, headaches, when in reality my narrow perspective was the constricting chokehold. My limited vision obstructed a panorama of possibilities in what appeared a seemingly bleak situation.

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Photo by Benjamin Balázs on Unsplash

 

Hearing someone say they were so busy looking at the thorn that they missed the rose, wiped the spattered looking-glass for me.  Working in the garden and studying the Tao pryed open the door to a scopic reality.

 

 

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While I now see both the roses and the thorns, I am learning to not judge either as good or bad but as a unified connection, one simply needing the other in life.

 

 

 

Original feature photo by Jess Watters on Unsplash

 

 

Do you Expect More from Plants or People?

Some people say expectations set us up for disappointment.  But as a gardener I say, “I must have expectations for the fruits of my labor.  Otherwise, why would I plant?”  And more often than not, the final product — of abundant produce and beautiful bloomsfar exceeds my expectations.

Still, sometimes plant wilt.  Sometimes they become diseased.  Sometimes it’s excessive heat or too little rain that hinders the intended outcome.  But, while there is no guarantee, the end result is more true for plants than people.

How do you handle expectations?  Do you allow them to create a vision?  Do you have a blank slate, throw your hands up in the air and accept whatever comes?  Do you reserve expectations only for plant life or allow them to carry over to relationships?

Good Morning Mother Nature

One of my favorite morning activities is walking through the garden discovering what’s bloomed then cutting a basket full of flowers to become a bouquet.  Focusing solely on colors, textures and scents quiets my mind while the warming sun and cooling breeze brushing my skin soothes my HSP spirit.

Mother Nature offers this gentle good morning to anyone taking time to appreciate her splendid gifts.  Try meditating while creating a morning bouquet and see how you feel.  Refreshed?  Focused?  Rewarded?  At peace?  Grateful?

 

A bit overly ambitious this morning, I now have three bouquets to grace my kitchen, bathroom and bedroom.   How I love this time of year!

 

 

Aspergrass Cheese Tart is a Keeper!

If you’re wondering about aspergrass see my recent post “Did you say Aspergrass?”  Since my asparagus is still producing and I’ve wanted to try some new recipes, the Asparagus and Cheese Tart starred brunch today.  After making some slight adjustments to suit my taste (noted below) this recipe is a fave:

  • I grilled some of the asparagus (as depicted in the photo) then blanched the 7-1-18 asparagus tart 005rest according to the recipe.  I also:
  • Increased the lemon zest from 1/2 tsp. to 3/4-1 tsp.
  • Increased the shallot from 1 tbl to 1 whole shallot
  • Used 3/4 cup each of shredded fontina and gruyere cheeses
  • Reduced the extra-virgin olive oil to 1 tsp.
  • For an interesting dimension, put 1 drop of carmelized balsamic on a bite at eating time.

If you love asparagus, try this recipe and let me know if it’s made it’s way to your favorites too!

Brunch consisted of herbal ice tea, the asparagus tart, fresh greens from the garden with lemon olive oil and kosher salt, (homegrown tomatoes are not ready yet), and uncured bacon.  Yes, I am still a carnivore.

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A garden then and now…

No surprise to me, this inspirational sentiment about a garden’s virtues.  What is surprising though, is that it was written by the Persian poet Saadi who lived more than 700 years ago.  Can you imagine the beauty he beheld then, before industry dominated our planet?  If I find a garden breathtaking now, I wonder what it was like for Saadi to see?  Could it have been even more beautiful…more uplifting, more astonishing than the way it fills my heart now?

 

Did you say Aspergrass?

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Knowing it takes three years to harvest, I delayed growing asparagus for decades.  Three years ago it was now or never.  I didn’t really know what I was doing but, as usual, I learned a lot in the process.  Now, I’ve been harvesting spears for the last six weeks and more keep coming!

Asparagus Tips (Inedible) and Tidbits…

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  • In America, asparagus is often pronounced aspergrass or aspirin grass.
  • Asparagus is a member of the lily family.
  • Packed with vitamins and nutrients, asparagus is deemed the King of Vegetables.  Plants comprise a crown of rhizomes and lateral roots, and a tall, frilly fern.
  • Green asparagus is most common in America; white is common in Europe and essentially grown in the dark.  Purple asparagus is sweeter and originated in Italy.
  • It’s suggested to grow 10 asparagus plants per person.
  • Asparagus can grow up to 7 inches in one day.
  • Harvesting ranges from 2 to 12 weeks.
  • Plants can produce for up to 30 years!
  • Curved spears?  Check for insect damage or be careful when cutting adjacent stalks.

  • Revered since the first century, Egyptians offered asparagus to the gods; a 16th century Arabian love manual contained an asparagus recipe for stimulating erotic desires.  Roman Emperor Augustus’ soldiers transported asparagus in speedy chariots to ice caves in the Alps so it could be freezed for later use.
  • The Greeks used asparagus to cure toothaches and heart disease.  Today, it’s used to treat other health issues like joint pain and urinary tract infections.
  • Smelly urine after eating asparagus?  It’s because our bodies convert asparagusic acid into sulfur-containing chemicals (although not everyone detects the odor).
  • A cold salad vinaigrette of Belle d’Argenteuil asparagus appeared on the menu for first class Titanic passengers before sinking in April 1912.
  • Two species of asparagus — A. fallax and A. nesiotes are endangered in the Canary Islands.
  • 1600s slang pronounced asparagus as sparagus which evolved to sparagrass and then sparrowgrass.

Asparagus Culinary Ideas (Edible)

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I love to cook and I’m looking for creative ways to prepare ə-ˈspar-ə-gəs.  I understand that in China, asparagus is candied as a special treat but I have yet to find the recipe.  How do you eat asparagus?

  • Steamed and topped with burnt butter?
  • Grilled with olive oil and sea salt?
  • Wrapped in prosciutto?
  • Sprinkled with lemon zest and olive oil, or shaved parmesan cheese?
  • Tempura or stiry fry?
  • Leek-asparagus-herb soup?

Have you tried Béarnaise sauce rather than the typical Hollandaise to dress-up your asparagus?  I can hardly wait to make that flaky pastry tart with cheese and asparagus spears or even the baked asparagus fries.  If you have some favorite aspergrass recipes please do share!

Postscript:  I baked the asparagus fries tonight and they aren’t for me.

 

I talk a lot about one size doesn’t fit all, so that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t like them.  I tend to like spicy.  I tried a Tempura dipping sauce and although that livened them up a bit, this recipe will not appear in my favorites.