Orchid Babies!

Orchid babies! My orchids just had babies! And I am on a steep learning curve on taking care of them.

I was at my Hardware store of choice last winter when I spotted this Dendrobium orchid on sale, from 16 to 12 euros. It was still pricey for an orchid, but I couldn’t resist its wonderful yellow flowers, and so splurged.

I was soon disappointed when not more than three weeks after purchase, the flowers began to fall off, and the orchid seemed to wilt. I was almost ready to throw them out, when I noticed that it was growing new leaves, or flowers, I wasn’t so certain back then.

So while waiting it out, more leaves began to sprout. Then roots. Ta-DAA! New orchids! I was so excited when it sprouted four babies!

So far I’ve made the mistake of using the wrong potting mix. I chose the cheapest one, which was a few cents less expensive than the top of the line one. It consisted of sawdust with a few pine chips here and there. Big mistake! Two of the babies started getting water rot from the base, I hope I was able to save them in time, but I am not so sure. One keiki is still attached to the mother, and another one is sprouting from the Dendrobium cane.

orchidAll in all, this is a very good year for orchids. Since last year I have finally found the “sweet spot” for the orchids in my apartment where the orchids do very well. As you could see in this picture, my Phalenopsis orchid has sprouted new flowers, after three years of dormancy. They used to be in the living room, but they prefer the bright afternoon light offered by the playroom.

That’s the thing with house plants. The place where you want them to be isn’t necessarily the place they want to be. And boy, they will make it known. Leaves start to fall off, they won’t flower, that kind of stuff.  So move around your house plants, and wait for them to tell you they like it where they are

Cherry Cupcakes!

Another recipe from North & South are these fabulous cherry cupcakes that you really just have to try!

240 g unsalted butter                                   210 g self-raising flour

200 g caster sugar                                      90 g plain flour

3 large eggs                                                 36 or more fresh cherries, stoned, halved and                                                                        de-stemmed

Zest of half an orange                                  12 fresh cherries, stoned, with stems intact

 

Line a muffin tray with cupcake inserts. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until white and fluffy. Add eggs and orange zest, mix well. Fold in the flours gently, then add the cherries. DO NOT OVERSTIR! It’s ok if there are still patches of flour here and there, overmixing will make your cupcakes dry!

Divide the mixture  among the hollows in the cupcake tray, placing a cherry on top of each cupcake just before baking. Bake at 200°C or 180°C on fan bake for about 10-15 minutes or until a skewer comes clean. Allow to cool and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

While the recipe says it is enough for 12 cupcakes, I was able to bake 16 cupcakes total. The cupcakes do not keep well, so consume within 48 hours. I haven’t tried refrigerating them but the article warned against it. 

The Balcony is A- bloomin’

Summer is finally here, and I am so glad I was able to organize the balcony using little pockets of time here and there. I think this year, my seventh in tiny balcony gardening, has shown that my collected experience  has finally paid off. The time used from planning until implementation has definitely improved, and spent less money than I have in the previous years, since I already have most of what I need, using seeds from previous years.

 

I mean, look at this strawberry, one from the several plants growing in little boxes on the railing. It is hard to believe that I scraped the seed of this plant from the chopping board two years ago after making jam!

This year would be a special test on my tiny gardening skills, as I have tomatoes, eggplant, and a potato plant all on my balcony. It is generally not recommended to plant nightshade relatives all close to each other, but I couldn’t resist experimenting if I could really grow potato out of a grow bag, and the eggplant unexpectedly grew from seed this year, after three years of trying and failing. I have tried to situate the eggplant and potato in such a way that they are closed from three sides, and only the side where they get sunlight remained open, to minimize possible cross infection of blight, if it does occur.

The onions are doing very well, and I guess i will never be able to grow ramsons in a box. Fourth year in a row that they haven’t bloomed. But otherwise this promises to be a great harvest year

Bee Blues

The Garden has been discussing keeping bees, and I have expressed interest in becoming one of the garden’s beekeepers. One of our affiliated organizations, The Fuchsfarm, held an Open Day at their garden and let guests watch while they harvested the honey and filled them up in jars.

It was so interesting to find out how equipment and time-intensive beekeeping is, especially in the summer. Keeping bees are really like keeping pets!

bee1

So first, the beekeeper takes the honeycomb out of the wooden hive and sprays the bees away with a smoker. The cells are waxed shut by the bees when they are full, so, they won’t spill. They are then put in a bigger box, then taken inside.

With a small fine-toothed rake, pry off the wax covers on the cells on an easel that is propped over a tray.

bee2The combs are put into a steel drum, which has a crank that turns the frame that holds the wooden honeycombs. The centrifugal force flings the honey to the sides of the drum and drips down to the funneled bottom of the drum. The bottom of the drum has a tap, which is then flipped open and the honey trickles into a sieve-topped pail which catches the last bits of wax that is still in the honey.

bee3The pail itself has a tap at the bottom, and the honey is filled into glass jars that are sold on-site.

But of course, bee keeping is not without its risks. As I was taking off my protective gear in the shed, an unseen bee stung the palm of my hand! As they took out the stinger, I was given a homeompathic pellet to minimize the swelling, then another pressed a cold onion half-globe onto the swollen area.

A bit later I rubbed crushed Spitzwegerich on the area. It still smarts, but it feels much better now. I am still thinking if I should get into beekeeping, since I may not have the time to invest in it. But I would still like to try!

Pechay is a Winter Vegetable…Who Knew?!!

Germany is having some crazy climate change weather as of late. 2013 dumped a pile of snow on us until May, while this winter is waaay too warm=no snow. Not that I mind, but the grousing of worried Germans exclaiming WHERE’S OUR WINTER???? is quite loud.

So I got a surprise crop of pechay from stray seeds that scattered and sprouted spontaneously from last summer. I thought that they would freeze anyway, so I didn’t bother to pull them up. But the unusually mild winter meant that they thrived all though December. The cold weather also meant that it took them a longer time to sprout.

I bet that people living in a place with mild winters, like Italy or France, or even Hamburg, would be well supplied with pechay. No need for a greenhouse! I am very much encouraged by this discovery and have already turned that beautiful plant in the picture into Adobong Pechay.

Seeds Anyone?

Seeds everywhere. The end of the gardening season always means the putting away of seeds for the next year. I have accumulated too many chive, coriander, and Italian flat-leaf parsley for next year, so I am giving them away to anyone who wants a packet.

Send me an e-mail at my contact details or leave a message at the comments and I will ship anywhere in the world. I am also willing to trade!

Erntedankfest

It’s time to wind down this year’s farming season with an harvest festival. Although this year I am quite glad that I am not dependent on my garden for sustenance. This year’s tomatoes are quite good, but this year’s potatoes, apples, pears, pumpkins did not quite make it due to the weird weather this year.

.erntedankfest Despite that, a year of hard work and cameraderie is always a cause for celebration. The Pear Cake made a debut, along with a batch of Taboule. The pears were a gift from a tree, and the veggies and herbs in the salad came from my balcony and the garden. Along with home-made elderberry soda, it was a great way to use what grew this year.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay so long. It was great to meet the new people in our ever growing community garden, and I’m looking forward to enjoying the fruits of the summer this fall and winter.

Chocolate Upright Pear Cake

The air is starting to be crisper, leaves turning into wonderful shades of red and brown. Truly, Fall is slowly creeping into my kitchen as well. I got a windfall of pears, and I have been itching to try out a recipe ever since I saw a picture of it in New Urban Farmer from Celia Brooks Brown.

Apart from its appearance, the cake is also unsusual in that chocolate cakes are normally made moist by the amount of oil in them. This is made moist by the pear juice. It looks really stunning in person and I can only recommend this cake.

Ingredients:

100 g all purpose flour, 1 packet baking powder, 50 g cocoa powder, 50 g ground almonds, 175 g softened salted butter, 175 g brown sugar, 3 eggs, 2 Tbsp. milk, 5 small pears or 4 big pears.

You need a 23 cm (9 inch) springform pan. Line it with parchment paper and grease the sides. Pre-heat the pan to 180°C.

Mix the dry ingredients together well. First the flour, cocoa and baking powder, then the ground almonds.

With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Mix in an egg, and add a tablespoon of the dry ingredients. Add the two other eggs, then the flour mixture with the milk. Pour this into the pan and spread it evenly with a spatula.

Slice off the bottom of the pears and place them in the batter. Make sure that the pears are at least an inch apart and an inch away from the border. Place in the oven for 45-60 minutes. (I followed the recipe but I ended up with a burned cake. I’d say 30-45 minutes. trust your instincts on this one!) Let cool and separate from the form. Could be served with whipped cream.

Strawberry Torte Cake

So thanks to a bumper crop of strawberries from my in-law’s garden, I had two kilos of fruit that needed to be worked on, fast.

The thing about German berries is that time is of the essence. You can’t just leave them open for a few days. Like cherries, berries have to be either eaten or turned into something  within two days after picking, or else they go moldy or bad.

Now after turning a kilo of strawberries into chunky strawberry jam, I needed to do something with the rest. Thanks to a friend, she gave me her recipe for Biskuitboden, which needed a significantly lower amount of eggs from the recipe I found (two eggs versus six eggs!)

Her recipe is:

100 g butter or margarine, 100g sugar, 5g vanilla sugar, 2 eggs, 150 g flour, 1 tsp baking powder

Thoroughly grease tart pan with butter, and pre-heat oven to 180°C. Mix softened butter/margarine with sugar until creamy,add vanilla sugar then eggs, then flour. Bake 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

I was quite pleased with the results of the cake base, and I would like to experiment by adding a dash of lemon juice to add a bit of flavor.

And I still had a bowl of strawberries left over after that! I turned half of it into yogurt strawberry shake with muscovado sugrar and packed the rest for me and my kid’s lunch.