Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Maracas Drive Food

Have we taken street food to another level? It seems that the world is just beginning to discover Trinidadian food. I say this because for a long, long time, most Caribbean food was lumped under one banner. Trinidad's cuisine is different to any other island. In fact, each island is entirely unique. Certainly there may be general culinary adages such as rice and peas but for the most part, each island has very different cuisine.On the way to Maracas beach, the street vendors have taken street snacks to a new level. Pineapple and mango chow with heavy doses of chadon beni, fudge and salt prunes are just some of a few of the things that you can snack on while driving along the winding coastal road.
For all of us who grew up in the seventies, our school yard diet was a steady stream of red mango ( bright red pickled mango that had a chinese origin) and salt prunes which we would store in the pockets of our convent skirts and suck surreptitiously through the sticky, humid after lunch periods. We also lived for sno cones, aloo pies and tamarind balls.
Dixie biscuits and crix have always been in our lives. I don't know who the first baker was who miraculously stumbled upon the first crix recipe. I hope it was a Eureka moment. Little did he know the role that this little biscuit would play on the national stage.

My daughter has only just learned the joy of chow. Mango chow, cucumber chow, pineapple chow. If it grows on a tree, chances are that it can only be improved with a little lime, salt, garlic, chadon beni and pepper. I still love the bite and peel delicacies that appear throughout the year. Topi Tambo (or Tippi Tambo if you are from South) with its crunchy water chestnut/potato texture, Chataigne, the delicious bread nut, Peewah with its bright orange skin and nutty kernel are just some of my favorite things. I am never happier than when I am reading on the couch on a Saturday afternoon with a big bowl of anything that I can peel and eat.
A true farine and avacodo kind of girl.

Monday, 27 August 2007

The Incredible Beauty of Flowers

My wild orchid is a magnet to the bees. I imagine that they must all know the signs. Maybe a delicious whiff of pheromone on the breeze.

The information below is courtesy http://www.ttorchids.net/index.php
This is the Trinidad and Tobago Orchid Society's Data base. It is well worth visiting as they have excellent examples of species orchids that grow in our rain forests. The two below are both wild and indigenous to Trinidad.

Catasetum macrocarpum (Male Flower) Colour of sepals and petals vary from concolour green to green with wine red spotting. Lip colour varies from concolor green to bright yellow on external surface and red on internal surface.Flowers have a unique pollination mechanism. When the pollinator - usually a euglossine bee - lands on the lip a trigger mechanism on the column shoots pollen onto the back of the insect. This one has popped up on my frangipani tree.

Oncidium luridum is commonly known as Brown Bee. Colour varies from clearpale green or yellow to olive green with brown spotting, crest of lip usually has a rose purple splash. Natural spread varies from 1 to 2 cms. The flowers are appear on a long stem (5ft) that hangs down through the trees. Each spray can contain up to 100 flowers. This one is on my mango tree.

My "sexy pink". It flowers all year round unlike the orange which is seasonal. Its whole important name is heliconia chartacea from the family heliconiaceae

A close up of Pontederia cordata commonly known as pickerelweed. It is relatively new to Trinidad as far as I know. I thought it was quite exotic and considered myself quite the collector to have it; until I discovered that it is classified as a weed in the USA. What a beautiful weed!

Big blowsy beautiful cattleya. Horticultural Hussies.
Everything about them just screams overdo. But you can't help being very, very impressed with nature's coquettish behaviour.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Why I love this country

These photos are from my friend Carol Stone.
If I ever did have to leave, these are the things that would break my heart. The drive to Mayaro with its unique sound and smell. The corner that rounds from the Sangre Grande old road to Manzanilla always signified summer holidays. The sound of the wind in the coconuts and the ocean breeze meant that we were nearly there. We could see the sea!
I have seen this peaceful scene in many guises.
It is where the swamplands meet the Atlantic sea and it can be idyllic or horribly violent depending on the tides. On the opposite of this scene are the brackish mangroves and this is the only place that I have ever seen an anaconda in the wild. Supple and powerful, wrapped up in the roots of dense undergrowth, we were past it in a flash. A horrified glimpse from the backseat of a car.

This is Mayaro beach. It is quite simply beautiful. Not in the Maracas, north coast beach type of way but in the walk for miles and stare out to the horizon and imagine nothing between you and this sea until Africa way. As children every piece of detritus that was washed up, we imagined coming straight from an exotic ship wreck. It was also the beach that turned deadly beautiful at Easter time with the scores of Portuguese man-o-war that floated onto the beach trailing their lethally beautiful purple tendrils, irresistible to legions of daredevils, popping them with coconuts while running from the searing stray splash.

Sunset at Crown Point in Tobago

Friday, 24 August 2007

My Wish List

These are some more photos from Joanne de Gannes' garden. This water feature is set among the bromeliads and ferns and is very rustic looking which suits the mood of the whole area. This has given me lots of ideas because there is so much shade in my garden, I sometimes despair for colour. Especially in the rainy season.This unusual shrub around the large bromeliad is called excorcaria. I finally bit the bullet and bought some of it today. It is an excellent foliage addition as it provides bursts of colour with its red underside and variegated top.
It is paired very effectively with an unusual red and yellow curly croton and the variegated bromeliad.

Ixora is so common, it's easy to take them for granted. This is one that I had not seen before and the flower is big, round and bi-coloured.
A new canna lily colour.
Well, new to Trinidad. I am so tempted but the last time I tried with Cannas they all died. Hmmm.
This one I do have but it hasn't bloomed yet. The stem/stalk of this ginger (I think it's a ginger) is striped and looks a bit like bamboo. It is an excellent foliage plant even when there are no flowers.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

The garden of a landscaper

Joanne de Gannes is a well respected and successful landscaper. She has an impeccable eye for detail and an ability to turn her hand at anything. I was fortunate enough to be able to take these pictures in her garden. These topiaries give an Italian feel to this back yard. Despite the fact that there is no grass, the area is green and lush.
Contrasting shapes, textures and shades of green are particularly effective with this tightly clipped miniature duranta hedge.
In this magical bromeliad walkway, filtered light is turned into an advantage by creating a "forest" walkway of princess palms that tower over the bromeliads and ferns below. Clever placement of coral stone gives the bromeliads something to grow onto and provides different heights for varying perspectives. An unusual ground cover of "baby tears" gives a grass like effect with a more textured finish. This area was also home to several varieties of ferns, calatheas and philodendrons.
A sunken copper is the perfect accent piece for this backyard area and leads into the trellissed walkway. Ceramic geese help complete this picture and are a delightful folly.
Variegated miniature orange. Both the fruit and the foliage of this plant are beautiful and carry the mediterranean theme.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

The complicated world of plants

The seeds of the heliconia are what ensures life. These brightly coloured pods that emerge from the flower bracts are irresistible to tanagers and hummingbirds. All heliconias have some sort of pod often in different colours depending on the type of heliconia. Usually they are a contrasting colour to the flower bract. My sexy orange bracts give forth an indigo seed. Like the bromeliads, the bracts often serve as breeding spots for mosquito colonies and it is a good idea to check for larvae every now and then.
I thought that this plant was a philodendron. However, on researching it, I'm pretty sure that it belongs to the genus Monstera (Monstera Deliciosa) which was, for a long time, considered part of the philodendron family. It is commonly known as "swiss cheese plant" . This is the first year that I have seen it produce this inflorescence. I'm not sure if this will develop into a leaf or a fruit. The leaves of the Monstera plant after an evening shower.
The lavender blooms of this lime green coleus are so beautiful that I can't beat to pinch them off. With coleus, I've always been told to remove the flowers to allow for longer life of the plant. Usually I do but with butterflies everywhere at this time of year, I can't bear to remove flowers from anything.

War in the Garden

This is my enemy. Mr Bachac.

Now that I know that the worker ant has big powerful jaws.

My poor vandas never stood a chance.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Fox among the Bromeliads

If you had asked me the least likely thing to make it onto my blog, I may have gotten to fox. But here he is in all his glory. Certainly not from Trinidad. He is courtesy my sister Jennifer's friend Stuart. Thank you Stuart. He is gorgeous. I didn't even know that they had foxes in Miami. Big city that it is, Miami never fails to amaze me with its wildlife. Jen, I'm really sorry that Mummy couldn't see this. I told her about it on the phone and she was really interested. A spark.

Unusual Colour Combinations

I have lots of cordylines in my garden. They are a great addition to any bed because the colours change depending on the amount of sun that they get. Nature does the most amazing colour pairing. Look closely at the pink edge of this foliage. Unusual combination of red and pink to say the least.
My miniature pineapple has a new one again. I just keep putting the tops back in the ground and am slowly building up a small collection. I've never tried to eat them. I'm sure they're just decorative.This I did eat and it was delicious. Remember we saw it as a flower?
I adore begonias. Unfortunately the feeling is not mutual. I have very clayey soil and the hybrid begonias are not as hardy as their common cousins like the bread and cheese. This particular one is quite hardy and I just love the dots on the leaves.

Chancy, please help. This is my new bed. I paired them for the colours but have no idea what either one is called. Aren't the colours lovely?

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Hurricane Dean

Part of the first ever "family portrait" of the solar system taken by Voyager 1 in 1990, this image of Earth was captured from a distance of more than 4 billion miles. Pictured here as a dot only 0.12 pixels in size, the Earth is, as described by Voyager contributor Carl Sagan, "...a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish this pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."

These pictures are part of the series of the top ten photos taken from outer space. I'm taking a slightly different slant tonight as Hurricane Dean bears down on our Caribbean neighbours. As I type this, it is roaring towards Jamaica. I can't help but think of all the people that will lose homes, security and everything familiar. But I also think of the trees that will be uprooted, the animals lost and the carefully tended gardens destroyed.
This picture is an earthrise taken from the moon. It really is a pretty small planet.
My point is that we are all sharing the same space. And while we can't stop the course of Mother Nature, we can all play a part in reducing global warming.

As I go to bed tonight, I will be thinking of all our Caricom neighbours who are not fortunate enough to live below 10 degrees north.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Shades of Red

Red is a strong colour in any landscape. Here in Trinidad, it is more common to see both flowers and foliage in bright, vivid colours. Something about the tropics doesn't lend itself to subtlety. Everything is larger than life and brighter than photoshop. Could it be that the warmth is so conducive to life that everything is more competitive?
The anthurium is about as in-your-face as you can get. As a child, I hated them because I found them so vulgar. However, they have grown on me and the sheer variety available is dizzying.

Gerberas are not indigenous to the region and, as much as I love them, they are very demanding. Almost the stereotype of the hothouse flower. They love cosseting and feeding and are vulnerable to many insects, fungi and root rot if they are kept wet. I always admire the people who grow both gerberas and roses in our tropical, humid climate. It shows an attention to detail and a nurturing that is all the more admirable because I am incapable of growing either one. Maybe I will try again.

Bromeliads belong to an enormous family of mostly epiphytic members. The most famous bromeliad in the family tree would have to be the pineapple which epitomizes the tropics. While most are indigenous to South America and the Caribbean, hybridization has created whole new generas. I think that the one above belongs to the Aechmea group which are characterized by broad fleshy leaves in a rosette and striking inflorescences that rise from the centre. If anyone knows the name please post and let me know. Propogated by means of offshoots that form from the base of the mother plant, the new babies are known as "pups". If you come by a bromeliad and treat it kindly , it will throw pups for you and enable the beginning of a collection.

This lovely vine is a member of the ipomoea family and is known locally as "red morning glory" or "princess vine". It was available for sale a few years ago and has since become very difficult to find. It is beautiful and not overpowering so it will do very well in a porch or on a small trellis. It seems to be fairly difficult to propagate. My sister-in-law Joy has had luck with seeds but has not been able to get a batch in some time. I had one at my town house before we moved to our house and it nearly broke my heart to leave it, but by that time it was well settled in the ground. I think the correct name may be I. Horsfalliae. If anyone can confirm this, please post.