Flowers in November: San Antonio Botanical Garden

602 Oak fall foliage

It was 15 years ago this week. Pete had been doing a lot of international travel that year, and was only 200 miles away from achieving Gold status on his frequent flyer program. One more flight would do it, and the perks were impressive. After a bit of research, we determined that the cheapest flight from Denver that was to Austin, Texas, so we made two reservations for the day after Thanksgiving and booked a rental car. Once in Austin, we drove to our final destination—San Antonio. Four nights in a hotel on the famous Riverwalk sounded like just what we needed!

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Giving Thanks for Corn

Indian Corn_DBG-CO_LAH_9050Corn pudding and hush puppies, cornbread stuffing and succotash. If anything qualifies as authentic American cooking, it surely involves corn. We eat it fresh—still on the cob, creamed, and as the critical ingredient in corn chowder. We eat it dried and ground into cornmeal—in corn pone and muffins, as fritters and johnnycake. Domesticated for millennia, corn has come a long way from its teosinte roots.

Today have six types of corn, five of which are the result of selective breeding: pod corn, flint corn, popcorn (this could be considered a subset of flint corn), flour corn, dent corn, and sweet corn. (Pod corn is a mutant that forms leaves around each kernel, and isn’t commercially useful.)

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Colorful Crotons

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My first thought was, is this for real? If I hadn’t seen it growing in the conservatory at the Denver Botanic Gardens, I’d have thought someone had been playing with Photoshop. I wondered what kind of plant could have leaves that are green, red, black, purple, orange, pink, yellow, and creamy white—all at the same time, and in crazy combinations!

My next thought was, can I have one?

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A Recipe for Botany

blog captureAre you a gardener, or interested in gardening? How about going deeper and delving into a bit of botany? Do you like to cook? I find great satisfaction in planting a seed, nurturing the crop to harvest, then discovering the tastiest way to prepare the results. Plus, I want to understand the plant I’m eating. That’s why I was so excited to discover a new-to-me blog, The Botanist in the Kitchen. (I’ve added it to my list of links for your convenience.)

I immediately realized that the two authors, PhD biologists Katherine Preston and Jeanne Osnas, are my kind of people. In fact, it was blog-love at first sight.

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Vampire Plants

Humpback_anglerfishWhen I think of parasites, I typically think of creatures such as tapeworms, fleas, ticks, and leeches—nasty invertebrates that drain the life out of us humans. Then, I might recall that some higher animals can also be parasites, such as the deep sea anglerfish. You’ve likely seen pictures of anglerfish, with their huge, pointy teeth in a large head, followed by a tapering body. When these fish mate, the male permanently attaches itself to the female and lives off her bloodstream for the rest of his life, his sperm his only contribution.  (See National Geographic’s video of a particularly beautiful anglerfish species.)

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Slimy Lady’s Fingers

Okra @DC LAH 229I’m really not a fussy eater. While I draw the line at some animal parts (Rocky Mountain oysters, anyone?) and various invertebrates (no deep-fried scorpions in my diet!), I’m not nearly as fussy about dining on plants. Of course, I think some plants taste better than others—I’m a big fan of broccoli, artichokes, and papayas, for example, while I tend to avoid cucumbers and those bitter Italian greens—but for the most part, if it’s prepared well, I’ll eat it.

Except.

I don’t do okra. I’ve had okra (also known as lady’s fingers or gumbo) in soups, stewed, curried, stir-fried, roasted, deep fried, and in various other random recipes that my friends—skilled in the culinary arts—assured me I’d love. All I can say is, they were wrong. I admit, I like the flavor. No problem there. But the slime gets me every time.

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Aspen Gold

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One of the joys of living in Colorado is the gorgeous gold of the aspen in fall. Other regions may boast more colorful foliage—the reds and purples of the hardwood forests to the east, for example—but nowhere else do we get the combination of cobalt blue skies, spectacular mountain scenery, and shimmering golden leaves. Such a treat is not to be missed, so we recently joined some friends and went leaf “peeping.”

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