I really didn’t expect to see zinnias in the Caribbean. Anyone who has tried to grow them in a humid environment knows that zinnias + humidity = powdery mildew festival. And yet there they were, time and time again, completely powdery mildew free.
Maybe it’s the hot sun, the soil, or maybe the plants I saw just happened to have decent air circulation around the leaves. I don’t know. It’s a mystery.
This kohleria was another Gesneriad (African violet family) that I was completely taken with at Erica’s house. You can see a photo of the entire plant at the top of this post.
The flowers are pretty, but it’s really the rusty red leaves that got me. I imagine this would be gorgeous backlit by natural light streaming in through the window. Just the thing to brighten a crisp winter day.
On our last day of the trip, our friend David in St. Lucia picked some red, ripe coffee beans (aka cherries) off of the Arabica bush, one for each of us, and instructed us to bite through the thick skin with our teeth.
Next, he said, remove the beans and put them in your mouth, but don’t bite them.
We were all surprised to discover that the thin layer of pulp covering the bean had a sweet, citrus taste, not unlike the delicious fruit that covers the fresh cacao beans! Who knew? My mind was blown.
This is one of the things I cherish most about that trip. We experienced new tastes and delightful discoveries nearly everyday. And some days were bursting with more than my brain could take in.
I think I’ll go make myself a cappuccino now.
I took this picture of orange cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus) as the sun was going down over Scotts Head, Dominica, the body of land just behind the flowers and the southern most tip of the island. Do I ever miss those Caribbean sunsets.
I miss the sunrises, too.
Come to think of it, the continuous warmth and greenery wasn’t too shabby either. Let’s go back and get away from this winter business. We’ll do it as a massive group trip. You’ll love it there.
Our recent trip to the Caribbean has inspired in me a renewed enthusiasm for cosmos. It’s not that I’ve fallen out of the love with this tough, yet delicate flower, but that I haven’t made a space to grow it in about five years. Instead, I’ve been admiring them in other peoples’ gardens. I’ve got another photo of cosmos as seen in the Caribbean coming soon that I think will inspire you too.
Amazingly, just as I was starting to contemplate which variety to grow this year, a sample packet of ‘Rose Bon Bon’ double flowered cosmos arrived in the mail from Renee’s Garden. And done. That was too easy.
One of my favourite posts of all-time, dedicated to cosmos: Love to Hate: Cosmos
The pod in this picture is an unripe one — annatto (Bixa orellana) seeds and their pods are a brownish red colour when fully ripe. We caught a glimpse of a few trees with ripe pods while riding on buses in Barbados but I was never able to get up close to pods that were fully mature. It’s a shame really, because a tree full of ripe fruit is a beautiful sight.
I first heard about annatto many years ago in reference to Cuban cooking. In fact, I bought a package of the seeds about 10 years ago and never had occasion to use it. I believe the package is still sitting unopened in my kitchen spice cupboard!
That’s because while the seeds do have a slightly peppery taste and flavour, their use is really more about adding colour to food. It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t ever use it because I have since learned that annatto is a common allergen… and I have a lot of allergies.
Annatto makes an excellent cloth or wool dye. I found a good tutorial on the process here.