When I start a new plant from seed for the first time, I don’t always know what will be a hit and what I’ll be bored with by this time in July. The Morelle de Balbis is a big hit. My last update was posted at the beginning of July and I think the plant has doubled in size since. It gets more interesting and beautiful by the day. Fruit is on the way!
Back when I bought the seeds I hesitated. I knew it was going to be large, unruly and difficult to place. I am so glad I went ahead anyways and even managed to get it planted, unlike some contenders that didn’t make it in this year.
It’s thorny and a bit scary, but I LOVE it! And so do the bees.
In the Caribbean, that’s what they call peppers that look like hot peppers but aren’t. Although, I have also heard the term used with hot peppers, too. I suspect they really are hot, just not by West Indian standards. All of these were hot, let me tell you, and incredibly aromatic. But hot, ho yeah, at least by my standards.
There was a time when I took pride in my ability to withstand the hottest hot peppers, but those days are long gone. My nearly middle aged digestive system would rather not, thank you ever so much and good night. I like growing hot peppers, and it is always fun to discover a new variety, but these days I enjoy them in small doses.
The green peppers in this photo were a gift from Stevie, Not Wonder. The little peppers were found growing on a bush behind our cottage. The rest were collected here and there. Pepper bushes are fantastically huge in the Caribbean heat. They grow on and on into perpetuity and are not hard to come by.
I’ve spent the last month steeped in lavender. I’ve photographed several different varieties, harvested and hung it to dry, and have experimented with ways to cook with it. I have spent hours carefully removing fresh and dried flowers from stalks.
My favourite variety is ‘Hidcote’, a hardy, blue, dwarf lavender with an intensely sweet, bright, and robust aroma and flavour. It smells and tastes so delicious — none of the varieties I have worked with can compare. So when I had a chance to go out to the country and visit a garden that includes a massive mounding bed of ‘Hidcote’ lavender I jumped at the chance.
This is how we spent New Year’s Eve day last year: Some friends drove us to the east side of Dominica, to the village of Delices (how fitting) to meet an aunt and great aunt (who turned 100 this year!) and to see their amazing backyard food garden.
It was one of my most favourite days on the island. In Delices, the neighbouring backyards functioned like small farms, with fruit trees and spices and rabbits for manure. It felt just like a really large community garden, but everyone has their own yard and attached house rather than a small plot. There was a strong cooperative spirit, and everyone was very generous in sharing their gardens with us. Never mind that we were sent away with a big bag of fresh citrus, turmeric, cinnamon, and other produce.
I could have spent a week there and was sad to leave after only an hour or two. There was so much to see and discover. I was able to see several different types of tropical fruit growing on the tree for the first time ever, including this beautiful jackfruit. There was a mangosteen tree, too, but it was still very young. I hope to see a tree laden with that fruit one day!
I could have spent the rest of my life there: growing my own mangosteen tree, massive ginger plants, and chocolate, surrounded by tall mountains and lush forest until I grow tired of it all and begin to crave the smell of Autumn (as is inevitable because the grass is always greener). Perhaps I will one day.
Over the weekend my friend Barry opened his garden up to public viewing and for something special, brought most of his impressive agave collection down from a third floor balcony and into the yard for viewing. It’s not just that Barry has assembled this collection, but that he grew many of these large plants from seed! Perhaps not such a difficult feat in a southern climate, but here in the North that means years of shifting spiny plants indoors and out, and months of coddling under lights and in sunny windows through the winter.
I walked around the table with my cellphone and shot a little video of the plants. If I had to choose a favourite, I think it would be the one that has black leaf margins and spines. But only under duress since there are several others that are just unbearably pretty. The white one in the centre of the arrangement is pretty impressive too. And the little one with the very thin leaves….