Monday, 28 October 2013

GARDENERS MIGHT GARDEN IN NORTH CYPRUS, BUT I DID NOT SEE ANY

NORTH CYPRUS WHERE LOTS OF BRITS HANG OUT


We spent a week there recently, and I took as many photos as I could, of gardens and plants.

Dotted about were a few nice little green corners.
In the old city of Famagusta

FAMAGUSTA Or as it is known, Gazima─čusa


What a strange place is Famagusta.   The centre is very old but there are of course widely spread modern outskirts to the small ancient city  enclosed in fortifications.  I say city, because it has a beautiful cathedral, in gothic style, which is now a mosque.

GARDENERS

There must be some, or rather maybe they are farmers, for I saw these very macho tools on sale in the market.



THURSDAY IS MARKET DAY 

If you ask the taxi driver for the market, they usually take you to a supermarket, so you have to be specific.

It is held outside the old town.  I expected more of a mix of stalls, but it was almost all vegetables and fruit. And what huge fruits!

Plums


Green beans and ocra
Pomegranates

Peppers, aubergines, chillies

Courgette flowers, spinach


Never seen such huge pomegranates, beans, tomatoes, aubergines, they have the lot there.  
Also honey is available in various size jars, unfortunately I am not allowed to bring heavy stuff like jars of honey back to the UK!

There was a bird stall, and a flower stall - by flowers I mean garden plants and small trees.  This is the only place where I saw a lot of flowering plants, so someone somewhere has a garden where they grow things like buzzy lizzies, just like they do in the UK.  If I lived there, I would certainly buy some of the little junipers, or are they cypresses, the ones that grow in tall thin needle shapes.
azalias and roses

cypresses

just like gardening in the UK, maybe


In the old city itself I saw these prickly aloes or agaves or - well not sure what they are called.  There was a garden, a planting of trees and shrubs just at the foot of the walled fortified city.  This was the most attractive part of the old Famagusta.
Rosemary and lavenders by the city walls

Very spikey

Walking in the centre, I noticed these plant pots, in some of them someone optimistically had tried to grow something green, but then given up the ghost.  Yet further along, were some fine ferns.  One thing is obvious, even in the Med plants need some TLC.
Some tried...

Some succeeded...

These exotic plants are loofas, they are growing up a tree, not far from our hotel.  They have attractive leaves too.  

loofas
And here are the dried loofahs, being sold by the roadside in old Famagust.  Maybe I should have bought one.


Other strange plants caught my eye, in these photos.  No idea what they are, though.








SALAMIS - ANCIENT ROMAN CITY OUTSIDE FAMAGUSTA


The snails of Salamis are intriguing, they are a pretty white, and they do not seem to move about, just snooze in the lovely hot sun.
The snails of Salamis

We spent a couple of hours at the ancient ruins of Salamis, most of it dated from Roman times.  The Roman baths were in good nick, but the statues dotted here and there had their faces removed, apparently this was done by the following hoards of invaders, such as the Christians (Venetians, I believe), the Ottomans, etc:  there was a lot of movement of various civilizations into this island of Cyprus.

Friday, 18 October 2013

ARE THERE GARDENS IN ISTANBUL?

FOUR SEASONS HOTEL, SULTANAHMET

GARDENS


I though it would be easy to photograph plants and gardens round about where we stayed in Istanbul, but there was not much to inspire.  This was disappointing because I have read that the earlier cultures of the Ottomans were very aware of the importance of beautiful gardens, indeed flowers appear in many tiles and ceramics.


THE GARDEN OF THE FOUR SEASONS HOTEL


The first weekend we arrived in Istanbul we decided to splurge and enjoy the 'Brunch' at the Four Seasons Hotel, in Sultanahmet, a good decision!  It was fantastic, the best food we had on holiday, and the service was exemplary.  The setting of the garden was beautiful, in the courtyard of what was originally a prison (featured I believe, in the film 'Midnight Express')
www.fourseasons.com.  You have to be pretty well-heeled to stay here, though!

Here are some photos of the Four Seasons Hotel garden


Netted to keep of birds, perhaps?

Petty rill, with tiled water channel

We sat here to have brunch

The courtyard of the old prison

The waiter was so pleasant

Gaura  and shrubs in the courtyard

I tried to photo the sparrows in the gaura


SULTANAHMET DISTRICT IN ISTANBUL IS NOT A PRETTY PLACE, IN MY OPINION

It seems to be full of touts, pesterers, tourist rip-off cafes and restaurants, tour groups, huge coaches filing non-stop into the area to park, and crowds lining up to visit to Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia and Topkapi palace.  

www.ayasofyamuzesi.gov.tr



Crowds waiting to go into Ayasofya Museum


It is easy to get lost, and the many roads and paths are confusing. There are few signposts.

Oh, and such a lot of very, very thin cats!

RIP OFF TAXI DRIVERS


It was our first time of visiting Istanbul and it was a bit of a disaster.  We were ripped off by voracious taxi drivers - one in particular was a real 'thief'.

GASTRO ENTERITIS, NOT A GOOD EXPERIENCE


I fell victim to a really bad bout of gastro-enteritis so spent one of our four days in bed, and was not too good for the final two days, so could not get out as much as we would have liked.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

HOW TO FORAGE.....ITS FREE, AND COULD BE FUN

YESTERDAY'S VISIT TO ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY SHOW, 9 OCT

I did not know what to expect at this show, but, apart from admiring the fruit and vegetables, there was a mine of gen about foraging.

FORAGING

It never has been of much interest to me, but since listening to two talks about it, I think I will have to consider foraging a bit more seriously!

Although I did buy, years ago, a book called Food for Free, by Richard Mabey, first published in 1972.

TALK BY YUN HIDER, FROM PEMBROKESHIRE, WALES

He had a large table full of bits and pieces that he had foraged, and that you can eat (or even drink), and at the back of the room, several small trees, such as crab apple, rowan.

His company is  WILDFOODCENTRE.ORG

Yun told us that he provides his foraged herbs, leaves, flowers, fruit etc to the top chefs, including those  very well known in London.  He has been a forager for about 20 years.

The foraged plants are generally used by chefs as garnish (not in bulk) or as added flavours, and he can only gather in small quantities.  He uses the Ordnance Survey maps to find areas where plants should be available, such as estuaries, the area near a stream or river, or hedgerows and edges of woods.

WATCH OUT, PROCEED WITH CARE, GET A BOOK COLLECTION

Yun stressed that it is important to get to know a plant, (for instance, stinging nettles)  well before you eat it, in other words proceed slowly, read up books on the subject, and make a point of looking at old herbals or old recipe books, if you can.

He did not mention collecting mushrooms, as these are provided by other collectors for the restaurant trade.

PLANTS YOU CAN FORAGE

I will list some plants he showed us, and which he tasted (I presume to show us they are not poisonous)

Nettle leaaf, pick in the spring.  Make nettle tea,  use in a stir fry, the juice can be used to prevent hair-loss.
Also you can make a nettle syrup, store it, then mix with dry white wine and vodka for a cocktail called 'Sting'.

Dandelion leaf, (blanch it, bitter is good, he said). You can fry it in deep fat, it is lovely and crispy and then not bitter.

Wood sorrel, (oxalis) had oxalic acid, which is considered poisonous, but he uses it as a garnish, and even included it in a dish prepared for HM The Queen by a top chef.  It is a tiny little leaf.

Apparently the rhizome of wood sorrel was used by American Indians to feed their horses, to develop muscle tone.

SOME PLANTS ARE VERY POISONOUS, i.e. FOXGLOVE, YEW, HEMLOCK

He said be wary of Google, as it is not edited and can give incorrect information.

Hawthorn, eat fresh leaves in spring, also the blossom. You can make jelly from hawthorn berries (haws).  Dried berries are also good, with a different flavour.

Blackberries, apart from the berries, you can eat fresh leaves in spring, which taste good, and can make into tea. Flowers are used as a garnish by chefs.  The new stems, fleshy, can be chopped up and candied as a kind of sweet.

Cow parsley.  He advised not using this, although its other name is wild chervil;  it is of the same family as hemlock, as is hogweed.  He does not pick cow parsley.

Hogweed can be eaten, but not the giant one which is poisonous and it has red spots on its stem.

Rock samphire.  This is a different plant from marsh samphire which you can buy at a fishmongers in season.  Rock samphire grows on the sea cliffs and is a plant which was mentioned in one of the history plays by Shakespeare.

Hairy bittercress.  Chefs love this one.  You can eat the flower, leaves.  It comes up all over my garden in spring, so I will try this one.

JUST A FEW MORE, OF MANY

Pennywort, ground elder (stems only), sorrel, seabeet, scurvy grass (but not the dried leaf), sea cabbage, crab apples, rose hips (eat the flesh not the hairy covering to the seed itself).

Cleavers, meadowsweet (smells like honey, boil it in milk, don't eat it raw).  Plantain, eat it early in the year. Elderflowers, easy to make 'champagne', very quickly.  Gorse flowers.  Alexanders, use stalks in the spring and again in the autumn, peeled, and he puts it with rabbit stew.

BEECH LEAF NOYAU

Yun showed us (and indeed drank some) of this liqueur, which is made by picking beech leaves when young, filling a large jar, like a kilner jar, adding a spirit like gin or vodka, leaving and then decanting into a bottle.  There are several recipies for this which I found via Google.  Such as these





THE SECOND TALK BY CLAUDIO BINCOLETTO

Well I will do a post about this later