Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mlle. Franziska Outdoes Herself

Happy Roses
Such good weather for roses and taking rose pictures. They--like all living things in the area, in fact--have been loving the moderate temperatures we've had for a solid month now (highs in the upper 70s, lows in the 50s and 60s). They have great, fat, happy plentiful blossoms at their peak of shapeliness and color.

And today's overcast, Novemberish sky was a bright grey that was gentle on the colors.

A most triumphant--if unusually muted--Mademoiselle Franziska Krüger bloom

I'm especially pleased with 'Mademoiselle Franziska Krüger,' who is revealing unexpected depths of infinite variety. Her buds are larger and fatter now than they were in the summer, and their color is more gently shaded-less aggressively pink. They've also taken on a more autumnal mellowness of form--not the pointy, jagged shapes of summer. And the shrub is covered in copious large, peachy-gold balls that look as pretty from the street as they do up close.

A nice, fat Mademoiselle Franziska Krüger bud

The weather particularly favored 'Mutabilis', often a difficult rose for me to capture--its mottled pinky-apricots often look washed out in photos.

A really particularly nice picture of 'Mutabilis,' though I say it who shouldn't

This is the first time I've paid any special attention to Mutabilis's buds, which, intriguingly, are striped.

A striped 'Mutabilis' bud

The matchless 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' is also making unusually large, abundant flowers this autumn. Here's one of her dense, heavy blossoms in front of an orange bulbine. Her fully blown flowers are so hefty, they weigh their stems to the ground.

'Souvenir de la Malmaison'

I still struggle to capture the deep crimson of '4th of July,' but this may be as close as I've come to getting the color right. In real life, it's darker and richer than this.

'4th of July' climbing rose--coming out of its summer slump

And trusty 'Green Ice,' that gem among miniatures, is covered in diminutive greeny-white blooms. It often is covered in flowers--just right now, it's more covered.

Throng of deceptively delicate 'Green Ice' flowers

Plants Around Town
While biking around Elgin, I found this marvelous malvavaceous treat. We're not sure what it is--some sort of super-charged althea? But it's one of the few persuasive peony replacements we can grow in central Texas--it has those large, frilly, peony-like blooms. And, as you can see, it's got plenty of them.

Unknown tree hibiscus down an alley in Elgin

And, interestingly, even its spent flowers are kind of nifty--like pink, ruffly hockey pucks.

Spent hibiscus flower

Meanwhile, Mother Nature is signalling with increasing conviction that it really is autumn. Our neighbors across the street have an unidentified tree that is completely undistinguished all year long except in the fall, when it suddenly goes yellow from top to toe.

Unknown tree with fall color

And further down the street, there's a maple that's turned flame orange (wish I knew what kind--I don't think of this as being a maple-friendly area, so I'd like to know what exceptions there are to the rule. All I can say for sure is that it isn't a big-tooth, even though it does, in fact, have big teeth.)

Mystery maple changes color--in real life, it's much brighter than it appears here

Despite these signs and despite the droughty summer, Matt & I don't think it looks like the trees will be putting on a show like they did last year. The pecans, instead of wearing last year's exceptional clear gold, seem now to be turning their usual muddy yellow, for example. Still, there's time yet. The Chinese tallows have just barely begun to change, so more color may be on the way.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

CSA: What Do I Do with All These...What Are These Things, Anyway?
Last week kind of threw me for a loop, veggie-wise--for complicated reasons, I didn't get their regular box, which comes with an explanation. Instead, I got a special box, which contained some perfectly standard veggies plus a mysterious bunch of dark green things with crinkly leaf margins, some attractive white globes with bushy leaves, and some romano beans, which I was at least able to identify, even if I'd never had them before.

I figure (a) all leafy greens are various degrees of unpleasant, and (b) they all improve considerably when exposed to bacon and sauteed onions. So, devoutly hoping that they weren't poke salad, I dropped them in a pan with bacon and chopped leeks and let them cook down. They tasted fine, although it turns out that I should have done some more aggressive pre-rinsing and removed the midribs. Otherwise, not a problem. As we're still alive to tell the tale, they obviously weren't poke salad. (Turns out they were mustard greens.)

Then there were these nice white root veggies--very smooth and unblemished. Could they be a very large white radish? In addition to the regular red ones also in the box? This seemed like a lot of radish to dispose of in one week, so I decided to sliced up the whites and eat them for breakfast, as they purportedly do in France. They had a surprisingly tangy, horseradishy smell to them, but they were quite pleasant with a sour cream+sea salt+green onion dressing--not too overwhelming or harsh, but zesty, and with a pleasing al dente consistency--a little softer than your average radish. But I liked it well enough to do it for breakfast two days in a row.

I finally emailed the CSA to ask what the heck I'd been eating. Turnips. I'd been eating raw Japanese white turnips (AKA "kabu") for breakfast.

Never would have seen that one coming, especially since I thought I hated turnips. Maybe these little white Japanese ones are different from the big, clumsy-looking pinky ones we usually eat?

But after all, this is one of the reasons I joined a CSA. It would have never occurred to me to buy either turnips or mustard greens under ordinary circumstances. And now I've discovered a new breakfast food! (I'm pleased about the Japanese turnips; the mustard greens--they're okay, but the chard/turnip greens/kale niche in my diet--never a very large niche to begin with--was already adequately filled and then some. So not what I would call a major epiphany.)

Japanese white turnips ("Kabu") from The Omnivore's Solution So cute!

Mel's Surprising Breakfast Turnips
2 Japanese white turnips, in 1/16" slices
1/4-1/3 c sour cream
2 Tbs green onions
sea salt - to taste
freshly ground pepper - to taste

Combine & eat, preferably with a side of crusty, chewy, peasant-style buttered toast.

I braised the romano beans per this popular Italian recipe from the NY Times. The tomato sauce was really good and rich (could use some red pepper flakes, though), but next time I would chop all the beans in half horizontally--they're so big that they can be rather overwhelming and discouraging in their full size--they need to look a little more user-friendly.) I'm not now a passionate fan of RBs, but they make for some interesting variety in the ol' veggie diet every now and again.

Big, burly romano beans--pic from Stacy Snacks Online
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