🐾 Maybe the reason I love animals so much, is because the only time they have broken my heart is when theirs has stopped beating.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Olea Africana – Wild Olive

My Wild Olive (Olienhout in Afrikaans), planted in 2006 in my pond area, has suprised me with the most gorgeous little "olives" this year. The branches were so heavy that they looked like they were going to buckle under the weight of all the fruit! For weeks on end, this side of the garden was alive with the chatter and whistle of all the birds that flocked here to enjoy this bounty.

I also had a go at the fruit, why not? What's good enough for the birds, is good enough for me, right? It was mostly quite sweet with a slight acidic (sour) flavour and a tiny pip inside. I wonder how many new little Olive trees will be growing everywhere from the birds dispersing the seeds?

Sprays of tiny, lightly scented white to greenish flowers (October to February) are followed (March to July) by small, spherical, thinly fleshy fruits (either sweet or sour) which ripen purple-black.

This berry fruit is a favorite for fruit-eating birds, so look out for the Grey Lourie, Speckled and Red-faced Mousebirds, Redwinged and Pied Starlings, Rameron, African Green Pigeon and the Blackeyed Bulbul. Leaves are browsed by game and stock. This tree is an asset on farms and game farms, especially in very dry areas because it is extremely hardy and is an excellent fodder tree.

Olive leaf and olive leaf extracts (OLE), have anti-aging, immunostimulator, and antibiotic properties. A tea can be made from the leaves and I'm still scouring the internet to see if I can find a recipe. 

 Planted in 2006, my Wild Olive has grown to about 4m tall and 4m wide.

This tree is found in a variety of habitats, mostly on the southern slopes of the Magaliesberg mountain range from the rocky areas exposed to all the weather elements, in the kloofs, right down to the river bank areas of the Magalies River but is widespread in Africa.

Olea europaea subsp. africana is a neatly shaped evergreen tree with a dense spreading crown (9 x 12m) of glossy grey-green to dark-green foliage. Leaves are grey-green to dark-green above and greyish below. The rough, grey bark sometimes peels off in strips. 
Propagate it from seed or from hardwood cuttings. Sow fresh seed in river sand. Treat cuttings with a rooting hormone. The slow-growing frost, drought and wind-resistant wild olive makes a good shade or screen plant in the home garden.

- Dig a hole slightly wider and deeper than the roots. (The bigger the better). The extra space below and at the sides will be in-filled; but, having been loosened, will help yhr roots establish.
- Square holes are better than round ones as the roots can go round in circles if unable to break out of a round hole (yes, seriously!)
- As it has an aggressive root system don’t plant near your house, a pool or other buildings.
- Although this step is not essential, it will grow better if you mix some compost and bone meal with the soil taken out of the hole. Also it would be a good idea to fill the hole a little so that the plant will be exactly the same height in the ground as it was at the nursery.
- If it is am planted too deep, the stem may rot; too shallow and the roots above ground will die.
- Before planting, remove from the plastic bag! lol!
- Put the tree in the hole and replace the soil, compost and bone meal mixture, firming it down all around. The roots must be immobilized, so it’s essential that it is not loose in the ground.
- Use the heel of your boot to firm the soil as you back-fill, but do not compact the soil so that it is like concrete, as this prevents water and air circulation, causing roots to die.
- Water and cover the soil with a good heap of mulch.

- After planting, it is important to water at least once a week.
- It is better to give one good watering once a week rather than a little bit every day.
- Monitor to see if your tree looks thirsty (sagging limp leaves) and water if needed.
- Once planted, you can apply a general fertilizer around the base. (Culterra 5:1:5 is a good option).
- As your tree grows, it will require staking and pruning. Stake it against a straight wooden stick or pole, taking the strongest shoot up and pruning the bottom branches off.

Relax and watch your beautiful Olive grow approximately 800mm each year!

 ི♥ྀ *˚*¨*•.¸¸♥¸¸.•*¨*• ི♥ྀ •*

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Little Daisy (a sad story)

(My apologies for the rather lengthy story, but it is well worth the read!) 

Out in the country, close by the roadside, there was a country-house. Certainly you yourself have once seen it. 

Before it is a little garden with flowers and palings which are painted green. Close by it, by the ditch in the midst of the most beautiful green grass, grew a little daisy. 

The sun shone as warmly and as brightly upon it as on the great splendid garden flowers, and so it grew from hour to hour. 

One morning it stood in full bloom with its little shining white leaves spreading like rays round the little yellow sun in the centre. 

It never thought that no one would notice it down in the grass, and that it was a poor, despised floweret. It was very merry, and turned to the warm sun, looked up at it, and listened to the lark carolling high in the air.

The little daisy was as happy as if it were a great holiday, and yet it was only a Monday. All the children were at school. While they sat on their benches learning, it sat on its little green stalk, and learned also from the warm sun, and from all around, how good God is. 

And the daisy was very glad that everything that it silently felt was sung so loudly and charmingly by the lark. And the daisy looked up with a kind of respect to the happy bird who could sing and fly; but it was not at all sorrowful because it could not fly and sing also. 

“I can see and hear,” it thought; “the sun shines on me, and the forest kisses me. Oh, how richly have I been gifted.” 

Within the palings stood many stiff, aristocratic flowers – the less scent they had the more they flaunted. 

The peonies blew themselves out to be greater than the roses, but size will not do it. The tulips had the most splendid colours, and they knew that, and held themselves bolt upright that they might be seen more plainly. 

They did not notice the little daisy outside there, but the daisy looked at them the more and thought, “How rich and beautiful they are. Yes; the pretty bird flies across to them and visits them. I am glad that I stand so near them, for, at any rate, I can enjoy the sight of their splendour!” 

Just as she thought that – “keevit!” Down came flying the lark, but not down to the peonies and tulips – no, down into the grass to the lowly daisy, which started so with joy that it did not know what to think. 

The little bird danced round about it and sang, “Oh, how soft the grass is! And see what a lovely little flower, with gold in its heart and silver on its dress!” For the yellow point in the daisy looked like gold, and the little leaves around it shone silvery white. 

How happy was the little daisy – one can conceive how happy! The bird kissed it with his beak, sang to it, and then flew up again into the blue air. 

A quarter of an hour passed, at least, before the daisy could recover itself. Half ashamed, but inwardly rejoiced, it looked at the other flowers in the garden, for they had seen the honour and happiness it had gained, and must understand what a joy it was. 

But the tulips stood up twice as stiff as before. They looked quite peaky in the face, and quite red, for they were vexed. 

The peonies were quite wrong-headed. It was well they could not speak, or the daisy would have received a good scolding. The poor little flower could see very well that they were not in a good humour, and that hurt it. 

At this moment there came into the garden a girl with a great sharp, shiny knife. She went straight up to the tulips and cut off one after another of them.

“Oh!” sighed the daisy, “that is dreadful! Now it is all over with them!” 

Then the girl went away with the tulips. The daisy was glad to stand out in the grass and be only a poor little flower. It felt very grateful. When the sun went down, it folded its leaves and went to sleep. It dreamed all night long about the sun and the pretty little bird. 

The next morning, when the flower again happily stretched out all its white leaves like little arms toward the light and air, it recognized the voice of the bird, but the song he was singing sounded mournfully. 

Yes, the poor lark had reason to be sad. He had been caught, and now sat in a cage close by the open window. 

He sang of free and happy roaming. He sang of the young green corn in the fields. He sang of the glorious journey he might make on his wings high through the air. 

The poor lark was not in good spirits, for there he sat, a prisoner in a cage. 

The little daisy wished very much to help him. But what was it to do? Yes, that was difficult to make out. 

The daisy quite forgot how everything was so beautiful around, how warm the sun shone, and how splendidly white its own leaves were. 

Ah! it could only think of the imprisoned bird, and how it was powerless to do anything for him. 

Just then two little boys came out of the garden. One of them carried in his hand the knife which the little girl had used to cut off tulips. The boys went straight up to the little daisy, which could not at all make out what they wanted. 

“Here we may cut a capital piece of turf for the lark,” said one of the boys; and he began to cut off a square patch round about the daisy, so that the flower remained standing in its piece of grass. 

“Tear off the flower!” said the other boy, and the daisy trembled with fear, for to be torn off would be to lose its life; and now it wanted particularly to live, as it was to be given with the piece of turf to the captive lark.

“No; let it stay,” said the other boy; “it makes such a nice ornament.” 

And so it remained, and was put into the lark’s cage. But the poor bird complained aloud of his lost liberty, and beat his wings against the wires of his prison; and the little daisy could not speak – could say no consoling word to him, gladly as it would have done so. And thus the whole morning passed. 

 “Here is no water,” said the captive lark. “They are all gone out, and have forgotten to give me anything to drink. My throat is dry and burning. It is like fire and ice within me, and the air is so close. Oh, I must die! I must leave the warm sunshine, the fresh green, and all the splendour that God has created!” 

And then he thrust his beak into the cool turf to refresh himself a little with it. Then the bird’s eye fell upon the daisy, and he nodded to it and kissed it with his beak, and said: 

“You also must wither in here, poor little flower. They have given you to me with the little patch of green grass on which you grow, instead of the whole world which was mine out there! Every little blade of grass shall be a great tree for me, and every one of your fragrant leaves a great flower. Ah, you only tell me how much I have lost!” 

“If I could only comfort him!” thought the daisy. 

It could not stir a leaf; but the scent which streamed forth from its delicate leaves was far stronger than is generally found in these flowers; the bird also noticed that, and, though he was fainting with thirst, and in his pain plucked up the green blades of grass, he did not touch the flower. 

The evening came on, and yet nobody appeared to bring the poor bird a drop of water. Then he stretched out his pretty wings and beat the air frantically with them; his song changed to a mournful piping, his little head sank down toward the flower, and the bird’s heart broke with want and yearning. Then the flower could not fold its leaves, as it had done on the previous evening, and sleep; it drooped, sorrowful and sick, toward the earth. 

Not till the next morn did the boys come; and when they found the dead bird they wept – wept many tears, and dug him a neat grave, which they adorned with leaves and flowers. 

The bird’s corpse was put into a pretty red box, for he was to be royally buried – the poor bird! While he was alive and sang they forgot him, and let him sit in his cage and suffer want; but now that he was dead he had adornment and many tears. 

But the patch of turf with the daisy on it was thrown out into the high-road; no one thought of the flower that had felt the most for the little bird, and would have been so glad to console him. 


Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Dear Miss Peachy... (a letter to my Peach Tree)

Dear Miss Peachy,
I think you are highly confused or there is wishful thinking on your part. We're heading into the cold of winter and there are still autumn leaves clinging to your branches and you are already shooting out new buds! This spells disaster as I've seen it before - a couple of years ago you did the same thing, resulting in no fruit that season. 

Besides your regular watering you receive, we have had good rains this past summer and you were heavily laden with fruit. I think you just want to impress me again with your abundant offerings, but you do not realise the price you are going to have to pay when the first frost appears. 

Oh dear Miss Peachy, please know that I will still love you during your bare-branches-of-winter period and I hope you have a nice, well-deserved rest during the cold spell!


Sunday, 26 May 2013

Late-Autumn Portrait

Soft golden browns foretell 
the aging of the year.
Leafless branches curve their shapes
against the autumn sky.
In their naked majesty 
trees proclaim their individuality.

These muted colors, not the pastel of spring
but the palette of autumn
echo the early twilights, 
the cloudy dawns. Rain
dampens and drowns, 
pressing leaves against the frozen ground.

One morning, winter's white sheets
will wrap the earth
preparing it for its seasonal burial.
Now fall fades to sleep
stirring restlessly 
as it turns its way to slumber.


Saturday, 25 May 2013

Caring for your Leopard Tortoise

 It's a late-Autumn afternoon and the day is balmy. It's just after 3pm and in a couple of hours it will be cold, that nip that is not yet icy yet but cold enough to send my tortoise, her name is Torti and she's a Leopard Tortoise, scuttling for some shelter. And she doesn't surface until late the next morning, weather permitting and if there's lots of sunshine. Hibernation is close for her and soon she will only venture out for short periods during the next couple of winter months. 

Whilst tortoises in our climate here in South Africa do not strictly "hibernate", they do go through a "slowdown" of all activity. They will sleep more and eat less and generally just "park off" each day. Some will dig themselves into a "burrow" and remain there for long periods. Besides cover that I offer, Torti has several places in her enclosure where she prefers to spend the colder days. Other than a general health check every now and again, I leave her alone but do check daily to see if she might have come out and then offer her some food. 

One of Torti's hide-outs 

 Another one of Torti's hide-outs

Torti was rescued from certain death, as she was destined for the pot, having been caught by some locals, who also use certain body parts of tortoises for "muti". (Muti is a term for traditional medicine in Southern Africa as far north as Lake Tanganyika. The word muti is derived from the Zulu word for tree, of which the root is -thi. In Southern Africa, the word muti is in widespread use in most indigenous African languages, as well as in South African English and Afrikaans where it is sometimes used as a slang word for medicine in general.) 

She arrived scarcely bigger than my hand and in the 7 years she has been with me, has grown to a fair size.

Besides the fact that I enjoy her company, the only reason she is still with me is the fact that I'm afraid she will be caught again as well as the raging veld fires we have every winter, which almost certainly means death for any tortoises in its path. 

Torti's enclosure - 28m x 10m
If you are considering keeping a tortoise, these large tortoises need a large area if confined in an enclosure, though it is preferable to give them the run of your garden if possible. If you cannot do this (which I couldn't, nothing was safe from Torti's voracious appetite, especially the Echeverias!) and have to construct an enclosure, work on a minimum of a 6m x 4m area for two tortoises.

Tortoises are wanderers and in the wild occupy a home range of from 1 to 3 square kilometres. Few sights are more pathetic than seeing one trudge endlessly around the perimeter of its pen in either dust or mud, compliments of the weather. 

 Torti's enclosure last summer - lots of indigenous grasses to feed on as well is Kikuyu

The area should be sunny, and well planted with different grasses and plants for natural feeding. A lack of exercise leads to muscular problems and should be avoided. An arid grassy area is much preferred, with dry sandy areas for sunbathing. This tortoise requires large amounts of grasses in its diet, and it is a common mistake in captivity to feed exclusively on 'wet' kitchen food. On the correct diet their droppings should be well formed and fibrous.

Just a short note on safety - please check your enclosure regularly for any bits of plastic, plastic bags, bits of string or any other harmful objects that might somehow end up in the enclosure that could harm your tortoise.
 A thatched umbrella in Torti's enclosure offers me a space where I can sit and enjoy Torti's antics, do a couple of sketches and Torti often utilises the shade here during the hottest summer days.

Some Leopard tortoises will utilize a sleeping area constructed out of poles with a roof, or a drum on its side, but many, like Torti, prefer to creep under large grassy plants such as Pampas grass, where they are sheltered from any adverse weather. However, she is often found in her Zulu hut, above, either sheltering from the sun or on very cold days.

They are commonly kept as pets and adapt well to captivity in most areas barring coastal Natal where the humidity affects them adversely. But it is of the utmost importance that you pay close attention to their diet and keep it as natural as possible. It is a common mistake in captivity to feed exclusively on 'wet' kitchen food. Too much kitchen food leads to diarrhoea and other digestive problems and should be avoided. On no account should dog/cat food be provided - these are high in protein which results in shell deformities and in the long term, in kidney disease. In the veld, the leopard tortoise will stuff its huge body with just about anything it comes across, be it grasses, succulents, aloes, fungi, wild fruits and berries, millipedes, snails, faeces (especially an hyena’s), reptile and birds’ eggs and the corpses of small animals such as frogs and mice. 

 Torti having breakfast under the thatch umbrella

There is a lot of diet information for your tortoise on the internet, but a diet that has served me well for the past 7 years that Torti has been with me, is as follows : 

although the general consensus is to NOT feed lettuce, lettuce is high in nitrates and is converted in the mouth into compounds that produce nitric oxide - a potent antibacterial chemical. The "disinfectant" effect of this chemical was tested and salivary production was high enough to kill even E.coli 0157 (the deadly bacterium that is so often responsible for outbreaks of food poisoning). Along with a good balanced diet it can actually be beneficial in small portions. What is NOT recommended is a diet of lettuce alone as this will not provide all the nutrients your tortoise needs. 

Celery - both the stalks and the leaves 


Baby Marrow 

Apple - in small amounts as it is considered a "soft" food 

Chopped cooked chicken - I have heard that you can give them the bones, but I don't, too scared they might get stuck in her throat, especially chicken bones

Sliced cucumber 

Sliced butternut/pumpkin 

2 or 3 Echeveria elegans leaves 


Geranium leaves 

Raw egg and some egg shell 

Not all of this is offered in one go - I take turns using 5 or 6 of the ingredients for one meal, which is normally served early in the morning. 
 Indigenous grasses
In addition, she has access to various grasses in her enclosure, including Kikiyu grass (Pennisetum clandestinum), Dew grass (Eragrostis pseudo-obtusa), Beesgras (Urochloa pantcoides) and Veld grass (Ehrhartacalycina).



Weeds like Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion), Tribulis terrestris (common dubbeltjie), Salsify and Galinsoga parviflora (Small flowered quickweed) is also available in her enclosure. 

A further variety of foods includes a variety of leafy greens such as collard greens, mustard greens, red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, dandelion greens, hibiscus leaves and flowers, green onions, spinach, green beans, zucchini, frozen mixed vegetables, timothy hay, and alfalfa. They can also be fed almost any other vegetables. Fruits should only make up about 10% of their diet. 

 The pond has is very shallow on all sides, offering rocks and logs to make climbing out easily in case of an emergency and gradually deepens towards the centre.

Leopard tortoises readily drink standing water. A shallow water dish may be provided, but check it daily, and clean it as required. The size of the water dish doesn’t really matter, however it shouldn’t be too deep where the tortoise could get stuck in the dish. Torti has access to fresh water in a dish as well as the pond which is situated in her enclosure. Leopard tortoises love to swim and, judging by the length of time Torti often spends in the water, she loves it! 

 Torti basking on a sunny sand spot

Leopard tortoises (Geochelone pardalis pardalis) live between 50 and 100 years in the wild and can weigh as much as 100 pounds (about 45kgs) and measure 26 inches (68cm) front to back. The difference between a male and female tortoise is the male has a cup-like depression toward the forward half of the plastron (the bottom shell or "stomache"). It's there so he can mount the female without having to stand on his tail to fertilize her. The female's plastron, like Torti's, is flat.

 Torti also shares here enclosure with a frequent visitor - Molly, the Mole Snake. She is extremely welcome as we have a real problem with rats. After Molly's stay of a couple of days, there is nary a rat to be seen anywhere!

In late Autumn and winter, the indigenous grasses offer Torti lots of shelter from the elements. Only the Kikuyu grass is mowed, the rest is allowed to grow wild.
It is of course against the law to keep reptiles in captivity without a permit and in happier instances the owner of a newly acquired tortoise will apply for one. An official from Nature Conservation will then make sure that the facilities in which the reptile is to be kept are adequate and that the captive will be fed a proper diet. 


Friday, 24 May 2013

Attracting birds to your garden

Black-headed Oriole enjoying an orange at one of my feeders

We all love to hear the sound of birds in the garden and the sight  of butterflies, but few of us design a garden that attracts them. The good news is that you don't have to dig out all your roses or  other exotic plants in favour of indigenous plants. Just ensure that at least  a portion of the garden contains plants and other facilities to encourage  urban "wildlife" into the garden.

Establishing a mini sanctuary in your back-garden will attract a plethora of birdlife for your viewing pleasure and is a relatively simple task. The task comprises of supplying the birds with three basic requirements for survival: food, water and cover.

Birds will visit your garden if there’s plenty of food available, so the first thing to do is get your seed and peanut feeders up and running. Then you need to work on providing natural food, cover and even nesting sites.

Suet feeder - a fatty snack loved by most birds

The best feeding programme for birds is to plant shrubs and trees which offer nature's menu. Aloes, watsonias, lion’s ear (Leonotis spp.), red-hot pokers ( spp.) and wachendorfias will attract nectar feeding birds such as the sunbird. Seed eating birds are attracted to the seed heads of grasses and grains.  Plant patches of mixed bird seed and you'll be fascinated to see the response from local birds.

The key thing is to ensure that you meet the needs of your birds all year round, and that you accommodate the changing requirements of both residents and seasonal visitors. While planting bushes with berries is good for thrushes in the autumn, they will soon strip the crop. So think laterally – if you live near a wholesale fruit market, buy trays of substandard apples for them to feed on when the berries have gone. Fat blocks are important in the winter and will attract flocks of starlings.

To birds, the typical suburban landscape resembles an inhospitable and hostile place with cropped lawns, sheared foundation shrubs, and deadheaded flowers mean no place to nest, no food to eat, and nowhere to hide. To produce a landscape that supplies birds with a year-round food supply, you need to plant an assortment of plant species that provide food throughout the year, such as seeds, berries, nuts. Plant an abundance of grasses and consider letting your garden go to seed rather than dead-heading flowers and removing spent plants. Indigenous plants are ideal choices as they are familiar and accepted as food sources, shelter, and nest sites by the indigenous birdlife.

Established trees will naturally provide a source of shelter and roosting spots for many birds and a garden which is well planted with indigenous trees will attract numerous birds throughout the year. Good roosting sites are provided by the Henkel's yellowwood (Podocarpus henkelii), fever tree (Acacia xanthophloea), karee (Searsia lancea), sweet thorn (Acacia karroo) or buffalo thorn (Ziziphus mucronata.

Buy bird food from reputable sources. This ensures that the seeds can provide the required levels of energy and have been grown with the environment in mind. Experiment with different sorts of feeders and seed mixes. For example, greenfinches adore sunflower feeders whilst goldfinches prefer niger seeds.

You might not think so, but security for your garden birds is also of high importance. Reduce the opportunities for predators like cats and sparrow hawks by placing feeders where the birds can spot danger easily. Avoid using garden netting, especially during the breeding season, and place feeders away from your house to minimise the risk of birds colliding with windows.

Planting indigenous trees that offers protection like thorns is a great favourite for nesting spots

Water is another essential ingredient. A shallow, rough-bottomed pool of still water with a depth between 2,5cm and 5cm is ideal. To accommodate smaller birds, it is advisable to add a few stones that stick out of the water for them to land on. To guarantee birds a sure footing, the texture of the birdbath ought to be rough, ideally achieved by including sand, stones, pebbles or concrete.

Organic gardening is another essential ingredient in any landscape that welcomes birds. One reason is that organic gardens are teeming with insects and other organisms that birds enjoy. Birds will help control garden pests and insects, such as gnats and mosquitoes. Don't rake up all your leaves, but rather leave them where they are. They make great compost and the Thrushes love scratching through them for a tit-bit. Instead of waging war against pests and diseases with an arsenal of chemicals, organic gardening nudges the ecosystem into a healthy balance.

Supplemental bird feeding will guarantee year-round bird watching enjoyment. Here are some ideas of what to provide for your garden birds:

·      Oranges (for nectar-eating birds)
·      Bananas, apples and pears (for fruit-eating birds)
·      Left-overs from dinner (for various types of birds)
·      Bread and seed mix (for seed-eating birds)
·      Bone-meal, suet, mealworms and minced meat (for meat-eating birds)

White-browed Sparrow Weaver enjoying the selections of seeds on offer

Interesting birds can appear and disappear frustratingly quickly, so have a pair of binoculars or your camera to hand so you can grab them easily when you spot something. And remember your sketch-book!

 Bigger birds like thrushes and Starlings don't mind a pool that is a bit deeper. But be sure to place some pebbles at the bottom for a better grip. If not cleaned regularly, bathing spots can build up algae and be quite slippery.


Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Food from trees - Lemon Tree

I would love to have a garden that has all the trees from which one can harvest food - lemons, coconuts, marula, kei apples, olives and many more. Unfortunately planting some of these is dictated by the climate zone one lives in, so I'll have to settle for some of those that will indeed grow here in our frosty conditions.

Today I'm focusing on the Lemon Tree - songs have been written about it, poets have revered it and the health benefits have been advocated for hundreds of years.


The lemon is a small evergreen tree (Citrus limon) originally native to Asia, and is also the name of the tree's oval yellow fruit. The fruit is used for culinary and non-culinary purposes throughout the world – primarily for its juice, though the pulp and rind (zest) are also used, mainly in cooking and baking.

Along with other citrus fruits, the lemon is one of the most widely consumed fruits in the world today. Apart from using the juice in all sorts of ways in the preparation of foods and cordials, lemon peels and the underlying white pith contain a number of health-giving substances.

Flower of the lemon tree

The lemon tree is perhaps one of the most valuable additions to the kitchen garden. The first lemon trees to arrive at the Cape (South Africa) were imported from St Helena and planted in the Company’s garden by Jan Van Riebeeck. These were the predecessors of the rough-skinned lemon that we grow today and which is frequently used as a rootstock onto which other citrus varieties are grafted.

An added benefit of having a lemon tree in your garden is that you will be visited by the magnificent Citrus Swallowtail butterfly – Papillio demodocus demodocus – which will not only feast on the nectar from the fragrant flowers, but use the leaves as the nursery and feeding grounds for its young.

We are all familiar with at least some of the uses of lemons in the kitchen and in the home:

• A drizzle of lemon juice over freshly cut fruits and vegetables stops the cut surfaces turning brown and unsightly in the presence of air. The juice contains ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) and lycopene, amongst other important phytochemicals (phytonutrients), which are anti-oxidants.

• Lemon juice brings out flavours, adds tartness to titillate the taste buds and reduces the richness of meat and seafood dishes.

• Various drinks, iced teas, lemonade, punches and the like, wouldn’t be the same without a dash of lemon juice, or a sliver of the fruit.

• The acidity and the pectin contained in lemons is an integral part of the jam-making process.

• Lemon juice is a healthier addition to salad dressings, mayonnaise and marinades than vinegar as it has an alkalising effect on the blood. Many of us are wondering why we are feeling tired, have aching joints, are overweight and suffer from Candida. Doctors Robert Young and Shelly Redford explain in their book, The pH Miracle, the negative effects on one’s metabolism of having acidic body fluids.

• Lemon zest (peel) is used to flavour a variety of dishes (both sweet and savoury) and preserves. It is laden with aromatic oils which most of us have, at least once in our lives, squeezed into the flame of a candle for a mini fireworks display. It is the lemon peel which contains the highest concentration of phytochemicals (or phytonutrients).

• And, of course, lemon juice is a rich source of Vitamin C and, therefore, an important part of the diet. Hot lemon and honey served up to cold and flu patients is soothing and healing.

• A slice of lemon in a glass of water makes it that much easier to drink the daily ‘eight glasses’ recommended for good health.

• There is a whole host of other medicinal benefits of the lemon. Those important phytochemicals have been shown to play a part in fighting cancer through their anti-oxidant properties, to prevent, and repair, damage to DNA, to destroy cancer cells and to prevent the spreading of tumours.

• The white pit, below the zest, contains rutin which strengthens the walls of blood vessels and helps to prevent heart and circulatory problems.

• I haven’t mentioned the other uses of lemon juice as an astringent for the skin, as a bleach for nappies and perspiration stains, an addition to furniture polish, and a cleaner for brass and polish. It removes urine smells, makes hair shine, removes mildew and black ink and so the list goes on.

It makes you think that having your very own lemon tree would be a very good idea and that a lemon a day would do a lot for your health and well-being. Visit your local nursery once you have identified a protected spot in your garden. Lemon trees do not take kindly to strong, drying winds or frost, and prefer well-drained, light soils.

Green lemon

Lemons are used to make lemonade, and as a garnish for drinks. Lemon zest has many uses. Many mixed drinks, soft drinks, iced tea, and water are often served with a wedge or slice of lemon in the glass or on the rim. The average lemon contains approximately 3 tablespoons of juice. Allowing lemons to come to room temperature before squeezing (or heating briefly in a microwave) makes the juice easier to extract. Lemons left unrefrigerated for long periods of time are susceptible to mold.

Fish is marinated in lemon juice to neutralize the odor. The acid neutralizes the amines in fish by converting them into nonvolatile ammonium salts.

Yellow lemon

Lemon juice, alone or in combination with other ingredients, is used to marinate meat before cooking: the acid provided by the juice partially hydrolyzes the tough collagen fibers in the meat (tenderizing the meat), though the juice does not have any antibiotic effects.
Lemons, alone or with oranges, are used to make marmalade. The grated rind of the lemon, called lemon zest, is used to add flavor to baked goods, puddings, rice and other dishes. Pickled lemons are a Moroccan delicacy. Numerous lemon liqueurs are made from lemon rind.

All great cooks use lemons. Here are a few recipes to try out.

Lemon Curd
The most delicious spread for hot toast, scones and muffins. It tastes so good that you can eat it by the spoonful straight out of the jar. Use other citrus fruit or granadillas to make a change.
100g organic butter
200g organic sugar
4 organic eggs
Juice and grated rind of 4 lemons,
or 3 oranges and 1 lemon
or 2 lemons and the pulp of 4 granadillas
1. Melt butter and sugar in double boiler
2. Add well beaten eggs and juice and rind of lemons (and/or oranges or granadilla pulp).
3. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the mixture has thickened like custard.
4. Pour into clean, heated jam jars.
5. Seal and store in a cool cupboard, or refrigerate.
6. Eat within a month. (Freezes well)

Lemon Cordial
A deliciously refreshing drink served with water or soda.
Juice of 10 to 12 lemons
Grated rind of 3 – 4 lemons
2½ kg organic sugar
1 packet tartaric acid (15ml or 1 tablespoon)
1 packet citric acid (15ml or 1 tablespoon)
1 packet Epsom salts (15ml or 1 tablespoon)
2 litres boiling water
1. Dissolve the sugar, tartaric acid, citric acid and Epsom salts in the boiling water.
2. Add the grated lemon rind and lemon juice. Mix together and allow to cool.
3. Pour the cordial into sterilised glass or plastic bottles and store in a refrigerator.
4. Dilute with water (or soda water) to taste.
Add ice cubes and a sprig of mint for a refreshing summer drink or add boiling water and a slice of lemon for a winter drink.

Lemon and basil risotto
125g organic butter
300g Arborio rice
1 onion – finely chopped
1 celery head, finely chopped
1 bunch celery leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
150 ml dry white wine
6 tablespoon fresh organic basil
1 litre vegetable stock
Juice and zest of 4 organic lemons
100 g grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat the stock and check for seasoning.
2. Gently sauté onions and garlic in butter until soft and add the garlic and chopped celery leaves and stir.
3. Add the rice and lightly sauté.
4. Add the white wine and allow to reduce.
5. Add the stock ladle for ladle, stirring constantly. Allow each ladle of stock to be absorbed before adding the next.
6. Constantly stir until the rice is cooked but still al dente.
7. Stir in most of the basil, lemon juice, zest and half the parmesan. Season to taste.
8. The consistency should be very creamy and soft.
9. Serve with remaining basil leaves and Parmesan cheese.

Lemon shortbread
100 g organic butter
90 g castor sugar
1 organic egg yolk
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
155 g cake flour
1. Preheat an oven to 150°C.
2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy.
3. Add the egg yolk, vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice, and mix well.
4. Sift in the flour and gently fold into the mixture.
5. Knead gently until the dough starts to come together.
6. Cover the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 2hours.
7. Lightly grease a baking tray.
8. Roll the dough out between two sheets of baking paper and even thickness.
9. Cut biscuits from dough and bake for 12 to 14 minutes.
10. Dust with castor sugar while still hot.
11. Let them cool slightly before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Preserved lemons
Delicious in salads, risottos, dressings, marinades and on sea food.
Fennel seeds
Coriander seeds
Cinnamon stick
Bay leaves
Sea salt
Large fat lemons with the leaves still attached
1. In a bowl mix the spices into the sea salt.
2. Cut a cross into the lemons – almost to the base, but so that the quarters stay together.
3. Push the seasoned salt into the lemon segments and pack the lemons as tightly as possible into an airtight jar.
4. The less space there is between the lemons the more attractive it will look and you won’t need to use so much salt.
5. The lemons will be ready after one month of preserving, and will last for about 2 years.

When required, the lemons are removed from the jar and all the white pith should be cut from the yellow peel or zest and discarded. The zest is then shredded, thinly slices of finely chopped.
Recipes from Biophile Magazine (CopyLeft)

Pickled lemons, a Moroccan delicacy

Lemon marmalade on a slice of bread

Sources : Wikipedia and Biophile Magazine


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