03 July 2013

A lack of aluminum, an abundance of light.

I'm not a terribly avid or educated gardener.
Evidence of such: a few years ago I trimmed back the juniper outside my front door--and chopped off ALL the aged berries in the process. They ended up in the trash with the rest of the yard debris. I didn't know what they were until about six months later when I was looking for a way to use juniper in a natural herbal mixture for a very specific application. I was suitably horrified. Those berries take three years to form and mature. I'm hoping for my first crop later this fall.

Most of the other plants in the ground at Haus of Rhi have been foisted upon me by the matriarchal Master Gardener among my close relations. Among that number are: a T-Rex variant hosta with these gigantic leaves that gets the daintiest little lavender flowers later in the year; a butterfly bush that has started to rival my juniper and cypress bushes for girth and height; and the most recent addition last fall, a deciduous bigleaf hydrangea that I crammed into the soil just outside my front door so that it wouldn't die come winter.

Wonder of wonders, the thing lived. And actually looks happy and healthy.
Happy Bigleaf Hydrangea

Apparently there isn't any aluminum in my soil, because that's some wonderfully intense pink going on there. Which is perfectly fine with me. And this gives you an idea of how I weed my garden--I don't. Errant grass is allowed to grow, along with dandelions and whatever else. The only plant I remove is the poison that occasionally crops up. All the others are left to supply the natural wildlife with food sources, be they butterflies and moths, bees, rabbits, or birds.

The butterfly bush is wildly popular with them.
It's especially fun in late July and early August when the weather dries out and the butterflies are feasting on the nectar, as thick around the bush as the humidity in the air. I got a couple really great shots of monarchs last year, and I'm hoping for a few more great opportunities later this summer.

But yeah, my garden is very low maintenance for the most part. Mostly because when I attempt to maintain it, I fuck shit up.

Coffee, though. Coffee I haven't fucked up yet. I just keep finding new ways to make it better and better.
Gave up on the so-called gourmet flavors some time ago. I hate when it smells divine and tastes like shit. Lately I've been using Pilon, which comes finely ground in vacuum packed bricks. Usually it's reserved for espresso. Well, you know. Coffee, espresso. Same diff, except one is ten times stronger and better than the other.
I forget where I first discovered cardamom. I think I found it mentioned in a story I read, being used in the coffee grounds during brewing. When it comes to coffee, I'm always up for trying something new and different--I really should buy a french press next. Anyway, I got a bottle of ground cardamom at the grocery store and tried it. It smelled wonderful, and the flavor was crisp and invigorating without overwhelming or detracting from the coffee.

I got hooked. Seriously. I don't even put creamer in my coffee much anymore because it weakens and destroys the natural flavor. A good quality bean, properly brewed, needs nothing. Except cardamom. But this stuff isn't cheap from a standard retailer; that small jar from the spices section at the grocery store pushes thirteen dollars.

So I went hunting for an alternate source. Pods. Got myself a few mortars to use because I disliked the idea of using a coffee grinder.
The black cardamom pods arrived first, even before the mortars. When I cut the bag open, they had a very deep, dark, earthy scent. Much stronger than the ground stuff at the store, but heavier too. Wasn't sure what to make of it. I took a few pods, tossed them in my grinder for a few pulses. The seeds ground finely and the pod skins shredded like bark. I added it to the coffee grounds and brewed a pot.

The intensity of flavor wasn't there, but it's entirely likely accountable to not having used enough pods. With the ground version, I usually added about two teaspoons or a little more for a single pot.

From left: beech, acacia, & grey marble.
Well, yesterday the mortars and green cardamom arrived.
I cut the bag open and grinned in pleasure. They have a vibrant, intensely airy-sweet aroma reminiscent of what was ground up in the jar. Now this, I decided, was the good stuff.
[The lighting in these photos is odd and uncooperative; the setting sun decided to flare through my kitchen windows just as I was taking them.]

Ground green cardamom & empty pods.
Five or six pods went into the marble mortar. They had a faintly greasy texture when I pulled the seeds from inside them and discarded the skins. That would be cardamom oil, which is used in tea a great deal, specifically chai and Bengal Spice blends. They must not use very much, because I can't begin to imagine how expensive cardamom oil must be.

Ground seeds in coffee grounds.
Not all of the seeds were ground to my satisfaction, but I spared a bit to sprinkle into my cup of coffee while I waited for the new pot to brew. And wow. I like doing it that way so much better. The freshly ground seeds are so much more flavorful than the store-bought variety. I definitely have to get a french press, because I think I'll hold off on using freshly ground seeds in with the coffee grounds until I can guarantee the cardamom oils won't just get filtered out.

Until then, I'll just sprinkle them into my coffee cup because, behold caffeine utopia.

Highly recommended. Sadly, I haven't found an ethnic grocer near me that stocks green cardamom so I've resorted to purchasing them through Amazon. Here's the link to the item and buyer I used if you're curious. That packaging label is misleading, however; the bag I received was not sourced from hosindia.com as the product picture suggests. I'll hunt around for other sources through which to acquire green pods, but for the time being I'm satisfied with the quality and convenience of purchasing them through Amazon.

Oh wait, this is supposed to be where I blog about my writing...
Well you can track my progress on my current project for this month, if you like. I'm participating in Camp Nano and attempting to tackle the greater part of a sequel for Fragile Bond, which doesn't yet have a title. I'm only aiming for 30k this month because I want to focus more on developing the characters and proper construction of the plot arc more than I do churning out words.

This story includes a fresh cast of secondary characters along with the return of a few recognizable from the first story--Reccin, Makko, and Dehna. Hamm and Marc will make a few cameo appearances, but as of right now I'm planning this story from the POVs of Reccin and Makko so it's unlikely to focus much on the former MCs. Well, beyond the implications their relationship has on the humans, furrs, feathers, and the interspecies alliances. All is far from settled and peaceful.

A bit of strife keeps things colorful.

2 comments:

Freia said...

I'm jealous of your low maintenance garden. I was going low on the maintenance this year, have other stuff to worry about. But now I have cheatgrass everywhere and turns out that the big pokey seeds gets in pup's eye and, well,... *sigh*... I'll be clearing grass this weekend. #noblindpups

*takes notes on the coffee* Interesting. Gonna have to try this concoction of yours.

Good luck on the writing! Go Rhi, Go Rhi!!

Rhi Etzweiler said...

@Freia
Let me know how your coffee turns out :) As for the low maintenance garden plot, well... there are some ground covering plants you can get that would choke out more nuisance varieties that were present. I have a few in the side of the garden where the second butterfly bush never rooted. Not sure what they are, aside from wildflowers and such. I'll have to take a couple pics for you.

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