Carrion flowers (Amorphophallus titanium, translated means, misshapen penis) are native to the island of Sumatra, and have become rare there thanks to land clearing for development). The smell, as the plant opens for its one day debut, comes out in repeating puffs of steam, which can be seen with lights and film, but not noticed by the naked eye. The insect that pollinates the carrion flower is a type of dung beetle. The flower, which can reach 8 or more feet in height, uses its height, and the intermittent steam, caught by breezes, to let the dung beetle know the flower is ready for pollination. Once the bloom is pollinated, the flower wilts within hours and dies back to the bulb. The stench - sometimes described as a smell between that of a large, dead rat, and a dead donkey, also goes away. Unfortunately, the right kind of dung beetles aren't found in the U.S., so pollination is either by hand, or it doesn't happen..
The other exciting event over the weekend, which had little to do with gardens or plants, was our Friday night dinner group got together on Sunday, for Bagel-fest. One in our group, June, is expert at making honest to goodness New York bagels and she built an entire dinner around hot, fresh bagels. Once you eat a homemade bagel, you can never again eat one of the cardboard tasting ones from the deli or grocery store. There is just no comparison.
Bagels are one of those foods that appear too complicated to actually make at home, as if the only source was some sort of giant, commercial machine. In actuality, they're fairly easy - or they look easy; I know for a fact it takes practice and years of experience to get them right. But the basic method is to make a dough and let it rise, much like making bread. Then you roll it out on a board to about 3/4 inch thick, cut the dough with a doughnut cutter and let them rise briefly. Those are dropped into boiling water, which makes the dough puff up to more than double in size. Once they're lifted out of the boiling water, the raw bagels are brushed with an egg mixture, then seeds and seasoning are scattered over the top. June's husband, Steve (wearing the bunny ears), likes a mixture of black pepper, onion, salt and dried, red chilies, but the traditional topping is either poppy seed or a mixture of sesame seeds and dried onion flakes. Then the bagels go into a hot oven and to bake for 10 minutes until they're golden brown.
June and Steve served lox that June had brought from a Jewish deli in NY, along with cream cheeses, tomatoes, fish and other toppings. It was a feast and a fine time was had by all.
Speaking of poppy seed, it's time to get the last of mine planted in the ground. I ordered several colors from Baker Creek Seed, including some double pinks, almost black-red and some bread poppies (just to see how they look different from regular poppies). There's more information about poppies on my Columns blog.
A reliable vehicle is part of my business and garden. It's how I haul plants and soil amendments. It's the way I get to garden lectures I give around the country, and what I use to drag around my "book and herb show" when I travel So this week I upgraded my transportation (and for those of you who've followed my trip to Florida, never getting much beyond the ice storm in Memphis) here's the result. I made a new acquaintance, Taurean, a musician turned salesman, at Reliable Toyota. Here he is, standing next to my new truck. He didn't pressure me, listened to what I was looking for, and the call from his herb-interested mother, was a nice touch. I told him he should have his mother always call his customers and finalize the deal. I'm not sure which actually sealed the deal, his mother's phone call, or the fact my new truck is BLUE!