Monday, May 21, 2018

Black, White, Green, Oolong, Pu-erh

 OK – I want one of these!  And I can, maybe, grow it here!

It’s a Tea Plant – like the drink, TEA!  And, no it’s not any of the herbal tisanes (which is what herbal “teas” should be called because they don’t have any actual TEA leaves in them).  And yes, the TEA plant is an herb.  Confusing, I know, but there you are.

Anyway ---- so, Did You Know …….

All the various types of teas come from this plant, Camellia sinensis var. sinensis and subspecies, Camellia sinensis var. assamica.  These are the two major varieties grown today to produce green, oolong, black, and white teas.  The difference in the flavors is due the way the leaves are processed.

The tea plant is an evergreen tropical shrub.  In the fall, it will flower with small white blossoms that have a very sweet scent.  If you chose to plant one in the ground, it likes a well-drained, sandy soil in a sunny to part shade location.  Remember, it can grow upwards of 10 feet but can also be trimmed (like a hedge) without suffering any problems.  Something else - Tea plants require consistent temperatures that range between 65 and 85°.  According to the pros, tea plants stop growing when the temperature drops below 55° or rises above 95°.  So, the plant should be kept indoors where you can control the temperature.  Hmmmmm – not above 95° -- it would have to stay indoors from May to November here.  Something to think about.  Another yes – the tea plant lends itself well to growing in a pot.

And again, yes, the tea plant is a close relative to the Camellia we all know and love.

OK – so if you want to grow a tea plant to for its leaves, you must have patience because the plant should be 2 – 5 years old before you harvest leaves.  Only the young, tender leaves and buds are used for tea and you want your plant large enough to produce the numbers of leaves you need.

Now, growing tea is only part of the process. Once your tea plant is growing well, you'll need to harvest and process your tea leaves.  Depending on the type of finished product you want, leaves should be picked spring, summer, or fall and at different times of the day.

So, for Green Tea -
Pluck the very youngest leaves and leaf buds.  Blot the leaves dry and let them completely dry in the shade for a few hours.  Steam the leaves (like you would vegetables) on your stove for about a minute or roast them in a skillet for 2 minutes.  Spread the leaves on a baking sheet and continue to dry in the oven at 250F for 20 minutes. 

And, for Black Tea -
Pluck the very youngest leaves and leaf buds.  Roll the leaves between your hands, and crush them until the leaves start to darken and turn red.  Spread them out on a tray and leave them in a cool location for 2-3 days.  Dry them in the oven at 250F for about 20 minutes.

Or, you can buy loose tea leaves, enjoy having a pretty and unusual plant plus get all the tea bennies without the whole processing thing.  I personally don’t care for any of the weird teas (like green or white or oolong).  I like black tea and don’t care too much for ground up tea dust in bags – give me leaves please.

Take care.




Friday, May 18, 2018

A deep HOLE in the ground

 My son and his family live in Virginia and I try to get up there for visits every year.  Virginia is such a pretty place; the biggest drawback being 900 bazillion people live/work there and they all drive 90 mph on the various highways (I am always happy to sit in the backseat with my eyes closed).  That little thing aside, the countryside is lovely and the entire state just oozes history.  A large number of my family ancestors are from there (from the 1600’s until they all moved further south) and one of these days I’ll remember to take my genealogy stuff and look for more information and graves and such. 

On one trip we went to the Luray Cavern, which is a really big hole in the ground with rocks and dirt, cement and other heavy things on top of it.  Just being told about it put my claustrophobia on alert.  Still, couldn’t run screaming the other direction in front of the grandchildren, so off we went. 

Now, if you haven’t been there, the caverns are in the Shenandoah Valley, just west of the Blue Ridge in the Appalachian Mountains in Luray, Virginia.  My first impression of the staircase down into the cavern was a shaking rickety affair, packed with thousands of other people.  Of course, it’s not like that at all although there was a huge line of people in front of me and a huge line behind me. 

Just a little history:  Luray Cavern is the largest cavern in the eastern US.  It was discovered in 1878 by a group of men whose attention had been attracted by a large limestone boulder and a nearby sinkhole that had cool air coming from it.  One man squeezed through a small hole, slid down a rope and went exploring by candlelight (foolish man).

The caverns were opened for tours, by candlelight, just a few months later (no, no, no, no – down what probably was rickety steps in a long skirt – nope, no, that’s just wrong!!!!!).  It didn’t get electric light and paved walkways until the early 1900’s.

Luray is a "live" cave, which means its formations collectively grow about a cubic inch every 120 years.  It was designated a Registered Natural Landmark in 1974, therefore it can have no garish colored lights and no exploring off the designated paths (only a third of the cave is open to the public). 

The cavern is just beautiful.  They do have specific areas carefully lighted so visitors can clearly see the unusual and lovely stone formations.  And, although it’s a hole in the ground, it is a huge hole in the ground.  Still, I think I would have been happier if there have just been the five of us and 3 other people down there.

This is a reflection of the ceiling in water

Yep – that’s money
The ultimate Wishing Well

Luray Caverns – you should put this on your “I want to visit …..” list.  It is well worth it!

Take care.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Near the sea, we forget to count the days

Yes – that’s true.  I’ve mentioned that, for a while, we lived in Galveston.  We had a house on the west-end and on a bayside canal.  And, I miss it still every day.  Now, I live close to a river.  Not the same.  No briny air.  No pounding surf.  No calling seagulls.  And, no interesting things to see.  Rivers, creeks, lakes – all those things – are pretty enough but they are boring 99.6% of the time.

When I lived there, I walked down to the beach every day.  It was a calming, soul relaxing exercise.  And, I never knew exactly what I might find.  One day, there were oranges.  Oranges as far as I could see, washed up on the beach.  Really weird.  I read later that several crates of oranges had washed off a ship and come ashore.  The ickiest was the swarm (cell, pipe, or an array - odd since, they are a form of fish, but they are never considered a school – useless info file) of eels.  Evidently they had been caught in a strong tide and washed ashore.  They weren’t all dead and some were wiggling around the beach.  However, after walking a few steps, hopping over eels, I decided to come again another day.  In the spring the Portuguese Man-of-War washed ashore – must avoid those, even on land they still sting.  Land crabs raced all over the beach along with the Sanderlings.  Nice.

I love weather at the seaside although sometimes the wind got to be pushy at best and screamingly annoying at worst.  Still, fog, rain, sunshine – it was all good.

Although this option wasn’t so pleasant.  Aftermath of Hurricane Alicia in 1983 –

Pelicans have made a big comeback.  The fishermen on our canal hated it when they came swimming or flying by as it sent the fish hurrying the opposite direction.

At the beach there is always something to see, like


and flowers
TX Beach Primrose

I’m not sure what this is but
It’s all metal and had the
Number 53 on it.

Very cool driftwood

I always think I need to
take something like this home
but I haven’t figured out how yet.


and coconuts

and shark’s teeth

 and sea beans

 and fish scales

and odd things

Oh – and …….


From long ago to now, I still cannot go to the beach without bringing something back.  I do miss it!

Take care

Monday, May 14, 2018

material consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrate, and fat

First of all – I hope all the Mommies out there had a very happy Mother’s Day yesterday.  I did.

I went into Katy and spent the afternoon with my youngest daughter and grandson.  We went out to lunch at Pho 3D and then we went over to the 99 Ranch Market.

I had heard Shannon talk about the market several times and was curious.  Such an interesting place!  Full of different and unusual things!  I think we spent a couple of hours there just looking at food.  The 99 Ranch Market is 99.9% oriental food.  The remaining 1/10% is a short isle of English, American, and Hispanic choices. 

First of all, these are only a few of the items that caught my attention but I didn't want to go on and on and on for a really long time.  Some the items I saw,  I have no idea what they are but, I like the packaging.  And, I did like many of the Sake bottles.

I really liked the various mushrooms (of which there were many different types).  They're very cute!

Tofu, or bean curd, is a food cultivated by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks.  Of course, I’ve seen tofu before, however I’d never seen it in liquid form and you seem to have a choice – white or green.  I like the green one, it's pretty.

Red Salted Eggs are duck eggs that are soaked in brine, packed in damp, salted charcoal or covered with a thick layer of salted charcoal paste.  They wind up with a briny aroma, a gelatin-like egg white and a firm-textured, round yolk that is bright orange-red in color. They are boiled or steamed before eaten.  They have a red coating to distinguish them from normal duck eggs.  

Jackfruit a sweet mild flavor fruit used to make a variety of dishes, including custards, cakes, or mixed with shaved ice.  And, by the way, this is the largest fruit that grown on a tree.

Nagaimo is a nutrient-rich tuber than can be cooked like a potato. Its texture is crunchy and somewhat sticky.

Taro is also like a potato but, has a nuttier, richer, and more complex taste overall. Compared to a white potato, it has three times the amount of fiber, and is also a rich source of potassium, iron, vitamin C, and vitamin A.

I did like the name of this - Forbidden Rice.  It’s one type of black rice, which turns to a deep purple when it is cooked. Sounds good but I couldn’t find out why it’s “forbidden”.

Durian is a sweet and buttery fruit with very little juice. Durian can be eaten fresh or used to make various types of desserts.  It’s actually known for its very strong, somewhat unpleasant smell, so much so, it is banned from most public places in Southeast Asia, including hospitals and trains. 

Now, I’ve always been told everything that grows and lives in the ocean is edible if prepared correctly.  And, I’ve had crab, shrimp, clams, mussels, scallops, all kinds of fish, squid, octopus, conch, lobster, oysters, seaweed.  However, I have to say I’ve never had jellyfish.  (Shannon is holding a package of instant jellyfish.)  Or cooked squid balls (and actually, that’s squid meat rolled into balls – don’t be naughty).  Or squid tentacles, black sea cucumber or bbq eel.  You can get all that at the market along with fish heads (just the head).  Still, I am pretty adventurous but I might be better off trying something prior to know what it actually is.

Then, there were chicken feet (yes, I’ve seen those before but these were really big chicken feet – like as big as my hand big), boneless duck feet, and pig uterus.  Maybe not.

Ice Cream – I have a hard time with taro (which I’ve had before as a vegetable) or avocado as ice cream.  I’m thinking Bluebell doesn’t make those kinds.

Grass jelly is a brown-black jelly made from a mint-like herb, Mesona Chinensis. Grass jelly is also known as chin chow or divine grass. It is a popular dessert in East Asia, normally eaten in jelly form or drunk as a beverage.

And then there was the bakery.  Such pretty cakes, torts, sweet pastries.  I was bad – bought four different pastries (but I did share them with Shannon!!!).

Take care

OK - just one more.  And we worry when the okra gets big .......

Chinese Okra