Friday, January 27, 2012

Eugenia uniflora: Surinam cherry

Pitanga, Surinam Cherry, Cayenne Cherry, Brazil Cherry, Capuli, Guinday, Ñangapiré, Pedanga,… all these names and more receives this South American shrub of the Myrtaceae family. Their scientific names are also numerous: Eugenia uniflora, Eugenia microphylla, Myrtus brasiliana, Stenocalyx uniflorus and Plinia pedunculata. The Indians of Paraguay and northeast of Argentina call Ñanga-piri in their guarani language. 

 Ripe fruit of Eugenia uniflora in November. The leaves draw attention that with the cold of the autumn acquire an alive red blood color when synthesizing anthocyanins like mechanism of defense against the low temperatures. The Pitanga of the photo is a unit worked in a coastal town of Majorca Island located in the west of the Mediterranean basin, where the frosts are rare, smooth and of little duration.

 Flowers of Pitanga in April. They have the typical structure of all Myrtaceae. Particularly striking is the faint red line running through the petals and the blood red color of the leaves.

 Same flowers earlier view from another angle. Give off a sweet perfume which attracts pollinating bees.

Leaves of Surinam Pitanga in February, the coldest month of Majorca. The concentration of anthocyanin is maximum. With this so dark color the leaves are warmed up with solar rays and thus avoid the intense cold freeze. In especially cold winters with heavy frosts the Pitanga behaves as deciduous and loses all the leaves to survive. Temperatures below -3ºC kill the young units and below -5ºC damage the adult plants mortally. 

In summer the leaves lacking anthocyanin and have a nice light green. The crushed leaves contain a resin that repels flies. The infusion of the leaves has diuretic, digestive and anti-diarrheal. The bark decoction as a gargle relieves throat illnesses.

In South America Eugenia uniflora is an evergreen tropical shrubs and flowers and fruits several times a year. Its natural habitat is the tropical jungles of the two Guyanas, Suriname, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. The Portuguese traders took to the Far East where it is now widely cultivated as an ornamental plant in India, Philippines, Samoa, Sri Lanka and China, but also eat fruit. In recent decades has been introduced as a garden plant in many other countries in the world with tropical, subtropical and temperate, thanks to its adaptability and its ability to behave as deciduous. In some countries there has been wild.

Surinam Cherry or Pitanga an intense dark red very bright. They draw attention to the eight ribs. The flesh is very juicy and sweet and has an exotic resinous taste, less pronounced when fully ripe. It is rich in vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin A, iron, calcium and phosphorus. Pitanga fresh juice is delicious. With the pulp is prepared jellies and jams.

Details of the eight ribs and persistent calyx. Inside each fruit is a spherical seed or two or three flattened seeds which are highly perishable and should be sown as soon as possible in a few days they lose their ability to germinate.

Eugenia uniflora prefers acidic soils rich in organic matter with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5, but tolerates slightly alkaline land than they are not karsts. Likes full sun to grow from sea level to 1700 meters. and reaches 7.5 meters.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cystopteris viridula was born in the Pangea supercontinent

The first dinosaurs were fed on its fronds

Its present distribution in center and south of America, in North Africa, in southwest of Europe and in the islands of the Macaronesia clearly indicate in what moment of the evolution of the continents Cystopteris viridula was formed. It is one of oldest fern of the Earth and it belongs to the Athyriaceae family. The supercontinent Pangaea was its cradle makes about 230 million years during the Upper Triassic. Its appearance on the Earth agreed with the one of the first dinosaurs after the Massive Extinction of the Permian-Triassic, happened makes 250 million years, in which 90% of the species were extinguished.

Several Cystopteris viridula next to a unit of Greenovia aurea in a very humid volcanic rock wall located in the North face of the Pico del Teide to 1440 msnm. I recommend to extend the photos with a double click.

It makes about 220 million years, during the Upper Triassic, the supercontinent Pangaea began to disintegrate itself, forming a great crack that divided it in two continents: Laurasia and Gondwana with the Ocean of Tetis among them. The Cystopteris viridula fern already took about 10 million years on the Earth and lived in all that one vast region that enjoyed a warm and humid climate. The cracking of Pangaea fragmented its population between both new great supercontinents.

Cystopteris viridula at the beginning of May in the humid crack of a volcanic rock oriented towards the north in the Island of Tenerife.

During the following million years the supercontinent Laurasia was divided in two parts: North America that went moving towards the northwest and Eurasia towards the northeast, forming among them the Atlantic Ocean.

 Another Cystopteris viridula bringing forth new fronds in May vigorously.

It makes about 150 million years also Gondwana began to disintegrate itself in new continents. At first meetings South America and Africa cracked, but in a moment they separated. The tectonic plate of South America went moving quickly towards the west, while Africa traveled slowly towards the north approaching Eurasia and narrowing the Ocean of Tetis that diminished much its extension and happened to be the Sea of Tetis.

 Fronds of Cystopteris viridula that can get to measure up to 40 centimeters, although those of the image they do not surpass the 15 centimeters. The petiole is shorter than the lamina, which is ovate-lanceolate and bipennate.

The rest of Gondwana, the great tectonic plate formed by India-Madagascar-Antarctic-Australia soon cracked in two subcontinents. On the one hand the block formed by Madagascar and India that at first traveled together towards the northeast and soon separated, being run aground Madagascar to few kilometers of Africa, while India moved quickly towards the north until colliding violently with the tectonic plate of Asia and forming the Mountain range of the Himalayas. And finally the other block formed by the Antarctic and Australia that during several million years moved meetings towards the east and soon separated. The tectonic plate of Australia continued traveling single towards the east and the Antarctic went towards the South Pole.

 Ovate-lanceolate pinnae with the apex slightly caudate or acuminate. The pinnulae have showy nerves of darker green color.

The insertion of pinnae in rachis is oposite or alternate. The pinnae are oblong, whole and cuneate in the base.

The pinnules have teeth with the tip usually emarginate, ie with a tiny notch, especially in the more distal teeth each pinnula. The secondary veins ending in the heart of the notch or emargination.

In underside of this frond the tiny still immature sori can be seen. They belong to a unit that lives in Puerto de Izaña of Tenerife Island to about 2000 msnm.

Mature sori of Cystopteris viridula. They are very small and little showy, that is to say, very discreet. They are covered by a white ovate to suborbicular indusium with glandular hairs or rarely glabrous. Each sorus contains one to five sporangia in the form of black small balls. 

Near image of mature sporangia. When the sensors of humidity and temperature of the Cystopteris viridula detect that the suitable conditions occur to disperse spores, the small black sporangia will unfold violently as small catapults and will send spores more far possible of their mother to colonize new territories and to perpetuate therefore the species. In the image can be seen sori with a single sporangium, with two and with three. This low number of sporangia is a typical characteristic of all the Cystopteris. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Pyrus betulifolia: smaller pears World

It lives with the panda in bamboo forests

Pyrus betulifolia, called Tang Li in Chinese and Birchleaf pear in English, is a deciduous wild pear tree that lives in the leafy forests of northern and central China. Under optimal conditions for growth it can reach 10 meters high. Its leaves are protected from the predation by herbivores with stems modified as formidable thorns. Its narrow and extended leaves are very similar to those of the birch, though smaller. Hence comes the scientific name "betulifolia" meaning birch leaf.  

Small mature pears at the end of August. They have a round shape with a diameter ranging between 5 and 12 mm, a greenish-brown skin with white dots and a long stem 3 to 4 times longer than the fruit. Its small size is ideal for fruit-eating birds of China's forests, which they swallow whole and, after digesting the pulp, spit the seeds far of their mother-tree. I recommend to extend the photos with a double click to appreciate better the details.

The flesh of this small pear is juicy and surrounds three seeds. In the picture you can see that only one seed has matured. The other two may have been aborted by the absence of an effective cross-pollination, because in my garden the three specimens of Pyrus betulifolia are far apart. The flowers are visited by bees and it is likely that many seeds have been pollinated by pollen from Majorcan pear trees (San Juan and La Reina varieties), so that would give rise to hybrids.

This oriental pear tree was introduced in USA to be used like host of the worked pear trees by its resistance to pear decline disease and its tolerance to the limestone soil and the drought. Its affinity with the majority of varieties of pear tree is very good, especially with the oriental Nashí and Shandong pear trees, of yellow skin and Hosui, of brown skin. From the USA it passed to France and Italy where its promising qualities as host woke up a great interest among the growers. In 1960 they arrived to Spain some French and Italian trees, from which were selected some especially resistant clones to the drought and to the limestone earth.

Floral bud initiating the growth of the cocoons at the end of February. A vegetative bud is also seen that it begins to grow weeks after beginning the flowering and in the end of the stem a dangerous thorn of three centimeters. 

Small elongated leaves of Pyrus betulifolia a light living green. The petiole of the leaves is somewhat shorter than the blade. The new branch bark is whitish.

The dry leaves are used to prepare similar infusions to the tea. The fresh and dry fruits, chewed several times to the day, are used in natural medicine to alleviate the dry cough of the bronchitis, to smooth the throat in the acute and chronic faringitis and like astringents in the diarrhoea by their tannin wealth. 

In China Tang Li wine (Birchleaf pear wine) is prepared macerating 250 grams of dry fruits in a liter of rice wine during 10 days, stiring the mixture every day so that the flavor of the pears pass to the wine. In Japan they replace the rice wine by Japanese sake. 

Its small flowers of an immaculate target are very perfumed and in Majorca they are open at the end of winter, something later in colder regions. A fine thorn like a needle can be observed the left above that protects the flowers and the leaves of the snout of the herbivores.

 Gorgeous flower with its five petals white like the snow and its twenty stamens, four in the base of each petal, with pink anthers in the end of a long style. Like in the previous photo bifid pistil of a yellow clear color can be seen.

The fruits usually mature at the end of August and remain in the tree after the falling leaf to serve as food to the birds during the long months of the winter. It is a very beneficial association for both parts, a symbiosis. The pear tree feeds the birds that thus manage to survive the harsh winter and these give back to the favor dispersing its seeds more far possible so that they can colonize new territories.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Microcitrus australasica: vegetable caviar

The Chefs of kitchen prepare delicatessen with it

Microcitrus australasica is an original wild shrub of Australia, whose small black fruits already were very appreciated by the Australian natives before the colonization of this great island by the British people. When the first convict people of the British Islands went deportees to Australia as punishment, they found these shrubs, they proved its fruits and they liked, so that when clearing the forests to work the seeds brought from England did not take them, they respected but them and they called  "Finger Lime".

Divided fruits of Microcitrus australasica with its pulp in the form of cleared vesicles. I recommend to extend the photos with a double click to appreciate better the details.

Mature fruits of a nice reddish brown color. This one is the variety more widely cultivated. The original wild plant produces much more dark fruits, almost black and more extended. Through culture and the hibridization with other wild citruses has been selected new varieties with fruits of red, green, yellow, pink, black color, some very long and curved like true fingers.

Pulp of the previous fruits. If the vesicles between the teeth are squashed it notices a startling very intense and refreshing acid flavor. The fruits of the cultivated varieties rarely have seeds, reason why they are due to reproduce by graft on other citruses. By own experience I have verified that the grafted Microcitrus australasica on lemon tree gives very good results. 

When starting off the fruits and applying one slight pressure to them with the fingers leave the vesicles that have a great similarity with the eggs of the caviar, for that reason is called vegetable caviar or citric caviar. Like the crust of the fruits, the vesicles also can have different colors, from pink pale like in the image, to red intense, dwelled, yellow, green, white… With this range of colors the Chefs of kitchen prepares delicious appetizers, as oysters decorated with juice of lime, pepper, salt and vesicles of finger lime superficially, that give to them an appetizing aspect and a delicious acid flavor. Mussels done to the steam can be decorated in the same way. 

Also in confectionery and ice-cream shop can be prepared delicatessen with the exotic pulp of these fruits. The jam has a transparent aspect very attractive and in the mouth it is crisp and aromatic. The fruits, when not having seeds, can be candied entire and once candied a chocolate bath can be given them and so delicious chocolates are obtained. Also a fantastic Plum Cake can be prepared replacing the nuts and the usual candied fruits by Finger Lime candied fruits, entire if possible, so that when cutting the pie the cut has a very appetizing aspect. 

Near vision of Finger Lime vesicles. The similarity with the caviar is extraordinary.

A delicious cocktail can be prepared, Mundani Cocktail © Copyright, with the juice of one lime, the juice of two mandarins, a little of vodka, a jam teaspoon of fingerlimes and two crushed ice teaspoons. The cocktail shaker is shaken well and it is let rest minutes. Meanwhile vegetable caviar in a plate with drops of liquor of lime is put and it is mixed well. In another plate palm honey is spilled, if possible molasses of canary palm, is diluted a little with drops of water, the edge goes of the glass through the molasses so that it is sticky and they are dropped the leftover drops with the inverted glass. Soon the edge goes of the glass through the vesicles of fingerlime, which remain beaten. Once adorned the glass a candied fruit is put at heart, if possible red or brown and the mixture of the cocktail shaker is spilled. Delicious, Exotic and Refreshing! Uhmmm...

If they add to the vesicles of several fingerlimes to a fruit salad the result is spectacular. With vesicles of different colors showy salads with a very appetizing aspect can be elaborated.

In my garden I have two Microcitrus australasica grafted on two old lemon trees. When having the very thin and thorny branches it is not possible to obtain escutcheons, reason why the suitable method more is the Graft of Crown under plastic bag. Taking advantage of the long trunk the lemon tree and the main branches is obtained a nice tree with a very dense top of pendular branches loaded of fruits of a very reddish brown color. 

The production of fruits is very abundant, coverall in summer. The tree blooms several times to the year and in autumn and winter also it bears fruits, although in smaller amount. The culture on a large scale of this Australian fruit tree began two decades ago. At the outset their fruits were destined mainly to the jam elaboration, but towards the year 2000 great the Chefs of kitchen discovered their excellent qualities and began to make plates that were a great successful between their clients. At the moment the demand of the fruits of the Finger Lime increases, quote to high prices, reason why it would be an excellent idea and a great business of reconverting old Mediterranean orange and lemon groves grafting them with branches of Microcitrus australasica. Short term benefits could be obtained, because the grafts would enter production the second year.

The flowers of Microcitrus australasica are very small, like the leaves. The branches are protected by fine thorns like needles.

Flower of Finger Lime with three very fleshy petals of white color on the superior side and an intense pink color on the inferior side. A thorn can be seen protecting the flower.

And to finish the article with good flavor of mouth I have prepared  this small "tapa" of anchovies with capers and fingerlimes, everything watered with the same oil of the anchovies. I assure to you that they have been food of Gods. Uhmmm...