The Lonely Lupin (in my country abode of Posadas, Cordova)

Hello folks — hope this finds you well…

Since I woke up at the crack of dawn this morning, I decided not to linger in bed, entertaining endless thoughts in my head (that rhymes, doesn’t it?), but instead (and so does that), have an early cup of Tetley’s to rehydrate the brain and hopefully get it in some sort of working order — and if that failed, then have a invigorating shower followed by a healthy breakfast (of yoghurt with cut-up strawberries and bananas, plus raisins, mixed seeds, goji berries, all sprinkled over with cinnamon. Yummy!).

So I did all this, and finding myself pretty revitalised, despite my 5-hour night— (I was watching a documentary ‘til late on Hitler and the reaction of the different monarchies to him, the Nazis and the war) — I decided to go for an equally-invigorating walk along our country lane. Though the temperatures these days are reaching the 23°C mark, the morning temperatures are still fresh, around 8°C so it makes pleasant walking.

So off I set and what did I come across? The following photos will explain:

A lone, blue lupin growing wild amongst the tall grasses and in front of an unruly olive tree
But further along there was a row of them growing behind the neighbour’s wire fence — they return every year (the lupins, not the neighbours who come regularly to tend their olive trees)
And here was a white lupin plant (I had to walk 50 minutes to find one!). The leaves look acacia-like and quite typical of the leguminosae and you can see the bean pods of the lupin
And here’s a close-up of the flowers which are already beginning to shrivel and fade (I know the feeling…)

Now let me share with you what I have recently learnt about the pretty lupin:

The name comes from the Latin lupus, which means wolf, and the reason for the name is because it was believed that these flowers stole¸ cunningly like a wolf, the nutrients from the earth since they were commonly found on poor soils (the flowers that is, not the wolves). However, quite the opposite is true: lupins, like other legumes such as lentils, chick peas etc. actually enrich the soil and are useful for farming as they are high in nitrogen. Here in some traditional olive groves local to Posadas in the province of Cordova where the olives are picked by hand and not by machine, you can often see bushes of lentils, beans and chick peas that have been planted in rows between the trees. After the legumes have been harvested, the remaining plants will then be dug back into the soil in order to increase its fertility with all that added nitrogen.  

Although lupins are part of the pea family, they are poisonous, containing toxic seeds and can therefore pose a threat to livestock and cattle. However, there is now the ‘sweet lupin’ a genetically-engineered variety of the original in which the toxic alkaloids have been removed.  The beans of the lupin plant are edible and used for both human and cattle consumption. Australia is a major producer of these lupins

NOTE: you cannot eat just any lupin seeds from your garden or countryside  the seeds must be processed first to remove the toxicity.

Lupin beans are a great favourite here in Spain (in fact in all the Mediterranean Basin countries, as well as North Africa and Latin America. They were also popular with the Incans, Native Americans, Romans and the Egyptian pharaohs too). Here, the lupin beans, or altramuces in Spanish, are often given as a free tapa in many bars (they are previously soaked until soft). Beware though: people who have a peanut allergy are fairly likely to be allergic to lupin beans too.

The beans are very nutritious and the extract from the seeds of the white lupin help the production of collagen, promoting cellular repair and growth. They are low in fat, gluten-free, rich in amino acids, antioxidants and fatty acids, high in fibre and contain protein too. They are also prebiotic. (I’ll think in future I’ll be adding this to my cereal or yoghurt-fruit mix — yippee, here comes super-woman!)

Lupin beans, soaked (Wiki)

On a more mystical note, apart from their symbolism with wolves and the moon, the lupin represents happiness, imagination, creativity and admiration, also energising one’s inner strength. They represent hope for new opportunities too. (Yes, I’ll definitely be adding this to my cereal or yoghurt-fruit mix in the mornings, possibly soaking them first in a cup of Tetley’s to give them that extra kick!)

So, all in all, apart from being pretty and useful, lupins are also positive-meaning flowers, encouraging good cheer and hope. Something I wish for all of us.

But to finish with, here’s a poem about lupins by Seamus Heaney — poet, playwright and translator, lecturer and professor, (and one of nine children!), from a farming, cattle dealing and linen mill worker background. 

Seamus Heaney (Wiki)

Lupins

Seamus Heaney (Ireland 13 April 1939 – 30 August 2013)

They stood. And stood for something. Just by standing.
In waiting. Unavailable. But there
For sure. Sure and unbending.
Rose-fingered dawn’s and navy midnight’s flower.

Seed packets to begin with, pink and azure,
Sifting lightness and small jittery promise:
Lupin spires, erotics of the future,
Lip-brush of the blue and earth’s deep purchase.

O pastel turrets, pods and tapering stalks
That stood their ground for all our summer wending
And even when they blanched would never balk.
And none of this surpassed our understanding.

——————————————————————————————————

Thank you for reading, bye for now — take care x

The hope that nature brings

Hi folks, I’m back — but as you know, travel now has been severely curtailed here due to this devastating virus, so apart from this having had the effect of numbing my inspiration for writing, my outings and amateurish photography have been limited to my country (which is a privilege in itself). I am observing the quarantine as are the Malenans (inhabitants of Posadas), who have been also shown such solidarity, by, for example, volunteering to disinfect the streets and buildings and also to make face masks, which, in the space of a couple of days, they have managed to sew 1000 of them! I take my hat off to these volunteers and to all the other helpers, such as the doctors, nurses, carers, police, firemen/women, cleaners, transport service, people who are collaborating from home by putting up videos helping us employ our time constructively and many others — these, along with the people who are strictly observing quarantine at home are the true heroes. We have to fight this thing together, with unity and solidarity.

I am lucky to live in the country and have some freedom of movement, so I have been tending my weed-filled vegetable patch (aided by my daughter and also the cats and two dogs when they manage to wriggle under the wire fence — the animals, that is!) and I have also been doing a little photography of the flowers and trees that are steadily unfurling their leaves and coming into colourful, delicate bloom. So for this post, I would just like to share some of these photos with you all — nature is an inspiration in itself!

But to kick off, here is a photo of my wild asparagus cooked in spicy, herby tomato sauce, the recipe of which I wrote in my last blog (but unfortunately at that time, didn’t have a picture of!).

My cat Strawberry isn't much help with weeding the parsley and spinach patch in the garden
For the recipe of this wild asparagus dish, see my last blog. (The croutons are missing here, because I didn’t have any spare old bread — the dogs had first choice!)
The apricot tree is leafing after having flowered. Looking forward to making pots of jam and chutney — they make great presents!

I hope you have enjoyed the pictures, and thanks for visiting my blog!

A photo-guided walk through the Sierrezuela (it’s beginning to bloom!) — and a recipe for wild asparagus in tomato

Hi folks! I’m back again — but this time with less waffle and more photos. After all, a picture’s worth a hundred words, isn’t it?

The topic’s the same as last time — the beautiful Sierrezuela of Posadas which forms part of the vast Natural Park of Hornachuelos. View on (and please consult the following links for more… https://www.posadas.es/turismo/patrimonio_natural/parque_periurbano_la_sierrezuela and http://turismoposadas.es/wp-content/uploads/guia-educacion-ambiental-sierrezuela.pdf — both great for your Spanish!! Also, not forgetting my illustrated book An English Lady in Cordova, available from me and also from here https://www.etsy.com/es/shop/GillysWork?ref=search_shop_redirect. View for more descriptions of this neck of the woods and to learn of my humorous adventures!)

Recipe for wild asparagus in a rich tomatoey sauce (my way)

Ingredients

A bunch of wild asparagus

Olive oil

Some tomato concentrate (‘tomate frito’ if you are in Spain – about 220 g) and a couple of chopped tomatoes if you have them

A fat onion, chopped

A couple of cloves of garlic, squashed

2 cloves

Cumin powder and smoked sweet paprika – a tsp of each

Small glass of red wine or ‘fino’ or ordinary white, if that’s what you happen to have

Salt, pepper and brown sugar to taste

Croutons fried in olive oil (don’t let the oil smoke!)

Method

Cut the tender top parts of the asparagus into 1 cm pieces (or to your liking). In a pan, fry the chopped onion in a generous amount of olive oil, on medium fire. Add the garlic after about a couple of minutes, when the onion is translucent. Cook for a further minute. Now add the cumin and paprika powders and the cloves. Stir-fry a bit longer, then chuck in your asparagus bits. Increase the fire and throw in the booze. Let it bubble away so that most of it evaporates, then add your tomatoes and puree. (If you don’t have chopped tomatoes, don’t worry, add more puree. You’re aiming for a rich tomato gravy.) When it starts bubbling a lot, add your salt, pepper and about a teaspoon of sugar (wild asparagus can be quite bitter). Let it simmer with lid half on until the asparagus is tender and a rich, tomatoey gravy has formed. Check for seasoning. You can always add more cumin and smoked sweet paprika if you like. In a separate frying pan, cook your croutons in olive oil, then add to the cooked asparagus dish.

And Bob’s your uncle — ready to eat!

PS. If you don’t want to waste the woody, prickly stalk of the asparagus, you can simmer these together with other vegetables, to make a stock. Might have to add a pinch of sugar or extra carrots to balance out the bitterness though.

And as for my vegetable patch — no photos this time because it is looking pretty much the same — except it now has the addition of a worrying amount of furry caterpillars that are steadily and stealthily invading the whole of the countryside! Let’s see if my Swiss chard and spinach seedlings escape their voracious jaws…

That’s all for now — thanks for reading — back soon!