"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Leaf of the Day : An Incredible Edible and an Aristolochia with Eyelashes

Another exciting discovery from earlier this week was a cone from the Monstera deliciosa that literally fell at my feet. It landed on soft ground just by the path and presented too good an opportunity to miss so I took it home. The Monstera is of course the huge Swiss Cheese Plant that scales the oaks trees here and outgrows its pots in UK living rooms.
Having seen how it likes to roam about in its natural environment here in Florida, clambering up the tree trunks and throwing out its ariel roots, I feel sorry for the potbound housebound ones. There are many of them down at the gardens and I have admired the big handsome split leaves, longing to get a huge canvas out and paint one, but only in the last week did I notice first the flowers, and now the incredible edible cones.



Here is a terrestrial part of a huge monstera which climbs high up into the canopy.. making flowers and cones as it goes. It is as well, in such jungly places, to watch out for things falling on your head as much as attacking you from the ground! You can see the flower, just finishing, and the cones developing.

I left the cone on the nature table as usual and within a day it had started to 'unwrap' a layer of scales, starting from the bottom, revealing another layer of soft seeds inside and was also beginning to smell quite "deliciosa". After some research I found that this is another (with caution) edible plant, and not only that but it was introduced to England in 1752 both as an ornamental and a food plant. I would like to find an 18th century recipe.



It only took a couple more days for it to unwrap its outer layer almost completely and for the pineapple/ banana scent to make it irresistibly tempting ... So I tried it and it is delicious. Why is it not a commercially available fruit? Well I think there are two main problems. Firstly, it is poisonous when unripe, another fruit which contains oxalic acid crystals and so can cause severe throat swelling unless fully ripe, and secondly the creamy white soft kernals are covered with little brown specs which does make it look unappetising. Anyway here are some photos of this Delicious Monster .. what do you think?



Hmmm those black bits are not very attractive are they?
There is a lot more to say about the wonderful Monsteras but I will save all that for the day I get the big canvas.

From huge to tiny, but still a bit monstrous, today I made a sketch, then a study in colour of the little Aristolochia fimbriata.. it is small, very small. I realise that I really do need both some new glasses and some finer brushes if I am to have a hope of painting this kind of detail to the standard that I require, let alone that of the course, so I have to regard this as a dummy run. It is less than an inch and a half high.. and for me that is tiny. Unlike the other Dutchman's pipes this little thing is slightly more winsome ..with, as Pedro so charmingly put it, eyelashes. But ,having had it sitting on my desk for a day, I am not sure about its unblinking cyclops stare..and there are things living in it too...

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Aristolochia Fimbriata




2 comments:

Barbee' said...

Oh, that is so cute! The first plant's fruit looks like corn. But, I think I will stay with corn, thank you :)

sharp green pencil said...

Hi there Barbee.. I did not have much of the monstera..its just those black bits that put me off but it was delicious..and no ill effects yet..