Salvia Somalensis

A decade long drought in South Eastern Australia has seen gardeners demanding alternatives to tender annuals that turned their toes up when water restrictions were imposed .. and none of this compromise on colour and form nonsense!

Salvia Somalensis

Salvia Somalensis

We want interesting yet tough plants dammit! May I present Salvia somalensis, a native of the mountainous regions of Somalia. That makes it super-tough and so water-miserly you’d think it was part camel.

Pretty blue flowers for most of the year and foliage that boasts an interesting musky-floral perfume make it a nice specimen plant.

Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine

.. this song is well sung, I make you a vow,
and he is a knave that drinketh now.
Nose, nose, no-o-o-nose,
and who gave thee that jolly red nose?
Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, and cloves,
and that gave thee thy jolly red nose ..

“All of the Birds” ~ Thomas Ravenscroft 1609

In my early twenties I tended bar in cocktail lounges and restaurants, eventually achieving the exalted rank of Sommelier. During this time I filled a notebook with recipes and instructions for the preparation of dozens of mulled drinks and Silly Season punches. It was affectionately known as my “Book of Headaches” which tells you everything you need to know about these potent brews .. and my early twenties! In my sober middle age, no campfire is complete without music, marshmallows and Mulled Pear Port. Norse ancestors would roll in their graves if I celebrated Yule without generous libations of Crockpot Wassail. Guests at any winter event would hardly recognise me without a pitcher in one hand and a fragrant goblet in the other. I am also sure that Casa de Chaos would be much more chaotic if I didn’t self-administer regular hot baths and Something-for-One as stress relief .. or Bottle-for-Two if it has been a particularly harrowing day 😉

Chicken, Sweetcorn and Shitake Mushroom Soup

Chicken, Sweetcorn and Shitake Soup

Chicken, Sweetcorn and Shitake Soup

This is another dish I started making in self-defense as it was so popular with the Junior Sorority that I was spending a goodly proportion of the budget on the tinned version. Like most Asian soups the emphasis is on fresh, which suits me just fine because that means short cooking times to leave the vegetables crisp and colourful. The broth in my version is not quite as thick as the commercial ones .. add a little creamed corn or an extra tablespoon of cornflour if it’s too thin for you. I have included the single serve option in the notes.

Please Note: I made a typo when I originally posted this recipe. You need 50g of dried mushrooms NOT 500g. My sincere apologies to those of you who made mushroom-with-incidental-stuff soup before I noticed.

Spiced Pumpkin and Cashew Pesto

Spiced Pumpkin and Cashew Pesto

Spiced Pumpkin and Cashew Pesto

This is a very versatile little pesto. As a nourishing instant breakfast, pumpkin pesto spread over thick slices of toast and topped with tomato or swiss cheese it has few parallels. With just a little imagination, that extends to crusty bread as a base for bruschetta or an exotic BLT. It makes a fabulous dip served with crackers, crudites or toasted pita bread. It’s spiciness lends itself to casseroles or soups, especially those featuring lighter meats like chicken, veal or turkey. Stirred through cooked pasta it makes an aromatic and delicious instant dinner .. especially for vegetarians who will get a big mineral boost from the cashews.

Salvia Guaranitica

Salvia guarinitica flower closeup

Salvia guaranitica flower closeup

Common Names; Anise-scented sage, Blue Anise Sage, Hummingbird Sage, Brazilian Sage

My introduction to this plant was during one of my regular evening constitutionals.  The perfume from the plant on a warm evening stopped me in my tracks (much to Fuzzbutt’s annoyance). I followed my nose until I found the royal blue flowers nodding a greeting.  That it was a Salvia destined to join my collection was apparent.. but which Salvia?? Aha.. the game was afoot!  Enquiries at the house were met with polite shrugs,  I could find it in none of the nurseries here, nor were my attempts to strike cuttings  successful.  I had almost given up when that same beguiling perfume caught my attention in Apollo Bay more than a year later.

That was not quite the end of the drama.  It turns out that S. guaranitica is a practical joker with a flair for the dramatic.