The dangers lurking in the garden…

Life in retirement has some ups and downs!

For the past 18 months I have been suffering from an itchy suppurating infection in the cleft of my left hand.

The doctor said try this cream – nothing doing. I am now at the point of suggesting surgery. (I have unusual hands and surgery could add some symmetry). Back to the doctor who showed little concern and said antibiotics (I hate them, they interfere with my innards and I think they are too easily prescribed, but I was suffering…). Antibiotics and sterocorticoid creams, extra algebra and Zambuk only suppressed symptoms.

Three agonising weeks later he said those awful words: I can do no more for you…!

The dermatologist said what have you been eating, doing that is different which may be a cause ? I said “My life was the inspiration for national groundhog day”. She prescribed another cream – no good. I am now considering amputation as a solution (itch is agony, let me tell you!) Back to the dermo – she brought out her big guns: six weeks antibiotics and six tubes of sterocorticoid cream. But I think what did it was that she said I must keep the hand dry.

I said that will be difficult as I am the washer-up! The wise doctor was insistent and even gave me a note to that effect for she who designates the division of labour in our menage!

Phew! after four months and no itch or ooze I thought  maybe perhaps …

Eina pyn, jou bliksem – spoke too soon. The itch burn, inflammation returned. What evil could be pursuing me like this, is there a witch doctor hereabouts that I have offended?

In the middle of the night I had an epiphany: Nasturtiums – my belovedest flowers almost. We use its flowers, seeds and peppery leaves in salad; the parts that grow above the ground are used to make medicine.

People take nasturtium in combination with other herbs for urinary tract infections, swollen airways, cough, and bronchitis. Nasturtium is sometimes applied directly to the skin in combination with other herbs for mild muscular pain. it contains vitamin C and might help fight bacteria, fungi, viruses, and tumours.

Apparently it is part of the mustard seed family which can cause severe allergic reactions.

Lawks!! Mustard allergy can cause anaphylaxis!!

I picked the first bunch of Spring yesterday: a creamy yellow, shouting oranges, deep crimson, brilliant yellows … so lovely!

sooo innocent and beautiful!

It turns out I have an allergic contact dermatitis. Fortunately I still have tubes of cream… at least I know now what caused it, even if it is so sad.

Apparently there is a large number of these potential killers on the loose in your flower beds, disguised as sweet smelling, colourful, joy giving blooms: sunflowers, inca lilies, jasmine, wisteria, some daisies aaand even chamomile! Life is sooo cruel!

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Passion

I hope that this title got your attention. Getting sneaky is how we get buy!

This is about resurgence of my passion.

My pre-passion mulling over period came to an abrupt end when I buttered my toast this morning. I was smiling in anticipation of a great gobbet of our New Zealand made lemon curd on top. Never smile at a crocodile, it will get there first! The cupboard was bare! I had to make do with Anchovette fish paste.

This obviously called for immediate action to avoid any further disappointment.

We are blessed in Queensland by an abundance of passion fruit; so many that even friends and neighbours are full up. So I have essayed into beneficiation – Clem Sunter’s answer to South Africa’s reliance on primary industry; Australia should consider it.

I sprang into action: to Google for a recipe and the cupboard and fridge for ingredients.

Now Baby Boomers men will understand that the challenge before me was of some magnitude. Particularly we who originated in the Dark Continent were not equipped with culinary skills of any sort. The more progressives had mastered making a cup of tea and operating a toaster quite successfully.

In my retirement I have taken steps to avoid stagnation by writing blathering blogs and amazing autobiographies. But now I have experienced… YES, I will confess – a new passion which has brightened my life appreciably.

I am talking about the kitchen arts: those that our wives and daughters absorbed from an early age from their mothers and grandmothers. Whereas when Mum was cooking, boys’ focus was who got to lick the bowl and the biggest slice; girls noted utensils and spoon sizes, pot size and the advantages of butter and how to whisk eggs… the list is long.

So, Dear Readers (those who are still with me), you may agree that the challenge facing me to ensure never having to endure another disappointment in much anticipated indulgence, was great. It may even have daunted some.

By googling “passion fruit curd” I was blessed with about 4,230,000 articles… I read the first three and being health conscious, I chose the one with only 1/4 cup of sugar.

The recipe required in addition:

4 egg yolks

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter

juice of 2 lemons

1/2 cup of passion fruit pulp

What could be easier than that?

Huh! Have you ever tried to separate egg yolks from the limpid, runny stuff, without getting egg shell in the mix? … and pips out of lemon juice after it has been added to the sugar?

What’s a double boiler?

What if you have no unsalted butter AND no whisk, which you discover only after you have started mixing the stuff …

In my passion, I took the bit between my teeth and combined pulp and sugar and warmed it over a bowl in a pot of boiling water (ingenious, I know).

I managed to separate most of the yolks and whipped them with the lemon juice (only a few pips remained) and I mixed it with the passion fruit, then added the cubes of butter slowly, while whisking the mix until they melted…To demonstrate my nonchalance at my new found prowess, I made a cup of tea and sterilized an old coffee jar at the same time. Multi- tasking I believe it is called.

A prime aspect of this curdling process is whisking, which is required to be continuous. Imagine my horror when someone knocked on the front door! I had to remove the pot from the flame, attend the inquiry (can I clean your gutters ?) and dash back to resume my whisking.

New-fangled culinary technology does not faze me – I even managed to take the temperature of the cooking curd as I whisked.

Once it reached 160 deg F, I whipped it off the stove and jarred it! I tell you now whisking for about 20 minutes requires perseverance and some endurance.

But I did it … and I got to lick the bowl and the spoon.

I am passionate about cooking …

Beware! Beware! 
His flashing eyes, his floating hair! 
Weave a circle round him thrice, 
And close your eyes with holy dread 
For he on honey-dew hath fed, 
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
*

*Samuel Taylor Coleridge