Leaf of the Day: The Ginger Pod Again.

I really wanted to draw this little pod in its new state. It has changed so much in the last week. It seems that the seeds inside have grown larger and are pushing outwards causing the pod to split in 3 places. Even since yesterday it has changed, the seeds are slightly bigger and less green. It is the pod of the shell ginger I had sketched a couple of times a few days ago here. The changes are interesting, the colour has gone from a brighter greeny orange to deeper orange and reds and of course the seeds pushing out have caused the shape to become more squashed. It’s fascinating. Sadly it fell off its stem which was pushed into some oasis so it had definitely lost some elegance, but it’s still lovely.

Another Friday has rushed round and I shall be taking some time off plants this weekend to return to some colour experiments and exercises. I have been trying to fit them in while doing everything else but as Fred Astaire said ‘somethin’s gotta give’. I enjoy colour and while the botanical illustration course is interesting it doesn’t allow at all for anything messy or experimental. The colour challenge with botanics is about seeing and matching colour as exactly as you can, and frankly I am getting in need of a bit of freedom so I will be doing some experiments this weekend. If the results are pleasing or even interesting I will post them. Many are not but such is the nature of experiments. Of course there may be a plant, seed pod, or leaf theme in there somewhere.
However, even if it is just coloured squares, as an artist, as long as you are actually doing something you have hope of progress. Many, including myself, would really rather just ‘imagine’ those leaps and strides we will make on our way to becoming the great artist we are doubtless destined to be, and go for a beer instead. There may be some fine displacement activity taking place this weekend too as I have to admit I got a bit of a taste for it on our last lazy weekend. The pool, the bar, the books, the DVD ‘s, general mooching … or the colour exercises. Hmmmm….right now the colour exercises are losing!

Shell Ginger Pod 2

Leaf of the Day: Ginger: Bread and History .

“And I had but one penny in the world, thou should’st have it to buy ginger-bread.”
William Shakespeare, Love’s Labours Lost

I love ginger, fresh, dried, crystallized, preserved, in jams, jellies, wine, just on its own, in chocolate, in curry, in cake, in beer, in ginger thins, ginger nuts, ginger snaps, and most gloriously in sticky dark rich fattening, gingerbread.
I have been thinking more about gingerbread than drawing today and ginger definitely comes into my “eat your models” category.

Ginger is an ancient and once very expensive spice, second only to pepper in its value. Originating in Asia and arriving in Britain with the Romans, it disappeared for a time and reemerged with the homecoming crusaders who brought all kinds of exotica from the Middle East. Its medicinal use was as important as its culinary value for flavouring and preserving food.
The generic name for ginger comes from the Sanskrit, sringavera, meaning “shaped like a horn” but, just to confuse things, these knobbly rhizomes, (not exactly roots as such) are known as “hands”. With hands and horns shaped like ginger roots you would be a strange arthritic creature, but you see the point.

Gingerbread as a cake or biscuit seems to have originated in medieval times and the shaping of ginger into figures is very interesting, as food fashioned into recognizable shapes is redolent of symbolic offering and sacrifice.
It seems that Catholic monks began to bake gingerbread in celebration of certain Saints, pressing gingery dough into carved forms and then decorating the figures. ..We are well past the iconoclastic era now.

East European gingerbread molds.

Medieval fairs also began to sell gingerbread (fairings) and it was made into shapes to celebrate the seasons, flowers, animals and birds ,saints and people. In one instance you could buy a gingerbread husband.. eating your spicy “husband” would apparently increase your chances of finding a real one!

An excerpt from the excellent “Baking for Britain” blog here

“Every old town or country fair in England had a different food associated with it, often a type of gingerbread, a long-lasting heritage deriving from the medieval love of spices. In Hampshire you could buy a Gingerbread Husband. These little fellows were pressed into a wooden mould to form their shape, and then gilded. If I can ever find a Gingerbread Husband mould I will be making up a whole batch of husbands (at least you can eat them if they get tiresome). Bath Fair sold Gingerbread Valentines (perhaps to give to your Gingerbread Husband).”

She has more gingerbread recipes there than you could shake a stick at! …and, continuing with quaint sayings “ taking the gilt off the gingerbread” of course refers to these dazzling, pretty, decorated sweetmeats which, once the icing and sometimes real gold was removed, left just the ordinary cake underneath. “Ginger-up” refers to sprinkling ginger on the backside of a horse to gee them up!..and little pots of powdered ginger were available in ale houses to sprinkle on your beer and I suppose on your horse.

There were famous gingerbread makers and it is clear that Joan Trash, the gingerbread woman mentioned in Ben Johnson’s play about the raucous London Barthomew’s Fair in 1619 was making gingerbread figures. An argument breaks out when Lanthern Leatherhead, the hobby horse maker accuses Joan of stealing his customers.”Sit farther with your gingerbread progeny there and hinder not the prospect of my shop”. He also reviles her products as being made with “rotten eggs, musty ginger and dead honey”

Queen Elizabeth 1 is said to have had gingerbread figures made of her courtiers. I am not quite sure what the symbolism of eating them would have been I will leave that to your imagination.

The most famous gingerbread maker was probably “Tiddy Doll” so named from his street cry. He was a well known London character who dressed like dandy and died in 1752. In Hogarth’s “ The Idle Prentice” you can see him, bottom right, holding up a ginger “snap” which, according to his own claim “ will melt in your mouth like red hot brickbat.”

Gillray drew a savage cartoon of Napoleon as Tiddy Doll baking some new Kings with his aide Tallyrand preparing the dough.

An explanation from Devon Libraries site here

“The print, published in January 1806, shows in a basket the Corsican kinglings: Joseph, to become King of Naples in March 1806, Louis, to become King of Holland in June 1806, and Jerome, to become King of Westphalia in July 1807. No doubt Napoleon’s sisters and their husbands are also in the basket. The three kings being taken out of the oven reflect the provisions of the Treaty of Pressburg (26 November 1805) where Austria renounced rights over Bavaria, Wurttemberg and Baden. Gillray was not so accurate with his model of the little dough viceroys. Although untitled they represent the Whig politicians Sheridan, Fox, Moira and Derby, and are a vicious sideswipe at their policy of appeasement. The caricature of Talleyrand in the background cruelly depicts his surgical shoe, wrongly placed on his left foot. “

I think Gillray’s work is wonderful, just from an artistic point of view alone, and to my great delight I found (or perhaps I just willed it so) that ginger can be efficacious for gout…the best excuse for sharing my very favourite Gillray drawing with you.

I may get some drawing done tomorow if I am not lost in ginger research. The gingerbread man, ginger beer, a recipe and shampoo to come.

Today another ginger flower sketch. This one Alpinia zerumbet.


Shell Ginger Flower 2

Leaf of the Day: Shell Ginger Seed Pod, and some Thunderstorm Advice

Today was the first day I have been caught in the rain. The weather changes in the blink of an eye here, one minute there is sun, the next it’s as black at night. Usually it rains after three but today at midday I was cycling for the last ten minutes in torrential rain, thunder and lightening, and trying to remember the thunderstorm advice which they give on the weather channel. One is to stay away from trees, which is quite hard in Winter Park, but if you happen to be in a wood to shelter under a small tree and if out in the open you should make yourself into a very small target by crouching down. I am already a pretty small target so being short does have one or two advantages then!
Before coming to Florida I had experienced torrential Central American rain which was the tail end of hurricane Katrina and, relatively gentle, European thunderstorms but having had one incident here with horizontal rain and a whirling demonic wind which tore through the open windows in the apartment and flattened everything in its path I take good heed of all advice and forecasts.
There is the 30/30 rule, which is to count the seconds between hearing the thunder and seeing the lightning. If it is 30 seconds or less, the lightning is close enough to be a threat so seeking shelter is very important. Also one should wait 30 minutes after the last lightening flash before venturing out as apparently half the deaths from lightening take place when you think the storm is over, it can strike up to 10 mile away from its source!

If you were ever to scoff at the time and trouble they go to here to ensure we are all informed, to the minute, about approaching storms, you should read about the devastation of Hurricane Charley which swept through Orlando in 2004…even Mouseland had to close!

Charley approaching downtown Orlando 2004 ..BBC website

There will never be another Hurricane “Charley” or “Katrina” because severe hurricanes have their names “retired”, their sombre associations and destruction consigned to memory. Other names get recycled. The naming of hurricanes is interesting. Pre 1953, hurricanes in the West Indies were named after the particular saint’s day on which they occurred but from 1953 the United States Nation’s weather services began using female names for storms. ( “hell hath no fury” I suppose) Only 25 years later did they try to redress the balance by bringing in men’s names. I am not sure who is next.. and we are not even half way through the season.

But back to gingers..there are many, many more gingers than I thought there were. I am beginning to be able to spot them now and they are everywhere. Today I was going to try to understand the classification but having spent a couple of hours now trying to find the definitive guide with no luck at all I realise it won’t be easy. Here are the main types, most of which I have seen and photographed at Leu.

Alpinas– Called the “shell” gingers due to the seashell like flowers. This one is Alpina zerumbet

Curcumas — these are known “hidden” gingers, as the flowers are tucked away in the leaves. This pretty one is called candy cane Curcuma rhabdota

Dichorisanda Not a true ginger but very similar. This is a the “Blue ginger”, Dichorisnada thyrsiflora

Elettarias — Known as Cardamon ginger. I have not seen one of these at the gardens yet.

Globbas — The dancing ladies, as I drew yesterday.

Hedychiums — Called “butterfly” gingers. This is the Luna moth ginger which I drew before and the orange pagoda shaped one is hedychium coccineum

Kaempferias— Called “peacock” gingers, pretty low lying plants with patterned leaves.

Zingibers— also known as cone gingers, including the beehive ginger Zingiber spectabile and the branch of the family containing the edible ginger Zingiber officialis.

The edible ginger is a much more modest plant but completely wonderful. Tomorrow more about ginger and gingerbread.

Another image from “gingersrus” ..great ginger site here !

They are all quite beautiful, and today I found this gorgeous little seed pod from the shell ginger.

Shell Ginger Seed Pod