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Monday, July 19, 2010

Butterflies on the Central Coast and a nifty cold soup for the hot weather

One of the nicest things that has happened in July is suddenly- a lot of butterflies! This one is a Buckeye, (Jununia coenia) and the spots on his wings are to scare young (dumb?) birds into thinking the spots are eyes. Buckeyes aren't fussy eaters, but they are very territorial. (I think this means "stay off my snapdragon" since they like snapdragons, veronica, and various weeds.) Snap dragons are a host plant --they both imbibe the nectar and lay their eggs on the host.

Host plants are crucial. There used to be lots of Anise Swallowtails around this neighborhood. They bred on the wild fennel which is everywhere along the roadsides in summer. But we have become so cultivated in town, there's no wild fennel to breed on.So, Anise Swallowtails have simply disappeared . My neighbor's   conscientious gardener removed the last patch of wild fennel from a nice messy spot at the back of her lawn .Haven't seen a swallowtail since.
Trying to grow wild fennel is not as easy as you'd think......been strewing fennel seed here and  there,but so far-- no fennel. I suspect it's like poppies--- you must get the seeds in right after the first rain

However, I did import two host plants for the Gulf Fritillary who love passion flowers,and --- it worked. The garden is brilliant with these orange beauties.

I don't know where they came from, or how the message got out, but the GF's have raised 2 seasons worth of children on a rather scruffy pair of passion flower vines. One is the blue passion flower which the butterfly sseems to  to prefer, but she'll make do with the scarlet perfectly happily.(Passiflora coccinea)

Blue Passionflower This  has been the favorite for eggs---the pupae dangle and hatch before your eyes. Quite miraculous no matter how often it happens. We don't have just a couple of GF's--we have lots, so if you want some of your own hurry to your preferred plant  nursery and get a passion vine.

Thanks to a neighbor's giant broccoli (which hasn't produced any broccoli, but is 4 feet tall) we have Cabbage Whites. These are considered an Invasive Species in some circles, as the host plants are cabbage family crops. However, since neither broccoli or cabbage is high on my list of preferred foods (they are healthy, but so are ice cold showers) I'm delighted to have Cabbage Whites decorating my rose garden (note: rose garden entirely on grey water.) So for your own Cabbage Whites, try some Ornamental Kale.
Pretty, and you don't have to feel guilty about not eating it.

If you grow lantana--and it comes in yellow, white, and lavender for starters--- you will find yourself the happy possessor of the host plant for the Orange Sulphur--that one usually sees looking like this:
 but he's full of surprises. His topside looks quite different.

  Lantana is not only a host plant, it's very water thrifty, can be pruned hard and used as a ground cover, or allowed to sprawl and become a big mound of flowers.

If you live on the Central coast, chances are you have Monarchs. If not--you can buy some!

Here's the female Monarch.

And the male Monarch

We are  lucky enough to have both sexes  in the garden. Apparently they like purple flowers--lavender, Mexican Sage, Society Garlic, agapanthus. All low water. A sensible as well as spectacular  being.  Butterflies love puddles and as well, will drink nectar from butterfly feeders.                                                           
   All photos from W Commons

Here's the cold soup recipe: (LA Times 7/15/10) Servings: 6 to 8           86 cal a serving
Note: Adapted from a recipe by Teresa Fanucchi in "A Place at the Table"
2 large leeks, white and pale green parts only
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds yellow crookneck squash or golden zucchini, chopped (Or green zucchini of which we always have TOO MUCH)
1 quart vegetable broth, more if desired
Salt and white pepper
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped, plus a little more for garnish
1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1 teaspoon lemon zest

1. Clean the leeks. Coarsely chop the white and pale green parts of leeks. Submerge the leeks in water to remove any sandy soil. Rinse well in a colander, and shake to remove any moisture.

2. In a medium soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the squash and broth. Season lightly with one-fourth teaspoon salt and one-eighth teaspoon white pepper. Stir in the fresh dill. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer and continue cooking, with the lid ajar, until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and set the soup aside for about 30 minutes to give the flavors time to marry. Purée the soup using a blender (this will need to be done in batches, filling the blender no more than two-thirds full, and being very careful if the liquid is still hot). The soup can also be blended using an immersion blender. Add additional broth if desired to thin the soup to preferred thickness.
4.Transfer the soup to a covered storage container and refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. This makes about 6 cups soup.
5. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt with the lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Serve each bowl of soup with a dollop of the yogurt mixture.

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