Saturday, 28 November 2009
Tonight I am beginning a new series of drawings of the various species of Milkweed.
I have always been fond of our Canadian milkweed plants that grow so profusely each summer throughout southern and central Ontario. I know they can sometimes be irritating to farmers because they quickly cover any unused land, but the butterflies love them and parts of them are also good to eat!
That's right -- even though the sticky sap is somewhat poisonous, the Native peoples taught the early settlers how to prepare the shoots and the young flowers. You start them off in boiling water and bring the water back to a rolling boil, pouring off the water. Do this a couple of times and you will soon have a sweet tasting vegetable. The important thing is not to do anything that will cause the bitter sap to remain. I know all this because I used to cook Milkweed during the summers I spent in Renfrew County learning how to eat wild plants -- among other things.
Now, back to the drawing above. It is Calotropis procera or Giant Milkweed. It has a number of common names. One of my favourites comes from Jamaica where it is called "Duppy Cho-Cho". Evidently, Jamaican children used to be warned not to stand under or too close to Duppy Cho-Cho plants at night as they ran the risk of being slapped in the face by the resident Duppy! If this happened, their faces could remain forever twisted by the blow.
These plants, which can grow to six feet tall, are members of the Family, Asclepiadaceae. They are native to Africa and Asia. In the middle east, they are known as Apples of Sodom as they are found growing in the region of the Dead Sea. In my drawing you will notice that there is a large globe-like fruit -- which is the so-called "apple" of the giant milkweed plant. This fruit was alluded to in John Milton's Paradise Lost as the fruit which Satan and his cohorts ate. It is not edible as it is filled only with seeds plus the flesh is poisonous. As the fruit ripens, it eventually splits and releases drifts of small, brown seeds each equipped with a silky parachute. Milkweed of every variety is skillfully adept at getting those seeds out there!
Now to another topic... I was given some new software. It was included as part of a package I purchased for cleaning files on my computer. This new software contains some features that you can use for creating special effects with your photographs. I decided to try using it on tonight's drawing. The result is below.
I find the special effects very interesting. It is almost like creating a new drawing. I would enjoy getting your feedback on it.
I will be showing you more varieties of Milkweed in the days ahead. I hope you enjoy them all.
Peace be with you.