Onion Salad

Christmas dinner is the primary meal traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  Christmas dinner around the world may differ and the traditions can reflect the culture of the respective country it is being celebrated in. Turkey is present in a fair number of these meals. We as a family are celebrating Christmas with cold meat and salads, which are more suitable for our hot summer days.
Here is one of my mom’s “traditional” salads she  used to make for Christmas.
Onion Salad
1 kg small onions                1 cup (250 ml) brown sugar
1 cup brown vinegar          1 t mustard powder
1 egg, whisked
 Peel the onions, taking care to keep them whole.
  1. Boil the onions in salted water for 15 minutes or until just tender. Drain.IMG_8226
  2. For the sauce combine the  mustard powder, sugar and vinegar  over heat until the sugar is dissolved and then boil for 5 minutes.
  3. Let the mixture cool down add whisked egg into the cooled mixture.
  4. Slowly bring it to a low simmer over low heat while whisking.  Heat over low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. IMG_8228Remove from the stove immediately, pour over the onions and leave to cool.IMG_20151228_100418

Floral Friday: Scabiosa incisa

Scabiosa incisa with its large mauve or white flowers must be one of South Africa’s prettiest indigenous perennials. Growing in small clumps, the flowerheads stand above the foliage, gently moving with the slightest breeze. On warm summer days, butterflies are often seen on the flowers, for Scabiosa is one of their favourite nectar plants.DSC_0058

A fast-growing perennial, it forms a number of stems on the ground, which turn slightly woody with age at the base. The finely divided leaves form opposite each other along the lower part of the stems. The older leaves at the bottom of the stem turn brown and fall off as new fresh green leaves are formed. The soft leaves are slightly hairy at the top and bottom. The beautiful flowers are formed on long, naked stems from early spring to the middle of summer (September-December). The straggling stems vary in height but can stand up to 430 mm high with a single flowerhead at the tip. A closer look at a e flower reveals individual flowers that are crowded together to form dense, flattened flowerheads. The looser flowers along the outside have longer petals that form a frilly edge, whereas the flowers in the centre are much smaller and compact to form a tight button effect. After flowering, the seeds are formed in interesting rounded bristle heads, that slowly fall apart as the seeds ripen and are ready to be blown away by the wind.IMG_7629
Scabiosa incisa occurs naturally in the coastal sands from Piketberg to Grahamstown. The best-known locality for Scabiosa incisa is at Bokbaai, a farm along the West Coast, from where one has the most beautiful views of Table Mountain across the bay. Here S. incisa grows in deep sands between the coastal scrub. The winter rainfall along this part of the coast is between 50-300 mm a year. S. incisa from Bokbaai is a particularly big form with large, mauve flowers. A number of other beautiful forms are grown at Kirstenbosch. Scabiosa incisa ‘White Carpet’ has a smaller white flower which in early summer form a cloud of white above a lush carpet of tight green foliage.IMG_7639


Scabiosa incisa is easy to grow and most rewarding, with an abundance of flowers, flowering non-stop from spring to the middle of summer. S. incisa responds well to cultivation, with its main requirement being full sun and well-drained soil. It can survive with very little water during the summer but will produce much lusher growth with a compost mulch and occasional good watering. S. incisa is usually planted in groups to edge the front of beds.





Floral Friday: Mimetes cucullatus

Mimetes cucullatus is eye-catching, unusual and colourful all year round, and it is among the easiest members of the protea family to grow.

Mimetes cucullatus is a multi-stemmed, densely-leaved shrub, 0.5 to 2 m tall with an upright, bushy growth habit. The leaves are oblong-elliptic, 25-55 mm long and are neatly and symmetrically arranged along the branches. IMG_7682

The unusual flowerheads of Mimetes distinguish this genus from the other members of the protea family. All members of the protea family have small flowers grouped in conspicuous flowerheads. The individual flowers are tubular and have a perianth made up of four perianth segments, sometimes three are fused and one is free. When in bud, the segments touch each other but don’t overlap, and as the flower opens they separate and curl back to expose the style.

Anthers close upThe tip of each perianth segment is slightly widened and has a depression in which a single anther rests. The pollen that it sheds sticks to the top portion of the style, called the pollen presenter. The stigma is a small groove at the tip of the style, and self-pollination is prevented because the stigma is not receptive when its own pollen is being produced. At the base of the flower, inside the perianth tube, are four scale-like nectaries and a minute superior ovary, which produces a dry nut-like fruit. In Mimetes the flowers are grouped into small dense cylindrical inflorescences of 3-16 florets produced in the axil of a leaf, and up to 15 of these cylindrical inflorescences can occur on one flowering stem.

Looking at Mimetes cucullatus we see wool-like tufts sticking out from between brightly coloured leaves towards the tips of the branches. Each ‘tuft’ is a group of 4-7 florets, the cylindrical inflorescence, and each inflorescence is produced directly below a leaf, which in this species partly encloses the inflorescence, like a hood. The actual inflorescence is not particularly showy, but the whole flowering stem is very colourful: the leaves that enclose the inflorescences are red at the tip, shading to a bright yellow and then into bright green. The creamy white ‘tufts’ are actually the bearded tips of the thread-like perianth segments and hold the anthers; and the styles are dark red, tipped with yellow and rear up right underneath the red hood-like leaf. Flowers are produced nearly all year round, but the peak flowering season is from early spring to late summer-autumn (August to March). Seeds are released 2-6 months after flowering.IMG_7683

It is found on sandy soils, on sandstone slopes and flats, most frequently on the cool, moist, south-facing slopes and damp flats. It occurs from the Koue Bokkeveld Mountains to Kogelberg to Elim Flats, Caledon Swartberg, Cape Peninsula ; Potberg; Riviersonderend Mountains , eastern Langeberg to Outeniqua and Kouga Mountains ; Klein Swartberg and Rooiberg. It grows from sea level to 1 200 m. All the other species of Mimetes occur in small areas and are mostly classified as rare, and one species, M. stokoei is extinct. It could be the resprouting strategy of M. cucullatus that makes it so much more successful than its relatives.DSC_0067

 The name Mimetes is derived from the Greek mimetes meaning imitator or mimic. Why this name was chosen is not clear; although the species do resemble each other to some extent and the foliage is quite similar to that of the genus Leucospermum ; in every other respect the genus Mimetes is outstandingly unique. Cucullatus means hood-like and refers to the way the floral leaves partly enclose the flowers, forming a hood-like structure over them.


The genus Mimetes belongs in the protea family (Proteaceae) and consists of 14 species, all of which occur in the Western Cape, from Porterville to the Kouga Mountains .

In the past, the bark was used for tanning. Mimetes cucullatus has great potential as a cutflower; the flowering stems are relatively long, they last well, can be packed without being damaged and the plants resprout strongly after being pruned.

Growing Mimetes cucullatus

Mimetes cucullatus is a rewarding garden plant, giving colour all year round and forming a neat, compact shrub. Grow it in a sunny position in sandy, well-drained, acidic soils. Give it plenty of water during autumn-winter-spring and moderate amounts during summer, making sure that the water drains away. Feed it with well-rotted compost and/or low-dose or slow-release fertilizers, preferably organic, and steer clear of manures and other strong fertilizers. When in doubt, plant fynbos plants on a slope in an area that gets some degree of air movement. Being a resprouter, Mimetes cucullatus responds well to hard pruning. Older, established plants can be rejuvenated and flowering encouraged by being pruned back to the base; they will resprout vigorously.IMG_20150918_122922

This mimetes is a colourful addition to any garden, it is a good choice for the fynbos garden and an excellent plant for the coastal garden. It can also be grown in large containers. It is not suited to very cold climates, but should survive short periods of cold, from -1 to -3 o C.

Mimetes cucullatus can be propagated by seed or cuttings.