Cinnamon plant

On trying to grow true cinnamon: Cinnamomum verum  (formerly Cinnamomum zeylanicum, till the council decided that a name change would greatly benefit the world in some small, practically intangible way) is not easy to grow in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Maybe it doesn’t like saline mists. Poor baby. I like the sort of plant you can have shipped from some faraway place, such as Maine or–well, I can’t think of another place, so let’s just say from the jungles of Maine, near Quebec, where a spattering of French is sometimes heard spoken by local magistrates–and, in some unscheduled tempest, the carton containing jungle lianas and the like, falls into the sea and gets tossed around–only to later be discovered by a tribe of wobbly pygmies, whose idea of sartorial excellence centers around the artful arrangement of bits of tawny rope on  their person, accentuating flabby protuberances of soft, pygmy flesh, deemed immoral by the captain of the containership tasked with transporting exotic flora to undisclosed ports, who is now captive and tied to a rubber tree, waiting for the large cauldron within his line of sight to heat up and start bubbling, like lava from the pit of the earth;  and later, as a testament to the miraculous work of international couriers–unafraid of hard work or the scepter of cannibalism–the package containing the plants from Sagadahoc, a consignment of man-eating species and various sought-after spices, arrives safely at my doorstep.


If you found this 250 word post confusing, opaque, and irreverent, a 1,000 word story of mine called Are You Crazy? will be published with great fanfare on the pages of Flash Fiction Magazine on July 24. Do the math and you will conclude that the new story will be four times as confusing as this post on cinnamon, the stuff on your Kellogg’s Apple Jacks cereal. Full disclosure: I get a small kickback in the form of a free cereal box every millennium or two just for mentioning Kellogg.

Then there’s this ditty–

Slipshod Service


Naturally I was going to give this lovely photograph a title, but something distracted me and I plumb forgot. This is quite bad. I mean bloggers have been burned at the stake for less.


Messy Embrace



I have compiled the following data:

Total revenue from writing: $0
Total revenue from Inca-peanut plantation: $300

Having studied these figures exhaustively, I have reached the tentative conclusion that I should concentrate my efforts on growing Inca-peanuts (Sasha inchi or to impress a Carl Linnaeus groupie, Plukenetia volubilis). Naturally I will have an accountant corroborate my findings. Statistical analysis is tricky business and I don’t want to prejudge the outcome.

Camu camu seedling

And for all of the doubting Thomases that said I could not grow camu camu (have you seen the price of camu camu powder?), there’s proof. Myrciaria dubia! in the flesh. Shouldn’t it be Myrciaria dubious? Okay, it isn’t exactly fruiting, but it’s still a small miracle (note to self–next project: miracle fruit).


Here we have Eugenia selloi (formerly Eugenia neonitida–don’t ask: probably having to do with a sex change operation or something equally astounding). Needless to say, this is a rare Eugenia.

Eugenia seed

Finally, why not grow your own coffee? Kona (Coffea arabica).

Kona coffea arabica


Adenium flower

I know many of you think I’m a rising star in the hopelessly crowded field of wannabe writers, mostly because you’ve been inured to the suggestion by my constant I’m-an-unrecognized-genius refrain.

And yet the proof is in the proverbial pudding (and oh how I love crème brûlée), as the folks at 101words.org, through some clerical error, are publishing a story of mine. But now that I think of it, can being a New York Times Best Seller be far behind? 101 words today, 100,001 tomorrow. It’s a mathematical certainty (for the genius-in-waiting).

Just so you know, it’s a story told (lavishly) in 101 words. Impossible? Practically, given my average sentence is longer than a stretch limousine.

Please leave your comment on ‘Double’ at 101word because it’s the right thing to do.

But more importantly, you are supporting the folks at 101 who are in turn supporting writers (some of whom are potentially geniuses, but I repeat myself).

And while you’re there, read a few stories, heck sign up!

The story is called Double and you can find it here:


Prospero Dae

(Pictured on top is the vainglorious Adenium obesum, with doppelgänger.)

green goddess

Arum lily

Illumed by harsh department store neons, ladies circumambulate the latest fashions, meanwhile, beyond, under an oyster-white sky, in large planters amid spicy nasturtiums, stand arum lilies with green-white spathes.

Arum lily

Zantedeschia aethiopica ‘Green Goddess’

Arum lily

Prosodic Fioriture (a term from my own Language of Flowers, volume 16, second edition–the first one was just plain bad–its dark heart replete with factual accuracies (the horror), the bane of those writers (post post-modern) who fictionalize the lives and times of flowers, while looking back, jauntily, at dogeared seed catalogs of yesteryear ).

Erythrina crista-galli

Myths and better myths


The ancient Greeks and the old-time Romans were great at inventing tepid mythical beings: think half-horse-half-man or, quiveringly, three-headed puppy dogs, but this lack of imagination is probably the product of bad wine or, respectively, a demonstration of the deleterious effects of having gotten rabies from one of Hercules’ pets (which are not necessarily from the animal kingdom, but that’s another subject) .

And yet what I am about to advance is no more imaginative, probably less so. But still, you are a captive audience and have little choice but to hear of how floriferous trees sometimes shred their ambassadors of color, making a rainbowy carpet for the downtrodden to rest upon. But what if these flowers did not come from a tree? What if they weren’t even dropped out of a florist’s van (oh those hairpin turns)? What if they grew straight out of the terra firma? That would be mythical, don’t you think?

So consider Kaempferia rotunda, a lovely ginger that flowers directly from the ground. Who needs the jaundiced mythology of the Greeks and the Romans? Incidentally, the species is native to China–just like the Papillon.


Sceletium tortuosum update





a jockey having apparently lost his horse


I have latterly discovered the joys of fermented foods: sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir. And now, something new has appeared on my ‘if the bushmen of Africa can do it—why can’t I?’ radar screen: Sceletium tortuosum. Let me start at the beginning so that you may try this at home. I realize, parenthetically, that even though designations such as ‘under the bridge’ do not have a physical address or a shiny red mailbox (next to some plasticine effigy of a jockey having apparently lost his horse), they can still be, and I say this in all humility, construed as a home). The seeds are tiny, and can be purchased from any shaman (look in the yellow pages, or, as the director of Sun Haven Sanatorium used to would say to me, the urine soaked pages). The seeds, as tiny as your average star seen from a distance of five to six light-years, will take eight to fourteen days to germinate and require no special treatment, other than using an ingenious device, said to be invented by Leonardo Da Vinci–probably an apocryphal attribution–to keep rodents (the malefic ones) and itinerant neighbors in their ‘dark as Beelzebub’s cellar’ places of residence).

Now that the sowing (Ariadne, tangled in an ungainly mass of threads, interprets this as ‘sewing,’ as she has great difficulty with homophones, for which she spent several years at Sun Haven) is done, we wait. After about one year, we have the plant seen in the photograph (well, not exactly that one, but your own version of it). But what about the fermentation? Yes, I’m getting to that. But I must say that the next part is difficult because one gets attached to plants, particularly those with crystalline leaves and talismanic properties. And since the following is brutal, send the children to their dungeons—as one should always protect those under fifty from life’s barbaric truths.

The plant is deracinated, stomped on, and the pulpy mess is stuffed into a soda bottle, whereupon it is kept at a temperature that makes the dry sands of Dante’s inferno (Seventh Circle, Third Ring) seem cool and delightful. And with all the naked, near-dead bodies lying around (something so attractive about purulent flesh), aren’t you glad you sent the children away (without supper or prepaid wireless)? After a week, the fermented slop is dried in the sun. That was easy. Now it’s your turn. Hope your results are as good as mine. Don’t forget to return in a year to post a comment on your success or failure.


A Chocolate Tree!

Chocolate tree

Theobroma cacao (chocolate) seedling

How to grow a chocolate tree (and muscle in on Côte D’Ivoire as the world’s top cacao producer).

3 easy steps

First, befriend a swarthy Ecuadorian farmer whose Willy Wonka grove is bisected by the pale though torrid line known as the equator (a line so pale that no one has yet to see it, so torrid that your mint-chocolate-chip ice cream melts before it hits the bowl). Second, beg for seeds. Third, plant them and start planning your empire.

But how will Cadbury deal with having to bring another cacao producer into the fold? Outstanding question. So I asked an expert. And since the nearest Cadbury office is several parsecs from the muddy outskirts of my garden patch, I settled for the next best thing: I asked an esurient, ponytailed girl who was sitting on a park bench, happenstantially and rapturously partaking in the pleasure that attends the manifold rituals associated with decimating a candy bar, the silvery wrapper glinting in the sunlight and seeming to somehow connect, for several incomprehensible moments, with a distant galaxy, her lips smothered with heavenly milk chocolate–in the selfsame way a cherub’s lips would be bespattered!–and her damask-tinged face radiating pure joy. So I asked her, “What’s the lowdown on new chocolate producing countries?” She smiled, arrantly, and left.

You are probably asking yourself what there is to learn from such an encounter. And the answer is patience. For patience is the stuff dreams are made of (I hate it when Humphrey Bogart steals and then mangles, with pitiless efficacy, my best lines). But enough of the Maltese Falcon. And come to think of it, maybe that bird was made of chocolate!

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