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Normally I’m all about the latin names for plants, but in this case, I think it actually makes it less specific.

Blackberry Lilies *used* to be Belamcanda chinensis, and Candy Lilies are sometimes referred to as Pardancanda norrisii, or Pardancanda chinensis, but really, Candy lilies are a hybrid between Blackberry Lilies and Iris dichotoma, so despite the fact that they will grow essentially true from seed, they aren’t really a species, and so don’t deserve their own latin name. PLUS, Blackberry lilies were recently reclassified as Iris domestica, making Candy lilies officially Iris x norrisii, but most places haven’t made these update yet, so if you go searching for them you’ll come up empty except for a few taxonomy nerds. Therefore common names it is.

Anyway, they’re interesting plants. Leaves like iris, spotted blooms shaped a bit like a daylily, though you can see the iris relationship there too. The ‘blackberry’ in the name comes from the seeds, which are big and round and glossy and look rather like blackberries.They bloom around the same time dayliles do as well, but to my eye are rather more exotic looking – I particularly like how the spent flowers twist up into spirals.

I heard about them a few years ago, but they were hard to find, particularly in my price range, so I took a gamble growing them from seed. There wasn’t a lot of guidance on how this process was supposed to go at the time, so I thought it would be useful to make what I’ve learned available.

Growing outdoors:

I normally have poor luck direct seeding things, but these have worked pretty well. The flowering stems fall down in late fall, so at that point they can be cut off and scattered wherever you want to establish more plants. You don’t seem to need to cover them, despite the relatively large size, and I’ve never seen anything eating them. The seeds will sprout sporadically through the spring and summer, and will be big enough to flower the following year. The leaves look like tiny iris leaves and are quite substantial, so they are easy to see and you don’t have to worry too much about weeding them out accidentally despite the prolonged germination period.

Growing indoors:

One of the sources I got my original seeds from noted that the seeds did not last well and should be kept in the refrigerator until planted. I don’t know how true that is, but I did follow that advice. If you’re growing from your own seeds, you could also just leave them out on the plant until you’re ready. In any case, this isn’t the same as needing stratification. They should germinate fine without a chilling period, it’s just that they will theoretically dry out quickly if kept in warmer conditions.

The seeds themselves have a shiny outer coating which gives them the name ‘blackberry’. That coating is actually like a  brittle balloon containing the real seed, which is coated in dirty mossy looking stuff. You don’t need to remove the shiny coating, but don’t worry if it cracks either, it doesn’t indicate your seed has gone bad. I got similar germination from cracked and uncracked seeds.

The initial steps in growing from seed are very familiar and simple. Place the seeds in seed starting mix and water well. They don’t seem to care if they are buried or exposed on the surface, though I prefer the later as you can see germination that much sooner. They also don’t seem to have a temperature preference, though a warm location can be helpful as I’ll explain.

The big trick I’ve learned is to let the planting medium dry out again immediately. Don’t re-water until it is seriously completely dried out to an extent that would kill any other seedling. THEN soak them and let the cycle begin again. It seems the seeds germinate in response to these wet-dry cycles. Weird, but in my experience true. The reason bottom heat is useful is that it helps the soil dry out faster, so you can get more cycles in quickly.

My germination rates haven’t been bad (around 30%), but they take a long time, and are very irregular. I imagine I could have coaxed a few more seeds into sprouting, but by then it was springtime and I had enough and just planted what I had outside and dumped the rest rather than sit and fuss over flats of unsprouted seeds while spring was going on. I’m not kidding about slow and irregular. I would say one seed every week or so starting about a month after sowing. You want to start these three months or so before your last expected frost. Be Patient. They will sprout.

The seedlings themselves are slow growing, but pretty robust. I normally pull out the sprouted ones to a different tray to keep them more consistently moist, but they won’t die even if they do dry out completely along with the unsprouted seeds. They also aren’t particularly susceptible to mold or damping off or getting leggy or any of the other common seedling ailments. I don’t think I’ve lost a single seedling of these once it’s sprouted, which is pretty impressive given how attentive to these things I usually am (how do you think I figured out they needed to dry out in order to sprout? It wasn’t careful research and controlled trials, I’ll tell you that). Anyway, it takes at least a month to get from the first leaf to a size that you could conceivably plant outside. They grow slowly and hold well in pots, so err on the side of earlier when deciding when to sow. Assuming they aren’t too tiny and late when you transplant them, there’s a good chance of blooms the first year, though fewer and later than on older plants.

So, this is all terribly unscientific, but that’s what I’ve learned. They sprout on wet – dry cycles, and try your patience like nothing else, but ultimately are pretty simple and hard to kill assuming you can wait for them to do things at their own pace.

As in, literally. I know it’s a common pregnancy symptom, but I am a frigid, frigid person. Sometimes I wear my winter hat most of the morning. I’ve been known to leave my coat on most of the day, because it just feels right. This is at a sedentary office job, yes, but other people I work with are wearing short sleeves to the meetings I show up to with my coat on.

So, yeah, warmer. Huh. Not a bad thing, though it’s really throwing me off. I keep thinking the previous days must have been a fluke and not dressing cooler (also, most of the maternity wear I’ve acquired thus far is sweaters, because, duh, cold person in December)

My belly button is getting increasingly weird. First, it pulls the flesh in the general vicinity inward like a dimple. While this isn’t overly noticeable from most angles, when I myself look down on my stomach it has a cleft in the middle, making it look rather like a very large second butt on my front side. Unfortunate. Also, while it hasn’t popped, it has flattened, revealing all the normally hidden interior belly-button skin. Which is weird. It feels different than normal skin. It also feels differently* than normal skin, as in, it can feel pressure, but it’s slightly numb to light touch. Nothing uncomfortable, but I find it inappropriately fascinating, probably because I thankfully have nothing more pressing to worry about.

Other random things. (or shall I say: notes from the world’s most boring pregnancy)

  • The Friday after thanksgiving (that would be end of week 20) I started to feel kicks on the outside. Which is a significantly different sensation from previous movement. Harder to describe, but pretty much what you would expect it to feel like if something was trying to poke out of you from the inside – bringing to mind disturbing alien imagery. It was quite weird for a while.
  • I started having trouble getting comfortable to sleep this weekend. Apparently, I’ve gained enough weight that if I lie on my side my arm falls asleep, to which M replied ‘welcome to my world’, but, uh, it hadn’t been a problem for me before. Additionally, if I try to tilt forward to put less pressure on my arm, my belly gets in the way, which isn’t uncomfortable per-se, but it prevents my middle from turning as far as my hips and shoulders, making my back displeased. I remembered my mother having one of those big body pillows (not a pregnancy specific one, just a big pillow) and picked that up after two unsatisfactory nights. Despite taking up a ridiculous amount of bed space, it seems to have done the trick for now.
  • I realized that my prenatal vitamins don’t actually have any potassium in them. I’d been getting stomach cramps (pretty much identical to what you get if you try to run after eating) and just passed them off as par for the ever-expanding course, because, hey, I’m taking these giant pills, shouldn’t they have all that stuff taken care of? But no. Things have greatly improved after adding bananas to my meal plan. Surprisingly tasty bananas.
  • I started making milk a few weeks ago. Not enough to feed, well, anything, and thankfully not spontaneously leaking, but it amuses me, because I’m easily amused. I suppose it’s also a good portent for successful breastfeeding?
  • We’ve signed on officially with a doula. I initially called four, heard back from two, and decided not to keep calling the other two because I liked the first one so much. It honestly felt a little silly even doing the second interview because we were pretty sure we had our decision already, but it just seemed dumb to go with the first person we met without even talking with anyone else (also, the second lady was super-highly recommended, not that the first one wasn’t, but pretty much everyone I asked had a good impression of #2). So, there go our worries on not being able to find someone nerdy and analytical enough in the sea of hippy baby people.
  • We’re also signed up for our birth class at the hospital, it wasn’t what I thought I’d end up with, but I don’t know that M has the time to do Bradley and still finish the upstairs, I am absolutely not the target audience for hypnobirthing**, and both the doulas we talked with recommended our particular hospital’s classes and one of the instructors specifically. Unfortunately, the only session of hers we could make was a one-day class, which, again, wasn’t my plan, but there we are. There was a two-day class with her that I think was too close to my date, but the only four-day classes were on days we couldn’t do or with one of the less-recommended instructors. I think I’ll do better with less time and a good instructor than lots of time being cranky with a bad one.
  • We’re at 24 weeks, which is the cusp of survivability*** not at all a good time to be born, but not an automatic dead baby card either. Which is nice to know, particularly since everything seems to be going well at this point. Dang, have I jinxed myself enough yet? I’ll stop.

*I think this is the correct use of adverbs and grammar? Maybe?

**you know those ‘are you a good candidate for hypnosis’ checklists? I pretty much meet none of the criteria.

***this is the sorts of strange things I learn by reading infertility blogs****

****No, I’m not at all infertile. I just apparently have strange taste. I guess the sort of person who chooses to write about that sort of thing in public just tends to have a point of view and way of thinking that appeals to me? I started reading them well before I was married or even remotely considering children, just because I thought some of the authors were good writers.

I love how recipes for white meat so often translate to different options. Piccata is traditionally veal, I think, but this works great with chicken or pork, or even whitefish. Heck, it might work with tuna. Just make sure whatever you have is very thin slices. Chicken or pork you may want to pound if it’s on the thick side.

Anyway, this is a recipe that I like a lot more than M does (especially with the capers), but I’m constantly amazed at how swanky it is for how little work.

Required ingredients:

  • two thin pieces of the white meat of your choice
  • flour enough to coat meat
  • 2 tsp, or a large hunk of butter (don’t skimp and use cooking oil instead, this goes into the sauce)
  • white wine

Some pointers for the wine. You will want a generous serving’s worth. Those single-serve bottles are a great size if you don’t want to try to finish the rest of a full bottle between the two of you. Otherwise, use what you’ll have with dinner. Ideally, you want something that isn’t too tart or too sweet. I had savingon blanc on hand, which is on the tart side, and it worked ok, but really needed cream to not be overpowering. Chardonnay should be fine, as would dry Riesling, and that all the kinds of white wine I know other than moscato, which would be way too sweet.


Coat the meat in flour

Melt the butter in a pan until sizzling, (medium, medium high-ish heat)

Add the meat and cook until browned on both sides. Add more butter if the level gets low by the second side. (If your heat is too high, it will start to burn before the meat cooks through, but it needs to be high enough to get a good sizzle or you won’t get the browning right. Err on too high, as you’ll see on the next step)

Put a paper towel (or regular towel you eco-friendly person you) on a plate and the meat on the towel and the towel in an oven on as low as it goes. If you oven only has high settings, turn it on for a bit then kill the heat without opening the door. If you are worried the meat might not have gotten done, turn it up to 250 or so to cook it a little more (no, you won’t set a towel on fire at that temperature for as long as it will be in there).

Deglaze the pan with the wine. If you don’t know what that means, check the entry on kale for a deeper explanation.

Turn the heat to medium/low and simmer until there is about half the wine there used to be… 10 minutes or so since you don’t have that much liquid. Somewhere in that simmering, consider adding some or all of the following ingredients.

Optional ingredients:

  • Thin slices of lemon
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • heaping spoonful of capers (drained)
  • chicken broth
  • cream or milk

Lemon slices should be added right at the beginning (possibly before you even deglaze) so they soften up. Juice or capers can be added at any point. Broth or cream should be added near the end. You’ll want to taste the reduced sauce, and if it’s overpoweringly strong or tart, add additional liquid until it’s tasty. Something like a half a cup give or take a few sloshes usually does the trick. Personally, I like the cream better than broth. You can also add some of the pasta water if you need to make it less strong and don’t have other things on hand.

I like to serve this over angel hair pasta. Angel hair cooks ridiculously quickly, so if you start the water boiling first, and put the pasta in right after you deglaze the pan, it’ll be done in plenty of time.

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