samedi 22 novembre 2014

Croatian Pomegranates... Jelena's Secret Garden (2)

A.G. Do the names of some of the cultivars make reference to their properties or origin?

J. G. I found lots of stories about pomegranate names. And not every story is pretty. For instance, the ‘Glavaš’ cultivar (above, on the left of wild pomegranates) is assumed to have been brought to Croatia by Turkish warriors who were cutting heads off during the Ottoman times. Since ‘Glavaš’ pomegranate trees carry very large fruits (from 500 g to more than 1 kg), they remind of “heads” – the meaning of “glava” in Croatian.

Another one is ‘Konjski zub’ (below). “konj” means “horse” and “zub” means “tooth”. It seems to originate from the Italian cultivar ‘Dente di cavallo’, the arils having the shape of a horse tooth. As to the cultivar ‘Dividiš’ originates from Turkey and its name means “camel tooth”. Again, “tooth” refers to the shape of the aril, not to the one of the seed (compare with the Glavaš arils at the bottom of this post).

Still another one is called ‘Ciparski’ because it came from Cyprus a long time ago. Since no one knew the name of the cultivar, they simply referred to its geographical origin. There are plenty of interesting stories of this type….

A.G. Can you describe us the features of some of the most interesting cultivars?

J.G. As I said, ‘Glavaš’ is definitely very interesting because of its very large fruits. Another one is ‘Barski slatki’. It is very sweet and is named after the city of Bar in Montenegro. It is easily recognizable by the ridges on its bark. Montenegrans won’t buy it if there are no ridges on the bark!

There is another very sweet cultivar: ‘Medun’ – from “med” which means “honey” in Croatian. As to ‘Šerbetas’, you can find it near Mostar in Herzegovina. It is very sweet and has deep red arils. The results of chemical analysis have shown that it has the highest amount of ascorbic acid of all our cultivars (38 mg per 100 ml !). As to ‘Dividiš’ (below), it is my favorite. It has very large fruits, juicy arils with a sweet-sour taste. Axel, I think that you tried it recently and liked it very much too, don’t you ?

A.G. You’re absolutely right! Delicious! By the way, you travelled to other countries to see pomegranate orchards too, didn’t you? Can you tell us about some memories from these trips?

J.G. Well, I didn’t travel as much I would have liked to. Since there is no intense pomegranate production in Croatia, I was very interested to see how it is somewhere else. I got a chance to go to China last year, in the Shandong province, and I was very surprised to see each pomegranate fruit packed in a bag on the tree. You can easily imagine how many hours of labour it takes to protect every single fruit in this way from birds, mice, rain, aphids, sunburns, etc. I was amazed! I tasted a cultivar of similar appearance as ‘Glavaš’ but with soft seeds. All Croatian cultivars have hard seeds. So, soft seeds were new to me.

A.G. Do you see a potential for new uses of pomegranates?

J.G. Pomegranates are traditionally used in Croatia as fresh fruits (especially Glavaš, Sladun and Barski slatki) or for juice (the same cultivars plus the small and sour wild pomegranate). For syrup, some people mix these cultivars while others only use wild pomegranate. Luckily, there is growing interest in some other uses. There is great potential here. Flowers can be collected and dried for tea, as is common in Turkey. There is no incompatibility between picking flowers and collecting fruits because it is easy to spot which flowers will end up as fruits and which ones will be rejected. It has an amazing and rich flavour. Vinegar can also be made out of the juice. In other countries (especially the Middle East), pomegranates are used in cooking. I think that Croatians should do it too. And I'm experimenting pomegranate liqueur as well Anardana, a very tasty Indian spice made of dried arils.

A.G. What is the current direction of your research insofar as pomegranate are concerned?

J.G. The truth is that funds are missing for me to continue. But I am trying to share my knowledge with growers and with people who are passionate about pomegranates. My passion for pomegranates will not vanish…

A.G. Many thanks, Jelena. (and thanks for the pics of these two posts, most of which are by J. G.)

Croatian Pomegranates... Jelena's Secret Garden (1)

Jelena Gadze is a pomologist at the University of Zagreb (Croatia). She works on different species of fruit trees, including cherries, plums and carob trees. In particular, she is a great specialist of Croatian pomegranate cultivars to which she devoted a PhD thesis in 2013 under the supervision of professors Sezai Ercisli (Turkey) and Zlatko Čmelik.

A.G. Jelena, how did your passion for pomegranates grow?

J.G. My parents originate from West Herzegovina where pomegranate is a traditional fruit. As a child, I used to spend there my summer holidays. And then, in the autumn, our family would send us packages with their fruit harvests (pomegranates, figs, grapes,…), including finished products (pomegranate syrup, some sweet from grapes...). I happened to enjoy what most people dislike: removing the arils from pomegranates… and eating them!

A.G. How did you move from there to writing a whole PhD thesis about them?

J.G. In 2008, I started working at the Faculty of Agriculture in Zagreb. I was told that a PhD thesis had to deal with something new and lead to some applications. As I was having coffee on my terrace with my friend Antonela Kozina, she reminded me of my passion for pomegranates. From that day, I knew that this would become my PhD topic.

I started searching the literature and I got very surprised by the fact that very little was written about Punica granatum. I remember that a search on Science Direct at that time only led me to only 800 paper references, which is very little in our field. Unsurprisingly, the specific literature on Croatian and Herzegovinian pomegranate cultivars turned out to be even more scarce. This triggered my curiosity even further. And I engaged in 5 years of field work.

A.G. In your research, you found different cultivars of Croatian pomegranates. And you have established in Split a living collection of these cultivars.

J.G. Yes, I investigated the pomological and chemical characteristics of pomegranate fruits. Based on these results, I described around 20 cultivars which I observed for a few years. I wrote a full identity card for each of them. And I established the first living collection of Croatian pomegranate cultivars. It is based in Split where the climate is more suitable than in Zagreb. It is my friend Mira Radunić from the Institute for Adriatic Crops (Split) who made this possible.

The most common problem I encountered during my research on cultivars had to do with synonyms and homonyms. After a selection based on the results of pomological and chemical properties, we ran an AFLP analysis. The results confirmed that we had selected the cultivars properly.

In addition, I also did some research on the harmful entomofauna in pomegranate orchards (especially aphids) with Antonela Kozina. We put some yellow pots in pomegranate orchards (here in County Vitina, Herzegovina) to observe aphids species that get attracted by this colour.

Also, since pomegranate have hermaphrodite flowers, I was curious about pollens. I studied in vitro their viability, their germination and the pollen tube growth in germinated pollens which is important to obtain higher yield. Here is a picture of my MA students putting a label on each flower we took pollen from. We then observed how many flowers became fruits.

samedi 15 novembre 2014

Um burro com certeza... e algumas duvidas

Tenho algumas fotos de familia do lado da minha mae relacionadas com Portugal. Eles passavam as ferias de verao, nos anos 1950, na zona de Nazaré. Lembro-me que, vindos da Belgica, ficavam impressionados com a grande probreza das familias de pescadores dessa zona. Como o meu avo gostava muito de burros, a familia guardou algumas fotos desses burros que chegaram ate nos. Uma delas representa uma das minhas tias sentada em cima de um deles. Quanto a esta outra foto, aqui em baixo, com um outro burro (ou burra), foi provavelmente tirada pelo meu avo, provavelmente nos anos 1950, provavelmente entre Sao Martinho do Porto e Nazaré, em um lugar onde estava um agricultor muito simpatico que lhes deu figos e inspirou uma poesia ao meu avo... Olha para o aguadeiro em cima da albarda...

Um Rei, dois amigos e dois carneiros no Rio de Janeiro em 1883

Nao sei si as Churras Algarvias podiam fazer isso. Mas si algumo rei vem visitar o Monte, sabemos ja o que precisamos... Dom Pedro de Alcantara, Dom Antonio Gastao e Dom Luis Maria e dois carneiros, pelo grande fotografo Marc Ferrez.

L'église d'Estrela, ses fresques et sa serrure inviolable...

Estrela est un tout petit village très attachant. Avant le barrage, l'eau s'en approchait déjà (merci à un des habitants pour son petit cours d'histoire de rue...).

Mais le village surplombe à présent une véritable péninsule, avec en son coeur, son église du 16ème siècle. De l'extérieur, Notre Dame de l'étoile témoigne d'une grande simplicité: une étoile en son faîte, une cloche extérieure et .... un nid de cigogne comme il se doit. L'intérieur est plus surprenant, avec des fresques qui en recouvrent l'ensemble et qui dateraient elles aussi du 16ème.

La petite chaire de vérité est particulièrement adorable avec ses petites étoiles bleues. Détail intéressant: elle est adossée à une porte dont la serrure est ... inviolable. Référence à l'inaccessibilité du mystère divin?

Chevaux près de l'eau (Estrela, Novembre 2014)

lundi 10 novembre 2014

Jeropiga est arrivée

Voici Jeropiga, notre petite mirandaise âgée d'un peu moins de 6 mois! Elle est arrivée un vendredi soir, vers 21h30, après presque 1000 kilomètres de route. Accueillie à la lampe frontale... Pas mal de barrissements cette nuit là, ainsi que quelques ruades, le temps de prendre ses marques. Mais les voilà déjà rassemblés autour de la "baignoire", nos trois artistes: Violeta, Jeronimo et Jeropiga, cette dernière portant le nom d'un alcool portugais qui mélange vin nouveau et aguardente. Dénomination enivrante, fruit d'une règle oulipienne asinine: J comme 2014. Et en plus, demain, c'est la Saint-Martin, le jour où se croquent les chataignes grillées, accompagnées d'un peu de ... Jeropiga! A propos, ne manquez ni ceci, ni ceci, deux films merveilleux sur les relations entre hommes et ânes dans le nord tras-montano.

Couleuvre de Montpellier

On sent peu à peu l'hiver arriver. Les aubes sont frisquettes à l'issue de belles nuits étoilées. Mais les rainettes arboricoles et les crapauds calamites continuent à nous tenir compagnie, les unes chantant dans les cimes, les autres enfouis autour des pieds de fruitiers et que nous découvrons ici et là, au détour d'un coup de bêche. Et puis, dans une botte de foins, voici une Couleuvre de Montpellier (Malpolon monspessulanus) juvénile (merci à E. Graitson pour l'identification) que J. M. découvre en paillant les pots de chênes verts avant la saison calme. Jeune, mais déjà bien agressive, elle nous tire la langue en soufflant. Les portuguais l'appellent Cobra rateira. Une couleuvre de plus donc pour le Monte, après la Couleuvre fer-à-cheval (Hemorrois Hippocrepis), et la Couleuvre à collier (Natrix Natrix) qui affectionne nager dans le puits. Et voici ce que nous dit l'Atlas de l'herpétofaune portugaise sur cette espèce.

Autre belle observation de ce week-end de novembre: deux vautour moines, survolant le Monte à basse altitude. Du grand spectacle!