Winter Gardening in North Cyprus
The weather has begun to change and has become increasingly erratic. Sunshine is still plentiful and temperatures remain pleasant in circa 12-20c. Quite often gigantic thunder and lightening storms orchestrate between the massive mountains behind me and the Mediterranean ocean to the front. The majority of my seeds e.g. Rocket, Lettuce, Spinach, Tomato, Pea have germinated rapidly within four days. However, I notice their growth has suddenly halted, mainly I think due to fluctuating temperatures, the days are still hot but night temperatures drop dramatically. Growth here appears sporadic whereas at home it is slow but consistent. I have to remind myself that this is winter-time so daylight hours (7am-5pm) are diminished. This naturally affects the mechanism of Photosynthesis, whereby plants convert light energy to chemical energy promoting growth. A recent tropical storm raged for 48 hours and damaged a lot of flowering shrubs, splitting top heavy branches, especially the Bougainvilleas. My neighbour’s young Banana tree almost toppled and he had to brace it to the railing. It still bears a solitary bunch of green fruit, it’s first I would imagine and I wonder when they will ripen! On my first day weeding the villa garden I was trying to discern the cultivated from the wild, some of these weeds are very decorative. There was a trailing plant with large cucumber type leaves, pretty lemon flowers and chunky round seed pods. I had just cut into it when it suddenly sprayed a shower of liquid directly into my face, fearing it was toxic I ran to wash it off. Later I recalled the story to a local nursery man, who, with great amusement informed me the plant is a tenacious weed, nick named exploding or squirting cucumber. The seed pods burst automatically, and he re-assured me I won’t go blind this time. With further research I discovered it’s botanical title is Ecballium elaterium. It is poisonous, however, it is suspected to provide food for the caterpillar of the Tortix moth. Also interestingly in Turkey it is used in herbal medicine to treat sinusitis. Needless to say being involved in the herb business I found this completely intriguing! My time here has come to an end and I have learned a lot about Med gardening. It is with regret I leave behind the veggies that I will not get to harvest, and of course, the sun in the mornings upon flowers that blossom endlessly! However I cannot deny I am looking forward to the approaching Spring-time in Ireland, for me the beauty of that is hard to beat. There is something special about the richness of Irish soil, the lavish green grass and the purity of a rain that falls as if by duty, so it is with gratitude I return to my home land with the word Murhaba!
Published in West Kerry, Corca Dhuibhne Beo Jan 2013
Ecballium elaterium (exploding/Squirting cucumber)