Mushroom Toast with Pea Puree
10 oz frozen  
organic peas
2 tablespoons
olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
pinch dried tarragon leaves
1 tsp kosher salt
6 oz portabella mushroom caps
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove crushed garlic
Heat peas in a ½ cup boiling water for a couple of minutes to get them cooked through. Drain and puree in a food processor with the oil, lemon juice, tarragon and salt.  
Chop mushrooms into thick slices. In a frypan, melt butter and sauté mushrooms and garlic until cooked about 10 minutes.
Make toast from hefty slices of your favorite bread, spread with pea puree, top with mushrooms.

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The Cheeriest Bean 
Every day, your mood, behavior and sleep may be dictated by a single plant. You probably start your day with a beloved cup of coffee. Why do we bother? Caffeine, that's why; the mildly addictive stimulant found in abundance in coffee beans. Caffeine is not a food supplement. Rather caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive stimulant in the world. Caffeine tricks you into feeling alert and awake, despite your body telling you it's time to sleep.  
The body's sleep chemical is adenosine, a naturally mellowing agent. It slows neurons and triggers a whole chain of events that lead eventually to sleep. Coffee drinkers feel alert because caffeine gets in the way of that process, replacing adenosine and tricking the brain into speeding up when it would otherwise be slowing down. Caffeine doesn't actually give people energy; it just renders them less capable of feeling tired.
Why is coffee caffeinated in the first place?
Producing caffeine requires precious nitrogen that might otherwise be used for growth, so coffee trees make the most of their investment. They manufacture caffeine only in the most vulnerable tissues, and later transfer that to the most important place of all, the seeds. For without seeds, there is no plant.
Plants don't put caffeine into their seeds for our pleasure. They're meant to be toxic, as indeed they are to a good many insects and fungi. The fruit, a reddish berry, produces caffeine, much of which diffuses inward to the pair of seeds nestled inside. And those seeds not only receive caffeine, they make a concentration potent enough to fend off all but the hardiest attackers. In essence, we are drinking a natural insecticide.  
Caffeine also shows up in flower nectar. This has long puzzled researchers. What is the point in putting insecticide into something designed to attract pollinators? At the right dosage, caffeine doesn't repel pollinators, it keeps them coming back. Honeybees are three times more likely to remember and visit flowers dosed with caffeine. Honeybee brains work just like ours do - their reward pathways light up when they drink caffeine. For coffee trees, producing caffeinated flowers attracts a dedicated clientele of pollinators, lined up like morning commuters at their favorite espresso stand.
The goal for any plant is to be fruitful and multiply. Our fondness for caffeine makes coffee beans the world's second most traded commodity. Only oil futures generate more annual revenue. Coffee is now grown in 26 countries around the world. Not bad for starting out as a scrubby East African tree.

Coffee fruits at various stages of ripeness. The purple berry is over-ripe and spoiled, the orange berry is under-ripe and the red berry is ripe for picking. 
Roasted and raw coffee seeds. Coffee berries contain two seeds, called "coffee beans", though they are not true beans.  
The flowering branches of Coffea arabica . Flowers are highly scented and caffeinated to attract pollinators such as honeybees.

Coffee beans contain at least 800 other compounds in addition to caffeine- making the daily cup, by some accounts, the most chemically complex food in the human diet. Most of coffee's components have never been studied, so their health effects remain mysterious.
Where there's Smoke, there's Fire
The drama and appeal of this plant set me to thinking about its merits and wondering why, even though it has been in cultivation since at least the mid-seventeenth century, Smokebush are not more widely used? Native to southern Europe, central China and the Himalayas, they are cold- hardy preferring zones 4-8. Smokebush are pest-and disease-free, deer resistant, do not have messy fruit, and are drought tolerant. They thrive in pretty much any kind of soil, droughty chalk or wet clay. They are not invasive or spreading, either by seed or roots. Plus, they make a striking focal point.

The common name for Cotinus coggygria, is Smokebush or Smoketree, which refers to the frothy pink flowers that give the appearance of plumes of smoke. Smokebush generally reaches heights of six to fifteen feet with an equal or greater spread. It is technically a large shrub but can pass for a small tree. The irregular, multi- trunked feature contributes to its interesting architecture. You can use as a tree under power lines, as a focal point in the mixed border, massed as a hedge, sited between hardscape elements, or in containers.

Smokebush should be given plenty of room to grow to maturity without any pruning. The plant will develop an open, airy canopy made up of short twiggy growths on a stout trunk and branches. Young plants should be encouraged to branch from ground level, which gives the plant stability. The stem system of a mature plant is often covered with clusters of buds; do not remove these as this is part of the character and natural habit of the plant. Under this natural system, very little pruning is required apart from the removal of dead wood and pruning off old flower heads in spring, before new growth starts. If you do decide to prune your smokebush, this can be done right after flowering. Smokebush can also be cut back completely to the ground in late winter to force vigorous shoot growth. This will eliminate the flower show that summer as smokebush blooms on buds set the previous year. Make sure to protect your skin. Some people have an allergic reaction to the sap, which may result in a skin rash.

Leaf color and shape are also exceptionally variable. Smokebush comes in two primary leaf colors: purple and yellow. Color ranges from light yellow-green to dark burgundy and shades of purple. Purple leaf varieties prefer full sun, while the yellow varieties can take dappled shade. The leaves are between two and four inches long, paddle-shaped with a smooth, circular outline. The autumn palette includes clear yellows, oranges, scarlets, muddy wines, burgundies, and maroon reds. Whichever variety you choose, smokebush makes a beautiful show from spring through fall.

Cotinus coggyria
'Golden Spirit' leaves emerge lime-green turning intense clear gold and finally changing to shades of orange and reds in autumn.  

Cotinus coggygria 'Grace' in bloom.
Cotinus coggygria
'Velvet Cloak' trained as a multi-stemmed tree.

'Winecraft Black' is a new introduction. It naturally has a unique, rounded, dwarf habit which means that it's perfect for small spaces. 

The real show are not the result of flowers but tiny inflorescent hairs, effective June to September.

Smokebush adds drama and height to a container garden.
For more information on Smokebush plants 

Thanks for reading.  
Happy Planting!    


Faith Appelquist

President & Founder


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