Sunflowers in the Food Gardens, Banana Popsicles, and a Clever Hot-Weather ‘Zhāo’

We decided last night to get some of our veggie plants in the garden and herbs and flowers in the flower beds before the temperatures reached the 90s today. Two new Munstead lavender plants, a spent Easter lily, fuchsia and pink impatiens, and sunflower and cosmos seedlings were all placed in the front flower bed.

Our seedlings of Thai tomatoes, Thai watermelon, Thai eggplant, Thai red and green beans, Chinese eggplant, Franchi cucumbers, and yellow squash took their places in the side food garden.

I also made the executive decision to buy more sunflower seeds and plant them throughout the food gardens. Two reasons: sunflowers attract those great pollinators the bees, which we need around our food plants, and; I have gone crazy for sunflowers. I always loved and grew them, but this year, my love has become obsessive.

Planting bee-attracting flowers among food plants is an effective way to bring pollinating bees to the veggie and fruit plants, where they’re needed. Plus, sunflowers are just beautiful anywhere you put them. And at summer’s end, they provide rich food for birds. Everyone wins.

My husband carried the enormous urn containing our two fat Thai Black Stem banana trees to the front entrance of the house, where they’ll stay until autumn. This is their first taste of fresh air and sunshine. I love their looks. It doesn’t get much better than banana trees outdoors around the house in summer.

Next up, this weekend, the Basjoo banana trees will go in the ground at the front of the house. We have three healthy trees that will be planted in a tight cluster, where, hopefully, they’ll form a beautiful mound of tropical goodness. I’m probably more psyched about this than anything else. We’ve been nurturing these trees since infancy last October.

Today its climbing to 90 degrees, with full sun. All the blinds are drawn and curtains are closed at our home. I learned this while staying in China one summer – a hot-weather Cantonese ‘Zhāo’. During the heat of the day, thwart the sun’s rays from pouring in and heating up the house by completely blocking them. The house stays cooler all day, and at night, when the sun is down, open all the windows and let fresh air move through. No air conditioning needed.

My husband will want to turn on the air conditioning soon, but I hate AC and put it off as long as I can. My strategies for living comfortably in hot weather include drawing blinds and closing curtains, refraining from cooking and using any heat appliances, drinking fresh water and hot tea, eating lots of water-rich fruit, and exercising moderately and later in the day. I love love love hot weather. I never feel more alive than right now.

Speaking of hot weather and China, I’ve successfully veganized a recipe I learned while in China that sweltering summer. Strangely enough, this is a hugely popular summer treat in Lagos, Nigeria, where it’s made with canned ‘pike’ milk. 

I did an easy substitute of coconut cream for the milk. Acquire some popsicle molds from a friend and hog these yummy, buttercup-yellow, potassium-packed beauties all summer long.

Creamy Banana Ice Cream (Lagos, Nigeria)
Four super ripe, spotty bananas
1 12-ounce can coconut cream
¼ cup agave
1 teaspoon vanilla or natural banana extract
Coconut milk

In a blender, puree the bananas, coconut cream, agave, and extract until completely smooth (about two minutes). Add coconut milk during the blending process if the mixture is too thick. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze. To remove the popsicles from the molds, run under hot water for a few moments. Eat with impunity.

Live in peace.