Vampire’s Garden: Love-Lies-Bleeding

Love Lies Bleeding Amaranth
Photo from http://www.adaptiveseeds.com

Note: For my readers who don’t know, I’ve written a series of posts called “Vampire’s Garden” about plants and their history and uses. This is the first post in the series, about Love Lies Bleeding, the plant that gave my book its title. Let me know what you think, and feel free to suggest plants for future posts…

If you’ve read Love Lies Bleeding, you’ll know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained when she was still human, she continues to study plants and have a garden. This post will be the first in a series exploring Mara’s plants. Are you  interested in botany, gardening, or plant lore? So are some vampires…

Please note: Medicinal uses are given for historical interest only. Always consult a medical professional before diagnosing or treating yourself or anyone else.

Latin name: Amaranthus caudatus

Common names: Love-Lies-Bleeding, Pendant Amaranth, Tassel Flower, Velvet Flower, Foxtail Amaranth

History: Native to South America, this and other varieties of Amaranthus were grown for their edible, protein-rich seeds. The Aztecs also used it in religious ceremonies, which led to the Spanish conquerors making its cultivation a capital offense (they still never managed to wipe it out). Some varieties were used to make a red dye, and betacyanins, which give Amaranthus their red colour, are still used to produce non-toxic food dyes. Medicinally, it has been used to treat swelling, ulcers, and diarrhea.

Victorian Language of Flowers Meaning: hopeless love or hopelessness

Cultivation: Annual. Easy to grow from seed, Love-Lies-Bleeding prefers full sun and is both drought and moisture tolerant. It grows to be 3 to 8 feet (1 to 2.5 metres) tall. Seeds can be started indoors and transplanted outside after the last frost (start in April to transplant in May). Sow or thin to 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm). Can self sow but generally isn’t weedy.

Uses: Ornamental, cut flowers, edible (seeds and leaves). You might be familiar with amaranth, a gluten-free “grain” made from the seeds, which can also be ground into flour.

Wildlife: Birds love the seeds–leave plants in the garden over winter for the birds.

Mara’s Uses: Following the Doctrine of Signatures, Mara considers Love-Lies-Bleeding to be a potential ingredient in her theoretical blood substitute.

Bonus: Mara’s full name is Amarantha, which shares a root and meaning with Amaranthus: “unwilting” or “unfading.”

Further Reading:

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Adaptive Seeds

The Sacramento Bee

Wikipedia

WebMD

Inhabitat

What to Do with Amaranth

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

🧿

World Dracula Day: 6 Places to Visit

World Dracula Day: 6 Places to Visit, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Bram Stoker, Dracula, Whitby, Transylvania, Romania. vampires
Photo by Nichitean Dumitrita Veronica on Pexels.com

Close on the heels of World Goth Day comes World Dracula Day. It might be sunny springtime where you live, but this is the week to ignore the singing birds and blooming flowers, and channel your dark side (for those of you who don’t already do that year round anyway). What better way to immerse yourself in all things Dracula than by visiting the places associated with the Count?

(Note: I won’t be including any sites that focus exclusively on Vlad Dracul/Vlad the Impaler. While he has his own blood-soaked history, his connection to Stoker’s Dracula, in my opinion at least, doesn’t go much further than the name.)

Bran Castle, Transylvania

World Dracula Day: 6 Places to Visit, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Bram Stoker, Dracula, Whitby, Transylvania, Romania. vampires, Bran castle

The only castle in Transylvania that fits Stoker’s description, Bran Castle is widely considered to be “Dracula’s castle.” If the beautiful building and rich history aren’t enough for you, the castle regularly offers special exhibitions. Until November 2022, there’s an exhibition on the Making of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. For general vampire entertainment there’s a “History of Dreads in Transylvania,” which includes the strigoi, among other myths and legends. If the onsite restaurant is open when you go, you can try the “Count’s Dessert” (chocolate cake with raspberry sauce, fresh fruit, and rose petal powder).

“Golden Crown” Hotel, Transylvania

World Dracula Day: 6 Places to Visit, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Bram Stoker, Dracula, Whitby, Transylvania, Romania. vampires, Golden Crown, Coroana de Aur, Bistrita

After Stoker published Dracula, tourists started showing up in Transylvania. From the start they were looking to stay in the same hotel that Jonathan Harker spent a night in (The Golden Crown). The hotel didn’t exist, but some enterprising soul realized it would be a great idea to build it. The Coroana de Aur (“Golden Crown” in Romanian) hotel in Bistrita doesn’t have much in common with the inn Harker stayed at, but there is a Jonathan Harker Salon at the restaurant. You can also order authentic Mămăligă (polenta) like Harker ate. No word on whether they also offer stuffed aubergines.

The Dracula Experience, Whitby

World Dracula Day: 6 Places to Visit, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Bram Stoker, Dracula, Whitby, Transylvania, Romania. vampires, The Dracula Experience

Live actors and special effects tell the story of Dracula and how the town of Whitby relates to it. The “Experience” has been described as a story set in a haunted house, which is appropriate since the building it’s in is apparently centuries old and haunted. To explore the building’s ghost sightings and other paranormal activity, a Paranormal Night takes place the first Saturday of every month (no special effects here).

St. Mary’s Churchyard and Whitby Abbey, Whitby

World Dracula Day: 6 Places to Visit, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Bram Stoker, Dracula, Whitby, Transylvania, Romania. vampires, St. Mary's, St. Mary's churchyard, Whitby Abbey, 199 steps

The graveyard at St. Mary’s Church is the setting and inspiration for a number of scenes in Dracula. Try to see how many of the character’s names you can find on the gravestones (Stoker borrowed a few of them). On the way to the church, you can climb the 199 steps that a black dog (Dracula in another form) was seen running up in the book.

Whitby Abbey by Mat Fascione is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

And while you’re there make sure to make the 100 metre (340 feet) trek from St. Mary’s to Whitby Abbey, another source of Stoker’s inspiration. Explore the ruins before checking out the on-site museum and shop. The Abbey hosts all kinds of Dracula-themed events (this year they’re trying to break the world record for the Largest Gathering of People Dressed Like Vampires), so check the schedule before you go.

Bram Stoker’s Grave, London

World Dracula Day: 6 Places to Visit, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Bram Stoker, Dracula, Whitby, Transylvania, Romania. vampires, Bram Stoker's grave

If you’re in London, you can go pay your respects at the final resting place of the man who brought the world Dracula. You do need to book ahead because the building is kept locked. If you can’t make it there in person, you can leave a virtual flower in his honour.

These are just a few of the Dracula-related places to visit, and I expect more will open as tourism eventually returns to normal. Do you have a favourite Dracula-themed place or event? Share in the comments…

Don’t forget to give other vampires some love too– download my books today!

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

🧿

Haiku: Shadows

Haiku: Shadows, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, Poetry, haiku, vampires, vashta nerada, doctor who, creatures of the night
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com
Shadows

The thirst is endless,

the hunger to feel alive.

Eternal shadows, hunting. 

Aspasía S. Bissas

This haiku was inspired by my favourite fiends (vampires, of course), but reading it over again I realized it could also be about the Vashta Nerada, one of the more terrifying creatures on Doctor Who. Feel free to picture either as you read.

What’s your favourite monster (from mythology, TV, or otherwise)? Share in the comments…

If poetry isn’t your thing, check out my fiction…

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

🧿

Vampire’s Garden: Queen Anne’s Lace

By Christian Fischer, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15779192

Love Lies Bleeding‘s readers know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained when she was still human, she continues to study plants and have a garden. This post is thirteenth in a series exploring Mara’s plants. Are you interested in botany, gardening, or plant lore? So are some vampires…

Please note: Medicinal uses are given for informational purposes only. Always consult a medical professional before diagnosing or treating yourself or anyone else.

Warning: Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum), Water Hemlock (Cicuta douglasii), and Fool’s Parsley (Aethusa cynapium) are toxic plants that can easily be mistaken for Queen Anne’s Lace. Don’t harvest wild QAL unless you are absolutely sure you have the right plant!

From Wikipedia: D. carota is distinguished by a mix of tripinnate leaves, fine hairs on its solid green stems and on its leaves, a root that smells like carrots, and occasionally a single dark red flower in the center of the umbel.[9] Hemlock is also different in tending to have purple mottling on its stems, which also lack the hairiness of the plain green Queen Anne’s lace (wild carrot) stems.

Botanical Name: Daucus carota

Common Names: wild carrot, bishop’s lace, bird’s nest weed, lace flower, devil’s plague, bee’s nest

History: Native to temperate Europe and southwest Asia, and naturalized in North America, Australia and New Zealand, Queen Anne’s Lace is the wild form of the carrots in your vegetable drawer. The white flower clusters sometimes have a dark red or purple floret in the centre, which inspired the name Queen Anne’s Lace. The dark spot is said to be a drop of Queen Anne’s* blood, a result of pricking her finger as she was making lace (the spot actually serves to attract insects). Queen Anne’s Lace has been used as a food throughout history: the roots have been eaten as a cooked vegetable, and thanks to its high sugar content it has even been used to sweeten other foods. In England it was once believed that the dark floret could cure epilepsy. First Nations peoples used the plant medicinally to treat blood disorders, skin conditions, and diabetes (please do not try this at home).

*The Queen Anne in question could be Queen Anne of England (wife of James I), Anne of Denmark, or even Anne Boleyn.

Victorian Language of Flowers Meaning: Sanctuary

Cultivation: Biennial. Prefers full sun to part shade and well-drained soil. Blooms from late spring until autumn of its second year. Queen Anne’s Lace is easy to care for and requires only occasional watering. If you plan on growing carrots for seeds, don’t grow Queen Anne’s Lace– the plants will cross-pollinate and your carrots will produce QAL seeds. Don’t plant QAL near apples if you’re going to eat the roots, because apples affect the flavour, making the roots bitter. If you don’t want it spreading everywhere, then it’s best to plant Queen Anne’s Lace where it can be contained. You can help prevent the spread by deadheading the flowers. Remove plants by digging them up (be sure to get the entire taproot). Can be found growing wild on roadsides and in fields, but don’t harvest it unless you’re 100% able to confidently identify it.

Companion planting: Queen Anne’s Lace attracts beneficial insects, and has been found to be especially helpful when planted next to blueberries and tomatoes.

Note: Some states and provinces have listed QAL as a noxious/invasive weed, so check with your local government or invasive species organization before planting it.

Uses:

Culinary: the roots can be cooked and eaten like carrots when they’re young and tender. You can also dry, roast, and grind them to make a coffee substitute. The flowers can be battered and fried, added to salads, or used in drinks and to make jelly. Chop young leaves (from first year plants) and add to salad. Use the seeds to flavour soups and stews.

Medicinal: The roots and seeds are used as a diuretic. The grated root can be mixed with honey and used as a poultice to treat minor wounds and sores.

From The Woodrow Wilson Foundation Leadership Programs for Teachers:

“It is still used by some women today as a contraceptive; a teaspoon of seeds are thoroughly chewed, swallowed and washed down with water or juice starting just before ovulation, during ovulation, and for one week thereafter.”

Dye: The flowers produce an off-white colour. Using different mordants will result in yellows, golds, shades of orange, and forest green.

Science Experiment to Demonstrate Capillary Action: If you place the freshly cut flowers in coloured water (make by adding food colouring to water and mixing well), the flowers will slowly change colour to match the water.

Wildlife: Queen Anne’s Lace attracts beneficial insects to the garden. It’s a food source for Black Swallowtail butterfly larvae. Some birds also eat the seeds.

Caution: Do not consume Queen Anne’s Lace if you’re pregnant (the plant was traditionally used as an abortifacient). Be careful while handling the foliage as the leaves can cause photo sensitivity and dermatitis.

Mara’s Uses: Mara might use QAL in some of her herbal remedies, but its association with blood would probably interest her more.

Further Reading:

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Wikipedia

Growing and Caring for Queen Anne’s Lace

Edible Wild Food

Detailed Description of Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace: Symbolism and Meaning

Queen Anne’s Lace: Butterfly Host Plant and Blueberry Protector

Three Herbs: Yarrow, Queen Anne’s Lace, and Indian Pipe

Instructions on Dyeing with Queen Anne’s Lace

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Happy new year 2022, recipe, loukoumades, greek doughnuts
Photo by olia danilevich on Pexels.com

I don’t think it’s too much to hope for a better year in 2022, so I’m sending you all my best wishes for good things ahead!

There are a few different New Year’s traditions in my family that come from our Greek culture. The one I’ll be indulging in tomorrow is making Loukoumades, or Greek doughnuts. These were a highlight of the holidays growing up, and I thought I’d share my mom’s recipe. Enjoy!

Loukoumades (Greek Doughnuts)

This recipe makes enough for at least 6 people. Feel free to halve the amounts to make less.

Loukoumades, Greek Doughnuts, Greek Pastries, greek honey doughnuts, honey doughnuts, greek honey pastries, honey pastries honey, cinnamon, syrup, recipe, how to pronounce loukoumades
Like with clouds, it can be fun to try to figure out what the different shapes remind you of

(Apologies for the lack of precise measurements– my mom was one of those cooks who just knew how to make things. Luckily the recipe doesn’t need to be too precise.)

2 highball glasses/tall drinking glasses of warm water

3 soup spoons yeast

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 soup spoons vegetable oil (or olive oil, if you want to be authentic)

2 to 3 highball glasses/tall drinking glasses all-purpose flour

Mix together water, yeast, salt, and oil in a large bowl. Add flour, mixing in thoroughly. Batter should have a similar consistency to pancake batter (not too thick nor runny). Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and let sit until mixture has doubled in bulk.

Once the batter is ready, pour vegetable oil several inches deep into a saucepan (don’t fill the pan more than halfway). Heat oil over high heat. To test if it’s hot enough, carefully drop a small amount of batter in; if the batter floats and oil bubbles around, you’re ready to start making the loukoumades. (If the batter immediately turn brown, the oil is too hot. Turn it down and test again in a few minutes.)

Lower heat to medium-low. Carefully drop in scant tablespoons of batter (the loukoumades puff up, so you don’t want to make them too big). Don’t crowd the pan. Fry loukoumades, turning them until they are lightly golden and crispy. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl or large dish lined with paper towels. Continue until you’re out of batter, adding more oil to the pan, if necessary.

SYRUP

2 cups unpasteurized honey

3/4 cup to 1 cup water (depends on whether you prefer a thicker or thinner syrup)

Simmer water and honey together in a small saucepan for 3 to 4 minutes. Lower heat to minimum and keep warm.

TO SERVE:

If you prefer crispy loukoumades like I do, pour some syrup into an individual bowl, sprinkle with ground cinnamon, and dip loukoumades into the syrup as you’re eating them.

If you prefer softer/sweeter loukoumades, place them in a serving bowl. Pour the syrup over them and sprinkle with cinnamon. Eat while still warm.

You can also reheat loukoumades in the oven at 350F (175C) for about 15 minutes. Loukoumades are best eaten the same day.

How to Pronounce:

Wishing you a sweet 2022,

Aspasía S. Bissas

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