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One of the hardest things about growing tree fruit is thinning it. It goes against ones nature to grow a tree and put all that time and effort in just to pull off fruit before it is ready to eat. It is also one of the more important aspects to growing Quality Fruit. We usually will thin a little when apples are about nickel size and then wait for the “June Drop”. June fruit drop refers to the natural tendency of fruit trees to shed some of their immature fruits. Fruit trees will set more flowers than they need for a crop to offset losses from weather or other cultural factors. According to Purdue University Consumer Horticulture, “Only one bloom in 20 is needed for a good crop on a full-blossoming apple tree.”

What Causes June Fruit Drop?

Fruit trees set fruit so that they can produce seed. Too large a crop will strain the tree’s resources and result in smaller fruits, possibly of lesser quality. So the tree protects itself and its seed by thinning the crop, once it senses weather and growing conditions are stabile. We have found that mother nature still leaves way to many apples on the tree so we must go through and manually thin the crop, hand picking into 5 gallon buckets. We like to do this when they are smaller than a golf ball.  By collecting the fruit instead of leaving it on the ground, we help to break the life cycle of fruit damaging insects and pest. This is one part to IPM or Integrated Pest Management.KIMG0080.JPG

Why Thin The Fruit?

  1. 1.Bigger Fruit Less fruit means that those that are left will develop to be bigger
  2. 2. Better Fruit By thinning you will increase the sugars (brix level) and have more nutrient dense produce
  3. Annual Bearing  Many trees will become biennial bearing if allowed to carry a big fruit load. Big crop now then no crop next year. It is natures way of achieving balance.
  4. Health of the Tree. Many branches cannot take the weight of a fully developed apple load, especially the tip bearers which have fruit primarily on the ends of the branches

Here is a picture of a young apple that would have snapped off branches if it were not supported7-23-13 Little apple tree support

While this tree is not overloaded look at the support required!


Matt Scott-Joynt/M and Y Newsgency Ltd 23/09/13: Paul Barnett (40) examines one of the two hundred and fifty different varieties of apple that grow on an apple tree in his garden in Chidham, near Chichester in West Sussex. Paul has been grafting different kinds of apple onto the tree since 1989.

Thinning is as much an art as it is a science.  Start by removing the smallest, misshapen, bruised or those with pest damage. Apples grow in a cluster of 4-5 which should normally be thinned to 1 or 2. As a rule of thumb it takes 40-50 leaves to support 1 apple.

Figs are one of the easiest plants to propagate from dormant cuttings. By this method of cloning you will get a plant that is an exact copy of the “mother” plant, unlike seeds which will have probably cross pollinated and give you almost unlimited variety. Seed grown fruits are usually inferior to either of the parents.  Below are the steps we use to reproduce these tasty fruiting plants.

  1. Select cuttings from a dormant plant ( one in which the leaves have dropped and is hardwood)
  2. Most likely the cuttings will already have been exposed to sufficient chill hours to come out of dormancy. Chill hours are calculated by adding up the number of hours  the temperatures is between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Chill hours interrupt growth hormones and make it possible for a tree to enter dormancy.  Figs only require 100-200 hours.  If unsure put cuttings in a sealed baggie and put in your refrigerator for 2 weeks.
  3. When ready to start growth, trim the cuttings and make sure they are about 6-8″ long, at least pencil thickness or greater and have at least 4 buds.
  4. Rinse cuttings under running water for a few seconds to wash off any bacteria or mold spores, no scrubbing, just a quick rinse.
  5. Take the cuttings and cut the bottom at a 45 degree angle. This exposes more cambium for better rooting. If you have cut off the top or terminal end (end of a branch) cover this cut with normal Elmer’s glue to seal and prevent moisture loss. At this point you can dip the cut (bottom) end in rooting hormone, but we have not seem any difference using it.
  6. Prepare cuttings by wrapping the cuttings into a bundle with a damp, not wet, paper towel. Wrap the bottom but leave the top bud unwrapped.
  7.  Do not let the wife see you using her kitchen utensils or dining room table.
  8. Now that cuttings are wrapped, put into a 1 gal zip lock bag and place in a warm spot such as the top of a refrigerator.
    Wrapped in ziplock

    Fig Cuttings wrapped in damp paper towel in zip lock bag


  9. Check the cuttings once or twice a week to see how rooting is progressing. At first you will see little white bumps, this is where roots will first appear. Most of these bumps disappear when exposed to a dryer environment.
  10. When the roots have gotten 3/4 – 1″ long, usually 2-3 weeks depending on temperature, it is time to pot them up.  They will have stem and leaf growth very apparent at this time.
    Unwrapped group

    Root initials and shoots forming

    New roots and shoot

    Close-up of new roots and shoot development

    The best way to grow is using the small disposable plastic cups that people buy for parties. SOLO brand 18 oz. cups are the perfect ones. Any container will do but these allow you to see and monitor the root growth. Make sure to drill 4-5 holes for drainage in the bottom of the cup. The cutting can store a huge amount of carbohydrates which means a fig can grow stems and leaves and look great without having any or enough roots to support itself in a dry environment.

  11. We use 100% perlite but a mix with peat or a good sterile potting mix will work.  perlite holds moisture and is sterile, but also allows better root viewing in the cup.
  12. Do not let your wife catch you potting these on the dining room table!
  13. Place the cuttings in the cup with at least 2 buds below the soil line and 2 above it. Pinch off any shoots or green growth that will be below the soil line. We want all the energy to be focused on top growth. Don’t worry about any roots above the soil line as these will dry up and disappear in a few days.

    new potted in perlite

    Pot up cuttings into perlite

  14. Because we have gone from 100% humidity to much less we need to hold in moisture and gradually harden the plant off as it develops enough roots to keep up with transpiration. We use a smaller disposable cup in our containers to cover the cutting like a mini greenhouse. A plastic sandwich bag also works well. Make sure to keep the cups well watered.

    cups on top

    Cover the newly planted cuttings to hold in humidity

  15. Place the plants in a warm location out of direct light. Direct light will overheat them. Every 2-3 days take the cover off to give fresh air and reduce any possibility of fungus or molds developing. After about 2 weeks they can be watered with a weak solution of fertilizer (1/3 – 1/2 strength) every third watering.

    removed cups

    Fig cuttings growing with humidity cover no longer needed

  16. Depending on temperature most will have enough roots to sustain themselves after  a month and can now be potted up to a 1 gal container. We use 1 gallon size since it holds more media and will stay damp evenly for longer than a smaller size. The ones that have not developed will need to be kept longer in the cups until roots develop.
  17. Keep well watered and start exposing them to filtered sunlight gradually moving up full light.
  18. Now you are in the fig business and ready to grow on or give to friends!

We have always assumed the modern apple was a cross of several wild species of Malus. Here’s an old article, from 2001, on the origins of the apple. There’s been more recent research, but this is still interesting.
The Garden
June, 2001

We may never know where the Garden of Eden was situated, but the origins of its most famous fruit – the apple – may have been discovered. Apples are so familiar in Britain that we assume they have always been part of our flora. Yet there is only one species of apple native to the British Isles, the spiny, wholly inedible Malus sylvestris. It is quite distinct in flavour, shape and genetic makeup for the eating apple, M. Domestica, which has been grown here since at least the Roman era. Botanists have nevertheless assumed that the domestic apple was a hybrid of crosses between the wild species that exist in northern temperate parts of the world.

This long-held ‘hybridization’ assumption has been challenged by the work over the last four years of botanist Barrie Juniper. Together with colleagues at Oxford University’s Department of Plant Sciences he has shown that the hybrid theory is almost certainly false and that the true genetic ancestors of all the apples we eat today seems to be a small population of a single species still growing in the remote Ili Valley on the northern slopes of the Tien Shan (the Heavenly Mountains) right on the border between northeast China and the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. He has also arrived at a plausible account of how, over perhaps the last 4.5 million years, this apple evolved within its mountain homeland to become larger and sweeter and, finally, how it was carried into western Europe by traders perhaps as early as the Neolithic period some 6,000 years ago.

Barrie explains that two unrelated factors in the last decade made these achievements possible. First, his department became equipped for sophisticated DNA comparison work. Second, the Russians and Chinese stopped nuclear testing in that area, allowing Barrie to launch two expeditions to hitherto inaccessible areas of the newly independent Kazakhstan.

One of the group, geneticist Julian Robinson, has been using DNA analysis to assess differences and similarities between Malus species, taking samples from pressed herbarium specimens and live material found in the Oxford Botanic Garden. ‘If they had assumed anything at all, botanists had assumed the apple came from some vague, undefined place in Central Asia and was crossed with one or more wild European species,’ said Barrie. The results of the analysis were something of a surprise therefore: far from containing genetic sequences from several species, it appears that the genetic material of only one species closely resembles what is known today as Malus domestica: M. Sieversii, a species of wild crab apple that replaces M. Sylvestris in Central Asia. ‘We came to the conclusion,’ Julian says, ‘that in all likelihood M. Domestica originated in Central Asia.’

Of all the regions where wild apples grow, south central China has the greatest number of different species. Although there are more than 20 true wild species of apple in southern, central and western China, most have small fruits, no bigger than a cherry. How then,Barrie asked himself, did they evolve into the big, red, juicy fruit that we enjoy today?

In search of paradise
Barrie began with a trip in autumn 1997 to Uzbekistan, north of Afghanistan, on which basis he led Julian Robinson and student biologist Thomas Ralis on their first expedition into Kazakhstan the following summer (funded by the Leverhulme and Merlin Trusts). Flying into the regional capital Alma-Ata or Almaty, meaning ‘father of apples’, they had, naively, expected to see wild apples growing in abundance, but instead of forests found scrubland in the country’s central region. This low vegetation of grass and small shrubs is the result of several thousand years of grazing by goats. More recent environmental change was caused by Stalin’s and Khrushchev’s attempts to introduce large-scale irrigated agriculture in the area.

Yet the Kazakh people with whom Barrie and his team spoke described fruit forests; local information suggested they drive northeast. With guides, they crossed some 970km (600 miles) of border country formerly frequented only by Russian and Chinese military, armed to the teeth, to reach the lower slopes of Dzhungarskiy Alatau, a string of mountains separated from the main Tien Shan range by the Ili Valley. They arrived in the dark to stay with a homestead family who combined farming with semi-military patrol duties at an altitude of 1,500m (5,000ft) and overlooking China. The next morning they stepped out of their ‘yurt’ (thick-walled traditional tent) and found they were in the heart of a malian wonderland. The apple trees, all Malus sieversii, grew to 9m, (30ft) high, hundreds of them, accompanied by a diverse selection of pear trees, apricots, plums and cherries. Every apple tree seemed to bear a different sort of fruit. Some were tiny and yellow like crab apples, others were round, red and as big as Bramleys, illustrating the great genetic diversity that seems characteristic of many apple species. ‘It was like a mad orchard, a huge tangle, full of old, dying trees and young seedlings,’ Barrie says.

After photographing the wild orchard, they collected three leaves from each tree, which were taken back to the laboratory in Oxford, preserved in silica gel, for DNA analysis. There they found a match between some genetic sequences in the samples of their Malus sieversii from Kazakhstan and modern apple cultivars. Comparison with other Malus species showed only remote evolutionary relationships that had occurred in the much more distant past.

The great Russian geneticist, NI Vavilov, is credited with the first suggestion that M. Sieversii might be the progenitor of the modern apples, as early as 1930, but conclusive proof was not then possible. Nor was Vavilov, in spite of his prestige, able at the time to get into that remote, disputed border region.

Barrie and his co-researchers had now shown pretty conclusively that the hybrid theory was wrong and the modern apple’s origins lay in the fruit forests of the Tien Shan. But they wanted to go back even further.

The next question was, how did fruit from a remote part of Asia end up domesticated thousands of miles away in Western Europe? The following year the team returned for more clues because ‘genes alone cannot provide the answer’. This time they entered the Ili Valley via China, and stopped by Urumqi, in the provinces of Xinjiang. Here they saw 4,000- 6,000 year-old human mummies unearthed from the edge of the Taklimakan desert. These individuals dating from the Neolithic and Bronze Age proved, to the surprise of archaeologists, to be not of Asian, but of Caucasian or Indo-European origin. Barrie’s team therefore had direct evidence from the mummies proving there was human traffic moving west-east-west, 6,000 years ago or more, forming a vital part of the jigsaw of the apple’s origins.

Combining the evidence
Barrie was now in a position to construct a complete, if hypothetical, evolutionary history of the apple. It runs thus: the original Malus, judging by the 20-plus species and their numerous varieties in central and southern China, evolved 10-20 million years ago and bore a small fruit with hard but edible seeds, probably similar to those of modern rowans. It was spread by birds through the northern hemisphere and our own wild crab apple is a descendant.

A key small group of wild apples penetrated northwest from their central Chinese stronghold along a fertile corridor, now the Gansu Province. Around 4.5 million years ago, the Tien Shan mountain range began pushing ever higher in the same mountainbuilding episode that created the Himalaya, caused by the collision of India with Asia. Birds took the seeds of one or possibly more species of Malus over the rising hills towards what is now Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, climate change was causing the arid Gobi and Taklimakan deserts to spread over Gansu, preventing movement back east so the Tien Shan apples were cut off and began to evolve in isolation.

As early as 7 million years ago, in the Ili Valley, forest deer, wild pigs and bears began to occupy the growing woodland, joined by wild horses and donkeys from the Steppes further west. All these herbivores would have gorged on the wild autumn fruit, selecting those individual trees producing larger, sweeter and juicier fruit. The apple therefore evolved in tandem to take advantage of these new means of distribution, growing even
larger and sweeter. Gradually it changed from a bird’s fruit with edible seeds to a much larger mammal’s fruit with poisonous seeds (apple pips contain cyanide). The seed coat became smooth, black and hard, and the seed itself became tear-shaped to pass unharmed more easily through the animals’ guts.

By the time the ‘new’ apple had populated the northern slopes of the eastern Tien Shan and reached what is now Almaty, it would have grown to something approximating its present qualities. Much later, after the end of the last ice age (around 10,000 years ago) humans began to travel the animal migratory routes east and west and took advantage of the new fruit.

Thus did the big, sweet apple move west. It was taken up and cultivated in progressively more sophisticated ways in Mesopotamia and around the Mediterranean. Apples cannot be raised from cuttings, so the first cultivated trees would have been grown from seed. Genetic variation would have meant the same size differences still found in the Ili Valley. It was not until the art of grafting was perfected that vegetative propagation of selected trees with the best fruit was possible. Whether or not seed-raised sweet apples reached these shores earlier, it was probably the Romans who brought the modern, grafted apple to Britain, where it found conditions so much to its liking it ultimately produced, as Barrie says, ‘the finest collection of dessert, culinary and cider fruits ever known’.

Barrie will be returning to the ancient fruit forest of which the world knows so little, for it may well hold the key to the origin of the other fruits they found there, the pears and cherries and plums and apricots, and perhaps even almonds and walnuts as well. ‘We’ve started with the apple. Hopefully, we will go on to establish the genetic history of the other fruits, too,’ he says.

Below is an excellent reprint of a short post on cooking with Quince. One of our favorites is to add one quince to 12 apples for a delicious pink applesauce.  The varieties we carry are unusual because they can also be eaten fresh and it is obvious the author has only run across the other more common types. If all you had was Granny Smith you would assume apples were all tart and only good for cooking, the same with quince. It’s all in variety selection.

Quince: The Tough Fall Fruit With a Secret Reward

Around this time of year I feel like it is both my duty and my pleasure to write a missive on quince. Do you know quince? It’s a fall fruit that grows in a manner quite like apples and pears — but its similarities end there. Quince is a tough fruit, not well known, and often hard to come by. But it has the most amazing sweet and secret reward. Here’s how to get at it.

The Challenges of Quince

Quince is an ancient fruit, found in Roman cooking and grown across Turkey and southeast Asia. It grows on small trees and is closely related to apples and pears, but it lacks their immediate edibility and appeal.The fruit is knobbly and ugly, with an irregular shape and often a gray fuzz — especially when the fruit has been picked underripe. The ripest, nicest quince will have a golden tone and smooth skin like pictured directly above. But even ripe quince doesn’t taste very good raw.

Quince may be the most difficult, yet consequently rewarding, fruit I have ever encountered. It’s completely inedible when raw, which puts it even above the Hachiya persimmon in unapproachable astringency. (At least the persimmon will ripen, eventually, into edible sweetness.) It also has an extremely tough and spongy flesh, which is difficult to cut up; I fear for my fingers every time I attack the woody, oddly spongy yet unyielding interior of a quince. So why even bother with these fruits? You can’t eat them raw, and they’re not even tasty? That’s where the surprise comes in.

The Secret Rewards of Quince

The first clue that quince hides something special is its aroma. If you leave a quince on a sunny windowsill it will slowly release a delicate fragrance of vanilla, citrus, and apple into your kitchen. It’s a heady, perfumed scent that is completely at odds with its appearance. And then, if you peel a quince and hack it up, then cook it, those scents blossom into an indescribably wonderful perfume, and the fruit itself magically turns from yellowed white to a deep rosy pink. When you stew quince in sugar and a little water or wine, it becomes not just edible but delicious — sweet, delicate, fragrant. See how to cook it here:

→ Our guide to cooking quince: How To Cook Quince

What to Do With Cooked Quince

Once the quince is cooked, it’s soft and tender, usually with a really lovely syrup from the cooking process. You eat the fruit straight like this, or pour it over yogurt, or bake it into a tart. You can make a sweet, spicy paste out of it (known as membrillo in Spain) that is magnificent with cheese. I love making sorbet and other desserts with it too.

Quince Recipes from The Kitchn

Fall Recipe: Quince & Vanilla Sorbet

Why Don’t We Eat More Quince?

Quince are not nearly as popular as apples and pears, of course, and the work of cooking them is part of this. I wonder if this has protected them, however, from the mass production and flattening of taste that afflicts so many popular fruits today. I was amazed in France at how delicious the local grapes were — but they were full of seeds. The process that breeds the seeds out of grapes seems to inevitably take the taste away.

But we’ve chosen convenience over flavor in our fruit, so in that sense I am glad that quince are still semi-forgotten and unpopular. If they were bred to be more consumer-friendly I wonder if that wonderful aroma would be dulled or lost. If it means keeping that astonishing flavor I am happy to peel, chop, simmer, and work hard to transform them from ugly stepsister to belle of the ball.

The Pleasure of Transformation

And perhaps this magical transformation, in the end, is what makes quince so appealing. It’s like a magic trick, a miracle of water into wine: take an inedible, ugly fruit, and produce something delicious. Add in the fact that quince are often hard to find (that element of the hunt, you know), and you can see how I’ve become more than a little obsessed.

Faith Durand

Faith is executive editor of The Kitchn and author of three cookbooks, including the James Beard Award-winning The Kitchn Cookbook, coauthored with Sara Kate Gillingham, as well as Bakeless Sweets. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Mike.

Walnut – The Fruit Blessed with the Cross Sign

By Adina Dosan (adinamitiMarch 4, 2015
Have you ever looked inside of a cracked walnut? I’ve often done that, but it never occurred to me to see what it was so obvious: the cross shape between the two kernels.
Gardening pictureWalnuts in shellI’ve always wondered why walnuts are used in all the Romanian traditional foods we cook for special religious feasts. The answer is easy now, after figuring out about the cross shape inside these fruits. Every church or monastery in our country has at least one walnut tree or more growing in their garden. Moreover, walnuts grow in almost every garden in our villages, in the parks, not to mention the huge walnut orchards. I can find walnuts anytime at any store or at the market, packed in bags or not packed, shelled or not. I can buy any quantity I want, although the price has gone much too high lately. However, the price is lower than of the other nuts, thus it is more convenient to buy walnuts.

Walnut trees in the park during the fallBut this wasn’t always the case. There was a time when walnut trees were frequently cut down for their valuable wood, especially the old ones. Since 1954, they have been protected by a special law and can’t be cut down without a special authorization and only in certain circumstances. Thanks to this law, many new walnuts were planted and walnut cultivation spreaded all over our country.

Walnut is the fruit of the Juglans regia, also called the English or Persian walnut, a nut tree in the Juglans genus, Juglandaceae family. Walnuts are round, single-seeded stone fruits, covered in a green husk which cracks when the fruit ripens, revealing the brown stone fruit. The two seed kernels are enclosed inside the hard shell, separated by a hard partition. Yet, the two halves are in fact one because they bond together through their middle part, in a cross shape. The kernel can be pulled out only by cracking the shell with a hammer or nutcracker. Kernels are covered with a thin brown seed coat which contains antioxidants, in their raw form. If roasted, the antioxidant properties are lost. Walnuts are a nutrient dense food, containing protein, dietary fibers and fat.[1]

Walnut full kernel showing the tough partition inside Half and full walnut kernel Walnut kernel split in halves with the hard partition on one half
Raw walnuts have medicinal properties, due to the omega3-fats, amino acid l’arginine, copper, manganese, molybdenum, biotin, they contain. Only one quarter cup of walnut kernels provides the daily recommended value of omega3 fats.[2]Walnut kernels in a bowl

I am, as are all Romanians, very religious. I respect and follow all our traditions, especially those of almsgiving. We believe in life after death, so we give away for alms part of our meals, on special occasions, for our deceased relatives. Besides bread, meat or cheese and fruits, we cook some traditional desserts on our special religious feasts, of which we first give away for alms and then eat with our family. All traditional desserts contain walnuts, so no matter what, I must have as many as I need for cooking the traditional desserts. The most challenging dessert is the dough cake with walnut filling (“cozonac” in Romanian), which I bake at Christmas and Easter. Americans call it a nut roll.

Another sweet meal I cook with walnuts, on several occasions each year is “coliva”, a sort of barley porridge.

Moldavian muceniciLast, but not least, are the most delicious cakes I bake on March 9, when we celebrate the Forty Saints Martyrs of Sebaste. This is a very important religious celebration of forty soldiers in the Roman army, which were killed by drowning in a lake, because they didn’t give up on their Christian beliefs. In their honor, tradition says we should cook and give away for alms some special and delicious eight-shaped cookies called “mucenici” (pronounced moocheneech) in Romanian, which means “martyrs”. The figure-8 shape is a symbol for the human figure, thus symbolizing the Saints.  Mucenici are cooked differently, depending on which of our geographical region are made. In the Moldavia region–in the eastern part of Romania–people bake figure-8 shaped dough cakes, also called “Mucenici Moldovenesti” or “The Little Saints”. In the Muntenia region–in the southern part of Romania–people make small pasta dough figure-8s that are boiled in a sweet soup, like noodles. The soup symbolizes the lake where the martyrs died. Even though I live in the Muntenia region,  I make both the Moldavian Mucenici and the little noodle saints, because we appreciate both in our family. I need about two pounds of ground walnuts for all these “mucenici”. If any of you would like to try the recipes of our Little Saints, here they are:

Little Moldavian Saints-Moldavian Mucenici


Rising dough For the dough
2 cups all-purpose flour(1/2 Kg)
0.6 ounce compressed fresh yeast (25g)
1/2 cup melted butter (150g)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk (250 ml)
2 eggs
2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of each vanilla and rum flavoring

For the syrup
1/2 cup granulated sugar (150g)
1/2 cup water (150 ml)- 1/2 zest from 1 orange
1 teaspoon of each vanilla and rum flavoring

For the topping
1 cup honey (250g)
2 cups ground walnuts (500g)

Make the dough first. Mix the yeast with a tablespoon of sugar, until it gets liquid, then add a spoon of flour and stir well, like beating. Cover it with a napkin-cloth and put it in a warm place to rise, until foamy, for 15 minutes.

Sift and measure the flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the flour, pour the warm milk, eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla and the grown yeast into the well. Knit the dough well, then cover with a napkin-cloth and allow dough to rise in a warm room for 1 hour or until doubles volume. Do not set bowl on radiator or in a hot place. Keep away from draughts. Allow dough to rise until doubled in bulk.

I use my food processor to make the dough. Pour the flour into the processor’s larger bowl and add all other ingredients, including the fresh yeast, crumbled. I turn on the food processor for 1 minute, while pouring the warm milk and melted butter, until it forms a ball inside the bowl. Then put the dough in a large bowl, to double vin olume, as said above.

TIP: For bread, mucenici or other simple doughs, if kneaded in the cooking machine, fresh yeast will get activated without the previous foaming, just crumbled. 

Meanwhile, preheat the oven. When the dough has doubled in volume, divide it into several equal parts, about 12 to 14. Take each part, make 2 finger thin ropes. Press the two ropes at one end, twine them together, press the other end and give it the shape of the figure 8. Stick very well the ends, by pressing.

Making two thin ropes and sticking them at one end  Twining the two ropesTwist the twine ropes once  Press the ends of the ropes and form the eight shape

Then put the cakes in a pan and let them double in volume, for another 20 minutes. Bake into the preheated oven at 180C (350F) for 30 minutes, until golden-brown. Meanwhile make the syrup: boil together the sugar, water and orange zest. Let cool. When the mucenici are ready, take them out of the oven and, immediately, dip one by one into the syrup for a few seconds, on each surface, to get moist.

Moldavian Mucenici rising in the pan Moldavian Mucenici baked Dipping a Moldavian mucenic into the syrup

Arrange them on a tray and let cool, then cover each with honey and roll it in ground walnuts.

Moisten little Moldavian saints in a pan Moldavian little saint covered with honey over the ground walnuts bowl Moldavian Mucenici covered with ground walnuts

Little dough eights on cooking paperLittle Saints Soup (Mucenici Soup)
Ingredients for the ‘mucenici’
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup tepid water
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
You can also use any other small pasta shapes you can buy from the store.

For the soup
3 quarts water
1 cup sugar, at your taste
1 cup grounded walnuts
2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
1 pinch of lemon and orange zeast
vanilla and rum flavoring
Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and water in a mixing bowl, make an elastic dough, rather tough, and knead it for a few minutes. If it sticks, add more flour. Shape dough into a ball, cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. In Romania, we have a special 8-shaped instrument for making the little saints.I roll the dough on the table, about 5 mm (0.2 inches) thick, then cut out the eights.

Cutting out dough eights with the special instrument for mucenici Dough eights(mucenici) on the table Dough eight in my hand close-up

Fishlike handmade mucenicBut the instrument is rather new, it didn’t exist when I was a child, so my mom used to make mucenici by molding them with her fingers. She would pinch small pieces of dough (as it goes between 3 fingers), roll it between her hands into a thin rope, about 1/4 inch (6 cm) long, which she would wrap arround her finger. She would pinch the edges together, to form a ring, then twisted the middle to form an 8. Most of the times, though, she made mucenici with a fish shape, also a symbol of Christianity. Flour hands and work surface as nedeed. As she finished forming each little figure-8 (mucenic), she would place it on a flour-covered pan or cooking paper. Let dry for a few hours (better a day before cooking). Fill 3/4 of a 3 liters pan with water, add a teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil.

Little Saints soup in a bowlWhen it begins to boil, drop the pasta shapes into the liquid, bring to boil again, then lower the heat to moderate. Stir gently to be sure the pasta shapes don’t stick on the bottom of the pot, then let boil to low heat for half an hour, if they are homemade. Otherwise, boil them according to the instructions on the package. If using homemade pasta shapes, they will normally be cooked once all are floating from the top of the water to the bottom. Add sugar to taste, bring to boil again over high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat and let cool. Add cinnamon powder, the lemon and orange zest, vanilla and rum flavoring.TIP : Avoid using the white part of the lemon and orange, which will make the soup bitter.

Stir 1/4 of the ground walnuts with 1 to 2 spoons of cold water until moistened, then add into the soup pot and stir well. The soup will turn white and thicker. You can transfer the soup into a large bowl and place it in the refrigerator until cool. Serve in bowls, with a spoonful of ground walnuts and cinnamon powder on top.
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  About Adina Dosan  
Adina Dosan Adina is a Romanian plants and pets addicted, always happy to share her experience. Follow her on Google.

Hugelkultur is an old German concept/word meaning “hill-culture”. Wood is buried under topsoil (either in a hole or right on the ground) and as it breaks down, it holds lots of moisture and provides sustained nutrients for plant growth. Some more awesome benefits of Hugelkultur is that it greatly increases the available organic matter in the soil over time and for those of us with alkaline soils, which are mainly found in the more arid areas (which coincidentally is where water retention is greatly needed) the hugelkultur bed will release negative ions as it decomposes which will increase soil acidity.

Many people are using these beds for vegetables, but they are great for Fruit trees and windbreaks since the decomposition leans towards the fungal side and not as much the bacterial side as in compost.  This is more natural for trees and bushes, whereas compost is more natural for grains, grasses and vegetables.

The basic concept involves digging a trench and putting logs covered with branches and then covering that with smaller stuff such as straw, weeds, compost etc. that will provide an initial nitrogen source. The mound is covered with the soil that you dug out.  You can dig a pit, trench or just start at ground level with your mound. This is a great way to turn an old stump into a benefit.  Water will be retained by the wood acting as a sponge for roots to tap into while also releasing nitrogen and other nutrients to feed the trees. The soil is loose because of voids left by the decaying wood and gives great aeration for your newly planted trees and bushes. Because of this your trees and bushes will send down deeper roots, quicker and be much less susceptible to drought. Once established the amount of irrigation water required is substantially less than normal.  Combining this method with swales to capture our scare rainwater and snowfall and you have a win-win for your trees.

There are lots of good resources on the internet and several great videos to show and explain better the concepts and actual application.  Below I have listed a few:

Here is a Youtube that is a good and simple introduction

This one explains more how it saves water

This page is tremendous!  It show tons of good photos and different methods in action and also tells best and worst types of wood to use.