More Hawk-Moths!

At dusk a stormy sky drew me out onto our patio… and there was something hovering. I dashed for my camera and managed to capture two more hawk-moths that I’ve never seen before:

Small Elephant Hawk-moth

(Deilephila porcellus)

The name comes from the caterpillar, which has a “trunk”-like nose… otherwise no resemblance! The German name is “Kleiner Weinschwärmer”, small vine moth, although there seems to be no connection to vines. It is only about 4cm long.

The golden-olive colours on the upper body and wings and the pink belly shimmer and glow in the evening light – it feeds on nectar-rich plants from dusk onwards.

The small elephant hawk-moth likes a chalky and dry habitat – which describes our locality very well. As is the case with many butterflies and moths, the larvae feed on Galium (bedstraw) – Labkräuter in German – which is a huge group of grass-like flowering plants. One of these is the sticky leafed plant that we used to call goose-grass. I am beginning to realise that the weeds in parts of my garden are an invaluable food source!

Bedstraw Hawk-Moth

(Hyles gallii)

This hawk-moth is the largest I’ve seen so far – about 6cm long, with a wingspan of about 8cm. It has beautiful markings on its almost transparent wings.

Unlike the Hummingbird Hawk-moth, which I see during the daytime quite frequently, this one only turns up to feed in the evenings. It loves the Red Valerian – I am so glad this plant has spread itself around my garden!

It is not common to see them in the south of Germany, or anywhere in Europe actually – they are widespread, but few and far between.

Aren’t they fascinating creatures!

Flower Fields

A common sight at roadsides in our area, and many parts of Germany in fact, is this:

Pick your own flowers!

You can stop by the roadside, take one of the little knives hanging on the sign, and walk into the field to cut sunflowers or gladioli. There’s a big drum to put your money in – just 60 (Euro) cents per flower.

Some fields also have dahlias, and in the last couple of years I have also seen a field in spring with tulips and daffodils. Our local field is just down the road, and the flowers are planted/sown in stages, so there are fresh flowers from June to September!

Click on one of the images below to see the larger gallery photos…

Summer Muffins

I’m never quite sure what to do with redcurrants, so when I found I’d been tempted at our supermarket by their glossy and translucent, vitamin-packed redness, I put my thinking cap on. I also had some buttermilk left over from a blueberry cobbler…

Redcurrant Buttermilk Muffins

  • 280g plain flour, sieved
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 140g  sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • 240ml buttermilk
  • 90ml vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
  • 160g redcurrants
  • 2tsps vanilla sugar

Preheat oven to 190°C and prepare 12 muffin cases. Mix all dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl mix all wet ingredients together – except the berries. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and then fold in the berries at the end. Fill muffin cases, and sprinkle the vanilla sugar over them before putting them in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and firm to the touch.

These are quick to make, rise beautifully with the buttermilk and tart fruit, and are very (VERY) delicious! Now I know what to do with redcurrants!

What do YOU do with redcurrants?

Comma

Comma

(Polygonia c-album)

It was the strong orange colouring and the beautiful scallopped wings that enabled me – a beginner in terms of butterfly names – to decide what this butterfly was. When I zoomed in on my photos, I was also able to see the white “comma” on the underside of the wings. (In German this is interpreted as a letter “C”, thus the German name “C-Falter”.)

Like all the butterflies to visit my garden, it loved the Centranthus ruber (Red valerian) and the lavender. This was about two weeks ago, when my lavender was still in full bloom.

Herby Ricotta Gnocchi

These gnocchi are the final result after several trial runs, so I think I have now perfected them! They are very light, and quite tasty on their own too. In fact they could be served with just garlic oil and lots of grated parmesan. This time we had them with tomato and mushroom sauce, but they taste wonderful with basil pesto too!

Herby Ricotta Gnocchi

  • 375g ricotta
  • 65g parmesan
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour and extra for work surface
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (basil, parsley, sage, rosemary, etc)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mash everything together. Depending on how wet your ricotta is, you may need a little extra flour, but try not to add too much as it will be a wet dough. Use plenty of flour on your work surface and divide the dough in half. Form into two long “sausage” rolls, about 2-3cm in diameter, and then cut them into bite-sized pieces. I ended up with 63. (That number again!) I didn’t worry about doing the fork trick – way too time-consuming! I make these ahead, and put them on a sheet of greaseproof paper on a tray, so they are not touching each other. They then go in the fridge or even freezer. (When frozen they can then be packed in a freezer bag for future use.)

Cook in boiling water until they rise to the top of the pot, and then give them another minute or even two before removing with a slotted spoon.  Serve immediately with your favourite sauce.

Bee Hawk-moth

A few weeks ago I showed a photo of the Hummingbird Hawk-moth,  which is often seen hovering around my garden.However, this year I have seen another member of the Sphingidae family for the first time…

Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth

(Hemaris fuciformis)

It is not quite as fast as its cousin, but still very hard to photograph! I think you can see the colours quite well, though. And its soft furry body really is reminiscent of a bumble bee!

I was so pleased to see this creature, as it is on the list of endangered species in Germany.

Links to Wikipedia:

Hummingbird Hawk-moth

Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth

Nigella damascena

Nigella damascena

Love-in-a-mist

The name itself is so romantic!

Other names include “devil-in-the-bush” and, in Austria, “Gretel-in-the-bush”… The story of this name is nice, found on the German Wikipedia site:

Gretel was the daughter of a wealthy farmer, but she fell in love with Hans, a poor farmhand. The two lovers were not allowed to marry, and because they were both so sad they were turned into flowers; Gretel the Nigella, and Hans the Chicory, in German “Hansel on the road”.

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The seedheads of Nigella are also very attractive…

… and as they dry they can be cut and saved and used for decoration…

And the seeds are edible. They have a wonderful aromatic, almost perfumed flavour, which reminds me of wild strawberries…

(They are, however, not the same as the seeds of Nigella sativa, which are used in Indian dishes and are quite peppery and spicy, often called black cumin.)

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Once you have this pretty flower in your garden it will appear again and again as it seeds itself very well. 😀