“Be a good monster, Monster,” I said to our cat Monster as he fluffed his tail like a duster and readied to pounce on Mr. Beebe, the new stray we just took in. Sigh, such drama.
Today we consider edible flowers and art, Nasturtiums and Julie Morstad to be precise.
Nasturtiums, nasturtiums, what can we say about nasturtiums? Poopy Mr. Webster says “any of a genus (Tropaeolum of the family Tropaeolaceae, the nasturtium family) of herbs of Central and South America with showy spurred flowers and pungent edible seeds and leaves ; especially : either of two widely cultivated ornamentals (T. majus and T. minus)” But we say, what are these beautiful plants that remind us of a Chinese fan floating in a tranquil green river – and they came from Peru!
Where we live you can chart the progression of bees and squirrels by flowers or plants that mysteriously appear garden by garden down the street. We are so fortunate that so many who live on our street have taken to heart the Mayor’s call to remove environmentally evil lawns and plant perennials and gardens. We are most pleased to see that nasturtiums quivered their way through so many of the gardens in our haunted little cul du sac this summer.
Nasturtiums are basically self-sufficient, self-seeding and hardy things, even snails steer clear of them, however what we love, aside from their simple beauty (and names such as the “Empress of India” with it’s bright blood-red blooms) is that you can EAT THEM!
The plant has a sweet, peppery taste (both leaf and flower) and looks oh so lovely sprinkled on or mixed in things. In fact its name comes from its taste, Nasus Tortus meaning convulsed nose in Latin, refers to the faces people made when tasting it. The plant contains glucosinolates and glycotropeoline, which when added to water, have antibiotic and anti-tumour effects. It can also help respiratory congestion, is good for the digestive system, eases hyperthyroidism; is also a great source of vitamin C.
However we just find it sublime to dine upon the flower.
Saying sublime of course leads us to another similar sublime experience, the wonderful art of Julie Morstad. We stumbled upon Miss Morstad’s illustrations in the Globe & Mail which arrives each morning, thud, on the front porch. We then bought her lovely little book of drawings Milk Teeth published by Drawn & Quarterly, and illustrated the children’s book When You Were Small, writer Sara O’Leary.
Her style is like spun spider’s webs woven into delicate drawings that seem so simple and yet, are really quite dark at times and always evocative. Floating disembodied heads, endless hair, girls talking to foxes, girls with cloven hooves! You may well know her work even if you do not know her name from the cover art of Neko Case’s 2006 CD, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.
Dreams play an important role in her work, as well as myths and fables new and old.
This is a secret, but Alice has a journal filled with Julia Morstad clippings and the little stories she wrote inspired by them. Miss Morstad’s art has a hint of Marcel Dzama in her isolated character studies, a mix of Edward Gorey’s whimsy, a dash of art nouveau, fashion illustration from the 1920’s, and a sprinkling of Maurice Sendak and Arthur Rackham.
Her work has appeared in The Globe & Mail, Bust, and The Walrus to name but a few. Her gallery bio states the obvious, that she graduated from the Alberta College of Art & Design in 2004 with a BFA. She lives and works in Vancouver and divides her time between drawing, illustration, animation and design.
We are haunted by her work, you should be too.