PARSLEY SOUP



If you love eating home made soups, but get a bit disappointed with the flavour sometimes, you will need a recipe that will guarantee both flavour and wholesome goodness. Look no further because you are going to love this one. The fresh taste of the parsley comes through every time and I have never made a bad one. Furthermore, this soup is soooo full of flavour I have been known to almost polish off and entire batch in one sitting.
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This recipe for parsley soup is my highest viewed soup recipe and if I had kept it to myself, I would be almost doing the entire world a dis-favour. I say almost because you need to be in a climate where you can grow plenty of parsley. If you are buying parsley from the supermarket, the quantity required can make this soup quite expensive - especially if you make it as often as I do! Even so it will be worth it.
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SERVES 6 - OR JUST ME!

INGREDIENTS

25g (1 oz) unsalted butter
1 large onion
1 clove of garlic – not absolutely necessary but it does make a difference, plus it’s good for the heart!
3 celery sticks
150g (6 oz) fresh parsley (don't be fooled by the weight - this is a lot of parsley)
150g of baby leaf spinach - optional, used to bulk out the soup and especially useful if you don't have enough parsley. If this is the case use 50:50
4tsp plain flour (for thickening)
900ml (1 1/2 pints) vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and pepper
A heaped tablespoon of double cream
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PREPARATION

Finely chop the onion and garlic and then slice the celery. Chop the parsley roughly, discarding any long or thick stalks.

Gently melt the butter in a large saucepan and as soon as it starts to simmer add the onion, garlic, celery and parsley. Cook until the ingredients have softened, then stir in the flour.

Cook for a further minute or two – stirring the mix at all times - before adding the stock.
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Simmer for 25 minutes, then allow to cool slightly before you purée the mixture with a blender.
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Reheat, add salt and pepper as required, then add the cream before serving in a heated bowl with a sprig of parsley.

Taste test first, then decide whether you should tell anyone else you made it. I hope that you enjoy this recipe for Parsley soup as much as I do.
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HOW TO MAKE SPICY PUMPKIN SOUP



Come the halloween season and the shops are full of pumpkins. Small ones, humongous ones - even freaky coloured ones, but they aren't all just for cutting up to make scary faces! Choose a culinary variety and you can produce one of the most beautifully flavoured soups you've ever tasted!

I love this recipe and not for the obvious reason. I love it because the this recipe seemed so simple that when I first tried it that I was sure that it was going to end up tasting bland and weak. But I was so, so wrong. It ended up as one of the most delicious soups I have ever made!

Ingredients

1 x medium sized pumpkin approximately 1kg
1 x large onion
3 x sticks of celery
1 x tin of chopped tomatoes
1/2 a swede or 2 x medium potatoes
50 grams of butter
1 litre of vegetable or chicken stock
1 level tsp of cumin
1/2 level tsp of chili powder or flakes

In addition you can also add 4 x rashers of bacon and/or 100ml of single cream

Peel and roughly chop the onion, then melt the butter in a large, heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the onion on  a low heat until soft and translucent. Meanwhile, peel the pumpkin, discarding all the stringy bits and the seeds.

Chop the pumpkin into rough cubes and add to the onions. Cook until the pumpkin is golden brown at the edges, then add the stock.

Peel and chop the potatoes/swedes, and along with the chopped celery - chuck into the pan along with the tomatoes, cumin and chili powder/flakes.
Bring to the boil then leave to simmer for 20 minutes or so until the pumpkin, is tender.

If you are using the bacon in this recipe, fry it off until it is crisp. Cool a little then cut up with scissors into small pieces. Whizz the soup in a blender or food processor until it runs smooth. the, if you are using it, pour in the cream and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary. Return to the pan, bring almost to the boil and then serve, piping hot, with the bacon bits scattered on top.

Serve with some freshly buttered, oven warmed bread. Absolutely delicious!

RECIPE FOR TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS CAKE



You simply cannot have a traditional family Christmas without the traditional English Christmas cake, and I am not talking about some tasteless, artificial, shop bought effort! You need something special. Something that your Gran would make from an old family recipe handed down through the generations!

While I can't provide you with a suitably skilled grandmother, I can provide you with a superb recipe that will make you a Christmas cake that is perfect in every way so long as you like it rich, dark and succulently moist! It even dates back to at least 4 generations of my own family!

Ingredients

1 lb (450 g) currants
6 oz (175 g) sultanas
6 oz (175 g) raisins
2 oz (50 g) glacé cherries, rinsed, dried and finely chopped
2 oz (50 g) mixed candied peel, finely chopped
3 tablespoons brandy, plus extra for 'feeding'
8 oz (225 g) plain flour
½ level teaspoon salt
¼ level teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ level teaspoon ground mixed spice
8 oz (225 g) unsalted butter
8 oz (225 g) soft brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 oz (50 g) almonds, chopped (the skins can be left on)
1 level dessert spoon black treacle
grated zest 1 lemon
grated zest 1 orange
4 oz (110 g) whole blanched almonds (only if you don't intend to ice the cake)

Equipment

Either an 8 inch round cake tin or a 7 inch square tin, greased and lined with baking paper. You can also tie a band of brown paper round the outside of the tin for a little extra protection.

So, how to make a traditional English Christmas cake?

You need to begin this Christmas cake the night before you want to bake it. All you do is weigh out the dried fruit and mixed peel, place it in a mixing bowl and mix in the brandy as evenly and thoroughly as possible. Cover the bowl with a clean tea cloth and leave the fruit aside to absorb the brandy for 12 hours.

Next day pre-heat the oven to gas mark 1, 275°F (140°C). Then measure out all the rest of the ingredients, ticking them off to make quite sure they're all there. The treacle will be easier to measure if you remove the lid and place the tin in a small pan of barely simmering water. Now begin the cake by sifting the flour, salt and spices into a large mixing bowl, lifting the sieve up high to give the flour a good airing. Next, in a separate large mixing bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together until it's light, pale and fluffy. Now beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add them to the creamed mixture a tablespoonful at a time; keep the whisk running until all the egg is incorporated. If you add the eggs slowly by degrees like this the mixture won't curdle. If it does, don't worry, any cake full of such beautiful things can't fail to taste good!

When all the egg has been added, fold in the flour and spices, using gentle, folding movements and not beating at all (this is to keep all that precious air in). Now fold in the fruit, peel, chopped nuts and treacle and finally the grated lemon and orange zests.

Next, using a large kitchen spoon, transfer the cake mixture into the prepared tin, spread it out evenly with the back of a spoon and, if you don't intend to ice the cake, lightly drop the whole blanched almonds in circles or squares all over the surface.

Finally cover the top of the cake with a double square of silicone paper with a 50p-size hole in the centre. This gives some extra protection during the long slow cooking.

Bake the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 4½-4¾ hours. Sometimes it can take up to ½-¾ hour longer than this, but in any case don't look till at least 4 hours have passed. Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the tin, then remove it to a wire rack to finish cooling.

When it's cold 'feed' it by making small holes in the top and base of the cake with a cocktail stick or small skewer, then spoon over a few teaspoons of brandy. Now wrap it in double silicone paper secured with an elastic band and either wrap again in foil or store in an airtight container. Turn it over every week and if you feel the need 'feed' it with 1 or 2 table spoons of  brandy at odd intervals until you need to ice or eat it.

BBC Xmas Cake
CHRISTMAS COOKIE RECIPE
TRADITIONAL ENGLISH CHRISTMAS PUDDING RECIPE

HOW TO GROW THE GLORY LILY (Gloriosa superba) FROM SEED



The Glory Lily is an easy to grow exotic climber, with lily-like flowers in a wide range of vibrant colours. Growing to a height of about 6 ft, it is ideal for creating a spectacular feature plant climbing up an obelisk in containers or through trellis in borders. While is is fairly easy - though expensive - to obtain sections of glory lily root in order to propagate from, it can be just as easy to grow the glory lily from seed. Not only will this be considerably cheaper, the chances are that you will end up with a lot more plant material.

So, just how do you grow the glory lily from seed?

Sow Glory Lily seeds from February to April. The seeds should be sown into pots or trays of moist seed compost and then covered with a sprinkling of compost or vermiculite. Place in a propagator or warm place, kept at a temperature of around 20-30 Celsius. After sowing, do not exclude light as this helps germination, and keep the surface of the compost moist but not waterlogged. the seeds should begin to germinate between 30-40 days.

When the seedlings are large enough to handle, they can be transplanted into 3 inch pots containing a good quality compost. Remember to provide some support for the climbing shoots.

In the autumn, the stems of your Glory Lily will begin to die back to a tuber that has been developing over the growing period. Gradually dry off the tuber and store in a cool, dry and frost free place over the winter period. Re-pot in early spring into 13cm (5in) pots and grow on as before, re-potting further as necessary. Grow on in a greenhouse or conservatory.

During the growing season the Glory lily should be watered thoroughly, but again will need to be allowed to dry out almost completely before re-watering – never leave them waterlogged or standing in water as this can encourage rots. When growing begins in the spring they should be given a liquid feed once a week to encourage new growth. Later on in the season a half strength fertilizer added to the water every two weeks will keep plants blooming strongly throughout the summer and sometimes further into early autumn.

To save your tubers from one year to the next it’s best to stop watering the plants from about the end of October. Allow the compost to fully dry off and any foliage to die back down. Now place the pot in a warm dry are over the winter period where temperatures will not go below 5°Celsius. As soon as the threat of frosts are over, the pot can be put back into the greenhouse or conservatory and watered. Once again, re-water once the compost has been allowed to dry out. You may wish to re-pot your Glory Lily into a larger one at this time. The new seasons growth should appear after about three weeks when you can put your glory lily back outside.

For related articles click onto the following links:
THE BLACK LILY - Lilum 'Landini'
HOW TO GROW ALSTROEMERIA FROM SEED

CARROT FLY RESISTANT CARROT VARIETIES



Carrot fly is a small black-bodied fly whose larvae feed on the roots of carrots and related plants. In fact carrot fly is the most problematic pest of carrots, able to make the large proportion of your carrot crop inedible!

Carrot fly larvae damage
You can generally spot carrot fly from rusty brown scars that ring the tap roots. This makes the carrot inedible, and susceptible to secondary rots.

When the roots are cut through, you will see that small tunnels are revealed, often inhabited by slender creamy-yellow maggots up to 9mm long.

The best carrot fly resistant seeds varieties are listed below:

Healthmaster

Resistance lies in them having low levels of chlorogenic acid, a chemical which the larvae of the carrot fly needs for survival. This means that they appear to be unattractive to the fly and even if your crop is attacked to some degree the larvae will soon die after doing relatively little damage.

Flyfree

Resistance lies in them having low levels of chlorogenic acid, a chemical which the larvae of the carrot fly needs for survival. This means that they appear to be unattractive to the fly and even if your crop is attacked to some degree the larvae will soon die after doing relatively little damage.

Carrot Maestro F1

Carrot fly larvae
A reliable and excellent quality Nantes type with excellent pest and disease resistance (including Carrot Root Fly). RHS Award of Garden Merit winner. This carrot has been trialled, tested and recommended by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany.

Flyaway

The result of over 15 years breeding, this is perhaps the closest a carrot variety has become to being completely carrot fly resistant . In recent trials it came out top when grown against over 20 other 'resistant' varieties. Its resistance lies in it having low levels of chlorogenic acid, a chemical which the larvae of the carrot fly needs for survival. This means that it appears to be unattractive to the fly and even if your crop is attacked to some degree the larvae will soon die after doing relatively little damage. A Nantes type with cylindrical roots and a good blunt end and, perhaps most importantly, they are succulent and sweet. This variety is based on original breeding work carried out by Dr Bob Ellis and sponsored by MAFF funding.

DO FISH SLEEP



As strange as it may seem, the answer to 'Do fish sleep?' is YES , but it’s not sleep as we know it. Why? Because they don’t have eyelids to close, they sometimes do it during the day, they don’t show the characteristic brainwave patterns like REM sleep seen in humans, and some, including most sharks have to keep swimming in their sleep.

How do fish sleep?

But fishes do have a period of reduced activity and metabolism which seems to perform the same restorative functions as nocturnal sleep does in humans. Some are more obvious about it than others and actually rest on the bottom or in coral crevices, and parrotfish secrete a mucus 'sleeping bag ' around themselves before they go to sleep. If you get up quietly in the middle of the night you will find your goldfish in an almost trance- like state, hovering near the bottom of the tank making just the minimum correcting motions with its fins to maintain its position in the water column. If you put food in when they’re like this they take noticeably longer than usual to respond, as if they have trouble waking up.

So now you know - fish can sleep!

HOW TO GROW BRUSSELS SPROUTS FROM SEED



Love them or hate them, Brussels sprouts are the main stay of any traditional Christmas dinner, and if by some strange quirk you actually do love them, then they are also perfect for roast dinners too. But why is it that such an obviously English vegetable is called Brussels sprouts – surely, London sprouts would be a more appropriate name? Well, it’s because Brussels Sprouts have been cultivated in Belgium as far back as 1200, hence the name, and for those who don't know - Brussels is capital of Belgium.

Brussels Sprouts are best known today as the least popular part of the Christmas lunch, yet given that they are of a decent quality and cooked properly they are not only delicious, they are also an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin D, folic acid and dietary fibre. Furthermore, Brussels sprouts also contain health-promoting compounds called glucosinolates which may help to prevent cancer, so you can almost call them a super food!

Planting conditions

Sprouts are very tolerant of almost all soil conditions although they dislike acidic soils which can make them more susceptible to club root. Because Brussels sprouts are a ‘top heavy’ crop, they are best grown in a rich, firm, heavy soils in order to enable the root system to support these top heavy plants, stopping them from falling over in poor weather. Their final bed should be nicely dug over with plenty of well rotted farm manure added to it well in advance of planting – preferably completed a few months earlier.

They will grow equally well in sun or partial shade, but prefer partial shade. With that in mind, try to avoid growing them in front of other plants which need full sun, their foliage will put others in the shade.

Growing Brussels Sprouts from Seed

Brussels Sprout seed should be sown around the middle of April, directly into a seed bed outside or containers filled with potting compost. This helps the plants to produce a better root system and crop when they are planted in one place and transplanted to their final position a month or so later.

Brussels sprouts seeds should be sown half an inch deep and 4 inches a part. Cover the seeds back with the surrounding soil and give them a good watering. Germination should occur in about 10 days, but this can be a few days longer in cold weather.

If you are going to sow Brussels sprouts the seeds under protection – such as a cloche or mini polytunnel – you can bring forward sowing the seed to late March

Once all danger of late frosts has passed usually by the end of May - the seedlings should be about 5 inches high and ready to me transplanted into their final position. The soil should have been well-dug a couple of months earlier, giving time to allow the soil to settle. Taking care to disturb the root systems a little as possible, plant them in rows (2ft) apart. Ensure the soil is firmed back and if at all dry water well - a shortage of water at this stage will almost certainly affect the health of the plants – and definitely the taste - later on.

How to care for Brussels Sprouts

The key thing when growing Brussels sprouts is to make sure that they do not run short of water. Hand weeding (their roots are shallow and easily damaged) will also be necessary. Unless the soil is very poor, do not feed with any additional fertiliser, this will only result in leafy sprouts, although a mulch of well-rotted compost can do the world of good.

When to harvest Brussels Sprouts

A hard frost always improves the eating quality of sprouts, so you will have to judge this according to where in the world you live. When harvesting, remove the Brussels sprouts from the main stem using a knife - simply breaking them off will injure the main stem. Take the lowest sprouts first and work up the stem as required. Do not remove all the sprouts from one plant and then harvest from the next plant - the lower sprouts mature earlier than the higher ones.

WHAT IS THE WORLD'S MOST POISONOUS FROG




Poison Dart Frogs get their name from indigenous tribesmen use their poison to coat their darts when hunting.There is actually a whole group of Poison Dart Frogs, all of which are found within the Dendrobatidae family and - as their common name describes - all of them are  poisonous.

Of all the poison dart frogs, the Golden Poison Frog - also known as the Golden Dart Frog -  is the most poisonous frog of them all, and because of their ferocious toxicity, Golden Poison Dart frogs have only one natural predator - a snake known as Liophis epinephelus. This snake is resistant to the frog's poison, but is not completely immune!

Interestingly, Golden Dart Frog aren't actually born toxic!

The Golden Poison Frog (Phyllobates terribilis) is native to the Pacific coast of Colombia prefering rainforest with high rain rates (5 m or more), high altitude and humidity, and a temperature of at least 26 °C.

The Golden Poison frog is often considered innocuous due to their small size and bright colours; however - aswe know - wild specimens are lethally toxic. This poison dart frog is confirmed to have killed humans who touched the wild frog directly.

How poisonous is the Golden Poison Frog?

The Golden Poison Frog's skin is drenched in alkaloid poison, one of a number of poisons common to dart frogs (batrachotoxins). The alkaloid prevents nerves from transmitting impulses, leaving the muscles in an inactive state of contraction, and this can lead to heart failure or fibrillation.

Alkaloid batrachotoxins can be stored by frogs for years after the frog is deprived of a food-based source, and such toxins do not readily deteriorate, even when transferred to another surface. Rather worryingly, chickens and dogs have died from contact with a paper towel on which a Golden Poison frog had previously walked!

The golden poison frog is not venomous, but poisonous; venomous animals use their toxins to kill their prey. Like most poison dart frogs, the golden poison frog uses poison only as a self-defense mechanism and not for killing prey.

The average dose carried will vary between locations, and consequent local diet, but the average wild golden poison frog is generally estimated to contain about one milligram of poison, enough to kill about 10,000 mice. This estimate will vary in turn, but most agree that this dose is enough to kill between 10 and 20 humans, which correlates to up to two African bull elephants. This is roughly 15,000 humans per gram!

The high toxicity of golden poison frog appears to be due to the consumption of small insects or other arthropods, and one of these may truly be the most poisonous creature on Earth. Scientists have suggested that the crucial insect may be a small beetle from the family Melyridae. At least one species of these beetles produces the same toxin found in golden poison frog. The beetle family Melyridae is cosmopolitan. Its relatives in Colombian rainforests could be the source of the batrachotoxins found in the highly toxic Phyllobates frogs of that region.

HOW TO GROW AGAVE FROM SEED



Plants from the Agave family hold some of the most impressive succulents on the planet, and luckily for us, most agaves are relatively easy to grow.

Because agaves are relatively slow growing they can be expensive to purchase, so propagating your own agaves is a fantastic way of building up your stocks as well as getting the varieties that you want.

Luckily, the majority of agave species and cultivars will reproduce quite readily from suckers appearing from the base of the parent plant, and some even produce bulbils on the inflorescence (flowering stems). The seeds actually germinate and grow while still attached to the flower stalk!

Another, but rather more drastic way of getting agaves to reproduce, is to remove the center of the adult plants. Just as with cacti, this stimulates the plant to produce multiple heads, each of which can then be rooted.

Unfortunately, all of these methods of reproduction have disadvantages. For example, not all plants produce clones  - some of the most beautiful such as A. Victoria-reginae and A. ocahui rarely ever do, and even for those that will, the offsets may be poorly shaped or attached too tightly to allow separation from the parent without injury. Furthermore, the offset may contain diseases passed on from the parent. Reproduction by means of bulbils gives you many plants in a hurry, but this tends to be a rare event and characteristic of just certain species.

Perhaps the best way to reproduce agaves is to grow them from seed. Agave seeds are flat - usually - and black in colour  They can also vary considerably in size, usually reflecting the size of the mature plant. As with most plants, the fresher the seeds, the greater the percentage of germination.

The compost mix for agave seedlings is very simple, mix equal parts of sifted sterilized top soil  and crushed granite/horticultural grit. Using a seed tray or individual pots, fill with the compost mix then sow the seeds giving each seed a couple of inches spacing. Lightly cover the seeds with some more of the compost then, give them another light covering  grit.

Water the tray or pots by setting them in a pan of water until the wet surface indicates that the soil has become thoroughly saturated. After the tray/pot is removed, allow it to drain for several minutes, then cover the pot with transparent cover such as a sheet of glass, propagator lid or even plastic wrap!

Place the tray/pot on a warm windowsill, but out of direct sunlight.

Seedlings can germinate early as 4 days after planting, but 6 to 8 days is more typical. As soon as seedlings emerge, remove any covering. If plants have not made an appearance by the end of two weeks, they probably never will. The seedlings begin with a single leaf, approximately round in cross-section, thicker near the base and tapering to a point at the top. The empty seed husk is normally seen perched on the top of the plant, obscuring the actual tip. This seed remnant may remain on the plant for several months until it falls off unless you get tired of looking at it and remove it yourself.

Seedlings will vary considerably in size during their first weeks of life which usually reflects the size of the seeds that produced them. Agave seedlings have a tendency to fall over. If this occurs, add some course sand to the tray/pot to help shore them up.

After two to four weeks of development, a slit develops near the base of the first leaf and out of it come the second leaf, this one looking much more like an agave than the first, but still elongated and devoid of marginal spines. The third leaf,when it appears, tends to be wider than the second is, and it does contain small marginal spines. By the time the third leaf has made its appearance, the initial leaf has begun to turn yellow and dries out from the tip. It has done its job and it proceeds to disappear. Try to keep the soil moist, but even at this early stage, seedlings can dry out completely for several days with no apparent damage.

The seedlings will let you know if they are receiving too much light or too little. In the first case, they take on a purplish tinge. In the second, they turn pale. Try not to change their light regimen abruptly, it is far better to do it in gentle stages.

By the time the third leaf arrives, the plants begin to bear some resemblance to their
parents.

Buy Agave Seed
AGAVE PARRASANA - The Cabbage Head Agave
AGAVE PARRYI VAR. PATONII 'VARIEGATA'
AGAVE PARRYI var. truncata
Agave X 'Royal Spine'

WHAT DO PANDAS EAT?




The panda, or more accurately known as the Giant Panda is a true bear native to central-western and south western China. It is easily recognizable by its large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, over the ears, and across its round body.

Despite being a true bear, a panda does not hunt down prey. So, just what does a panda really eat?

Despite its taxonomic classification as a carnivore, the giant panda's diet is primarily herbivorous, consisting almost exclusively of bamboo. However, the giant panda still has the digestive system of a carnivore, as well as carnivore-specific genes, and thus derives little energy and little protein from consumption of bamboo. Its ability to digest cellulose is due to the presence of specialised microbes in its gut.

The giant panda is therefore a highly specialized animal with unique adaptations having evolved to live in bamboo forests for millions of years.

The average giant panda eats as much as 9 to 14 kg (20 to 30 pounds) of bamboo shoots a day. Because the giant panda consumes a diet low in nutrition, it is important for it to keep its digestive tract full. The limited energy input imposed on it by its diet has affected the panda's behavior. The giant panda tends to limit its social interactions and avoids steeply sloping terrain in order to limit its energy expenditures.

Surprisingly, two of the panda's most distinctive features, its large size and its round face, are adaptations to its bamboo diet. Panda researcher Russell Ciochon has this to say on the matter:

'...like the vegetarian gorilla, the low body surface area to body volume of the giant panda is indicative of a lower metabolic rate. This lower metabolic rate and a more sedentary lifestyle allow the giant panda to subsist on nutrient poor resources such as bamboo...'

Similarly, the giant panda's round face is the result of powerful jaw muscles. These are attached from the top of the head to the jaw enabling large molars crush and grind fibrous plant material.

Pandas eat any of twenty-five bamboo species in the wild, such as Fargesia dracocephala and Fargesia rufa. Only a few bamboo species are widespread at the high altitudes pandas now inhabit. Bamboo leaves contain the highest protein levels; stems have less. Given this large diet, the giant panda can defecate up to 40 times a day!

Because of the synchronous flowering, death, and regeneration of all bamboo within a single species, the giant panda must have at least two different species available in its range to avoid starvation. While primarily herbivorous, the giant panda still retains decidedly carnivorous teeth, enabling the panda to eat meat, fish, and eggs when available. In captivity, zoos typically maintain the giant panda's bamboo diet, though some will provide specially-formulated biscuits or other dietary supplements.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A TORTOISE AND A TURTLE?



While tortoises, turtles, and even terrapins for that matter, have numerous and obvious similarities, there are clearly some distinct differences. Perhaps the most notable are the environments in which they all live, and it was the challenge of these environments that evolved each of these ancient reptiles into separate groups and away from their common ancestor.

Even so, turtles, tortoises, and terrapins are all part of the same division of reptiles, called chelonians, and for the most part, the difference between a turtle and tortoise is more of a rough semantic category than a strict taxonomic separation. In a biological respect, a tortoise is a kind of a turtle, but not all turtles are tortoises as tortoises have their own taxonomic family, known as testudinidae. Sounds complicated, well it is a little so lets try and break it down a little further.

So, what is the difference between a turtle and a tortoise?


To generalise, turtles live in or near the water and have adapted to swim by holding their breath underwater. Sometimes the name 'terrapin' refers to those animals that fall somewhere between a turtle and tortoise, because they live in swampy areas or begin life underwater and eventually move to dry land. Tortoises live primarily in arid regions, evolving a more effective way to store their own water supply and for walking on baking, sandy ground.

Turtles may live in freshwater, the ocean, or brackish ponds and marshland. Their front feet might be fins or merely webbed toes with streamlined back feet to help them swim. Turtles have flatter backs than tortoises, and may spend all or part of their lives underwater. They mate and lay eggs underwater or on the shore. Like tortoises, some turtles sun themselves on logs, rocks, or sandy banks. During cold weather, they burrow in mud and go into torpor, a state similar to hibernation. Sea turtles migrate great distances. They are more often omnivorous, eating plants, insects, and fish.

Tortoises live entirely above water, only wading into streams to clean themselves or to drink. In fact, they could easily drown in deep or swift current. Their feet are hard, scaly, and nubby so it can crawl across sharp rocks and sand. Tortoises often have claws to dig burrows, which they occupy during hot, sunny weather or during sleep. Tortoises are mostly herbivorous, eating cacti, shrubs, and other plants that have a lot of moisture. They rarely migrate. Their shell forms a rounded dome, allowing the tortoise's limbs and head to withdraw for protection.

To conclude, a summery of differences between turtles and tortoises:

•Turtles primarily live in water (fresh water and oceans) and so have webbed front feet or flipper-like fins to aid swimmingr.

•Tortoises live almost exclusively on land, and so have normal feet without webbing, often with sharp claws for digging. They only enter water to drink or wash themselves off, and can in fact drown in strong currents. They can often be found in arid environments.

•Turtles tend to have flatter shells than tortoises, while tortoises have more of a domed shell.

•Turtles can be omnivorous, eating both plants and insects. Tortoises eat only plants, leaves and other vegetationmaking them herbivorous. They especially like moisture-rich vegetationduring the height of summer.

•Turtles can migrate from one place to another, swimming across entire oceans; tortoises however, tend to stay in one area.

SNAKE-NECKED TURTLE

WHICH FOODS ARE BEST FOR THE SKIN?



Everyone has a favourite face cream or treatment, but the secret to glowing, beautiful, healthy skin actually starts on the inside! Eat the right balance of foods and you will feed your skin the vital nutrients to help keep it soft, supple and blemish-free.

The best starting point for healthy looking skin is to eat plenty of foods that are rich in vitamin C. Foods such as blackcurrants, blueberries, broccoli, guava, kiwi fruits, oranges, papaya, strawberries and sweet potatoes all help to produce collagen that strengthens the capillaries that feed the skin.

Also,make sure you are getting enough omega-3 and omega-6 oils - both of which are essential fatty acids. You will find omega-3 in oily fish, but plant sources like linseeds and flax oil make excellent alternatives. For omega-6 try safflower, sunflower and corn oils.

Eating foods that contain sulphur can help to keep skin smooth - garlic and onions are ideal for this - although a bit smelly.

Choose foods that are rich in vitamin E, such as almonds, avocado, hazelnuts, pine nuts and sunflower and corn oils. Vitamin E is a strong antioxidant and will help to protect your skin from the damaging effects of free radicals.

Zinc-rich foods, such as wheatgerm, liver, pumpkin seeds, sardines and oysters, help to repair skin damage and keep it soft and supple.

Foods rich in vitamin A help new skin to grow. Liver, eggs, milk and oily fish are good sources along with fortified cereals and margarines.

Eat a few dried apricots every day. They're full of iron to help improve your skin tone. So are sesame seeds - try adding them to cereals and muesli.

Don't forget to drink plenty of water to rehydrate your skin - aim for eight glasses a day. Tea, coffee and juices will count, but for really great skin stick to plain water and don't smoke!

Of all the B vitamins vital for great skin, vitamin B2 or riboflavin helps your skin glow. Best sources include beef, cheese, eggs, liver and Marmite.

Finally, once you make changes to your diet, don't expect an overnight miracle. It takes six weeks for new skin to emerge up to the surface, so the visible benefits from dietary changes will take just as long. So it's never too soon to start.

Foods that can help with problem skin

Is your skin very dry? Dry, rough skin combined with coarse, dry and brittle hair (as well as tiredness) can be a sign of an under active thyroid, so if you're worried, check it out with your GP. But for general dry skin problems, try increasing your intake of foods rich in beta-carotene (such as yellow and red peppers and dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach) and increasing your intake of omega-3-rich oils. In addition, consider adding a teaspoon of flax oil to salad dressings or sprinkle some linseeds on your cereal daily.

Is your skin itchy? Get some relief by opting for foods high in B vitamins, such as eggs, fish, lentils, nuts and wholegrains. B vitamins improve poor circulation, which is sometimes associated with itchiness.

Is your skin oily? Cut down on processed and junk food as well as foods high in sugar, such as cakes and biscuits as well as hard fats. Dip bread in olive oil or hemp seed oil for a tasty treat instead of using butter.

Do you suffer from acne? Try selenium-rich foods, such as Brazil nuts, cashew nuts, fresh tuna, sunflower seeds, walnuts and wholemeal bread. Combine with vitamin E for the best effect.

FOODS THAT IMPROVE YOUR SEX LIFE



Since the very dawn of human civilisation, people have been obsessing about their sex lives. One way in which this obsession has expressed itself is in the search for foods that could improve their sex lives, and this has resulted in the phenomenon known as aphrodisiacs.

So, just what exactly is an aphrodisiac?

Put simply, an aphrodisiac is a substance that increases sexual desire, and this is a concept that goes back to the beginning of human existence.In fact the word 'aphrodisiac' comes from ancient Greek 'Aphrodite' - the Greek goddess of sexuality and love. Throughout history, many foods, drinks, and behaviors have had a reputation for making sex more attainable and/or pleasurable. However, from a historical and scientific standpoint, the alleged results may have been mainly due to mere belief by their users that they would be effective. However, Western medical science has no substantiated claims that any particular food increases sexual desire or performance - except for the recent research on the herbs Fenugreek and Saffron.

What is an aphrodisiac food?

An aphrodisiac food is one that is believed to stimulate the sex drive and increase sexual performance. Aphrodisiac foods have been used as far back as the Romans and the Greeks to increase sexual powers. During those periods, people were concerned about fertility and sexual performance more so than passion itself, so a great amount of time was spent on determining what aphrodisiac foods would help these two separate concerns.

An aphrodisiac food can be suggestive, rather than cause a physical sexual reaction. In fact, many believe that some aphrodisiac foods increase and stimulate sexual desire and performance by the suggestive nature of the food and the ritual surrounding the food presentation.

Aniseed: The Greeks and Romans believed that aniseed had special sexual powers. There are many uses for this aphrodisiac food and some people believe that sucking on the seeds will increase your libido.

Almond: Throughout the ages, the almond has been a symbol of fertility. Some believe that the aroma stimulates passion in a female.

Avocado: The vitamin B6 contained in the avocado is said to increase male hormone production. The avocado also contains potassium which aids in regulating the female thyroid gland. A note about the avocado: the Aztecs called the avocado tree a “testicle tree” because they thought the fruit hanging in pairs on the tree looked like male testicles.

Asparagus: The phallic shape of some foods is a consideration in the selection of aphrodisiac foods. However, asparagus has more to offer than suggestive form. It contains vitamin E, believed to stimulate sex hormones which contribute to a healthy sex life and increased sexual powers.

Bananas: Bananas have a wonderful, suggestive phallic shape, and are considered one of the most popular aphrodisiac foods used to stimulate sexual desire and increase sexual powers. Bananas also contain potassium and B vitamins which are essential for sex hormone production.

Chili peppers: “Capsaicin,” a chemical that stimulates our nerve endings and raises our pulse, is responsible for the “heat” in chili peppers. This aphrodisiac food is also thought to release endorphins, which give our bodies a natural high. Some researchers believe that is the case with all “hot” foods. Garlic is another example of these aphrodisiac foods.

Sweet basil: Some people believe that basil stimulates the sex drive and boosts fertility. It is also believed to create a sense of well being in our bodies and minds.

Chocolate: Who doesn’t know about chocolate as an aphrodisiac food? On Valentines Day, the day to express your love, more chocolate is sold than at any other time during the year. Chocolate is given at the holidays, for anniversaries, and just to say, “I love you.” Chocolate contains a stimulant called phenylethylamine, which gives you a sense of well being and excitement similar to the natural high that endorphins give us. Researchers believe that chocolate contains chemicals that affect neurotransmitters in the brain, and a substance related to caffeine called theobromine. There are more antioxidants in chocolate than in red wine. Combining the two can be the secret to passion.

Coffee: Coffee in moderation is a stimulant, but too much causes it to become a depressant. The caffeine in coffee stimulates both mind and body and is sometimes used in preparation for staying up all night.

Figs: An open fig is believed to imitate the female sex organs and is traditionally considered to be a sexual stimulant. Some say that a man opening a fig and eating it in front of his lover can be a powerful aphrodisiac.

Raw oysters: Oysters have been a favourite aphrodisiac food since the time of Aphrodite during the Greek age. Oysters are a rich source of zinc, a mineral required for testosterone production. This male hormone is believed to increase the female libido as well. Oysters are high in protein and very nutritious.

Arugula: Arugula is also called “rocket seed” and has been documented as an aphrodisiac food as far back as the first century A.D. Arugula was combined with grated orchid bulbs and parsnips. Many salads and pastas contain arugula. Sometimes arugula is combined with pine nuts and pistachios.

Ginger: Ginger root can be eaten raw, cooked, or crystallized. Ginger is a circulatory system stimulant which can increase sexual powers and desire.

Raspberries and strawberries: These are perfect aphrodisiac foods to hand feed your lover. They are red, which is the color associated with love and passion, and are high in vitamin C.

Nutmeg: Chinese women believed that nutmeg was an aphrodisiac food and that it increased sexual desire, thereby contributing to procreation during fertility. A hallucinogenic effect can be produced by a large quantity of nutmeg.

Wine: Wine relaxes our inhibitions and stimulates our senses. The actual drinking of wine can be an erotic experience. Moderate amounts of wine are believed to “arouse,” but excessive alcohol will make you drowsy.

You can see from this list of aphrodisiac foods that many aphrodisiac foods have suggestive properties.  The aphrodisiac effect is therefor from the presentation and eating of the food as well as from a physiological response. In conclution, be sexy in your kitchen while you prepare your gourmet aphrodisiac foods, because when you cook with passion, you will feel passion around you. Pay attention to the presentation of the food and the ambiance of the setting as well. These aspects are just as important as the aphrodisiac foods themselves.

WHAT IS THE WORLDS FASTEST ANIMAL?




This is an excellent question specifically designed by children to make their parents look dumb. However, when a question such as this encompasses the whole entire earth you must then consider the skies and the seas. So to begin with, what is the fastest creature in the sea?

The world’s fastest fish is the Indo-Pacific sailfish, Istiophorus platypterus. This sportfish can swim up to 68 miles per hour which is an incredible speed, especially when compared to the fastest living land animal which can reach a top speed of between 70 and 75 mph!

What are Sailfish?

Sailfish are two species of fish in the genus Istiophorus, living in warmer sections of all the oceans of the world.

They are predominantly blue to grey in colour and have a characteristic erectile dorsal fin known as a sail, which often stretches the entire length of the back.

Another notable characteristic is the elongated bill, resembling that of the swordfish and other marlins. They are therefore described as billfish in sport fishing circles.

As fast as that may be, there is a land animal that is even faster, but not by as much as you think!

The Cheetah



The Cheetah is the fastest land animal, reaching a top speed of between 112 and 120 km/h (70 and 75 mph), but they are only able to maintain this in short bursts otherwise they would quickly overheat!

During their high speed sprints they can cover distances up to 460 m (1,500 ft), and have the ability to accelerate from 0 to 103 km/h (64 mph) in three seconds. That's faster than most super cars! It is amazing statistic like these that confirm the cheetah's status as the worlds fastest land animal.


On the open savannas of Iran and parts of Africa, cheetahs are superb examples of specialization - the evolutionary adaptation to very specific environmental conditions. In this case, the specialization is for speed.

Going after impalas, gazelles and small wildebeests, the cheetah is a blur, and the chase is short-lived, typically lasting about 30 seconds. Cheetah mothers spend a lot of time teaching their cubs to chase, sometimes dragging live animals back to the den so the cubs can practice the chase-and-catch process.

When a cheetah overtakes its prey, it knocks it down and takes it out with a bite to the neck. It then eats as quickly as possible. If a lion comes along, the cheetah will abandon its catch - it can't fight off a lion, and chances are, the cheetah will lose its life along with its prey if it doesn't get out of there fast enough.

But there is another animal that is faster still and not just a bit faster! To find out which animal is the true king of speed you will need to turn to the skies.

The Peregrine Falcon



For pure, unadulterated speed, nothing can touch the peregrine falcon. When it is in a hunting dive, it is the worlds fastest bird and by considerable margin. In fact, it is the fastest animal on Earth!

So far, no bird known can match the flying speed of a peregrine falcon while it is in its hunting dive.  As it executes this specialist dive, the peregrine falcon begins by soaring to a great height, after which it dives steeply at speeds of over 300 kilometres (200 miles) per hour!

While the peregrine falcon’s diving speed is truly amazing, it isn't even able to make the top 10 when travelling in a level flight. For that record, studies have clocked  the spine-tailed swift, at over 160 kilometres (100 miles) per hour.

THE EVOLUTION AND DEVOLUTION OF MAN - FINALLY EXPLAINED




Did mankind evolve from apes, which in their turn evolved from lesser mammals or were we brought into existence by the sheer will of god?

Ok, to truly examine and explain the evolution and devolution of man is quite frankly beyond me and - to be fair - any answer regarding this will have an awful lot to do with each persons individual beliefs.

Be that as it may, do not allow this weighty question to detract from these two related films - both of which are well worth a look at, and will hopefully make you laugh.

In fact, I would go further and say that these films may change your entire outlook on life! Maybe they won't - but you can make up your own mind by watching them.




WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PLANT CELL AND AN ANIMAL CELL?




Animal and plant cells have a number of key similarities, but also some noted differences. In order to understanding basic cell structure, it helps to understand the differences between plant cells and animal cells. They differ in important ways, as plant cells have to provide different functions for the plant, just as the animal cells do for the body.

Both animal and plant cells have some similar structural elements. First off they are both eukaryotic, which means they have a defined nucleus. This nucleus contains chromosomes, and it is protected and surrounded by the cytoplasm, which is a watery or gel-like liquid. Furthermore, both animal and plant cells have a cell membrane that surrounds the cell. This allows for the cell to exert control, in most cases, over what can penetrate the cell, and what cannot.


One of the primary differences between animal and plant cells is that plant cells have a cell wall made up of cellulose. This helps the plant cells to allow high pressure to build inside of it, without bursting. A plant cell has to be able to accept large amounts of liquid through osmosis, without being destroyed. An animal cell does not have this cell wall. If you start to fill the animal cell with too much distilled water or other fluid, it will eventually rupture.

MAIN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PLANT AND ANIMAL CELLS

• Plant cells have a cell wall surrounding cell membrane,
 whereas animal cells only have a cell membrane.

• Plant cells have chloroplasts that help in photosynthesis. 
These are absent in animal cells.

• Animal cells have small vacuoles in comparison to plant
 cells that have a large vacuole.

• Plant cells are mostly regular in size and rectangular
 in shape whereas animal cells vary greatly in size and shape.

• Plant cells have a large fluid sac called vacuole while
 animal cells have many small vacuoles.

• Plant cells are larger and rectangular whereas animal 
cells are smaller and circular in shape

WHY IS THE AMAZON RAINFOREST BEING DESTROYED?




Despite what some government groups are trying to promote, human greed is the main cause of rainforest deforestation. Incredibly, between May 2000 and August 2005, Brazil lost more than 132,000 square kilometres of forest — an area larger than Greece — and since 1970, over 600,000 square kilometres (232,000 square miles) of Amazon rainforest have been destroyed.

But what are the reasons behind why so much rainforest habitat is being systematically cut down and burned?

Well, here are a number of obvious causes, such as wood being used for the worlds timber magnets, land clearance for farming and road construction.

But that's not the whole story, because - contrary to belief - the trees in the Brazilian rain forest are probably the best protected anywhere on earth - at least in theory, but someone is still cutting them down and burning them.

For several years now, the Brazilian government has insisted that the rate of deforestation in the Amazon has declined sharply. But earlier this year, it suddenly jumped again, to a rate five times higher than last year.

These trees play a vital part in the management of global weather patterns. Why? Because they absorb carbon dioxide, which otherwise would contribute to climate change. That is why Brazil is under pressure to protect the forest.

Amazon settlers

Perhaps the biggest threat to the Amazon rain forest are the Amazon settlers as they burn down the trees to clear land for cattle.

Amazon settler Waldemar Vieira Neves understands this, but he says there are other considerations as well. He is is a small, wiry man, 64 years old, with sharp features and a deep sense of grievance.

‘…I know everyone thinks we're villains, but what people don't understand is how hard we have to work to scratch out a living. We were talking in a small clearing in the forest…’

He has lived there for 12 years, ever since the government offered him the opportunity to start a new life as an Amazon settler.

He used to live in the far north-east of Brazil, with no land and not much hope.

So, like tens of thousands of other settlers, he took the opportunity and did what the government wanted him to do - made a new home for himself in the forest and cleared the trees.

Criminal Activity 

Nowadays, Brazil's laws on deforestation are extremely strict.

No-one who farms in the rainforest is supposed to be allowed to cultivate more than 20% of the land he owns. The rest has to be left untouched, as a way of preserving the forest and protecting the environment.

But sometimes, says Waldemar, people feel they have to break the law. What else can you do if there is no other way to survive?

‘…people say we're destroying the forest, we're not. We're protecting it, we depend on it. But we have to find a way so that both we and the forest can survive…’

The settlers complain that they need more help in finding ways to make a living while keeping on the right side of the law.

They say they need education, not punishment, if the government wants them to farm the land but protect the trees at the same time.

Within the next few months, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who came to office six months ago, will have to decide whether to veto proposals to relax the Forest Code, which restricts how much land in the Amazon region can legally be cultivated.

Farmers and big international agricultural business groups say they need to be able to farm more land to provide the food that the world demands.

Tough decisions

They want an amnesty for farmers who may have cleared forest land illegally in the past, proposing that - instead of being fined - farmers who have broken the law should be required to buy more forest, equivalent to what they have cut down, in return for an undertaking to leave it untouched.

Brazil now exports more beef than any other country in the world, and agriculture makes up a quarter of the country's entire economic output.

It is also the world's second biggest producer of soya, which is an essential ingredient in animal feed, and pressure from the huge soya producers south of the Amazon who are desperate to buy more land is pushing smaller farmers like Waldemar Vieira Neves deeper into the forest.

On the one hand, President Rousseff does not want to risk jeopardising Brazil's rapid economic growth by damaging its powerful agri-business interests. On the other, she is under intense pressure from environmentalists not to approve any law that could encourage more deforestation in the Amazon.

Before her election last year, she pledged to veto any plan that would weaken the Forest Code and, within the coming months, she is going to have to decide whether to honour that pledge.