Twining vines, such as the mandevilla, climb by spiraling round upright supports.


A different fruit of the vine

I like a good curry. I’m a Yorkshireman after all, and the center of the curry universe in the UK was only a few miles from my former home in sunny England – Bradford. There are few things that I miss from that corner of the planet, but curries are definitely one of them.

Bradford is probably solely responsible for one of the greatest culinary inventions in the history of mankind; one that is rarely mentioned in the hushed hallowed halls of whatever clubs those executive chef types probably belong to. Bradford invented curry and chips.

There are those who will argue that the only appropriate accompaniments to a curry are rice or chapattis, but these people are missing out on an incredibly pleasurable dining experience. They have never experienced the culinary delight of dunking a big fat chip into a bowl of curry, and munching on the combination. Superb.

For any Americans who are a little confused at this stage, chips are what you usually call “French fries”, or even, I’m led to believe, “Freedom Fries”. If you could please refer to your “chips” as “crisps”, as they are more correctly known, this would avoid a lot of confusion. Thank you.

Anyway, getting back to curries. The options that are generally available start off with the korma, which, to be honest, is a bit of a girl’s-blouse curry. It can be quite tasty, but there isn’t a great deal of bite to it. The kids will love it, as it’s fairly innocuous. Then there’s the inevitable chicken tikka massala, which for some reason seems to have taken over from roast beef and Yorkshire pudding as the national dish. Again, it’s a curry for wimps – flavorsome enough, but not really one for the lads.

Then we get on to the more serious stuff, moving up to the Madras. This is where things get interesting, as these curries start to bite back.

They aren’t phet in the same way as Thai food; they somehow hurt more. This is especially true when you move on to the more serious vindaloo, which, if the chef puts his mind to it, can blow your socks off.

Unfortunately, many of my compatriots think about indulging in a curry only when they leave the pub after a few pints, and think it will be a good idea to hurl a bit of abuse at the waiter, and ask for “the hottest thing on the ****ing menu”. A hint, lads – don’t upset the waiter. The word gets back to the bloke cooking the stuff, and he will inevitably hurt you.

A vindaloo leaves many of these strapping, drunken chaps weeping with the curry strength, yet are all adamant that they can handle it.

The next step up from a vindaloo is a pahl. This is an evil concoction, designed, I suspect, especially to satisfy the Indian restaurant staff’s totally justified lust for revenge.

The term “vindaloo”, I discovered recently, actually derives from the fact that for centuries the meat for these curries was marinated in vinegar, which comes from wine, which is of course made from the fruit of vines. At last, we get to a topic that is vaguely connected to something green and growing.

Technically, vines are “plants that grow horizontally over the ground or climb by twining or attaching appendages to a support”.

In Phuket, there are vines in bloom every month of the year. Most of these vines are evergreen, doing their job year round. Many vines which grow in this part of the world have unusual and striking foliage and flowers. It doesn’t seem to matter whether they are growing wild or if someone has deliberately put them there – they’re everywhere, in one form or another.

Vines can be used in a variety of ways in your garden. Posts and poles, and even undesirable trees can be transformed using vines to alter their form, texture and color. Species of vines exist that cling or climb on wood, stone, brick or even sheet metal, so you can select vines to give character to uninteresting walls or fences. Closely clinging vines can also be used to accentuate architectural lines of buildings, or larger, branching vines can soften lines you’d rather not see.

Vines are not entirely independent, so often they need some type of support if you grow them upright. To choose the proper support for a particular species of vine, it’s important to understand how the vine is going to climb. They can be separated into three basic types of climbers: clingers, twiners and winders.

Clingers are vines that grab hold of rough surfaces by means of rootlets or sticky disks. I’m sure “sticky disks” isn’t the official term but you know what I mean. Examples of these are the ivy you see in more temperate climates, the climbing fig and the philodendrons.

These types of vines are often used to cover solid upright surfaces such as trees, fences or walls. You shouldn’t grow them on wooden walls because they prevent the wood surface from drying, which increases the chance of rot. Clinging vines may also loosen mortar between bricks in masonry walls and can sometimes be hard to remove.

Twining vines climb by encircling upright vertical supports. They are often used on poles, vertical wires, or lattice structures.

Most of these vines will spiral in only one direction. If you attempt to train one to spiral in the opposite direction, usually it won’t cooperate and you may even damage it. Check out the spirals that are probably already there. Twining vines include mandevilla, Confederate jasmine, allamanda and bougainvillea.

Winders climb by means of tendrils, which come in many forms and sizes. It’s the tendrils that wind themselves around some kind of support, rather than the stems themselves. You can use these to cover lattice, wire mesh or other supports when you want them to spread horizontally.

Examples of tendril vines include the glory lily (the spectacular gloriosa superba), the passion flower and many members of the pea family.

Give the tendrils a push in the right direction and, in hours, their tendrils will be well and truly locked around what ever they can find.

Vines and vindaloo? Tenuous, I know. Do yourself a favor though. The next time you’re in the mood for a curry, say no to the rice or chapattis. Order a plate of chips instead. You’ll be glad you did. Oh, and be careful not to upset the chef.


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