New BLE topic "Poisonous Nature", with a special Christmas highlight: European Mistletoe (Viscum album)

It is Friday, time for the Spice of the week, but we have something special for you today. We would like to introduce a new BLE topic describing various poisonous species from different parts of the world – Poisonous Nature.
BLE - Poisonous Nature

You can find more than 30 species belonging to different groups, which you may not have had any idea could be poisonous. More species will be added regularly in the future, and we will inform you about each of them. The images and illustrations link to their variable sources: BHL, EOL or Europeana (including content from the OpenUp! project). This new topic also includes more than 90 books describing the species in more detail.
Mistletoe in crown of tree - EOL.

Here is the first highlight from Poisonous Nature, one of the symbols of Christmas, which brings fortune and blessing to your homes – European Mistletoe (Viscum album). Did you know that mistletoe contains the poison lectin, which strengthens the body's immune reaction against cancer and even slows tumor growth?
European Mistletoe - Viscum album - BHL.

Mistletoe is an angiosperm, living as a hemi-parasite on other plants. It uses its special root-like organs (haustoria) to steal nutrients, water and minerals from its host. As opposed to true parasites, it also uses photosynthesis to create its own organic substances. There is only one species of mistletoe in Europe: European or Common Mistletoe (Viscum album). It can grow on deciduous or coniferous trees, dependent on the subspecies. The poisonous qualities of mistletoe have not been conclusively proven; only larger quantities are known to cause diarrhea and stomachaches. Only in nursing infants can poisoning have more severe consequences.
European Mistletoe - Viscum album - image is under CC-BY-SA, from The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh -  OpenUp! content on Europena.

You can find more about the mistletoe on BLE PoisonousNature. We wish you great Christmas Holidays and of course, stay tuned!!

Spice of the week: Coriander

Our “Spice of the Week” is coriander, one of the oldest cultivated plants and most popular spices in the world!

Like several spices that we’ve featured so far, coriander was a significant spice in ancient times. Sugar-coated coriander seeds were used as a remedy for stomach aches, digestive problems and intestinal parasites It has been discovered in pyramids, where they were part of the entourage that accompanied the pharaohs to the afterlife. The Greeks and Romans used it to spice wine and make several medicines.

But of course, it’s an integral part of today’s cuisine as well. Discover more trivia and a nice recipe on the Biodiversity Library Exhibition!

Sofrito – meat with gravy
300 g thinly sliced pork
1 tablespoon oil
200 g onion
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
2 large peppers
1 chili pepper
150 g boiled marbled smoked meat
300 g tomatoes
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons coriander leaves or ½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon parsley

Braise meat in oil, add onion, garlic, peppers and smoked meat, all finely chopped. Then add sliced tomatoes, spices and salt. Simmer for thirty minutes. Serve with rice or pasta.

Spice of the Week: Cassia

After a while, we are back with new spice of the week. Cassia is made from the flowers of the Cinnamomum aromaticum – and it’s related to the better known spice cinnamon.

Cassia is one of the world’s oldest known spices – cassia buds were mentioned in a herbarium from 2700 BC and in the bible. It is said that this was one of the spices that Moses was supposed to consecrate the tabernacle with.

It’s also one of the most important traditional Chinese medicines, and in Russia and Germany, it is used to flavor chocolate. Care for some chocolate pork chops with cassia? Then check out the Spice in the BLE!

As additional recipe we are giving you - Hot pot
2 kg chickens separated into 8 pieces
2 l water
2 teaspoons salt
1,5 kg fatty pork cut into cubes
2 onions
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 hot chili peppers (or more)
5 cm piece of Cassia buds
4 cloves
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Cook all ingredients in a pot until tender. Bone chicken, return to pot and serve potatoes as a side dish. It is an Indian food for ten or more people. In the original recipe, cassava juice is also added.

That is all for now, but next week we will be here again with new spice of the week and also with new topic "Poisonous Nature". Stay tuned.

Spice of the Week: Cumin

We are back after a small pause which was caused by massive upgrade of BLE platform on which will we will inform you in prepared special blog. It’s that time of the week again when we take a look at a specific spice in the Biodiversity Library Exhibition. This time up: cumin!

Cumin consists of the dried or ground seeds of the herb Cuminum cyminum.  It originally was cultivated in the Far East. They are a common ingredient in African tagine and cuscus, and in Spain, cumin is often mixed with cinnamon.

One of the most interesting anecdotes involving cumin is probably the one of C. Julius Vinder,  a Roman living in the time of emperor Nero. He used cumin to induce paleness, and pale as a ghost he went to find the emperor. and promised to make him his heir, if Nero would grant him authority over Gaul. The greedy emperor immediately did so, eagerly anticipating Vinder's death, who, however, was healthy as a horse.

Check out more on cumin in the Biodiversity Library Exhibition.

If you would like to taste the cumin in real, why do not try our recipe?
Simmered spiced pork
1 large chopped onion
2 chopped garlic cloves
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1.5 kg boneless pork
1 l mutton broth or water
125 g finely chopped pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Cut pork into 5 cm cubes and place in casserole dish, pour in broth, add remaining ingredients except for pumpkin seeds and lemon juice. Simmer covered on medium heat, until meat is tender. After adding pumpkin seeds, simmer uncovered an additional 5 minutes, to allow broth to thicken slightly. Finally, add spices to taste and mix in lemon juice. Serve immediately with rice.

Spice of the week: Basil

One of the fundamental spices in southern European cuisine, Basil is this week’s spice selection from the Biodiversity Library Exhibition.

Its origins lie in India, where it was said to be sanctified by the god Vishna. The name “basilicum” however, doesn’t come from a deity, but from the Greek word for royal. It should therefore come as no surprise that this herb was highly regarded and that throughout European history, many medicinal and ritual uses were found for it!

Even in today’s cuisine, basil plays an important role, since it is one of the major components of pesto. So sit back, check out Basil in the Biodiversity HeritageLibrary, and celebrate its importance by making Spaghetti with pesto sauce. Bon appétit!

Turkey rolls with basil

400 g turkey  breasts
100 g ham
2 eggs
100 g grated cheese
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
4 tablespoons butter
1 onion
1 dl white wine
3 mushrooms
1 tablespoons cornstarch
Parsley, ground pepper, salt

Cut turkey breasts into thin slices, salt and pepper to taste, roll in mixture of eggs, julienned ham, coarsely grated cheese and basil. Roll strips and pin with toothpicks, and coat with cornstarch. Braise in butter with chopped onion and mushrooms, marinate occasionally with wine. Serve with boiled potatoes, covered with gravy and garnished with parsley. Also garnish with tablespoon of finely chopped basil if desired.

Spice of the Week: Sesame

Once again, it’s time for our Spice of the Week. And this week, we’ve selected for you a spice derived from one of the oldest known cultivated plants in the world: sesame!
Sesamum indicum

And while it has no aroma, it is definitely full of taste, a taste which is slightly nutty and rather sweet. It also features in so-called sesame salt, also known as Gomasio, a mixture of roasted, ground sesame seeds and sea salt. It is also very effective against osteoporosis, as it is high in calcium and many essential oils.

Find out more at the BLE and try Australian burgers!

Australian burgers with sesame
500 g ground meat
I cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons milk
2 eggs
1 onion
1 red pepper
1 tablespoon chopped capers
2 tablespoons fresh parsley(1 tablespoon dried)
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
pinch chili powder
breadcrumbs for breading, salt

Mix ground meat with breadcrumbs, milk, one egg, finely chopped onion, paprika, parsley, capers and chili powder. Salt to taste, mix thoroughly and set aside for one hour in refrigerator. Beat other egg, dip in meat patties, then coat with breadcrumbs and sesame seeds. Grill on both sides until golden brown.

Spice of the week: Thyme

This week’s featured spice is one of the more traditional spices found in cooking today: thyme.
Thymus vulgaris

Thyme, which has been known and used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years, is one of the strongest antibiotic herbs known today. In France, it is even referred to as “poor man’s penicillin”. It acquired this name because thyme stimulates the production of white blood cells, which strengthens the body’s immune system.

Find out more about Thyme at the Biodiversity Library Exhibition.

Orange duck
1 duck
1 tablespoon thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 oranges
2 apples
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 dl white wine
1 dl orange juice
20 g flour

Salt duck, rub with thyme mixture of thyme and oil, fill cavity with sections of orange, apple, bay leaves and parsley. Bake. When the duck is almost tender, baste with wine. Continue frequent basting until skin is crisp and red. Finish by adding orange juice and cut-up skin to drippings. Portion duck, surround with orange slices baked in butter and sprinkle with thyme. Serve with rice, white bread or potatoes.

BLE as virtual bridge between projects, content and knowledge

We are glad to inform you that the BiodiversityLibrary Exhibition (BLE) is now connected to the Europeana portal via all images on informative cards. BLE is a virtual exhibition focused on disseminating  natural history content (literature, illustrations and images) to the broader public via curated collections centered around a variety of themes.. BLE is also creating interconnections between portals/archives which are providing content under public domain or variable CC licenses.
BLE is now connected to the Europeana portal.

BLE was officially launched in February as a virtual exhibition for Biodiversity Heritage Library Europe and BHL US/UK. Since then, BLE has disseminated natural history literature via two thematic topics, Spices and Expeditions, using impressive illustrations, interesting information and high quality images. These exhibitions also link to the BHL-Europe and BHL-US/UK portals.. The BLE platform was developed by a team from the National Museum Prague and developers from the IT4Care company under the BHL-Europe project. Since the BHL-Europe project’s closure in April, 2012, BLE has been released as an as open source application. The Prague team is also involved in the OpenUp! project, which is providing Natural History content for the Europeana portal.  A new BLE topic, "Poisonous Nature," is under development by the OpenUp! project and will use content from BHL (illustrations) and OpenUp! (images) which are displayed on the Europeana portal. ”Poisonous Nature” offers a great opportunity for OpenUp! And Europeana to use this platform and reach expanded audiences, including those of BHL-Europe and BHL US/UK.
Schema of content connection between BLE, BHL US/UK and Europeana.

Development work on BLE is still continuing and additional platform improvements are being implemented. At the global BHL meeting in Berlin, June 2012, project participants decided to share BLE with all possible global BHL nodes, including AustraliaChina, Egypt, BrazilUS and Europe (with possible participation in sub-Saharan Africa in the future), allowing these nodes to create new, interesting thematic topics, link them to variable portals including EuropeanaBHL-Europe,BHL US/UKEOL etc., and use it as a dissemination tool. Once the platform is populated with a wider variety of thematic exhibitions, the potential to reach broader audiences will rapidly grow, particularly if disseminated via global partners. BLE will serve as a central repository, allowing content providers to reach new audiences, while simultaneously being promoted by a variety of BHL nodes.
Schema of BLE portal connections. Green arrows are running connections and blue arrows are prepared connections. Yellow cloud cover Global BHL nodes where will be included also BHL Egypt and BHL Africa.

The addition of new topics and information will also expand the potential for use in the education sector, introducing the content and knowledge in attractive ways for future generations.
Schema of prepared design adaptations of BLE front page.

In order to share BLE via other partners, such as Global BHL nodes, project organizers will coordinate an international workshop as part of the TDWG conference in Beijingin October 2012. The event is open to everyone. If you would like to know more about this workshop, please contact us via the BLE contact form.

Spice of the week: Dill

Dill is our Spice of the Week, and while it’s often celebrated for its favourable effects on our health system, this post will focus on its fascinating history and relevance to old cultures.

In ancient Rome, for instance, dill represented life energy, and gladiators rubbed their muscles with it before combat. Its usage in Greek society was slightly less spectacular – the Greeks used it to remedy a hiccup. The middle ages saw dill being used as a protection against witchcraft and magic – even though “witches” were said to use it in many magic potions themselves. It also served as an aphrodisiac that boosted men’s passion and endurance.

Find out the rest of its history, along with its favourable health effects, on the Biodiversity Library Exhibition!

For inspiration how to use dill in your kitchen you can try:

Chicken with dill gravy

2 small chickens (750 g – 800g)
15 fresh boletus mushrooms
2 onions
100 g butter
150 ml sour cream
4 tablespoons chopped dill
2 tablespoons flour
ground pepper, salt

Halve chickens, salt and pepper to taste. Melt butter in pan, add sliced onions and sliced mushrooms, place chicken halves on top and cook. Transfer chicken with onions and mushrooms to a baking dish. Fry flour in remains of fat in pan to make a roué, add sour cream, bring to a boil, add dill and pour this gravy over the chicken halves. Cover dish and simmer on medium heat until chicken is tender.

Stay tuned with BHL-Europe!

Spice of the Week: Clove

By now, you must’ve guessed that most of our “Spices of the Week” can be used in many different ways. This week, we take a look at another versatile spice in the BLE collection: clove.

During the summer, for instance, you can easily press cloves into a lemon, thereby creating an effective mosquito repellant (which is infinitely more healthy than using chemicals, for sure). And in dentistry, clove oil is used as a painkiller and as an ingredient in dental prosthetics. They consist of the unopened flower buds of the tropical tree Eugenia caryophyllata, and they can be used in dried, whole or powder form!

Its background is equally interesting, going back to the Dutch occupation of the Maluku islands. But for that story, you will have to check out the  BLE !

Beef with cloves
750 g beef round
100 g bacon
2 tablespoons oil
2 onions
2 garlic cloves
8 cloves
pinch oregano
about 8 tomatoes (or tomato paste)
2 dl red wine
pepper, salt

Tenderize meat and push pieces of bacon into the beef. Salt and pepper to taste and braise in oil on all sides. Add chopped onion, garlic slices, cloves and oregano, and bake. Baste with wine, add sliced tomatoes (or tomato paste) and simmer on medium heat until tender, adding water as necessary. Tender meat is sliced into portions and smothered in blended cooking juice. Served with rice, pasta or dumplings.

Stay tuned with BHL-Europe!

Spice of the Week: Saffron

This week, we focus on the most expensive spice in the world (even today): saffron, a spice coming from the Crocus sativus.

Saffron was of special importance to Roman nobility, as saffron water was sprayed in arenas, theaters and spas. Saffron also played an important role during Roman nobility’s banquets. The Romans referred to saffron as “crocus”, presumably derived from the Greek term “crocos”. The current name “saffron” probably comes from the Arabic “za fran”, which means “be yellow”.
Creole meat
2 tablespoons butter
2 onions
500 g beef or mutton
pinch ground allspice
pinch ground cloves
pinch chili powder
pinch saffron
2 green peppers
1 tablespoons raisins, salt

Sauté onion in butter, add cut up meat and cook about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add salt, spices and sliced peppers. Simmer covered until meat is tender. Towards the end, add raisins and saffron. Serve with rice or pasta.

Find out more at the BLE! Stay tuned with BHL-Europe!

Spice of the week: Aniseed

Anise flavour is surely one of the most divisive flavours in the world. But love it or loathe it, anise is on our blog today as our “Spice of the week”.

As a spice, anise is the dried seeds of the Pimpinella anisum, a plant better known as aniseed. Its notable for its taste, but it can also be used to remove the characteristic smells from fish, meat and oil! And what’s more, in oil form it causes paralysis in some pirates, so it’s an effective lice and roach repellent.

Aniseed’s positive effects (ranging from breath freshening to medicinal properties) have made it one of the most celebrated plants in history. Discover its fascinating story (which includes Ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire and the Reign of Charlemagne) and illustrations in the Biodiversity Literature Exhibition! 

Aniseed’s positive effects (ranging from breath freshening to medicinal properties) have made it one of the most celebrated plants in history. Discover its fascinating story (which includes Ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire and the Reign of Charlemagne) and illustrations in the Biodiversity Literature Exhibition!

Anise macaroons

2 whipped egg whites
100 g fine sugar
1 teaspoon ground aniseed
Grated lemon peel

Preheat oven to 100°C. Whip egg whites until very stiff, mix in grated lemon peel and ground aniseed. Spoon mixture into a piping bag with star-shaped attachment and pipe small blobs onto a cookie sheet lined with baking paper. Bake for about 1 ½ hours on center rack. Allow to cool.

Spice of the Week: Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice that has been known for over 2,500 years.

Curcuma longa

Related to ginger and galangal, turmeric has a spicy taste with an aroma that is stronger than that of ginger. It’s the main ingredient in curry, and it’s also found under the monikers “golden ginger”, “golden root” or “Indian saffron”.

Do you feel like making chicken dopiaza? Then head over to the BLE. And for small inspiration we are offering you an Oat burgers recipe. We will show you how to prepare Rice cooked in coconut milk and turmeric next week. Stay tuned. You can find more about Turmeric at our virtual museum or in the literature under this link

And now the Oat Burgers recipe:

200 g milled oats
½ l water
100 g sausage
50 g grated cheese
1 egg
1 sliced onion
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cardamom
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
pinch pepper, nutmeg
1 tablespoon bread crumbs
1 tablespoon flour
5 tablespoons oil, salt

Soak oats for 20 minutes in ½ liter salted water, then cook for 5 minutes while stirring constantly. Allow to cool, then mix in onion, garlic, egg, sausage, cheese and spices. Form into small patties, coat with bread crumbs and flour, then fry. Serve with spinach, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts or carrots and potatoes.

BHL-Europe Final Meeting: 4 June 2012 – 6 June 2012

Officially, the BHL-Europe project already came to an end on 30 April. But for the BHL-Europe consortium members, the end came last week – after the final meetings and final review of the project in Berlin. It’s safe to say we went out with a bang… Here’s a recap of the final events, which included a symposium on the Convention on Biological Diversity, a BHL-Europe “Show and Tell”-moment and the final review!

BHL-Europe team in Berlin 2012

4 June 2012 – Communicating Biological Diversity
The first day saw the organization of a symposium on the topic of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which was adopted 20 years ago.  We had speakers covering a broad range of aspects concerning the CBD implementation. Collaboration and integration are equally important for scientists and policy makers. We need a science-policy dialogue facilitated by a network of knowledge, where also BHL-Europe need to be part of via IPBES, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services ( Global collaboration is necessary to facilitate knowledge, data and technology sharing, which also requires standardization. Another aspect is participation and training: we need scientific literate citizens all over the world to support the discovery of biodiversity and its sustainable use. We have seen tools and projects during the day that demonstrate a successful collaboration between experts and citizens.  Acknowledging the importance of citizen participation should not forget the work of taxonomists that need the right credit and support to deliver high quality biodiversity information.

Dinosaur hall of the Museum für Naturkunde

At night, a reception was held in the majestic dinosaur hall of the Museum für Naturkunde. BHL-Europe collaborators shook hands and mingled, while they ate, discussed the project or engaged in small talk.

 5 June 2012 – BHL-Europe Show & Tell
On Tuesday 5 June, the BHL-Europe Show and Tell was held, which mainly consisted of a roundup of the major milestones achieved over the course of the project. Henning Scholz of the Museum für Naturkunde kicked off a series of presentations, praising the consistency of the staff and the technical developments. He once again underlined BHL-Europe’s mission to make biodiversity knowledge available globally to anyone, which can now be achieved thanks to BHL’s high quality network of libraries, developers, taxonomists etc.

BLE and posters section in main meeting hall of Jerusalem Church 

Martin Kalfatovic of the Smithsonian Institute Libraries gave the next presentation, focusing on the Global BHL. He explained to us that BHL now has about 1.6 million users from a staggering 233 countries! Martin was followed by Lizzy Komen of Europeana, who among other things highlighted some of the content and several other Europeana projects, such as a collaboration with Wikipedia. Presentations on OpenUp!, the Biodiversity Library Exhibition and the GRIB (Global References Index to Biodiversity) were also held, as well as training sessions for future and current content providers and content users.

Chris Sleep and Jiří Frank during the portal demonstration

The end of the day was marked by a dinner cruise on the river Spree. BHL-Europe team members could just kick back and relax!

6 June 2012 – BHL-Europe Final Review
Wednesday 6 June saw the BHL-Europe Final Review by the European Commission. This closed session could only be attended by members of the BHL-Europe consortium, but we can give you a sneak peek of what happened.

Henning Scholz during discussion with reviewers 

The EC members were treated to several presentations presenting the project and its outcomes (not unlike the presentations on 5 June), after which they had the opportunity to ask questions. After a short deliberation, they came back to pass the final verdict … which was positive. The entire consortium was treated to a resounding “well done!” by the European Commission!  

Spice of the week: Hyssop

Hyssop, the spice coming from the Hyssopus officinalis, is an ancient spice that was referred to in the Bible. Reason enough to feature it on our blog.

Its mention in the Bible is no coincidence; the scientific name Hyssopus comes from the Hebrew word ezob, which was a name used for sacred and cleansing plants. It can be used to remedy infections of the throat and tonsils, and its leaves have five times more vitamin C than a lemon! Ideal to build up resistance in winter, if you ask us. 

Check it out! For more click here!