Spice of the Week: Juniper

Juniper is a spice with a strong folk tradition, and even today it still instills a sense of superstition in a number of people. Let’s take a look at its history to find out why …

Ancient folk tales claim that juniper bushes and berries were safe havens for people trying to flee harm. It is said that Jesus’ family took refuge under the branches of a juniper bush while fleeing from King Herod. Other folk tales say that souls of the dead can linger in a juniper, in the hope of returning to life, and that juniper sprigs can ward off the devil. Juniper was also once believed to guard against the plague. Harming a juniper tree was thought to cause bad luck, or in some cases, even death. More at the BLE!

Alternate recipe: Wild game steaks

4 wild game steaks (about 125 g)
2 tablespoons oil
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons white flour
500 ml beef broth
3 teaspoons ground juniper berries
pepper, salt   

Heat three tablespoons butter in a pan, add flour while stirring constantly to make a brown roux. Remove from heat and slowly mix in broth. Return to heat, add juniper and simmer for about 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Season to taste and keep warm. In a larger pan, heat the remaining butter and oil, lay in steaks and cook on medium heat for about 6 minutes. Season steaks, transfer to plates and top with gravy. An appropriate side dish is vegetables in butter.

First look: Browse

Today we take a closer look at the browse-function of the BHL-Europe portal. This function is especially useful for those who are not sure what they are searching for or who want to scan the content available in the portal. It allows users to scroll through results from the five most used search categories: Title, Author, Journal title, Year and Content provider.

Overview of the Browse-function
The functions Browse by Title, Author and Journal title are linked to a Roman alphabet keypad.  With these categories, browsing automatically finds results where the selected letters are the first letters in the authors’ names and the first indexed title or journal title word listed.

Browse by year

The “browse by year” option consists of two parts. The top part is represented by a time line where users can define the start and end of the time period. If the period is less or equal to one hundred years, the “use the interval” button on the right lets users search within this particular time period.  If the range is larger than one hundred years, the button is inactive to avoid getting a large set of results. The second part consists of decade buttons. Here the time line in the top part generates decade buttons for each decade. The timeline points are also by decade. The timeline only generates decade buttons where content is available. The browse by year option gives the user several options to define a decade or range of years.

Browse by year

Browse by content provider 

This option shows the abbreviations of the content provider institutions and allows the user to search the content provided by a specific content provider.

The result list appears after you do any browse option. The words in the titles or authors metadata fields are highlighted according to the browse parameter. This shows the user how the exact content is related to the browse and displayed in the result list. The user can further refine the results using the facet list. When they start using the facet list, the search system in the background automatically switches into the advanced search option and by editing the search the user can adapt the specific search options. If users do not use the facet list, clicking on the edit search will make the Browse option appear so that users can continue browsing.

Browse by author with the edit function

This is a review of the functions used to obtain results and order results lists.  In the next development news, we will look at the content itself in the bibliographic page and content viewer.

Spotlight: Roald Amundsen’s south pole expedition

Antarctica, the fifth continent, is known as the coldest place on earth. And yet, several brave explorers have ventured there and faced the cold. The Norwegian Roald Amundsen, for instance, famously went there at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Together with his crew, Amundset set sail in the ship Fram from Oslo, Norway in June 1910 and arrived on Antarctica half a year later, in January 1911. He gradually ventured further toward the pole, making use of guides, sleds and sled dogs. He and his crew (consisting of Hilmer Hanssen, Sverre H. Hassel, Olva Olavson Bjaaland and Oscar Wisting) were clever enough to imitate Eskimos by wearing light leather suits. They reached the South pole on 14 December 1911. To celebrate their achievement, they set up the Norwegian flag!

This is just a very brief summary of the expedition. More details, trivia and illustrations are – of course – found on the BLE!

Spice of the Week: Cardamon

Cardamom, the third most expensive spice in the world (after saffron and vanilla), is our Spice of the Week. And as it turns out, it’s actually quite healthy.

Its enzymes, for instance, help remedy the effects of a hangover. And what’s more, it  cleans the blood and reduces blood pressure. In Arabic countries, it is even said that Cardamon enhances men’s sexual appetite. But it has also found its way to less healthy ventures – it’s commonly added as an additive in tobacco, to add aroma and flavor!

But it’s still quite good in a fruit salad… Check it out at the BLE!

Alternate recipe: Meat dumplings in gravy

500 g ground beef
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch thyme
3 tablespoons oil
gravy: 1 onion, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, 4 cloves, 2 dl cream, pinch nutmeg

Mix ground beef, salt, pepper thyme and cardamom, form into small balls. Fry in an oiled saucepan until red. Into the oil, add sliced onion, remaining spices and cream. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Heat thoroughly and serve with rice.

Spice of the Week: Bay leaf

Bay leaves may often just lay modestly on our spice shelves, but in the form of laurel wreaths, they have adorned some of the greatest minds the world has seen. High time we featured Bay Leaf as our Spice of the Week.

The symbolic meaning of these leaves go way back to Greek antiquity, where the plant they come from was considered to be the plant of Apollo, god of the sun. Legend had it that Apollo fell in love with Daphne, a nymph who was changed into a laurel tree by Peneos, the river god. Apollo, in his love for the girl, came to view this tree as sacred. Got to love the ancient Greeks and their flair for drama!

Check out more trivia, and a recipe for Dalmatian goulash at the Biodiversity Library Exhibition!

Alternate recipe: "Žitomírská" Ukrainian pork roast

500 g pork
10 large potatoes
100 g lard
3 onions
2 carrots
handful dried mushrooms
3 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cloves garlic   
6 peppercorns
3 bay leaves

Cut meat into 3 - 4 pieces, bake in 50 g lard, add tomato paste, sauté and simmer. Slice potatoes and carrots, fry in remaining lard, add sliced onion, pepper and salt. Simmer briefly and add to meat. Cook dried mushrooms in 200 ml water, chop finely and together with cooking water, add to meat and vegetables. Add bay leaves, garlic to taste, cover for 3 – 4 minutes and serve.

Spotlight: The OpenUp!-newsletter

Imagine having the bulk of multimedia data of natural history museums and botanical gardens at the tip of your fingers, without having to get up from your desk. That is exactly what OpenUp! provides through the Europeana portal. To say that it is an exciting project, is quite the understatement.

And just like the BHL-Europe project, OpenUp! has its own newsletter. The second issue has just been published, and we’re very proud to be featured in it. But most of its content of course focuses on the progress that has been made in the past months.

The staggering amount of items already processed is most notable. Through the OpenUp! project, 223,953 multimedia objects have already been delivered to Europeana! Quite a feat, but it’s not over yet. A next harvesting cycle will ingest even more items, which will then be available to scientific, educational and other purposes through the Europeana portal. Of course, this requires an insane amount of work and coordination. An entire recap of the process is also found in the newsletter. Worth a read, if you ask us.

And as mentioned before, we’re in the newsletter too. The last two pages are dedicated to the Biodiversity Library Exhibition. Many thanks to our friends at OpenUp! for the mention!

If you want to subscribe or check out the newsletter online, you can visit the OpenUp! website. The newsletter page is found here.

Spice of the Week: Star aniseed

 Today, we launch the week of star aniseed on the Biodiversity Library Exhibition.

Ilicium anisatum

Star aniseed is actually more than just a spice – for over 3,000 years, it’s been considered a medicine in China. And true enough, it does come with some benefits. If you’re experiencing digestion problems after a meal, you can chew star anise for some relief. It will make your breath much fresher too.

Star anise actually is the dried fruit of the Illicium verum-tree, which is a close relative of the magnolia (itself often found in parks). And it tastes very good with meat.

Discover more at the BLE!

Recipe: oriental chicken wings

16 chicken wings
4 tablespoons unsweetened sherry
250 ml chicken broth or water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 badian, broken into bits

Arrange chicken wings in a casserole dish, drizzle with sherry and let stand for 30 minutes. Turn occasionally. Add broth or water, soy sauce and badian, salt to taste. Simmer covered around 45 minutes, until meat is tender. Serve as appetizer, or with rice as a main dish.



Spotlight: the exploration of Tibet (Antonio de Andrade)

Just over 388 years ago, on 30th March 1624, Portuguese Jesuit missionary Antonia de Andrada set sail from Agra. He eventually ended up in western Tibet and wrote a book based on his adventures, becoming the first European author to write a work about Tibet.

But of course there is much more to this story than just the book. Even today, Tibet still is often seen as a mysterious and unknown place, and many people attribute mystic properties to it. Part of its mystic appeal may lie in the fact that Jesuit missionaries never succeeded in converting Tibetans to Christianity. The first Jesuit expedition, which ran from 1624 to 1635, was followed by another unsuccesful attempt in 1940. This attempt to renew the mission even saw the missionaries ending up in prison!

Another interesting tidbit: Tibetans have 10 times more nitrous oxide in their blood than lowland inhabitants and up to two times greater blood flow. This allows for the blood to take up oxygen much faster, making up for its lack at high elevations.

Find out all about the expedition on the Biodiversity Library Exhibition. And while you're at it, gaze at the literature associated with it. Just two examples of illustrations are found below.

A Lanius schach

The wild yak