Aunt Linda here: The full moon is setting in the West early this morning, and I am lucky enough to be able to see the moon beaming from this desk. As if that weren’t enough beauty, the morning offers the sound of a male dove beginning his mating song. Soon more will join in. As moon beams make their horizontal way into the yard, the silvery spider webs in the foliage around my door shimmer silvery white.
It is Spider Silk like in the above photo that females hummingbirds use to build secure, strong, and flexible nests.
SPIDER SILK: Spiders use silk for a variety of reasons, web weaving, cocoon construction, and even in a kind of sperm delivery system. All spiders have silk glands, which are located in their abdomen, and which emerge from tiny tubes in their spinnerets, known as spigots. Spiders, while not the only animals to produce silk, (caterpillars and weaver ants do), do produce the strongest silk, often compared to the strength of steel. It also has a remarkable capacity to expand. One example of this is referred to as “capture spiral silk” , and is used in web construction, allowing for prey to impact or collide with the web with minimal breakage. Spider webbing is also relatively weatherproof, meaning that it has an ability to endure, sometime past the life span of it’s weaver. This web longevity may be tied to its purported antimicrobial/antiseptic properties.
I am going to share with you a few photos of the young hummers growing; the nest accommodates all that Spring and young birds challenge it with. I am reverberating with the “Ah Hah” of how much of their success in fledging was due to the superior spider-silk building material that their mother used to build a strong, flexible nest. They rode out significant winds, their little nest bobbing like a tiny boat in a stormy sea, because the nest was nest securely anchored to base of branches with spider web. The rapid growth of the two babies was easily accommodated as well as the spider web allowed it to expanded in size, without breaking apart, as the babies grew. Much of the success of these little birds’ hatching, growing, and fledging rested, literally, on spider silk.
I read this week that little Miss Muffet , (the girl scared away from her tuffet, by a spider, scattering curds and whey; too bad as they are so nutritious) had a father who revered spiders. The Australian Museum website has a nice little piece on this should you want to find out more. It was from this source that I learned Reverend Dr. Thomas Mouffet (1553-1606) had a deep love of spiders. He wrote of the common house spider that “she doth beautifie with her tapestry and hangings.”. More interestingly, it appears that he liked to treat ailments with the use of spiders. The museum quotes him as writing, ‘The running of eyes is stopped with the dung and urine of a House Spider dropt with Oyl of Roses, or laid in along with Wooll’.
And back to modern day: scientists are exploring what spider silk may have to offer in terms of ligament healing in the human body. Also interesting, the antimicrobial/antiseptic properties of spider silk that humans have long reported using to bandage and heal wounds, are being explored in scientific labs. This moves the conversation forward, from anecdotal observation to preliminarily results of effectiveness in the lab as well. I love a good opportunity to come to terms with Life on Life’s terms. The so often feared spider, who frightens so many Miss Muffets in the world, has so very much to offer. The spider contributes to new generations of pollinators, such as hummingbirds. Yes, it is true that some spider bites do real harm. I know this first hand; a black widow bite is painful and in some can be dangerous. Yet it’s silk may have significant healing properties and scientific utility, offering varied gifts to humans, as touched on above.
Which brings me to the concept of the Web of Life, which is an all encompassing view of life where all of nature, including us humans, is seen as connected to all things, as if we were all connected by an enormous, invisible, yet dynamic web. Inspired by this idea, I thought we would revisit a recipe from the past and give it a new twist.
Web of Life Tea Eggs – Chinese Tea Eggs are often described as “marbled”. In the spirit of todays theme, lets playfully re-interpret them as having a spider Web pattern. We featured this recipe in Feb 2014, but I like the recipe so much that I made a fresh batch and photographed all the steps, so that you will have real success! These Tea eggs are a Portable, Aromatic, Healthy, Flavorful and Beautiful savory snack. They can be eaten just as they are, or can be used as a jumping off point for great deviled eggs or even a flavorful egg salad.
This being Holy Week/Easter you could try these in lieu of dying eggs with food coloring. Eggs are a powerful symbol of regeneration and new life.
* 3 tablespoons of tea or three tea bags (black tea is most often used in Chinese tea * egg recipes, but any tea will do really – and it is fun to experiment. In the several years I have been making them I have used mostly loose leaf tea – this time I used some very old tea bags that I found in the back of a drawer). I did not give their flavor a second thought; but you could if you would like. Try it with green or oolong tea ….
* 3 tablespoons of Chinese Five Spice
The trick here is two baths.
1) In the first, you boil the eggs just like you do normally. Just the eggs and hot/boiling water. Boil until done.
2) In the second bath, you mix up a bath of the tea and spices. This is the bath that you will simmer the eggs above, for the marbled/webbed flavor and color.
So: When the eggs are hard boiled, you let them cool a bit for handling, and then crack them, creating the beautiful web pattern. You can smash one side of an egg against the kitchen counter, and them play around with cracking them with your fingers and hands, for finer details. These cracks allow the flavor and color into the egg white. Simmer the eggs for as long as you would like – I simmered mine on low heat for over an hour. Then I covered the pot and let them steep in the tea/spice bath for several hours. The peels are gorgeous as well.