Category Archives: Nature

Why lobsters and Crabs turn red on cooking……..

Popular Food

Lobsters and Crabs are the two Sea foods are mouthwatering and popular all over the world. So much so that fairs are held to celebrate the lobster.  One such festival is held in Rockland, Maine which is attended by thousands.

lobster

Cooking Chemistry

When cooked these creatures turn coppery red. Although it is not necessary to become a chemist to become chefs but cooking is a science where chemistry takes place at each step. Some chemicals break down to get converted into edible and easily digestible form. Similarly in many foods there are color changes when cooked which is also due to chemical modification of ingredients. Here also, chemistry is occurring.

Normal lobster is of muddy color when alive. But the final color is dependent on the amounts of a pigment called astaxanthin which is also the pigment responsible for the red color of carrots, pink of flamingos, salmon and crabs. This pigment is red in color when free. It’s chemical structure is given below.

Due to the ketone and alcohol groups this compound is very active chemically easily binds other chemicals like proteins. Pigment is a powerful antioxidant. Lobsters ingest it to keep stress of survival under control has been found be beneficial human beings.

What happens in the lobster is that this pigment binds to the proteins in its skin. Due to this binding, it is forced to change its geometric structure and gets twisted to fit in. Depending on the type of protein it bonds to, there’s either what’s called a bathochromic shift, which turns the pigment blue, or a hypsochromic shift, to yellow. When you’re looking at a lobster, you’re seeing light reflecting through different layers of free and bonded astaxanthin–a lot of colors mixed together, hence the muddy brown.

So the final color is a combination of many colors like red, blue and amount and type  of proteins present in the body of lobster and the age . The muddy color is good for camouflaging from the predator because it becomes indistinguishable from the muddy water.

When the lobster is cooked the proteins are denatured and release the astaxanthin pigment turning the cooked meat into coppery red.

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Indian Bullfrogs

Indian bullfrog is a large species of frogs. It is inhabitant of mainland Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nepal. It scientific name is Hoplobatrachus tigerinus. It is also known by the names Indus Valley bullfrog or Indian bullfrog, popular name Asian bullfrogAsean bullfrog or Asia bullfrog,

Here in our area of North India, when the pre-monsoon rains come, the water after quenching the thirst of the parched soil, makes poodles in the troughs. God only knows from where these big frog come. Their croaking fills the air. When they croak their two bulbs swell and contract. They usually fight among themselves for female partners.

Yesterday got to see some spectacular view of them in a small pool near my village. Took many photos. Presenting them for you.

Indian bullfrog by Ranjit
Mating : Pic by Ranjit

Baya Weaver: Making the Nest

This bird is extraordinary. I was awed by their intelligence. Every year they came here to make nests. Last year the acacia trees in vacant plots in our area were uprooted due to heavy rains and construction activity. I thought this year they will not come here because there seems to be no trees for hanging the nests.

What is the Criteria for selection of a site?

  1. Suitable tree which is not easily approachable by predators and humans.
  2. Food and Water Availability
  3. Nesting Material.

Yet some 10-15 days ago, I noticed these birds in bullrushes collecting the nesting material. I was very much surprised where they are making the nests. And see they selected the Palm trees in a society for three reasons: One they cut the nesting material from palm fronds and second that nearby on the sides of the road, people come with grain seeds for ants and sparrows. So food will be nearby.

baya weaver male : ranjit singh

Black Breasted Weaver: Master Craftsman

All birds make nests to raise their chicks. The nests range from simple twigs heaped together to most elaborate. Weaver birds excel as craftsman in making intricate nests.

The area they choose for nesting is carefully chosen. There should be thorny tree like acacia or lofty trees like palms. Idea is to deter predators like snakes, shikra etc from destroying the nest for eggs. Then there should be plenty of food available near by. So they choose the areas near agricultural land. Then there should be nesting material available like bulrush grass in bogs.

While baya weavers make the nests on trees their cousins Black Breasted Weavers also known as Bengal Weaver or Black Throated Weaver (Ploceus benghalensis) make their nests inside thick bulrush grasses. Their nests are not easily seen on cursory look. It is so intricately hidden.

Only male birds do the nest making. They make hundreds of trips to bring the grass blades which they cleave from the grass stalks. Females are invited to inspect the partially completed nest, if a female okays the nest she would move with male for starting the family.

In our area there are plenty of weavers birds. We located one such nest in the making. From a distance without disturbing the bird made a video which I am sharing with my friends on wordpress.

Weaver Making Nest: Owner Ranjit Singh

Yellow Sand Wasps

Mention of a wasp is enough to make you fear. They deliver painful stings. One of the species of wasps is Sand Wasps or Bembix. They nest in the ground preferably in the sand. These live in urban areas, forests and woodlands.

Adult sand wasps feed on nectar but most hunt for flies to feed to their larvae in the nest. They are excellent hunters, capturing flies on the wing, paralysing them with venom in mid-air and carrying them back to the waiting larvae. Sand wasps can deliver painful stings only when they are disturbed.

I spotted these wasps many times in a forest area near me. One of them was furiously digging a nest in the sand. It was doing it very deftly. As the sand piled up at the mouth of the hole, it comes out to clear it so that further digging is continued.

Wasp digging the hole

Indian Golden Oriole

Many migrant birds which migrate towards moderate climates of West and South India to escape the severe winter and shortage of food in North India. As the winter season comes to an end, they return back. One such birds is Indian Golden Oriole (Oriolus kundoo). It is a species of orioles. Earlier it was considered a subspecies of Eurasian Golden Orioles but now has been recognised as a separate species.

In the North India harsh summers start. There are many trees that bear fruit not eaten by human beings don’t eat but many birds like them. Orioles like these berries very much. These are very shy birds and are difficult to photograph. While not feeding, they roost in dense foliage of lofty trees. Besides berries their diet also includes insects.

Males of very beautiful in comparison to the females. In addition to their golden feather, there is a black a large carpal patch on the wing. While hiding in foliage, they can be made out by a sweet song.

There is a forest near my home in Panchkula Haryana India. In this forest there are trees called Jhingan (Odina Wodier). These trees bear the berries ( as seen in the tree in pictures) from March which ripen towards May end. Orioles can be seen gorging on these berries.

I am a n enthusiastic nature photographer and has taken these pictures myself.

Ranjit Singh
Ranjit Singh
Ranjit Singh

Really it is treat to watch this very beautiful bird.

Giloye or Tinospora cordifolia: A wonderful Herbal Vine!!

Giloye as its called in India is a vine. Its scientific name is “Tinospora cordifolia”. Common names are Heart-leaved moon seed, guduchi. It is an herbaceous vine of the family Menispermaceae indigenous to the tropical areas of Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.

Giloy vine : source wiki

If you happen to see a Giloye vine climbed on a tree and claiming the branches, you will think that ropes are entwined over the branches. No leaves. But these are beautiful ripe fruits on it. Most of the time it shows no leaves. Usually it entwines the trees and creeps up. It grows up abundantly in dry regions of North India. The berries are ripe in May June.

These is a forest near our home which has it growing abundantly. Parrots like its ripe berries. I think they know its benefits better than us.

Parakeets enjoying the berries

It is sometimes called Amrita which means “Forever Alive” because it can live for ever. Even if you think that the vine has dried up, it shows up leaves in a surprising manner.

This herb is of great medicinal value in Ayurvedic Medicine. It has been found very useful in the treatment of fevers, digestion and increases the platlets in the blood. It increases immunity and eases the respiration. More details of Its health benefits are highlighted in the auyurvedic website.

Note: First image is taken from Wikipedia. Rest of the images are my own

A Symbol of Hope

During intense winters, plants and trees go into a dormancy a period of stagnation. They withdraw the chlorophyll -a pigment responsible for green colour and a must for photosynthesis– from the leaves because they know that Sun is not going to come up strongly for photosynthesis to happen and food making process to start. The leaves change color to yellow, orange and mixture of these colors. Because besides chlorophyll which overpowers the colors of other pigments there are Xanthophylls which are yellow pigments, and carotenoids (the pigment which imparts the beautiful color to carrots, papaya, and mangoes and so on) which give leaves an orange color.

Slowly the leaves die and begin falling down. The tree branches become nude. But tree is not dead. It is waiting patiently for the tough time of winter to be over. As soon as the winter starts receding, the new leaves begin coming forth. The new beginning of life. At first, due to the absence of chlorophyll, the color of other pigments shine. Leaves are beautiful translucent. As the sun starts coming regularly with renewed force, chlorophyll starts building up masking the color of other pigments. Soon the leaves become intense green shade.

Thus the the new leaves are a symbol of Spring and new hope of brighter future. Let us hope and pray to God this also happens to the world….

Spiritual importance of Coconut

Coconut is a miraculous fruit. The water loaded with minerals and micronutrients is so refreshing. It is a life saver as it hydrates the dehydrated body. It gives nourishment without side effects.

This magical water is enclosed inside the shell, which is so tough to open, if one doesn’t have the proper tools can frustrate you. Here you have the food but still it is so far away. It teaches that one has to toil in order to achieve the success.

As the fruit matures a layer of fat begins depositing on the inner wall of the shell. Quantity of the water reduces but its sweetness increases.

Coconut grows in abundance in the coastal areas of India. It loves salty water. In fact coconut holds a place of prime importance. It’s oil is used in cooking, rubbed in the hair for shine, its outer fibre is called coir which is used in mattress making. Dry empty shells are burnt for fire in hearth.

In addition to being a food, coconut is present in so many religious ceremonies in India.

The three ‘eyes’ of the coconut represent the three eyes of the great Lord Shiva. An earthen pot or pitcher, called a Purnakumbha is filled with water and mango leaves and a coconut is placed on top. This Purnakumbha is used in the ritual of worship and adoration of the gods, called puja. It is placed as a substitute for the deity or by the side of the deity. The Purnakumbha literally means a ‘full pot’ in Sanskrit. It represents Mother Earth, the water the giver of life, the leaves life itself, and the coconut divine consciousness.

Wholesome Rice!!

Rice is the staple diet of majority of world’s population. Asian people mostly eat rice with vegetables and lentils. Annapurna is the Hindu god of rice. Her name comes from the Sanskrit word for rice, “anna”. She is often depicted with a rice spoon in her hand.

What is the rice? It’s white part is the carbohydrates: precursor of sugar of the energy. The colour of rice comes from its outer shell or ‘bran’ which holds much of its nutritional value. It’s the bran or the coating which contains minerals and other micronutrients.

When rice is processed (milled) much of the nutritional value is lost when the bran is removed. The result is pure white rice which is high in energy(starch) and low in micronutrients. Polished rice are not good for the diabetic people.

Because milled rice has lots of energy but few vitamins and minerals, it must be eaten with other foods to get a proper people balanced diet.