Thursday, June 17, 2010
It Is raining here this morning but I am no less happier because of it . The veggie garden,flowers and fruit trees we planted really need it .We have been working hard trying to get the weeding done and had to plant a few veggies for a second time as they did not germinate the first time
I will be taking a walk down back on the path today to do some foraging.The season of bountiful blessings, of flowers and berries, of buzzing bees and butterflies invites us to join in the dance of life, manifest in the cosmic rhythms of nature. Each foraging foray is a journey of discovery, and a sharing in all the great and small miracles of life that happen all around us, if we only open our eyes and ears, our hearts and souls to contemplate this miraculous power called life. I love pondering these mysteries while communing with plant spirits as I munch my way through fields and forest, that's when I feel closest to my creator.
For me, heaven is a Wild Strawberry patch (Fragaria vesca). Time and space just seems to melt into insignificance when I let myself be seduced by the allure of these sumptious little 'scrummy yums'. It is an art to catch them at just the right moment, when all white patches have turned a glowing red yet before they are gobbled up by other, equally keen competitors or, heaven forbid, they have started their rapid process of decay. Wild strawberries are a food for instant gratification, to be enjoyed in the here and now. Gathering them for later is not impossible, but barely worth it. By the time one has picked enough and taken them home they will have started to go mushy. Though they might still taste good (never as good as straight from the bushel), they no longer look appealing. Plus, given the temptation to put all those little 'bonnes bouches' straight down the gob instead of into the pail, it could take a very long time to gather enough for later. Strawberries are not just delicious, in former times they were highly regarded as aphrodisiacs an association which is not hard to understand. Artists throughout the centuries have used the Strawberries as a symbol of sexual allure. Strawberries are also healthy. The fruits contain the highest amount of Vitamin C of any berry. They are a good cleansing food, acting mildly diuretic and diaphoretic. The dried leaves are used as a popular breakfast tea, often mixed with Raspberry (Rubus idaeus) and Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus) leaves. However, some unfortunate people are sensitive to Strawberries and get allergic reactions, so individual tolerance levels should be carefully monitored unless you are absolutely sure that you are not allergic.
I also delight in the season's blessing of flowers many of which are edible and not only add a wonderful subtle taste to numerous sweet or savory dishes but also add a bold and cheerful splash of colour that is sure to get attention. Borage flowers (Borago officinalis), Nasturtiums, Calendula (Calendula officinalis) and Rose petals (Rosea canina) are favourites. One wonderful specialty of the season are filled Squash (Cucurbita pepo) flowers. Being big, bright, fairly tough and edible they lend themselves perfectly for this unusual dish. The filling is only limited by your imagination, but a stuffing type filling, neither too runny nor too heavy work especially well. Mix grains such as Bulgar wheat or rice with onions, garlic and mushrooms and sprinkle with a fairly soft, quickly melting cheese and some Parmesan cheese and grill until the cheese is melted. Or mix breadcrumbs and cornflakes with butter to make a crust and grill until golden brown. The list of edible flowers is long...very long.
One very important thing that you need to remember is that not every flower is edible.
In fact, sampling some flowers can make you very, very sick.
You also should NEVER use pesticides or other chemicals on any part of any plant that produces blossoms you plan to eat.
Never harvest flowers growing by the roadside.
Identify the flower exactly and eat only edible flowers, and edible parts of those flowers.
Always remember to use flowers sparingly in your recipes due to the digestive complications that can occur with a large consumption rate. Most herb flowers have a taste that's similar to the leaf, but spicier. The concept of using fresh edible flowers in cooking is not new.
Remove the stamens and styles from the flowers before eating. The pollen can detract from the flavor of the flower. In addition, the pollen may cause an allergic reaction in some individuals. Remove the sepals of all flowers except violas, Johnny-jump-ups, and pansies.
Only the petals of some flowers such as rose, calendula, tulip, chrysanthemum, yucca, and lavender are edible. When using just the petals, separate them from the rest of the flower just prior to use to keep wilting to a minimum. Others, including Johnny-jump-up, violet, runner bean, honeysuckle, and clover can be eaten in their entirety.
Roses, dianthus, English daisies, marigolds and chrysanthemums have a bitter white portion at the base of the petal where it was attached to the flower. Bread or cut off the bitter part off the petal before using.
Cleaning Edible Flowers:
Shake each flower to dislodge insects hidden in the petal folds.
After having removed the stamen, wash the flowers under a fine jet of water or in a strainer placed in a large bowl of water.
Drain and allow to dry on absorbent paper. The flowers will retain their odor and color providing they dry quickly and that they are not exposed to direct sunlight.
Preserving Edible Flowers:
To preserve flowers, put them on moist paper and place together in a hermetically-sealed container or in plastic wrapping. This way, certain species can be preserved in the refrigerator for some 10 days.
If the flowers are limp, they can be revitalized by floating them on icy water for a few moments; don't leave too long or else they will lose some of their flavor.
You can also store the whole flower in a glass of water in the refrigerator overnight.
Crystallized/Candy Edible Flowers:
Candied flowers and petals can be used in a variety of imaginative ways - to decorate cakes large and small - all kinds of sweet things, such as ice cream, sherbet, crèmes and fruit salads, cocktails.
1 egg white or powdered egg whites
Superfine granulated sugar (either purchased or made in a blender or food processor - just blend regular sugar until extra-fine)
Violets, pansies, Johnny-jump-ups, rose petals, lilac, borage, pea, pinks, scented geraniums, etc.
Wire rack covered with wax paper
Carefully clean and completely dry the flowers or petals.
Beat the egg white in the small bowl until slightly foamy, if necessary add a few drops of water to make the white easy to spread.
Paint each flower individually with beaten egg white using the small paintbrush. When thoroughly coated with egg white, sprinkle with superfine sugar.
Place the coated flowers or petals on wax paper on a wire rack. Let dry at room temperature (this could take 12 to 36 hours). To test for dryness, check the base of the bloom and the heart of the flower to make sure they have no moisture. Flowers are completely dry when stiff and brittle to the touch. NOTE: To hasten drying, you may place the candied flowers in an oven with a pilot light overnight, or in an oven set at 150 degrees to 200 degrees F with the door ajar for a few hours.
Store the flowers in layers, separated by tissue paper, in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use.
Garnishing Cheeses with Edible Flowers
The cheese can be prepared 24 hours in advance of serving. Use flat chunks of cheese, with edible rinds, in a variety of shapes. (Cheddar, Jack, Brie, or Camembert, in round, wedge, or square shapes)
Edible flowers or herbs
2 cups dry white wine
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
Lay the flowers and herbs flat on top of the cheese in the presentation that you want to display.
Then remove the flowers and herbs, lay them aside in the pattern you want to display them.
In the medium size saucepan over medium heat, combine the white wine and gelatin. Stir until gelatin is completely dissolved and the mixture is clear. Remove from heat and put the saucepan in a larger container filled with ice. Keep stirring as it thickens, NOTE: Stir slowly so you don't create bubbles. (If it gets too thick, you can reheat and repeat.)
Place the cheese in a dish to catch the drippings from your glaze.
Spoon the glaze over the cheese and spread evenly. After a few minutes it will become tacky to the touch, then you can "paste" on your flowers in the design pattern you planned.
Refrigerate about 15 minutes; then remove from refrigerator and spoon more glaze over the flowers.
NOTE: Make as many layers of glaze as necessary to cover your decorations - can be three layers for a thick design. If the glaze thickens up too much, just reheat and replace in ice.
Serve with crackers.
Making Flower Petal Tea:
2 cups fresh fragrant rose petals (about 15 large roses)*
3 cups distilled water
Honey or granulated sugar to taste
*All roses that you intend to consume must be free of pesticides. Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries, or garden centers. In many cases these flowers have been treated with pesticides not labeled for food crops. The tastiest roses are usually the most fragrant.
Clip and discard bitter white bases from the rose petals; rinse petals thoroughly and Pat dry
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, place the prepared rose petals. Cover with water and bring just to a simmer; let simmer for approximately 5 minutes, or until the petals become discolored (darkened).
Remove from heat and strain the hot rose petal liquid into teacups. Add honey or sugar to taste.
Makes 4 servings.
Making Blossom Ice Cubes:
Gently rinse your pesticide-free flower blossoms.
Boil water for 2 minutes for all the air trapped in the water to escape. Remove from heat and let the water cool until room temperature. NOTE: This will ensure that the ice cubes are crystal clear.
Place each blossom at the base of each individual compartment within an ice tray. Fill each compartment half full with the cooled boiled water and freeze.
After the water is frozen solid, fill each ice cube compartment the rest of the way to the top with the remaining boiled water. Freeze until ready to use.
Making Flower-Infused Syrup:
1 cup water (or rosewater)
3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 to 1 cup edible flower petals (whole or crushed)
In a saucepan over medium heat, add the water or rosewater, sugar, and edible flower petals; bring to a boil and let boil for approximately 10 minutes or until thickened into syrup. Remove from heat.
Strain through cheesecloth into a clean glass jar.
Keeps up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Can be added to sparkling water or champagne for a delicious beverage. Or, it may be poured over fruit, pound cake or pancakes.
Makes about 2 to 3 cups syrup.
How To Make Flower Butter:
1/2 to 1 cup chopped fresh or dried petals
1 pound sweet unsalted butter, room temperature
Finely chop flower petals and mix into softened butter. Allow the mixture to stand at room temperature overnight to allow the flavors to fuse.
Chill for a couple of weeks or freeze for several months.
You can look online for a list of edible flowers or just ask me and I will post the list if you are interested. I pray you all a beautiful day...Dancing