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Edible Flowers

Many of the flowers that grace our yards are edible.  They can be used as accents in a salad or as garnish on a main dish.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Edible flowers

Chive

I like to use chive flowers in salads to lend a slightly onion flavor.  Here’s a recipe for omelets with chive flowers.

Edible flowers

Lavender

Lavender cookies are fragrant and delicious.

Edible flowers

Rose

Candied rose petals are a sweet my daughter likes to make.

Edible flowers

Calendula 

Have you ever made homemade calendula cream?  It’s easy to make and fun for kids to create.

Edible flowers

Elderberry flowers

These can be dipped in batter and fried to make fritters.

Edible flowers

Sage

Sage flowers can be sprinkled over a dish to give a mild sage flavor.

Edible flowers

Johnny Jump Ups

I like to put these on cakes to decorate them.

Oregano!

Oregano bunched and ready to hang to dry.

Oregano bunched and ready to hang to dry.

My family loves Italian style food so we go through a ton of the herb oregano each year. Luckily it’s very easy to grow; you can start it from seed or buy a plant at most local nurseries.  It does best in full sun and doesn’t like to be water logged but do be aware that it self seeds quite easily.

Right now is a good time to harvest oregano!  This flavorful Mediterranean herb is best harvested on a warm, dry morning right before it blooms. To harvest and dry cut it three inches above the ground then bunch it and hang it in a cool place with good air circulation.  Be careful not to make the bunches too big or the stems in the middle might rot.  Once dry I store it in the basement in mason jars and bring up just enough to last a week or so as the heat and light in the kitchen can make it lose flavor quickly.

In addition to adding oregano to the usual pizza and spaghetti sauces here are some other interesting ways to use this prolific herb.

Oregano Infused Simple Syrup 

Ingredients:

1 C. water
1 C. sugar
2 C. fresh oregano

Directions:

  1. Bring water to a boil. Add the sugar and stir until sugar has dissolved.
  2. Add the oregano to the syrup. Boil for 60 seconds and let it steep for 30 mins as the syrup cools.
  3. Pour the cooled syrup through a strainer into a glass bottle jar.
  4. Store syrup in the refrigerator.  Small amounts can be added to sparkling water or it can be used in cocktails.  I think it pairs well with vodka.
The flowers taste good and can be dried for great bouquets.

The flowers taste good and can be dried for great bouquets.

Oregano Lemon Chicken

Ingredients:

  • Four chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup fresh oregano, chopped
  • Juice and zest from two lemons
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup green olives with brine
  • Three cloves of garlic
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat oil in a frying pan, add chopped garlic and chicken.  Cook until the outside of the chicken begins to brown.  Add the lemon juice, zest and olives and turn down the heat.  Cook slowly until the chicken is almost done.  Add the chopped oregano and finish cooking. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve garnished with a fresh sprig of oregano.

Oregano Herb Butter

Finely chop 1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh oregano mix with one cube softened butter. Roll into a log on wax paper then wrap in the paper, put in a plastic freezer bag and freeze until needed.  Can also be immediately but should be refrigerated if you need to store it.  This butter can be used to baste meat, season veggies or on bread.

Oregano Olive Oil Cubes

Chop fresh oregano and mix it with olive oil.  Pour it into ice cube trays and freeze it.  Once frozen put in freezer bags.  This can be used in salad dressings, to baste meats or veggies or anytime fresh tasting oregano is needed.

Baked Feta with Oregano

Take a block of feta and cover it with 4 cloves crushed garlic and 4 T fresh oregano leaves. Drizzle with 1/4 c olive oil and top with a large tomato.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until bubbly. Serve with bread or crackers.

Herb Crust for Grilled Meats

Chop fresh oregano and mix it with olive oil and other fresh herbs to taste. Cover meat to be grilled with this mixture then cook over a hot fire.  This will both add a nice flavor to the meat and keep it moist.

Do you have other favorite ways to use oregano?  I’d love to hear them!

 

Lavender Wands

Lavender

Lavender

I love lavender!  I use it in cooking, sachets and many other ways.  The flowers on my bushes are just beginning to bud out now; over the coming weeks I will share some of my favorite ways to use this versatile herb.

Here is how to make lavender wands.  These make great gifts and can be hung in closets to scent clothes and perhaps repel a few moths.

First gather a bunch of lavender with long stems and tie the bunch together right below the flowers.

Bunched lavender

Bunched lavender

Bend the long ends over the flowers to cover them and make a little cage for them.

Almost done!

Almost done!

Now tie the ends with ribbon and trim any loose ends.

Ready to hang in a closet or place in a drawer.

Ready to hang in a closet or place in a drawer.

For more of a wand shape cut the stems longer.

Et voila!

Longer stems

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carmelite Water

Here’s a soothing tonic for stressful times. Carmelite Water or Eau de Mélisse, has been used since the Middle Ages to settle nerves.

Here’s how to make a simplified version using readily available ingredients:

  • Two cups white wine
  • One cup lemon balm leaves
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Harvest fresh lemon balm
Place ingredients in a mason jar and put in fridge to steep for 24 hours.
Decant and enjoy!

Lemon Balm tea

Lemon Balm tea

Do you have lemon balm, (Melissa officinalis) coming out your ears this time of year?  Mine is ready to take over the entire perennial bed.  In addition to tasting great it’s also supposed to decrease stress and increase mental function so it’s time to get cooking!

Here are some of my favorite ways to use this abundant herb.

Iced Lemon Balm Tea

Ingredients for one glass:

  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup balm (fresh lemon, leaves)
  • 1/4 cup sugar or to taste
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • ice
  • 1 lemon balm sprig for decoration

Directions:

Put leaves in boiling water, add sugar and let steep until desired concentration is reached.  Squeeze in juice from one lemon, adjust sugar, add ice and sprig – enjoy!

Hot Lemon Balm Tea 

Ingredients for one teapot full of tea:

  • 1/2 cup lemon balm
  • 1 tsp lemon zest (grated)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 cups boiling water

Directions:

Put leaves and zest in pot, add boiling water.  Let steep about 5 minutes, add honey to taste.

German Erdbeer – This is a summer wine often imbibed at picnics

  • 1 pounds of fresh strawberries
  • 2 cups lemon balm leaves
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 bottle white wine

Directions:

  1. Halve the berries, then place them in the bottom of large punch bowl or glass pitcher.
  2. Sprinkle the powdered sugar over them.
  3. Add the lemon balm leaves to the berries.
  4. Pour wine over the berry mixture, cover, and cool in the fridge.
  5. Garnish with a sprig of lemon balm

Lemon Balm happily growing

Lemon Balm happily growing

Lemon Balm Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh lemon balm leaves loosely packed

Directions:

  1. Stir together all 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Remove from heat, and let stand 30 minutes.
  3. Pour liquid through a wire-mesh strainer into an airtight container, removing lemon balm leaves.
  4. Cover and chill 4 hours.

Syrup may be stored in refrigerator up to 1 month or kept frozen for up to one year.

Fancy Fruit Cup

This one is so simple I hate to even call it a recipe.  Cut up your favorite fruit into equal size pieces.  Add chopped lemon balm and drizzle with honey.

Ginger Bug!

This zesty fermented drink is the base of a great ginger ale or beer.  You can also use it for rhubarb or other flavored sodas.

Fresh, organic ginger goes in with the peel still on.

Fresh, organic ginger goes in with the peel still on.

Making it is a easy as chopping up some ginger, putting it in a jar, adding dechlorinated water and some sugar.  The recipe calls for two teaspoons of ginger, two cups water and two teaspoons of sugar but I just tossed in equal amounts of ginger and sugar and splashed some water in.

Cover the jar with a piece of cloth to let in air but keep out insects.

Cover the jar with a piece of cloth to let in air but keep out insects.

Each day give it a good stir and add two more teaspoons of sugar and ginger.  After about a week it will start to bubble and you’re all set.  You can have it as is or I have been cutting it with some soda water.  You can also make a naturally bubbly soda with this starter but I haven’t gotten that far yet.

It's a bit startling to look at but it tastes quite nice.  The fermentation uses up most of the sugar so it's tangy and just a touch sweet.

It’s a bit startling to look at but it tastes quite nice. The fermentation uses up most of the sugar so it’s tangy and just a touch sweet.

Rhubarb Crisp

The rhubarb is exploding out of the ground – it’s time to make a crisp!  There are many ways to eat this tangy plant but my favorite way is in a crunchy, nutty, sweet and sour dessert.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh rhubarb stems
  • 1/4 cup tapioca or flour for thickening the juices
  • 2 cups sugar
  • One cup flour
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • One cup nuts

Here’s how to make this tasty dish:

Harvest rhubarb stems by pulling them firmly up and out of the base of the plant.  Trim the leaves and the ends off so you are left with the ruby stems.

    • Wash and cut into pieces about 1/2 inch wide.
    • Put the cut pieces into a baking dish, set the oven to 375 degrees
    • Sprinkle tapioca or flour and, depending on the amount of rhubarb and the degree of your sweet tooth, about one cup sugar over the cut rhubarb
  • Streusel topping directions:

    • Mix melted butter, oats, remaining sugar, nuts and flour together so it is a crumbly mixture.
    • Sprinkle this over the cut rhubarb
    • Dust with cinnamon

    Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until the dish is bubbling, the top is brown and the rhubarb is soft.

    Ready to bake!

    Let cool a bit then serve as is or with ice cream or milk.

     

    Time to Dry Herbs

    Drying your own herbs is a great way to spice up your dishes, make nice presents and save money.   The fragrant oils are at their peak around mid-morning so this is a great time to harvest.  If you need to wash them then give a light spray with the hose first thing in the morning and pick them when they are dry.

    Chives

    I like to pick them with long stems so they are easy to tie together.  Once they are picked then tie them with twine or wire in a small bunch.

    Bunched and ready to hang to dry.

    Bunched and ready to hang to dry.

    They will keep their flavor best if dried in a cool, light free area.  I tie a rope across the rafters in the basement and hang my bunches from there.

    Sage

    Sage

    Check them frequently and take them down when the leaves are dry enough to crumble in your hand.

    Ready to store.

    Ready to store.

    Too dry and they will lose flavor, too wet and they might mold.

    Calendula flowers

    Calendula flowers

    Tomorrow I will talk about different blends you can make with your lovely home dried herbs.

     

    Pickled Snow Peas

    pickled snow peas

    So many peas!

    Each summer I start off eating the new pea pods thinking there will never be enough, soon it’s time for succulent stir fries with mushrooms and chicken then before I know it there are snow peas everywhere and I don’t know what to do with them.  Last year I tried pickling them and they are absolutely delicious!  They are great as is on a relish tray or add a nice zest to salads.

    If you have never canned and are gearing up to start this year or if it’s been a while it’s a good idea to get up to speed on safety issues.  This site from the University of Georgia is very comprehensive.

    If you have just a few pods, a lot of pickle eaters and space in your fridge then making refrigerator pickles is a good way to go.  These have a brighter color and flavor but must be kept in the fridge as the water bath canning is not done.

    If you have limited space or a ton of produce then most dilly bean recipes work well for pickled peas.  Be sure to follow the recipe exactly as peas are a low acid food and must have vinegar added if they are being water bath canned.

    pickled snow peas

    Pick and wash peas then strip off strings.

    • 1 pounds pea pods with strings removed
    • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • 2 teaspoons pickling spice, (toasting this before use makes it more potent and aromatic)
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • 1 and 1/2 cups white vinegar (5%) use commercial vinegar as homemade vinegars can vary widely and it must be at 5% to prevent bacterial growth
    • 1 1/4 cups water
    • 1/8 cup pickling salt

    pickled snow peas

    Pack into jars leaving a half inch of head space at the top.

    Instructions

    1. Sterilize your jars while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.
    2. Wash and peel the strings off your pea pods
    3. Combine vinegar, water and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Pack your pea pods into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace (distance between the tops of the beans and the rim of the jar). To each jar, add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 clove of garlic and 1 teaspoon pickling spice.

    Garlic, salt and hot pepper are what I like to use.  Sometimes I add sugar and other spices too.

    Garlic, salt and hot pepper are what I like to use. Sometimes I add sugar and other spices too.

    1. Pour the boiling brine over the beans, wipe the rims and apply the lids and rings.
    2. Process for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath (start timing when the pot has come to a roiling boil).

    pickled snow peas

    Here are the peas with the brine solution. They need to be well packed or will float up. All the peas must be covered by the solution.

    These can be put in the fridge and eaten in a week or water bath canned for later.

    These can be put in the fridge and eaten in a week or water bath canned for later.

     

    Crisp asparagus

    I have always love pickled asparagus but never thought to try making my own so I decided to give it a try!

    • The first step is to sterilize your jars by boiling them for ten minutes.
    • Next pack them with a clove of garlic and washed, trimmed spears. As with most canned products the fresher the better; these crisp spears were barely a day out of the field.  Pack the spears as tightly in the jar as possible as they will shrink during processing
    • Make sure to leave at least a half-inch of head room in the top of the jar.

    Once they are well packed make up a pickling solution with:

    • 4 1/2 cups of 5% acidity vinegar
    • 4 1/2 cups of water
    • 1/2 cup of pickling salt
    • Hot pepper flakes
    • Dill seed or other dried herbs to flavor your pickles

    Bring ingredients to a boil then pour this solution into the jars, making sure to cover the spears and leaving a half inch of space at the top.  Seal the jars and process for five minutes in a hot water bath.

    Let sit for at least five days for flavors to blend then enjoy!