Favorite Herb-Sage

Sage has grown on me. Evoking memories of Thanksgiving meals in grandmother’s kitchen, it is a flavor that I enjoyed but didn’t use much beyond stuffing and sausage.

Carving up a sage stuffed turkey on Thanksgiving

I nearly always used it in a dried poultry seasoning mix and that was the extent of my experience of this flavorful herb. A valuable herb for containers and a deer resistant plant are many of its attributes, but I love this fresh herb for cooking in fall and winter.

Sage biscuits with beef barley soup

Cooking

Sage uses in cooking are many beyond the traditional. Fry up the leaves in butter, add some sea salt, and use them scattered on soups, salads, veggies, and other dishes to add crunch and flavor. Use sage in a brown butter saute, add some pine nuts,  and toss over butternut squash pasta. Yum!!

Saute ham chunks with sage leaves for a soup topping
Fry your sage leaves whole in butter, add fresh ground sea salt, and chop them up for flavoring recipes

Chopped up fresh, sage added to your stuffing for your holiday meal is so much more pungent than the poultry dressing that sits in your herb cabinet and can be several years old. Its flavor is so intense, a little can go a long way.

Sage, Salvia officinalis, is one of the few herbs that, even as its leaves grow larger, the flavor intensifies and the leaves are still delicious after the plant flowers.

A Snap to Grow

Easy to grow either outdoors or inside during the winter, sage is drought tolerant and grows well within a wide range of temperatures and planting zones. Evergreen here in the mid-Atlantic, I still like to have a plant inside as it shrivels outdoors in the cold. The plants also seem to fizzle out within a few years and get woody, and it gives me the opportunity to plant new ones. There are several variations, like a variegated one and purple leaved type that add foliage color to containers.

Growing sage in containers

Preferring a well drained sandy soil, sage is especially suited for container growing as it stays small with regular harvesting. Notice, I say sandy? When you pot up your sage plant indoors, give it grit or sand and it will be happier. I use aquarium gravel from the pet store.

Sage in a container

The one caveat is not to over water this herb as it will rot. And indoors, you need to provide plenty of sun. If you don’t have enough sun in a west or southern facing exposure, at least 6-8 hours of sunlight, provide supplemental lighting with a grow light.

One of the most attractive culinary herbs in foliage and flower, the soft blue blooms fit in perfectly in a perennial garden. Usually gardeners plant it separately in an herb garden, but I use it throughout my perennial beds.

Blue sage spikes, seen at Stratford On Avon

Sage Biscuits

Moist flavorful biscuits great for small sandwiches or for soup

Servings 9

Ingredients

  • 2 C Flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 Tbsp cold butter, cut up into pieces
  • 3/4 C buttermilk
  • 1/4 C Fresh sages leaves, cut up

Instructions

  1. Measure dry ingredients in large bowl

  2. Wash and dry your sage leaves. Chop up sage leaves into pieces

  3. Add cut up butter into dry ingredients and mix with pastry blender until pieces are no larger than a pea

  4. Add buttermilk and cut up sage leaves and mix with fork into a ball

  5. Turn out onto cutting board dusted with flour and mash down with the heal of your hand until the dough is about 3/4" thick

  6. Cut with biscuit cutter or juice glass to make 8 or 9 biscuits and place on ungreased cookie sheet

  7. Bake at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes until the tops just start to brown

Recipe Notes

A great addition to these biscuits would be 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese.

For instructions and inspiration on making a fresh herbal wreath that includes sage, go to Fresh Herbal Wreath.
Materials for a kitchen culinary wreath
Completed dried wreath with sage, thyme, globe amaranth, bay leaves, and curry plant

Blueberry Bonanza

Blueberries are the ultimate fruit bearing shrub for people who want to make the most use of planting shrubs for beauty, but will also produce a tasty and healthy treat.

You can buy a blueberry bush anywhere for around $25

Easy to grow and integrate into an established garden, blueberries are attractive shrubs in their own right, that people really don’t think of using when planning their landscape. Easy to fit into a small landscape, blueberries exhibit wonderful fall color as well as being attractive shrubs the rest of the year, especially in the fall when they turn  a spectacular red color as the days turn cooler.  An unexpected source of fall color for most people, and a great provider of breakfast blueberries-what’s not to love?

There is nothing like fresh picked blueberries for breakfast

A half dozen blueberry bushes are planted in the high shade of large trees on my property, and I amended the soil with plenty of moistened peat moss. Planting the shrubs about five feet apart gives them enough growing space. If you plant them in the landscape as a shrub accent in a flower bed, you can group them a little closer for a bigger impact.  I find that deer leave the shrubs alone but will browse on the ripe berries, as well as birds. Bird netting set up over a framework of PVC pipe keeps the berries going into your pies instead of feeding the wildlife. But if you plant enough bushes, you will have enough for the wildlife as well as yourself.

Blueberries used in the landscape can screen utilities

Plant as early in the spring as possible is best, though I have been quite successful planting them later in the spring and into the summer. Resistant to most pest and diseases, I have been growing my blueberries for over 25 years with bushes that keep on producing plump juicy berries.  Offering scarlet fall foliage and pale-yellow bell-shaped spring flowers, my honey bees flock to gather nectar and pollen from them, and is one of the reasons I grow them.

The flowers are creamy yellow and bell-like

 

Steps for Planting

  1. Select a spot in full sun or partial shade.
  2. Test your soil pH by digging a small sample and take to a nearby nursery to have tested. The soil pH should be optimally between 4 and 5. To acidify your soil or to lower the pH, mix a small amount of granulated sulfur into the soil several months before planting. Also mixing organic materials such as peat moss, pine bark, leaf mold, aged sawdust, and pine needles into the soil will help acidify your soil and lower the pH before planting.
  3. Buy a blueberry bush that is at least one year old or older to get a head start on bearing.
  4. Dig hole about twice as wide and deep as the root ball and add some loamy soil and compost to the hole.
  5. Place the shrub at the same level as the pot into the hole and back fill with soil and pack firmly.
  6. Water thoroughly.
  7. About one month after planting, fertilize with a general 10-10-10 granular fertilizer or a liquid fertilizer like fish emulsion.
  8. Blueberries are self-pollinating but will grow larger fruit through cross-pollination with a companion bush.

Harvesting

Blueberries are one of the easiest plants to harvest with very little effort. The berries are held upright on small shrubs so are easy to reach with little bending over, unlike strawberries and raspberries. It is important to wait until the berry ripens completely with a rich blue color all around as the berries will not ripen any further after you pick them.  The berry will reach its full flavor and aroma a few days after the blue color appears.

Wait until the berries are deep purple before picking

Hanging an old cut off gallon milk jug around my neck, which frees both hands to pick, is the most efficient way.

Using an old milk jug with the neck cut off and a shoestring to hang it, is the best way to pick hands free

The berries ripen over several weeks, so my harvest is spread out and I enjoy them on cereal and pancakes for about a month in late June and early July. My excess berries are washed, spread out to dry, and packed into freezer baggies for future use.

Freezing my berries for later use
Weighing my berries

Container Growing

People are quite successful growing blueberries in large containers. Use the same soil mix as above and use a large enough container that the plant can grow, but that you can also move around if needed. Overwinter the container by wrapping burlap or straw around the plant and placing in a protected location from winds. Successful blueberry growing though, is having the right soil mix with plenty of peat moss added, in a container or in the ground.

A plentiful harvest

Pruning 

When your bushes get older, at least 4-5 years old, it is time to start pruning to keep them producing each year. The berries are produced on newer canes, so the best strategy is to remove older and diseased canes as well as crossing branches with a sharp pruner. Then trim the rest of the longer arching branches back by about 1/4 to 1/3. The goal when pruning is to achieve a narrow base and open top that allows sunlight to penetrate and good air circulation. The best time to do this is late winter while the bushes are dormant, and it is easy to see the structure.  To ensure plentiful harvests, you should continue to do this every year. For a great description and diagram, go to Ohio State Extension Service.

Pine straw is the best mulch for blueberries

Lemon Verbena-Growing & Using

Lemon Verbena has always been at the top of my list of herbs to grow for its intense lemony fragrance. More pungent that lemon balm or lemon thyme, I ended up with a bumper crop last year and found many uses for it. Be sure to buy a transplant this spring and place it where it will get full sun and good drainage. Planting near your outdoor living space will ensure that you will enjoy brushing by it to release the lemony fragrance.

Lemon Verbena

Strongly scented and known for its refreshing lemony fragrance, Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citrodora) is the most strongly scented lemon scent of all the herbs. Used in making perfumes, and toilet water, as well as a flavoring in baking, jellies and preserving, lemon verbena also makes a great herbal tea, either fresh or dried.

Steeping dried lemon verbena leaves for tea

Dried branches and leaves can be used to scent your drawers and linen closets with a light fragrance. I fill gauze bags with dried leaves to tuck in my lingerie. Introduced to England in the 1700’s, lemon verbena can grow to 15′ in height in the UK! Here in the U.S., the plant is treated as a tender perennial but can overwinter in US zone 8 or higher and reaches in the mid-Atlantic region about 4′ in height.

Growing my lemon verbena in a container keeps it happy because I can control the water it receives. Over watering a lemon verbena plant is certain death to this very fragrant herb, so only water when the soil is completely dry. Plus I can bring the container into my greenhouse to winter over as it is hardy to zone 8-9. Leaves release their refreshing fragrance each time they are brushed against or touched, making  it a pleasure to work with and near. A heavy feeder, unlike many herbs, I regularly fertilize my plant and pinch it back often to get a nice bushy shape. Full sun is best as the herb will get very spindly looking and the leaves will lack the essential oil fragrance. Tiny white flowers top the branches when the plant matures later in the summer.

I store the dried leaves in tupperware and use it for tea all winter

Lemon verbena is a heavy feeder and, benefits from frequent fertilization. Spider mites and whiteflies adore the citrusy leaves, so be prepared to fight these pests off with an organic pesticide.

Place your fresh leaves on paper towels before placing in the microwave

To dry your lemon verbena, gather a bunch of leaves and lay on paper towels and microwave for one to two minutes at high. The leaves should still be green, but be crispy to the touch. I leave the leaves alone for a day or two to fully dry and then strip the leaves off the stems and crush them with my fingers. Toss then into a plastic container to store until you are ready to steep them for a zingy tea.

The lemon verbena is dried and crispy
Lemon verbena is dried and crispy

To make tea with the fresh leaves, boil water and pour over freshly harvested lemon verbena leaves in a mug. Let steep for 3-5 minutes and then pull the leaves out and enjoy!

Lemon verbena tea with fresh leaves

Excellent for your stomach, relieving indigestion and heartburn, and for toning the digestive tract. Also, good for soothing anxiety and a good sedative for insomnia. Start those plants this spring for a fresh harvest later in the summer!

 

Garden Trends and New Plants for 2019

January, right after Christmas, means MANTS (mid-atlantic nurseryman’s show), and I attend every year to see what is up and coming in the gardening world. New plants, new products, new trends, are the things that I look for in the upcoming year. It is the CES of gardening, not as exotic or techy as electronics, but still exciting and new, and way more interesting.

Discussing new products with one of the vendors, Organic Mechanics
Discussing new products with one of the vendors, Organic Mechanics

New Plants

My favorite item to look for are new plants, or new improved cultivars of old plants. I have written about ‘Party Pesto‘ a mildew resistant basil from Burpee Seeds before and found another resistant one called ‘Amazel’ from Proven Winners.

Downy mildew of basil is a destructive pathogen that develops on lower leaf surfaces, all but rendering what’s left as inedible.

'Amazel' is a new downy mildew resistant Basil
‘Amazel’ is a new downy mildew resistant basil

‘Amazel’ is a basil that is resistant to basil downy mildew, and because it doesn’t flower early in the season, produces more foliage in July and August than most plants. The plants grow 24 to 36 inches tall and 18 to 24 inches wide. This is on my list to plant this year as I love basil and have had unsightly crops for the past couple of years.

Basil downy mildew
Basil downy mildew

‘Rockin Fuschia’ annual Salvia from Proven Winners caught my eye right away with glossy dark green leaves, and profuse bright pink flower wands that covered the plant. Salvias are one of my favorite plants because of the non-stop blooming and deer resistant traits, but this one stopped me in my tracks. Stockier and more compact than the taller forms, this would be perfect in a container.

Salvia 'Rockin Fuschia'
Salvia ‘Rockin Fuschia’
Truffula Gomphrena
Truffula Gomphrena

Gomphrena  Truffula also caught my eye because these are long bloomers, dry well, and last a long time as a fresh cut.This a tough and durable airy annual. I have written about ‘Pink Zazzle’ Gomphrena, another gomphrena. which I love and is a great looking plant, but I have trouble keeping it alive as it needs dry conditions with perfect drainage.

'Pink Zazzle' Gomphrena
‘Pink Zazzle’ Gomphrena

I was ready for another Gomphrena with easier care. Truffula is a large multi-branched plant which mounds up and is literally covered with flowers and I hope this one fits the bill.

Another plant that appealed came from Terra Nova Nurseries, Artemisia Makana. A soft grey pillowy plant that you could sink into, Makana would be wonderful in mixed containers.

 Artemisia Makana from Terra Nova
Artemisia Makana from Terra Nova

NewGen Boxwood is high on my list of shrubs to try this year. Boxwood blight/leafminer resistant, attractive, and deer proof are all traits that I am looking for in my landscape design business. Introduced by Saunders Brothers who spent years developing it, NewGen will definitely  be on my list this spring.

Sandy’s Plants was introducing a new Arum ‘Pamela Harper’ with a beautifully patterned leaf. An under-used shade perennial that bears wonderful red berries in the fall, deer won’t browse on it. A great ground cover that will add beauty with foliage and berries, I will look for this one in the spring.

Sandy of Sandy's Plants in Virginia
Sandy of Sandy’s Plants in Virginia
Pamela Harper Arum

A New Invasive

The MD Department of Agriculture had a large display on the dreaded Spotted Lantern Fly which is moving south from Pennsylvania into Maryland. A scourge for crops, especially hops, grapes, and fruit trees, I have seen this insect in Pennsylvania and they are expected to hit us home in Maryland soon.

Spotted Lantern Fly
Spotted Lantern Fly

An invasive with no known predators and laying eggs in the host plant Tree of Heaven, another invasive, I am not looking forward to this onslaught. But it looks like the MD Dept of Agriculture is on top of it with tons of information to give out.

The spotted lantern fly is actually a beautiful insect
The spotted lantern fly is actually a beautiful insect

New Products

Root Pouch makes great seed starters
Root Pouch makes great seed starters

I have written about Root Pouches before and they continue to wow me. Great for Micro Greens which continue to be a huge health trend, these sustainable alternatives to plastic pots, are useful for many situations.

Root Pouches
Root Pouches

Hydroponics continues to be strong and I can see a Millennial having one of the new hydroponic carts on display in their apartment growing greens and herbs. No soil required is attractive, and growing a lot of edibles in a small space with no additional watering is the perfect solution for busy people. Fresh healthy greens at your fingertips all year round!

AutoCrops' hydroponic set up called LF-ONE
AutoCrops’ hydroponic set up called LF-ONE

Garden Trellis & Fence, Co. was a new vendor this year. They solve the problem of tall-growing plants and vines. The trellis system allows you to plant large plants in a smaller footprint using their easy put-together(no tools!) trellis system. How many times have you planted a tomato and it grows quickly to the top of the cage and then drapes over becoming this huge cumbersome plant? Supporting your tomato plants to grow up rather than out sold me on this hot dipped galvanized trellis system that won’t rust and can be left in place all year-long.

Garden trellis system
Garden trellis system

 

New Services

Best Bees
Best Bees

Have you always wanted honeybees on your property but were afraid of the upkeep and the work involved? Best Bees is for you! A company that installs and maintains beehives on residential or commercial properties, they will make sure you have honeybees that you can watch and enjoy the honey benefits but not lift a finger! Yes, it costs money, but if that is your dream, then you can use this company’s services.

You can even get a custom paint job on your hive to duplicate your house
You can even get a custom paint job on your hive to duplicate your house

Another unique service is Bower & Branch, an online service that delivers ordered plants to a local garden center for pick up. Trees, shrubs, perennials, ornamental grasses are available. Their plants on display were beautiful and you can get unusual things that a local garden center won’t carry. How many times have you lusted for a plant but it isn’t available locally? I can see the benefits of this right away. I need to try it!

Bower & Branch is an e-commerce solution for independent garden centers
Bower & Branch is an e-commerce solution for independent garden centers

Lavender Harvest

White and purple lavender in field

Collecting and Drying the Harvest

Anticipating a bumper crop of fragrant lavender this year after planting more than 30 ‘Phenomenal’ plants in the spring of 2015, I was ready. Ready with lots of purple chiffon bags for sachets, wreath wire forms, and hanging space for the dozens of hand-gathered bundles removed from a thriving hedgerow of lavender plants. And ready with some new ideas of what to try with my sweet-smelling harvest. See Lavender Honey-Scented Body Butter and  Lavender Honey Ice Cream posts for previous articles. The Lavender Honey Ice Cream is sublime!

Lavender Honey Ice Cream
White lavender is a great plant too
White Spanish Lavender has a much larger flower

Just as the small purple flowers are opening, I get myself ready for the harvest. Using my sharpest shears, I cut right above the woody part of the plant. This action also prunes it, making the plant neat and tidy looking for the next harvest.

Gathering the harvest is a delightfully aromatic job with lots of bumbles and honeybees still attached. Not likely to sting, I gently brush the bees off while cutting, bunching, and stacking bundles. Gathering in the early evening, bumblebees tend to congregate and sleep on the flower wands, but the heat of midday is too hot for me to handle. I will take the bees anytime!

Cody loves lavender!

Taking about three years to reach full maturity, I can now cut about six to eight bunches per plant. Every year a few plants bite the dust and I fill in the holes with young transplants.

Half of my hedge is cut and you can see the one year old plants filling in

One bunch of lavender stalks fill your hand comfortably and I rubber band the bundle tightly. As the stalks dry they shrink and the rubber band shrinks with it. The band becomes a convenient holder to snag an opened paper clip which I attach to a braided rope hanging from my basement ceiling.

Hang up the bunches in a cool dark place like a basement

Look for a cool dark spot to dry your bunches to retain the best fragrance and color. Any bits and pieces of lavender stalks, I keep to use on the grill or fire pit for aromatic smoke.

Adding lavender bits and pieces to the grill gives food a wonderful taste

 

Wreath Step By Step

Making a lavender wreath takes lots of flower stalks but this year, I had plenty. Gathering a large basket of cut stalks all facing one way is your first step. Using plenty of lavender  to start with will ensure that as the wreath shrinks as it dries, it will still look full.

Creating smaller and shorter bunches for a wreath (about six to seven inches long) and wiring the bunches together makes it possible to create a beautiful fragrant wreath to hang in the house. Start with a 10 inch pinch clamp wire wreath base for a quick and easy method to make your garland. The only other supply you need is some thin wire to wind around the bunches. Your house will remain very fragrant for days after you create this beautiful circlet.

Gather supplies

Gather a large basket of cut flowers along with a wire wreath base and thin wire

Make a fist sized bunch

Bunch a small cluster of flower stalks about 6-7 inches long for a fresh lavender wreath

Wire to fasten stems

Wire the bunch together

Pinch bundle on wreath form with pliers

With pliers pinch the bunch firmly to the base

Keep arranging bundles on base

Continue overlapping each lavender bunch facing one way all around the wreath

Finished! Add a wire hanger to the back and let dry flat

Finished! Continue to dry flat until completely dry (1 week) and then hang

Add a wired moire ribbon bow to complete the dried wreath

Adding a bow to the finished product

 

Healthy Fruit-Infused Water

Cucumbers, mint, stevia, and lemon scented geranium are steeping in my pitcher
Cucumbers, mint,  stevia, lime, and lemon-scented geranium are steeping in my pitcher

It is hot here in Maryland and I am trying to quench my thirst with something healthy, no calories and with ingredients ready to hand – infused water. Its beneficial hydration in every refreshing sip!  If you often work outside like I do in the summer, there is nothing better than to whip up one of these infusions and relax with iced glass in hand. A good way to use left-over herbs and odds and ends from cooking, these additions can add pizzazz to your liquid diet.

Keep It Simple

When I feel the urge, I scout the flower and vegetable beds for something flavorful that I can throw into water to steep for a couple of hours. A variety of candidates will jump out at me, depending on the season. Stevia (the sweet herb substitute), cucumber, fragrant herbs, raspberries, blueberries, and mint are always welcome. Three or four items are usually enough to infuse a delicious flavor to my fresh well water. But something as simple as sliced cucumber and crushed mint leaves will do the trick.

From left to right - mint, cucumber, scented geranium, lime, stevia
From left to right – mint, cucumber, scented geranium, lime, stevia

Best Practices

  1. Be sure to wash off any chemical residue and dirt first. I garden organically, and know there is no chemical residue on my produce, but be sure to wash dirt and insect debris off. You don’t want any surprises…… like a Japanese Beetle floating in the mix!

  2. Use cold or room temperature water. Hot water can make things like berries fall apart.

  3. Springing for a fancy infuser pitcher isn’t necessary. Just use a clean glass or food grade plastic container.

  4. Cut up or smash (muddle) berries, squeeze citrus juices and use the leftover rind, tear up herb leaves, and throw in some edible flowers like beautiful blue borage for color.

  5. Infuse the flavors for about 2 hours at room temperature and then place in the frig to stop any unwanted bacterial growth.

  6. Keep the infused water up to 3 days in the refrigerator. I like to remove citrus, such as limes, and lemons within a couple of hours, as they can start tasting bitter. You can strain out any small flowers or pieces of fruit before drinking.

    IMG_7005
    A water-glass with a built-in infuser

     

    IMG_7003
    Stack your ingredients in firmly to release juices

Wash and add your selections to your fresh water and keep it at room temperature  for a couple of hours and voila’, you have those expensive flavored waters that you have paid a lot of money for.

A way to get rid of all my cucumbers!
A way to get rid of all my cucumbers!

One combination that I have tried is raspberries, lemon,  stevia, lemon balm, and lemon grass. The citrus notes give the water a refreshing zing and the raspberries stain the water a pale pink, kind of like pink lemonade. The stevia gives a sweet note to the water, but isn’t necessary. My stevia herb which is a natural sugar substitute, is growing like a weed, and I want to use it. The lemon grass is easy to use by ripping off a clump from the main bunch, stripping the leaves off, and slitting the fragrant stem to release those lemony oils.

Are there any benefits of infusing fruits/herbs instead of purchased flavored drinks? Yes!

017
Herbal concoction

1) Flavor-Your home-made infused water will taste bright and tangy and full of flavor. I have taste commercially prepared flavored waters, and they can taste watered down and flat. Even infusing water for a scant 15 minutes tastes better than purchased waters.

2) Appearance- Wow-a huge difference from purchased flavored water! You are more likely to eat and drink something that is beautiful and colorful.

3) Calories & Health- No calories are in infused water. But purchased ones can have added artificial and non-artificial flavors and sugars. Staying hydrated is important for your health and what better way than to drink a batch of sugar-free infused water instead of soda all day long?

4) Preparation- Easy and quick to prepare with ingredients on hand and from your garden.

IMG_7059
Blue Borage flowers add color to this mix of lemons, scented geranium, mint, and cucumbers
IMG_7057
Gatherings from my garden

Flavor Ideas

Fruits and Vegetables

apples •  blackberries • blueberries • cantaloupe • carrots • celery • cherries • cucumbers • fennel • grapefruit • grapes • honeydew • kiwi • lemons • limes • mangos • nectarines • oranges • peaches • pears • pineapples • plums • raspberries • strawberries • tangerines • watermelon

Herbs, Spices, and Florals

basil • borage • cilantro • cinnamon • cloves • ginger root • lavender • lemon verbena • lemongrass • mint • rosemary • thyme • parsley • rose petals •  vanilla bean

Great Combos to Try

IMG_6999
Raspberry, lemon, and mint is my go-to infusion when raspberries are in season

Cucumber, Mint, and Raspberry

Orange, Mint, and Blueberry

Watermelon, Mint, and Lemon

Strawberry, Lime, and Cucumber

Raspberry, Vanilla, and Rose Petals

Blueberry, Lavender, and Borage

Kiwi, Cucumber, Honeydew and Honey (Yes, the honey is adding calories here, but hey, I’m a beekeeper!)

Cantaloupe, Mint, Raspberries

Raspberries, Lemon, Lemon Grass, Stevia, Lemon Balm

Lemon, Mint, and Raspberries

Rose Geranium, Stevia, and Mint

011
Rose Geranium, Stevia, and Mint

 

 

Edible Flower Palette

Edible flowers are frequently for sale at farmer’s markets but most people are hesitant to take the plunge and actually use them in cooking.

Variety of edible flowers from the garden

Garnishes – yes, but actually eating flowers??? For most people that is a different story. But flowers can add a lot to the flavor as well as  appeal of a dish.  Go to Squash Blossom Latkes  to see what you can do with squash blossoms. Also, go to African Blue Basil to check out this great flower that makes a wonderful pesto. All basil flowers are edible.

African Blue Basil makes a great pesto
African Blue Basil makes a great pesto

Edible flowers definitely add taste and flavor to a dish.  Bean blossoms actually have a beany flavor.  Nasturtiums, one of my favorites, have a peppery flavor similar to watercress, and their pickled buds can be substituted for more expensive capers. True blue borage tastes like cucumber, and  pansies have a lettuce like taste. For a crisp butter crunch lettuce taste, try daylilies. Maybe that is why deer like daylilies so much.

Collecting edible blossoms from the garden
Collecting edible blossoms from the garden

 

Top 20 Edible Flowers

From Sugarandcharm.com


Nasturtium

  • Angelica
  • Anise Hyssop
  • Bachelor’s Button *
  • Bee Balm
  • Calendula/Marigold
  • Carnations
  • Chamomile *
  • Chervil
  • Pansy
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Clover
  • Dandelion * {eating ‘em puts a whole new spin on ‘weeding’}
  • Fuchsia
  • Gladiolus *
  • Hibiscus
  • Impatiens
  • Jasmine
  • Lavender
  • Lilac

“Only the petals of these composite flowers are edible. The pollen of composite flowers is highly allergenic and may cause reactions in sensitive individuals. Sufferers of asthma, ragweed, and hayfever should not consume composite flowers, and may have extreme allergies to ingesting any flowers at all.” ~ Source HomeCooking/About.com

 

Edible blossoms-borage, nasturtium and chives, pansy, gladiolus, cardinal basil, daylily, pansy
Edible blossoms-borage, nasturtium and chives, pansy, gladiolus, cardinal basil, daylily, pansy

 

Uses

Beautiful cake decorated with roses and borage blossoms, made by Maria Springer of http://www.majaskitchen.com/
Beautiful cake decorated with roses and borage blossoms, made by Maria Springer of http://www.majaskitchen.com/

Edible flowers as a garnish make any dish look special on your table, but be sure the flavor of the flower compliments the dish. Here are a few ideas to beautify your recipes and perk up your taste buds:

  • Place a colorful gladiolus or hibiscus flower (remove the stamen and pistil) in a clear glass bowl and fill with your favorite dip.
  • Sprinkle edible flowers in your green  and fruit salads for a splash of color and taste.
  • Make edible flower ice cubes. Go to http://diana212m.blogspot.com/2013/02/jazzy-take-on-water.html 

    Ice cubes with edible flowers

  • Use in flavored oils or vinegars, like chive blossoms in vinegar which gives it a pretty pink  blush color.
  • You can use them in salads, teas, garnishes, ice creams, etc. Lavender ice cream anyone?? It is delicious! 

     

    The ultimate edible flower-lavender
    The ultimate edible flower-lavender

Never use non-edible flowers in your food as guests will think that they can eat it. Poisonous flowers abound in your garden and be careful what you use!

When you pick your blossoms, keep them fresh by rolling up in a moist paper towel and keep in the refrigerator no more than a few days before using.

Be creative!

Roll the blossoms in a moist paper towel and store in the refrigerator