Thursday, June 16, 2011

Precious

Summer is literally around the corner. I finally got a good part of my tomato seedlings in the ground, gave away a few, and promised the rest to others. The garden is taking shape, and looking rather lovely. The bees are abuzz, and the flowers are blooming. Many of these pretty things are edible and flavourful.


The chives blossoms are nearly done in my garden. They were at their best when it was raining and unseasonably chilly. While they are now a little too far gone for eating in a salad, they are still fine for making flavoured vinegars or oils.


Thyme is usually thought of as a savoury herb, even though it is actually quite lovely in sweets. The blossoms are a great way to test the waters, as they are much milder than the leaves, and delicately sweet themselves. They are a favourite of all bees, so do leave some for our pollinating friends.


These yellow blossoms are towering over my wild roquette 'shrub'. From its yellow-four-petaledness (I am aware that it's not a real word!), the blossoms announce their allegiance to their cruciferous family: the mustards and cabbages. These pretty flowers add a gentle pepperiness to salads and other savoury dishes, and give off a pleasant popping sensation when you chew them.


In my humble opinion, arugula has one of the prettiest flowers, with their slim, cream petals and maroon veins. It has a decided spicy punch, so you might have to go a little easy on the sprinkling about the first around. When arugula goes to seed and sends out its flower stalk, the leaves become hot. Too hot for some -although I rather like them- these older leaves are particularly suited to cooking, especially wilted in a bit of oil, with salt, no pepper. Pick the flowers for a rocket zing in salads, but leave a few to go to seed: you'll get a second, later harvest of arugula.



Humans are not the only animals attracted to the colour blue: while we find it appeasing, bees equate this colour with a good source of nectar and pollen. True blue flowers are actually rare in nature, but several herb flowers come close enough to the shade to make them a favourite of bees. If you only have space for a couple of plants in the garden, make sure you make room for at least one herb plant, like this sage. The flowers definitely taste of sage, but are less pungent, making them perfect for summer meals, which are generally unsuited for heavy, camphor accents.


Elderflowers are the queen of edible flowers. The giant shrubs (my three year old elder is towering over my neighbour's garden shed!) grow wild just about everywhere in temperate climes. The scent is enveloping and sweet, perfect for desserts. Each flower umbel is full of fine pollen, so if you are susceptible to seasonal allergies, you might have to ask someone else to harvest them for you. However, pollen is extremely nutritious, and some naturopaths actually recommends its consumption to alleviate allergies. If you find an elder bush, do leave some flowers behind so that you can reap elderberries later in the summer.



Bon app'!



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