The flowers of Pulmonaria come in various shades of pink, purple, and blue. There are also white ones (e.g. Sissinghurst White), and a true blue one (Blue Ensign) which has plain green, not variegated, leaves. I have even seen a scarlet red one. They self-seed and hybridise, so the white and blue may eventually change colour. But I don't mind, as they are all so pretty.
We celebrated the first day of Spring with these Pink Lemonade Cupcakes. They have a lovely, light lemon flavoring. Thanks to Alyssa Brown for this yummy recipe.
Pink Lemonade Cupcakes
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
6 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Lemon Zest
3 Tbsp Thawed Pink Lemonade Concentrate
2 tsp. Vanilla
1 Drop Red Food Coloring
2 Large Eggs
2 Large Egg Whites, Whipped
2 Cups Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 1/4 Cup Buttermilk mixed with 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
Combine all ingredients for 5 minutes, fold in whipped egg whites at the end.
Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Makes 24 cupcakes.
2 Tbsp Butter
2 tsp. Lemon Zest
2 tsp. Thawed Pink Lemonade Concentrate
1/2 tsp. Vanilla
4 Drops Red Food Coloring
8 oz. Soft Cream Cheese
3 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar
Beat until smooth.
My favorite recipe for Sugar Cookies! Makes 4 dozen
4 C Flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 C butter
1 1/2 sugar
1/2 C sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix wet and dry separately. Preheat oven 375 F. Roll out 1/4″ thick and cut out with cookie cutters. Bake for 10-12 minutes. (Optional: Add almond extract to the mix and use cinnamon sugar for a topping.) Frost with a butter cream frosting. Try not to eat too many!
After a long day at work, isn’t it welcome to come home to a crock pot filled with warm, simmering stew? After the kneading and rising of yeast, nothing is better than a golden brown loaf of freshly baked bread. Food recipes require a short time of preparation and then give us comfort and sustenance. Flower bulb recipes take longer to ‘bake’, but the flowers bring beauty and a confidence to our gardens. Here are the recipes to create a long and continual season of spring bloom, from early February until the end of May. Each mix goes from the earliest bloomer to latest.
Fresh Mix: Snowdrop, Hyacinth, Tulip, Bluebell
Traditional Mix: Crocus, Daffodil, Grape Hyacinth, Tulip
Romantic Mix: Tete-a-tete Daffodil, Anemone, Fritillaria (checkered lily), Tulip
Poetic Mix: Glory of the Snow, Giant Crocus, Ipheion (star flower), Dwarf Iris
Time: At least six weeks, most of the winter.
Temperature: Cold! Bulbs require a minimum of six weeks of cold weather to stimulate root development. Also, phosphorus is important for root growth. Add a good organic bulb fertilizer at the time of planting so the bulbs can grow to their full potential. The bigger the bulb, the bigger the flower will be.
There are several ways to create a display with impact. First is to extend the bloom time, which will happen by mixing up the varieties, as in the recipes above. Also, planting in groups or drifts will give the plants a more natural look, rather than one here and another there, which makes them seem artificial. Finally, if space is an issue, try planting in containers. These can be planted with just one variety, for instance a whole tub of red tulips for impact, or planted as a mix to make the display continue for months. Besides bloom time, keep in mind plant height as well as flower color.
Spring flowering bulbs are planted in the fall. No matter the season, some animals are always looking for a snack. If you are having trouble with those furry animal friends munching on your bulbs, the following bulbs are not very tasty to deer, rabbit and squirrels: Daffodils, Narcissus, Hyacinths, Allium, Fritillaria, Iris, Anemones, Scilla, Snowdrops, Eranthus, Chinadoxa and Muscari Grape Hyacinths.
Look beyond macaroni and cheese and chicken noodle soup this year and try a new recipe for your garden, perhaps something fresh or poetic.
I recently had a friend ask me, ‘what can I do with rose hips?’ so I thought I would do a little digging and find some answers. Seeds make plants. Plants make flowers. Flowers make fruit. Fruit makes seeds. It’s a never-ending cycle. Rose hips are simply the fruit, or the seedpod of the rose plant. They are produced after the flower dies and often are brightly colored red and orange, adding color and winter interest to a garden. Old garden roses and shrub roses, especially rugosas, have showy hips. Stop deadheading at this time of the year to ensure a good crop of rose hips. Besides adding beauty to the winter garden, rose hips will attract wildlife, especially foraging birds. Rose hips are edible and have many culinary uses, including teas, jellies, jams, sauces, soups and seasonings. Here is a link to a jam/jelly recipe that looks tasty. I wonder how it compares to other fruit jams; it’s said to be sweet and somewhat tangy.
For rose hip tea, steep 4-8 fresh hips in a cup of boiling water for 10-15 minutes. Rose hips are loaded with vitamin C, so this should be a good winter drink. Harvest is best after the first frost when hips are sweeter. Inside the hips the seeds may be covered in fine hairs which are irritating, so remove these before using. To prepare, trim the ends off the hips, cut in half and remove the tiny hairs and seeds. Then rinse the hips and use them fresh or dry them for use all year. After drying, rose hips can also be ground. This powder will add a mildly sweet flavor to hot beverages and provide vitamin C, iron, calcium and phosphorus. Remember when harvesting not to use the hips from any plants that have been sprayed with pesticides, so picking off the side of the road may be hazardous to your health. This link,
, has a recipe for rose hip syrup that is yummy on pancakes, waffles or ice cream. What a great idea, since we don’t harvest much maple syrup in the Pacific Northwest. Our native roses are the Bald Hip Rose and the Nootka Rose. Go out and enjoy our native fruit!
Duke, Toro, Reka, Sunshine Blue, Chippewa, Bluecrop, Chandler and Legacy. If you recognize these names you might be salivating at the thought of all the delicious varieties of blueberry plants that grow here in the Northwest. Now is a good time to shop for plants because with ripening berries you can sample the fruit from different varieties to discover your favorite. These taste tests can reveal subtle differences in flavors, ranging from mild to sweet to tart. Plants also produce fruit at different times, early, mid-season and late. It’s good to buy at least two different varieties to help with pollination and fruit production. If the berries will be used all at once, for preserving or freezing, try varieties that bear at the same time. But if you want fresh berries for as long as possible, try planting early, mid and late fruiting varieties together in the garden to extend the harvest. Plant in loose, well-drained soil, free of weeds and with an adequate supply of moisture for successful growth and feed with an acidic fertilizer. Blueberry plants range in size from only 12 inches tall (Burgundy Wild Lowbush) to 3-4 feet which are great in containers (Sunshine Blue) to six feet tall (Reka) so there is something that can fit in every garden. I have four blueberry plants, all growing well in containers.
This is my favorite Blueberry Muffin recipe (I like the cinnamon!)
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup milk
1/2 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
1 cup blueberries
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix wet ingredients first. Add dry ingredients and mix until just moistened, then gently fold in blueberries. Bake in muffin pan for 16 to 20 minutes. Makes 10 large muffins. From Make-A-Mix cookbook by Eliason, Harward and Westover, 1995)
has lots of other delicious ways to prepare this amazing little fruit. I’m looking forward to the blueberry pizza.
I just visited Alki Beach in Seattle and brought home some washed up kelp to feed my garden. Here is a recipe I found from the book Great Garden Formulas by Benjamin and Martin (Editors) that I really want to try. It’s packed with good stuff and is even more fun if you harvest the kelp yourself!
1 part kelp meal
2 parts alfalfa meal
4 parts any combination cottonseed meal, fish meal
and/or soybean meal
1 part rock phosphate
1. Mix all ingredients thoroughly while wearing a dust mask, gloves and safety goggles.
2. Use up to 3 cups for each mature rosebush, perennial or shrub. For annuals and herbs, use only up to 11/2 cups. for midsize fruit trees, use up to 6 cups.
3. Apply two to three times a year.
I like it when we use plants to help plants. I am quite positive that all of our problems can be solved with plants. Hungry? Eat a plant. Sick? Medicinal plants. Feeling blue? Smell a rose. Need fresh air? Plant a tree. The list goes on and on….but, here is an ingenious recipe from the book Great Garden Formulas by Benjamin and Martin editors. Apparently it works for fungal diseases as well as pests like aphids and June bugs. Rhubarb leaves are toxic, containing poisonous substances like oxalic acid. Remember, it’s the stalk that’s edible. I can’t wait to try it, here is the recipe:
1/2 cup rhubarb leaves (about 6) cut up
3 quarts water
Pot (for boiling)
Pump spray bottle
1. Cut or tear leaves into small pieces.
2. Place leaves in water and bring to a boil.
3. Steep the leaves for at least an hour, better overnight.
4. Strain the solution through cheesecloth or sieve and pour into a spray bottle.
5. Use at the first sign of disease or pest.
Stinging nettles can fertilize your roses! Turn this painful native perennial into a nourishing foliar spray or soil drench for your plants. Nettles contain nitrogen, potassium, magnesium and iron that make an excellent plant tonic. Here’s the recipe from Growing Roses Organically by Barbara Wilde:
1. Cut the nettles. Wearing gloves, cut the plants at around half their height. Using shears or pruners, roughly chop the plants.
2. Mix with water. Put the chopped plants in a plastic barrel or garbage can. Add 1 gallon of water for every pound of fresh nettles or for every two onces of dried nettles. Use only nonchlorinated water, preferably rainwater, as chlorine inhibits fermentation. Cover the barrel with a lid (it smells horrible).
3. Ferment for 1 to 3 weeks. Stir your nettle tea every day. Fermentation will happen faster in hot weather. When bubbles stop appearing when you stir the tea, fermentation has finished.
4. Strain the tea. Do this as soon as fermentation ceases. Store your nettles infusion in clean plastic or glass containers in a cool spot. Dump the dregs onto your compost pile.
5. Dilute before using. For foliar feeding, dilute the tea to a 5 percent solution (1/2 cup of infusion to 10 cups of water) For a soil drench, dilute it to a 10 percent solution. Apply once a month for drench or once a week for foliar spray.
The Cook and the Gardener, A Year of Recipes and Writings from the French Countryside is primarily a cookbook, but woven among the 632 pages of chopping and measuring, butter and salt are beautifully written words about a french country gardener and how he works and lives. Amanda Hesser is a cook living in France for a year and Monsieur Milbert the estate gardener. Through her eyes we see how Monsieur “finds comfort in the old ways…he is a man of the soil” We learn some of the old ways too. ”the soil had to be coaxed into welcoming seeds. The process is akin to mixing bread dough. Beginning in January, Monsieur Milbert spread ash on the open beds and then nourished them with a blanket of manure and hay. Once the ground thawed late in the month, he began to till the land, bringing together all the ingredients—soil, ash, decomposed roots, manure, and hay—mixing them until they became a rich homogeneous substance.” We also learn how he follows the moon cycles for planting. Vegetables planted when the moon is waxing will have a tendency to grow high. Plant root vegetables when the moon wanes. Another technique new to me is trap-cropping. To distract the mice that nibbled at his garden mercilessly, he planted rows of wheat in between the peas. As anywhere in the world, it’s a war between us and them, humans vs. herbivores. Another bit of advice on ripening tomatoes in the fall, when the sun is shy, is to cut off the leaves from all the tomato plants. Monsieur Milbert explained that “although it did risk the plant’s life, the tomatoes were never going to ripen with moisture being divided between the leaves and fruit. Without the leaves, all the plant’s energy would be dedicated to the fruit.” Something that we might try here in the never-never land of never-never red tomatoes! (for me at least)
The author admits that her realm is the kitchen, but she is curious about the garden and all that grows in it, always questioning Monsieur Milbert. She says “as a gardener, he is a visionary, always preparing for the next season. Meanwhile, cooks live for the day.” I really appreciate how her book breaks into seasons, recipes corresponding to what is harvested each month. Although I didn’t try any recipes (yet) they are enticing. Spring serves up cold asparagus soup with mint and lemon, early carrots with tarragon beurre blanc and oak leaf salad with shallots and hazlenuts. Summer demonstrates drying linden flowers for tea, tomato jelly, fried zucchini flowers stuffed with goat’s milk cheese and lavender sorbet. Fall warms with baked fennel gratin with cracked pepper and beets roasted with raspberry vinegar. Even in winter they harvest and cook chard and spinach in butter, turnip-thyme soup, cardoons sauteed with parsley and spiced brussel sprouts with apples. Cooking with what is in season preserves the fresh flavors “the lettuces were so outrageously good–sweet and soft–they rarely escaped our table.” Hesser writes.
It is her descriptive voice that adds the flavor. She describes autumn when”the garden’s jewels die a weary and dramatic death,… light fills the space. Shadows lengthen and the sun reaches its arms through bare fruit-tree limbs, cloaking you with its warmth.” Commenting on Monsieur Milbert “He is a conductor, the garden his orchestra. He is more interested in each instrument delivering its notes, delivering them abundantly, loudly, crisply, boldly and preferably at the right time.” After reading her words I did feel as if I had walked the garden paths of this timeless French estate, listening to the “crackling trudge of my boots” and seeing the soil “when just tilled, it looked like cocoa.” Some of her comparisons were new and amusing “He sometimes forgets to stagger a crop, so a vegetable arrives one day in full force, then leaves like a rotten lover, without notice.” I enjoyed this book, The Cook and the Gardener and recommend it for a peek into a private garden and for a taste of France.