Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Tasting the Garden

Chris was away painting the caravan last night, so I walked home from the station in glorious sunshine and was able to go out into the garden to survey what might be around to make up the accompanying salad for my macaroni cheese.

Dandelions were everywhere, many with golden flowers fully open to embrace the sunshine. I was looking at one of Susun Weed's site's recently where she talked about eating the flowers as well as the leaves, so I picked several to see what they might contribute.

The sorrel was also growing in great profusion with far less half eaten leaves than normal, so I picked a handful of those as well. Behind the well cropped Mexican orange tree was a mass of new violet leaves. Every time I've looked at them since December, the leaves have been eaten and sparse, even when the violet flowers were blooming, but now, since the flowers have gone over, it seems the plants have put all their energy into growing new leaves! There has been a lot of discussion about violet leaves on the Herbwifery Forum with many contributors mentioning that they used the leaves in salads or to make tea. They have all commented on how mucilagenous the leaves are, which I couldn't quite get my head around since they look exactly the same as most leaves which are definitely not mucilagenous.

I've only ever made infused oil with the leaves and have never been tempted to eat them, but this time I thought I would take the plunge. I picked a leaf and chewed it. It was a total revelation! There was little actual flavour, but it wasn't unpleasant and as I chewed it, I could feel the strands of mucilage developing in my mouth. Now I know what everyone else was talking about! I felt like dancing around the garden shouting "I know what mucilagenous means!" Of course, I didn't - I'm far too quiet and reserved for that!

The lemon balm is also growing well, so several shoots were added to the salad mix. It took me a while to find the "Jack by the hedge". The plants were hiding at the back of blackcurrant bush but flowering although they were only about 18 inches high - very small compared with the 3-4 feet they reach in summer. Debs admonished me for pulling them all up when she visited last year, so again, I took the plunge and chewed some leaves. They were amazing - full of flavour with a faint garlic tang to it. The large leaves also went into the salad mix!

A few sprigs of St John's wort and mint completed my gathering. My garden tour showed up how much weeding I still have to do as the creeping buttercup and hedge woundwort have really taken over some patches. It was lovely to see the new pansies still blooming everywhere and the new stocks are also beginning to flower. The new leaves of the goldenseal are beginning to unfurl and the black cohosh has uncurled its leaves. Maybe on Sunday it will be dry enough to get out and attach things with a fork!

Later on, I made up some new tincture concoctions for myself and Chris, since both our bottles were empty. Mine has a mixture of hawthorn flower, nettle, burdock, vervain, cleavers and dandelion root with a couple of teaspoons of rue and horsechestnut seed. Chris' is more straightforward - hawthorn flower, nettle root and a touch of dandelion root. We take a small dose at breakfast in orange juice to accompany our porridge.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post and just what I've been doing, I plucked up the courage to finally try a primrose flower when we were out picking dandelions the other day. It tasted slightly floral but nothing really brilliant about it. I'll test the violet leaves later ;)

Glad to see you finally tried the garlic mustard, wonderful stuff, I've just blogged about that actually! Dandelion flowers are lovely, we made wine with some and I sprinkle them on dandelion salad.

Debs :)