This week’s gems include a mix of edible flowers: Nasturtium (Orange & Red), Bee Balm (Pink), Wild Bergamot (Purple), Bachelor’s Button (Blue) & Calendula blossoms (can be eaten raw), and Zucchini blossoms (benefit from cooking), Leeks, French Purslane, Chive Cider Vinegar, & Dried Herb Blend for Herb Butter.
Flowers have traditionally been used in many types of cooking: European, Asian, East Indian, Victorian English, and Middle Eastern. Early American settlers also used flowers as food. Today, there is a renewed interest in edible flowers for their taste, color, and fragrance. Edible flowers can be used fresh as a garnish or as an integral part of a dish, such as a salad. Squash flowers can be fried in light batter or cornmeal. Some flowers can be stuffed or used in stir-fry dishes. Edible flowers can be candied; frozen in ice cubes and added to beverages; made into jellies and jams; used to make teas or wines; minced and added to cheese spreads, herbal butters, pancakes, crepes, and waffles. Many flowers can be used to make vinegars for cooking, marinades, or dressings for salad. Herbal flowers normally have the same flavor as their leaves, with the exceptions of chamomile and lavender blossoms, where the flavor is usually more subtle. Use only the petals as the calyx can be bitter.
Leeks, known scientifically as Allium porrum, are related to garlic, onions, shallots, and scallions. Leeks look like large scallions, having a very small bulb and a long white cylindrical stalk of superimposed layers that flows into green, tightly wrapped, flat leaves. Cultivated leeks are usually about 12 inches in length and one to two inches in diameter and feature a fragrant flavor that is reminiscent of shallots but sweeter and more subtle. With a more delicate and sweeter flavor than onions, leeks add a subtle touch to recipes without overpowering the other flavors that are present. The flavonoids in leeks are most concentrated in their lower leaf and bulb portion.
Leeks have attained an esteemed status in Wales, where they serve as this country’s national emblem. The Welsh regard for leeks can be traced back to a battle that they successfully won against that Saxons in 1620, during which the Welsh soldiers placed leeks in their caps to differentiate themselves from their opponents.
An Omega-3 Fatty Weed, purslane contains more omega 3 fatty acids than any other plant source in the solar system, and an extraordinary amount for a plant, some 8.5 mg for every gram of weight. It has vitamin A, B, C and E, six times more E than spinach, beta carotene, seven times more of that than carrots, magnesium, calcium, potassium, folate, lithium, and iron and is 2.5% protein. Two pigments, one in the leaves and one in the yellow blossoms, have been proven anti-mutagenic in lab studies, meaning they help keep human cells from mutating, which is how cancer gets started. And you get all that for about 15 calories per 100 gram (three ounce) serving. As a mild diuretic, it might even lower your blood pressure as well. Plus it tastes like sweet peas.
Henry David Thoreau, knew of it, penning in 1854 at Walden Pond: “I learned from my two years’ experience that it would cost incredibly little trouble to obtain one’s necessary food, even in this latitude; that a man may use as simple a diet as the animals, and yet retain health and strength. I have made a satisfactory dinner . . . simply off a dish of purslane … which I gathered in my cornfield, boiled and salted. . . . Yet men have come to such a pass that they frequently starve, not for want of necessaries but for want of luxuries.”
Chive Blossom Cider Vinegar
This vinegar has infused for about 4 weeks. What’s nice about this vinegar is that you are using a seldom utilized part of the plant. Within just a few days the vinegar turned a bright pink and has a lovely onion aroma. When ready to use, strain out the blossoms and compost or discard. This vinegar can then be used as a base for salad dressings or marinades, or in place of raw onions, for a more subtle onion flavor.
During a banquet, Cleopatra demonstrated her wealth by dissolving a very rare and valuable pearl in vinegar. She then proceeded to drink the vinegar solution containing the residue of the dissolved pearl.
Herb Butter Blend
Included in the blend are dried Chives, Basil, Parsley, Tarragon, Rosemary, Marjoram, & Garlic Powder. We’ve provided you with 1 heaping teaspoon and ½ teaspoon lemon juice to ½ lb. softened butter. Mix well. Use your herbal butter in any savory recipes calling for butter, but be certain to have it on freshly made bread.
Healthier than you think. Butter has none of the artificial Trans fats (associated with the “bad” cholesterol) you get in margarine. If it’s from grass-fed cows’ milk. It also has CLAs, and equal amounts of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. It takes 21 pints of milk to make a pound of butter.