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Edible flowers

IMG_5187

Edible flowers add so much to a dish – color and texture as well as flavor. Use them simply as a garnish, or infuse into vinegars & liquors for the most flavor. Sprinkle them onto soups or casseroles, pastries and dips, bake them into the tops of breads, muffins or cakes and you can even freeze them into ice cubes for summer cocktails.

Flowers are ephemeral and are generally best when harvested in the cool morning hours after a good watering. Only organically grown flowers that you have identified without a doubt should be eaten.

Here are some of our favorite varieties:

Basil flowers are a bit bitter but still edible in the right dish and the colors are gorgeous.

Borage blossoms taste a bit like a cucumber and are a lovely addition to salads or pastries, they are gorgeous in summer cocktails and are a traditional addition to a pimms cup.

Bee balm flowers are wonderful in teas or as a spicier alternative to oregano.

Bergamot, if you are lucky to have some citrus blooming in your house you may not want to pick any but if you have plethora of blooms use them to infuse vinegars, sauces or liquors.

Carnations – there are many varieties all with their own characteristics but most have a subtle clove like scent.

Chives as well as any alliums can add a bit of zing to salads or any dish that need a bit of heat. Make a chive emulsion with lemon dijon and oil that will brighten many dishes.

Chamomile flowers are cute as a button, decorate cupcakes, toss into salads or teas or just pop in your mouth while you are weeding.

Cilantro blooms taste similar to the leaves with a bit of spice but their flavor dosn’t hold up to cooking so eat them fresh in salsas salads and cocktails. Pineapple cilantro sorbet really close to perfection.

Chicory is mild.

Cornflower or bachelor buttons have a slight clove taste, most commonly used as a garnish they can also be used as a food coloring with a beautiful blue hue.

Chervil flowers have more flavor then their mild leaves and are reminiscent of anise. I love cream of chervil soup with the flowers as a lovely accent.

Calendula or marigold can be used as a saffron substitute, it lacks the taste with more of a citrus tang but will add a lovely golden color to rice dishes. Their bright yellows and oranges are beautiful additions to a festive meal.

Clover flowers are profuse and lovely in salads jellies and wines.

Chysanthemum come in many shapes and sizes, their flavor ranges from dull to peppery but they always add a bit of color. They are often used in stir-fries.

Dill flowers are just as flavorful as the leaf maybe even more so, and are great with seafood or cheddar dill biscuits.

Daylilyies taste like a sweet melon. It is a mild flavor but it’s there. Try them stuffed with a soft cheese and fried. DO NOT eat other kinds of lilies as many are toxic.

Fennel has a sharp anise flavor, sprinkle them on salads, use in tea or dry them and serve in a little bowl as an after dinner mint.

Hibiscus flowers will make any meal seem extraordinary.

Lemon verbena blooms are wonderful in teas or desserts that need a little citrus scent. Make an infused oil for use later in the season.

Lavender aroma is strong so add it sparingly. Try it as a substitute for rosemary for a similar taste with more floral notes. It’s divine in a citrus based sorbet. Make a simple syrup for use in drinks, one of our favorites is mezcal with grapefruit, lavender syrup and a salt rim – yum!

Lilac is one of the sweetest tasting garden flowers. I like to dry them and place a few sprigs in my sugar pot to insure it with that intoxicating aroma, it’s lovely in a mild tea or cream cheese frosting.

Mint blossoms can be used just as the herb and just about anywhere. I love it in salsas, in a cucumber yogurt sauce, on green beans with feta, in chocolate chip cookies and in omelets with peas and a good hard cheese.

Marjoram blooms are similar in taste to thyme and are mild enough to use anyplace you want to add their subtle color.

Nasturshims are a peppery hot surprise given their delicate looking blooms. They are wonderful on salads or as garnish but adding them to a soft creamy cheese really brings out their flavor. You can also pickle the seeds for a spicy caper substitute.

Okra flowers are beautiful additions to lots of savory or sweet dishes. Use them to garnish masala or seafood stew.

Oregano blooms are slightly more bitter than the leaf but can be used in the same way. A pesto with hazelnuts and oregano is a lovely. I also love a sauce with citrus and oregano for sweet potatoes or squash.

Passionflower are an exotic addition to your dinner party.

Rosemary blooms are tiny but sill pack a bit of flavor. Try vodka infused with rosemary and habanero. It’s also beautiful sprinkled atop an apple pie or try infusing a honey lemon blend.

Roses can be eaten whole or the petals removed. They taste much like they smell and are wonderful steeped into liquors or to flair pastries. The romans would bury them in urns for a week then place them on the tables to bloom during dinner parties.

Sage flowers are big and beautiful blue blooms that can be used anywhere you would use sage. We love them baked into breads, or fried and used as a garnish, they also make a beautiful addition to white bean dips.

Sunflower petals add a lively burst of color if not a lot of taste.

Thyme flowers can be used just as the herb but are more tender than the woody stems so they make a beautiful presentation whole.

Viola and pansies are so sweet on sweets. Brushed with egg whites and dusted with sugar they can last and last.

Woodruff tastes dainty and sweet just the it looks.

You can also eat the flowers of many vegetables try:
Zucchini
Arugula
Broccoli
Cabbage

Building a home for beneficial bugs

This lovely beneficial insect home build from gathered twigs, grasses and mossy bricks looks more like a piece of garden.

This lovely beneficial insect home built from gathered twigs, grasses and mossy bricks looks more like a piece of garden art.

In our gardens one can tend to think that all bugs are bad but in truth the vast majority are beneficial while only a few greedy ones give the rest a bad name. Beneficial insects help our gardens in three main ways – they are predators, pollinators and parasitiods.

The more diversity of bug life in the garden the better chance the bugs have of reaching a balance where predatory insects and garden munching buggers coexist and none can rise to the level of destructive pest.

You can encourage a healthy population of beneficial bugs in your garden by creating habitat that offers food and shelter for your new bug partners. A creative way to encourage a healthy insect population is to build a structure for protection from the elements as well as space to feed, mate, lay eggs and pupate.

Beetle banks, tunnel nests, bug hotels call them what you will they all help provide habitat for insects. They can be large or small, elaborately designed or quite simple.
Here are some of the basic requirements:

Shelter from rain can be accomplished with a layer of natural material or a proper roof made of tiles or pieces of wood.

Interior space can be made up of pieces of wood with holes drilled into them, bundles of twigs, layers of grasses, bricks or whatever natural material you may forage in your garden.

Most bugs prefer a sunny location. A south or east facing location is best for morning light.

Placement depends on the type of insect you hope to attract. Some like many predatory wasps prefer to nest above surrounding vegetation while others like certain spiders prefer a location close to the ground. It is a good excuse to have more than one insect habitat.

The best insect habitat can be a simple brush pile made up of larger branches interspersed with small twigs and loose material like leaves or grasses. It may sound messy but can be quite a beautiful addition to a garden when built with care.
A brush pile creates shelter for ground dwelling arthropods and nighttime predatory incects that need shelter from the sun such as lacewings.

Beneficial insects to purchase:
Ladybugs (only from a reputable source and never gathered from the wild)
Praying mantis eggs
Lacewing eggs
Parasitoid wasp pupae

The bad guys
Box elder Leptocoris trivittatus and L. rubrolineatus
Mealy bug Pseudococcus, Planococcusand Ehrhornia species.
Cabbage worm
Tomato hornworm
Corn worm

The good guys
Preying mantis
Green lacewing
Predatory thrips
Damsel bug
Big eyed bug
Minute pirate bug
Mirid
Stink
Assassin
Ambulady
Lady beetle
Rove beetle
Soldier beetle
Hover flies
Bee flies
Dance flies
Long legged flies
Predatory midges

Spiders
Orb weaver
Crab
Jumping
Daddy long legs

Parasitic wasps
Chalcids
Encyrtids
Braconids
Ichneumonids

Starting seeds indoors

24b5b556-8880-46d7-8885-ca6b98d53da7-1 When starting seeds indoors timing is everything.Before you even begin making a good plan of what you want to plant and backing it up by creating a calendar will make the whole process way easier to implement and enjoy.

After you have chosen the coolest seeds to start indoors be sure to check the dates to maturity, you don’t want your seeds to germinate and grow quickly and then have it be to cold outside to transplant them in the garden. So count back from the time to plant outdoors and mark your calendar accordingly. It can be a simple sketch with dates off to the side or you can geek out on an elaborate program. Here a link to a seed starting chart to help you get started  http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/seed-starting-chart. And here is the farmers almanac – Best Spring dates for seeds http://www.almanac.com/gardening/planting-dates/OR/Portland

Now you are ready to plant.

Light is one of the most important elements in starting seeds indoors.  Seedlings that don’t get enough light will be leggy and weak and likely only survive to about 3 inches tall and then shrivel. If you have a good southern facing window you may not need additional lighting but everyone else should consider using a grow light. Also, lights will fade over time so bulbs should be replaced annually for best results.

Temperature is also a factor, if seeds are too chilly they might not ever emerge let alone thrive. Seed starting heat mats are available commercially and while they can really help the process they are not completely necessary as long as you monitor the temp. Seeds placed right in a window may get to cold from the drafts. Check seed packages for specific temp and light requirements.

Soil is also a big consideration. A seed starting mix is best as it will be a very light composition of peat-lite and will be easy for tender young plants to push through. Seed starting mixes also usually contain a very mellow amount of fertilizer just right for young plants. Regular garden soil isn’t the best option as it will contain lots of organisms and bacteria that could harm new plants.

Containers should always be clean and sterilized before use. You can use last seasons plastic pots, pop out trays, flats or even used plastic food containers like yogurt or hummus tubs just be sure that there are holes in the bottom for good drainage. Peat pots are an easy way to go as they have a specially formulated seed composite and you can plop the whole thing in the garden when ready to transplant. You can also make paper pots yourself.

Fill container about three quarters full with your soil medium. Leave enough room at the top so water can fill and drain into the soil without running over the sides (this will help you be sure to water each pot evenly) Check the seed package for desired depth.

Water is essential when starting seeds. Make sure the soil in your containers is quite moist all the way to the bottom. Invisible dry pockets can form under the surface of new soil so its easier to pre – mix the soil with water in a bowl before filling containers. You don’t want the soil to be soggy but you also don’t want it to be at all dry. Take a clump up in your hands and lightly squeeze to remove any dripping excess before filling. Check moisture frequently and don’t let them dry out at all, a plastic or glass cover helps keep the moisture in.

Seedlings cannot be allowed to dry out but they are also very sensitive to damping off, a fungal disease which can become a problem if the soil is too wet. Keep your pots moist but never soggy and remove coverings once the seedlings begin to develop. Another thing that can help is to put a very small oscillating fan on the seedlings. This will keep air flow moving around the seeds and also forces the little plants to develop strong stalks but it can also dry them out so watch the water! Misters can supply just the right amount of water to the soil but you don’t want to leave leaves to wet and susceptible to fungal disease.

Hardening off is so important! Tender seedlings need time to adjust from perfect indoor to harsh outdoor conditions. Place seedlings in a protected outdoor location. You want to shelter them from winds hard rains and especially direct sunlight which can burn them. Start out with an hour or so a day and gradually work up to more time each day. A week generally gives them the right amount of time to adjust before being planted directly outdoors.

Fertilizers should be used cautiously in the beginning. You new plants need food to grow but too much can do more harm than good. There are some great seedling fertilizer mixes available just follow the directions and enjoy all those new baby plants for the garden.

Edible flowers

IMG_5187

Edible flowers add so much to a dish – color and texture as well as flavor. Use them simply as a garnish, or infuse into vinegars & liquors for the most flavor. Sprinkle them onto soups or casseroles, pastries and dips, bake them into the tops of breads, muffins or cakes and you can even freeze them into ice cubes for summer cocktails.

Flowers are ephemeral and are generally best when harvested in the cool morning hours after a good watering. Only organically grown flowers that you have identified without a doubt should be eaten.

Here are some of our favorite varieties:

Basil flowers are a bit bitter but still edible in the right dish and the colors are gorgeous.

Borage blossoms taste a bit like a cucumber and are a lovely addition to salads or pastries, they are gorgeous in summer cocktails and are a traditional addition to a pimms cup.

Bee balm flowers are wonderful in teas or as a spicier alternative to oregano.

Bergamot, if you are lucky to have some citrus blooming in your house you may not want to pick any but if you have plethora of blooms use them to infuse vinegars, sauces or liquors.

Carnations – there are many varieties all with their own characteristics but most have a subtle clove like scent.

Chives as well as any alliums can add a bit of zing to salads or any dish that need a bit of heat. Make a chive emulsion with lemon dijon and oil that will brighten many dishes.

Chamomile flowers are cute as a button, decorate cupcakes, toss into salads or teas or just pop in your mouth while you are weeding.

Cilantro blooms taste similar to the leaves with a bit of spice but their flavor dosn’t hold up to cooking so eat them fresh in salsas salads and cocktails. Pineapple cilantro sorbet really close to perfection.

Chicory is mild.

Cornflower or bachelor buttons have a slight clove taste, most commonly used as a garnish they can also be used as a food coloring with a beautiful blue hue.

Chervil flowers have more flavor then their mild leaves and are reminiscent of anise. I love cream of chervil soup with the flowers as a lovely accent.

Calendula or marigold can be used as a saffron substitute, it lacks the taste with more of a citrus tang but will add a lovely golden color to rice dishes. Their bright yellows and oranges are beautiful additions to a festive meal.

Clover flowers are profuse and lovely in salads jellies and wines.

Chysanthemum come in many shapes and sizes, their flavor ranges from dull to peppery but they always add a bit of color. They are often used in stir-fries.

Dill flowers are just as flavorful as the leaf maybe even more so, and are great with seafood or cheddar dill biscuits.

Daylilyies taste like a sweet melon. It is a mild flavor but it’s there. Try them stuffed with a soft cheese and fried. DO NOT eat other kinds of lilies as many are toxic.

Fennel has a sharp anise flavor, sprinkle them on salads, use in tea or dry them and serve in a little bowl as an after dinner mint.

Hibiscus flowers will make any meal seem extraordinary.

Lemon verbena blooms are wonderful in teas or desserts that need a little citrus scent. Make an infused oil for use later in the season.

Lavender aroma is strong so add it sparingly. Try it as a substitute for rosemary for a similar taste with more floral notes. It’s divine in a citrus based sorbet. Make a simple syrup for use in drinks, one of our favorites is mezcal with grapefruit, lavender syrup and a salt rim – yum!

Lilac is one of the sweetest tasting garden flowers. I like to dry them and place a few sprigs in my sugar pot to insure it with that intoxicating aroma, it’s lovely in a mild tea or cream cheese frosting.

Mint blossoms can be used just as the herb and just about anywhere. I love it in salsas, in a cucumber yogurt sauce, on green beans with feta, in chocolate chip cookies and in omelets with peas and a good hard cheese.

Marjoram blooms are similar in taste to thyme and are mild enough to use anyplace you want to add their subtle color.

Nasturshims are a peppery hot surprise given their delicate looking blooms. They are wonderful on salads or as garnish but adding them to a soft creamy cheese really brings out their flavor. You can also pickle the seeds for a spicy caper substitute.

Okra flowers are beautiful additions to lots of savory or sweet dishes. Use them to garnish masala or seafood stew.

Oregano blooms are slightly more bitter than the leaf but can be used in the same way. A pesto with hazelnuts and oregano is a lovely. I also love a sauce with citrus and oregano for sweet potatoes or squash.

Passionflower are an exotic addition to your dinner party.

Rosemary blooms are tiny but sill pack a bit of flavor. Try vodka infused with rosemary and habanero. It’s also beautiful sprinkled atop an apple pie or try infusing a honey lemon blend.

Roses can be eaten whole or the petals removed. They taste much like they smell and are wonderful steeped into liquors or to flair pastries. The romans would bury them in urns for a week then place them on the tables to bloom during dinner parties.

Sage flowers are big and beautiful blue blooms that can be used anywhere you would use sage. We love them baked into breads, or fried and used as a garnish, they also make a beautiful addition to white bean dips.

Sunflower petals add a lively burst of color if not a lot of taste.

Thyme flowers can be used just as the herb but are more tender than the woody stems so they make a beautiful presentation whole.

Viola and pansies are so sweet on sweets. Brushed with egg whites and dusted with sugar they can last and last.

Woodruff tastes dainty and sweet just the it looks.

You can also eat the flowers of many vegetables try:
Zucchini
Arugula
Broccoli
Cabbage

 
© thicket 2016