Pretty as a Peony

If you’ve considered adding peonies to your garden, we have some tips for capitalizing  on them by incorporating varieties with different bloom times and using hosta as an aesthetically pleasing way to support them. The peony is edible, so it offers countless ways to dress up the table at your next party or gathering. Not only are they lovely to look at, but they’re good enough to eat!
peony

Paeonia officinalis

Many of us who love the boldness of peonies are deterred by their relatively short bloom time, but like daylillies and roses, each peony has a slightly different bloom time. Pick early, mid and late varieties to maximize bloom time. With the right combination of peonies you could have 7 full weeks of bloom. You can find peonies in shades of white, pink, red, and  yellow, in double and single form.

Peony (8)

A perennial with a maximum height of three feet, the peony comes in many varieties with different blooming times:
  • Early (Little Red Gem, Starlight & Roselette)
  • Mid (Moonrise & Miss America)
  • Late (Sarah Bernhardt & Marie Lemoine)

cake-peonies

The peony is named for the Greek god of healing, Paeon. Another legend states that the physician, Peon, used the roots to heel the wounds of Pluto. In addition to their healing properties, peony flowers are edible. The versatility of peonies is another draw. Their simple elegance adds the perfect accent to a wedding or other celebratory cake. Float a blossom in a punch bowl to dress up the beverage at your next party, or drop the petals in iced tea for an extra touch. You can even sprinkle them on salads as an eye-catching garnish!

peony2
Be sure to invest in a structure/cage, or for a more interesting support system, try interplanting hosta in front and among the peonies to hold them up. This also helps avoid bare spots in the gardens when the peony foliage dies back.
peony hosta 3

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Pesto Prize: Making the Most of Weeds

As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. In the same vein, when nature gives you weeds, make pesto.

Garlic Mustard, an invasive weed blooming in April and May, may be a nuisance, but it is also a key ingredient to this tasty, versatile sauce. The original source for this recipe is Monches Farm, although it has been altered slightly by substituting 1/2 of the olive oil with a ripe avocado and a splash of lemon juice.

garlic.flowers

But first things first.

If you’re going to try this recipe, you need to properly identify the Garlic Mustard weed and be sure that is hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals. This National Park Service web page can help you identify the plant. If you are not sure you have identified this plant correctly, DO NOT EAT IT.

Garlic Mustard plants have one flowering stem full of white flowers with four separated petals. Leaves are alternate and triangular, with tooth-shaped edges, and they smell distinctly like garlic when crushed. To collect, pluck the plant up by the roots; you’ll find it comes up quite easily. Remove all the leaves and wash them thoroughly.

garlic.leaves

An added bonus is the delicate flowers look pretty in a jar for a few days until the petals begin to fall.

garlic.vase

Once the leaves are clean and spun dry in a salad spinner, combine the following ingredients in a food processor:

 

3 cups of packed Garlic Mustard leaves 

2 cloves of garlic 

1 1/4 cups of shredded Parmesan, Romano, or Asagio cheese 

1 cup of walnuts

1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 ripe avocado

splash of lemon juice

salt & pepper to taste

reserved cooking water *

 

If you’re using the pesto for pasta, add a little reserved cooking water. Otherwise you can leave it out. For a nice, nutty texture, grind up the walnuts and garlic separately, then add them at the very end with the shredded cheese.

pesto

This also makes a great homemade gift for friends and family when presented in a jar with a raffia bow on top.  For an added touch, be sure to include a handwritten recipe so they can share the love!

Amelanchiers mean June Berry Pie and Running Fish.

Amelanchier x Autumn Brilliance

Amelanchier x Autumn Brilliance

What is Blooming in Falmouth? The Amelanchier.
(Otherwise known as Shad, Serviceberry, Saskatoon and Juneberry.)

This family of spring blooming shrubs and trees grows naturally along stream banks here on Cape Cod. They are also called Shad Trees because when they are in bloom, you know that the Shad Herring are running from the ocean to freshwater to spawn. These trees make a versatile and beautiful addition to the garden. Consider planting an Amelanchier if you’d like:

  • Prolific Spring Flowers
  • Edible Fruit (See the Recipe below for Juneberry Pie
  • Brilliant Fall Color
  • To Attract Birds, Butterflies, Honeybees
  • A Tree for Small Spaces (Reaches 15 to 25 feet tall)
  • Versatility: Trim an Amelanchier up as a specimen tree or allow it to spread naturally into a thicket of shrubs along an embankment or woodland edge.
  • A Full Sun or Part Shade Plant.
Amelanchier_insta

Shad Tree Fall Color

Creamy Juneberry-Rhubarb Pie Recipe*:

Filling:
3 Tbs Flour
1/2 Cups Sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 Cup Sour Cream
1 Egg (beaten)
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp Lemon Juice
1 Cup Chopped Rhubarb
2 Cups June Berries

Topping:
Mix Into a Crumble:
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
2 Tbs cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Pie Crust:
Use the pie crust of your choice. Ready Made or Home Made, I prefer a graham cracker crust with this pie.

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400F. Mix Flour, Sugar, Salt, Sour Cream, Egg, Vanilla, Lemon Juice together in a large bowl until well blended. Add the Rhubarb and June berries. Pour filling into a 9″ pie crust. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 25 minutes. Remove the pie, and sprinkle the crumb topping on top. Bake at 350 for a final 15 minutes or until the topping is brown.* Note: We adapted this pie from a straight Rhubarb pie at http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/pie If you don’t have Juneberries, Strawberries also work wonderfully in the mix.

Sweet, Edible Spring

When clusters of sweet violets recently popped up in the garden, food was not the first thing on my mind. I was thinking birds, blooms, and warmer weather must finally be on the way. But after spotting this flower recipe book at Eight Cousin’s Bookstore, cooking violets into sugary concoctions seems like the only logical thing to do. Cooking with Flowers: Sweet and Savory Recipes with Rose Petals, Lilacs, Lavender, and Other Edible Flowers by Miche Bacher and Miana Jun is full of beautiful photographs and recipes featuring edible blooms.

Cooking With Flowers  by MIche Bacher, Miana Jun

Cooking With Flowers by Miche Bacher, Miana Jun

Dandelion leaves are tender and tasty this time of year, but their yellow flowers can also be used. Toss them in bread crumbs and fry them up as fritters. Tulips? Not only are the petals edible, but so are the bulbs. They taste like onions. And right now is the perfect time to harvest violets, pansies, and dandelions from your garden.  With lovely sounding things like Calendula Orange Cake, Elderflower Marshmallows, and Blackberry Borage Fool, the only problem with this book is that you will want to eat everything in it.

A few edible* flowers to look for this spring:

Apple & Crabapple Blossoms (Malus)
Bachelor’s Button (Centaurea)
Calendula (Marigolds)
Clover (Trifolium)
Dianthus (Carnations, Pinks, & Sweet William)
Dandelions
Elderflowers (Sambucus)
Wild Geraniums or Cranesbill (Pelargonium)
Lilacs (Syringa)
Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranth)
Pansies (Viola)
Tulips
Violets (Viola)

*The flowers on this list are all fairly common, but be sure confirm the identity before eating any plants. Also, never eat flowers that have been sprayed with harmful chemicals. 

Viola Odorata - Sweet Violets

Viola Odorata – Sweet Violets

Now what to do with those Sweet Violets from the garden? Candied flowers are an easy way to add elegance to your favorite cupcake recipe. To make candied violets, all you need are egg whites, very fine sugar, a handful of violets, and water. There is a great How-to at Taste of Home. Don’t use your houseplants for these. African Violets are not members of the Viola family and are not edible. Use Viola Odorata (Sweet Violet), Pansies, or other edible flowers.

Taste of Home Candied Violets Recipe

Taste of Home Candied Violets Recipe

Happy Spring, Happy Flower Cooking, and if you know of any other great flower recipes, we’d love to hear about them.