I will start with the usual reminder of who we are, for new visitors.
The team consists of Dominique Nancy of 3C Style in Canada, Lisa Lawrence of Lismore Paper in the USA, and myself in the UK. We work closely each month to bring you three intertwined posts with a common theme. We are all three very creative people who met via our WP blogs. We have a shared ethos and a close friendship. Our motto – ‘An ocean apart but we share the same heart’ describes us perfectly. The five hour time difference means I spend my morning commute catching up with their conversations during the night, and waiting for them to wake up so I can join in!
Make sure you visit Dominique and Lisa via the links above, to see the whole of the post.
This month the theme is Edible Flowers. Some of these are not obvious, and some go into making much-loved drinks! During this month I visited Dominique in Montreal and we had a go at food photography. This was great fun and we got to eat the results! See 3C Style for recipes.
Edible flower salad!
We visited a market in Montreal and found this stall selling wild foods. This fitted with our theme for June so we bought some. The gentleman in charge wrote us a list of what each of the plants was reputed to taste like. So we tried to find their partner so we could photograph the pairs together. Then we made a big salad and ate the lot! This was so much fun. Dominique is amazing at food styling!
Claytonia virginica. This tastes like sweetcorn. It is found in temperate Eastern North America, including Quebec. It grows from tuberous roots (also edible). The counterpart in the West would be Claytonia perfoliata which is known as Miners Lettuce because of its use in salads by miners during the gold rush.
Alliaria petiolata or Garlic Mustard is a member of the mustard family that, logically, tastes of garlic. One of the worlds oldest culinary spices this plant is native to Asia, North Africa and Europe including the UK. It is an undesirable invasive species in North America where it was introduced in the 19th century. It is a very familiar wildflower for me but this is the first time I tried eating it!
Cardamine diphylla, known as Carcajou in Quebec, is another member of the Mustard family. In this case it has a mild taste of horseradish. A North American native this species is sometimes seen in gardens in the UK. Other species of cardamine include the weedy Bittercresses and the rather lively UK wildflower the Lady’s Smock.
Also closely related is the wild brassica, Rapini Sauvage, or Brassica ruvo, which tastes ounsurprisingly of mustard! This is an improvement on the taste of most Brassicas such as broccoli or cabbage….
Tilia are the Lime trees well known right around the Northern hemisphere. They have myriad uses and the blossom is attractive to bees and important to honey producers. In this case the young shoots can be eaten in salads and have a taste of Walnuts.
The big surprise for me was seeing the leaves of Eryrthronium americanum in the mix. This, like all Erythronium, is a sought after garden plant in the UK. This species is often difficult to persuade to flower in the uk however. The salad mix also included some flowers which I happily ate too. The leaves taste of melon.
Finally we come to Begonia. These are the common begonia used in bedding plant displays and baskets everywhere. We were intrigued to discover these flowers taste like Apples and different colours have different flavours.
The violet flowers used for decoration here are also edible and included in the salad. They don’t really taste of anything. The lavender we added and it tastes of, well, Lavender.
Do I really need to write about Apples? They are so ubiquitous! Our domestic apple, Malus domestica, originated from a wild ancestor , Malus sieversii in Central Asia and over centuries hybridised with other species and the seedlings selected to form the range of varieties we enjoy today. As well as their culinary uses there are some very attractive apple varieties grown for their scented flowers, and types of Crab Apple grown for their decorative but not edible fruits.
A cursed weed to many gardeners, the ubiquitous Taraxacum officinale is found in temperate regions worldwide and I probably do not need to write much about this either! If it were rarer I think would be a valued garden plant. It is very attractive in flower and in seed and is beloved by pollinating insects.
The genus Taraxacum is huge if one includes the over 2000 ‘microspecies’ that have evolved in isolated populations. There are even some white and pinkish flowered species in Asia which, ironically, are very tricky in cultivation.
If you would like a highly recommended dandelion equivalent for the garden, which does not produce seed, try the lovely Crepis incana.
These are apparently a delicacy in Quebec and unfortunately, though we bought some for the photo, I did not get chance to try them cooked as we ran out of time.
Fiddleheads are the tightly coiled new fronds of a number of fern species. They need careful preparation before being eaten so please take care! When I took the photo above I was not aware that this species , the shuttlecock fern or ostrich fern, was one of the species eaten as fiddleheads. However – the wikipedia entry for this species does caution that it contains a toxin so please be careful! Dominique tells you how she prepares and cooks Fiddleheads and I hope to try them next time I visit.
Don’t ask about the duck. Nice colour though isn’t it? And matches Dominique’s swimming costume!
The shuttlecock fern, Matteucia struthiopteris, is a lovely decorative fern for the garden in a damp spot. It spreads by runners though so may be invasive. It is deciduous, dying back each winter, before unfurling again in spring. It looks its best in May here in the UK. The photos of the fern and the duck were taken at Holker Hall gardens in Cumbria this May.
Borage, Borago officinalis, is an annual herb from the Mediterranean but is widely grown around the world. It does well in the UK and is much loved by bees. As well as being used to flavour drinks the flowers are often used as a salad garnish. The leaves can be cooked for use as a vegetable too. Nowadays it is grown commercially for its seeds – Borage seed oil having uses in herbal medicine.
I struggled to find a plant in flower to photograph so we resorted to a Pixabay photo – but I did produce this drawing as an illustration for the Borage Lemonade recipe that Dominique talks about.
Finally we reach a subject close to my heart. Beer! Dominique has video proof of this, which will no doubt appear soon…
During the recent trip to Montreal Dominique took me to a place where I could try a number of different local beers. Craft Beer has also inspired a wonderful art work from Lisa which we are very proud to make available on products in our Threadless store:
The hop, Humulus lupulus, has a long and fascinating history of use by people. See the Wikipedia entry for more info.
First used in brewing over a thousand years ago the unpollinated fruits of the female plant lend the flavour and bitterness to beers. Hop fields are entirely of the female plant as pollination is not wanted. In the UK the county of Kent has a long tradition of hop growing and has some great local beers too. Britains oldest extant brewery, Shepherd Neame (est 1698) is based in the county and their Spitfire Ale is one of my favourites. Whole families from the East end of London would traditionally spend their summers picking hops in Kent. Hops are also very widely grown in the US and Canada.
The dried flower heads are attractive and can be used in flower arrangements or in potpourri. There is a very attractive golden leaved form ‘Aureus’ which makes a good, vigorous, climber for covering a fence or structure in the garden.
This new image was teased last month. The concept came to me as a doodle from Dominique and I was initially wary because I expected the wood grain to be a time-consuming challenge. In fact this was a remarkably fast drawing to do – much of it being completed during a two-hour Skype call. It was also great fun to draw. We are offering this image on products in our Threadless Store too:
WFNC is taking a break.
The team have decided that we will take a vacation in July but we will return refreshed (in my case probably with beer) in August!