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21 Mar 2011

Flower Power!

Recipe by Thistlemoon

Spring and summer menus for our household are dictated by what is growing in our garden, and in our local community. There is just so much green and abundance. A time to celebrate fresh foods after a long, cold winter of storage and comfort foods.

Each time the season changes, I reaffirm my vow to eat seasonally and locally for the sheer pleasure of tasting foods at the height of their flavor and freshness. In the fall and winter, I can’t get enough of winter squashes, root vegetables, and members of the brassica family. In the spring and summer, I linger over those first fresh peas, fiddlehead ferns, and salad greens; and finally give way to luscious tomatoes and eggplants.

I find that after getting used to eating seasonally, your body actually craves foods that are in season naturally, and does not feel drawn to foods that are out of season. This feels like a return to a more natural rhythm, definitely more in tune with the cycles and more in touch with our Ancestors, for this is how they would have eaten. Each seasonal change is like the manifestation of a prayer being answered, moving into new delights.

Throughout the year I share our household bounty with the Ancestors, our personal Patrons, and the Wights that care for the land on which we live, grow, and hunt our food. This is a constant practice because with each change of season, there is a change in what we need to get us through the next one.

We grow an organic vegetable garden which means that we rely heavily on companion planting. Companion planting brings balance to the garden, as plants help each other to repel bugs, encourage high yields, and attract garden allies. Edible flowers are indispensable companion plants. They serve their ecological purpose, while at the same time, they are beautiful to gaze upon and good to eat.

I use them as a garnish for dips, desserts, and cheeses (they look beautiful pressed into a log of goat cheese, for example). You can also freeze them in ice cube trays with water to make beautiful edible flower ice cubes for drinks. Little People, both human and fae, and those in between, tend to appreciate this whimsical treat.

I also love using flowers to dress up a salad. We use a lot of nasturtium and borage in the garden as companion plants for virtually everything. A salad of garden-fresh beets, carrots, fresh herbs, and lots of beautiful nasturtium and borage make a nice option. Both flowers and leaves are edible on a nasturtium and they lend a wonderful peppery flavor to your dishes. Even the seeds can be pickled – they apparently taste like capers. The flowers and leaves are high in vitamin C, and have been used to treat colds as a tea. Nasturtium can also be used topically for bacterial and fungal infections because of its mustard-oil content. It is said if you plant three red nasturtium plants in your garden you will repel unwanted visitors to your land.

Borage flowers are perhaps one of the only truly naturally occurring blue foods, other than blueberries. They have a very sweet taste. The flowers are also rich in minerals, most notably potassium. Medicinally the leaves are often used as support to the adrenal glands during times of stress and for inflammation. Borage has adaptogenic, restorative, diuretic, expectorant, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Probably the most well-known use for borage is borage oil. Borage oil is very high in gamma-linolenic acid, GLA. GLA is an essential fatty acid, omega-6 oil. Borage oil supplements are most beneficial for arthritis and chronic dry skin, such as eczema.

Although we started growing these flowers in accordance with companion planting, we soon discovered that we loved the taste too!

I love roasting beets for salads, and pairing them with goat cheese. There is something so good, and not to mention aesthetically beautiful, about the combination of goat cheese and beets. This is a perfect dinner salad on a hot summer night, when your family is looking for something light. It would also be a wonderful first course to a summer harvest dinner. It is colorful, delicious, and healthy on so many levels!

5 small beets, cut in half
10 small/baby carrots
2 T fresh rosemary
1 T fresh thyme
Salt & pepper
Olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp maple syrup
5 cups fresh greens – arugula, red leaf and
green leaf lettuces, nasturtium leaves
Olive oil to toss the greens in
Salt & pepper to season greens
¼ cup goat cheese, crumbled
Nasturtium flowers, as garnish
Borage flowers, as garnish

Stir the veggies with olive oil, salt and pepper, and herbs until well coated.
Roast in a preheated 400 F oven for about 45 minutes, turning once halfway through.
In the same bowl, add mustard and maple, dump the roasted veggies in, and stir to coat. Then toss the greens with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Crumble the goat cheese on top, arrange the roasted veggies and the edible flowers. Serves 4 as a main dish.

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