Have you ever seen a wild hibiscus in flower? Or, better yet, have you watched one bloom in a glass of bubbly?
Rosellas, are a tropical annual, which are also known as Wild Hibiscus, Florida Cranberry, Royal Roselle, Red Tea, Guinea/Indian/Red/Natal/Jamaican Sorrel, Jamaica tea flower, Java Jute, Nubia tea, Pink Lemonade, Queensland Jelly Plant, and Sour-Sour. The plant, originally from South Africa, grows beautifully throughout tropical and subtropical regions of India, Australia and Southeast Asia.
If I’m really honest, I may have sold Rosellas as a Native flower at some stage over my career 🤔 I’m sure I’m not the first, nor the last to do this….The Hibiscus is often associated with Australian bush tucker, and has been popular with Indigenous Australians since being introduced here, so I guess I just assumed they had been native. They grow prolifically in Queensland and Northern Australia. Having grown here for thousands of years now, there are some differences in our plants characteristics from those in neighbouring countries.
The Hibiscus grows on the edge of forests and rainforests, and in sand dune regions. It is a hardy, drought resistant plant however it is sensitive to frost. Rosellas have a unique tart flavour, making them popular for use in jams, cordials, teas and as a decorative addition to your drink.
Their botanical name is Hibiscus sabdariffa, and they are a member of the Mallow family. The seeds, leaves, fruits and even the roots of the Rosella are used in various foods. The fleshy red calyx, and the characteristic 5 petalled funnel shaped flower is perhaps the most popular part of the plant.
The product that has become internationally recognised is the Wild Hibiscus flowers in syrup, which were first produced by an Australian family business, headed by Lee Ethrington. After initially producing the wildly popular Rosella Jam for local markets, he then branched out to a range of Australian Bushfoods seeing the potential for both international guests and loving locals. Queenslanders were mad for the Rosella Jam, made from the Hibiscus growing all through the north of the state. Believe it or not, but according to their website, the moment of discovery that led to the creation of their most popular product, was entirely by chance:
“…Lee and partner, Jocelyn and their guests dropped a rosella flower into a glass of champagne (the flowers and other native fruits were always on hand for making the bushfood produce). Watching in amazement as the flower started to unfurl and look particularly special in the glass, the idea was sparked by Lee to create the first bottled whole hibiscus flowers in syrup.”
The flowers are preserved in a concoction of sparkling water and cane sugar and can be used up to 36 months after bottling. Due to the seasonal nature of the plant, demand was not being met, so they were forced to travel and establish a supply network across the Australasian tropical belt. Wow!
I think it is incredibly interesting to see flowers used in ways outside floral arrangement. We know that many creatures in nature find sustenance from flowers, so why not us too, right?
Sometime last year you may remember a blog post that revealed the latest in a string of fads, the donut bouquet.
Well, if you thought things really couldn’t get any crazier….imagine for a moment that instead of your wedding bouquet being constructed with the finest and freshest cut flowers available, it was made with fresh pizza dough, whole milk mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, and pepperoni.
Now don’t get me wrong, that sounds like the recipe for a successful weekend/date night/girls night in/game night…..but a wedding? Sorry, but I’m just not convinced.
Over the American summer, Villa Italian Kitchen is running a new promotion offering couples the chance to win a Pizza Bouquet and Boutonniere with beautiful and delicate floral details hand-crafted by New York City food-stylist, Jessie Bearden.
As a florist I suspect you think I’m a bit of a purist and just couldn’t possibly fathom someone choosing something other than flowers for their wedding. I guess in many ways that would be correct….but the detail that disturbs me the most is probably the idea of the greasy cheese, and tomato sauce even so much as grazing past the beautiful wedding gown.
I had my own fair share of stains on my dress; there were smudges of chocolate mud cake, and copious amounts of fake tan, but imagine for a moment a large red, greasy smear across your waist and hip area, as your day is just beginning. Um….yuck.
What this idea highlights is that weddings are entirely individual, and that really there are no rules that can’t be broken. You can basically create whatever vision you have in your mind.
Food is an integral component of each and every wedding, and whilst I am sure there is a percentage of people out there that would be thankful for having a handy snack to calm their nerves, there is another whole set out there who may very well hurl from the smell of this greasy pizza bouquet.
With that said, I am a fan of some of the innovations that have been made over the years with regards to traditional wedding fare. The towering “cheese” cake for example, is a wonderful alternative to the traditional wedding cake. Many people prefer to offer a not-so-sweet option after what can be a pretty rich meal, and this is a great solution.
And while we are talking about the wedding cake, gone are the days of a plain white iced fruit cake. These days cakes of all sorts of colours, shapes and sizes are being designed for weddings, and decorated in the most magnificent ways.
If you, or someone you know is getting married soon, Florist with Flowers can create magical bouquets, buttonholes and arrangements for your upcoming nuptials. SPOILER ALERT: we are more than likely to recommend gorgeous fresh cut flowers, perhaps with delicate floral fragrance, or perhaps hypoallergenic, maybe sourced from local growers, or maybe imported if you have your heart set of something out of season here. I can say with absolute certainty that we will not be in the kitchen creating your bouquet 💐 🍕 👨🍳 😝
Traditionally wedding flowers were a unique combination of blooms put together to convey the hopes and dreams for the soon to be married couple’s future. A red chrysanthemum to say ‘I love you’, orange blossom to show purity, innocence and chastity, an arum lily would convey patience.
Then, wedding bouquets favoured classic blooms, such as the rose, lilies, lisanthus or stephanotis in pure and simple whites. They were often elaborate designs, long and trailing, using delicate feminine blooms.
Fast forward to today and just about anything goes. You can create a theme in pretty much anyway you choose.
But what about if you want to have something truly different? Like wedding bouquets that contain NO FRESH FLOWERS at all!!?? Now, I’m not talking about artificial wedding flower bouquets. I’m talking about doughnut bouquets. Yep. You heard right.
Seriously though, this week 23 year old Bride Paige Burgess from Sydney, surprised her 3 bridesmaids with bouquets of doughnuts created by Sydney-based company, Dessert Boxes. It was certainly a diversion from tradition, and apparently a real talking point at the wedding, but what I find most amazing about this story after going to such an effort to do something so unique…..THE DONUTS WERE LEFT UNEATEN 😭
After getting through the ceremony and reception, with all the gorgeous treats on offer to eat, Burgess told the BBC: “We had plenty of goodies beforehand so we were too full too eat them.”
Weddings are entirely individual, and many ‘traditions’ that were once seen as essential to a beautiful wedding, are now quite easily substituted to better suit the pair who are aiming to create a memorable day. “We wanted the wedding to be a bit different and really reflect who we are as a couple,” Paige Burgess said of choosing her doughnut bouquets. Her groom Steve even wore doughnut cuff-links! Dessert Boxes owner, Samantha Khater says that it was all started as a social media based competition, where Paige was one of thousands of comments. Khater rang a few of the entrants before speaking with Paige and knowing she was the right girl for them. People’s response to the doughnut bouquets has been HUGE with brides-to-be inquiring about the doughnut bouquets which are currently not part of Dessert Boxes standard range.
It is not the first time that we have seen couples play around with traditional wedding details to suit their personalities and tastes. Over the years, many have shunned the traditional wedding (fruit) cake in favour of other popular cake choices. Or the cake has been omitted altogether in favour of a what has been dubbed a “Cheese- Cake”; not the New York baked variety, but instead a tiered display of delicious gourmet cheeses, adorned with fresh and dried fruits. And for several years now we have been able to send chocolate bouquets as gifts.
As a flower lover, I saw fresh flowers as an essential ingredient in my wedding day, but I know that everyone is different, and details I see as important may be insignificant to you. Would you consider edible bouquets for your wedding day?
I’m pretty excited. This week, after a whole year of suggesting, asking, pleading….I have finally managed to get myself a banana plant for the backyard. It is no secret that we are a family that are pretty fond of growing as much produce as we can manage to eat, and at the moment I can see a huge discrepancy between the amount of bananas we eat (approximately 5 kilos a week) and the amount we produce (a big fat ZERO). What’s more, I have discovered that bananas have plenty of health benefits not just from the yellow fruit, but from the stem, the leaf and the flowers as well. The banana plant produces large pinkish/purple buds from the heart which develop into tubular, white flowers. The blossom hangs at the end of the cluster of bananas. On occasion I have seen fresh banana flowers (complete with cluster of bananas) in the Sydney Flower Market, but it is a rare treat.
Banana flowers are often used in Asian and South East Asian cuisines, almost in place of a vegetable in curries, soups and salads. The banana flower is sometimes compared to an artichoke in terms of its texture and taste, and like the artichoke, both the fleshy bracts and the heart are edible.
Banana flowers are a rich source of Antioxidants, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E, Potassium, Magnesium and Fibre, making them an excellent food choice. Antioxidants are essential for health because they reduce stress on cells throughout the body and therefore help slow down the ageing process. Magnesium is said to help reduce anxiety and boost your mood, so for those of you who like to eat your way to health, they are a natural anti depressant. Magnesium also helps promote restful sleep. Potassium is fuel for the brain, so helps with concentration, making you more receptive to learning. It has been shown to be an effective remedy to high blood pressure, and has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. Fibre is an important addition to any diet (both soluble fiber and insoluble) as it helps make digestion more efficient and reduces the instances of constipation.
Banana are pretty much a super-food for women throughout various stages of life. Cooked banana flower combined with yoghurt or curd is said to be one of the most effective home remedies for treating excessive (and painful) bleeding throughout menstruation. The unique combination increases the level of progesterone in the body which has been shown to help reduce bleeding. The Banana fruit is also rich in folic acid (required for making blood) making them a great choice for pregnant women who have increased requirements. On top of that, the bananas high iron content assists in preventing anemia keeping both mum and bubs healthy throughout pregnancy.
Nursing mothers can sometimes struggle with milk supply and Banana flowers have been found to boost milk supply 😄 Any new mother knows making time to eat properly when you are tending to a new baby can be challenging. Bananas are the original ‘100 calorie snack food’; the perfect food on the go! With only 100 calories and high fibre, they will keep you feeling fuller longer.
Now, I’m under no illusions, one banana plant for my hungry tribe is probably not going to be enough, but it’s a start anyhow! And while this list is not exhaustive it’s clear to me, that bananas are certainly a good choice for the garden or your shopping trolley. Bananas are of course readily available, and Banana flowers can sometimes be found in Asian supermarkets. If you are ready to experiment check out this Banana Blossom Salad recipe.
After last weeks post on harvesting some of your gardens gifts, I noticed that on various social media platforms many other Sydney Florists had been having the same idea. Throughout this last week, keen gardeners have been busy bottling up their garden in preparation for the months ahead. And really, it is the perfect time to do so, before the cold weather really starts! Winter often brings on the undeniable desire for comfort eating, so following on from last week, we have a couple more treats for you to create from your flourishing garden that should hit the spot. Citrus should be in full swing now, so it makes it the ideal time to preserve lemons which you can utilise in a variety of sweet and savoury recipes, AND a gorgeous lemon curd; an excuse to make a delicious tart or a pie for dessert! YUM.
Preserving lemons is a pretty straight forward process, but to speed up the maturing process and to soften the rind, Taste suggests freezing the lemons first, letting them thaw overnight before preparing them with the salt.
What you need;
1 1/2C lemon juice *freshly squeezed from additional lemons
1/2C sea salt
You might also like to add 1 cinnamon sticks and/or 3 cloves for a twist on the traditional. Alternatively you can use bay leaves between each layer of lemons. You must work into sterilised jars to ensure that mould does not spoil your efforts.
Ensure that you clean the lemons sufficiently so that no dirt or dust remains on the exterior. Cut the lemons in quarters but not all the way down. Fill each lemon with as much salt as possible. The salt draws out the juice from the lemon, softening the rind. Pack the lemons into the jar and top the jar with the remaining salt. Pour the lemon juice over the lemons so that they are all covered. The jar should be stored in a cool spot, away from direct sunlight for at least 4 weeks. As the lemons settle you may find you need to add extra juice to ensure the lemons remain covered.
When you are ready to use your lemons, remove the pieces required from the jar and wash under cool running water. Use a sharp knife to remove the flesh, and pith from the rind. Discard both the flesh and pith. Finely slice/dice the rind to use.
Preserved lemon is a great addition Middle Eastern inspired meals and salads, it works brilliantly with roasted chicken, and it is fabulous to utilise in desserts. This little gift from the garden project will certainly be worthy of the time you invest.
Curd is a dessert spread/topping/filling, that can be made from pretty much any fruit however generally citrus fruit is used. We have included a recipe using lemon, but you could just as easily use lime, mandarin or orange depending on what you have growing at home, as well as passion fruits, or berries.
Creating the Curd;
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
3/4 C caster sugar
80g chilled unsalted butter
2 lemons, juice and zest
Whisk the whole eggs, egg yolks and caster sugar in a pan until smooth, then turn to a low heat. Add the butter, juice and zest and whisk continuously until thickened. Strain through a sieve.Curd usually keeps in the refrigerator for approximately two weeks.
Warm up the curd to add to pancakes, or as part of a sweet crepe filling, use it to top your cheesecake, a filling for a tart or just spread it on buttermilk scones. I think it is optimistic to think that it may keep for around two weeks….
Oh, and remember as the weather cools down, fresh flowers generally have a longer vase life. It makes it a great time to treat yourself or someone special. You can find great gift ideas on our website that can be delivered throughout Sydney, or pop in store to see what delights we have on offer!
Many people find gardening relaxing, something that is good for their soul. Countless hours may be spent, digging and planting, turning the soil and weeding. But it seems to be a special talent to get things to grow, and much more to have them thrive. Recently, the trend seemed to be bigger houses with less lawn and less garden, and certainly for many that is still true. But for many others, there is a change happening- turning our backs on mass production, and fresh fruit and vegetables being bought at big retailers. Instead we see the popularity of farmers markets increase, and the concept of ‘farm fresh’ and ‘paddock to plate’ becoming more important to a large percentage of the community.
There is a lot to be said for understanding where food comes from. As old fashioned as it sounds, I believe it is of vital importance to bring your children up in the garden and in the kitchen too. That is where they will begin to learn how to have a healthy relationship with food and understand that the food they choose sustains them and helps them thrive also.
As a family, we longed for a patch of land where we could begin growing our own food, as well as give the kids an everyday experience where they are encouraged to touch, feel and get dirty without concern. Oh, and what fun we have had since moving! 😄 So far our kitchen garden has provided literally kilos and kilos of zucchini, cucumbers, green beans, snow peas, corn cobs, cherry tomatoes, celery, chilies, rocket, and different lettuce varieties. We are also waiting on our crop of broccoli and silverbeet.
My husband certainly takes the reigns in the garden (as our resident horticulturist, I wouldn’t expect any less), but the vegie patch and the herb garden have somehow remained mine. Our herb garden has been thriving and we have had more than our fair share of mint, basil and parsley. We also have dill, lemongrass, rosemary, oregano, chives, purple basil.
Some may say it is because I am a control freak that I feel the need to label everything. My response is usually something to do with attempting to make things easier for others, you know so things can be put back in the correct spot or so that you know what is what. So after I had happily planted my seedlings I set about looking for some garden markers. Who knew anything nice was so expensive!!?? I really could not resolve the idea of just leaving the labels on or using those plastic white labels you can get from the hardware store so here are some of the ideas I found;
I found some raw wood spoons in a dollar store and took to them with my sharpies based on the above idea. I started just by roughly positioning the letters on the spoon in lead pencil. Then when I was happy, I penned them in and then added a greenery based design to each, unless it particularly called for colour.
Whether you are happy to buy some of what you need, or you want to make do with what you have around the house, any of these options make great additions to your garden. And it goes without saying that the kids love getting in and getting their hands dirty.
With the cold weather setting in, and days of rain keeping us locked inside, it is easy to succumb to the tastes of sweet sugary drinks, and heavy comfort foods.
But rather than another mug of hot coffee with the obligatory Tim Tam Slam. Why not try your hand at some of your own home brews using one of nature’s precious gifts, flowers.
Lavender contains polyphenols, a type of antioxidant linked in the prevention of heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis. If it is steeped too long, Lavender can sometimes have a potent taste, so try not to leave it too long. As Lavender’s perfume (and taste) are so strong, it does tend to polarise people; you will find people either love it or hate it.
One handful of fresh lemon balm. (Substitute with a couple of tea bags.)
Two tablespoons fresh or dried lavender flowers.
Honey to sweeten (optional)
Bring water to boil.
Pour boiling water over lemon balm and lavender (if you are using dried or fresh lavender).
Cover and let steep for about five minutes.
Add honey to taste.
I found this interesting recipe for a Rosy Black Tea via Nourishing Simplicity, and I like it because I have always enjoyed the delicate flavour roses empart in food and beverages. It is super easy as all it requires is 2 parts rose petals to one part black tea- how easy is that!? And while this tea is perfect on its own, try it with a little milk and honey to take it to a whole new level.
You can make this tea in any quantity you like, so they suggest using 1/4 cup as your measurement and go from there. As it isn’t heavy in ‘tea’ you can serve this to children, and it makes the perfect addition to any tea party. If you have a good quality fragrant organic rose, you get that rose taste exactly as you smell it PLUS roses have plenty of vitamin C and can help relieve water retention and other forms of congestion in the digestive tract.
Place the rose petals and black tea in a glass jar.
Shake until thoroughly mixed.
For a single serving place one teaspoon of tea in a strainer.
Put the strainer in your favorite mug and pour boiling water over the tea.
Let steep for no more than 5 minutes.
Remove the tea and enjoy.
Now with the cold weather upon us, it is likely that you or someone you know currently has a cold or flu So why not try you hand at this natural cold remedy. It is always important to keep your fluids up when you are feeling under the weather, so any other benefits this delight bestows on you is a bonus!
Turn on the the TV and you are bound to come across one cooking show or another. Between flicking on the cartoons in a morning, I stumble across reruns of Ben’s Menu, or Good Chef, Bad Chef, the afternoons have the up to date versions of these shows, along with Justine’s Everyday Gourmet, and the evenings have MKR. Meanwhile where has Huey gone?
For me, this kind of TV viewing inspires all sorts of culinary delights and menu planning, and gets my mouth salivating long before I am due my next meal. It is on this premise that I began researching our next kitchen garden.
Creating a kitchen garden in Autumn is ideal as the hotter temperatures have subsided (mostly) and the more moderate temperatures, rainfall and shorter days means the growing environment is more gentle on your budding plants. This also means it is an ideal time to get down and dirty and do the manual labour as the temperatures and conditions are more moderate for us too!
Autumn is the time to plant winter loving, frost resistant plants. In our temperate climate in NSW these include coriander, garlic, marjoram, oregano, parsley, thyme and winter tarragon. Appropriate vegetables to plant are; broad beans, English spinach, green beans parsnips and peas.
Think about the kinds of meals you want to create in later Autumn and throughout Winter and plant accordingly. Hearty stews, soups and casseroles usually require a healthy assortment of root vegetables and aromatics and many of these plants are suitable for planting at this time of year.
English Spinach tolerates being frozen solid and will still manage to grow and be delicious! The winter variety of spinach, ‘Prickly Spinach’ can be identified by a single prickle on the quite large seed.
Broad Beans also thrive through the coldest months of winter. However if you live in an area where there is no frost at all, peas can also be planted. The planting for all of these is exactly the same. Dribble the seeds into the shallow drill and backfill. By using potash over the soil after planting the seeds the plants will grow resistant to pests and diseases.
Garlic is another tough winter crop that loves the temperatures of below 7 degrees over approximately 2 months of winter. To plant, remove the papery covering from the bulb and break off the biggest cloves. Place them with the base plate on the surface of the soil with the pointed end facing up and push them into the soil, without watering them in. Garlic is a versatile plant that can be harvested and frozen when in surplus.
Parsnips are deceiving! The leaves are not looking the best, but the vegetables flourishing below are massive. They have grown so fast that they are tender and delicious. It is incredible what is can be harvested throughout the year.
Other great choices to plant right now are: Celeriac, Japanese Radish, Carrots, Beetroot, New Zealand Butter Swedes,Chili Peppers and Red Russian Kale.
When you plant and harvest at appropriate times of year, your garden will be forever giving, and as they are grown naturally (and organically) everything will taste better too. There is higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals in food grown this way also- so it’s better for you!
Food that tastes better, and is better for you? What’s not to love? Now….just to find some spare time, and a patch of land!
Anyone else love Asian cooking like I do? Its fast, it’s fresh, and come Winter, Spring or Summer, there are dishes to satiate my hunger.
When in Thailand a few years back, I swear to you I did not eat a Western thing. While that in itself may not sound like some great feat, most travelers (my husband included) usually succumb to some sort of Western fare from time to time. I have to say that breakfast was the meal when my husband found it hardest to stomach the Thai equivalent, especially the morning after a big night out, but I loved seeking out a little hole-in-the-wall establishment to grab a quick Pad Thai or soup to start my day.
Thai cuisine is influenced by its neighbouring nations, and therefore there are intricate differences within Thai cuisine depending on whether you are eating in the north or the south of the country. There are certainly some similarities in the freshness of Vietnamese cooking, and between some Chinese, Cambodian, Laotian and Burmese dishes also.
Thai food has distinct flavours and it is a complex integration of taste senses; sour, sweet, salty, bitter and spicy. Thai cooking is generally prepared quickly with the emphasis on freshness, strong aromatics and a spicy edge. The most common Thai flavours include; garlic, galangal, coriander/cilantro, lemon grass, coriander, holy basil, shallots, young peppercorns, tumeric, pandanus, kaffir lime leaves , shrimp paste, fish sauce, and chilies (Thai cooking uses 5 varieties of chili). Palm sugar is often used to sweeten dishes and contribute to the complexity in balancing the flavours, whereas lime or tamarind is utilised for sour notes.
Certainly there are some fundamental flavours and herbs that are essential to creating an authentic dish, and if you are a fan like I am, perhaps a Asian inspired kitchen garden will prove a thrifty decision given the costs of buying these individual ingredients at the supermarket. Here are our favourites and what we believe are Thai cooking essentials;
Lemongrass is a tropical island plant within the grass family. It is widely used in Asian cuisine as a culinary herb in soups and curries, in tea concoctions and as a medicinal herb in India. It can be used dried or powdered, or simply chopped fresh. It is a grass plant, so if it is chopped coarsely it is best to remove from the dish as it is not pleasant texture.
Basil– Three types of basil are regularly used in Thai cuisine; Thai Basil, Holy Basil and Lemon basil. Thai basil is native to Southeast Asia and has been cultivated for specific, distinguishing traits. It has small, narrow leaves, with a purplish stem and flowers. It has an anise/licorice like flavour and seems to withstand high temperatures more than sweet basil. Basil is commonly used to flavour green curries, but is also used in stir-fries, and soups. Thai basil is most widely used cultivar in Western kitchens for Asian cooking, and also plays a prominent role in Vietnamese cooking. Holy Basil is the basil Thai people love most due to its spicy, peppery taste.
Coriander is also known as cilantro (USA), Chinese parsley or dhania. It is an annual herb, with all parts of the plant considered edible. The fresh leaves are utilised most regularly along with the dried seeds which can be used whole or ground into a fine powder. Coriander is widely used in Asian cooking as well, as Tex-Mex, Brazillian, Afican, Prtuguese. Mediterranean, Middle Easter and even Scandinavian dishes.
Kaffir Lime Leaves The characteristic flavour of kaffir lime leaves (bai makrut) appears in many Thai soups (Tom Yam) or curry from the southern and central areas of Thailand. Kaffir lime leaves or rind is frequently combined with galangal and lemon grass, either kept whole, or alternatively pulsedin a blender along with chilies and other aromatics to make curry pastes.
Who could forget Chilies?
Chilies are the spicy fruit that grows on the plant from the genus Capsicum. They are also called Chili pepper, chilli pepper, or chile pepper, although in most cases the word ‘pepper’ is usually omitted. The substances that makes chili intense in its application or when ingested are capsaicin. India is the largest consumer of Chili, as well as being the largest producer and exporter. Chilis orginate in Americas, and were brought to Asia by the Portuguese in the 16th century.
Chili is used fresh and dried to create curries; with fish sauce, lime juice and herbs to create Nam phril (Thai chili paste); or pounded in a mortar and served with green Papaya to create Som tam, a traditional Thai/Lao salad.
Get to your nursery and get planting and soon you will be in the kitchen creating dishes that are as varied as athey are exotic.
Did you know?Thai people generally use just a fork and spoon to eat, no knives, and certainly no chopsticks.
As this cold weather continues to send shivers down my spine, I have begun to rely heavily on my slow cooker and I know I am not alone. If nothing else, for a mum with two young children, it is actually a relief to get dinner organised first thing in the morning, long before the mad rush of the afternoon park play and before baths or showers can be done.
I have found that the key to tasty winter cooking (other than cooking it low and slow) is herbs! Take old favourites to a new level and make one pot wonders for the whole family adding fresh, versatile herbs straight from your garden.
Rosmarinus officinalis, is an attractive woody stemmed perennial herb that is fragrant and has evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple, or blue flowers. Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean region and Asia. Rosemary is attractive, is easy to grow and is pest resistant, and can withstand lengthy periods or little or no water. It makes a great shrub as it grows quite large and can be pruned into formal shapes and low hedges or even for topiary if your heart desires. Alternatively it grows well in pots.
Rosemary is ideal for flavouring meats such as roast lamb, pork, chicken and turkey, and is great to use in stuffings. It works well with lemon and garlic.
As rosemary is easy to grow and care for, it makes an ideal addition to your herb garden. It can be propagated from a ‘cutting’ from an existing plant simply by clipping a shoot (from a soft new growth) 10–15 cm (4–6 in) long, stripping a few leaves from the bottom, and planting it directly into soil. You will certainly make things easier on yourself if you start with a nursery grown plant, and you will be able to enjoy adding it to your food a whole lot sooner.
When we planted our first herb garden together, top of my wish list was Coriander as we love Asian flavours. Eager to please, hubby is determined to pick me a healthy speciman, so heads off. Upon getting home and removing the plant from the punnet, I was bitterly disappointed to find that it was Celery, not the Coriander I had hoped for
Thankfully, I was not disappointed for long. How many stews and casseroles do you know that start with a mirepoix base of onion, carrot and celery? A bazillion. So the celery flourished in our herb patch and was used almost every second day. Celery is now firmly up near the top of my wish list due to its versatility; I use it in stews, soups, casseroles and even salads.
The distinction between herbs and vegetables seems clear most of the time but celery is one exception to the rule as it has a herb like leafy top, and vegetable like stalks. Herbs are strongly flavoured plants which we use in small quantities to flavour other foods, including vegetables which tend to be less flavoured by nature. Celery is a stimulating, nourishing, and restorative herb. There is a pungency to celery, which is closer to what you get with herbs; a sense of strong plant chemicals exploding up your palate and flooding your mouth with flavour . It is hardly a surprise then to find that Celery is a part of the Apiaceae family, the same family of plants that includes parsley, caraway, cumin and coriander. Celery also has phthalides, a chemical that has the ability to intensify other flavours, which is perhaps why it so often forms the base to various recipes.
There are several varieties of bay leaves: Bay laurel, California bay leaf, Indian bay leaf, Indonesian bay leaf, West Indian bay leaf and Mexican bay leaf.
Laurus nobilis, Lauraceae (Bay Leaf) are used either fresh or dried in cooking for their distinctive flavor and fragrance. The leaves themselves are not meant to be eaten, although it is safe to do so. They have a sharp, bitter taste.
The leaves are generally used whole, or in a bouquet garni as they are easier to remove, however they can also be crushed or ground to impart more of their desired flavour. Crushed or ground leaves are generally placed within a muslin bag or tea infuser so they can easily be removed.
Bay leaves are great to use in bolognaise sauces, or in soups, stews, braises and pâtés. Bay leaves were used as favouring as early as the Ancient Greeks. They are also featured in many Mediterranean cuisines, French cooking, some Thai (massaman curry) and Indian dishes (Biryani) as well as the dishes throughout the Americas.
Bay leaf is also an ingrdient of Garam Masala.
They are a great addition to any garden. They require a sunny position and can grow quite large given the correct care.
We use branches of the bay tree within our pantry to keep meal moths (weavels) flies, cockroaches and silverfish under control. The bay leaf has repellant properties.
Petroselinum Crispum is a biennial plant in temperate climates, and an annual herb in subtripical/tripocal areas. Parsley grows best in moist, well-drained soil, with full sun. It grows best between 22–30 °C and usually is grown from seed. Germination is slow, taking four to six to eight weeks.
It is native to the central Mediterranean region.
Curly leaf parsley is often used as a garnish, finely chopped and sprinkled on top of potato dishes, risottos, steaks, chicken, as well as stews and casseroles. Continental parsley is widely ised in Middle Eastern cooking, European, Brazilian and American cooking. It is the main ingredient in Salsa verde (minced parsley, basil, capers, anchovies, lemon juice and olive oil) served on fish; used in England in their roux based Parsley sauces; a main ingredient in a traditional bouquet garni; a main ingredient in Gremolata (a traditional accompaniment for Osso bucco made with parlsey, garlic and lemon juice; and the main ingredient in Tabbouleh, a popular middle eastern salad.
Want to try something different to a risotto for a great mid week meal? This Pea and Parsley Risoni is sure to be a hit.
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are a member of the onion family, closely related to onion, garlic, leeks and scallions yet have the most delicate flavour. They have a slight hint of garlic, together with delicate onion like flavour. Chives are popularly paired with potatoes and sour cream. While Chives and Spring onions are similar, they are not the same; one is a herb, the other is an onion. Often they can be interchanged in recipes, but not always.
Chives are a hardy, drought resistant perennial. Whilst they can be grown from seed, it is long process to get it to a useable plant. The Chives will die off somewhat throughout winter, and not look as healthy as they do throughout summer, so if you want continuous supply, leave your chives in pots and bring them inside during the colder months.
Chives also have insect-repelling properties so they are great to have in your garden to control nasty pests. Love it.