I live smack dab inside an urban forest of linden aka lime (Tilia) and at no time is that more obvious than mid-June-July when the trees are dripping with blooms. Their sticky sweet, floral scent is so strong, my bet is that even if you have never noticed the trees, chances are good that you are familiar with their smell.
Did you know that linden flowers make a sweet and delicious honey-like herbal tisane? The tea, made from dried flowers is popular in Europe, but virtually unheard of here in North America. It has soporific properties, meaning that it makes you sleepy, and is often used as a nighttime drink to calm and relax after a busy day.
I’m not sure when I made the transition from rose-hater to rose-eater. These days I have several roses planted in my garden, most of which have been chosen specifically for their eat- and use-ability. All roses are edible, but only those that smell fragrant taste good. Scentless roses are flavourless.
I recently returned from a long trip to an explosion of fresh blooms specifically from the three climbing roses that are planted in front of my ramshackle shed. Two of the three were planted last season and are doing well, but the third, a beautifully scented orange and golden variety called ‘Westerland’ that is now in its third year here has gone absolutely gangbusters. I have been harvesting a generous basketful of fresh blooms every day since my return and it doesn’t seem to be stopping. Once this flush is done there will be at least one more smaller flush later in the season.
I preserve the blooms in several ways, but today I thought I’d share the quickest and easiest method: drying.
Perennial herbs are coming up beautifully in my garden and we’ve been enjoying fresh oregano, chives, and French tarragon in our meals. I’ve also begun sowing annual seeds both indoors and out in the garden. With herbs on the brain I have compiled a resource guide that includes many of the best articles on growing, preserving, using, and eating herbs and edible flowers from this site.
I hope you will try growing some delicious herbs this season.
Spring is happening here in Toronto. Flowering bulbs and hardy perennials are popping up in my garden quickly now and the local corner shops have begun hauling out carts full of plants to tempt us. Right on schedule, emails about basil have come flooding in.
“Hi there, I bought a basil plant a few weeks ago. I swear I’ve been doing everything right but it’s going all brown. Is it dying?”
“I only water it when the soil is dry. What am I doing wrong?”
It’s not you, it’s the plant. No, really. Of all of the herbs I have ever grown — and I have grown a good many — basil is consistently the most finicky of the lot and the hardest to get going. Don’t get me wrong, a lush basil crop is easy enough to grow mid-season when it is sunny and warm and nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50°F (10°C). The plant is surprisingly amenable to life in pots and even though I have been experimenting with basil since the start of my gardening “career” and have grown as many as 22 varieties in one season, I am still amazed by the exceptional variety of forms, colours, and flavours available. This is a fantastic herb, and my second favourite food crop to grow besides tomatoes. Judging by the questions I receive about this plant, I think it’s one of your favourites, too.
‘Cinnamon’ basil. A really pretty variety that is delicious as a tea, in deserts, or made into delicious ‘Cinnamon’ basil jelly.
Here’s a homemade holiday gift from the garden that there is still time to make. It took me about an hour and a half to make the caramel slab and I’ll probably be cutting and packaging individual caramels until the second coming, but it will have been worth it. To say that these are gorgeous and addictive is an understatement. The best way to savour them is to put one in your mouth and let it melt slowly. They’re buttery, sweet, and salty with just enough lavender and a taste of honey. I can’t get these packaged, wrapped, and out of here fast enough because I CAN’T STOP EATING THEM.