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      Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.


      Thursday, July 28, 2011

      WHAT'S THAT PERFUME?

      I went up to the garden to weed at 6am. In my head, I was concentrating on my newest writing assignment, not my garden. An aroma assaulted me that was hard to identify. I took a quick look around. The Asiatic lilies (Lilium) were in full bloom!
      Sometimes in an indoor flower arrangement, the scent of lilies is overpowering. People pull off the stamens, then they throw out the whole stems just so they can breath again. These 'Stargazers' belong in the garden, where the perfume is miraculous, wafting on every breeze, if only for about 18 days.When I first moved to my farmhouse in Orwigsburg PA, I bought Barbara Damrosch's delightful book, 'Theme Gardens', and planted a scented garden right under my living room window as she recommended. But I was still a novice, and didn't realize that the peonies and irises that I planted there bloomed in May and we didn't open our windows until June.* So I could enjoy the aroma only by going into the garden, not in my living room. One more trial-and-error lesson taught by the garden.
      *Original windows built in the 1850's had no counterbalancing weights. I could open them only my hopping up on the wide windowsills and, lifting from the bottom, propping them up with painted sticks. They were opened when it grew warm and closed in the fall except during an intense rain.

      Sunday, July 17, 2011

      WHILE DAYLILLIES STILL BLOOM

      Three daylily flowers, picked in the morning, rinsed carefully because the petals are crisp and crack easily, refrigerated until later that same day for a special treat. Remove stamens and pistil before rinsing.
      Place gingerly in crystal stemware, scoop in some raspberry or strawberry sorbet, and top with minced red basil, plus more for garnish. Oohs and Aahs. you're a genius, and such hard work!Use wild or cultivated flowers, ones that you're sure haven't been sprayed, and nothing from the roadside where they've been absorbing exhaust fumes. Daylily flowers are edible though some varieties are more flavorful than others. Usually the aroma will guide you to the best flavors.
      Basil and fruit sorbet is a tasty combination.
      Yesterday in the New York Times Magazine my favorite food writer Mark Bittman showed recipes for ice pops with various herbs and flavorings. I've been doing this for years, sometimes for kids using paper or plastic cups, and sticking a plastic spoon in the sorbet after it's semi-frozen. Here Lucy extracts a watermelon pop from a plastic cup after holding her hands around the outside for a few seconds to release the ice.

      The watermelon was going begging in our house because it was not flavorful. So we cut it off the rind and in chunks, whipped it briefly in the food processor with added sugar, lemon juice and a grind of pepper and poured it into plastic cups. Also resurrect other fruits like limp strawberries or mealy peaches, adding water in the same quantity as fruit.

      Hey Lucy, she likes it!

      Wednesday, July 13, 2011

      NOW HARVESTING IN NEW YORK CITY

      Some years my herb garden looks splendid, some years pretty pathetic, but regardless of the esthetics, it supplies me with enough fresh herbs for cooking dinner (almost) every night and for showing off at parties. Above, guacamole with avocado pit that's supposed to keep the flesh from turning brown, a starling contrast in color and texture to the creamy green spread. Sage, dill flowers and self-sown calendula from my all-container garden decorate the plate, transforming this store-bought staple. (Double or triple click on any image to enlarge.) Fresh corn and mango salsa receives a decoration of cilantro flowers which I needed to pick to keep the plant producing leaves. If you allow the plant to form and drop seeds, it's work is done and it dies. I'm multitasking here, pruning the plant and making the salsa look more enticing.
      Below, more of my herb garden.
      Top and bottom photos © Alan & Linda Detrick all rights reserved, Ellen Spector Platt design.

      Tuesday, July 5, 2011

      THE BACK STORY

      Last year in this space I bragged on my daughter's prize winning garlic.
      Here's the back story.
      Jen planted her seed garlic in late October 2010; the garlic scapes formed this spring, making their other-worldy swoops and curves. They were ready to cut yesterday, July 4th. Too bad we had to leave before we ate any in one of her fabulous dishes. Jen thought the other passengers on the Concord Bus Line and the Acela from Boston might object to the scent if I tried to bring some home to New York.
      I did get to try one scape as an earring and a bracelet. Sorry, no picture.
      The garlic plants will continue to grow, with all of the energy now going to enlarge her prize-winning garlic cloves rather than to forming seeds in the pods atop the scapes.
      Jen had a nice basketful... which she'll chop and use in stir fries. What she doesn't consume in the next few days she'll chop and freeze to use by the handful (or tablespoon full) in the next months.
      The raw tasty is garlicky, tangy and intense.Above, her harvested garlic last August.
      Jen's friend Abby provides a recipe for using the fresh scapes on her blog, Killer Delicious.
      For more about growing, cooking and decorating with garlic see my book, by Ellen Spector Platt, Stackpole Books 2003.

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