Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cooking With Roses

I love rugosa roses! In addition to being beautiful, they are also prolific and I use a lot of rose petals and hips in the kitchen!
Any rose can be used for cooking. They are all edible, but the rugosa roses are so easy to grow. You can grow rows of them just from cuttings or seed and they will reseed themselves if left alone. I prefer to grow things from seed, rather than cuttings if possible, because of the genetic diversity but if I am in a hurry for more, I will use cuttings. When you plant a handfull of rose seeds, you could get any kind of rose from those seeds, throwbacks from ancesters of that rose or a genetic rarity. You just never know what you are going to get. Not all roses grow well from seed but rugosa roses do and they produce a lot of tasty hips too!
Rose hips are very high in vitamin C (approximately 1,700 mg of C in 100 gm of dried rosehip). That's higher than oranges and grapefruits! Rose hips have become a popular natural treatment for arthritis due to their anti inflammatory and anitoxident effects. Rose hips also contain carotenoids, including beta-carotene, lycopene, beta-chryptoxanthin, rubixanthin, zeaxanthin and lutein.

If you just thought roses were for the flowerbed, you were wrong! Plant them in your herb garden!

I plant to plant rows and rows of them this year from seed and cuttings. I already have a beautiful violet one (pictured above) and pink ones. Who knows what I will get from open pollinated seed! I love surprise gardening!
I have open pollinated rugosa rose seeds for sale in my seed store now. They are stratified, being collected this week from the roses outdoors, so should be ready to germinate.
I made wine from the rose petals last year (see post "Making Flower Wines"). It has been ready for a few weeks now and is my favourite so far! The rose bouquet fills my nose when I drink it. It's like summer in a bottle!
Add rose petals to salads and sandwiches!
Below are some simple rose recipes:
Basic Rose Hip Tea: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 heaping teaspoons of chopped rose hips. You can use rose hips with or without their seeds. Steep the herbal tea, covered, for 15 minutes and strain.
Pose Petal Jelly (See post on "Making Flower Jellies"
2 cups flower petals (or fresh young herb leaves)
2 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup lemon juice
600 oz liquid pectin (2 pckges) or equivalent powder (You may find that the liquid works better for this purpose than the powder)
4 cups sugar

Rose Hip Jam Take two cups Rosa rugosa hips. Wash thoroughly and cut out the black calyx. Cook hips in two cups water until tender. Mash fruit while cooking. Push pulp through a fine sieve and to each cup of pulp add one cup of water. Then cook until the pulp thickens to the consistency of other jams.

Rose Honey
1 and 3/4 cups cleaned rose hips
2 and 1/2 cups water
Cook rose hips in the water about 15 minutes and occasionally crush them. When they are tender, pour into jelly bag and strain off juice. This quantity yields about 7/8 cup of juice to which add enough water to make a cupful then add one tsp. lemon juice, 3/4 cup sugar and cook rapidly until juice jellies on a silver spoon. This will thin to a honey consistency when cold. It is delicious served on waffles, pancakes, over desserts or in cakes and frostings.

Candied Rose Petals
Rose petals must be dry and clean. Dip both sides in slightly whipped egg whites, then coat both sides of the petals immediately with granulated sugar and lay carefully on waxed paper. Allow to dry thoroughly before packing in boxes. To speed drying, turn the petals once. Keep dry and cool.

Rose Petal Syrup(See previous pose on dandelion syrup)
4 cups rose petals
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
Boil rose petals in water for an hour. Remove petals with a sieve and add sugar. Boil until thick and syrupy.

Rose Petal Butter
1 Cup fresh Rose Petals, chopped
3/4 Cup softened unsalted Butter
Mix together well and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours to let the rose flavor meld into the butter. Keep refrigerated up to 2 weeks or frozen for several months.

Rose Petal Pesto
Two Cups Fresh Basil
One Cup Rose Petals
4 Large Garlic Cloves
1 Cup of Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Rosewater
1 Cup of Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
1/4 Cup of Freshly Grated Romano Cheese
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to taste
Rinse Rose Petals and Basil thoroughly and pat dry. Cup up Rose Petals with sharp scissors. Peel and chop garlic. Combine the basil, garlic and Pine nuts, chop in either a food processor or blender. While still processing add olive oil and rose water slowly. Add the Parmesan and Romano, salt and pepper, blend lightly.

Green Tea and Rose Petal Popsicles
3 cups water
1-1/2 tbsp green tea leaves (about 3 tea bags)
1/4 cup assorted organic small rose petals.
Bring the water to a boil and remove from heat. Pour over tea in a ceramic teapot. Fill popsicle molds loosely with rose petals. Steep tea for 5 minutes and strain into popsicle holders. Freeze in the freezer for 30 minutes, then place the wooden sticks in the center of the popsicle holders. (This is a good time to spread the petals throughout the mold evenly.) Freeze until solid and serve immediately.

Rose Petal Ice Cream Makes approx. 3 cups.
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup sugar
5 large egg yolks
1 ½ cups loosely packed, very fragrant old rose petals, washed and dry.
Follow directions for your individual ice cresm freezer.

I have open pollinated rugosa rose seeds for sale in my seed store now. They are stratified, being collected this week from the roses outdoors, so should be ready to germinate.

Dandelion Syrup

Spring is coming! It's just aound the corner and the snow is half gone now! Soon the dandelions will be blooming all over our fields. We have fields and fields of them and they are pesticide free! I sort of cultivate the dandelions, or I don't actively try to get rid of them. I like them. They really do no harm and they are useful. They don't get tall enough to be a nuisance. Last year I made dandelion wine, which I just bottled this morning. This year I am going to make more dandelion wine and also dandelion syrup. I also plan to collect the tiny leaves for eating and freezing like spinach for soups and stews and sauces. I have collected only the petals in years past for wine making but I have been told that the entire flower can be used for making syrup without bitterness. I don't know about that but it will certainly make the collecting of enough material go a lot faster. I think I will try it with the whole heads this year.

Here is my recipe (sort of) for dandelion syrup: Collect as many chemical free dandelions as possible. Put just the washed heads into a pot and barely cover with water. Boil for some time, about 20-30 mins. Remove those heads with a sieve and add another pot full of flower heads to the water and boil these for 20-30 mins. The more dandelions you boil in the water, the stronger the flavour will be.

When you have boiled all the flowers you plan to boil, remove flowers with a sieve and strain liquid. Add sugar, 1 part sugar to 1 part water. Let boil until thick and syrupy.

It taste slightly nutty with a hint of vanilla all by itself! Eat over waffles or ice cream or make a drink with it, glaze meat with it. You can even heat it up and serve hot over desserts!

Bring it on, Spring! I'm ready!!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Growing and Supporting Tomatoes

The picture above is a photo of my garden in 2009. These are our 'Portugal' tomatoes growing. That was a bumper year for tomatoes.

I inherited a pile of 6' metal fence posts that have been handy in the garden. I usually stretch wire between them on which to grow things, like tomatoes, cukes, peas.

This year I am considering another option. I also have some fencing that is really a large roll of reinforcing wire. I want to make a few of these for the tomatoes, one set for each of the tomato varieties that I want to plant this year:

The wire will be in two pieces, two "L"s, which I will remove from the post in the fall and store separately.

These are indeterminate tomatoes, meaning they grow continually larger until the frost takes them. Determinate tomatoes have a preprogrammed, default setting causing them to stop growing when they reach maturity which makes them better for short seasons. I grow these indeterminate ones anyway. I'm always pushing the growing season. These are HUGE plants and have to be controlled by pruning.

I prune most of the suckers off all summer and cut the tops off of my indeterminate tomato plants around mid August. They do keep trying to grow after the top has been cut off, putting out even more suckers and more tops. I just keep trimming it back, forcing it to put as much growth as possible into the tomatoes. This makes for very large tomatoes.

We still get green tomatoes at the end of the season. To help the plant ripen what is there, I cut the roots about halfway around the plant when it gets about two weeks before our first frost date. This does help, although we still get green tomatoes.

Some tomatoes will keep all winter in our cold cellar wrapped separately in newspaper. Each tomato individually wrapped and not touching others, set on wood to keep dry. Sometimes they will stay green enough and good until mid winter, when they can be taken out and put into the kitchen to finish ripening. Not all tomatoes will do this, but a few will. If you find a good keeper tomato, you can have garden tomatoes at Christmas!

I have some seeds I got in a trade for some good "keeper" tomatoes that I am going to plant this year on a trial basis.

Some green tomatoes are welcome! We like
Fried Green Tomatoes!

I have considered growing them upside down from a hole in the bottom of a bucket, as well, but have just not bothered. I have a lot of space for a garden and I don't have a secure place to hang them. Acquiring the buckets would be no problem but I would have to build a strong system from which to hang them that will support their weight.

Do you have another tomato support system that works well for you?

The first pictured tomato support system came from:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Squash Pie

I made a squash pie this morning! I forgot the sugar.

It looks wonderful! Probably doesn't taste that good...

So, any suggestions as to what I can do with a sugarless squash pie?

As to how I do these things, well, you can take your pick: senior's moment, too many things on my mind, need for sustenance, busy chatting. I think I knew, subconsciously, that we were out of sugar :-)

Oh well, we can't all be perfect, or graceful, or even sometimes mentally present at all

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Our Favourite Tomatoes

Over the years we have grown a large variety of tomatoes, more recently sticking with heirloom or organic types. We don't want to grow or eat anything that has been genetically modified.

Although we have tried all shapes, sizes and colors, we prefer the normal, round, red tomatoes. Of all the tomatoes that we have tried, our favorite tomato is grown from seed that I got in a trade years ago, from a fellow gardener who's ancestors brought the seed from Porgugal. We just call them our "Portugal" tomatoes. We never did know the actual variety, if there is one. These may have been handed down through the family for generations. We just don't know.

I have had them too long for them to be GM seeds and I know they are not hybrids, as they breed true year after year.

These tomatoes are MASSIVE! Some as big as my hand. They are meaty, sweet and a great size for sandwiches. One slice is all you need!

These are a large beef heart style tomato, which is hard to find. There are a few more out there but I don't know how they compare to mine.

We love this tomato and nearly lost it last year! The tomatoes did so poorly and had so much blossom end rot, I feared that we would not get any ripe enough for seed. Fortunately, I did have some seed saved from the year before. (The smart gardener never plants all the seed.) I also managed to salvage a few of the ripe "Portugal" tomatoes and collected the seed from those, but not a lot. I do have some, now, on my seed site for sale. This year we will do better :-)

Another favorite tomato is the 'San Marzano'. It's our only paste tomato and is touted to be the best in the world. It's from Italy. We grow these every year and they do make great sauce!

They have a thick wall and very little water, which is why they make such good paste.

We also grow: Matt's Wild Cherry, 'Ailsa Craig' and the 'Manitoba' tomato, recently developed to grow big in the short Manitoba prairie season. It is not a GM seed nor a hybrid, so I am growing it for a few years on a trial basis.

I have just today put the seed for our 'Portugal' tomatoes for sale on my seed site, after determining that I do have a few left that I can spare, but not a lot. So many people have asked for it. I felt like I had let folks down by not selling any of this rare seed. Fortunately, there are now some available, after doing some germination tests. I would like to spread it around so that it does not get lost in a bad year. Anything can happen and I would hate to lose this one completely from our heirloom seed pool! Save those heirloom seeds!

The 'San Marzano' seed has always been there, as they did well enough last year for me to collect some seed. Not well enough, unfortunatley, for me to make tomato sauce or paste. I do not have the other three seed for sale due to such poor conditions last year. I am planting only these five this year and hope to have some seeds for sale this fall.

Let's hope for a great tomato growing season this year!

Nothing beats a juicy, ripe tomato fresh from the garden!