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Book Review: Sweet, Savory, and & Free

Sweet Savory and FreeDo you have concerns about food allergies and how to cook for them? If so, Debbie Alder’s book, Sweet, Savory, & Free may be the answer to your questions and prayers. Prompted by the severe reaction of her son to casein, Alder set out to write a plant based cookbook of recipes that are free of oil, gluten, refined sugar, and the top eight food allergens (dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish). She found inspiration in the food and ingredients of Asian, Indian, Greek, Italian, Eastern European, Middle Eastern and American cuisine to develop recipes that would appeal to a large variety of palettes. [click to continue…]

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Botanical Latin: Corydalis

Corydalis (kor RI dal is) from the Greek word korydalis meaning crested lark.

Corydalis-lutea plantCorydalis is a genus with finely divided fern like foliage and four-petaled irregular flowers with spurs that appear to resemble the those of the lark. The genus consists of about 470 species of both annuals and herbaceous perennials, and is native to Europe, Asia , and the mountains of tropical eastern Africa. It is a member of the poppy family Papaveraceae and closely related to bleeding heart, Dutchman’s breeches, and squirrel corn. Most species do will in semi-shade, consistently moist, well-drained soil. Few species are available and only one, Corydalis lutea, is common in the US.
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Alnus-incana-ssp-rugosaSpeckled alder is a deciduous native shrub or tree growing in wet soils around ponds, streams, and ditches from Labrador to Alaska and British Columbia, south to Virginia, Iowa, New Mexico, and California. It is a member of the birch family, Betulaceae, that also includes hazels and hornbeams. The plant usually grows as a thicket but can be grown as a multi-stemmed tree. The grayish to reddish brown trunks are smooth and the brown stems are speckled with white lenticels that give it its common name, speckled alder. The branches are twiggy and carry quilted leaves two to four inches long. The dull green leaves are leathery with red hairs on their underside and are not showy in the fall. Male and female flowers appear in separate catkins on the same tree in early spring before the leaves. The male catkins are purplish brown, to 3 ½” long and pendent. The female catkins are green, to ½ inch, rounded, and give way to one inch long cone-like fruits bearing winged seeds that provide food for birds into winter. The texture of the plants is coarse for most gardens but they are useful for wet areas especially in casual plantings. The genus name Alnus is the classical Latin name for the plant. The specific epithet incana is the Latin word for hoary/quite gray and refers to the color of the bark. The epithet rugosa is the Latin word for wrinkled and refers to the texture of the leaf. [click to continue…]

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Edible Flowers Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata)

Myrrhis odorataSweet cicely is a herbaceous perennial up to three to six feet tall and wide, native to southern and central Europe but has naturalized widely in Europe and Asia. It is a member of the carrot family (Apiaceae) along with parsley, dill, fennel, and Queen Anne’s lace. The roots, stems and leaves have been used as a culinary and medicinal herb since Roman times but the plant is now a popular for its ornamental value. The leaves are fern-like and two to three times pinnately divided. Each leaflet is toothed or finely lobed and has a downy whiteness on the underside often with a white blotch on the topside. The small creamy-white flowers are carried in compound flat umbels two inches across from May to June and are composed of five to ten smaller umbels. The inner flowers are male, the outer ones bisexual. The shiny, dark brown fruits are sharply ridged and are about one inch long. Plants freely self-seed and are difficult to eradicate once established because of their very long tap root. All parts of the plant have a anise scent when crushed. [click to continue…]

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Plant Profile: Rose ‘Rhonda’

Rose RhondaThe deep pink flowers are produced singly or in well spaced clusters of three to seven but sometimes up to fifteen. They are profusely produced and have a good form in both bud and when fully open. As a bonus, the petals drop cleanly when the flowers are done. The leaves are glossy and dark green but tend to get mildew in damp climates. The plants are moderately vigorous and somewhat prickly. [click to continue…]

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Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wines: Porter

porterMy maternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright, includes two recipes for porter in her book, Old time Recipes for Home Made Wines, one for bottling, the other for immediate use. Porter dates back to the early 1700s when it was made in England. It is a dark beer related to stout and has become increasing popular in the US during recent years. Porters were the first beers to be aged at the brewery which  was accomplished in large vats. Originally Porters had an ABV of 6.6% but taxes during the Napoleonic war drove the ABV down. According to Beer Advocate, however, the average ABV of American Porters ranges from 4.0 to 7.5%.

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saponaria-officinalisSoapwort goes by many names including bouncing bet, wild sweet william, and latherwort. A member of the carnation family (Caryophyllaceae) it is native to Europe and Asia but has naturalized in eastern North American where it grows in open spaces and waste areas such as along roadways. Soapwort has been grown since medieval times for making soap but also has medicinal and ornamental uses but is invasive and can become a pest. [click to continue…]

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Sorbus_sitchensissm flSitka mountain ash is a deciduous shrub or small tree endemic to areas in the Pacific Northwest from Alaska and Yukon south to Montana and California, where it grows in open woods, rock outcropping, slogs, and bog margins. It is a member of the rose family , Rosaceae, that also includes cherries, hawthorns, and blackberries, and is not related to the true ash , Fraxinus. The pinnately compound leaves are four to eight inches long and have seven to eleven leaflets. They are blue-green until the fall when they turn yellow to purple color. In spring to early summer fifteen to sixty white flowers are produced in terminal clusters two to four inches across. They are followed by bright red berries with a waxy coating in the fall and are eaten by migrating birds. A good choice for a patio, lawn, specimen, or naturalistic planting in areas where night temperatures are cool. The generic name, Sorbus , is the Latin name for service tree. The specific epithet sitchensis refers to Stika, Alaska, where the plant is found. [click to continue…]

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Convallaria_Majalis__Lily_of_the_Valley_ (1)Lily of the valley is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial native to the temperate parts of the Northern Hemisphere and s often grown as a ground cover. It grows best where summers are warm but not hot and can form extensive colonies. Each plant has one to three basal leaves that are broadly lanceolate and about eight inches long. Five to fifteen nodding flowers are carried on one sided arching racemes in early spring. The bell-shaped flowers are usually white, sometimes pink, and consist of five fused tepals. They are very fragrant and should be planted where their scent can be enjoyed, or cut and brought into the house. With a vase life of two to six days, a small bunch of lily of the valley in a small crystal vase with a few of their own leaves makes a delicate and beautiful arrangement. Lily of the valley are very popular for wedding bouquets and were included in the bridal bouquets of both Grace Kelly and Catherine Middleton.

Cutting: Needs no special treatment.
Conditioning: Give a deep drink in warm water for a couple of hours.
Preserving: Not relevant
Cultivation:

    Size: 6-12” h x 8-12” W
    Light: Part shade to full shade
    Soil: Fertile, consistently moist
    Hardiness: Zones 2-5 optimum; 6-7 ok
    Propagation: Division
    Care: Low maintenance

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astilbe-thunbergii-moerheimiiThungbergs’s astilbe is a herbaceous perennial native to East Asia. It is a member of the saxifrage family, Saxifracaceae, that also includes Bergenia, foamflower (Tiarella), and coral bells (Heuchera). The rhizomatceous plants form broad clumps of basal foliage with ten to twelve inch long, oval to lance-shaped, 2-ternate leaves. In mid- to late summer arching, loosely-branched drooping panicles of white or pink flowers appear above the foliage and are followed by attractive seedheads that persist into fall. Plants grow best in moist partial shaded areas but can be grown in full sun where temperatures are cool and the soil in consistently moist. They are a good choice for a shade or woodland garden and do well in containers.  The generic name Astilbe comes from the Greek words a meaning without and stilbe meaning brightness referring to the dull leaves of some species. The specific epithet Thunbergii comes from the last name of a Swedish botanist and friend of Linnaeus who traveled as a doctor with the Dutch East India company and sent plants from Japan to Europe.

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