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I have this memory of summer picnics with my friends. One of them always brought homemade pizza by his mum. These pizzas were not only delicious but also really beautiful. They were decorated with edible flowers! That made them really special. Now, I love to use fresh wildflowers in my dishes, collecting them is wonderful and they cheer any recipe! There any many uses for edible flowers, this illustration represents some of them, along with my favorite ones!
So, my grandma on my mum’s side was not - nor did she ever care to be - all that into cooking. My mum recalls a boiled ground beef dish from her childhood that turns her green almost every time she talks about it. Also she gags on the memory of tinned, mushed peas and tongue. Then there was the rutabaga casserole....I digress....it was post war times and it’s totally understandable. Anyhow.
My grandma was a great lover of the outdoors and a woman who paused to watch and help her grandkids (myself included) to notice things like poplar leaves applauding the wind. She was a pediatrician, a darn good one, and had such a special way with little kiddos. Enter nasturtium tea sandwiches (or rollers, as she called them).
Combining her love of nature with something she knew we would find fascinating, I’ll never forget her showing my sister and I how to carefully select and pick leaves off of one of her overflowing nasturtium pots that happily grew on her back porch. We followed her into the kitchen where she took some generic brown bread and rolled it over a few times with a glass bottle until it was good and flat. Then, she spread it generously with butter. My sister and I washed the leaves and tore them up into little strips. We mixed the leaves with cream cheese, salt and pepper and covered the bread with the mixture. Then we rolled them up into little pinwheels while grandma made some strong Earl Grey tea. We all sat at the kitchen table and ate these perfect little bundles - made o so peppery with the nasturtium and o so rich with the butter and cream cheese. Washed down with the hot tea. It was perfection in my memory. And then we each got a orangey nasturtium flower to wear in our hair the rest of the afternoon.
Here in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada we are teetering on the edge of early spring. We’re almost, alllllmmmost making the much easier descent down the other side of the perilous mountain that challenges us every prairie winter. For me, a crocus poking its brave head out of the snow is THE sign that winter is officially a memory. So in this vein (though a different varietal), I’m going to talk saffron.
For me, this spice has a purple-blue mist swirling around it. Romantic. I’ve always been low key obsessed with the notion of flavour derived from flowers. The top producers are Iran, Spain, India and Greece. But it wasn’t until I learned more about the saffron harvest in Afghanistan recently (thank you TSP!) that I gained a whole new appreciation and respect for the meticulous, diligent and brave work required to harvest the thousands upon thousands of amber-hued stamens from these croci. The most delicate work achieved in a punishing atmosphere. Incredible.