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Preserving Springtime


Thanks to ample rain and generous sunshine, it feels electric out there – multi-hued greens with splashes of color and floral fragrances wafting by on the breeze. Miners lettuce, three sided leeks and watercress are peaking, edible flowers like elderflower, wild lilac, roses, calendula, pink jasmine, rose geranium and redbud are in full bloom. Pine and Douglas fir tips are bright, fresh green and have a mild lemony flavor. Madrone “strawberries” are covering the ground. Meyer lemons hang heavy from the trees.


All of these, particularly the flowers are ephemeral in nature and don’t stay around for long. Already, the ground beneath the wild lilac bushes are amethyst purple with the fallen petals. My little magenta tea roses are starting to slump and their petals fade. There’s a slight melancholic feel of springtime to me – it just passes so quickly. So preserving the fresh blooms can capture this moment in time.


Fermented sodas: These are very simple. Put flowers in a jar with honey and water and then put a cloth cover or fermenting cap on them and let them sit for a month until the water is fizzy. I then strain out the flowers and bottle them. You can also add slices of Meyer lemon or vanilla beans, or tart them up however you’d like. For a quicker result, make cordials out of the flowers and mix with sparkling water. In Forage. Gather. Feast. there’s a recipe for elderflower and Meyer lemon simply syrup and then French 75’s made with this.


Salt: Mixing up redbud blossoms with rosemary flowers, Meyer lemon zest, fresh herbs and even Douglas fir tips. They’ll flavor the salt as they dry, and won’t go bad, because they’re salted. Sprinkling this over your food always adds a little visual and flavor boost.


Wild Ferment Sourdough Starters: Ambre, who has started working with me, has been making sourdough starter with wild yeast from pine needles. It has a lovely fragrance to it and her focaccia is delicious.


Honey: Just put fragrant flower petals like rose or lavender in a jar and pour honey over them. Let them infuse the honey for a week to indefinitely. You can strain out the petals, or just use them as they are. In my forthcoming cookbook, Forage. Gather. Feast. there’s a recipe for Rose Petal Honey pot de crème – you heat the honey up so it has an almost dulce de leche flavor to it and then add the crème to it. You can also just drizzle floral honey over plain yogurt or on a croissant.


Butter: This makes a great preserver. Mince leaves from the rose geranium plant into butter to infuse it and then make biscotti or butter cookies with it. Or put more savory flavors like rosemary blossoms and calendula in with lemon zest and herbs, salt and pepper.


 This spring, there are several urban foraging walks led by Ambre or myself in either Golden Gate Park or Glen Canyon Park. And my cookbook, Forage. Gather. Feast. comes out on April 9th!

And here is the recipe for Rose Petal Honey pot de crème from Forage. Gather. Feast. Enjoy!



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