For most gardeners, spring planning is just about done. Seeds have been purchased and started. Snow comes, soon melts, spring’s official beginning is around the corner, and birds have begun their mating songs.
Years ago I attended an herb class at a local herb farm. The owner prepared a beautiful glass urn of sun tea. The urn was filled with a variety of flowers, violets, johnny jump-ups, roses, lavender, herb blossoms, and more. This tea was refreshing. I was impressed and have not forgotten this experience.
Recently, I came across a new book from Rosalind Creasy, The Edible Flower Garden. Her cover and photography hooked my curiosity as the subject of edible flowers is limited. Rosalind is a well-known author and respected organic gardener. It is a stunning work with gorgeous photography that highlights the beauty of flowers and shows off culinary delights using flowers in a variety of ways. She has researched claims of edibles and addresses some of which are myths, such as stock. History shows it may have been eaten in times of famine but no other time. Therefore, stock is not on her list.
Edible Flowers Idea
I use blossoms in quiches. Small amounts of wild strawberry flowers when in bloom, rose petals, lavender. So many wild and common flowers are edible like the violet leaves pictured above. In my wild food classes, we used echinacea and dandelion blossoms, squash blossoms, and nasturtiums, for example. It all created a lovely palette for the eye in recipes as well as provided a variety of tastes. They inspire our creative juices, fill our senses with texture, color, and form. They are the stuff of poetry and stories. Yet in my travels, I have found folks a bit leery of using flowers in food.
4 Tips To Remember About Edible Flowers
- Flowers should never be used as food from stores. Store-bought flowers often come into our country from overseas and are chemically treated.
- Organic gardens, whether traditional landscapes or vegetable-based, do not have that concern. If you do not have a garden but a neighbor does, please ask questions. Make sure they are organic.
- If you have planters and need to give your plants extra food to maintain growth, please read labels carefully.
- Always check with a reliable source before picking or tasting anything you are not familiar with. For example, most mushrooms are poisonous. Pokeberry flowers and berries are not edible. Daffodils are not edible.
Title: The Edible Flower Garden
Author: Rosalind Creasy
What I like: Rosalind gives the reader an encyclopedia of flowers that are edible. Pictures are crisp and help to easily identify a flower accompanied by how to grow and how to prepare sections. She then provides us with photographs and recipes that are simply elegant. She rounds out her book with appendixes on planting and maintenance, pest and disease control. She has suggestions for nontoxic management if pests show up. Lastly, she has a well-organized section on seed sources.
I recently spoke to a library about the benefits of herb teas. The dried flowers contained in the herb blends were a hit. Folks who love to garden often have no idea that many common plants are edible. And that some of these flowers and plants contribute nourishment. Nourishment, provided from a variety of plant constituents, such as vitamins A, B, C, and calcium, all support our biology.
For those of you who are curious about edible flowers I highly recommend this book.
If you read my last article, hopefully, you are raring to go and buy some sustainable cookware. Great! One problem though – good sustainable cookware isn’t cheap. For example, most ceramic pots and pans actually have a coating. Xtrema is a rare cookware manufacturer that doesn’t coat its ceramic pans. Perfect! Except for this quality, sustainability and non-toxicity cost money. Of course buying durable, long-lasting cookware will save you money in the long run. Sometimes buying cheap is a false saving that doesn’t really help in the short term.
How can you help the planet and save money?
1. Consider Second hand
For some cookware, especially cast iron, there’s no harm in getting something second hand. You can buy it, or even better, maybe talk a family member into passing you one of their pieces of cast iron!
2. One Pan at a Time
I wouldn’t suggest going out and buying a new cookware set straight away. If you are used to cooking with Teflon, it’s better to replace pans as you go. Cast iron, for example, is more work. It’s heavier, and you need to change your cooking style slightly. What if you hate it? Try one, second hand, pan before you buy more. Who knows – maybe you’ll love it and get a set.
3. Take a Look at, or Through Glass Cookware
I recently researched and wrote about glass cookware, which I find interesting. Do you know there is such a thing as a glass frying pan? I have been thinking about getting one (and keeping it away from my children!) I will wait until my nonstick pan starts to wear though. I don’t need it straight away, so why not use what I’ve got? It’s the opposite of sustainable to throw away perfectly usable pans.
4. Less Cookware
I write about cookware so maybe that’s why I have a bit too much in my kitchen! My kitchen isn’t huge but it isn’t the smallest either. I always feel like there isn’t enough room though. Sometimes less is more. If you can’t afford a full sustainable cookware set, perhaps you don’t need all the pieces? As an example, I don’t use a proper griddle to cook pancakes – I use a normal pan.
5. Go For Flexible Pans
A way of using less energy is by having fewer pans. It also has the advantage of clearing some space in your kitchen. I can use the same pan for different things then that helps declutter my kitchen. Versatility can come in different ways and depends on each person, but for example:
- Oven safe can be convenient
- Having a lid makes it easier to turn a frying pan into a saute or even saucepan
- Being easy to clean means they are ready to use for the next meal
- Fitting on one burner on the stove but having a decent capacity. For a frying pan, 10 inches seems to work well
- Whatever you do make sure it’s what you need, and it works for you.
6. Mix It Up!
Flexibility goes more than one way. By mixing and matching you increase what you can do. For example, when heating liquids, stainless steel is fantastic. This is great for cooking things like pasta, soup, and sauces, or for steaming. So a stainless steel stockpot can be a great idea. But then a large cast-iron skillet could help with popping corn, frying, and searing.
7. Consider Cores
Copper or Aluminum cores are a great way of using these conductive metals. Copper bottoms often wear off. A core is inside the pan so avoids this problem. It will save you money in the long run through more efficient heating – plus not more hot spots!
8. Consider All Your Options
If you need to fry some eggs, perhaps even consider a small nonstick pan. Yes, it’s better to use the cast iron skillet, if you can, but it is harder! Actually even better could be a stainless steel frying pan with a copper core as it wouldn’t need much heat. Except the eggs will probably stick. If you can deal with that – perfect!
9. Beware Coatings
Coatings are the “Gotcha!” of cookware. Do you think you are buying a healthy stone pan? Great – but what’’s it coated in? Apart from chemicals, the coating will eventually wear away and you’ll need to replace the pan.
10. Be Realistic
The worst thing you can do is go and buy a sustainable cast iron cookware set and never use it. Are you prepared to do the extra work? Do you even have the time? You can buy really low maintenance, sustainable cookware for a high price. You can also get some nice, affordable, sustainable cookware that does need a little work. Getting affordable, long-lasting, sustainable cookware that doesn’t need any maintenance – well that might be harder!
What Cookware Should I Get Then!? What should you aim for in the long term? Here are my thoughts:
- Up to 1 Nonstick frying / sauté pan with an aluminum body to heat food quickly. Or (better yet) a stainless steel pan with a copper or aluminum base or core.
- A stainless steel stockpot, ideally with copper or aluminum base of the core.
- A cast-iron Skillet
- Steamer / colander – stainless steel
- Ceramic or glass bakeware
Of course, it depends on what you cook. Want a nice crunchy stir fry? Then a carbon steel wok is perfect. And, clearly, the larger the family the more cookware you need!
Thanks, Beatriz for 2 great articles and information about the differences in cookware and what’s sustainable and what’s not. I appreciate your contribution to holistic and sustainable living from all aspects. Now we know something about sustainable cookware. Got any tips, comments? Beatriz and I would love to hear from you. Enjoy. Judith
Beatriz Garcia is my guest blog post writer this week. She reached out to me recently about sustainable cookware and I found her information useful. We often look at packaging as sustainable or not but what about our kitchen cookware? Summer is also a time for weddings and purchases for college dorms. I happen to be a fan of cast iron. Yes, they are heavy but I find them easy to clean and I like the even heating. What type of cookware is your favorite and why? Beatriz and I would love to hear from you.
Beatriz Garcia found out about the sustainable side of cookware when researching healthy cookware for her site Clan Kitchen. You can find her writing there in the rare moments she isn’t busy looking after her family. Beatriz is keen to cook healthily and sustainably, but also has to balance this with quickly cooking foods her kids want to eat!
Whatever material you choose, you need to beware of the coating. If, for example, you want to avoid Teflon, then you should look for “PTFE free”. Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is the active ingredient in Teflon. Unfortunately, many pans are advertised as PFOA free. This is not helpful – PFOA was banned years ago. Other chemicals are now used to manufacture PTFE! Unfortunately, when reviewing different pans, I’ve found many ceramic or stone pans actually have a coating that includes PTFE. People buying those bands could be misled by this. I certainly wouldn’t expect a ceramic or stone pan to include Teflon. Dr. Mercola, the number one holistic wellness expert, and site in the world, says this about Teflon coatings:
“In fact, the convenience of a nonstick or stain-resistant surface comes at a steep price, as such chemicals persist in the environment, are contaminating water supplies and have been linked to developmental problems, cancer, liver damage, immune effects, thyroid problems and more.”
My advice here is that if you are buying a pan that advertises itself as non-stick; check if it is PTFE free. If it doesn’t state PTFE free, then it probably does have Teflon. This is especially the case with ceramic, stone, aluminum pans, or any pan with a special coating. Here’s the problem with coatings in general: They wear away over time. And when they wear away, the pan loses any non-stick properties it had. The underlying layer/body of the pan is also exposed. This is often not healthy. For example, Aluminum exposure may cause Alzheimer’s. Once the coating of any pan starts to chip, I’d recommend throwing it away. And here we are back to the durability issue! One coating that you can repair is the seasoning on cast iron or carbon steel pans.
It’s not just the energy used in creating the pan that counts, but also the energy used every time you cook with it! The miles per gallon metric for cars is unachievable and unrealistic. But at least it allows you to compare different cars. Yet cookware doesn’t come with anything like that. How can we compare? The overall conductivity of each material to get an idea of which cookware is best. This isn’t perfect, but it’s something.
Examining this factor suggests copper and aluminum top the charts, followed by cast iron. Stainless steel is the worst of the typical cookware metals. You don’t normally expose food directly to copper or aluminum for safety reasons. One option is a copper or aluminum core to help conduct and spread the heat. Some pans even have a copper bottom. I can’t imagine a layered pan would make the job of recycling any easier though!
This might also depend on how you cook though. Cast iron is in the middle of the conductivity range and takes ages to heat up. But there is a way around this! Heat the cast iron pan before putting the food on it, then turn it off the stove when the food is almost ready. The pan keeps its heat a while and carries on cooking. With a little bit of practice, you can get the timing right on this.
So, you’re sold on sustainable cookware but you’re not sure what to do next! Perhaps you don’t have money to just go and buy another cookware set. Keep using the pans you have for now, and watch out for my next article, where I will give you 10 tips on how to buy and afford, sustainable cookware.
Thanks, Beatriz, for sharing the above information on how to look at our cookware sustainably. Next week Beatriz offers 10 tips for buying sustainable cookware.
Remember your comments are appreciated.
While we wait for the rain to stop here in the NE, spring flowers brighten up our landscapes. The grass is an ‘Emerald City’ green. Bulbs rise, flower, come and go as we place seeds in the ground for early crops. Clovers will be coming up soon though I kinda take the little white clover blossoms for granted.
Botanical name: Trifolium repens
Common names: white clover, shamrock
Parts used: whole plant, Peterson’s field guides to medicinal plants states the entire plant can be used.
Uses: teas, washes for sores, ulcers, very popular in Europe. This plant was brought to our country with the early settlers during the 1600-1700’s. It’s short, a perennial and flowers from April to September with shamrock type leaves. As you can imagine, looking for four-leafed clover was and is considered a sign of good luck. In Europe, flower tea was used for rheumatism and gout. In North America, the Native Americans used the leaf tea for colds, coughs, and fevers.
Jethro Kloss, an American icon in the world of herbalism, lived from 1863 to 1946 and practiced herbal medicine. He used white clover blossoms in a tea to cleanse the system, especially if ulcers, boils or other skin ailments were present. He also noted that poultices, tea washes applied externally, helped heal sores, ulcers too.
White clover has been used for many years as a ground cover. It is useful as a ground cover for its nitrogen-fixing properties. There are nodules on the roots that literally grab nonusable nitrogen from the air and with the help of bacteria convert it into a plant usable form which is important for plant growth and provides protein source for foraging animals.
Benefits of White Clover: (from the University of Hawaii cooperative extension service pdf.)
1. Excellent for attracting beneficial insects, for reduced- or non-chemical pest management, for controlling erosion, suppressing weeds once established,
2. …and as a source of organic nitrogen good for quick growth and establishment,
3. …for bearing equipment traffic
4. …tolerates low fertility soils
5…. fair shade tolerance suitable for higher elevations
6. …good forage for animal grazing systems;
7. …high production, nutritional quality, and palatability
8. For use in plantation and orchard cropping systems including macadamia and coffee, in vineyards, and as a living mulch in vegetable cropping systems.”
In doing research for this article I came across a blog: insteading.com they use white clover as a living mulch, planting it in the garden to keep down weeds; eventually, it becomes mulch, retains moisture, attracts pollinators, and improves the soil. When I visited Michael Judd’s property, (author of Edible Landscapes), I saw his use of crops like mint growing in many places. He explained to us that he was not worried about keeping them harnessed. He cut them down periodically during the growing season and they became mulch there and then. It seems Insteading supports the same practices.
Last but not least, white clovers attract pollinators. White clover honey is one of the most popular honey here in the US, light in color and milder in taste.
Teas are easy: gather flowers, leaves at peak growing times, dry, store in glass jars. These plant parts can be combined with other herbs for tea making. A few white clover blossoms along with red clovers can be added to ice teas too creating pleasing summertime drinks.
White clover flowers dried, then ground into flour can be added to bread recipes. Southern forager shares a bread recipe made from dehydrated and dried, ground white clover blossom flour. I have found forager sites have great uses and recipes for meadow plants.
I hope you look at white clovers in lawns, gardens, and paths a bit differently. This little plant often mowed and ignored provides a host of uses. Do you have a favorite recipe? Please share…I’d like that.
My podcast guest this week, Joan Palmer, founder of The Institute of Sustainable Nutrition, or TIOSN, reminded me how important it is to use the food we grow in our kitchens. Seems like a no-brainer, right? But, we get busy with work, household chores, children’s schedules, all can claim our time. Plants too, have their own agendas, ones they follow regardless of our attention or inattention. They have a schedule of peak growth and then they wane. If our attention is elsewhere, we lose harvest time.
So I thought, let me share 2 easy recipes for using garden thyme in particular and other culinary herbs you may have dried or stored,
Food Alert: many herbs can be irradiated as they come into our country.
“The USA has the most advanced commercial food irradiation program in the
world and the volume of irradiated food consumed in the US is second only
to China. Information on the current status of irradiation in the USA can be
obtained at www.foodirradiation.org or from the Food Irradiation Update
Newsletter published by the author.
A significant amount of the international trade in irradiated food has been
driven by consumer acceptance of irradiated food in the US and access to
that large and lucrative market. More than ten countries currently export
produce to US retailers.
Food products irradiated or marketed in the US during 2015 included
approximately 68 000 tons of spices, 30 000 tons of fruits and vegetables, and
an estimated 12 500 tons of meat, poultry, and live oysters.” ( from foodiradiation.org)
Herbs de Provence is a traditional herb mix often used in European cooking. Drying culinary herbs gives us an opportunity to create flavorful mixtures as fall and winter approach. As Joan states in the podcast, “use real food.” Food from our gardens is not irradiated, hopefully organic. We know the source, we grow it locally, we eat what we grow by our own hands.
So here are 2 Easy Recipes you can easily make. If you don’t have the herbs mentioned I hope you will buy organic.
Recipe: Herbes de Provence:
- 3 Tablespoons dried marjoram
- 3 Tablespoons dried thyme
- 3 Tablespoons dried savory
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
Combine marjoram, thyme, savory, basil, rosemary, sage, and fennel. Mix well and spoon into a tightly-lidded jar. Store in a cool, dark place up to 4 months. Add to soups, stews, roasts, fish etc all to your tastes.
Here’s a recipe using Herbs de Provence:
Chicken with Herbes de Provence Recipe
Recipe Type: Poultry, Chicken
Yields: 4 servings
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 30 min
4 chicken boneless breast halves (with skin)*
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence**
* Do not remove skin until after baking, as the skin helps to retain moisture in the meat.
Place chicken breasts, single layer, into an ungreased 13×9-inch baking dish.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine olive oil and the herbes de Provence together. Pour marinade over chicken breasts. Cover and marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes or refrigerate to marinate longer (turning meat over several times).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake, uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (juices will run clear when cut with the tip of a knife); basting several times during cooking. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
Have fun trying a new recipe. Do you have any favorites using thyme? All comments are appreciated.
Bon Appetit! Judith
Description: The Institute of Sustainable Nutrition, TIOSN, offers a one-year certification program in Sustainable Health and Nutrition. They have four focuses:
1. Learn and practice sustainable gardening methods.
2. Take the food from the garden, weeds included, and grow your culinary skills in the kitchen.
3. Identify nutrient-rich wild plants, for culinary and medicinal uses both for us and the garden.
4. Learn about preparing wild edibles for food and medicine.
Joan Palmer, the founder of TIOSN, shares her experiences, and how she is attempting to connect the dots between our health, the health of the planet, through the science and art of gardening and nutrition.
About My Guest: Joan Palmer is the Founder and Director of The Institute of Sustainable Nutrition and owner of Real Food Matters, LLC. Joan has an MS in Human Nutrition, a BS in Education and received her certification as a Family/Community Herbalist. She has been planting the seeds of real food matters for decades through educational programs presented to schools, businesses, organizations, families, and individuals. Joan presents the Art and Science of Eating as part of an accredited master’s degree program in Ct.
Transcript: Joan Palmer #45