Flower preservation

Dried Flower Diary. February is the Month To…..

When you think of February what springs to mind….Diets, Snow, Seed Planning?

Harvest probably wouldn’t make it up on the list, right! But for me February is the perfect month to harvest seed that has been hanging through the winter. Last year I made a conscious decision to reap the benefits of my own little plot to eat a healthier diet full of vibrant coloured veg and fruit and I have to say I feel better for it, not only because of the increased exercise but because there is something very satisfying harvesting your own food. I am also feeling more adventurous with my home produce thanks in the main to an enlightening online course Nutritionally Balanced Dinners Made Simple by ‘The Mindful Chef’ aka Josie www.themindfulchef.co.uk which has inspired me in so many ways.

Harvesting Fennel Seeds

I have a small plot set aside for fruit and veg and I mean small, three raised beds a mere 3ft each square but its surprising how much you can grow in a small space. I use 3 for rotation with a fourth permanent area set aside for fruit, a couple of pear trees, a fig in a pot and a few blackcurrant bushes underplanted with strawberries.

What this got to do with preserving flowers I hear you ask… well, its actually at the core of how I produce my products. The flowers are grown and tendered from seed to harvest, chemical free. They are monitored and harvested at their peak and preserved within an hour of harvest which means the blooms colour is more intense and the petals are stronger to work with. Retaining colour is a vital part of preservation that is easily lost that I can prolong by turning the harvest around quickly and the same goes for all produce.

Most of the growing area is naturally dedicated to flowers destined for the confetti crop but in one of the beds I planted a piece of fennel which today, in mid February, the dried heads made the journey into the kitchen and after a few hours of seed head rubbing, chaff shaking and sifting I have a whopping 300g from one plant. (Try the free recipe below as an accompaniment to a curry or lamb dish or on its own)

Seed harvesting aside my thoughts are also on this years crop and I’m setting an area aside for edible flowers destined for great things. Some will be harvested for floral ice cubes to brighten up my al fresco summer dining table and others into wax candles, which is something I have been trialing.

Seed sowing has started in earnest and one border has been freshly cleared for a new colour scheme with a heavy emphasis on flowers and grasses that I can dry to work with throughout the year. I use dense planting schemes to suppress the weeds and one chicken for pest control who is entirely free range and boss in the garden. She is one formidable bird and will fend off pigeons, cats and even a pheasant that dared to wander into her patch! In return we get fresh eggs, though I do have to keep an eye on where she’s sitting to find them!

February is also a good month to think about preparing work and relaxation areas and in keeping with this months blog, the kitchen in particular. Now I’m a great fan of bringing the outside in but I’m a bigger fan of taking the inside out. Dining outdoors surrounded by flowers is something we can all aspire to even if its just a few flower tubs on the patio.

I recently came across a delightful new store brimming with household decoration, that would feel at home in any London boutique. With hand blown glassware and pottery reminiscent of continental design mixed with vases and silk flowers dipped between the glistening glass, it is an oasis of OOOhs. I picked up a glass oil pourer and matching covered dish for my pesto which will be perfect for my Italian inspired dinners but theres one thing I loved about this place that I have not seen anywhere else and that is the mix of design style and contemporary decoration. Now I am a big fan of overheads structures and like to decorate my tables with structural floral pieces and I loved a piece they have made to accompany the central tables adding a vertical element to the planting. I can imagine a similar theme above a kitchen island with pots and pans hanging from it. I’m not going to give the game away on how they made it but instead urge to to visit and gain inspiration for your own kitchens and while you are there check out the decorative dinner services as well. You can find their stores and new Deli in Sutton next to Sutton Garden Centre and in Wroxham Barns @Love my Home and Garden.

Whatever you are doing this February, enjoy!

Sutton, Love My Home and Garden

Red Pepper, Potato, and Peanut

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 small yellow onion, cut into ½” pieces
  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into ½” pieces
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, cut into ¾” pieces
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ cup roasted unsalted cashews, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. (or more) fresh lime juice (from about half a lime)
  • Fresh rocket leaves

RECIPE PREPARATION

  • Heat oil in a large pan until hot. Add cumin seeds and cook, stirring, until they turn a medium shade of brown, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium and stir in fennel seeds. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 4–6 minutes.
  • Stir in potato, then spread mixture into an even layer in pan. Cover and cook until potato is tender, 7–10 minutes. Stir in bell pepper and salt. Cover and cook until peppers are slightly softened, 5–7 minutes. Using a large spoon or spatula, scrape up the delicious charred bits from bottom of pan and stir into potato mixture.
  • Stir in cashews and lime juice. Taste and adjust lime juice and salt, if needed, before serving.
  • Garnish with rocket leaves
  • Serve as a side dish or main vegetarian meal

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