Mid-summer is a beautiful time of year in the garden - most plants are producing flowers and fruit adding to the visual texture of a working productive garden. Harvesting and drying flower heads (or herbs) is a satisfying project and the perfect way to extend your harvest. Plus, taking flower heads from plants will prevent prolific re-seeding, which is often the goal. If you've ever let your bronze fennel go to seed before removing the yellow fennel blossoms, you know what I'm talking about. (Note to self: dig out bronze fennel this summer.)

In all of my gardens, I plant flowers in order to attract pollinators and add to the list of plants. Many of these blossoms may be harvested and stored for winter indulgence. Lavender, chamomile, thyme flowers, chives and more may all be harvested and dried for future use. To dry out flower heads, choose a warm, dry place. Molds, bacteria, and yeast all thrive in moisture and can ruin herb-saving projects, so keep drying herbs free from excess moisture. Run you hand along the length of the plants stem, and pop off the flower head, leaving the stem behind. To dry, I lay my flower heads out on a fine mesh drying rack that my friend Patric made for me. You can also lay them out on a clean sheet pan, just make sure to turn them often, so air circulates around the buds and they dry completely.

Use dried chamomile in granola, dessert crisps & even cocktails. All recipes are linked here!

Chamomile Cordial

This morning I am a guest on Terri Trespicio's show on Martha Stewart Radio - Whole Living. I love coming on the show. Terri is a firecracker and I always have fun. Today we are talking about homemade holiday food gifts and cordials are one of my absolute favorites to make and give. Cordials are essentially sweetened syrups infused with herbs, spice or plants. They are simple to make and offer a wide range of flavors and essences to anyone willing to experiment. Cordials offer a perfect solution for a non-alcoholic ‘cocktail’ that is nothing short of grown up. For this syrup, you can use either fresh or dried chamomile flower heads. Chamomile is a dainty little white flower that has a tendency to prosper and spread amongst garden beds, cracks in the sidewalk and anywhere else it can take hold. Known for its medicinal properties (and ability to soothe), the sweet flavor from the flower heads also makes for a gentle summer drink. Add some syrup to some fizzy water and serve over crushed ice. If you want to go for gold, add a splash of cognac - its gentle flavor won’t overpower the floral note. This syrup is also delicious brushed onto a simple yellow or buttermilk cake.


by Amy Pennington Makes about 2 cups | start to finish: 30 minutes

2 tablespoons dried chamomile flowers (or 1 tablespoon fresh chamomile flower heads) 2 cups boiled water 1/4 cup honey

Add chamomile flowers to muslin steeping bag or fine mesh tea strainer. (Chamomile seeds are quite small and thin, so be sure to use fine mesh so they don’t escape and float in your syrup.) Steep in boiled water until liquid is stained yellow and perfumed, about 20 minutes. Press any reserved liquid out from the muslin bag and discard the solids. Add the honey, and stir until dissolved. Keep in the refrigerator until cool.

Once cooled, completely, add crushed ice to a glass. Pour in about 1/2 cup of the chamomile cordial and top with equal parts seltzer water. Garnish with a thin slice of cucumber to fancy it up. If you like, add a float of cognac and serve immediately.

Store cordial in a clean jar or bottle, covered, in the fridge where it will last for several weeks.

Cooking with Borage

I plant borage in most of my gardens*. Borage grows quit tall and produces pretty blue spiked flowers. The leaves are edible, tasting vaguely of cucumber, though they are prickly and best eaten when young. I wrote about borage for, if you want to know more about growing the plant. The thing is, while I think borage is tasty, most of my clients don't eat it. I think they just don't get it at all. It's completely new and foreign. Chief among the confused and disinterested is Chef Mark Fuller of Springhill in West Seattle. I grow food for his restaurant in his backyard. We're able to produce a lot in a small space, but the borage always gets neglected. With Mark in mind, I set to finding some sort of restuarant-approved recipe wherein he can use borage. No small task, as Mark is a stellar chef. I mean, a seriously stellar chef. The way his mind works in the kitchen is amazing. Regardless, he is tough to impress, but I kept it simple and came up with this easy recipe.

I used this cheese as a layer in a zucchini tart. Using store-bought puff pasty, I smeared a layer of cheese, sauteed some leeks and diced zucchini and added that, then covered the whole thing with thin shaves of zucchini in a criss-cross pattern across the top of the tart. Gave it a quick egg wash brush and baked it for about 25 minutes. You can also use this as a ravioli filling. I'm going to try it in a fresh layered 'lasagna' next.

Borage Ricotta

2 cups ricotta 50 borage leaves (from 2 full grown plants), minced 2 teaspoons chives, finely chopped 1 teaspoon black pepper, ground zest of one lemon, finely grated Stir to combine all ingredients. Keeps in fridge for up to 5 days.

*A note about why I grow borage when no one seems to like it: In order to plant organically, I follow crop rotations and intersperse families of plants in all of my gardens. There are crop rotations (which rotate around brassicas or nightshades) and then there is a fertility rotation (which rotates plants based on nutrient requirements). In short, I plant in the following order: leaf, root, flower, fruit. Borage is used for my flower rotation.