Late September colours

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Looking down the driveway from my office window I can see the wonderful shades of an Acer tree. As the seasons change the foliage turns from bright, lush green in spring, to more coppery tones in summer and now, the leaves are shades of rich red and brown.

There is still a lot of green in the garden, but now that the pinks and blues of the summer borders have faded, it is the time of year when the reds flowers and shrubs really stand out.

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Antirrhinum. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The fine specimen above was planted last year and has been producing flower stems for several weeks. It’s still going strong, adding a splash of colour to a flower-bed which was alive and vibrant with lupins a few weeks ago. The Antirrhinum is a nostalgic plant for me; we had them growing in most of my family gardens as I grew up. I used to think that the flower heads looked like little faces staring up at me from the borders.

The Fuchsia bushes have also been in flower for a while. This dainty variety grows in front of a magnificent Cotoneaster horizontalis, which is splayed out against a wall. Together the two plants look very bright and bold, one in front of the other. The Cotoneaster is laden with berries which tend to stay in place throughout the winter – for some reason the birds aren’t that interested in them.

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The ballerina-like petals of a Fuchsia. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Cotoneaster horizontalis. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Another later flowering plant in the garden is Lyceteria, more familiarly known as Pheasant Berry. Occasionally there has been a pheasant in the garden but I have yet to see one anywhere near this bush. The unusual flowers last a long time, and look like a succession of dark red lampshades hanging from a thin red cord.

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Lyceteria Formosa (Pheasant Berry). Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Apart from the flowers and foliage, there is also red colour from late ripening fruit. The Autumn raspberries are not as prolific as the earlier variety I grow, but it is lovely to be picking berries at this time of year. The last of my blueberry bushes is in fruit, but it is the leaves and stems that offer so much at the moment; on a dull day, the vivid red is a sight to behold. The little red apples were picked just after I took the image. Just five small fruit on a miniature tree, but crisp, sweet and delicious with every bite.

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Autumn raspberries, blueberries and miniature eating apples. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To finish my red-themed post this week, while I was taking these pictures, I came across two aptly named butterflies having a bit of a stand-off on the white Hydrangea bush. One clapped its wings together as soon as I got the camera out and couldn’t be tempted to open them again. The other fellow was more obliging and sat there for quite a while as I clicked away. It wasn’t until later on that I realised the poor thing only had one antennae. Until next time, enjoy the Autumn shades 🙂

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Red Admiral butterflies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Victoria plums, baked with fresh bay and red wine (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

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Freshly baked home-grown Victoria plums in red wine, scented with fresh bay.               Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My first harvest of plums in the year marks the end of summer in my mind. There is, of course, something to celebrate in having such lovely fruit to pick, and yet, I feel a bit sad that autumn is approaching. I managed to get a head-start on the wasps this year, picking about 1kg of unblemished fruit. There are plums a plenty yet to ripen,  so I need to work on my timing over the next few days and harvest them before the wee sugar-seeking beasties move in.

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Ripe and ready to pick, home-grown Victoria plums. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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My first plum harvest of the year. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My plum cookery isn’t very adventurous or fancy. I usually make jam or a plum sauce. Sometimes I make a compote. Baking them in wine is another very simple way I enjoy the rich, distinctive flavour of this particular fruit. Fresh bay-scented orchard fruit is something I tasted for the first time in Cyprus. The familiar glossy-leaved herb has become a flavour I use a lot in my kitchen, both in sweet and savoury cooking, and now that I have a bay tree in the garden, I use the herb all the more. Fresh bay gives a refreshing, herbal taste to fruit. You can use dry leaves, but as the flavour is much more intense than the fresh, you may want to experiment by reducing the quantity of leaves by at least half. If you don’t have any wine, or prefer not to use it, cranberry juice makes a good alternative in this recipe. If you don’t have plums, the recipe works equally well with apricots, peaches or nectarines. The baked fruit also freezes well too.

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 750g fresh Victoria plums
  • 60g Demerara sugar
  • 4 fresh bay leaves
  • 300ml fruity red wine or unsweetened cranberry juice
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Wash and pat dry the plums. Cut in half and remove the stones. Arrange the halves neatly, cut side up, preferably in a single layer, in a baking dish or tin.
  2. Sprinkle with sugar and push in the bay leaves, then pour over the wine or juice. Bake for 30-40 minutes, basting every 10 minutes, until tender.

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    Baked plums with bay and red wine preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Discard the bay leaves. Carefully strain off the cooking juices into a saucepan . Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 5 minutes until reduced and syrupy. Pour over the fruit and leave to cool. Cover and chill for 2 hours before serving. Best served at room temperature for maximum flavour. Delicious accompanied with coconut yogurt or rice pudding.
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    Glazed plums cooling in the tin. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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    Baked plums served with coconut yogurt. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Autumn blues – Blueberry and marzipan cake (gluten-free; dairy-free)

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Blueberry and marzipan cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been feeling a wee bit autumnal here in central Scotland for the past couple of weeks. Some of the leafy foliage in the garden is on the turn and the nights are drawing in fast. I also have blueberries ready for picking.

Home-grown blueberries are a delight to behold and eat. The skin is much bluer than any variety I can buy, and the skin has a silvery, almost downy bloom. The fruit is firmer in texture and has a slightly tart, more pronounced flavour. The plants are easy to grow, require little maintenance, and love the acidic Scottish soil. The leaves turn pink as the season progresses, and make a wonderful display in the fruit beds.

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Freshly picked, home-grown Scottish blueberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Mid-season blueberries ripe and ready for picking alongside a later variety. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I planted 3 blushes about 5 years ago. One fruits end of July/beginning of August, one is in full ripening mode now, and the other has fruit that is just turning pink. It is unusual for me to be able to harvest enough berries to make anything substantially blueberry flavoured in one go. Usually I keep adding to a bag of berries in the freezer until I have enough to make jam – blueberries do freeze very well and make very good jam from frozen fruit. This year has been an exception, and I have harvested sufficient fresh berries for this unbelievably easy blueberry cake.

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Slice of homemade blueberry and marzipan cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 115g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 115g gluten-free self raising flour (such as Dove’s Farm)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 100g marzipan, cut into small pieces
  • 200g fresh or frozen blueberries
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4) Grease and line an 18cm square cake tin. Put the margarine, sugar, flour, eggs and ground almonds in a bowl. Using an electric mixer on a low speed, gently whisk the ingredients together until loosely blended. Increase the mixer speed and continue to whisk for a few seconds longer until creamy and smooth.
  2. Gently stir in the marzipan and blueberries and spoon into the tin. Smooth the top and bake for about 45 minutes until lightly golden and just firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin, then slice into 8 portions and serve. If you can leave it alone, the cake tastes even better the next day. It is also delicious served warm as a pudding.
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    Easy to make, blueberry and marzipan cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    There are other signs of Autumn in the garden. The Autumn Crocus opened out this week, and the globe thistles (Echinops) are in various stages of blooming. I was delighted to see so many bees still hard at work when I was taking these pictures. Until next week, enjoy the late summer/very early autumn sunshine.

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    New season Autumn Crocus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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    Shades of silvery-blue, Echinops (globe thistles). Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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    A very busy bee. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

     

August, in a Scottish garden

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August flower border with Ox-eye daisies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Since the end of last month, it has felt like summer has left us here in central Scotland. There have even been a couple of chilly nights when it’s felt like Autumn is on the way. Whilst there has been some warm sunshine, the blue sky days have been peppered with heavy rain showers, and the poor plants, flowers and shrubs have been taking a battering.

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Soft pink Astilbe. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

This baby pink-coloured Astilbe reminds me of candy-floss. The tiny, soft flowers bunch together to give a fluffy-looking display which seems to bounce back even after the heaviest of showers. Just as pink and delicate-looking (and able to withstand the rain!) are the Japanese anemones which grow in a cluster at the base of one of the trees in the back garden. I also have a white variety but this year, the pinks are well ahead of the whites.

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Pale pink Japanese anemones. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

On the opposite flowerbed to the anemones is where the wispy Scabious grow. I tie the wiry floral stems in loose bunches, supported with canes, to keep them from falling over and splaying all over the place. The blooms form small white globes, tinged with pale blue-lilac petals; they are so pretty, and the bees love them!

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Wispy Scabious blooms. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

There are lots of flamboyant red and mauve poppies growing alongside the fruit bushes at the moment, but sadly, each one is only surviving no longer than a single day. These beauties are just too fragile to withstand the heavy rain drops. I managed to enjoy this one for a few hours this week, but sadly the next morning, all the petals had fallen.

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Rain splattered mauve poppy. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m glad of some longer lasting colour in the garden from my ever-faithful Hydrangeas. All the bushes are in flower now and they will continue to bloom for several weeks, subtly changing colour as time goes on. At the moment, the colours are soft and muted, but as Autumn draws nearer, the petals will deepen in colour and become more intense.

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Fresh in bloom, assorted Hydrangeas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To finish my garden round-up for this month, the greenhouse is pretty colourful at the moment as well. I’ve been picking cucumbers and tomatoes for a few days now, and it looks like I am going to have plenty of produce for the weeks to come. So, until next month, I bid you: happy gardening!

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In the greenhouse, cucumber and Tigerella tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Cooking with rose petals – make your own rosewater, rose petal syrup and dried rose petals (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

 

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Trug of freshly picked fragrant rose heads. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It is pleasantly fragrant in the garden at the moment, thanks mostly to two highly scented rose bushes. One variety is very old, a Felicia rose, with gnarled, stooped stems. However old it is, the foliage is vibrant green and  healthy-looking  and the bush produces an abundant supply of pale pink, Turkish Delight-scented flowers from late spring through to late summer. The other, a Gertrude Jekyll, I planted last year. The flowers are larger, deeper pink in colour and the fragrance slightly sweeter and more aromatic. Both roses have lots of petals per head, and are perfect for use in the kitchen.

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Pale pink, Felicia rose, and the deeper pink, Gertrude Jekyll rose. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The preparation for any recipe using rose petals is the same. Choose fragrant roses with undamaged petals; they need to be free from pests and chemical sprays. Rose heads are best picked when almost fully open and still fresh. Cut the stems in the morning before the sun becomes too hot – this helps preserve colour and fragrance. Carefully pull the petals from the head, keeping them as whole as possible, weigh them, and then place in a colander or strainer. Fill a bowl with cold water and dip the colander in the water to submerge the petals. Swirl gently the colander and then lift out. Shake gently to drain and shake further to remove the excess water.

The petals are fine to use damp for rosewater, syrup and any recipe where they are cooked in liquid, but if you want to dry them, spread them out carefully on sheets of absorbent kitchen paper or a clean tea towel and pat them dry with more paper or  clean cloth. Leave to dry naturally, uncovered, at room temperature for about an hour or until they feel dry to the touch.

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Making homemade rosewater. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Rosewater – makes approx. 250ml

  • 25g fragrant rose petals – approx. 4 full heads of rose petals
  • 250ml boiling water
  • 1 tsp vodka (optional) – this helps preserve the rosewater for slightly longer
  1. Prepare and rinse the rose petals as described above. Place in a sterilised, clean preserving jar or heatproof jug, and pour over the boiling water.
  2. Cover the top with a piece of muslin or kitchen paper and leave to steep until completely cold.
  3. Strain through muslin into a sterilised, clean jug and then squeeze the muslin to obtain as much liquid as possible. Mix in the vodka if using.
  4. Decant into a sterilised, screw-top bottle or jam jar. Seal, label and store in the fridge. Use within 4 to 6 weeks.

Note: homemade rosewater is weaker in dilution that the distilled rosewater you can buy ready-made, so you will probably need to use more in your recipes.

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How to make homemade rose petal syrup. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Rose petal syrup – makes 350ml

  • 85g fragrant rose petals – approx. 9 full heads of rose petals
  • 450ml cold water
  • 265g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  1. Prepare and rinse rose petals as above, then place in a clean, large stainless steel saucepan. Pour over the cold water.
  2. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 20 minutes – all the colour will come out of the petals. Strain through muslin into a jug, and then squeeze the muslin to obtain as much liquid as possible.
  3. Return the liquid to the saucepan and add the sugar and lemon juice. Stir well over a low heat to dissolve the sugar – the liquid should now be, magically, very pink.
  4. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until lightly syrupy. Pour into sterilised bottles or jars and seal well. Label and cool. The syrup will keep unopened for 6 months, once opened keep in the fridge for up to a month.

Rose petal syrup is perfect for fruit salads; adding to cocktails; diluting with sparkling water for a refreshing summer cooler; for pouring over pancakes or for drizzling over freshly baked cakes.

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Drying rose petals. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Dried rose petals – prepare rose petals as described above and dry thoroughly. Spread out across the layers of a dehydrator, making sure they are well spaced out, keeping them in as much of a single layer as possible. Cover and dry at 40°C for 1 ½ to 2 hours, swapping the trays around every 30 minutes, until the petals are dry and parched. Leave to cool then place in a clear screw-top jar and store in a dark, dry place. Petals will fade after a few months, and are best used within 4 to 6 weeks. Sprinkle over salads, fruit desserts or use as a natural cake decoration.

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Homemade rosewater, dried rose petals and rose petal syrup. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My next post will be very rosy and will use all 3 rose recipes. See you in a few days!

For other recipes using rose petals see my previous posts Rose and raspberry vodka (gluten-free, dairy-free) and Sugared rose petals (gluten-free, dairy-free

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Mid-summer garden

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Kalmia bush and flowers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Half way through the year already. I can hardly believe it. It’s also just over a year since I published my first post on this blog. What a year it’s been. So many flowers, plants and recipes. So much colour and flavour.

The last week of June has been a turbulent one here in central Scotland. After several days of warm sunshine, suddenly the winds got up and the rain came down. The flowers and shrubs certainly received a bit of a battering, but most have recovered. I have two Kalmia bushes in the garden. When in bud, the bright pink tightly closed flowers remind me of pink icing piped through a star-shaped nozzle (you can see a few in the picture above). As the buds open out, the unusual pink flowers turn into little lanterns or fairy-sized lamp shades. As the petals begin to fade and fall, it looks like someone has scattered pink confetti over the lawn.

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Blue Campanula and pink foxgloves; golden Phlomis. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Mid-June to early July is probably the best time of the year for colour variation in the garden. There are a lot dainty blue and white Campanula all over the borders as well as different shades of foxgloves – these both seed themselves year after year. I have two clumps of yellow Phlomis, with small crowns of flowers that remind me of little pineapples. The velvety, sage-green foliage comes up in mid spring and lasts long after the flowers have bloomed.

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Lilium martagon (Turk’s Head Lily). Image by Kathryn Hawkins

I discovered this small lily underneath a rhododendron in the front garden a few weeks ago. One by one the individual blooms have opened, and finally yesterday, I managed to capture them all open at the same time. It is like a small tiger-lily, so pretty and dainty. I can’t remember planting it, or even having seen it ever before!

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Iris Foedissima. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This fine fellow was new in the garden last year. Actually, it had probably been in the garden for a while, but it was hidden away in an old compost heap. When the compost was distributed, it sprouted up. Given a more prominent position in the garden, it started flowering last summer. This iris is one of only two native varieties in the UK; it is not the most colourful, but certainly interesting, and it has a rather unfortunate and unflattering common name: “stinking iris” – but this one doesn’t seem to smell at all!

My last image to share this month, is a plant not strictly in my garden, but something I am proud to have raised given the climate here. It is a small Oleander bush. I have kept it through the winter months, swaddled in fleece, in my unheated greenhouse, and this spring the flower buds started appearing. On warm days, it does stand outside for a few hours, and brings a hint of the Mediterranean to the more traditional flora and fauna.

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Potted Oleander. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Joyous June

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Lovely lupins. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

From the last few days of May, I think my garden looks at it’s best. There is so much colour, so many fragrant blooms, it is a real joy to be outside, and even the weeding seems less of a chore! The weather has been kind, and I have been outside more than I have been indoors. The lupins are great value in the garden; the flowers with their rich, spicy aroma, are in bloom for a long time, and once the long heads have finished, cut them off and smaller blooms appear for a second showing.

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White and pink lupins. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The last of my spring bulbs are in flower now. I planted alliums for the first time a couple of years ago, so this is their second late spring showing. I love the intricate web of tiny star-like lilac flowers that make up the globe shaped bloom.

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Allium cristophii. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a fine year for rhododendrons and azaleas. Most have past their best now, but this scarlet beauty stands at the bottom of the drive-way and is always one of the last to flower. It makes a stunning display. The later varieties are particularly sweet-smelling. The peachy-pink one below is heavily scented although sadly not quite so many blooms this year. The pure white azalea and the apple blossom-pink rhododendron, on the other hand, are almost overloaded with blooms.

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Scarlet rhododendron. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Later flowering rhododendrons and a white azalea. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

One of the finest trees in the garden is the laburnum. On a bright day, the rich yellow glow from the petals is quite dazzling, and the heavy scent is intoxicating. The flowers look particularly glorious against a blue sky. Sadly it’s not in flower for more than a few days before the petals start falling like vibrant confetti, all over the garden.

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In full flower, laburnum tree. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have been patiently waiting for this iris to come into flower. For the first time, I split the rhizome back in the Autumn and was delighted (and relieved) when the buds started to form about a month ago. This variety is a real beauty called Iris Pallida; the pale sky blue flowers have the aroma of slightly spicy bubble-gum. It’s planted in a dry, sunny corner by the front house wall, and flowers from the top down. I believe the rhizome of this particular iris is used as a botanical in some gin varieties.

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Iris pallida. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My final image to share this month, is from a crop of plume thistles Atropupureum which are growing in the back garden. Not only popular with me, but the bees love them too 🙂

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Plume thistle (Atropupureum) and bee. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

May bluebells and blossoms

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My Perthshire garden in May. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s May! My favourite month of the year. I’m so excited, I hardly know where to start. The weather has been fine and dry for several day and there is so much going on in the garden, I am utterly spoilt for choice. So here goes….

There are bluebells everywhere, ranging in height and depth of colour, and not just blue ones, white and lilac-pink stems as well. When the sun is up, the fragrance is quite intoxicating.

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Bluebells, lilac and white varieties. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Tall, white variety of bluebell. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The golden glow of daffodils has been replaced by the vibrant yellow of Welsh poppies which are blooming all over the garden now and will continue to do so throughout the coming months. The petals are so delicate yet the poppies withstand all sorts of random weather that a Scottish spring and summer has to offer.

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Vibrant and bold Welsh poppies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have high hopes for an abundant fruit crop this year. All the trees, especially the Morello cherry, have been laden with blossom. To me, the prettiest of all fruit blossom is the apple blossom, I love the deep pink buds which burst open into hint-of-pink flower petals. Pear blossom comes a close second with its intricate and prominent stamens.

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Morello cherry tree in full blossom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Lord Derby apple blossom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Concorde pear blossom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The weather here in Perthshire is set fair for another few days, with no rain in the forecast for the foreseeable future. Whilst I enjoy the sunshine and blue sky, this is one of the worst times of the year for there to be little water for the plants. It looks like I will be busy with the watering can over the next few days. Until next month, I’m heading outside 🙂

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Bluebells under a May Perthshire blue sky. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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May bluebell, up close and personal. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

April flowers

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White Pieris in April sunshine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

There is a multitude of colours in the garden this month. A combination of warmer, sunnier days, a few showers here and there, and cool nights, has brought glorious technicolor to the beds and borders. The Pieris shrubs have been in flower for a couple of weeks already, and are now fully laden with bunches of droplet-like blossoms. Their aroma is spicy and fresh, and the bees are buzzing all over them.

The zesty colours of the Euphorbia are showing now. In my garden, the plant grows most prolifically in the dappled, shadier parts, and has become quite a forest, as the stems self-seed each year.

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Bright, fresh and green, Euphorbia. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Growing in little groups in the flower-beds and alongside the paths, are the tiny, clustered flowers of the grape hyacinth. Sweet-scented,  dainty in stature, with bold, blue bell-shaped petals, they stand out prominently amidst all the fresh greenery.

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Muscari (grape hyacinth). Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I planted anemones for the first time last autumn, and they seem to be thriving. The colour of the pink and red varieties is particularly dazzling in the sunshine.

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Fuschia-pink anemone. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Scarlet-coloured anemone. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The warmth of the sun has opened up the blossom buds on several of the fruit trees this past week. The Morello cherry is always one of the first to flower. I have high hopes for a bumper crop this year as there are blossoms up and down every stem. The small tree is an espalier and grows against a south-facing wall. It is about 6 years old and for the past couple of years, has produced a fair crop of fruit.

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Morello cherry blossom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

One of the more unusual-looking flowers at this time of year is the Snakeshead Fritillay. Immediately you can see how it gets its name. The striking flower heads grow on tall, spindly stems with grass-like leaves; they are almost camouflaged in amongst the new shoots in the flowerbeds and the back-drop of the beech hedge.

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Snakeshead fritillary. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Another flowering plant that is unremarkable from a distance, is this tiny yellow violet. It grows in a single clump in the back garden. The petals are so pale and delicate, the blooms are easily over-looked because it grows so close to the ground. If you can get close enough, the flowers have the faint aroma of vanilla.

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Tiny pale-yellow violet. Image Kathryn Hawkins

My final plant this month, is another aromatic: Ribes sanguineum. At this time of the year, the flowers and foliage smell of blackcurrants and, to me, its flowering means that spring is well under way with the promise of summer not too far off. Until next month, enjoy the sights and smells of the season.

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Ribes sanguineum. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Garden Sorrel (Rumex acetosa)

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New season garden sorrel. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have more books on the subject of herbs and spices than on any other. I love growing my own herbs and experimenting with new flavours. It’s lovely to see that my herb garden is coming back to life again, now that the days are getting lighter and the sun is slowly warming up.

One of the best culinary friends from the herb garden is garden sorrel. A hardy perennial – I’ve noticed that even in the depths of a Scottish winter, there are always a few leaves poking their way through the earth – it is easy to grow and is very versatile. Related to spinach and the wild, leafy plant, Dock, garden sorrel is a real favourite with cooks and chefs alike.

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Freshly picked sorrel leaves. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Spring is the time to start picking a few leaves here and there – the more you pick, the more the plant will regenerate, and you’ll have a succession of young leaves right through until autumn. At this time of year, the new leaves are juicy and fresh tasting. Larger leaves have more of the classic, astringent lemony flavour associated with the herb. As the season progresses, tougher, red flowering stems will form with clusters of tiny red flowers at the end, and a few of the leaves will become very large. Whilst the flowering stem should be cut down,  the large leaves, which are too coarse to eat, make perfect wrappings for tenderising meat and flavouring fish during cooking.

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Baby sorrel and larger sorrel leaves. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you fancy growing your own, buy some seed now and get sowing. You may also find potted clumps at the garden centre. Garden sorrel likes rich, moist soil, and the sun or semi-shade. And that’s about it; it will look after itself. If you want a supply for winter, either cover the clump with a cloche, or split the roots in autumn and pot some up – I usually keep a pot in my unheated greenhouse over the winter months to tide me over until the next spring.

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New season sorrel in my herb garden. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Garden sorrel serving suggestions and tips

  • Sorrel is best picked as required. Treat like spinach if you do need to store it: place in a plastic bag and keep in the fridge for a couple of days maximum. It can be frozen successfully, but loses its flavour if dried.
  • Because of the acid content, sorrel is affected by cast iron cookware and will discolour. Use a stainless steel knife blade for cutting, and only shred just before using to avoid discolouration and flavour loss.

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    Garden sorrel preparation. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  • Young garden sorrel leaves are delicious mixed with other green salad leaves and soft-leaved herbs; they add a tangy lemony flavour to the plate, and reduce the need for vinegar or lemon juice in a salad dressing.
  • Used by the Greeks and Romans as an aid to digestion, garden sorrel is the perfect accompaniment to rich foods such as soft cheese (especially goat’s and sheep’s cheeses), oily fish, lamb and pork.

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    Patties of minced pork and pancetta mixed with salt, pepper, garlic, freshly chopped chives and shredded garden sorrel. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  • Garden sorrel is commonly used in egg dishes. Try adding to pancake batter, or a quiche filling; stir into scrambled eggs, or add as an ingredient to an omelette fines herbes. Pep up an egg mayonnaise sandwich filling by adding a few fresh leaves – much zingier than mustard and cress!
  • Add some chopped leaves to soft butter or margarine along with some black pepper and a little salt. Melt over hot grilled fish, barbecued chicken or steaks. See my recipe for chive butter if you fancy making some  Homegrown courgettes with chive butter (gluten-free)
  • As well as all the culinary uses, sorrel leaves are rich in potassium and the vitamins A, B1 and C.

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    Broad, arrow-shaped leaf of garden sorrel. Image: Kathryn Hawkins