Archive for provence lavender

The Lemonade Experience

Posted in Edible Flowers, edible leaves with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2010 by PickMeYard

We had a blast with our lemonade experience.  Since everybody has different likes and dislikes when it comes to flavors, we wanted to do a little experiment.  Grayson and a group of his friends decided to pick a bunch of different leaves and flowers from our yard and add them to homemade lemonade to see which ones tasted the best.  They gathered lemon verbena, Chinese mint, provence lavender, roses, jasmine, moujean tea leaves (Nashia inaguensis), kaffir lime leaves, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), rosemary, basil, and stevia. 

We boiled some water with brown sugar to make a sugar syrup to add as our sweetener.  Then we lined up a bunch of glasses of water with freshly juiced lemon or lime.  The kids decided which herbs and flowers to combine.   To get our flavors, we heated a little water in a pot and briefly added the herbs to make an infusion.  (The herbs would usually be left in the pot for 10 minutes with a cover to make an infusion, but we got plenty of flavor by infusing them briefly.)  We then strained the flavored water into our glasses of lemon water and sugar.  

This is a bowl of some of the flowers and leaves we used to make our flavored lemonades.

We sliced open a bourbon vanilla pod and scraped out the seeds to use in some of our homemade recipes.

We used organic brown sugar, lemons and limes in our lemonade/limeade drinks.

The kids picked some meyer lemons from the yard to see if they might make a better tasting lemonade.

Meyer lemons picked from our yard.

Almost all of the concoctions turned out tasting really great and “kid approved”.  The tasting panel consisted of two 8-year-olds,  a 13-year-old, a 10-year old and a toddler.  However, the basil lemonade did not please everybody.  One of them said it was actually “disgusting” and one said it had an unpleasant after-taste.  Grayson said he really liked it.

The moujean tea leaves, vanilla seed and Luzianne tea bag lemonade made an awesome "tea-monade".

All the kid tasters loved the Chinese mint lemonade.  It was extremely refreshing because it seemed to have more menthol than the spearmint I usually use. 

The edible jasmine and rose petals made a really unique and pleasant floral tasting lemonade.

The kids said they didn’t like the jasmine and rose petal lemonade, they loved it.  I made sure they understood that the jasmines are the edible variety (maid of Orleans and Grand Duke of Tuscany Jasminum sambac).  There are many varieties of jasmine that are poisonous.  I also explained to them that most roses are sprayed with a ton of insecticides and fungicides.  I don’t spray my roses with anything, therefore they are edible for us.

The lavender lemonade and the rosemary lemonade were nice.  The kaffir lime leaf limeade was also good. 

Some of the testers.

The lemon balm lemonade was outstanding and was the winner by a landslide.  Not a single one of us had any intestinal distress of any sort and we all slept like babies.  This was a fun time and we all want to do it again… next time with iced-tea.  

Come grow with us!

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How you feeeeling… hot, hot, hot!

Posted in Gardening Experiments with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2010 by PickMeYard

Most of the United States planted all their vegetable crops in the spring.  We’re different in Florida.  We do most of our cool weather vegetable planting in late September or October.  I don’t even look at the “suggested planting times” on the back of seed packets anymore.  I have just learned what to grown in Florida and when.  It’s definitely not an exact science. 

In late September I usually plant carrots, onions, turnips, strawberries, tomatoes, brussel sprouts, cabbage, corn, collards and lettuce.  Most of these won’t grow well in the heat of a Florida summer… except the collards.  Collard greens do grow in the summer but they taste much better when they’re grown in the winter and the frost makes them taste even better.  Carrots will grow, but the heat makes them taste horribly bitter and yucky.  Tomatoes will grow too, but the heat prevents the fruit from setting.  Cherry tomatoes are an exception and can sometimes take the heat.  Lettuce is a cool weather crop that will bolt in the heat.  “Bolting” is when the lettuce sends out a shoot that goes to seed.  When a plant “bolts” it usually makes the leaves unpalatable.

Herbs usually have a hard time surviving the heat in a Florida summer.  If they’re grown in pots they can be moved into the shade. I keep my pelargoniums alive in the summer by moving them into the shade.  Rosemary doesn’t mind the heat.  Lemon balm, lemongrass and  cuban oregano thrive.  I was glad to see my thyme made it through last summer without a problem.  My new favorite is provence lavender.  I have finally found a lavender that thrives in humidity.  I’m going to plants lots more of this.

Provence lavender in a Florida summer (June).

Provence lavender flowers that thrive in humidity and tolerate heat.

The African basil is thriving in the heat and the bees love it.

Lemongrass. I had cut it way back in March and it's full again.

Our summer herb bed.

Summer herbs in pots.

In the summer time in Florida  we need to grow crops that can survive  the heat and humidity.  The problem with summer is the army of insects that usually arrive.  We’ve learned to tolerate them and we always figure out new ways to fight back without using pesticides.  Our favorite summertime crops are callaloo, peppers, eggplants, okra, black-eyed peas, sweet potatoes, ginger, turmeric, chives, collards, cucumbers, watermelons, sugar cane, water chestnuts, sunflowers, malabar spinach and passion fruit.  There are so many different varieties of these.  We love the white eggplants and all the interesting kinds of peppers and watermelons.  This summer we’re also growing cassava, malanga, different kinds of peppers, tomatillos  and pigeon peas. 

A young callaloo plant.

A large vegetable amaranth.

A cassava plant.

Bitter melon growing in a pot.

Dried black-eyed peas on the bush.

The top one is a fresh black-eyed pea "snap" and the bottom ones are dried black-eyed peas. Both make a delicious meal!

Young pigeon pea plant in a pot.

Large pigeon pea plant in a pot.

Flowering pigeon peas.

A scotch bonnet plant with a flower. Scotch bonnet is a very flavorful and hot pepper. I cut off just a sliver and cook it with my food. It adds delicious flavor and just enough heat.

We’ve let the chickens loose around the yard for the summer and they are enjoying themselves immensely.  They’re helping with the bug population and are able to find cool places to wait out the afternoon heat.  They’re also taking a break from the egg laying which is necessary for them.  

This is our little bantam hen. Her name is "Sweet Pea" and she is hard at work foraging in the peas.

One of our floofy-headed chickens is chillin' under the rosemary bush.

My dad set up a hydroponic garden inside his screened-in lanai last summer.  It gets full sun but the screen provides some protection.   The bees can’t reach his plants but he still got some gorgeous vegetables in the middle of summer.  He also has a hydroponic garden set up outside the lanai.  His garden changes constantly just like ours.  It looks  completely different every time we see it.

My father's hydroponic garden inside his screeened-in porch.

More of his inside hydroponic garden.

His newly planted hydroponic garden outside of his screened-in area.

When the gardening experts tell me it can’t be done, I usually try anyway.  Sometimes I’m successful and sometimes I’m not.  Since I’m a backyard gardener and not a commercial grower, I have little risk in losing a crop or two. 

The beauty of Florida is that we can grow food all year round. 

Come grow with us!