marina mertz

Spring Flower Tempura

You know spring is officially here when you start eating out of your yard. And by that I really do mean your yard and not just your garden. When the dandelions peak through the cracks in the porch, wild violets sprout along the woodsy edge, and the honeysuckles perfume the air, you know its go time. Let the warm lazy days and picnics with the free-for-the-eating harbingers ensue!

Edible flowers range in taste from sweet, delicate, fruity, nutty, spicy, peppery, and pungent. Theres nothing like frying them up in some good ol' fats (coconut oil) to mellow them out. Our good friend, Marina invited us over one Sunday morning for some homemade flower fritters. Thats right. Floral funnel cakes right at our fingertips. Makes flowers in a vase on your table sound pretty basic, I know. Edible flowers aren't just aesthetically pleasing in food, they pack a powerful nutritional punch along their beauty. Makes us feel half as bad for frying em up. Let's eat to that!

 

Blossoms we used:

Snapdragon
Garlic Chive
Calendula
Sugar Snap
Johhny Jump Ups
Pineapple Sage
Wisteria (avoid stems and leaves)

More edible blossoms:

Blue Porterweed, Borage, Chickweed, Chrysanthemum, Clover, Daisy, Dandelion, Daylily, Elderberry, Eucalyptus, Gardenia, Geraniums, Gladiolas, Hibiscus, Hollyhock, Honeysuckle, Hyssop, Iceland poppy, Indian paint brush, Impatiens, Jasmine, Lemon Verbena, Lavender, Lilac, Milkweed, Marigold, Nasturtium, Orange Blossom, Pansy, Pineapple Sage, Primrose, Queen Ann’s Lace, Red Clover, Eastern Redbud, Rose, Sweet Alyssum, Sunflower, Yarrow, Yucca.


 

While spring produces a plethora of wildflowers, bear in mind that not all of them are safe to eat. This should go without saying, but never eat a plant that you cannot properly identify. Do your research carefully before consuming any flower.  Some are only safe if the stems and leaves are avoided, others can only be ingested in small quantities, some should be avoided if pregnant or nursing etc.  Make sure you know what part and how much of the flower can safely be eaten.  Be sure you’ve properly identified the flower.  Just as eating the wrong mushroom can cause serious health problems, so can eating the wrong flower. Do not use flowers from florists, nurseries, or garden centers unless you know they are organically grown and free of any spray or pesticides.  Generally commercial flowers have been treated with pesticides and/or chemicals to keep them in bloom longer, which aren’t safe to consume.  Choose flowers from an organic garden or wildflowers (in which case, not wildflowers near a roadway or train tracks where they may have been exposed to vehicle toxins). 


Ingredients:

coconut oil
1 turkey egg (or two chicken eggs)
1 1/2 cup seltzer
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1 tsp salt

Method:

1. To fry use about 2 cups unrefined cold pressed coconut oil, heat to at least 325 degrees.

2. Combine flour, corn starch and salt in one bowl and the egg and seltzer water in another. Mix wet into dry ingredients util just combined. Pro-tip: you will have to work fast with the batter, so I recommend splitting up the dry ingredients and adding the wet in two batches.

3. Dredge the flowers in the batter and quickly drop in the hot oil and fry em up in less than minutes. Transfer fried goodness to a paper towel to soak up extra oil. 

4. Top with powdered sugar and lavender/fennel salt. 

Marina's Pear Butter

Local guru of all things canned, jellied, and pickled, Marina Mertz was kind enough to let us in on her latest project, pear butter. We got the privilege to interview her on the her favorite kitchen tools, preferred produce to preserve, and of course the recipe to the delicious pear butter- worthy of eating straight out the jar.

Oh, and did we mention that when this gal isn't busy whipping up something delicious, she's running her own business producing beautifully handcrafted waxed canvas bicycle bags? I know, dream girl. So stay tuned for more recipes, projects, and pro tips from Marina.

What started your explorations in canning?

I attended a beginners class on canning at a sustainable living conference in 2008. This armed me with the knowledge to start canning but really the adventure began much earlier when I first got interested in cooking, canning is a natural extension of being in love with the kitchen and good food. 

Where do you source the produce for your canning? Do you grow anything yourself?

I mostly source my produce from friends fruit trees or u-pick farms, my garden right now is a little small to support canning but hopefully as the fruit trees I have planting grow I will be canning more of my own produce. Most people are more than winning to share fruit especially if they know they will get jam out of it!

What are some of your favorite fall canning projects?

I mostly can in the spring/summer, which is when tomatoes, berries, figs, grapes and pears are in season. Pears and grapes are at the very end of summer and canning them always signifies the beginning of fall for me.  

What is your favorite tool in your kitchen? In your home?

Can I pick more than one? A sharp knife is a must, my favorite knife is one made by Will Manning an amazing blacksmith. I also have been known to forget how to cook if I don't have cast iron and a gas range.

What is your favorite season?

Fall! The feelings of nostalgia, hope and potential always run strong during the brisk months. It also if when leafy greens come back into season and who doesn't love kale and arugula? 

What advice would you give to novice canners/preservers out there?

Take a class, read some books arm yourself with knowledge and then experiment. Just do it. Learn what botulism is and then don't be scared of it. Be safe. Get a jar lifter. Study candy making a little and learn what sugar does at different stages of heat. Learn how pectin works and why. You basically can't fail, even if none of your jars seal and the jam is to sweet you can always just refrigerate it and make jam bars, or if it doesn't set and is too runny label is a fruit syrup and have a magnificent cocktail. Always ask for the jars back!


Ingredients:

Sand Pears
Pectin
1/2 cup Raw Sugar Cane
Lemon Juice
Spices (optional): ginger, cardamon, star anise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Method:

1. Chop up sand pears whole, the stems/seed/peel - have pectin which will help it thicken.

2. Cook down with just enough water to allow the pears to not burn, I added star anise at this point.

3. When pears are soft, run them thru a food mill or sieve to remove any hard parts. 

4. Put back onto stove and add up to 1/2 cup of sugar per cup of pears, a tbs or so of lemon juice per cup and whatever spices you are using, ginger and cardamom are awesome. Cook down until it gets a jam like consistency and then can!