I’ve been trying to find time to write this since the third Thursday of July, when it was once again time for me to take a break from metal clays and mention the Edible Flowers Food Fest. The event was begun by Denise Schreiber (Mrs. Know It All on radio and Facebook) and is sponsored by the the Allegheny County (Pennsylvania) Parks Department and the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County. Oh, and it’s on a Thursday so that the various helpers have most of the week to prepare everything!
- Appetizer Crackers with:
- Edible Flower Cream Cheese Spread, as well as
- Rose Geranium Jelly, Lemon Verbena Jelly, Peach Lavender Jelly
- Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Nasturtiums
- Beef with Cherry-Plum-Rose Chutney
- Chicken with Lavender Honey
- Shrimp with Orange Ginger Sauce plus Parsley Leaves and Monarda Petals
- Spring Greens Salad with Mixed Edible Flowers and Lavender Blueberry Vinegar Dressing
- Oriental Broccoli Salad
- Orange Rosemary Pasta Salad
- Seasonal Fruit Salad with Lemon Verbena and Lime Dressing
- Basil Lemonade
- Strawberry Lavender Lemonade
- Almond Shortbread Cookies with Rose-Cinnamon Dusting
- Dark Chocolate Bark with Lavender, Pretzels, Caramel, and Sea Salt
- Russian Tea Cakes with Lavender and, of course, the
- Rose Petal Ice Cream (shown) that started it all….
While I helped with several of the dishes, the assignments I enjoyed the most this year involved the shrimp and its sauce. That was such a treat because it was my favorite item on this year’s menu! (Though a very close second was the cherry and plum chutney, with fresh rose petals mixed in just before it was served with the roast beef….) Back to the shrimp. I was put in charge of the sauce: saute shallots in butter, deglaze that with white wine, then simmer it with ginger and orange juice until it becomes syrup-y. Once that was ready, Denise’s brother and I flash-fried the shrimp (enough for about 200 people this year!), keeping the cooked ones warm soaking in the syrup and, just before serving, tossing it all with fresh parsley leaves and dried monarda (bee balm) petals. (In that last step, you could use any edible flowers, herbs, or even sprouts you might like: we used parsley and monarda because that’s what we had on hand to use. The menu each year is determined by starting with recipes we’d like to make, and modifying both the final list and the details of each item by what Mother Nature happens to have made available for us to use once the actual date rolls around!)
I helped fellow Master-Gardeners with several other items too. Susan, Joan, and I assembled 50 pitchers of lemonade (two different flavors). For no obvious reason, I wasn’t involved with the fruit salad: others had that under control. But I mention it because real treat with that was the big “serving basket” that George had carved out of one of the watermelons whose flesh went into that dish. Anyone with a spare moment would go over to the table where Lyn and Gerri were cleaning and preparing donated flowers for all the different dishes and put in some time there. I took care of the violas that Martha has brought, and several varieties of roses (I’m not sure who-all had brought those). And by preparing I mean handling each flower individually, removing all the stamens and pistils plus trimming off, as needed, any of the white (bitter) part at the base of each individual flower petal.
Although I love all the food itself, one of my favorite things about helping out with the EFFF involves the number of gardening conversations is initiates. Not just at the event, but throughout the year: whenever I mention it, I can pretty much count on an interesting discussion to follow. Vegetable gardeners may talk about companion-planting flowers with their usual crops; landscape gardeners who may not be interested in expanding into vegetables will still ask about which of their current color-accents may or may not be edible; people who enjoy cooking regardless of their experience with actual gardening can still talk about the color, texture, and flavor contributions of various edible flowers.
So I’m going to have a rough time, knowing that the EFFF will not be happening in July 2014. Denise will be too busy hosting the 66th annual Garden Writer Association Symposium. But we are told that the EFFF will return again in 2015. Here’s hoping!