Convergent Series

learning, using & teaching metal clay, and other aspects of life

Posts Tagged ‘edible flowers’

Edible Flowers Food Fest: The Lucky-13th

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/07/30

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!

This year, the 13th time this event was held, the menu included:

  • Appetizer Crackers with:
    • Edible Flower Cream Cheese Spread, as well as
    • Rose Geranium Jelly, Lemon Verbena Jelly, Peach Lavender Jelly
  • Soup:
    • Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Nasturtiums
  • Entrees:
    • Beef with Cherry-Plum-Rose Chutney
    • Chicken with Lavender Honey
    • Shrimp with Orange Ginger Sauce plus Parsley Leaves and Monarda Petals
  • Salads:
    • 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
  • Beverages:
    • Basil Lemonade
    • Strawberry Lavender Lemonade
  • Desserts:
    • 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!

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Daylilies are Edible!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/07/22

Day Lilies and Water Lilies at Tomahawk CampThe mid-July pause in my blog has happened, once again, because 13th annual Edible Flowers Food Fest was offered last Thursday and I helped to make that happen. As ever, I thought it was great, and I’ll report on it shortly: I still need to find time to plow through my photos from that and pick one or two to use here (along with some interesting details about the menu and more), and I’m just too far behind on other tasks to do that. Since my thoughts are still filled with edible flowers, however, my mind keeps going back to something I did a week before that, for which I do have a delightful image. (Both events involved the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County.)

The thing is (and maybe I simply missed this in my rushing around) I just don’t see a way to make WordPress and GigaPan talk to each other directly… You are just going to have to click on the tiny, blurry image of water- and day-lilies to open a new window with the image I really want you to see, a 360° panorama of a National Historic Registry property owned by Nancy Marshall. (Oh, and use the navigation buttons on that page to zoom in and move around and really explore the entire image!) We did not impose on Nancy’s hospitality (two weeks ago) to beg her for flowers to use during the Edible Flowers Food Fest (this past week), but one of my thoughts while setting up the equipment to take this 360° panorama was that, while most lilies are NOT edible, daylily buds sure are…. Yum!

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Garden Picnic

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/10/02

Which do you think is yummier: the look of that garden or the fact that it’s a cake?!

I’ve mentioned before that I’m also a member of the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County.

One of our many projects is to maintain several Demonstration Gardens. These showcase flowering plants and herbs that perform well in our climate and soils with minimal maintenance. The gardens include display beds of over 125 varieties of annuals. At the end of each season, the plants are evaluated based on their performance in the garden: the best ones are brought back in subsequent years, while poor performers go on a watch list and will be discontinued if they continue that pattern over several cycles. A separate evaluation is performed regarding the number of pollinators that are periodically recorded in certain specific beds.

For people interested in joining the program, there is an initial interview to ensure that candidates understand their role in utilizing research-based information to educate the public on best practices in consumer horticulture and environmental stewardship, followed by a terrific (and intense!) year-long training program. Since this is sponsored by Penn State, our calendar follows their academic year: interviews happen in August, the training starts in September, and the training year concludes the following August. Then, in September each year we have a harvest-time picnic in or near one of our demo gardens (we rotate around the different sites) to acknowledge our newly graduated members as well as the ongoing efforts of all our long-time participants.

This year the picnic was held at the South Park Demo Garden. The cake shown above is not a replica of the garden itself, but I thought I’d share it because I think it represents the delight of the gardens! And that delight is why floral themes so often appear in my artwork, one way or another….

I wonder if/how that may change next year: we just got approval to open up a new demo garden — on an urban lot! — that will feature edible plants and flowers? I’m really looking forward to working on that project, since those are the kinds of things I most love to grow myself. And I am definitely an urban gardener these days!

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Edible Flowers: the twelfth Fest, in 2012

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/07/20

This week included the third Thursday of July which, to me, meant it was once again time for the twelfth annual Edible Flowers Food Festival. Again, it was sponsored by the Allegheny County (Pennsylvania) Parks Department and the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County.

I try to contribute both edible flowers and time to help make this wonderful event a success. In past years, I’ve crawled around on the ground harvesting violets to save until mid-July. This year, the winter was so mild and early spring so warm that they came out several weeks early. I had thousands of buds just ready to open when a more-typical mid-spring freeze struck. The plants themselves came through that just fine, in the long run, but the flowers for this year did not.

Now, my garden was not the only one to suffer from that early-bloom killer-frost phenomenon. All the contributors to this event faced that, followed by severe heat and drought conditions this summer. So there was a good bit of menu-shuffling needed to make the dinner a success this year…. Luckily, my Rose of Sharon (shown) was in full bloom a bit early. Actually, it was already a bit past its bloom-peak: the photo shows how it looked on Thursday morning as I went out to harvest. Earlier in the week, there were probably three times as many blooms on it! Still, I managed to get around 200 good flowers which, at five petals per flower, meant that (after separating, cleaning, and selecting) I chipped in about a thousand petals for the salad dish. The second photo with this post shows a colander filled with well over 50 fresh blooms.

Just to be clear here: some flowers are edible, but many are not. Do check out any that you consider using! In fact, Rose of Sharon can be a tricky one, because that “common name” is actually used to identify several entirely different plants. What I have is the one most often referred to as Rose of Sharon in the USA: hibiscus syriacus. It is a member of the Genus Hibiscus, although it is misnamed in that it apparently does not come from Syria. Go figure. (Hibiscus is part of the Mallow (Malva) Family, which also contains plants as diverse as cacao, cotton, kola nuts, and okra.)

Though I’ve been interested in edible flowers for a long time, it’s only relatively recently that I found out my Rose of Sharon had petals that are edible. Apparently, various forms of hibiscus syriacus come in a range of both colors and mild flavors: I would not say mine have much flavor at all; but they are gorgeous and offer a satisfying bit of crunch, so they’re great when mixed, in small quantities, with other greens and flowers. The last photo with this post shows our vinegar-makers in the process of filling the small dressing-containers and adding them to the colorful salad bowls.

Before I sign off on this post, I thought you might be interested in the entire menu for the evening:

  • Lavender Lemonade
  • Rosey Zinger Iced Tea
  • Elder Flower Presse
  • Snack crackers with:
    • Edible Flowers Cream Cheese Spread
    • Tofu Spread with Nasturtiums
    • Lemon Verbena Jelly, Peach-Lavender Jam, and Rose Geranium Jelly
  • Green Gazpacho with Garlic Scapes, Roasted Red Pepper Puree, and Herbed Croutons
  • Spring Greens with Mixed Edible Flowers and Strawberry Rosemary Vinegar Dressing
  • Rice Paper Rolls of Nasturtiums & Vegetables with an Asian Dipping Sauce
  • Egg Salad with Redbud Flowers on Herbes de Provence Bread
  • Potato Salad with Dill Leaves and Flowers
  • Anise Hyssop Pizza with Mushrooms, Roasted Yellow Peppers, and Cheeses
  • Baked Fish with Lemon Thyme and Monarda Sauce
  • Roast Beef with Roses et Poivre
  • Chicken Mole with Rose Hips
  • Oven Roasted Green Beans with Onion Buds
  • Seasonal Fruit Salad with Lemon Verbena Lime Dressing
  • Chocolate Bark with Lavender, Pretzels, Caramel, and Sea Salt
  • Pound Cake with Monarda Glaze
  • And, of course, the Rose Petal Ice Cream that led to the Fest in the first place!!!

But now I guess I should get back to making (and writing about) small metal adornments….

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It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/09/29

I just realized it’s been almost two weeks since I posted anything. Sigh… I realized that around the same time it hit me that it’s been just under a month since I last fired up my kiln. Yikes! Where has the time gone?!

It’s not that I’ve been completely slacking off, mind you. It’s more that I do not see this whole art-jewelry adventure as a “full time job” (and do not ever want to see it that way … by which I mean that, no matter how many or how few hours I work at it, I don’t want to ever let it even approach a feeling of drudgery!). So sometimes I decide to take things a little bit easier, to take time to just enjoy what I’m doing. In addition to the things I have posted about in recent weeks, I’ve attended market-shows, visited museums and galleries, and so on.

Mid-month, I held an Open House in my studio, where I did make a number of pieces just to demonstrate the process for visitors. Because those were done to illustrate one or more points about working with metal clay (rather than from some specific design I had in mind), I then just smushed most of them back up afterwards so I could use the clay in a more deliberate manner later on. I did finish and keep a few but, feeling no pressure to complete them immediately, I just set them on my to-be-fired tray for when I had more of a kiln load. I guess I could have taken photos and written about any or all of those activities, but I decided to simply enjoy doing all those things, without thinking about using them here. Same thing with most of the other activities I’ve been involved with recently, like events with the Master Gardeners (as well as with my own garden), spending time with friends visiting from out of town, etc.

We did have a meeting of the Western PA Chapter of the PMC Guild. That was on Tuesday, out at the Four Directions Jewelry Studio that chapter-member Barbara Kaczor recently opened out in Springdale, PA. The photo shows some of the folks in attendance that evening. (That’s Barbara on the left, standing up and leaning over between Alice and Michelle.) The group had not had a formal meeting in a while, so it was great to get together with everyone again, see what all they’ve been up to, and share inspiration and discoveries. As always, we started out with a Show & Tell session (which included metal clay pieces and traditional metalsmithing, but also reports of surgeries, weddings, and travels… we’re pretty flexible about what gets included!). We dealt with some “business issues” and had some refreshments (for which, thanks to new-participant Susie, I was not the only one who brought a dish containing edible flowers!). We finished up with a lively discussion of making your own textures using the “tear-away technique.”

Since that ran late, and Alice lives a lengthy drive away, she stayed over at my place. We went back to my studio the next morning, right after breakfast. Alice sat down at one table and began designing a bracelet she wants to make, and I spent a bit of time getting studio back in order for working. (It had been in Open House configuration.) I just sat down to start working when Alice got a text from her husband, asking if she’d be back in time to go out for dinner with “the Holders.” Problem is, she couldn’t think of anyone named Holder! After several more text messages, the situation was clearer: the “Holders” is what his phone thought he meant when he tried to type in “the golfers” — meaning the people that he was out with for the day! Once she finished her design, in its preliminary state at least, she decided that it was too complex to finish in one afternoon, so she’d be better off heading home. She said her farewells, and I got back to serious work.

I spent the afternoon and evening making several “trial” pieces out of Hadar Jacobson’s relatively new “Rose Bronze” clay! Though I’ve enjoyed working with many of her other products, that was my first-ever use of the rose bronze. Those pieces are in the kiln now: noting their firing in my log book is what showed me how long it had been since the last time I’d fired it up.

I don’t like to sit right in the room as binders are burning away, but neither do I feel comfortable just leaving the building as the kiln fires. So I took my laptop over to another room in the building that houses my studio, and started this post.

These pieces are only going to get their first-phase firing tonight; when they’re done, I’ll take them out of the kiln. They can cool down on their own, but too much carbon will burn up if I just leave them in the kiln. (That extra fiddling, and multi-phase firings, are among the reasons that creating with the base metal clays seems more labor-intensive than do the precious metals!) It may be a couple days before I find time to fire the second phase. I’ll post results, good or bad, once I see what I’ve gotten and done some post-fire finishing on them. Please wish us good luck!

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Where I Spent Last Weekend.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/09/03

Three Metal Clay guild groups–in Pittsburgh / Western Pennsylvania, Cleveland / NorthEast Ohio, and Columbus Ohio–got together (with the help of a small grant from the PMC Guild) to sponsor four days of workshops, held at the Valley Art Center in Chagrin Falls, OH, over the last full weekend in August this year. (Sorry, but I don’t have links for websites of those Ohio groups. If anyone reading this can provide them, I’ll be happy to add the links here! In the meantime, if you’re trying to find either one, you might try checking the guilds listing at Metal Clay Today.)

One of the features involved a series of workshops by Hawaii-based metal clay artist, Gordon K. Uyehara:

  • “Fabulous Bail Link Bracelet” (two days: Thursday and Friday);
  • “Cosmic Honu” (stencilled turtle) pendant (Saturday); and
  • “Pearl Box Ring” (Sunday).

All the photos with this post show Gordon’s delightful pieces, samples for the various workshops. Two bracelets, above. One turtle is with the bracelets, and a second one is visible on Gordon himself during one of his demos in the ring class. (Click to see a larger version of either of those snapshots, which I took.) And, shown further down this post is one of Gordon’s own photos of an example of his ring project. (Beyond those, if you’re not already familiar with his work, do check his website to get a better clue of his style and range. I remain in awe of the work I know goes into making most of his pieces.)

There were a number of other sessions too, for which I have no photos (sigh…). The other major hands-on workshop, led by Ohio-based artist Catherine Davies Paetz, covered making a series of carved, seamless rings (stackable, if you wanted to wear them that way) using PMC Pro. Other scheduled sessions involved topics like design, photography, and flexshaft maintenance. And there was a big pot-luck dinner on Saturday night.

Now, it just so happens that all this got scheduled over days when I had tons of stuff already going on. And, in fact, I wasn’t the only one! So, while a few people stayed for the entire four days, there were lots of others who did their best to find an opening somewhere in their schedule when they could participate in at least some part of the weekend. Though that posed a bit of a challenge (would all the costs be covered by the registration fees that had been set?!) in another way it was OK: because there were a few openings, it was possible to accommodate requests from others to join the fun, which ended up including folks from Colorado, Maryland, Florida (and those are just the ones I caught; there may have been others).

So, on Saturday I drove up to Franklin, PA, to meet with Alice Walkowski, and we headed over to Chagrin Falls together. On my way to Alice’s, however, I hit a major traffic jam. I knew there was construction and, based on previous trips through that area, I’d factored in a 40 minute delay; online sites I checked en route then told me it would set me back 45 minutes; there is an alternate route, but it normally takes 45-50 minutes longer than the other route and due to lots of traffic lights, so I figured I’d risk the interstate construction for an easy drive the rest of the way. Wrong decision! In reality, that single three-mile stretch added well over two hours to my trip!!!

But we still managed to arrive in Chagrin Falls just in time to make a quick stop at the delightful Village Herb Shop. I wanted to get there because it’s a great source for edible flowers (which you should know by now that I love to cook with). But I mention it here specifically because they also carry the lavender oil that many metal clay artists use in joining pieces of metal! In fact, they carry both the essential oil (alone) and a tincture (with alcohol), in several sizes. I already have a bottle of that, but this time I picked up some organic edible flowers, both in the Village Herb Shop’s special mix (where I may have gotten the last jar of this season!), and some separate, individual varieties (including some delightful little button roses whose petals can go into my next few batches of rose petal ice cream!) Alice is not quite the edible flower fan that I am but, while I shopped, she explored the yarn shop upstairs and the garden outside. So we were both happy with that stop.

After we were done there, we headed over to meet up with all the various guild members for that delicious pot-luck dinner. We spent the night in a near-by hotel, and were thus able to arrive promptly for a 9 am start for Gordon’s “Box Ring with Pearl” workshop. More about that in my next post.

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