Monday, August 24, 2009


Clove Pink - The herb of Shakespeare
Books go out to all who wrote and correctly identified this week's NTH.

Chuck writes: This little flower takes me back to my Aunt Bea's (yes not only Andy Taylor of Mayberry had an Aunt Bea) little front garden planter. Both she and Mom liked all forms of Dianthus, but especially those with lots of fragrance. Bea had a hardy clump of clove pinks there in the planter alongside old-style petunias that became really fragrant about dusk. They were big fans of porch sitting, so as a kid not much interested in their grownup conversations, I got plenty of time to check out what was growing there, before it got totally dark or the mosquitoes drove us inside.

Your photo looks like a very primitive, single carnation, especially the foliage, but I suppose it could be one of the other Dianthus. I can almost smell the spicy fragrance from down here below the border.

But I thought true pinks were the primitive, single variety and the big, showy versions are referred to as carnations?

One of this week's winners, Keena used my hint about gillyflower. Here's what she has to say:

a quick internet search of "gillyflower" brings up a Encyclopedia

Britannica article: "any of several scented flowering plants,

especially the carnation, or clove pink (Dianthus caryophyllus), stock

(Matthiola incana), and wallflower (Cheiranthus cheiri). However, the

gillyflower of Chaucer, Spenser, and Shakespeare was the carnation."

your image is specifically that of the pink, though.

Clove Pink (Dianthus caryophyllus) What's in a name, eh? Well in this particular name, as in most, a lot. First off, the term 'pink' doesn't refer to the color of the plant, instead it is referring to the serrated edges of the flowers. To create these edges in fabric, one uses 'pinking sheers', pink meaning zig-zag or serrated.
Anyone who has ever smelled these delightful herbs knows that they emit the most delicious odor resembling cloves, caryophyllum being the Latin name for the spice we call cloves.

Many of you mentioned that they were most familiar with the salmon-colored pinks and I am as well, this vibrant pink color you see in my photo above, being unexpected in the plants I put in the garden this year. I can tell you, that when I made my clove pink syrup from my salmon pinks, the syrup turned a beautiful burgundy color, so the deep red pigments must somehow be lurking in the petals of even the salmon-colored pinks.

For those of you who are surprised to learn that you can eat these wonderful flowers, they have been used in the past to flavor wine. A word of caution: do not try eating the carnations in your next floral arrangement. They will have been sprayed and treated with chemicals to make them last longer.

If you grow clove pinks, try my recipe for syrup. You can use it to flavor drinks in the same way as you would use Grenadine. Drizzle it on ice cream or puddings or use as a coulis. The color is amazing. Gently rinse the flowers under cool water and pat dry. Gently pull the petals away and discard the sepals and stems. You can half this recipe if you only have 1/2 cup petals.

This is essentially a simple syrup that will thicken as the sugar is heated in the water. Don't over boil or you will get soft candy.

Clove Pink Syrup
1 cup fresh clove pink petals
2 cups sugar
2 cups water

1. In a saucepan, combine clove pink petals, sugar and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently until the syrup thickens, about 5 minutes. Let cool. Pour into a clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Label and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Calendula - The edible healing herb.
Congratulations to Wendy- send your address and claim your prize. I will mail you one of my little herb handbooks or the Summer Recipes book, your choice.
Cheery and bright, these prolific annual flowers jump around the herb garden in colors ranging from orange to yellow and every shade in between. Their seeds look like something out of the dinosaur age.
When you pluck the flowers for a salad or to make calendula butter, they give off a very delicate and pleasant floral aroma and taste. This lovely aroma strengthens on drying the flowerheads. Jane Hawley-Stevens, who uses calendula in creams and other cosmetic products dries calendula that she grows organically. Here we see the drying cabinet she uses:
The nice thing about drying the flowerheads is that we get tons of seeds to plant for next year. Actually, unless you are vigilant in deadheading the flowers, you will get a good crop next year anyway. In fact, I have heard of gardeners ripping the plants out (along with their hair!) after a few years of calendula going to seed. But that won't happen to you because you will be drying and using all those beautiful petals in soups, stews, butters and using them fresh in salads.
Here they are growing wild on a tiny Atlantic island off the coast of Brittany France:
...and planted out in an Arizona garden in the middle of a Pecan Farm:
One summer day in 2007 I think it was, I visited Four Elements Herbals in Wisconsin about an hour drive from Milwaukee. It was one of the most enchanted places I have ever seen. Owner, Jane Hawley-Stevens took me on a tour of the Chakra Garden and then delighted me with a lunch (pictured below) of homemade bread, Wisconsin cheese, cauliflower and pickled beet salad and a beautiful summer salad made with cabbage and other greens and flowers she grows on her beautiful land. The large flowers are nasturtium and the petals are calendula.
Feast your eyes and enjoy.

Monday, August 3, 2009


GOOSEBERRY This Week's Featured Herb
Congratulations to Chuck and Heather-
here's what Chuck has to say about Gooseberries: At first glance, I thought the herb of the week was a white currant, but currants aren't usually green, so it must be a gooseberry. It lacks the striping that I'm used to seeing on gooseberries, but green, golden, red, or white sounds a lot like a gooseberry. I had some of the thorny devils for a few years, but never really got excited about either the flavor or the pain of the thorns. Once in a while, I'll read a catalog description of one, "as big as a plum" and think about trying again. I do like the ripe fruit, all by itself, but the unripe ones made into a pie don't thrill me at all.

...and Heather-i don't have gooseberries anymore, but we had several bushes when i was growing up. i love the flavor, and think gooseberry pie is one of the best desserts on the planet.

So there you have it - Love it/Hate it.

I have actually been fooling around a bit with the thorny devils myself, and here's my take on Gooseberry Cordial, a very nice drink syrup to have on hand if you, like Chuck donk't want to make gooseberry pie:

Lemon-Lime Gooseberry Cordial

This is an adult lemonade. Sharp and fragrant with citrus and sugar lingering on the tongue, it makes the perfect mix for summer cocktails at the pool, barbeque or deck.

Makes 4 cups 1 L

4 cups gooseberries

1 L water

Juice of 1 lime

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup chopped fresh lemon verbena

4 cups caster sugar

1. In a Maslin pan or canning kettle, combine the gooseberries, water, lime, lemon juice and lemon verbena. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Stir in the sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The gooseberries should be soft.

2. Remove from the heat and pass through a colander, pressing down firmly on the fruit with the back of a wooden spoon. Pour the syrup into a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Serve: mix with carbonated mineral water in a 1/4: 1 ratio.


All photographs and recipes are original and copyrighted to Pat Crocker. Pat invites you to use her recipes and share with family and friends. Please contact Pat Crocker for express permission for commercial, internet, or other use of her photographs and recipes.