Sunday, April 23, 2006

More Spring from The Essential Herbal

Everything is knocking itself out blooming around here in Lancaster County, PA. The redbuds and dogwoods are blooming, the lilacs are just beginning, and the fruit trees are stunning. My favorites are still the native woodland plants... at least this month.
Last year, I planted some trilliums and wild ginger. Even though the weather was really ugly the past few days (rainy), it is time for them to be blooming, so I checked them today. Sure enough, they are blooming!

They really are stunning. There is also a taller white trillium that is just about ready to open, and the plants are surrounded by chickweed, garlic mustard (which I keep trying to clear), false Solomon's seal, and Jack in the Pulpit. I'm trying to get information on growing Lady Slipper so that I can find an ethical source and try to grow them here too.
The other day when I was in the woods, I found some trout lily (AKA dogtooth violet) blooming right in the middle of some fern fiddleheads.

The spring beauty was scattered on the woodland floor like tiny gems, and next week they will be joined by 10's of thousands of the trout lilies along with bloodroot, mayapple, and wild geranium. There were also the usual crop of sweet violet in the many hues of violet, purple, blue, and a blu-ish red. Also white and yellow violets.

Each year we make violet syrup with the flowers. To do so, gather just the flower heads of the violets - something that children adore doing :-). When you have a quart or so of the flowers, rinse them well and place in a pan with approximately one quart of water. Bring to a gentle boil, then turn off heat and steep for about 15 minutes. Strain out the flowers. Add 2 to 3 cups of sugar and 1 tsp. lemon extract and stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring this mixture to a boil and cook for 3 minutes, skimming off any foam that may form. When it cools a bit, bottle the beautiful lavender to purple syrup for use on crepes, ice cream, over melon (!), or to sweeten herb tea. This syrup can be made with roses, too.

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