It’s February and we’re already thinking of sorbet and Scrub Jay fledglings.
Yes, it’s early February and the Wild Plum outside our kitchen window is in full bloom. It’s always the first tree to bloom on our little homestead. It grows on the shady North side of the house and gets it’s water from the underground spring that also feeds the giant Redwood further back in the yard. It is always the indicator of approaching Spring. It has served as the sunning spot for the resident Scrub Jays for years and years. It was here when we bought the place and was probably planted by earlier generations of these same Birds. It’s smack in front of the “garage” doors and no human in their right mind would plant it there.
We feel blessed by this tree in so many ways. The blossoms, the birds, the fruit, a beautiful natural dye from it’s leaves, plum jam and… sorbet!
A couple of years ago my Wild Plum jam did not set and as disappointing as that was it lead to a new discovery. I realized I could simply pour it into the little Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker (a Recycletown find and easily found in thriftshops) and make sorbet. I add some dried ginger but you could add fresh grated too. Plum Ginger Sorbet is a huge hit around here. We always make it during our Spring Herb Camp and the kids love it.
“Thank you” little plum tree for being so giving…
We harvested garlic and Stinging Nettles and both are now are hanging up to dry. We made mint sun tea and juiced lemons. The next day we combined both and made our first lemon-mint sorbet. We processed dried Lemon Balm for tea. Lucy happily filled a big jar to take home.
On our field trip to Salmon Creek School we spent lots of time in the garden. Everyone picked there own herbs for tea and we all tried different combinations. We had Spearmint and Peppermint leaves, Chamomile flowers, and Raspberry leaves. In the past we’ve used Calendula flowers, Lavender flowers and Sage too. The kids were so happy with their teas that many of them made a second cup.
They also discovered the Jerusalem Sage flowers and happily sucked the nectar out of every last one! Next to the beautiful cob greenhouse was a large Bronze Fennel. Calvin was particularly fond of munching on the leaves and with his teeth in their current state I couldn’t resist taking a picture.
Every day of camp we played the WILDCRAFT! board game, read stories from Leslie Tierra’s A Kid’s Herb Book, and tried herbal recipes from the great zine series Herbal Roots. If someone got a splinter or mosquito bite we made an herbal remedy for it. These kids are so open and curious. They really want to learn and they know so much already. They never cease to amaze me!
Back to the Musque de Provence….
Borrowing a copy of PATRICIA WELLS AT HOME IN PROVENCE the inspired chef of the ol’ homestead got cooking. On the menu for the evening was a Winter Pistou containing a few pounds of Hubbard Squash, garlic, onions, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes. parsley and thyme all grown here in the garden. It is a wonderful soup including white and red beans, leeks, parsnips and topped with grated Gruyere cheese. From the same cookbook he prepared a Turnip and Cumin Puree and a Celery Root Lasagna. Off the top of his head he came up with a quinoa dish with fresh rosemary, a kitchen-concocted Moroccan style herb blend and sausage made of duck, figs and brandy (found at the Marin Farmer’s Market and made in Hayward, probably from Liberty Ducks of Petaluma). Whew!
When people arrived they were invited to sample family-made wines, homestead-made hard ciders and local cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery, Redwood Hill Farm and Creamery, Cypress Grove and Vella. Along with bread from Petaluma’s own Della Fattoria Bakery.
For dessert we served Persimmon Pudding from locally gleaned persimmons and our own ducks’ eggs, pumpkin chocolate-chip muffins for the kids and Sebastopol’s own Taylormaid Coffee with cream from Petaluma’s own Clover Dairy.
Everyone went home with a wedge of Musque de Provence which smelled like a Honeydew melon!