Native Cooking Column by Dale Carson

Dale Carson
5/1/03

When First Man and First Woman walked about that first day of creation so long ago, everything was green. No other color anywhere. Trees were green, grass, moss, all green. Very beautiful, but very boring. As they walked along the edge of a green field they saw a tall thing. Its head was about six or eight inches across. First Woman thought it was lovely and she spoke to it. "You are a wondrous thing, pleasing to see, but, I wish we could see you better." Just then the head of this thing turned bright, bright yellow and smiled at First Man and First Woman. "How is this, can you see me better now? I call myself Sunflower." First Man and First Woman thanked Sunflower for sharing his color with them. Off in the distance, they could see something that seemed to be waving at them. They went up to it, then saw that it had cup shaped leaves. "Were you waving to us," asked First Man. "Oh, my," said the thing as its cup shaped leaves turned bright red. "Yes, I was, we were, we wanted to see what you were." "We are Poppies, and now that you are here, we have someone to show our color to." As the couple walked on about this land, flower after flower showed them their colors as did all the plants. They paid great attention to all the plants and flowers. In return, the things that grew showed First Man and First Woman how to keep themselves well and how to heal themselves when necessary. As the children of First Man and First Woman, it is our job to continue this respect and to see the beauty in all people and things so they will show us their color.

I was told that the first flowers I ever ate were rose petals. I do not remember this, but I do remember picking violets with my grandmother and eating them. She also introduced me to pansies, nasturtiums, squash blossoms, sunflowers, marigolds, along with many other edibles. She knew all the herbs and flowers to make teas, potions and herbal cures. It is sad that I didn't pay better attention. Even my mother lamented that she wished she had listened better and written things down. Genetic memory can only go so far.

Batter-Dipped Squash Blossoms

Pick about 18 male squash or day-lily blossoms. Wash and check for occupants (bugs). Dry delicately.

Batter:

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg white

1/8 teaspoon each: salt, pepper, parsley, ginger

Ice water (or ice cold flat beer)

Oil to deep fry

Combine batter ingredients until they are the consistency of pancake batter. Heat oil, about 1-inch, in a cast iron deep-sided pan. Drag the dry blossoms through the batter to coat. Make sure oil is good and hot before you drop the flowers into it. Stay right there, they take seconds, not minutes to cook. Drain and devour.

Nasturtiums look great adorning and mingling with mesclun for a pretty and healthy salad. You can pick nasturtiums and keep them for days in a plastic sandwich bag in the fridge. Use pansies or nasturtiums for this beautiful pasta salad.

Colorful Pasta Salad

1 package of tri-colored pasta spirals

1 red bell pepper, sliced thin in strips

1 yellow bell pepper, sliced thin in strips

1 green bell pepper, sliced thin in strips

3 scallions, cut diagonally in 1/4-inch slices

6 pansies (or nasturtiums)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Cook the pasta spirals, drain and put in a large bowl and toss with one tablespoon of olive oil. Heat the rest of the olive oil and saut? the peppers and scallions for about three minutes or until vegetables are just wilted, not browned. Toss the vegetables with the pasta and add the vinegar, season with salt and pepper. Garnish with pansies before serving.

Bee Balm Tea

2 tablespoons bee balm flowers, chopped up

4 cups boiling water

Steep the flowers in the water for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain and serve.

Clover Flower

Dressing

20 red clover flowers

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

6 tablespoons good olive oil

1 chive flower, broken up

Salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl mix together oil, vinegar, chive flowers, salt and pepper. Whisk to emulsify, Pour over clover flowers, cover and set aside for about a half hour, Serve over mesclun or any mixed greens. (Use the dressing within a couple of hours after making it so the flowers do not get soggy.)

Honey Butter

1 cup clover honey

1 cup of softened, unsalted butter

10 Johnny-Jump-Ups

Blend honey and butter. Chill. Serve with the flowers as garnish.

Notes & Tips:

o You can freeze small flowers like Johnny Jump-Ups and pansies in cubes for an interesting 'surprise' in spring drinks. Very nice in large ice chunks for punch bowls.

o Be careful not to eat flowers picked by the side of the road. They can be poisoned from car emissions. And, NOT ALL flowers are edible. Check with an elder or garden center person to be sure.

o E-mails, again!

The flea can jump 350 times its body length. About the same as a human jumping the length of a football field.

Elephants can't jump, but they have four knees!

Polar bears are left-handed.

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