Oh, how I love the early morning ritual of watering the strawberry patch. After showering the plants, I check for those stealthy snails that have made their way into the garden overnight to take massive bites out of the fruit. I pull out any weedlets (my word for baby weeds), lest they invade the entire bed. Then I watch dozens of bees flit to and from strategically-planted lavender bushes to lamb's ears, and seaside daisies, and on to the freshly moistened flowers of the strawberries. It may sound silly to you, but watching this small but nonetheless glorious event makes me sigh with joy.
It's still only spring and yet we have already seen temperatures climbing into the 30s C, which means a blistering summer. On a positive note, this promises a bounty of home-grown produce from our small kitchen garden. We've planted numerous seedlings: tomatoes, chillies, baby squash, aubergines, baby spinach, golden squash, lettuces, and cucumbers, too. There's also parsley, coriander, sweet cicely, chives, basil, tarragon and mint. And, flourishing in pots, we have lemons, kaffir lime, figs, olives and an Isabella grape vine.
I've been reading about Elderberry and learned that smaller varieties of the shrub can be grown in a large container, so a visit to the nursery is among my plans over coming days. English food writer, Nigel Slater, whose salad recipe I have shared below, writes that elderflower and elderberries have been popular in England since Victorian times and points out that the Romans were among the first to enjoy elderflower syrup or cordial. He sings the praises of lightly battered elderflower fritters, as does Australian cookery writer, Stephanie Alexander. I imagine they would be quite divine with a dusting of icing sugar and can barely wait to try them.
Peter, my Englishman, loves elderflower cordial and we sourced two bottles of it recently, one made in Sweden, the other in Australia. I plan to make my own as soon as I find a plant. But now on to the recipe, adapted from eat by Nigel Slater. To me it sings of springtime and summer. It's a simple, delicious dish that celebrates the best of seasonal produce. And that's what this journal of mine is all about. ♥
STRAWBERRY AND CUCUMBER SALAD WITH ELDERFLOWER
2 medium sized fresh Lebanese cucumbers
For the dressing:
3 tablespoons honey
5 tablespoons elderflower cordial
10 mint leaves, washed
Cut the ends off the cucumbers and peel them, leaving some strips of skin as decorative stripes. Slice them in half lengthways and cut them into diced segments. If you have an aversion to the seeds, or if the cucumbers are old and the seeds are large, by all means scoop out the seeds and surrounding flesh with a teaspoon. Otherwise leave them as is. Arrange them in a serving bowl.
Wash the strawberries, then pat them dry with paper towelling and slice them in half. Add them to the bowl with the cucumber and toss the salad mixture gently with your hands. Chill briefly in the refrigerator.
Meanwhile, combine the honey, elderflower cordial and mint leaves in a blender and process for 30 seconds or so. Again, you have the option of straining out the chopped mint using a muslin-lined sieve. Or, you can leave the mint leaves in. I like them in. Dress the salad just prior to serving. Serves 4-6.
Tell me dear readers, do you have a kitchen garden? What good things do you grow? And have you ever grown elderberry or made elderflower fritters?
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.