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For the First Day of Summer, an (Almost) Edible Garden Bouquet; 50 Shades of Green

We’re celebrating summer with a mostly green bouquet from the garden. The recipe includes lots of fresh herbs, fig and pepper vine leaves, as well as the last pink roses, lavender and purple basil for color.

Tomorrow’s the first day of summer. The markets are already gaudy with golden sunflowers and hot pink zinnias, but around here the garden is having an “in between” moment….

As in, between the red roses of May and the cayenne chiles of July.

As in, 50 shades of green: chartreuse, apple, grass, lime, olive, sage, emerald, puce, forest and more.

Almost everything is green. For example, the cherry tomatoes….

They’re the color of pale limes and hard as marbles.

But I love the tomato leaf’s fizzy, nose-tickling fragrance, so let’s cut some of the abundant stems for an early summer bouquet that’s (almost) edible.

Though a branch of unripe fruit would make our bouquet tres chic, I can’t sacrifice even one of Jefferson’s favorite Marseilles figs. I’ll take a few leaves instead. Later we can use them in Darina Allen’s delicious recipe for Fish Baked in Fig Leaves with Fresh Herb Butter.

And speaking of herbs, the spearmint, basils, rosemary, lemon balm and oregano are growing like weeds. All have bright refreshing scents, so into our sweet-smelling bouquet they go. (Oh, and don’t forget the marjoram and its starry blossoms!)

Now for a touch of color: If I can navigate around the bumblebees who are guzzling its nectar, a few wands of lavender would be quite pretty. Besides, it’s almost time for lavender lemonade.

We can also snip the last apricot and pink blooms from rosa Mutabilis before the beetles chew them up. Lovely in our bouquet, and also floating in rose-scented chai, though Mutabilis, alas, has no fragrance.

I’m tempted by the garden’s dark burgundy foliage, but none of it’s edible—except for this purple basil and its pinkish flowers. I love the licorice aroma as well, so it’s a must for our bouquet.

And for the finale, how about these glossy, heart-shaped leaves from the tropical pepper vine? Late in the summer it will produce tiny clusters of peppercorns that never quite ripen. But a Vietnamese friend has given me a “recipe” for the aromatic leaves, which can be wrapped around a peppery pork filling. They’ll give an unexpected twist to our bundle of garden clippings.
The great thing about garden bouquets is that no matter how randomly you stick them in a vase, they seem to come together. And they smell delicious…

What do you think?

Happy First Day of Summer. I’ll be traveling for a while. See you in July!

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