Sunday, April 27, 2014

Tulips, Violets and Bees, oh my!

This post is a week overdue. I wanted to post last weekend, Monday at the latest, but life got in the way. So this is a catch up post. 
Ahem, tulips are in full bloom!  And our miserable winter seems to have provided one positive thing... my tulips are spectacular this year.
Bulbs which have never bloomed have suddenly shown up.  A few that never even sprouted the last two years bloomed. Maybe I'm making things up... but that's my theory and I'm stickin' to it.    And since the blooms are that abundant I have decided it is okay to put some in a vase on my kitchen table.  Also, can you find the kitty in the above photo?He is in the chair behind the table. Because it is directly in the morning sunshine. 
He looks so handsome on that green chair... and he knows it! 

Spring time is a good time to start taking care of lots of garden problems.  Last year I finally finished my porch when I put the lattice back up. Unfortunately I ended up trapping an entire row of daffodils and aliums behind the lattice. That is on the "to do" list. Another chore, but thankfully not mine, was for Matt to bring a new hive to the yard. Sadly, yet another hive did not make it through the winter.  I'm hoping for good things this year.
Here is the new hive - all 12,000 of them.

And so far, so good.  I always assume that no news is good news from Matt. They seem to be happily zooming around out there.

They came in the nick of time too - the violets are also blooming like crazy.
Ever since I started my job, I've wanted to try some of the violet recipes from Martha Washington's cookbook.  She has several of them including: violet syrup, cakes and paste. And she even calls for violets be added to her haggis pudding. I will not be trying that recipe.
With the abundance of violets in my garden this year I decided I should just dive in and sacrifice all them to the testing of recipes and see what we get. 

I picked almost a pound of violets. I didn't actually think I had that many, but in the end I did.  I thought I'd start with something non-Martha that I'd seen and really liked the look of, violet tea:

So pretty!
How does it taste? Like light blue spinach water. No kidding. I started to suspect there was something wrong. How can so many people rave about this and it tastes like this? So I resolved to make the syrup (which takes 24 hours to steep) and see if sugar helps the flavor.  
 And because it's just too cute not to post: Swee'pea is a good audience:
 I also decided - what the heck? Let's throw some violets into some vinegar. I haven't found any recipes that make violet vinegar - but heck, why not?
Since the recipes originate from Martha's cookbook, I want to write a blog post for our work blog. So I did a lot of research this week, and I learned quite a bit:
1.  I have the wrong violets. I have, what I'm guess, are dog violets. Dog violets have no smell. If I stuck my nose in a big bunch of violets I would only get a tiny whiff of something which might be violets. Figuring my nose was just violet blind... I forged ahead with my project. As it turns out...
2. I discovered that the scent of violets actually paralyzes the scent nerves to that smell.  You can actually only smell them once, and then not again until the nerves are no longer paralyzed. The paralysis doesn't last long - only a few minutes... but still...
3. My suspicions of having the wrong violets grew when I looked through more of our manuscript cookbooks at work and discovered that none of those written in North America had a recipe for violet anything. Only Martha's and William Penn's mother's. (Both written in the early 17th century England). Hmmmm.... could it be that scented violets didn't exist in the "new world?"
4. Violets are the original official Valentine's Day flower. !  (roses are red, violets are blue...) duh.
5. There are a lot of myths including the violet:
  • Zeus turned some dame he was lusting for into a heifer that dined in a field of violets to hide her from Hera. 
  • St. Valentine is said to have picked the violets that grew outside his window, squeezed the flowers of the juice for ink and wrote on the leaves to his loved ones. 
  • Shakespeare uses a violet concoction to put his characters to sleep in Midsummer Night's Dream. He writes of violets quite a bit.   
6. There is a violet society in the US, the American Violet Society. But it seems to be shrinking. (sorry - couldn't help myself).
7. There is only one functioning violet farm left in the US - it's near San Francisco.
8. Violet tea is good for throat irritation and for mild constipation.
9. The violets that do smell, the sweet violet or, violet odorata,  do grow in North America and I can buy them from a place called, Bluff View Nursery and so I have ordered some.

I don't know exactly how I'm going to wrangle all of this information into a blog post at work. It doesn't all seem relevant. But it's all so interesting! 

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