Friday, July 26, 2013

This Week at the South Durham Farmers' Market

This Week

  • Music by Sara Maria Finley on the violin
  • Education from Master Gardeners will be available
  • Fresh this week: Flowers, peppers, eggplant, peaches, squash, tomatoes, peas, green onions, garlic

Flower Power
As you walk down the market’s thoroughfare this Saturday, it will be hard to miss the brilliant floral arrangements on display perfuming the heavy July air. It might be easy to mistake these bright blooms of summer as nothing more than pretty faces, but they actually provide valuable assistance to our farmers.

When planted next to fruits and vegetables, flowers are often hardworking companion plants that protect and promote their neighbors. Some flowers, like the chrysanthemum, release a chemical into the soil, killing roundworms that attack the root systems of vegetables. Others, such as the sunflower and the zinnia, attract birds and hummingbirds, which are the natural predators of many harmful insects. Yarrow is a particularly helpful flower. It attracts beneficial insects, like the ladybug, and can increase the essential oil production of nearby herbs. Also, its leaves can be turned back into the soil for a natural fertilizer. Incorporating flowers into crops creates a more stable ecosystem, which reduces the need for chemical intervention.  

Flowers are also essential for bees and other pollinator species. All of our fruits, including the fruits we call vegetables, like cucumbers, are the product of fertilized flowers, and bees are our most important pollinators. Every summer squash, tomato, pepper, berry, and peach you see at the market was once just a bud. Decorative flowers in our market bouquets, like the lilies, hydrangeas and zinnias, keep the bees fed once the other blossoms have transformed into fruit. Of course, we have that other flower byproduct, honey, available at market, too.

The power of flowers bestowed on loved ones should also not be underestimated, especially when completely unexpected. (Ladies, the bouquet giving can go both ways.) A simple arrangement can amplify the romance of your dinner table or freshen up your work desk. We hope you will enjoy the florae at market and decide to bring some of nature’s beauty into your home.

 Yes, You Can Eat That
Whether you dislike the idea of cutting down flowers for mere decoration or you are just interested in trying new foods, you might be interested to know that many of our most common flowers, including those at market, are perfectly edible. Moreover, they add color, fragrance and extra nutrients to our cooking.

Already we eat the bloom of several plants such as broccoli, capers and artichokes, but there are so many other options available. In general, most vegetable flowers are safe; however, beware the flowers of tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and asparagus. Always make sure to properly identify a flower before consumption, and it is highly recommended that you only eat organically grown flowers.

One of the easiest ways to consume flowers is to dry the petals for use in an herbal, or tisane, tea. Chrysanthemum petals make a sweet, fragrant tea, and you can also use rose, jasmine or chamomile petals. Another simple and beautiful alternative is to make candied petals from roses, daisies or even pansies to garnish a dessert like a famers’ market goat cheesecake.  Whenever using roses, remember to remove the white base of the petal. Here are some other ideas:

  • Sprinkle pansy petals over a fresh salad
  • Add rose petals to your strawberry preserves
  • Sauté the unopened buds of the common daylily with olive oil, salt and pepper
  • Batter and fry summer squash blossoms (extra delicious if stuffed with cheese)
  • Mix fresh yarrow into your stir-fries

Happy experimenting!

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