Monday, May 18, 2015

Recipe: Violet Foraging Makes Violet Syrup and Lemonade

Picking the violets is a sweet job!
Springtime means violets and lilacs. I love having an edible landscape. Violets are one flower that brings color to my recipes and with the right violet, they even bring a sweet, sweet scent.

In the Adirondack Park where I live, the purple native violets do not give off any scent. Also called blue violets (Viola sororia) these violet flowers and new spring leaves are edible and full of Vitamin C.

The flower of the common blue violet (Viola sororia) has five rounded petals and is unscented while the leaves are heart-shaped. These native plants can be tossed in a spring salad adding bright floral interest.

The more fragrant English wood violets (Viola ordorata) are what is most commonly used for perfumes and essential oils have naturalized in some places.

The purple violets in the Adirondacks are unscented
The small white violets have a sweet scent!

Though there is one native sweet violet (Viola blanda) in the Adirondacks that does produce that familiar violet scent. Since the Viola blanda has such a small flower, for the purpose of making native violet syrup we need 4x the quantity of the smaller petals.

In Rhode Island, the native plants are not so diligently tracked as in the Adirondacks, and each spring I would collect the English wood violets (Viola ordorata) from our yard to make Violet Lemonade. Seafaring captains would bring back many different plant specimens as gifts to their wives waiting back on shore. Since that time wood violets, originally from Europe and Asia, have naturalized in zones 4a-7a.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spring Fever: Eight (8) Days of Nature Activities

By Diane Chase

During a change of season I am always a bit overwhelmed whether its a new school year, Christmas shopping and all those twinkle lights or springtime mud.

Everyone needs to get outside so here are 8 days of nature activities to do with your family to clear your head, no matter what environment you live in.

Day One:  Look at the sky. Simple you say but how many times do you work in an office all day, commute to your job, sit in your car, play outside but never look up at the sky. Take a look. What do you see? Stars? Clouds? A jet? My daughter saw a magic carpet and a mermaid. Yes, together.

Day Two: Look down, get on your knees down low and look at the ground. Look past the concrete and other stuff and try to find the earth.  Yesterday you looked up and today you look down. That is what children look at all the time, whether they are just learning to walk or running around. Get down low today and see what you have been walking on all this time.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Craft: May Day Paper Cone and Traditions

Happy May Day!

Craft: Make A May Day Basket:

The tradition is for children to place a simple bouquet of flowers on the door of a friend or neighbor. What I enjoy is it gives children a chance to surprise adults and do something kind without costing a penny. 

The "basket" can be as simple as a used tin can or glass jar with wire or twine for hanging. 
The kids can go outside and fill the jar with lovely spring flowers. If you aren't in an area with fresh flowers about, make some tissue flowers for everyone to enjoy! 

There are many traditions surrounding the first of May. Beltane was the name given to this time, on the Celtic calendar. The name originates from the Celtic god, Bel - the 'bright one', and the Gaelic word 'teine' meaning fire, hence the name 'bealttainn', meaning 'bright fire'.

May Day is the beginning of the 'lighted half' of the year when the Sun begins to set later in the evening symbolizing the arrival of  Beltane and summer. 

Nature is in bloom and the earth is full of life. May Day has been celebrated for hundreds of years in agricultural societies recognizing and rejoicing this change of season.