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Blossoming in Spring
© Sue Courtney - text and photos
20 November 2001

I love springtime and even though summer starts in a couple of weeks, the blossoms still abound in the garden. I revel in their scent. Many flowers are edible and I enjoy munching my way around the garden, chewing on a blossom here, a leaf there and perhaps a seed pod or two.

The citrus smells heavenly and 'citrus blossom sugar' is one way to preserve the scent of the pungent blossoms to remind you of spring in the gloom of winter in several months time. Simply add citrus petals to a jar of sugar that is about 1 cup in size. Cover the leaves and seal until required.

But the most exciting taste comes from the nasturtiums. They are flowering now and will continue to flower throughout the summer. Don't think of it as a rampant weed - think of it as a vegetable as just about all of the plant is edible with a sweet hot spiciness a little similar to radish.

Here's a recipe that's simple to make -

Pumpkin, Pinenut, Nasturtium and Orzo Salad Pumpkin, Nasturtium, Pinenut and Orzo Salad
Ingredients 1 cup Orzo
1 cup diced pumpkin
2 tablespoons Orange Citrus Vinaigrette
2 rashers bacon
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup pinenuts
20-30 freshly picked Nasturtium flowers
1/2 cup Nasturtium seed pods
Young nasturtium leaves

Cook orzo according to packet directions. At the same time cook the diced pumpkin in boiling salted water until just tender. Drain the orzo and the pumpkin and combine together in a salad bowl. While still warm, toss with the orange citrus vinaigrette to cover.

Cook the bacon rashers under the grill, then chop very finely and add to the pumpkin and orzo mixture.

Finely slice the nasturtium seed pods.

Heat the butter in a frying pan and when bubbling, add the sliced seed pods and the pine nuts. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes.

Now add the nasturtium flowers, and cook for about 30 seconds only - they will quickly wilt - constantly turn in the heat.

Add the pinenut and nasturtium flower and seed mix in the pan to the orzo and pumpkin mix in the salad bowl. Stir well to combine.

To serve the salad, place some young nasturtium leaves on a plate, mound the salad on top and garnish with additional nasturtium flowers. If you like a bit more hot spice, then also add fresh seed pods as a garnish as the cooked seed pods seem to lose some of their heat.

Serve warm or cool.

Orange Vinaigrette
In a dressing jar, combine
3 tablespoons orange juice,
6 tablespoons of salad oil,
1/2 teaspoon salt,
1/2 teaspoon sugar,
1 teaspoon mild French mustard
freshly chopped sweet herbs from the garden.
Shake well to combine.

* * * * * * * * * *

Puree of Loquat
Loquats are one of those exotic fruits that are here today and gone tomorrow. Apart from the fleetingly small season, if the fruit is not picked slightly under ripe, the ever-vigilant mynah birds will gorge themselves and only the stalk will remain.

The loquat that grows in my front garden has plum-sized fruit with a bright yellow skin and a pale lemon flesh. It's a sweet fruit, with a high acid content.

I sometimes find the taste of loquat in chardonnay - a taste I would describe as 'exotic fruit'.

Apart from eating straight from the tree, what can one do with loquats? Here's an idea that I put to the test for dinner last night.

Loquats on my tree For the puree you will need -
about 30-40 loquats
2-3 slices of thinly sliced onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup chardonnay
1/2 teaspoon of whole grain mustard made with red wine, basil and black pepper.

Melt the butter is a non-stick pan and when sizzling, saute the onion till soft.

I'm not much of a fan of onion, hence the tiny quantity. It is here to add flavour rather than overpower.

Add the loquats - you can spend a lot of time preparing loquats - peeling, halving and removing the seeds, but the more time you take, the browner the flesh will go (as I found out last year). So I simply cut off the ends then threw the whole loquat fruit into the pan, pressing them with the slice as they cooked until the big brown seeds became free - flicking the seeds out when they did (see footnote).

Saute the loquats for about 5 minutes, until soft. Splash in the chardonnay and let the fruit stew in the wine for another 3-4 minutes until it becomes mushy. I chose a Spy Valley Chardonnay 2000 from Marlborough - this oak is not too dominating in this citrussy-toned wine.

At this stage, pour the contents of the pan into a sieve over a bowl. Press the fruit pulp through the sieve - the skins and the pithy parts will not go through. When you've pressed as much as you can, you should have a yield of about half a cup.

Now add the mustard. I used a Hawthorn and Heather 'Drunken Pepper' Mustard.

This 'Puree of Loquat' was lovely with chicken and the remainder of the chardonnay but I though at the time it would also go superbly with white fleshed, pan-fried fish and riesling.

Bon Appetit

© Sue Courtney
November, 2001.

Footnote: I've since found that the seeds of loquat may be toxic. It would be best in everyone's best interest to at least squeeze the seeds out before cooking. The skins can stay on the fruit and be caught by the sieving process.
Also, if the seeds remain in the cooking loquat for too long, they will impart an overpowering almond flavour that will destroy the delicate flavour of the fruit.

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