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Archive for September, 2010

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“Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things.”

                                           Okakura Kakuzo, the Book of Tea

Adding the flavor of lavender to tea and everyday drinks is easy and exotic. Easy and exotic don’t always go together, but when they do,  the moon and the stars line up, delivering  magic in the form of a delightful treat. Sipping a cup of lavender tea tops my list of favorite ways to savor this evocative herb.

I became acquainted with lavender tea in an unlikely place, Maui.  A trip to the upcountry  led me to a garden paradise called Ali’i Kula Lavender where I attended a tea seminar. 

Maui's Upcountry Countryside

Maui's Upcountry Countryside

As I pulled away from the sunny, sandy beaches stretched along the Kanapali coast and drove up into the interior of Hawaii’s second largest island, the landscape changed. Fields of lettuce, herbs, carrots and cabbages spread like a colorful carpet on either side of the highway. The bright blue skies gradually became gray and somewhat misty as I followed the highway into the mountains, right into the cloud cover.

Ali’i Kula Lavender perches on a hillside high above the Pacific Ocean with a panoramic view of Maui.  The property looks down over the isthmus connecting West Maui with the rest of the island.  Mount Haleakala, the highest peak on Mau, towers above from the east at 10,023 feet above sea level. With well-drained, rocky soil and a western exposure to the Hawaiian sun, lavender flourishes here, enjoying optimal conditions.

Ali'i Kula Lavender

Lavender Growing on Maui in October

More than 12,000 plants flow along the contours of the hillside like purple streams. Protea shrubs and bottle brush trees are scattered among the clumps of lavender plants. Birds of paradise, ginger, scented geraniums and plumeria accent the garden, adding color, size, texture and fragrance. Their scarlet, pink and pastel petals contrast with the cool blues and purples of the lavender. The scent, reminding me of expensive perfume, blends tropical, floral and  pine-like notes. Evergreen cypress trees and deep glossy green-leafed avocado trees stand by like proud guardians. Playful white butterflies and delicate iridescent bluish-green dragonflies (called Pinau in Hawaii) dance among the blossoms. A bronze statue of the seated Kaun Yin, goddess of mercy, adorns the garden. The park-like grounds, home to 45 varieties of lavender, look like a Monet painting.

“Aloha. Welcome to Ali’i Kula. Please try a cup of our lavender-chamomile tea,” a young woman greeted me as I arrived for the herbal tea seminar. The steaming cup infused the air with a floral fragrance. I felt calm and serene, up in the clouds, a million miles away from traffic, news and routine problems. Could this be heaven? I wondered, as others slowly gathered to hear the Hawaiian healer, Kahu Lyons Kapi’oho Noane talk about herbal tea.

Tasting Tea at Maui Lavender Farm

Tea Tasting at Maui Ali'i Kula Lavender

“As a young boy, I lived in a very remote part of Maui,” Kahu Naone explained. “My grandmother told me drinking herbal tea promotes health and feeling good.” Kahu is an informal title meaning guardian or caretaker. Beginning at the age of six, he learned ancient Hawaiian healing practices from his elders. Now as a middle-aged man, Naone shares his knowledge of herbal tea with the tourists at Ali’i Kula.

Dressed in a blue floral Hawaiian shirt, dark blue beads and denim jeans, Naone has a full beard, dark with a touch of gray. His bushy eyebrows add balance to his face. His long black hair is pulled back and tied at the nape of his neck in a thick pony tail. His brown – nearly black – eyes glowed as he talked about the healing attributes of herbal tea. 

“The roots of the plant reach down into the soil to find life-sustaining nutrients, while the leaves face up to the sky, absorbing energy from the sun,” Naone’s soothing voice informed us. Next he instructed us to experiment with three ways of drinking our tea. “First, take a sip and allow the tea to sit in your mouth for a moment before swallowing.  Now take a drink and move the tea over your entire tongue, the tip and the sides. Finally, slurp the tea; don’t be afraid to make a loud noise. Can you taste the difference? When you bring air into the tasting process, the flavor is amplified.” The herbal tea tasted light and refreshing, imparting a garden-like flavor.

Hawaiians traditionally view the mind, body and spirit as one. Could anything be more natural or carefree than to take buds and leaves from lavender plants and steep them in boiling water, creating a light and aromatic drink?

Next time you desire a divine moment in your life, do what I do. Make yourself a cup of lavender tea and imagine the beauty of Ali’i Kula. When I sip the tea I remember the words on a framed poster in the Ali’i Kula gift shop, “Be grateful, you are in the right place at the right time.”

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When I woke this morning, I was looking forward to driving to Kent – a suburb of Seattle – to visit a home and garden shop. About a week ago, my friend Crystel  visited a small shop, Bella Home and Garden. When Crystel discovered that the store was hosting an event called “The Sense of Lavender”, she told the sales clerk about my book “Discover Cooking with Lavender”. Then she emailed me telling me about the shop, their Open House and suggested I contact the shop owner. Crystel even gave me the phone number. 

Bella Open House Event

Invitation to "The Sense of Lavender"

 

I was pleased because I would not have found this shop without her email. I don’t live in that area and I rarely shop there. It’s about 25 miles from my home. Friends, like Crystel, are hard to find. 

Crystel - A thoughtful Friend

Crystel - A Thoughtful Friend

 

I drove out to Kent. The traffic was light and the cloudy drizzly day felt calming. I brought a few books along with me. I parked and walked towards the store. Tables full of small plants made the store look fresh and inviting. I spotted plenty of 4 inch lavender plants, Betty’s Blue was blooming. I walked into the store and was immediately greeted by an attractive blonde woman, whose name  I soon learned was Carol. Carol introduced me to the shop’s owner, Marci Wainhouse. 

Soon we were talking about cooking with lavender, lemonade, grandchildren and Girl Scouts.  “I brought a few copies of my book.”  I said. 

Carol began looking at it. “I love the cover.” 

Then Marci paged through it. “This is my granddaughter. And the little girl on the back is Charlotte Rose, daughter of Shelley Thomas and Brian Smale (the food stylist and photographer who gave my book its great look),” I commented. 

I was thrilled when Marci said, “We love the book. It fits perfectly with our shop. We’d love to carry it.” 

The conversation turned back to the Open House. “I can be here on Saturday, October 2nd from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Would you like me to demonstrate how to make and use lavender sugar? Also, I’d love to show your customers how easy it is to dry roast culinary lavender buds to create a whole new taste,” I offered. 

“Good, sounds wonderful,” Marci replied. 

With that settled, Marci asked, “Have you shopped at Martha E. Harris? She used to be near University Village? I used to work there many years ago.” 

What a coincidence, I thought. “Martha Harris is my favorite florist. Whenever I order flowers, I call Martha E. Harris.” 

Marci smiled, saying, “I thought I might have recognized your name. You should see if she wants to carry your book. It would do well there!” 

She went on to suggest several other places where she thought my book would be a fit. One was Purple Haze. Then the topic of food came into the picture. Marci raved about Purple Haze Lavender and Herbes de Provence Mustard. “It’s delicious on ham on French bread. I made a wilted salad with it and loved it,” she said. 

“I’d like to buy some and try it.” I said. 

Marci walked across the shop to the shelf where the mustard was displayed, picked up a jar and placed in a bag with the Bella logo. “This is on us. I hope you enjoy it,” she said. 

This is a story of how one kindness can open the door to more. Crystel, thanks for opening the door.   

p.s. By the way the mustard is delicious. We tried it this evening using Marci’s serving suggestion. Perfect! 

If you are in the Kent area on Friday(10-1) or Saturday(10-2) between 4  p.m. and 8 p.m., drop by Bella. Gourmet food tastings, special price for lavender and great gift ideas will be available. 

Ham on Mustard on Bread

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Sliced Pineapple, Grilled, with Vanilla Ice Cream

Exotic, flavorful and sweet, grilled pineapple is a special summer dessert. I love to serve this with vanilla ice cream. Pink peppercorns, a berry from the Baies Rose plant or, by another name, the Peppertree, add color and seasoning. Lavender adds flavor and brings out the sweetness of the pineapple. Grilling pineapple softens and adds grill marks to the golden pineapple.

Ingredients

1 pineapple skinned and cored. (How? Check out this video.)

1 tablespoon pink peppercorns, crushed

1 tablespoon dried culinary lavender buds

1 tablespoon olive oil

fresh sprigs of lavender for garnish 

  • Remove the tough skin and core the pineapple. Slice the pineapple across the core into pieces about 1/2” thick. Marinate with olive oil, lightly crushed dried pink peppercorns and lavender buds.

Rings of golden pineapple

  • Grill on a hot grill until marked and seared. Turn to grill on both sides. While the pineapple is grilling, brush it with the remaining marinade.

 

  •  Serve while the pineapple is warm. Place the pineapple on good-sized plate. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Sprinkle the top of the ice cream with pink peppercorns and lavender blossoms and pink peppercorns. For an extra treat, drizzle some caramel sauce over the plate in a loose zigzag pattern.

Pineapple Grilled and Ready for Dessert

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Bridestowe Lavender Estate

Bridestowe Lavender Estate

The Australian Lavender Growers Association’s International Lavender Conference is scheduled for February 6th through the 9th in Tasmania. The theme of the upcoming conference, Marketing from a Tourism and Business Perspective, is expected to appeal to lavender growers looking to discover tips for making their farms financially successful.  

The speaker line-up is a sure winner.  

Scott Nagel, Executive Director – Sequim Lavender Festival, will speak about Agra-tourism as well as share Sequim’s story. Nagel’s extensive career has been centered on festivals and celebrations. Sequim Lavender Festival, the largest in North America, attracts 30,000 people and has a measured economic impact of $3.4 million.  

Philippe Soguel, master distiller from Nyons, is a skilled craftsman. Owner of Distillerie Bleu Provence, Soguel, will discuss the technical and sensory properties of lavender oils from around the world.  

Catherine Liardet, a lavender grower, author and lecturer, owns and operates a farm at the foot of Mont Ventoux. Liardet will focus her presentation on the aromatherapy and medical value of lavender oil.  

Mr. Tomita, coming from Farm Tomita in Japan, will share his perspective on the value of “clubs” associated with business ventures. Mr. Tomita, an astute business man, founded the Lavender Club to promote its appreciation.  

Noel Porter, research scientist from New Zealand, will present his research finding on how oil quality if impacted by flower head maturity and distillation time.  

The proposed program for the entire conference is available at The Australian Lavender Growers Association’s website.  

If exceptional speakers with compelling topics don’t convince you to register for this event, the opportunity to visit Tasmania and spend an entire day at Bridestowe Estate, one of the world’s largest lavender farms will undoubtedly be the pièce de résistance.  

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One thing often leads to another. This summer, my sister and brother-in-law gave me a Brie Baker for my birthday. I love gifts that I can use in the kitchen. I’d never heard of a Brie Baker, so I was eager to try it out. This Brie Baker, handcrafted pottery, was made in Ludington, Michigan. A small ceramic cheese knife came with it. But wait, there’s more. It came with this note:  

Brie Baker  

Cover Brie Round with pesto, mango or pear chutney. Bake at 350° for about 10 minutes. (Microwave for a minute or two). Cover Brie with cranberry sauce, a little bit of triple sec. Sprinkle with brown sugar, and bake for about 10 minutes. (Microwave, also). Sprinkle a little Jack Daniels on Brie; add a little bit of brown sugar and some sliced almonds. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Serve on bread, pear, or apple slices.  

Birthday Gift Brie Baker

My New Brie Baker

What a nice touch to include some ideas for baking brie! I decided to top my brie with Lavender Mixed Berry Chutney made by Pelindaba. Pelindaba is a lavender farm on San Juan Island.   

Demo Garden at Pelindaba

Demonstration Garden at Pelindaba

The name of this farm Pelindaba is the Zulu word for “Place of Great Gatherings”. Stephen Robbins, the owner of Pelindaba, has committed to keeping his 20 acre  valley property as open space for “great gatherings of crops & great gatherings of people”. To learn more about his philosophy, click here.  

Brie and Chutney

Brie and Chutney Pair Up

My birthday led  to a Brie Baker, the Brie Baker led  to this flavorful chutney made by the folks at Pelindaba, and the recipe that came with the gift led  to  Baked Brie with Lavender Mixed Berry Chutney. When I opened the oven door to take out the cheese, the fragrance nearly knocked me over – sweet lavender and summer berries filled the air.  

Baked Brie with Lavender Mixed Berry Chutney

Baked Brie with Lavender Mixed Berry Chutney

When I put the knife into the warm cheese, it was creamy and warm. Then I spread the cheese covered chutney on a cracker and popped it into my mouth. All I can say is it was fantastic!  

Now my hope is this blog post leads you to experience Baked Brie. I would love to know what you topped yours with. Next time I want to try the Jack Daniels with brown sugar!   

   

    Brie with Lavender Mixed Berry Chutney    

        1 8-ounce round of brie cheese  

       ¼ cup Lavender Mixed Berry Chutney  

       ½ tablespoon sliced almonds  

  1. Place brie on baker (removing rind from top and bottom of wheel is optional)
  2. Spread the chutney over the top of the cheese
  3. Sprinkle almonds over chutney
  4. Bake in 350° oven for 10 minutes

Serve with crackers, bread and/or slices of apples, pears or nectarines

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Red Leaf Coleus

Coleus - a member of the mint family

 

  • This Lamiaceae family is also known as the mint famil.

   

  • With 263 genera and as many as 7200 species, this family of flowering plants is a big one, however not the largest. That distinction belongs to the sunflower family with  approximatly 24,000 species.

   

  • Plants in this family are aromatic.

   

  • Many culinary herbs such as rosemary, lavender, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, thyme, basil, mint and lemon balm belong to this family.

   

  • Mentha, otherwise known as True Mint, is a genus belonging to this family.

   

   

  • Distinguishing family characteristics include equal and opposite leaves, square stems and lipped flowers.

   

  • Some members of this family such as bee balm, salvia, hyssop and phlomis add color and beauty in perennial gardens. These are known as ornamental mints.

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