Archive for the ‘Honey’ Category

There has been a request for a recipe using peaches. The markets currently abound with peaches of all sorts including Redhavens, Weinbergpfirsiche and Honigpfirsiche. More aromatic than sweet, Weinbergpfirsiche grow in vineyards. Almost forgotten by the eighties, they have enjoyed a comeback. Their flesh is white instead of the usual yellow, though there is also a red variety which I haven’t tried. Honigpfirsiche, or honey peaches, which I saw yesterday for the first time, have a rather unusual shape (the picture above shows a honey peach on the left and a Redhaven on the right).

Prunus persica originated in China, where is it associated with longevity. Peaches are drupes with rough seeds, though there are two kinds of cultivars, clingstone and freestone. As their names suggest, they differ in how much effort is necessary to separate the flesh from the pit. Bruising easily, they are a delicate fruit that do not handle extremes well, preferring temperatures between -15°C and 30°C. The difference between a peach and a nectarine is slight; they belong to the same species. Due to a recessive gene, however, a nectarine has a smooth skin instead of the typical peach fuzz.

In English, the expression peach fuzz refers to a small amount of hair. I associate it with adolescent boys when they start to grow facial hair. If someone is a peach, he or she is sweet and helpful. And if everything is peachy keen, life is good.

Everything was peachy keen after I took the first bite of the moist poundcake below. Poundcakes are traditionally made of one pound each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. I stuck with this ratio more or less. Since I was out of sugar, in went the honey. Since amaretto blends well with peaches, in went the liqueur.

And the poppy seeds…A week ago I perused a cookbook about traditional food from Chernivtsi, which is today a part of Ukraine but a hundred years ago was the capital of Bukovina and part of the monarchy. On August 14, Swjato Makoweja, a poppy seed festival, is celebrated. Water, poppy seeds, flowers, and herbs are blessed in a special church ceremony bidding farewell to the summer. In honor of the harvest and the end of summer, then, here is a peach-poppy seed poundcake recipe for you to enjoy.

Peach-poppy seed poundcake


190 g (7 oz.) butter

200 g (2/3 c) honey

4 eggs, beaten

200 g (1 2/3 c) flour

½ ts mace

1 ts baking powder

30 g (¼ c) poppy seeds

a few Tbs ground almonds

pinch of salt

50 ml (¼ c) amaretto

4-5 peaches, peeled and diced

Soften the butter. Cream the butter and honey together. Add the eggs, then the amaretto.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add to the wet batter. Stir just to combine.

Mix in the peaches with a spoon. Pour into a buttered loaf or bundt pan.

Bake for about 60 minutes at 180°C (350°F) until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.


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What time is it?

Time to be thankful for a surprise gift of honey. The jar is 1/100 of the honey harvest of a hobby beekeeper whose hives are in the forest. Despite the loss of half of his colony over the colder than normal winter, his hives have bounced back and he has had a bumper crop of honey.

Time to wonder at the discovery of the kunstGarten. What a delight to have found a paradisal refuge within a city under permanent construction. It is no longer rose season so I couldn’t appreciate the full splendor of the 160 different varieties of roses lovingly cultivated in the garden, but it abounds with vegetables, fruits, and herbs, including my beloved rue. A place to stop and smell the myrtle, to wile away the hours in the library, which boasts a collection of around 4000 books on gardening and plants.

Time to be excited about the metamorphosis of blossoms into achenes on the buckwheat in my garden. It has been almost two months since I planted the seeds, and I had no idea what to expect. It looks like there will be a buckwheat harvest this year!

Time to reflect on the way this blog has developed over the past 10 weeks and 20 entries. Like gardening and cooking, writing is a creative process often motivated by a desire to experiment and to play with raw material, be it words or plants. My commitment to write twice a week has introduced a new rhythm into my life, one that I plan on keeping. Ideas continue to be fruitful and multiply, though time stubbornly remains finite and thereby a limiting factor. In the upcoming weeks, there will be some changes, including a much-needed revision of the About page and the addition of a library and other pages.

And finally…time to thank you, faithful reader: where would this blog be without you?

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My first post included buckwheat but did not provide an introduction to one of my totem plants, which I am cultivating on my balcony this year. Fagopyrum esculentum (syn. Fagopyrum sagittatum) originated in Nepal. It then spread east to China, where it is considered to be a yang-promoting food in traditional Chinese medicine that warms the body, and Japan, where it is used to make luck-bringing soba noodles.

The Mongols brought it with them to the European part of Russia, after which buckwheat became a staple in Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish cuisine. Its range continued to expand westward. The Dutch planted it in their colonies in North America, where it became the flour of choice for pancakes, or flapjacks. I started making pancakes with buckwheat flour when I was in college, gobbling them down with maple syrup on many a weekend.

Buckwheat grows quickly, bearing fruit within three months. The stem starts out green and then turns red. A five-petalled flower yields a triangular achene resembling a beech nut, which when ground can be used for flour. The English word buckwheat comes from the Dutch word boecweite, literally beech wheat, and the standard German word Buchweizen has the same meaning. Before it can be used as a comestible, the achene must be hulled, after which it has the status of a groat. The dried hulls can be used to fill pillows.

The dried leaves contain rutin, which strengthens the capillaries, improving circulation and ameliorating varicose veins. Another active ingredient is trytophan, an amino acid which promotes sleep and reduces nervousness.

Besides being good for you, buckwheat is also good for the earth. As green manure, it delivers phosphorus to depleted soils, thriving in sandy and acidic soil. No fertilizer is necessary. In fact, buckwheat plants will not produce fruit if they are fertilized.

As a fan of buckwheat, I find myself in the company of the likes of Soren Kierkegaard, Mark Twain, and Benjamin Franklin. Perhaps it is no coincidence that I live in the buckwheat belt of Europe. Sterz, porridge made of buckwheat flour, is common on both sides of the Austrian-Slovene border in Styria (Steiermark/Štajerska). South in Slovenia there are buckwheat and cheese dumplings called štruklji. Not far away in South Tirol you can feast on pizzocheri. As summer continues to wane and winter approaches, there will be more recipes with buckwheat.

At the moment, however, fresh fruit is still abundant. Bilberry season continues, and honey is plentiful too. So it is time for…

Bilberry Buckwheat Honeycake

90 g (1/3 cup) honey

3 eggs

120 g (1 cup) flour

30 g (1/3 cup) ground almonds

1 ts baking powder

a pinch of salt

125 g melted butter

3 Tbs milk or cream

250 g (2 cups) bilberries or blueberries

In a large bowl, beat the honey and eggs together.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the honey-egg mixture. Pour in the butter and milk. Finally, add the bilberries.

Bake 30-40 minutes at 180°C (350°F).

Recommended reading: “A World of Buckwheat” in Goldstein, Darra. The Winter Vegetarian.

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The week-long gap between posts was due to a trip to Brussels, home of the Atomium and Arno Hintjens, capital of a kingdom that had a king who agreed NOT to be king for a day, in short a special place where part of its population is celebrating independence from the Netherlands today. I attended the kick-off of Time Inventors’ Kabinet, a project spanning the next two years whose goals include creating new units of time using wind clocks and observing the passage of time in urban gardens. The culinary was tangential to the focus of my visit, yet my attention is inevitably drawn to food and its production, and Brussels did not disappoint.

On the first evening of my visit, I tried kriek, a cherry-flavored beer made of lambic and sour cherries (including their pits), at À la Mort Subite, a cafe whose name means sudden death. However, I survived the experience, and on the last evening, I ate penne with hazelnuts and gorgonzola at an amazing bistro named after one of my favorite birds. What more can you ask for than delicious food, good company, inspiring conversation, and fabulous music? The bistro had a jukebox with an incredible selection of ’45s – remember those?

In between, I visited rooftop gardens and an art foundation. Here is a motley selection of pictures of gardens and plants.

I stayed at OKNO and had the pleasure of spending time in its peaceful garden. The berries below I have yet to identify. What are they?

Bees make their home in the hives pictured below. I was lucky enough to get a jar from the latest honey harvest.

The hive above is a top bar hive without frames, which allows the bees to make comb as they like. The hive below is a more traditional model.

The following garden atop an old abandoned brick brewery is in its second year of existence. Unfortunately, the building is condemned and the future of the garden is uncertain.

I think I’ll try zucchini or squash in a sack next year.

I stumbled across this lovingly planted flower bed in the middle of the city.

These thistles are from the prairie of the disturbing Verbeke Foundation, whose peaceful grounds are full of tranquil, natural landscapes and honeybees while inside the building it showcases ethically questionable art making use of animal carcasses and other “ecological” material.

Finally, if Simon and Garfunkel are correct and the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, perhaps we should heed the following advice spotted in Métro Parvis de Saint-Gilles:

If you want honey, support bees!

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