Last night at dinner Bob asked me if there was sausage in the stew and I said “no, it must be the spruce tips.” I gotta give him credit, he didn’t laugh at me. Or maybe he did and I didn’t hear him because I ran outside at that moment to try to locate the owl babies. I’d heard them begging all day, which I assumed to mean they’d fledged and I could tell they were very close to the house. And there they were in the walnut tree looking down to see what I was doing with the camera!!
Just now I went out to check on them and got worried because it seemed one of the three was missing. I searched and searched. Then I saw another pair in a second tree. And then mama showed up to feed everyone. So, at noon, Bob and I stood in our driveway and talked to five owls! All this foraging and bird watching made me miss Megan, who is just as much of a nature lover as her mama. So, I decided to share the bounty of the season here in Warwick and make her some presents. I think I’ve told you that she is a bartender at a wonderful place called Baltimore Cultured. She loves to create new cocktails involving interesting spirits and herbs. You must go and check it out if you are ever in Baltimore! I made her four different herb infused syrups, labelled them with photos of the ingredients, and shipped them off; cross your fingers that they arrive safely!
I’ve added a new plant to my foraging repertoire: Lovage. It’s an prolific wild herb with a celerylike flavor and appearance. I’ve been using it in soups, stews, and salads, and thought it might make an interesting syrup.
You might also remember the amazing patch of mint up near my friend Joan’s house. I used to grow mint, but it doesn’t do well here in the woods. The patch up the hill is healthy and strong in spite of the fact that ditch digging road crews attack it at least twice a year. What does grow well here in the woods is lemon balm; I planted some soon after I moved here and it pops up everywhere no matter how often I yank it out by the armload. So, I also made mint and lemon balm syrups.
And, last, but far from least, the aforementioned spruce tips. I’ve been munching them on my walks and and slipping them into all sorts of cooked and raw recipes. The resulting syrup is complex, both lemony and slightly piney. Mary came over to help me test out the batches. We mixed them with club soda and a few garnishes, and both of us liked the spruce tips best.
Herb Infused Syrups
I used lovage, mint, lemon balm, and spruce tips.
2 cups herbs, single or combined
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Place the herbs and water in a saucepan and bring to boil. Let steep for a half hour or so. Strain. Mix in the sugar and bring back to boil until the sugar is dissolved. Pour into clean jars. Refrigerate for up to a month.
Other herbs to try: lemon verbena, lavender, rosemary, basil, tarragon, thyme, chamomile…
Use these syrups in cocktails, iced tea, hot tea, sangria, or mix with seltzer for homemade sodas. They are a wonderful addition to salad dressings, or an unusual topping for ice cream or sorbet. Drizzle some over strawberries, blueberries, melon, or fruit salad.
I’m hoping Megan will keep track of the cocktails she creates with her syrups and will do a post over on Chickpea and Rutabaga and tell us all about her experiments!
And, I hope that if you try them, you’ll leave a comment and tell us, too, we’d love to know what you create!