Monday, July 23, 2012

Lavender-Honey Ice Cream...mmmm...mmm...Good!

Finally, a good rain hath cometh here to Blooming Hill, this past weekend!  We received over an inch between Friday and Saturday.  Then, Saturday was cool, cloudy and drizzly giving July a nice little break here in the middle of this hot, and humid month when you can practically cut the air with an ice cream scoop.  In fact, the break in the weather, though brief, urged me on to make some lavender-honey ice cream, as sweet and laid back as this July is turning out to be.  And, who doesn't love a little homemade ice cream while relaxing in the gardens or on the covered porch, after church, on a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon?  Sounds positively Mayberry RFDish, don't you think?!

So, Saturday morning, out came the lavender, of course! I use the Lavandula angustifolia varieties of pink 'Melissa', 'Royal Purple' and 'Royal Velvet' as well as 'Maillette' all mixed together and all grown here at Blooming Hill.  These varieties are some of the ones touted as culinary (eventhough all lavenders are edible) and I grow these varieties in quantity, mainly for their beauty but I bottle them up for recipes as well.  Along with the lavender, I reached for eggs, honey, heavy cream, whole milk and a little bit of sugar, my mixer, pots and bowls and then, of course, my new ice cream maker.

Lavender mixed with honey and milk.

The finished product...delicious, indeed!
The lavender, steeped in milk and honey and mixed with the cream, went from this (left) in the pot on the stove to this (right) in the ice cream maker just before being squirreled away in my kitchen freezer to be thouroughly enjoyed on Sunday afternoon.  All we needed was Aunt Bea's stamp of approval on the ice cream and Andy and Opie to show up and share in the sweet treat.  Oh heck--let's just call this "Philomont RFD--The Lost Episodes of Cyndie, Peter and Kevin!"

Blooming Hill's Lavender-honey ice cream all set up and ready for a tasting!
Kevin (a.k.a. Opie) and Peter (a.k.a. Andy).
I've made this recipe for lavender-honey ice cream about 5 times now for garden groups and visitors who have come to Blooming Hill in the last several weeks and I've only been able to have a small taste myself, so this weekend, this batch of lavender-honey ice cream was all for me. Okayyy--maybe a little was also for the two interlopers who found a nicely set table, to their surprise, in the cafe garden.  Well, my philosophy is that if you are going to eat lavender-honey ice cream, you might as well eat it in style!

Lavender-honey ice cream with a sprig of lavender on top!
The strong and sharp tasting lavender, on it's own, is swirled in and softened by the smooth flavor of honey, whole milk and heavy cream.  Then all of their essences are entwined together to make this dessert extra smooth and thick, yet soft with sweet and citrusy, minty and licorice-like undertones.  Finally, a lovely respite for a quiet afternoon just before the dog days of high summer reclaim their stake on July. Mmmm...mmmm...mmmm!...Good!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

High Summer Garden Party

The Herb Garden rich with scents, flavors and textures.
The Cafe Garden full of fancy and colorful cutting flowers all set for the party.
A quiet and shady place to sit a spell.
As the dog days of summer set in and High Summer settles herself smack-dab in the very middle of the gardens with an attitude, no less,  I thought I should try to soften the blow of her hot and humid breath and invite High Summer to a garden party, of sorts!  Okay--we have had a lot of garden parties here this season, at Blooming Hill, where the flowers were the entertainment, not the various garden club guests and High Summer kept making her presence known by sending her high temperature messengers to remind me that she was not included on the list of invitees.  High summer can be pushy!

Pink petunias, coleus and brugmansias arriving just in time for the party.
Sleepy garden cherub supposedly keeping a lookout for the nosy devil deer.
To quote Winnie the Pooh, "You can never tell about bees!"
So today, this impromptu garden party is for Blooming Hill's guest of honor, High Summer, and the flowers, along with their cousins, aunts and uncles, will be her party companions. The busy bees, chirping birds, fluttery butterflies, crafty spiders and the regal praying mantis's will supply the entertainment while, I'm sure, those sneaky devil deer will show up, uninvited as usual as the garden fairies and angels doze in the shade. However, Rain will remain elusive as ever and may come and go unannounced.  But, I won't count on Rain because his presence, although much desired, can put a damper on things as only Rain can and his cohort in crime, Wind, the diva that she is, can be down right rude and try to grab all of the attention for herself, as we have experienced her shenanigans lately!

Lavender refreshments fit for the "High Summer Princess."
Shy pumpkin blossoms peeking though the leaves.
You are welcome to stop by and say hello to High Summer, too!
A garden party it is, right here on my porch, to honor the season's most demanding princess, High Summer, in all of her glory. Bring on the heat, the sun, the rain, the humidity, the bugs and most of all the colorful fruit, delicious vegetables and wonderful flowers that hang around with her almost exclusively.  I shall raise a glass of lavender lemonade, dip a cookie dusted with lavender sugar and toast her Highness by officially welcoming High Summer and find the joys and blessings she so freely offers during these doggiest of days.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Blooming Hill Lavender Products - Just A Glimpse!

'Gros Bleu' (Lavandua x intermedia,) one of my favorites.
The last of the freshly picked bundles on July 5.
The lavender harvest is in and this year was one of the prettiest years for growing lavender in this area that I can remember.  Although, when I think about it, I probably say that every year.  The plants are now all trimmed back with some sporadic growth and blooming happening now through the end of the summer.  Looking at the blooms left on the bushes helps me to remember just how beautiful each bush was in full bloom.  Even with their new "haircuts," the lavender bushes still look regal in the silvery green petticoat foliage they wear year round.  By the end of this month, I'll begin to propagate new plants from soft wood cuttings to add to my own group of lavenders as well as to sell next year.

Lavender rose sachets.  The rose petals come from bushes grown here at Blooming Hill as well.
Be-ribboned beauties.
Now, the real work begins...sachets, bundles, wands, soaps, culinary packages and so much more are waiting to be made.  Our lavender is home-grown and harvested right here at Blooming Hill.  It is packaged prettily right down to the buttons, bows, embellished fabrics and glass or ceramic containers we use.  However, if you are like me, you already know that lavender doesn't need much, if anything at all, to make it look any prettier than it already is!  However, as we all know, there is so much you can do with lavender to liven up your home.
Some of our culinary products.

Let me remind you again that Blooming Hill's freshly dried lavender came right off the plants from this summer's harvest and is now ready for your potpourri, floral arrangements, bath and culinary needs.  We are careful in handling the lavender in order to keep it looking it's best and we are proud of the quality and beauty of our lavender products, grown right here in the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge.  Our lavender comes from our collection of over 60 varieties picked,  gathered and waiting for someone lovely, like you, to come and select at least a bundle or two.

Can O' Lavender anyone?

Just plain lovely lavender buds ready for anything.
Visit our beautiful garden shop and peruse to your heart's content, all of our gifts from the garden and for the gardener here at Blooming Hill in Philomont, Virginia, Fridays and Saturdays, 10am until 5pm and other days by appointment.  As an added bonus, our gardens are still in great shape, should you want to meander through flower-bedecked borders and paths! We hope to see you soon.