Edible Landscaping – Scented Geraniums

Geranium Flower EssenceI got to plant some of my scented geraniums this weekend. Whoot! I love scented geraniums. They are so deliciously fragrant! You just brush against them and breathe in the wonderful scent. Crush a leaf or two and your hands will smell divine!

There are so many different species and hence scents. There are apple scented, nutmeg scented, lemon scented, etc. My favorite – mostly because it makes a divine syrup – is Attar of Roses. It has rose scented leaves and pink flowers. Rober’s Lemon Rose is also wonderful.

Scented geraniums are pretty easy to grow – you can grow them indoors or outdoors. I had several that did exceptionally well in containers in my rooftop garden. Now, I’ve moved them to in ground and they seem to be doing well. Because it gets so hot where I am, I do keep them shaded from the afternoon sun.

You may be familiar with scented geraniums and not even know it. Many species are important in the perfume industry. In fact, scented geranium oil is often used to supplement (or adulterate) expensive rose oils.

The best thing about scented geraniums is that the leaves and flowers are edible. They can be used to flavor jellies, cakes, butters, ice creams, iced tea, sugar and more. I prefer the rose scented for culinary uses, but the lime and some of the others are nice too.

Scented geraniums aren’t really geraniums – they belong to Genus pelargonium (although they are still members of the family Geraniaceae). So don’t think that you can use the geraniums that may be in your yard already – you need to make sure you are using scented geraniums.

Certain of the scented geraniums have also been used for various medicinal purposes. Scented geraniums have been used for intestinal problems, wounds, respiratory ailments, fevers, kidney complaints and respiratory/cold remedies. The essential oil is used to balance the hormonal system.

If you are in the Los Angeles area, Sunflower Farms in Gardena, California has a fantastic selection of scented geraniums. I have also found Attar of Roses at Armstrong this year, but that was the only type. There are several mail order sources. Or, if you have a friend, you can take cuttings. Make sure you take at least 6 to 7 nodes or lobes in your cutting, and root in soil-less media. Most recommend to treat the cuttings with rooting hormone.

What to do with scented geraniums? Making rose scented syrup is my fave – and it is delicious added to lemonade or an afternoon cocktail (hmmmm).

Rose Syrup:

2 and 1/2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup or so of rose-scented geranium leaves

Place water and sugar in deep saucepan and place on stove over medium-low heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Let reach boil and boil gently 5 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat, add rose geranium leaves, cover and let steep at least 10 minutes. I usually let it steep 20 or so. Strain into clean pan and boil 30 more seconds. Add to sterilized jars. If you want, you can add red food coloring after the last boil but before adding to the sterilized jars but I don’t.


Edible Landscaping – Miner’s Lettuce

bigstock-Miners-Lettuce-3924059So, if you have read any of the recent posts, you will know that we have moved to a much bigger property. You will also know that the house on the property is, well, a bit of a fixer-upper (and that is being kind). While we work on figuring out the remodel, I have been a bit depressed. The house is depressing – it doesn’t get much natural light, the ovens don’t work, the fireplaces don’t work, there is very little water pressure, and it is ugly.

I’ve been wallowing in my self-pity.

But I am done with that (at least for now ~ don’t hold me to it). The daffodils are in full bloom across much of the property (gotta love the early Spring in So Cal) and I’ve decided if I can’t love the house, then I will love the property. And I’ve got 5.64 acres of property to plant with edible landscaping. WOOT!

It is overwhelming trying to plan a functional edible landscape.  We already have more than 110 avocado trees (OMG), and tons of citrus (orange, blood orange, grapefruit, tangerine, lemon, lime, limequat) as well as a huge loquat. We also apparently have some peach and apricot, but it is hard to tell since the trees are mostly dormant right now.

Over the weekend, I planted the existing trees I had from my rooftop garden – 3 weeping mulberries, a variety of dwarf apples, a plum, a persimmon and 2 jujubes – as well as my blueberry bushes (including the 3 fabulous Pink Lemonade blueberry plants).

Then, I went shopping.  On President’s Day, I had fun visiting some (but not all) of my favorite local nurseries and also browsing through seed catalogs. I picked up some fruit trees to add to the orchard at Sunflower Farms in Gardena, California. They are being delivered on Saturday. I fleshed out our selection, adding 2 more Persimmon trees (Fuyu), a pluot, and more. I’ll post pictures.

I also hit Centrose Nursery and picked up 2 tree collards and 2 grapes.  I’ll post pictures of the plantings.

But mostly I planned and plotted how the landscape should look and investigated options for sun, partial shade and shade. I have a lot of shade because of the mature trees and I need some plants to fill in underneath. I was at a bit of a loss and overwhelmed about what to plant where.

But, I was reminded of an old staple, Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) at Sunflower Farms.

I grew up with Miner’s Lettuce in Marin County. My sister and I used to eat it on our rambles around the neighborhood. We would pick it to take home, but we hardly ended up with any by the time we got home.   It was everywhere. It was and is good. It is perfect in salads or on sandwiches (though I also like mustard leaves in my sandwiches for a bit of “pop”).

It is so easily recognizable and so abundant that I am surprised I didn’t think of it first.  It is native to America – unlike many of our edible “weeds.”  Plus, and most important, it is a great plant for shade. In fact, it prefers moist shade.

If you aren’t familiar with Miner’s Lettuce, it is not really soft but not crunchy, has a mild taste, and stays tender even when it flowers. It packs a punch of Vitamin C and iron.  According to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 100 grams of miner’s lettuce—about the size of a decent salad—contains a third of your daily requirement of Vitamin C, 22 percent of the Vitamin A, and 10 percent of the iron. You can buy seeds or plants (it is super easy to grow from seed). I bought some plants just for a jump start and to cure my doldrums.

Here’s some more detail on Miner’s Lettuce.

That’s a picture of it too in this post. If you are doing some wild foraging in Northern California, you should be able to find it in the shady spots, particularly near water.