Sunday 16 August 2015

A flavourless summer?

Summer has been a challenge this year!  The Met Office have announced that Scotland has had the coldest summer for 43 years, and this lack of sunshine and warmth has had a real impact on the natural world.  Everything has been late coming into flower, but most significantly for me and the chocolates, these flowers have very little aroma and scent.  Elderflowers (Sambucus nigra) looked magnificent – fulsome and waxy – but carried little flavour; meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) is out everywhere at the moment – fields of it – it absolutely thrives in damp places so this is a great summer for it – but as with the elderflower, there is little of that characteristic aroma as you walk past.


We persevere though, and just have to adjust recipes and accept that this year our flavours may just be a little subtle and understated.  I am exploring using fruit jellies more this year – and used a gooseberry jelly to counter the sweetness of an elderflower white chocolate ganache – which worked really well.

I have been trying to capture some new flavours this year; gorse flower (Ulex europaeus) and Sweet cicely (Myrrhis oderata) are two that I have been attempting for a number of years and I hoped I would crack them this year.  Gorse was everywhere this spring – we had clear sunny weather in April and the gorse loved it, whole hillsides were vibrant with its yellow flowers.  However, even picking in bright spring sunshine, the air temperatures were cool if not cold, and again no aroma – we should have been bowled over with that gorgeous coconut scent – but nothing.   Sweet cicely has proved as elusive, although I did manage to make some ganache in early summer that was lovely, with a delicious delicate aniseed taste lingering in the mouth after eating them.  Timing though seems to be important and the younger plants with flowers and green seed heads seemed to be the most effective.  We even tried the root – which seems to have a powerful aroma, but as always with Sweet cicely, heating seems to destroy that.

Clove root (Geum urbanum) was suggested to me by Mark Williams at Galloway Wild Foods and this is still a work in progress.  The roots are delicately clovey, but also delicate in size and hard to clean off all the soil!  Another member of the Scottish Wild Harvest Association has suggested I try again in the autumn, so watch this space!

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