“And because the breath of flowers is far sweeter in the air (where it comes and goes like the warbling of music) than in the hand, therefore nothing is more fit for that delight, than to know what be the flowers and plants that do best perfume the air. Roses, damask and red, are fast flowers of their smells; so that you may walk by a whole row of them, and find nothing of their sweetness; yea though it be in a morning’s dew. Bays likewise yield no smell as they grow. Rosemary little; nor sweet marjoram. That which above all others yields the sweetest smell in the air is the violet, specially the white double violet, which comes twice a year; about the middle of April, and about Bartholomew-tide. Next to that is the musk rose. Then the strawberry-leaves, dying, which yield a most excellent cordial smell. Then the flower of vines; it is a little dust, like the dust of a bent, which grows upon the cluster in the first coming forth. Then sweet-briar. Then wall-flowers, which are very delightful to be set under a parlor or lower chamber window. Then pinks and gilliflowers, especially the matted pink and clove gilliflower. Then the flowers of the lime-tree. Then the honey-suckles, so they be somewhat afar off. Of bean-flowers I speak not, because they are field flowers. But those which perfume the air most delightfully, not passed by as the rest, but being trodden upon and crushed, are three; that is, burnet, wild-thyme, and watermints. Therefore you are to set whole alleys of them, to have the pleasure when you walk or tread.”
Francis Bacon on gardens. It’s an essay in the middle of The Essays or Counsels, civil and moral, of Francis Ld. Verulam Viscount St Albans. In between essays on religion, judicature, faction and ambition, lies a beautiful little essay about gardens. It’s civil and moral discourse, because he believes it’s important to have a garden, and to attend carefully to the arrangement of it. He names every flower that will bloom every season of the year in London where he lives, and he suggests that you discover what will grow year round where you live. And then he has this lovely little section on the scent of flowers, which has such odd and particular language it reads like a poem. Secret roses that hold their smells fast? Strawberry leaves when they’re dying? Honeysuckle though it be somewhat far off? What is a little dust? What is the dust of a bent? But let us not speak of bean-flowers, because they are field flowers.We got some sweet potatoes from the farm, and I decided to make these little baked gnocchi with them, and then some spinach sauce to dip them in. The gnocchi are based on a choux pastry batter. They’re somewhat denser than regular choux pastry, because of the sweet potatoes, but pleasantly so. I flavored them with sharp cheddar and sage, and the sauce is flavored with jalapenos, almonds and lemon.
Here’s Tom Waits with Trampled Rose.
2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup milk
4 T butter
1 cup flour
1/2 t. thyme
3 or 4 sage leaves, chopped
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar.
salt and pepper
Drop the parsnips into salted boiling water and boil for about 15 – 20 minutes, till they’re soft but not completely mushy. Purée them – you should have about 1 cup.
Put the milk and butter in a saucepan with the thyme and sage. Bring to a boil, and take off the heat and stir in the flour, all at once.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well so that they’re thoroughly mixed.
Stir in the sweet potato purée and the cheddar.
Using two teaspoons, drop the batter by spoonfuls onto a baking sheet that’s been lightly greased. They’ll puff up, but they won’t flatten out like cookies, so you don’t need to leave more than about an inch between them.
Bake at (preheated) 400 for 20 minutes to half an hour, till they’re puffed and starting to turn golden brown.
2 T olive oil
1/4 pound spinach (about 2 cups packed) cleaned and trimmed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
2 jalapenos, de-veined, de-seeded and minced
1 t brown sugar or honey
1/2 cup almonds
large handful fresh basil, cleaned and roughly chopped
1 handful cilantro, cleaned and chopped
juice of one lemon
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper
Drain and roughly chop the spinach. In a large frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallot, stir and cook about a minute. Add the garlic and jalapeno, stir and cook about a minute. Add the spinach, sugar and a few spoonfuls of water, and cook until it’s wilted.
Transfer the spinach to a food processor or blender. Add the almonds, cilantro and basil and the juice of one lemon, and process until completely smooth. Add a little warm water to help smooth and thin the mixture. Season well with salt and pepper.