One of my written goals for the potager is to “keep good and accurate records of the harvest.” That hasn’t been as easy as it would appear, partly because it is hard to force myself to take the time, and partly because no rules have been established. Starting out was easy, because only a few ounces of herb or a few pounds of lettuce needed weighing. As the harvest revved up, there was less time and more questions. Do I weigh shallots as they come from the potager, or is the correct weight after they are cured (the weight they would normally be if purchased from the grocery?) Should bolted lettuce that ends up in the compost count as “harvest?” Must I weigh or record that pepper or cucumber that I happen to devour while I am watering, that never make it to the house, let alone a scale? These questions and more are still under debate. So, I’ll just begin to update you, gentle reader, on what I’ve been harvesting and preserving recently. The above photo is of my elder tree, taken in April, when I began harvesting the flowers. Only the tiny white blooms are carefully rubbed free, because the stems are toxic. The flowers can then be spread on pans or screens to dry. Once that happens, they can be stored in an airtight jar such as the one on the left below, with the green lid. Jars should be stored in a cool dark place until the flowers are needed for delicious (and medicinal) teas or baking.
In the center of the photo, note the four quart jars of steeping elderflower syrup. Each jar takes 1 1/2 cups fresh elderbloom, the zest and juice of one lemon OR lime, and a simple syrup made of 2 c. water and 2 c. sugar brought to a boil and poured over the flowers and citrus. Shake daily and allow to steep 3-4 days, then strain and refrigerate or can in a water bath. I use the syrup mostly to make Hugos, the cocktail using about an oz. of syrup muddled with a sprig of good spearmint in the bottom of a wineglass. Add a slice of lime and fill the glass with chilled Prosecco. Perfectly delicious on a hot summer afternoon, or in winter to remind you of summer! You can tell I really like them, because I made this much syrup! I hope it’s enough to last until next April.
Well, actually I made more, because I’ve already used one jar, there’s another partial jar in the refrigerator, plus I’ve given three jars away! Now, how do I count this in my harvest records? Should I have recorded the number of cups of fresh flowers that I used in the syrup, or should I have weighed them? Or, do I just count the finished product in quarts and pints? Decisions, decisions. I think I’d better make a Hugo, and mull it over. If you have “rules” that you use to record your harvest, please share.