Saturday, 9 July 2011

Pomona and the Poet's Rose

Should you turn right when you leave our house and follow the path you would find yourself on a hillside amongst the rolling Vouvray vineyards.  Here the whirring crickets perform an ostinato to the melody of joyful birdsong while the green, tightly packed, ripening grapes surrender to the beating sun and the drone of wasps.  Dotted around are small châteaux with bright blue painted shutters which are often closed by late morning to ward off the heat.  There are also pastures in which all manner of fruit trees grow: quince, apple, cherry, peach, and walnut some of which are cultivated while others grow wild.

It's a blissful area to wander through but you have to watch out for adders.

If you were to walk down the steep road you would reach our village which nestles in the Loire river valley.  At the heart of the village is the eleventh-century church in which a remarkably dishy young priest preaches most Sunday mornings to a gaggle of unruly children and their sleepy parents.  It is behind the church where I head to when I need to escape from the pressures of family life for there, along a narrow path, are dozens of allotments - or jardins d'ouvriers (workers' gardens).

The earth of these plots of land is dry and cracked; more so this summer than usual.  There is no local irrigation system despite the proximity of the Loire.  The gardens are, however, beautiful.  When I observe the gardeners lugging their heavy watering cans back and forth from neighbouring houses I marvel at their labour of love and the beauty of their gardens.

Hollyhocks are abundant now.

There is, however, a surprise to be spotted among the blooms.

This cardigan is called 'Roses are Pink' (for obvious reasons ;-)) and was inspired by a rose named after our local sixteenth-century poet, Pierre de Ronsard. It was made with Cascade Ultra Pima. The design is my own.
Hollyhocks and roses aside shades of blue are dominant during high summer: purple-blue, blue-grey, the porcelaine-blue starry flowers of'Heavenburn' or Tweedia caerulea, and the pastel-blue Nepeta with its grey-green foliage.  Of course there is lavender: Lavandula dentata and the more aromatic Lavandula intermedia, 'Dutch Lavender', which flowers until Autumn although its flowers are deep violet rather than blue.  Each bush is a den of thieves, as dozens of plump bees, dressed in yellow sweaters, fumble the flowers.
Here is Peony posing in pink

There are fruit trees here too most of which are heavily laden with ripening fruit.  This morning as I sat under an apricot tree observing a woman down on one knee weeding -it can be enjoyable to watch others working hard- I thought about Pomona, the Goddess of gardens and fruit trees, who, being fearful of uncultivated nature and men, would remain in her walled orchard while virile woodland gods would lust at her from afar.

Then I thought how after a long day of tending trees Pomana must have been terribly thirsty and hungry so perhaps, I imagined, it would be a good idea if I baked her some sort of cake.  As I looked up at the apricots and sniffed the surrounding lavender I knew exactly what I would make her:

Lavender Shortbreads with Apricot Coulis
Pomona's Summer Tea Break

So home I scuttled and if you are remotely interested here are the recipes:

For the Lavender Shortbread you will need:

150g plain flour
100g slightly salted butter, cut into pieces
50g golden caster sugar
a few lavender flowers

Preheat the oven to 170°C/Gas 2/fan oven 150°C.
Put the flour in a mixing bowl, add the butter and rub together to make the crumbs.  Stir in the sugar and the lavender flowers.
Work the mixture together until it forms a ball.  Cover it in clingfilm and put in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Flour a work surface lightly and roll out the dough.  Use a cutter to cut out rounds; I like to make mine quite thick.
Place onto an ungreased baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden.
(Although British Shortbreads are pale in colour I have been influenced by the French Sablés which are darker in colour.)

For the Apricot Coulis I have lifted the recipe from Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros but instead of using vanilla essence I prefer the indulgence of using a vanilla pod.

100g sugar
1kg apricots (around 15)
a vanilla pod (or a few drops of vanilla extract)

Halve the apricots and remove the stones.
Spilt the pod lengthways and remove all the seeds with a knife.
Add the sugar and seeds to a saucepan with a bowl of water.  Boil while stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar has disolved.  Leave to simmer for a few minutes. 
Add the apricots, cover and simmer for around 10 minutes.
Blend and chill.

In a few days I will be back to show you the completed Cardigan Rose.  I was overjoyed by all the responses to my flower name/button dilemma.  It has been such a delicously difficult choice to make and so much more fun than thinking on life's real problems, I'm sure you will agree.  Pomona (not the deity but the next best thing) was absolutely right when she suggested I had already subconciously made my choice; lavender coloured buttons. However my heart has since gone along a different path.

I cannot wait to show you.  Until then I wish you a peaceful and joyful weekend.

ps Do you use flowers in cooking? I would very much like to know.


  1. Oh, isn't this just FABULOUS!!! I am on dinner break, but I am coming back to copy this recipe! BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS DEAREST! Anita

  2. Thank you for taking me on that delighful walk, I enjoyed it all, could hear the bee's busy gathering. I could feel the warmth and smell the flowers and the baked earth. I even peeped through the door and I have to agree he is very handsome!
    What a beautiful place in which you live.
    I hope you don't mind, but I had to buy some of that pretty green Rowan yarn, it makes my heart sing.
    x Sandi

  3. Oh Stephanie,

    I had not seen your BEAUTIFUL comment before I came here; I am following you and when I saw that you had posted a new post, I ran over! THANK YOU for the magnificent quote by Keats. Yes, I BELIEVE and really, the only proof of the TRUTH and BEAUTY in the world is US. We are the only vehicle by which we can prove it exists....how lovely to have connected with a kindred spirit that wants to just live with the GOOD things in life! And I have to say again, this recipe looks FABULOUS! Bonne nuit mon amie! Anita

  4. Have just discovered your charming blog and a sweet cardigan hanging amongst the flowers, I adore these photos!

  5. Oh I do love all these colours so dearly! although I have to say that Cardigan Rose is even prettier than it's name's sake. I am always re-enchanted by Tweedia every time I see it. I am delighted to know of it's common name "Heavenburn"..the silken threads that burst from the seed pods beat a dandelion's any day! Pretty, pretty hollyhocks. How funny that we both linked to Pomona. You have inspired me to get out my "Apples for Jam" just to have another look through if nothing else..such pictures. Yes, I do indeed use a lot of flowers in cooking. Last time I made lavender shortbread I put the flowers in the mix but I think that a few sprinkled on the top may be a better bet. Apricot would be a lovely companion taste. The wee heart's ease are very sweet atop shortbread too. I use nasturiums, violets, calendula, rosemary etc in salads too. Thanks for such a poetically beautiful post. Much love Catherine x

  6. Thank you so much for the lovely, lovely recipe - just what I needed! And I love your image of the fumbling bees - I will never look at a bee in the same way again - and, being Pomona, the word 'fumbling' has all sorts of implications I would rather not think about.

    I have lots of lavender - but sadly no apricots - we are sadly lacking in ripening sunshine at the moment. I use marigold (Calendula) and heartsease to make my salads pretty enough to eat!

    Pomona x

  7. comme si une gentille fée avait déposé ce beau gilet dans les fleurs!

  8. The child that wears that lovely little cardigan could hide for hours in a garden of pink roses and hollyhocks and be very hard to find ;) She'd win every game of hide-and-go-seek with Peony ;D

    Stephanie, thank you so much for your too kind comment on knitsofacto. We can both be proud of our knit designs and our blogs :D

  9. Such a beautifully written post....perfect for this relaxing Sunday morning!..
    Your cardigan is so pretty too...I love how closely the colours are linked to your surroundings (almost missed Peony sitting up there...perfectly in tune with nature herself!)
    I have to try these recipes....maybe this afternoon....
    Wishing you a blissful week ahead,
    Susan x

  10. Such a beautiful Cardigan, I can't wait to see the next. You paint such a lovely picture of where you live, I'm imagining how your delicious priest may look. And lucky you seeing adders, there are plenty where we stay in Dorset but we have yet to see any, I think it might have something to do with our noisy children!

    Happy weekend. X

  11. Oh thank you Pomona so much for putting both our names on your blog - I might never have found this lovely lovely blog otherwise!! The text is beautiful and the phots brilliant - I will be back for more you can rest assured. Love the little cardi and also the pretty flower strewn cushion ofr the little mouse on an earlier post. Welcome to the world of blogging.

  12. Thank you for sharing your lovely recipes and your lovely words.
    I really, really would have loved to have been on that walk with you, it sounds wonderful.
    Your little cardigan is so pretty. :)
    Vivienne x

  13. Ooh I have this hollyhock just opening in my garden, how lovely!!

  14. Quelle bonne fortune, d'habiter une village dans la vallee de la Loire! (Please pardon any errors of syntax - haven't written or studied French for about 28 years, but I couldn't resist giving it a go.)

    I love to add chive blossoms to salads. I'm working my way up to marigolds and geraniums - but, being a cautious rather than adventurous cook, it's taking some time. Il faut du courage.

    What a beautiful sweater and post.

  15. The blue shutters closed against the heat, and the (not dishy at all!) Priest! Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! So beautifully written and evocative, I feel like I'm reading the pages of a novel, and I'm enjoying it immensely. And the icing on the cake was your gorgeous knitted cardi amongst the Hollyhocks, how perfect! I really like the flowers on the neckline, and your tension is excellent, it's very evenly knitted, and you say you're a beginner knitter, well you're obviously a natural. Vanessa xxx

  16. Thank you for visiting my blog :-) What a beautiful image I have of where you live! Must be wonderful to wander around and see the lovely flowers and the dishy priest of course :-) Love the cardigan, what pretty flowers on the front and I almost missed Peony hiding in the branches,I love all her little outfits! Thanks for the recipes too, I love apricots, may have to try that!

  17. Those hollyhocks are going to haunt me all day.
    I've never seen such lovely ones and I am a hollyhock connisuer. The sweater is a beauty, the shortbread looks scrumptious and all in all you have brightened a very foggy morning for me!

  18. I feel as though I have had a rather wonderful walk! The cardigan is just beautiful, a perfect confection of pinkness.

  19. Hi, thanks for poppibng into my blog. Making a return visit I was entranced by the beauty of the area where you are lucky enough to spend your days. I could smell the wonderful scents of the Loire Valley as I meandered through the countryside. After many years trying I have at last manufactured a free draining home for my lavenders here in our damp garden in northern England. I am looking for something to add to my collection so Googled for lavandula intermedia which you mentioned. Unfortunatly it sounds just a bit too tender for us so I will keep looking. Your lavender shortbread however sounds delicious, it isn't something I have ever tried so must give it a go.

  20. Where to start....?

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

    Thank you for sharing the recipe,

    Nina xxx

  21. The lavender shortbread and apricot sauce look delicious! And little Peony looks so sweet up there with the rose pink cardigan. (or maybe that should be hollyhock pink, as it seems to match perfectly!)

  22. Just perfect, how I envy you all that fruit! Can't wait to get to France and buy a 5 K box of apricots to make Jam. And if there is any lavender left in my garden I'm baking the biscuits. Thank you Jude

  23. Bonjour ! I found your blog because we are fellow commenters on Never Not Knitting.
    Your blog is a delight! As a fellow chercheuse I particularly enjoy reading you. We do seem to have quite a lot in common.
    Your recipe sounds delicious.
    I will be back for sure! À bientôt :)

  24. What an inspring post - elements of so many things I love. I just picked some Hidcote lavender this morning and I know that it is one variety that is used in cooking so I will be making lavender shortbread - thank you for the timely recipe. I so envy anyone who can get their hands on apricots that have been ripened on the tree. Beautiful cardigan!

  25. I have just discovered your lovely blog by chance. cardigan is beautiful!
    Isabelle x

  26. What a beautiful blog! I love the pink cardigan and all the beautiful things you create. I also love your pictures.Will be back! Hugs Catherine


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