Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe & beyond...join me!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

may days, green days

Our May has been cool. After a very mild winter, where tulips and daffodils began their journey to the skies in January, since the beginning of May the blooms have been set to 'pause'. Only the herbs are growing like crazy under the damp, grey sky.

Our rocky flower bed, in front of our small front entrance is an unruly mess of thriving green. Herbs like marjoram, basil, parsley, mint, and oregano share space (some, the way an elephant shares space in an elevator) with chives, lavender, a rose bush or two, and a host of pale blue and white hydrangeas (my favourite). This, here, is one of my lieblingsplätze. And learning how the Germans have, for centuries, used and cooked with herbs has been so much fun since moving here.

A new luscious taste I was exposed to recently is from bärlauch (wild or bear garlic). It has a hint of garlic coming from its long, narrow leaves and is widely used in pestos and dips. A friend of mine brought me a jar of homemade bärlauch pesto which his landlady makes in her kitchen and sells only to 'special' people.

And the herbal guru herself, Hildegard von Bingen, created remedies, potions, soups and sauces using only the wild herbs growing around her my home. Possibly that's I've been feeling such a herbal connection since moving here. It's in the soil! One of Hildegard's concoctions is the recipe for petersilien wein (parsley wine). Apparently it's an elixir created from wine, honey, vinegar and parsley. I'm not sure if you're supposed to drink, pour on something, or take a bath with it. I need to do more research.

In choir practice on Monday evening, the talk was maibowle (may punch). We had been asked to bring sekt (poor man's champagne) or some snacks - I, of course, opted for drinks! After some time spent singing, while outside of the windows, birds trilled along (I swear), we gathered the chairs around the long table and waited.

One of the ladies finally came out of the kitchen carrying a glass pitcher filled with a clear, pale yellow fluid reminding me of something quite different; except for the soft bubbles humming like the wings of a hummingbird you know is there, but can't see.

Maibowle is made by steeping a satchel of Waldmeister (Sweet Woodruff), adding lemon and possibly sugar, in wine overnight, then adding sekt. Waldmeister is a creeping herb found mostly in the northern forests of Germany. The drink was fragrant; tasting unlike lemonade, more herbal tea, but with a wild and unrefined aftertaste. Sitting around the table and sharing this experience with lovely, laughing, wrinkled people was a treat...not just because there were bubbles.

Last but not least, my may tour of herbs has ended with Green Sauce. Another popular use of 7 locally growing herbs this very traditional sauce goes great with grilled meat or roasts. I had heard about Green Sauce often; Goethe loved it and in Frankfurt you will find the original Green Sauce on every hearty restaurant's menu. So, as the herbs in my garden started to wake up, I decided to look into this Green Sauce.

Low and behold, in the produce sections beginning around Easter, you can find the seven herbs, long and aromatic, wrapped in paper, ready for home. How praktisch!

I looked through recipe books, researched on the internet, and created a simple meal of roast beef, mashed potatoes and Green Sauce. Chop, chop, schnippel, schnippel. The chopping did take quite a while. Herbs, many I had never heard of before: parsley, common sorrel, borage, chervil, bittercress, pimpinella, tarragon, were hacked into huge green piles. You can also use many other seasonal varieties for Green Sauce. I would just throw in any herbs you have in the garden and see what happens. I'm sure Hildegard started that way.

Add onions, white wine vinegar, sunflower oil, créme fraiche and yogurt, a sprinkle of sugar, salt and pfeffer. Voilá - Grüne Soße! And, believe me, it is green.

And, now I leave you with a touch of green, great guy and I came upon on one of our hikes above the Rhein. Weird, decorated statue #31.

 Happy may days to you!


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