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Archive for Wednesday, December 9, 1998

FLOWERS CONNECT FALL TO WINTER

December 9, 1998

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When I scraped the windshield on my car Monday morning, it was clear that the extended autumn we've been enjoying had come to an end. That was the first killing frost to reach most parts of my yard this season.

I've been wishing for many weeks now that the long-range forecast had alerted us to the extended growing season. What an opportunity for a fall vegetable garden this would have been.

If the winter continues to be mild and the cold end of the temperature range doesn't fall below zero, I think we may spend the year in a much warmer climate than our Zone 5.

This was such an odd year for gardening. Some blooming vegetables and herbs didn't pollinate properly in late spring; as a result, many tomato growers complained bitterly about how little fruit set in June.

I had been disappointed that the pineapple sage I set out each May in my annual herb bed didn't bloom in midsummer, although the plants themselves were vigorous, green and bushy. Then, in September, the blooms began -- and stayed until this week's cold snap.

Some people use pineapple sage fresh in summer salads or teas. Because it isn't a drying sage and its flavor doesn't survive extreme heat, its utility in cooking is limited. I like its distinctly pineapple aroma, which floats easily on the breeze and stays with me all day if I rub the leaves between my hands.

On Saturday as the temperatures hovered in the 70s, my pineapple sage plants were covered with bees. It was difficult to think of decorating a Christmas tree or other preholiday activities when this apparent sign of summer was there in front of my house.

The one thing that made this mound of pineapple sage seem appropriate to the season was its covering of bright red blooms, whose shade is very similar to that of the poinsettia. Unfortunately, these glorious plants will wilt away when the temperatures rise just enough for the frost damage to take its toll.

As I tracked on this floral theme this weekend, I was reminded of the rosette iron I shoved to the back of a high shelf in my kitchen a few years ago. This and the cookie gun were the two kitchen gadgets I saw in my mother's hands only during the Christmas baking season.

I see rosette irons in kitchen stores and catalogs, so I know this Christmas tradition has not been lost. The Swedes get the credit for the concept, which is the same as the one behind timbales. Some rosette sets, like the one I inherited, consist of a handle with interchangeable irons for both rosettes and timbales.

For my mother, who was not Scandinavian, the fascination in making Christmas rosettes was in creating the thinnest, most fragile cookie possible, one at a time, dipping it in powdered sugar and then giving it away, all without breaking it. As a kid, this looked like madness to me, but I was happy to stand by to eat the casualties.

If you happen upon a rosette iron and feel inclined toward a simple yet exacting holiday baking project, here's the drill:

Christmas Rosettes

2 eggs, slightly beaten

2 teaspoons sugar

1 cup milk

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon lemon extract

2e cookie gun were the two kitchen gadgets I saw in my mother's hands only during the Christmas baking season.

I see rosette irons in kitchen stores and catalogs, so I know this Christmas tradition has not been lost. The Swedes get the credit for the concept, which is the same as the one behind timbales. Some rosette sets, like the one I inherited, consist of a handle with interchangeable irons for both rosettes and timbales.

For my mother, who was not Scandinavian, the fascination in making Christmas rosettes was in creating the thinnest, most fragile cookie possible, one at a time, dipping it in powdered sugar and then giving it away, all without breaking it. As a kid, this looked like madness to me, but I was happy to stand by to eat the casualties.

If you happen upon a rosette iu can send e-mail to her at mellinger@harvey.bakeru.edu. Her phone number is 594-4554.

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