Greek Style salad with Pelargonium graveolens,cherry tomatoes & feta cheese

This healthy & spicy salad filled with cos lettuce, cherry tomatoes, black olives, feta, pelargonium graveolens leaves and herbs make
a refreshing side dish to enjoy with your meal,
The sweetness of the cherry tomatoes, aromatic flavour of the herbs, as well as the tangy fruity taste of the feta and black olives
creates a beneficial & nutritious dish filled with delicious
vegetables and greens.

Ingredients 4 servings


125g cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cos lettuce, leaves removed and ripped into small pieces
I red onion cut into small wedges
3-4 leaves of pelargonium graveolens, finely chopped
Finely chopped herbs- basil, oregano and mint
Salt and pepper to taste
80g Black olives
12g chopped Walnuts or pine nuts
180g of feta cheese, cut into small cubes
A sprinkle of red wine vinegar
80g of olive oil
1 cucumber, cut into thin slices and cut in half
Tinned Anchovies in olive oil optional

To prepare
First remove the lettuce leaves and wash them thoroughly, drying them well with kitchen roll. Then rip the leaves and arrange them on a salad dish.

Add the cherry tomatoes, black olives and cucumber, then blend the ingredients together with your hands or with salad tongs, sprinkle over the herbs and pelargonium leaves
making sure all the mixture is well blended.

Cut the feta into small cubes and place them around the dish,
sprinkle with oregano followed by red wine vinegar and olive
oil.

You can also choose to add a few leaves of batavia lettuce,
beetroot, green peppers or mix with pasta.

A Shakespearean inspired garden

William Shakespeare was a playwright, actor and poet during the renaissance period of 1585-1613, who wrote up to 39 plays of comedies, tragedies and romances including Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth.  He was born in Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire, in the west midlands, England where he a grew up and later was said to have attended the Kings new grammar school of King Edward 6th where he studied Latin and classical authors. By  the age of 18 William married Anne Hathaway 26 and they had three children together, later Shakespeare purchased a house known as New place, originally built in 1433 by Sir Hugh Clopton and constructed using both brick & timber with impressive gable roofs, ten fire places, two gardens, orchards and  barns.
The gardens at New place was believed to be beautifully presented with intriguing and precise formal features filled with trees, herbs and flowers, It is not certain if Shakespeare grew plants in his garden or if he had any influence in the design, but he certainly had a great understanding of plants as well as their significance & symbolism possibly from studying folklore and classical studies.  The popularity of Shakespearian style gardens have increased greatly over the years and is now recreated all over the world, brimming with flowers and plants which have been interpreted and defined in the works of William Shakespeare such as roses, tulips, poppies, crocuses, daisies,daffodils, fritillaries and violets, lilies,anemones, hellebores and many more, the layout is usually geometric and based on Elizabethan architecture and garden designs of the period such as boxwood dividers, pathways and seating.
Shakespeare often used plants to represent special meanings in his plays, using up to 175 herbs and flowers depicted throughout his works such as in the comedy ‘A midsummer nights dream’  as follows :
“ I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, where oxlips & nodding violet grows, quite over canopied with luscious woodbine, with sweet musk roses and eglantine, there sleeps Titania sometime in the night, lull’d in these flowers with dances & delight.”
also Nick bottom a humorous character with a head of an ass is approached by the fairy queen Titania and four fairy attendants, their names symbolize the healing power of plants that are used in herbal remedies and its connection to the mysterious magical illusion of the moonlight which caused many superstitions during the 1500-1600’s.

Mustard flowers Image by Vincent Keiman-unsplash.com

The names of the fairy servants and their connection to traditional medicine include pease-blossom (pea) a low growing or trailing plant and pod shaped vegetable used to make pease porridge or pea soup during medieval period, the seeds are dried or made into a powder and was applied to the skin to help with skin conditions like acne, it is also cooked as a vegetable or added to salads, bread (powder form) and as a coffee substitute.  Mustard seed – mustard plants are commonly used as a spice and to make mustard when mixed with vinegar or other ingredients, it is also used to ease arthritis & muscle pain and to help against the common cold. The two other names include moth also at the time used as a remedy in the home and the other cobweb.
Also in the play Shakespeare uses the phase “Love in idleness” which is the folk name for the wild pansy and its ingredients is believed to make up a love potion mainly for the purpose of Titania to fall deeply in love with the first person she sees, Nick bottom.

wild pansy Image by Coralie Rentz-unsplash.com

Wild pansy (botantical name Viola tricolor) is a low growing creeping plant that grows  amongst the wild grasses and countryside of Europe, the flower petals vary in colour from purple, blue, white or yellow usually in two or three toned colours. This plant is also used medicinally to treat epilepsy, problems with the lungs such as bronchitis and the common cold & skin conditions. Wild pansy symbolizes ‘love in Idleness’ because according to Roman mythology Cupid intentionally shoots an arrow towards a virginal priestess of Vesta but missed, instead hitting a pale flower to which the love spell changed the petals to three colours.
In the romantic play Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare uses the interpretation of plants to symbolise certain aspects of the story, the rose for instance represents Juliet’s love for Romeo such as “ what’s in a name ? , that which we call a rose by any another name would smell as sweet”   her love is restrained when she discovers that Romeo is a Montague and has a long standing feud with her family.

roses mage by Peggy Zinn -unsplash.com

Roses are not only known for their beauty but also grown for their fragrance in perfumes, skin care and as cut flowers. Rose petals and rose hips have medicinal properties and are often used to treat wounds, bruises and rashes when applied to the skin, the tea also helps to soothe a sore throat and ulcers. Their wide range of  varieties also make them attractive in the garden, such as the old classical roses, shrub roses, climbing and modern roses, to which there is believed to be up to 300 species and possibly many thousands of  cultivated varieties.
In King Lear William Shakespeare refers to a plant by the name of a cuckoo flower, an alternative name for a Ladies smock flower which was used in describing the scene when the daughter of King Lear announces his return from France. “ Crowed with rank fumitor and furrow weeds with burdocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo flowers, darnel and all the idle weeds that grow in our sustaining corn.”  (fumitor-fumeria officinalis)

cuckoo bird Image by David Clobe-unsplash.com


Ladies smock, Cardamine pratensis grows wild all over Europe and in parts of Asia usually in meadows and close to streams, the flowers are light purple, similar to the colour of lavender on long spikes. Ladies smock is also used to decorate garlands on the 1st of May when celebrating the coming of Spring. The leaves are used medicinally as a remedy for indigestion, to increase hunger and is also good for those with asthma or skin conditions. It was given the name Cuckoo flower because it is believed that this flowers blooms at almost the same time as when the Cuckoo bird appears in Spring.
Rosemary is also used to symbolize love and remembrance in the play Hamlet, Ophelia the daughter of Polonius a chief counsellor is driven to madness after her Fathers death.
Ophelia describes the meaning of plants through her grieving – “there is rosemary that’s for remembrance, pray you, love, remember and there is pansies that’s for thoughts, (Laertes  her brother- “a document in madness, thoughts and remembrance fitted”.) there’s fennel for you & columbine, there’s rue for you and there’s some for me, we may call it a “herb of Grace” O’ Sundays, Oh you must wear your rue with a difference.”

Rue, Ruta graveolens symbolizes regret and can be grown as a herb or as a garden plant or hedge, The leaves are bluish green with a strong musk like scent which can be used as a flavouring in cooking and placed within small flower bouquets, it is also believed that cats dislike the smell. Rue has been gathered & grown since ancient times for its medicinal properties such as to reduce flatulence, improve eyesight, menstrual issues and when added to the skin to aid arthritis, sprains, bone injures and swollen areas.
Other plants, flowers and trees mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays include: Flowers- cornflower, camomile, carnation, crow flower, fritillaria imperialis, honeysuckle, violet, iris, marigold, peony, narcissus, daisy, daffodil, cowslip, primrose, buttercup, daisy, lavender, lily, orchid, musk rose. Herbs and plants- aloe, balm, blackberries, burdock, bilberry, caraway, fennel, bay, flax,mint, marjoram,clove,gooseberry, nettle, parsley,hemp, ginger, dog berry, hyssop, leek, grape, camomile, ivy, mustard, radish, rhubarb. Trees- almond, apple,apricot, ash, birch,box, cork, date, cedar, hawthorn, holy, lime,mulberry, myrtle, olive, pine, plum, pomegranate, quince, walnut, willow, wormwood, yew.

Scented gardens

janine-joles-f0heeiu-Ec0-unsplash

Photo by Jannine Joles-unsplash.com

Scented flowers and leaves have many benefits for your health, well being, positive energy and also for providing beauty and fragrance to your home & garden.
Flower petals and scented leaves can be used to make perfume, essential oil, pot pourri, soap, rosewater scented candles, incense, a bouquet of flowers as well as for food and beverages. Recent research have shown that the aroma from scented leaves and flowers can influence our feelings and mood, by reducing stress, anxiety, fatigue and to improve memory and relaxation. The purpose of the flowers fragrance in nature is to attract bees, butterflies and moths, & the scented leaves to deter insects away from the plant.

Whether you choose to grow your scented plants near to the house, along a walkway in the garden which releases fragrance as you pass by, in a container garden on a patio, on steps, close to a dinning area, a pot full of herbs or grown along a wall or trellis they can bring great joy and pleasant aromas to your surroundings.
Planting aromatic lily bulbs in deep containers near to the home, or by a doorway or window box can be very inviting to your friends and neighbours with its strong sweet heavenly scent like the L. regale, L.henryi, L. longiflorum, L.casa blanca, . L. auratum, L. candidum, L. hansonii and various oriental lilies.
Scented flowers and herbs which have been cut and taken indoors to be dried in spring or late summer, are edible and can be used in cake making, tea, in desserts and drinks as well as for sachets, bath water, potpourri, dyes and candle & paper making such as marigold, violas, lavender, cornflowers and roses.
Fresh edible flowers such as hibiscus, honeysuckle, lavender, lilac, nasturtiums, pansies, citrus flowers, roses, violets and daisies can also be used for cake decoration, desserts, liqueur, mousse, salads or as a garnish. The flowers usually have a delicate flavour so it will not effect the overall taste of the food and can also look appetizing & artistic.
An arrangement of freshly cut scented flowers in a vase can not only lightens up a room with its array pastel shades or exotic colours but also emits a delightful fragrance.
Other scented plants ideas for creating more fragrance within your garden space include a Lavender hedge, sweet peas for their scented flowers or a rose garden.

A garden full of pleasantly rich highly scented plants can be captivating & uplifting, especially when they fill the air with perfume bringing tranquillity and relaxation to your surroundings while encouraging wildlife and creating a peaceful environment.

Scented plants can be grown not only in the garden by the side of a walkway, in a flower border or low growing varieties around stepping stones but they can also do well in containers & window boxes which is especially lovely grown close to a window, doorway or gate or archway
Frangipani has a very strong beautiful rich sweet fruity floral fragrance which come in a choice of pastel colours of pinks, white, yellows and oranges and is associated with love & romance which can also be used for essential oil, skin care and perfume, It originates from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, so it needs a hot & sunny position and in cooler countries it may need a green house or conservatory.
The Lily of the valley (convallaria majalis) has sweet scented delicate bell shaped flowers which is used for perfume, for bridal bouquets and has medicinal properties. In Greek mythology this plant was discovered by the god Apollo and is also the national flower of Yugoslavia and Finland. Gardenia has large white flowers with a strong sweet fragrance and is used for essential oil and perfume, it has been customary
in France to use the flower for decoration on tuxedos and suit jackets and also as a garnish for Tiki cocktails in bars in the South Pacific. but the downside is that it requires humid conditions in acidic soil as it is native to tropical regions.
The peony flowers range in shape with colours of purple, pink, red, white or yellow and some are more strongly scented than others usually with a sweet delicate rosy scent which is used in perfume, skin care, and has medicinal properties. The petals can also be used for making peony water, tea, salads, drinks and is also popular for cut flowers, and is a symbol for the twelfth wedding anniversary. Sweet peas have a rich intense fragrance & pastel coloured flowers of purple, blue, white or have two colours, the scent can range from low to very highly scented and is used for bouquets, essential oils, perfume & skin care and has medicinal properties. Lathyrus Odoratus ‘Matucana’ is said to have the strongest perfumed flowers of the sweet pea.

Having the luxury of growing beautiful & colourful fragrant flowers in your garden or in containers can be captivating, but they can also be used to add beauty and taste to your food and beverages such as syrups, cakes, iced drinks, teas, ice cream, salads, cocktails, jams, desserts, mousse, lemonade, stew, with cheese or simply for decoration especially if they are grown naturally without the use of pesticides.
Scented leaf pelaroniums like the P. tomenosum mint scented leaf, P. citronellum lemon scented leaf and P. capitatum rose scented leaf can be used in cake making, jellies, desserts, to flavour drinks and ice cubes more. Anise Hyssop has lavender coloured flowers which has a light liquorice like taste and is related to the mint family, this plant alone is said create up to 90,000 flowers which attracts bees and butterflies, the leaves have medicinal properties which has been traditionally used by the native Americans and the flowers can be used in hot tea, iced tea, salads, pies and sweets. Carnations are believed to be originated from the Mediterranean when it was described by Theophrastus an ancient Greek botanist 2000 years ago. The native colour is purple pink but are also available in colours of white, yellow, red, blue & green and the flowers and scent is often used in beer, wine, vinegar, sauces, salads, yogurt, cakes and desserts. Lavendula is a very popular culinary herb because if its very strong feminine floral fragrance which is also used for essential oil, L. Angustifolia ‘Munstead’ is the most usual lavender for its use in cooking which include cupcakes, sponge, scones, dressings, desserts, salads, buds in tea, honey, marshmallows, jam and can be mixed with rosemary in savoury dishes. Elderberry has white or cream colour flowers usually in clusters with a fruity floral scent and is part of the honeysuckle family, the berries when cooked are used to make wine, juice, dye and for the treatment of cold & flu. The flowers are used to flavour jam, ice-lollies, cake, desserts, marshmallows, honey and is used to flavour the french liqueur ‘St Germain and ‘Halland Flader the Swedish distilled spirit known as Akvavit.
Flowers which are used for food and beverages include Angelica, Bee balm, Begonia, calendula, carnations, Chamomile, chicory, Chives, Chrysanthemums, Clover, Cornflowers. Daisy, Dandelions, Day lilies, Elderflower, Apple/Pear/Plum or Citrus blossom, Hibiscus, Hollyhock, Honeysuckle, Lavender, Marshmallow, Lilac and Nasturtum.

Freshly cut fragrant flowers picked straight from your garden for an elegant bouquet arrangement for your dinning area, living room or bedroom can be exquisite especially when they fill the air with their heavenly scents while adding beauty with many colour varieties to your living space area,
Flowers such as Chrysanthemums, Sweet pea, lily, sunflower, tulips, gladiolus, roses, corn flower, peony, carnations, dianthus and gypsophila, eucalyptus and succulents can be grown from seed, bulbs or plants from a garden centre or nursery, When you cut your plant for a bouquet it is best to cut the stems at an angle so that the ends will not settle at the base of the vase and to remove any leaves and branches from the stems which will go in water, Place the flowers up against the vase and measure the length, cutting the correct size you desire, the flowers will last longer if the vase has been cleaned frequently after use with the removal of previous plant debris. Spread out the flowers evenly around the vase removing any dead blooms, the primary flowers are the ones you wish to show up the most in your arrangement such as large or colourful ones and the secondary flowers are usually smaller in size, you also need to add interesting plant leaves to create a balance of flowers within your bouquet. Place the flowers into a vase which has been half filled with water add a table spoon of sugar or mix in plant food to your vase to help to preserve the flowers for longer and it is advisable to change the water every three days.
Zinnia, which is part of the daisy Asteraceae family with brightly coloured flowers of white, yellow, orange, red and lilac, native to North & South America and is said to be the longest lasting flowers in a bouquet, followed by orchids ,carnation, delphiniums, chrysanthemums, alstroemeria and gladiolus.
Succulent types such as Scabiosa flowers that forms a rosette shape in various colours of purple, red, Pink and orange, goes well with roses in a vase. Echereria are greyish blue succulents that has flower stalks with brightly coloured rosettes which can make a bouquet look more sculptural and elegant, another is Aeanium a low growing succulent with leaves that form a rosette also know as the house leek, there are a number of species and cultivars some with dark reddish brown leaves.

Highly scented fresh flowers and herbs can be used to make essential oil from your own garden for treating a range of aliments, relaxation and massage.
Flowers such as chamomile, geranium, clary sage, jasmine, juniper berry, lavender, rose and more are made for floral scents so you can make your own face or body cream, soap, face mask, massage oil for aromatherapy or to add it to your bath water.
Collecting fresh flowers, leaves or herbs from your garden and adding them to a steam distiller with water which is heated from underneath, the steam from the plants goes through the chambers of the pot and then drips out as essential oil, it can be purchased in a range of different sizes.
Cold pressed essential oils are made from citrus fruits such as oranges, tangerines, lemons and limes which are peeled and placed in a cloth, then crushed to release the essential oils.
Maceration is when the flowers are infused in a carrier oil such as sunflower or almond, then placed into a copper pot and heated underneath for a few hours and the remaining essential oil is filtered.

Enfleurage is the oldest method where essential oils are extracted using the hot or cold method for more fragile flowers like jasmine and rose, this can be done by using a glass frame with a coat of animal fat or fatty oil, the frames are stacked on top of one another and after a few days to weeks the flowers are replaced with new ones, later alcohol is added with the fat and then separated to create essential oil.
Blue tansies are perennial herbs with yellow flowers that resemble a button in shape, the essential oil is dark blue and has a fragrance similar to apple which is great in skin care for delicate and irritated skin and making it look more glowing. It is also used as an insect repellent and to flavour sauces, omelettes and puddings & the Cherokee also used this plant for medicinal uses.
Ylang Ylang also know as the perfume tree is native to tropical Asia and is part of the custard apple family. The leaves are oval and shiny with yellow star shaped flowers which face downwards. Essential oil is pale yellow beige in colour with a custard like fragrance and a dash of jasmine & neroli, used in perfume and aromatherapy.
Jasmine meaning ‘gift from god’ derived from the Persian word Yasanen is popular for its highly scented flowers and is part of the olive family, the flowers are white or pale yellow and grows as a shrub or vine. The essential oil has a sweet exotic floral scent and is used for perfume, aromatherapy, for favouring tea and for religious ceremonies. Other flowers include helichrysun (sweet rich fragrance), bergamont (floral citrus), neroli (sweet spicy floral), rhododendrom (fresh light scent) and yallow (fruity herb).