Helen Chesnut’s Garden Notes: Frozen fruit puree makes superbly refreshing sorbet

It was something so simple, so easy. Why hadn’t I thought of it before?

I was putting together my favourite breakfast — a boiled egg and a piece of toast — when I realized I had no jam for the toast in the fridge. “Jam” in my house is a minimally or not at all sweetened fruit sauce made from the garden’s fruits and berries. I cook the fruit with a small amount of water, fresh lemon juice, honey or sugar if it’s needed, and sometimes a complementary flavouring.

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When the sauce is cooked down to a desired thickness, I turn it into a puree using an immersion blender. Once cooled, it is frozen in 500 mL sour cream and yoghurt tubs.

Back to the breakfast lacking jam for the toast: I retrieved a tub of frozen plum and apple puree I’d flavoured with grated ginger root and chopped candied ginger, and shaved out a small amount to thaw for the toast.

In doing that, I sampled a shaving of the icy fruit concoction and was struck by how delectable it was. I had in my hands a delicious “sorbet,” an instant dessert left long unrecognized in the freezer. It was far tastier, and more superbly refreshing, in its frozen state than it is thawed and used for jam.

Sorbet is simply frozen fruit juice or puree and sweetener, with optional flavourigs. Unlike “sherbet,” sorbet contains no cream or other dairy products.

I plan to use my newly found stash of sorbets as dessert, but they once had a different use. I remember a long-ago family birthday dinner at the Empress Hotel. Between courses, small dishes of sorbet were served to cleanse and re-set the palate. The clean, crisp, unobtrusive flavours were perfect for that intent.

Remembering the decades-old dinner scene takes me back to what feels now like a different world, in a different age, when it was possible, without being absurdly wealthy, to live at a slower pace, and with some grace.

I’ll remember that dinner each time I savour, slowly, the refreshing taste of sorbet made from fruits and berries I have grown.

Floral celebration. I promised myself this year to cut flowers for the house more often. Small arrangements of colourful or fragrant blooms by the kitchen sink and on the windowsill above the sink bring special pleasure.

A favourite is bright orange calendula. I have a patch of the plants that provides cut flowers close to year-round.

Peonies are beautiful cut flowers. A double-flowered pink peony blooms in my garden beside and at the same time as red valerian (Centranthus ruber). They combine well in arrangements. Since late May, a slender vase beside the sink has held a few deep red Don Juan roses. The beauty and fragrance of these and other flowers adds significantly to the pleasure I find in cooking.

Slither. I don’t like being surprised by snakes. They are not my favourite creatures. Perhaps it’s the slithering. Perhaps it’s childhood memories of being chased by nasty neighbourhood boys, snakes dangling from their hands.

My snake phobia was well known in the family. One day, back when the children were young, I was emptying a basket of pulled weeds into a wire-enclosed compost heap when a snake shot out the side with a slug in its mouth. I screamed. From inside the house I heard the children singing, “Mommy’s seen a snaa-ayke.”

From a gardener’s point of view, snakes are an asset, as voracious slug predators. I should be glad that there have been more snakes than usual in the garden this year. Some are in a rock pile in a warm, sunny corner of the back garden. And they’ve been residing in the compost heaps.

A few weeks ago I was emptying an enclosure of “finished” compost for spreading over vegetable plots. A patch of hardy geranium had established itself at the back of the enclosure. A large snake had used the plants as cozy cover. Even after I carefully lifted out the geraniums to give away, the snake would not budge. I had to gently urge it along to the neighbouring compost enclosure. Now, almost every time I lift a cover off a heap I find a snake.

I’ll never be fond of the slithery creatures, but they are to be accepted as part of the garden’s ecosystem and its natural cycle of life and death.

hchesnut@bcsupernet.com

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