Cheers to the official first days of summer! This week, here in the Vintage Kitchen we celebrated our own set of happy firsts too. The first volunteer sunflower of the season bloomed on the balcony just at the very same time that a sunflower re-bloomed on the blog. The balcony blossom was planted courtesy of Paul and Julia, our resident mourning doves.
The blog blossom was plucked by the editor of a Canadian poetry journal who discovered the Vintage Kitchen archives through a 2012 post about growing red sunflowers. That blast from the past featured this particular homegrown delight…
Both sightings added unexpected sparkle to the week, but the blog blossom brought along an extra something special. It was selected to appear alongside a beautiful poem entitled Black SunFlower written by Redgina Jean-Paul. The two were published in the Juniper Poetry Journal on Tuesday…
by Redgina Jean-Paul
And I wish I could
turn it off
stop the train
Track my thoughts,
pull them back,
Free to choose,
I want it to
End. I do. I want
— from Juniper Volume 5, Issue 1
With her remarkable way of illustrating longing and need, Redgina’s poem is quite a lovely collection of words. Even though there is always a sense of poetic movement and association when it comes to cooking in the Vintage Kitchen, it is not often that an actual poem comes home to roost among the pots and the pans and the foodstuffs collected on the counter. So it is with great pleasure that I have the opportunity to introduce a real-life poet who added beauty to the week with her turns of phrase.
To highlight the dramatic tone of Redgina’s poem, the editors of the poetry journal added a filter to the 2012 sunflower photograph so that when it was published in Juniper this week, the garden glory looked like this…
Side by side, picture with words, the two tell a little story…
If you are a long-time reader of the blog, you’ll have noticed that sunflowers pop up on a regular occasion around here. Idyllic companions in the kitchen garden, I love them especially for their sunny dispositions and their continuously cheerful color.
Cultivated by indigenous tribes in Arizona and New Mexico long before explorers ever set foot on North American soil, sunflowers have been brightening up our landscape for over four centuries. Not only are they a fantastic food source for bees, birds and people but they also offer lots of possibility for creative gardenscapes too.
Tall enough to offer shade to smaller plants, sturdy enough to act as borders for visual interest, and easy enough to grow in almost any type of soil, sunflowers are equally at home both in the city and the country. In our neighborhood, this city cottage grows them so tall every year they almost reach the roof…
And the birds help spread their seeds in empty city lots. Each summer, it is fun to walk around town and spot their handiwork…
The 20th century Rutgers University gardening professor, Victor Tiedjens believed that sunflowers were such a common sight and essential component in gardens, it was practically impossible to think of them as merely a decorative flower.
Every part of the plant contains additional uses. The stalks, thanks to their fibrous composition, can be used to make a wide variety of useful products like trellises, instruments and utensils. The flower heads can be sauteed or grilled with butter, olive oil, and garlic in their immature stage, where depending on preparation methods, can taste similar to artichokes or corn on the cob. And the seeds can be consumed in their natural state or processed for their oil.
When it comes to the red varieties, it wasn’t until I started doing my own gardening about 20 years ago, that I discovered the dynamic array of shades of the red sunflower varieties. Ranging from rust to almost-black, I became so smitten with them in 2012, that I ordered seed packages of all the red varieties that I could find online and then planted them all over the garden. Two months later a few hundred bloomed! These are some of the photos from that magical summer…
That was back when I lived in another state on a lovely rural farm with cows for neighbors and my favorite camera always in hand. After some time spent in this country setting, we moved to the city and sadly, my camera died an untimely death a couple of years later. Our last big photo adventure together was a trip to Seattle where I was trying to track down my great-grandmother’s doughnut shop (read about that adventure here). But I am happy to still have the sunflower photos and the memories of those colorful patches of red faces dancing on the breeze. They added quite a bit of drama to the garden in 2012, and it’s nice to see that they are now adding a little drama to the field of poetry too.
If you have some extra time this weekend, pop over to Juniper and get lost in some modern poetry. You might just discover some new favorites of your own. And if you like Redgina’s poem as much as we did, please share it with your friends and family. The poets at Juniper do not get paid for their work when it is published, so their efforts are a true labor of love and self-expression. Around here, we think the world definitely needs more poets. And sunflowers too for that matter.
If you are looking to grow your own sunflowers, I recommend seeds from Botanical Interests. They are not a sponsor of the blog or affiliated with the Vintage Kitchen in any way, other than being my most favorite seed company. That is a love affair that has been going for over 10 years now! Their seeds always have a great success rate, they offer many heirloom varieties and the packages are really pretty and informative too. Browse their sunflower collection here.
Cheers to Redgina and to Juniper, to Paul, and to Julia for planting seeds of joy and inspiration. And to the sunflowers who remind us to keep our faces pointed towards the light each and every day. Hope your weekend is a sunny one!