Pansies are one of those simple plants that just keeps on giving. There must be a pansy created for every condition and region of the country. I first became aware of them in Greenville, South Carolina where they bloomed like crazy in the blazing summer heat. In my McKenzie River garden, violas and violets, pansies’ relatives, were the first to poke their tiny purple heads out the early spring snow.
Late this summer, I hastily added a few pansies to fill out a sparse planter in my dooryard garden. Without much effort, they consistently carried on and bloomed with the least amount of care; and still, as winter approaches, pansies remain one of the durable spots of color in my depleted pots.
I tend to go with plants that serve a dual purpose in my garden: I prefer attractive as well as edible varieties. Some are perennials, like herbs, towering garlic onions and nasturtiums. Annual favorites are mesclun blends, petite tomatoes, and climbing baby cucumbers. Weirdly, when it comes to harvesting the pansies I have resisted. I’ve been happy to simply behold their nodding faces in a spectrum of purples, blues, reds and yellows, all perfectly framed by their deep green leaves.
As I headed out this morning, I was alarmed to note that the pot of pansies had diminished to a sad state of drooping heads and withered yellow leaves. It signaled the end of a season. Later in a moment of reflection, I decided to stage my own act of thanksgiving—gratitude for my garden and all the pansies that have given so much joy this year.
Back in the kitchen, I set about creating a special salad featuring the pansies in an end of season tribute. So, here it is, a pre-winter canvas of mixed greens and fresh herbs with a bit of radicchio and shredded carrot for crunch.
The basis of the simple dressing is a mild yet flavorful German mustard blended with a bit of chives and lemon juice all whisked into an emulsion with extra virgin olive oil. Atop the greens, a few dried cherries are scattered with crumbled feta cheese, toasted almonds and walnuts. Finally, a smattering of pansy blossoms and petals grace the plate with their gentle sweetness and color.
A Pre-Winter Salad with Pansies
3-4 organic pansy blossoms
2-3 cups mixed greens with radicchio and shredded carrots
1 tablespoon fresh parsley and/or other herbs
2 tablespoon toasted walnuts and/or almonds
2 tablespoons dried fruit: cherries, blueberries or cranberries
2 tablespoon feta cheese, large crumble
¾ teaspoon German or Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon minced chives
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Pinch salt and pepper
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, to taste
- Rinse and dry fresh pansies and any other available fresh flowers, mixed greens and herbs.
- Toast the nuts.
- Prepare the salad dressing: place mustard in small bowl, add the chives, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and combine well. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to emulsify. Adjust seasoning and set aside.
- In small mixing bowl, place the salad mix, tear the petals from 1 or two blossoms, drizzle with part of the dressing and toss to coat.
- To serve: plate the dressed greens mixture, top with crumbled feta, dried fruit and nuts, and tuck in remaining flowers. Drizzle with a bit more dressing and serve. Yield: 1 serving.