Friday, July 24, 2009

Sunshine Farm Sombrero

Mainers consume more Allen's Coffee Flavored Brandy than the residents of any other state (including Massachusetts, where it's made). So it's a good mixer to have on hand for the sweet coffee flavor it imparts to a host of drinks. Here in the Pine Tree State, the Allen's cocktail of choice is the sombrero, mixed from equal parts Allen's and cow's milk.

During a recent party at Sunshine Farm, we gave the classic a new dairy-free twist. It happened because my parents don't keep cow's milk in the house. So when a guest asked me for milk to mix with Allens, I offered up hemp or rice milk. Hemp proved best and the Sunshine Farm Sombrero was born.

Just last week, I picked up a half pint of the tasty and budget-friendly Allen's to use in this photo shoot for the cover of The Maine Switch. After photographer Shawn Patrick Ouellette worked his magic, I took the Allen's home and mixed two Sunshine Farm Sombreros.

The tall, cool drink is perfect on a muggy day, when the icy liquid envelopes and cools. A slightly creamy texture makes it reminiscent of a coffee milkshake. And on a recent (and this summer all too rare) hot summer night it proved a welcome refreshment to enjoy in the shady confines of my downtown courtyard.

Sunshine Farm Sombrero

3 oz. Allen's Coffee Flavored Brandy
5 oz. hemp milk

Shake and pour over ice. Serve. Sip. Relax. It's that simple.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wild red clover harvest

Yesterday I was talking with Sarah Richards - Portland's go-to herbalist who runs Homegrown Herb & Tea - and learned that we're in the midst of a worldwide shortage of dried red clover. Sarah says it will be months before she can get another shipment.

Good thing Maine is blessed with an abundance of this useful plant growing wild in fields and ditches.

I snapped these photos while I was up at Sunshine Farm for the Fourth of July weekend. After most of the guests left, I helped my mother gather a basket of red clover blossoms from where they grow wild on the front lawn. The pretty blooms can be used to top salads, but we were interested in drying them for storage.

Long grown as an agricultural crop, this nonnative legume has naturalized itself in North America. Farmers prize the crop for its ability to add nitrogen to the soil without using chemical fertilizers. It's harvested for both hay and silage.

My mother placed the freshly picked blooms on a cloth-lined basket to dry. She harvests and dries them throughout the summer and gathers enough to last her until the following spring.

Mixed as a tea, most often with other herbs, the dried blooms are used to treat a variety of problems, including respiratory issues, prostate problems, menopausal symptoms, PMS, high cholesterol, cancer and inflammation. Used topically, red clover soothes skin conditions including psoriasis and eczema. The blooms contain high levels of isoflavones (plant estrogens), and as a result are best avoided by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Dried red clover also contains significant amounts of calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine and vitamin C and is often used as a dietary supplement and a tasty way to ward off osteoporosis.

Not bad for a plant often mowed down as a weed.