This week brought the first good rain of the season. I was woken up at 3 a.m. on Tuesday morning to a spattering of raindrops against my bedroom window and a cold wind whipping up the coastal ridge and through my open window. With the rain comes the inevitable inconveniences of fall - the sliding rocks, muddy roads, power outages, downed trees and other events that make us slow down and remember that Big Sur is further from town than we sometimes think. The rain also signals a change in season and the promise of new and exciting ingredients. Hillsides that have been covered in dry - golden grass will soon be bright with new growth, tiny chanterelles will begin growing from spores hidden below fallen oak leaves and wild watercress will flourish in seasonal streams. When the sun had finally risen, I looked out my window to see a beautiful yucca in full bloom.
Yucca is a temperamental plant, only blooming sporadically under ideal conditions. They require just the right amount of warmth, coupled with a good rain and a well-timed hatching of yucca moths to pollinate the flowers. For these reasons you cannot predict when or if these mysterious plants will produce blossoms. The yucca blossom is in fact so rare, that while it is the state flower of New Mexico, where I was raised, I don’t ever remember seeing them flower. This was a great way to start my day - and I took a moment to enjoy the majestic plant framed by the coastal sunrise.....before getting a machete and hacking it off. What can I say - I’m a chef, not a florist, and this rare flower was destined for the kitchen.
The beautiful white blossoms are similar in flavor and texture to Belgian endive and lend themselves to being marinated, sautéed or quickly fried in a lite tempura batter. I created a lunch special with sautéed yucca petals and tempura yucca blossoms accompanying seared rare tuna. The rest of the blossoms are going to be pickled this evening and used later in the month. This week I hope to make a drive down the arid south coast to see if other plants are in bloom.