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Recipes from Mary-Jo Rusu

Keep COOL with herb drinks, ices and foods

Summer's heat can be quenched with simple, fun and delicious local herbs, flowers, fruits and veggies. Whether you are an apartment dweller or have a garden, take some time out to cool down with these easy to make treats!

Be sure to use plants and herbs that have not been sprayed with pesticides and wash all herbs, flowers and plants thoroughly. Note: not all flowers are edible so don't substitute flowers for these recipes.

Download these recipes in a format that is easy to print.

Cucumber Balm Water


2 cups cucumber - cut up in small chunks or slices 3 stems of leafy lemon balm


Cover the cucumbers and lemon balm with water. Soak it in the fridge or a sunny windowsill for 12 hours. Strain the mixture and discard the cukes and lemon balm. You can also add lemon slices, orange slices or mint to this drink.

Watermelon Delight (Smoothie or Chunky Sorbet)


The juice of 1 lemon 4 tablespoons of Canadian Maple Syrup Small watermelon or ½ of a medium-sized watermelon (make sure it is sweet and ripe and remove any large seeds) 12 Basil Leaves - cut leaves into strips with scissors


1. Using a large spoon, scoop large chunks of watermelon out of the shell and place them into the blender.

2. Add cut basil leaves.

3. Add lemon juice and maple syrup.

4. For a smoothie - puree the mixture in the blender. Pour into individual glasses and chill in the fridge. Serve garnished with Basil leaves

5. For a chunky sorbet - use a spoon and mash the watermelon into smaller chunks in the blender. Then use the chop setting for five seconds to create a slushy mix.

6. Place the slushy mix into a covered bowl. Freeze for 2 hours. Remove and mash or scrape into serving bowls garnished with basil.

Ice Herb and Flower Lollie Polar Bear Pops


Cut thin ribbons of lemon, lime or orange peel
3 tablespoons of lavender flowers
3 tablespoons of currants, blueberries or raspberries
3 tablespoons of diced tiny pieces of apricots or peaches
6 -8 popsicle holders *
6 -8 wooden popsicle sticks or skewers with sharp points cut off
12 basil leaves - if they are small leave them whole, if they are large chop finely
2 cups of pineapple juice
2 cups of tender coconut water

*if you can't find popsicle holders, ice cube trays will work too, but use toothpicks as the sticks.


Layer the bottom of each holder with - 2 or three strips of lemon, lime or orange peel - 3 basil leaves or ½ a teaspoon of chopped basil leaves - a few pieces of apricot or peach and - 4 or 5 berries and 4 tiny lavender blooms.

Pour the juice into the holder. Cover with tin foil. Gently insert the popsicle stick. Freeze pops for 4 hours.

Asian Inspired Black Sesame Pesto

A flavorful no dairy, no nut option to be served with hot or cold rice vermicelli or udon thick noodles or used to baste barbecued chicken or fish.


4 tablespoons of oil (olive or sesame)
1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
1 cup of clean, dry basil leaves (try Opal, Thai, Cinnamon and Lemon, too)
2 large cloves of garlic or 4 small garlic cloves chopped
1 teaspoon of maple syrup
¼ cup of roasted black sesame seeds - ground finely
¼ teaspoon of salt
¼ cup of roasted pumpkin seeds - ground finely


1. Place all ingredients in order into the blender and puree.

2. Blend until mixture is smooth and green. Add a little extra oil or water if needed.

3. Place in ice cube trays and freeze. You can also freeze pesto in small sterilized glass or plastic containers. If using jars, cover pesto with oil.

4. Defrost and use within 3 months for best flavor.

Luscious Honey Mint Lavender Dessert Pesto


½ cup of water
1 cup packed Mint leaves and lavender flowers
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 teaspoon of dark honey (buckwheat is best)
3 cups of sliced fresh local fruit: plums, peaches and nectarines, or exotic ripe mangos, pineapples or bananas.


1. Wash and dry herbs. Use kitchen scissors to cut away leaves from stem and then slice the leaves into ribbons.

2. In blender, whiz the mint, lavender flowers, vanilla and water together until combined.

3. Separate sliced fruit into 4 bowls.

4. Drizzle honey over each serving of fruit and top with a tablespoon of dessert pesto and serve.

5. Store unused dessert pesto in fridge for 3 days or freezer for 3 months.