Question: I am very allergic to monosodium glutamate (MSG). Can you tell me where I can find a source for information on MSG-free foods? Many food companies use MSG in some of their products, but not others. It really slows down shopping to have to read every label. Any help you can give me will be greatly appreciated.
Answer: Lisa Leffert of the Center for Science in the Public Interest suggests the book "In Bad Taste--the MSG Syndrome: How Living Without MSG Can Reduce Headache, Arthritis, Depression & Asthma, & Help You Get Control of Your Life" (Health Press, 1988: $12.95) by George R. Schwartz.
Q: Where may I obtain information on drying fruit? I would like to try drying some of the season's surplus.
A: Free materials are available from the Common Ground Garden Program, 2615 S. Grand Ave., Suite 400, Los Angeles 90007. They include information on choosing or building a dehydrator, as well as on dehydrator drying, sun drying and oven drying of foods. A University of California catalogue listing additional materials for purchase is available from the same address.
Q: I've heard you can make crystallized violets? Is this true?
A: "Any kind of violets, wild or from the garden, may be candied," according to authors Helen Witty and Elizabeth Schneider Colchie in "Better Than Store Bought" (Harper & Row, 1979).
They note that scented violets taste the best but that any will turn out attractive. Here's an adaptation of their recipe:
Freshly picked violets, stems attached
1 egg white, at room temperature
Few drops water, optional
Extra-fine granulated sugar
Wash violets only if dusty. Allow to dry.
Beat egg white in saucer until foamy. If necessary, add few drops water to make egg white more spreadable.
Holding each violet by stem, dip in egg white. Place flower on clean saucer and carefully spread egg white on every surface with small brush, using skewer to open petals.
Transfer flower to third saucer of sugar and again using skewer to hold petals open, carefully sprinkle every surface with sugar. Arrange flower on wire rack covered with wax paper. Use skewer to place petals in natural position and sprinkle with more sugar if surface is disturbed. Clip stem off with scissors.
Continue procedure until all flowers are coated. Set rack in warm, dry place, such as oven heated by pilot light, and allow flowers to dry.
When partially dry, transfer flowers to wire rack not covered with wax paper and continue to dry, if necessary for several days, until dry throughout, checking to be certain green base of bloom and heart of flower are completely without moisture.
Store in layers, flowers separated and covered by soft paper, in cardboard box. Flowers will keep indefinitely if stored in dry place.