Saturday, June 18, 2016

Little Herbal Umbrellas!

Don't They Just Look Like Little Herbal Umbrellas?
I guess I am a little too focused on my herb garden at the moment.  The leaves of the nasturtiums are starting to look like little herbal umbrellas!  I guess the rain gauge with 2.5 inches of rain in one day has send me over the edge.  The Herbal Husband planted these several weeks ago before I went to England and I didn't know that he put some fertilizer in the planting hole.  Step away from the fertilizer when planting nasturtiums!  He just doesn't think I am right on this point.  He likes those little herbal umbrellas!  Nasturtiums like lean soil so they will produce more flowers!  There are flowers under those umbrellas and the flowers fared pretty well in the downpours we had a couple of days ago.  So maybe The Herbal Husband is a little bit correct!  Don't tell him I said so!
Here are Those Peppery Nasturtium Flowers in Hiding!
 I also noticed that I seem to get more flowers that have black aphids with purchased plants than when we grow our own from seed.  Do you notice that as well?  Please let me know.  Well, we had a spectacularly warm and sunny day here in the 'Burgh!  I have been weeding like crazy!  The Herbal Husband is doing his vegetables in containers now and has relinquished some beds in the back gardens.  I have been trying to get things in shape to plant some herbs with different colors and foliage to make the back pop with interest and color.  I found an article in The Herb Companion has a lot of good information on design and I will share that with you in a later post.  So many posts to write, so little time! Hope you had a great day wherever you may be.  I will talk to you again soon!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

When To Harvest Your Lavender!

Last week or maybe it was earlier this week my herbal friend, Kathleen Gips was talking about harvesting lavender in her Ohio garden.  Brilliant herbal minds think alike.  I was harvesting some of my lavender as well.  Some of her friends were asking when to start.  So I thought I would give you some photos of my 'Hidcote' lavender that is ready to go or not.

This One is OK, But Could Use A Couple of More Days!
This One is Better Than the First One, A Bit More Open!
See Those Brown Calyxes at the Bottom! Perfect!
Flowers Are Open!  Leave for the Bees!
These photos are all (Lavendula angustifolia 'Hidcote').  These harvesting instructions would work for any lavender that is an angustifolia type.  Most angustifolia types start to bloom in my area in early June.  Although this year, I think they were just a bit earlier and started in late May.  I remember when I first started my herbal journey and I was just learning, I cut my lavender when the buds were fully closed.  The stems were fragrant, but I did not get any of the purple buds which is what you want if you are going to use lavender for teas, cooking, potpourris, etc.  The last photo with the flowers open does not dry well.  The flowers collapse and turn black or brown.  What makes it more difficult to judge is the weather, if it is too rainy, too cool, you will have to wait, and if you wait too long, the flowers will open, but the benefit is to the bees.  So I suppose the morale to this story is be patient, but watch the weather and be ready to make sure you get the most out of your lavender harvest!

We are having a soggy day today.  Have been very busy trying to get beds weeded and I may have to just dig some beds up and start again!  Oh, wait that means more herbal retail experiences for me!  Hope you are having a great day wherever you may be!  Talk to you again soon.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Herb Garden Chores-Cutting Chive Blossoms and Other Herbs!

Spent Chive Blossoms Need To Be Cut!
Well, I am going to be blogging sporadically at best.  The weeds have overgrown everything.  The chives which were just starting to bloom when I left; now the majority of them are over.  If you do cut back the spent chive blossoms, you may be rewarded with new blossoms.  Already some of my chives have been trying to produce new ones!  I also cut back both of my salad burnets that had flowered very early because of the unusually warm days here.  So starts the trimming and harvesting in the herb garden.  Maybe a bit early this year but something to look forward to every season.  I also cut some lavender that was ready.  I'll show you that in the next post.  What are you trimming or harvesting in your herb garden?  A very pleasant day here in the 'Burgh.  Hope you are enjoying time in your herb garden.  I will talk to you again soon.  

Sunday, June 5, 2016

I Got on a Double Decker and Almost Didn't Come Home!

Big Ben in View from the Top!
Well, I guess you have guessed where I have been.  Some of my blogging friends have guessed.  I had to get away to the Chelsea Flower Show because my dear herbal friend, Jekka had her first show garden.  It had her name all over it and won a Silver Gilt Metal!  I gave her a card that said Kick Ass on the outside and I said on the inside Oh, wait, you already have kicked ass!  She was very pleased with the outcome and I will share my photos of the show in a later post.  I spent an afternoon at Sissinghurst in the rain!  I took a class on digestive issues and herbs at the Chelsea Physic Garden.  Went to the Cambridge Botanic Garden and Oxford's as well.  I also got to spend a tiny bit of time with my English herbal companion, Gloria.  Always a joy to be with her.  But it is just a joy to be able to spend time in my beloved England.  I was celebrating the 50th (yes, 50th) anniversary of my first visit to England.  I remember sitting next to an English man on the plane over who taught me all about the different coins of currency.  I loved his accent.  And I will never forget pushing the bell for the butler at the Grosvenor House Hotel and ordering breakfast.  I was a lucky girl then and I am a lucky woman now.  Thank you to The Herbal Husband for tolerating my absence.

With apologies for not writing a lot lately, I am back and not a moment too soon!  We have not had the rain as Texas may have had, but my goodness, the herb garden is a crazy wild blooming mass of plants!  I almost missed its flamboyance, herbally speaking!  As you can see by the back gardens, I have lots of weeding to do, but the English are making more space into wilderness!  Maybe I can go with that story!  Once things are weeded, I really want to go with plants that will bring as many beneficials as possible.  So I have a bit of work to do and I promise that I will sprinkle my English adventures into the mix.  Speaking of rain, we are still getting showers here.  It is soggy and some herbs are tolerating it and others not so much.  Maybe that's what I will discuss next time.  Talk to you later.

The English Are Doing More Wilderness Areas!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Celebrating the 2016 Herb of the Year, Capsicum! Well Almost!

My Favorite Pepper Mill from Penzey's!
It has pepper in its name, but it isn't quite what is being celebrated.  A couple of readers have asked about growing peppercorns, one who lives in Florida and one who lives in Vermont.  And silly me thought it was perfect because the 2016 Herb of the Year is pepper.  Well, not really pepper.  It is capsicum, the true pepper.

Pepper was prominent in the ancient world and was a source of fabulous wealth during the medieval and colonial spice trade.  Pepper provided the pungency of Indian food until it was partially replaced by chilli peppers from the New World.  It remains the most important and popular of all spices in overall value and trade volume.  Peppercorns are from the genus Piper which has a very large number of species, but only P. nigrum has any importance as a spice.  Black pepper is native to the Indian equatorial and tropical forest regions, especially along the Malabar Coast (South India).  Besides India, it is cultivated in Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil and China.

The plant is a climber, with stems that have green oval to heart-shaped leaves, 3 to 7 inches long and adventitious (meaning they are formed accidentally) roots anchoring it to the ground.  It has inconspicuous flowers.  The fruit or peppercorn is a berry like drupe about 3/16 inches in diameter.  They are green when they are unripe and then red.  Plants are propagated from seed or cuttings.  The developing seedlings need to be staked and are kept low so that growth is horizontal.  In their native lands they can grow to 20 feet.

Production begins 5 years after planting.  The spikes of fruit are harvested before they mature so as not to lose the fruits.  The spice that is obtained from the fruits is made up of black, white and green pepper.  Black pepper comes from whole fruits picked just before they are completely ripe and are briefly cooked.  White pepper from ripe fruit with the endocarp (the inner most membrane surrounding a seed in the fruit) of the pulp separated from fermentation.  Green pepper are made by pickling the unripe fruit to keep them from darkening.

Ground pepper quickly loses its aroma, so that ideally it is stored whole.  The spice has stimulant, digestive and eupeptic (good digestion) qualities.  Black pepper is used in practically all savory dishes and even in sweet ones.  When I was at the Spice Festival at Kew Gardens last fall, a chef combined strawberries with black pepper.  They were delicious.  Because I am into jam and jelly making, here is a  strawberry and black pepper jam recipe! May have to substitute raspberries instead!

The pungent principle is piperine (only 1% as hot as capsaicin from chili peppers).  White pepper is more pungent and has musty flavors resulting from the fermentation process.  The peppery aroma is due to rotundone, a compound also found in Shiraz wine.

So the real question is can Florida or Vermont grow peppercorns?  My guess is that Florida has a better chance than Vermont just by location.  I did find a post from my friend, Jim Long's blog about growing peppercorns from plants he purchased in Florida!  It is called Growing Black Pepper.  Hopefully his tips will be helpful to Linda in Florida.  I would just say to my Vermont reader, Bev, buy the best quality peppercorns and use a pepper grinder to get the best flavor.  I would also mention buying in bulk is not always the best way to buy spices.  Even though it may be more expensive, the spices will be used up in a timely fashion.  If you have a favorite spice company, please share it.  I buy a lot of spices from Penzeys Spices.  Hope you are having a great day wherever you may be.  A gloomy day here in the 'Burgh.  Talk to you later.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Forgot I Was Supposed to Start Blogging!

Finished Cross Stitch for The Herbal Husband
Front Facade with New Windows!
Two Windows in the Front of the Living Room!
Two Back Windows in the Living Room!
And The View Out of the Back Window of the Living Room!
Sorry I have been very preoccupied with this windows project.  We started in February with the waterfall in the front living room window and we just finished last Friday getting the living room and dining room windows replaced!  We have moved our collections around four times!  I had forgotten what true exhaustion feels like!  We are slowly getting boxes unpacked and I was hoping to move things around a bit!  The Herbal Husband wants it just like it was!  After 27 years of living here, we had/have a lot of stuff!  My house has never been this clean!  Even when we moved in.  I guess that is a good thing!  A couple of readers have asked about growing peppercorns and I am still going to do that post. Hopefully this week.  Oh, and that top photo is of the finished framed cross-stitch to celebrate the 24th year of The Herbal Husband's becoming a US citizen!

Also I had a request from a reader who owns an herb farm in Connecticut to highlight her business.  So here you go Pat Bramley who owns Buck Mountain Herbs.  Hopefully some day I will get up to see her operations.  She had seen my lists that I did for Mother Earth Living and wanted to be added.  If there are others who would like a mention here, I would be glad to do it!  I just can't add your business to the list on Mother Earth Living!  It has been a beautiful day here in the 'Burgh! We have been indoors unpacking!  Hope you have enjoyed the day wherever you may be!  Talk to you later this week!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Angelica Rising and Dust Too!

A Hedge of Angelica!
I just love big herbs that take up space and look good at the same time!  Angelica is one of my favorites in that category.  And this year they are going to be spectacular, herbally speaking!  They have stood up very well to the colder nights we have been having.  I keep saying this but I think we have turned the corner and I don't think we are going to have another frost night until the fall.  Fingers crossed!

One of my early posts when I started to blog was called The Year of Angelica.  Click on the link and find a recipe for crystallized angelica from one of my favorite herbal authors, Bertha Reppert.  Here is an additional link in 2010 talking about the sweet smell of the Angelica blossoms called The Sweet Smell of Angelica!   I also talked about purple angelica or Korean angelica (Angelica gigas) and here is a link to that post called Purple Angelica again from early in my blogging lifeYou can find it in the Well Sweep Herb Farm catalog.  I am definitely going to get another one or two.  They are really a very pretty plant.  Is there a particular big herb in your herb garden that you look forward to seeing every spring?  Please tell me about it. 

Still moving boxes and dust around!  By the end of next week, we will be done with the windows project.  Just exhausted by the whole thing!  The Herbal Husband keeps saying we have enough boxed up, we could just move!  He loves to kid around, but this has made us think about lessening the extra clutter.  We will see how that moves forward.  We are expecting rain later.  Hope you are having a great day.  Back to moving that dust.  Oh before I go, Linda G. has asked that I write a post on growing peppercorns and since capsicum is the 2016 herb of the year, I guess I need to start talking about it!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Sage Plant with a Purpose!

Just Love My Sages!
You may not be able to see it, but this sage plant came from the dead!  It is almost like a branch got layered in the ground and came back to life!  I was thinking that I had lost two beautiful multiyear sage plants last season.  I did lose one, but this one wanted to live!  I do love my sages and I would be Sage Lady if the name hadn't been taken.  We had a cold night last night, but everything looks like it survived.  Going to spend the day in the garden doing more cleanup.  It is going to be a sunny and warm day here.  Let me know what's going on your herb garden.  Talk to you again soon.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Starting Again with Hope, Herbally Speaking!

Each year I go out in the herb garden with hope.  The 'Burgh had a very mild winter and the herbs I had hoped would come back have not.  There have been some exceptions.
We have been working hard indoors to get things put away from the first windows install.  Round two is in early May.  So we gave ourselves a treat and did a bit of cleanup in the herb garden.  I am hopeful that some of the annuals like the calendulas and summer savory have reseeded.  No signs yet, but there's hope.  The horehound is looking beautiful and the agastache is coming back which I seem to kill every season.  So hopefully there will be more hope to come.  It has been a beautiful day in the 'Burgh!  Hope you are having a great day!  Talk to you soon!
An Empty Space to Add Herbs and Flowers!