Monday, January 26, 2015

A Layer of Snow in the Herb Garden!

Finally, Some Snow for Insulation!
We have had a really up and down winter this season.  Some days very cold and some cool or warm for the season.  We were very low on snow which you may think would be a plus and on most days it is.  If you have a bit of snow though, it is likely that most herbs will be protected and you will have a chance of getting them through the winter.  We have about four inches on the ground with a little more to come.  It also looks like we are going to have one clipper from Canada after another for several days.  So can't crow too much about no snow!  Looks like we are going to have snow cover for awhile. 

We only have about eight weeks until the end of March!  Been looking through the seed catalogs and doing some reading about savory and stitching some projects.  A busy time even without the herb garden.  Hope you are enjoying your break!  Will talk more about savory for my next post.  Hope you are having a great day.  Talk to you later.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Twenty Days In And Celebrating the 2015 Herb of the Year, Savory, All of Them!

The First Book I Read About Savory 20 Days Ago!
Oh, maybe not ALL of them in this one post!  Well, I really have been reading most days about savory since January 1.  I just haven't been talking about it with you.  So here goes.  The first book that I pulled out of one of my book cases was Exotic Herbs by Carole Saville.  As most of you know, I am an herb plant collector and love the different and exotic herbs, just not the ordinary ones.  So I just thought I would do the same idea that I had for my favorite, lemon verbena that is to pick out a book look in the index and read the pages about savory.

Of course, with this first book, Carole Saville doesn't really talk about the two savorys you are thinking about, summer or winter.  Her focus is about Pink Savory (Satureja thymbra).  It is definitely a tender perennial (Zones 8-9) for us in the northern part of the U.S.  It is native to Sardinia, Greece, Crete and the eastern Mediterranean.

It grows to about one foot tall.  It is very flavorful despite its size and its flavor is hotter than summer savory with oregano accents.  It grows on dry, stony hillsides in its native countries.  Ms. Saville says "Pink savory was known to the seventeenth century herbalists, Gerard and Parkinson, who called it Wild Time of Candy.  "Time" being thyme and "candy" the then name for the island of Crete."  Other common names are goat thyme and Roman, Greek and European hyssop.

It is found in herb nursery catalogs as pink savory or barrel sweetener, because in Crete a strong infusion of savory was used to cleanse and refresh wine barrels in the fall in preparation for a new wine.

Growing pink savory is the tricky bit coming from clay, wet soils.  Pink savory likes it dry, average to alkaline soil, full sun and excellent drainage.  I see a rock garden in my future.  But even having said that pink savory for me would have to be in a pot at the very least or dug up in the fall to be taken inside.  Cut back tip growth to keep a neat appearance.  Pink savory is perfect for a bed of Mediterranean herbs such as thymes and oreganos and sages.  Hope you will consider growing some pink savory in your herb garden this year.  I can see that my savory mail order from Well Sweep Herb Farm has increased by one!

I really realized with this herb of the year that I have not provided too much information and some of it is incorrect.  Oops!  Already corrected what was incorrect.  Winter savory is not even on my list of perennial herbs!   Have grown it over the years, but have learned that summer savory does self seed sometimes and winter savory is only good as long as the winter is not too cold and we had a terrible one last year.  The bottom line is that my photo catalog of savory is minimal!  So I may be taking a lot of book covers until the growing season gets started again.

BTW, your local nursery may not have pink savory or summer or winter for that matter.  Here are some of my favorite herb nurseries that still do mail order.  Well Sweep Herb Farm in New Jersey (link above), Sandy Mush Herb Nursery in North Carolina (First $100 I spent was on herbs from Sandy Mush.), Richters Herbs in Ontario, Canada (Yes, you can get plants back with the right paperwork from Canada.).  Two of my favorite places to buy herbs in Ohio are Mulberry Creek Herb Farm in Huron, Ohio and Beech Creek Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve in Alliance, Ohio.  All of the above-mentioned nurseries are passionate about herbs.  So please check them out.  Locally in the Pittsburgh area check out McTighe's Garden Center on Route 8, North Hills that sell a lot of unusual herbs from Sal Gilberte in Connecticut and Trax Farm in the South Hills among others in the area.  Please share your favorite place to buy herbs.

Took me awhile to put this together.  So getting back into an herbal rhythm may be difficult, but just nudge me if you don't hear from me for a while.  We had a touch of wet snow but it's January!  Hope you are having a great day wherever you may be.  Talk to you later. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Year in Review 2014, Herbally Speaking!


January 2014!  What a Winter!
Got a Lot of Tea Blends Made!

Sweet Basil Doing Well on a Cold Windowsill
Chives Popping Up Late February!
My Favorite, Lemon Verbena Needs a Trim-Late March!
Found My Theme for 2014-Lemon and Some Lime!
Mature Lavenders Didn't Fare So Well!
Scented Geranium and Lemon Verbenas Are Doing Well!
Always Excited Buying Herbs for the Garden!
Got Some Interesting Lemon Herbs from Well-Sweep and Carolee
The Herb Garden in Late May

The Only Low Was Downy Mildew on the Sweet Basil!

Healthy Seedlings One Minute And

Diseased and Dying the Next!
A Bright Spot Despite the Stink Bugs Was the Raspberry Crop!  A Record!
Still Picking Raspberries-November 4
Lots of Beneficials Including Some Preying Mantids-July
Preying Mantis in October
My Favorite Edible Rose-Rosa Rugosa 'Alba'
'Brother Cadfael' Rose
Swallowtail Tail Butterfly on Sunflower
Finches on Sunflower
Not Much Lavender in Bloom This Year!
One of My Favorites in July-Bee Balm
Borage for the Bees
Calendula--An Herbal Workhorse in the Herb Garden
Pineapple Sage in Full Bloom in November!
Always Have to Have Nasturtiums-a Peruvian Connection!
First of Two Hundred Plus Figs in Two Containers!
My Favorite Attracting Beneficials
Here Are Cocoons of Parasitic Wasps on Lemon Verbena!
Sweet Annie Wreath Celebrating the Herb of the Year 2014-Artemisia!
Making Cinnamon Basil Jelly
Tomato Sauce Ready to be Canned!
Indoor Herbs Getting a Sunbathe Before Going Inside for Winter!
Already Thinking About Next Year's Garden!
Except for the Cold Temperature, It Doesn't Seem Like Winter!
Decided to do one more post before the year comes to an end.  For the most part 2014 was a great year.  The winter was very cold and snowy, but herbs survived that I never thought would and others that had made it for years, were gone.  

Figs and raspberries were the champions this year.  We had over 200 figs in two container plants and I made 144 jars of raspberry jam.  Both records.  You can see my favorite herbal flowers in bloom.  

The one tragedy is that the sweet basil in the garden got downy mildew.  As you can see inside, sweet basil survives and does well.  Soo we may have to grow sweet basil indoors until they can find a true sweet basil that is resistant to downy mildew outside in the garden.

Beneficial insects continue to be a joy.  Now if we can breed enough preying mantids to control the stink bug population, we will have succeeded.  Stink bugs were significantly worse on the fruit then herbs.  I continue to have four-lined plant bug issues.  I will talk about the lemon and lime themed herb garden in 2015.  I think it was a success.  We have several of the plants indoors.  I will try to talk about each of them in depth in the coming weeks.

As you can see in the last photo, we are snowless.  I think less than .2 of an inch of snow for the month.  Very unusual!  It has been cold off and on, but we are very cold today.  Hope you are enjoying new year's celebrations wherever you may be.  I'm blessed to still be blogging and writing for you my readers!  The happiest and healthiest of New Year's 2015 to you all.  I will continue to be here whenever you have an herbal issue.  The joy and magic of herbs will continue to fuel me for my lifetime and I hope to be sharing my joy with you!  Talk to you next year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Last Celebration of the 2014 Herb of the Year-Artemisia--Possible Cocktails for the New Year!

Artemisia absinthium  Image Provided by Fine Gardening
I don't drink because of my GERD.  I do have a toast occasionally and would actually like to try absinthe some day.  Have seen several different movies where absinthe was a focal point.  Absinthe is a bit expensive and possibly not the easiest to obtain, but I thought since New Year's Eve is tomorrow night, you could splurge and try it.  As with all alcohol, please be moderate with your drinking and never drink and drive.  This is my sixth post about the 2014 Herb of the Year, Artemisia. 

I'm going to talk about Artemisia absinthium or true wormwood in this post.  It is a gray shrub-like herb that grows from two to four feet tall.  It needs sun, but will grow in partial shade.  It is a native of Europe and one of the great plants of the past because of its medicinal uses.  It is an ingredient in Absorbine, Jr.  In Dioscorides' time wormwood was declared to be a preventive for intoxication.  The word wormwood was a synonym for bitterness.  Dr. W.T. Fernie (A favorite of Debs Cook) said "It keepeth clothes from moths and wormes."

Here is an article by Fine Gardening magazine about its growing habits and that it is on the list on invasive.org's website.  The artemisia that is used to produce absinthe which is an anise and wormwood flavored distilled spirit is made from aniseed, fennel and wormwood.  I found that there is a Wormwood Society and their website is full of great information concerning absinthe.  Click under the Frequently Asked Questions and you will have all you need to know.  Also, the Society's website has a cocktail section at the top of the home page.  I found an Epicurious.com link called the Top 5 Absinthe Cocktails which may peak your interest.  Wanted to add just one more link to my friend, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh's blog, Backyard Patch Herbal Blog and her last post of 2014 on Mugwort - Herb of the Week.  Always learning from other bloggers!  She really has a ton of information plus great herbal recipes of all types!

Wanted to mention a great resource book about each herb of the year produced by the International Herb Association.  This year's book on Artemisia has lots of great information and recipes.  You can also find the 2015 IHA Herbal Calendar as well.

Artemisia Herb of the Year 2014
Well, that's all I have for this year.  Hope you have a very special New Year's Eve and I'll see you in the new year for the 2015 Herb of the Year, Savory.  Cold here going to get colder, but still no snow!  Talk to you next year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Celebration of the 2014 Herb of the Year-Artemisia-A Tarragon Recipe or Several!

The Only Culinary Artemisia--French Tarragon!
I should have probably been talking about the only culinary artemisia, French tarragon throughout the year!  Sometimes it just doesn't happen.  I found a lovely article on Mother Earth Living's website from an article first published by The Herb Companion called A Taste for Tarragon by Carolyn Dille.  It has lots of recipes using French tarragon.  I also found a very good article from another favorite magazine, Kitchen Gardener called French Tarragon.  This article has a lot of growing, cultivating and propagating techniques as well as a recipe for Tarragon Cream Cheese.  Maybe just in time for the holidays! Sadly both Herb Companion and Kitchen Gardener are gone from the newsstands but their voices live on in digital format!

Remember French tarragon is not grown from seed.  If you find a packet of seeds marked tarragon, they are going to be Russian tarragon whose flavor cannot compare to French tarragon.  Here are several recipes for chicken and tarragon.  I have not tried them yet.  I thought we could try them together.  This first one is from the Herbal Kitchen by Jerry Traunfeld.

Tarragon Chicken Breasts with Buttered Leeks
Four Servings

2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts only (1 large or 2 small)
2 cups chicken broth
4 T. unsalted butter
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, about 1-1/2 pounds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 t. fresh lemon juice
2 T. coarsely chopped tarragon (If you do not have fresh tarragon in your garden, you can buy it in most grocery stores in the produce department.  If you made tarragon vinegar, you can use the tarragon as you would fresh as well.)

Put the leeks in a large skillet with the chicken broth and 2 T. of the butter.  Cook them at a gentle boil over medium heat until they are tender and the broth has boiled down far enough that the leeks are no longer completely submerged.  This should take about 8 minutes.

Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  Place them on top of the simmering leeks, spoon some of the leeks over the chicken and cover the pan tightly.

Reduce the heat to low.  In 10 minutes test the chicken for doneness.  It should feel firm when you press on it and if you cut a slit into the thickest part of a breast, there should be no sign of translucence.  If the breast pieces are large, it could take as much as 15 minutes, but don't overcook them.

When the chicken is done, lift the pieces from the leeks and put them on a warm platter.  Increase the heat under the leeks to high and stir in the lemon juice, the remaining 2 T. butter and the tarragon.  When the butter melts, taste the sauce and add salt and pepper if you think it needs it.  Pour the leek sauce over the chicken and serve.

This second recipe is from Favorite Recipes from Well-Sweep Herb Farm by Louise and Cyrus Hyde.

Sherry Chicken with Tarragon
Four Servings

1/2 c. margarine
1 medium onion
4 chicken breasts
2 t. tarragon
1/2 c. sherry
Flour

Melt margarine in frying pan.  Cut in one medium onion and brown a little.  Remove onion.  Salt and pepper chicken then roll in flour.  Brown in margarine.  Add 1 cup of water and the browned onion.  Cook covered for 25 minutes or until done.  Add sherry and tarragon and cook another 5 minutes.    

This last recipe is from The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld.

Chicken Breast in Tarragon Cream
Four Servings

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 t. extra virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, finely chopped (about 3 T.)
1/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 to 3 T. coarsely chopped fresh French tarragon
1 t. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1.  Browning the chicken.  Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  Heat the oil in a large (10 to 12 inch) skillet over medium-high heat.  Using tongs, carefully lower the chicken breasts into the pan and cook them for a bout 1 minute on each side just until they begin to brown slightly.  Transfer the still raw chicken to a plate.

2.  Poaching in cream.  Reduce the heat under the skillet to low.  Add the shallot and cook, stirring constantly until softened but not browned, less than 1 minute.  Add the vermouth or wine and cook for 30 seconds, then add the cream and half the tarragon.  Return the chicken breasts to the pan and adjust the heat so that the cream gently simmers.  Cover and cook until the chicken is firm and just cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes.  To check for doneness, cut into the thickest part of a breast with a paring knife--there should be no sign of pink or translucence.

3.  Finishing.  Transfer the chicken breasts to a warmed serving platter or individual dinner plates.  The cause should be thick enough to lightly coat a spoon.  If it is too thin, continue to simmer it for about 1 minute and it will thicken.  Stir in the remaining tarragon and the lemon juice, then taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.  Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve right away with buttered egg noodles.

If you are in the southern states of the United States, you should grow Mexican marigold mint or Texas tarragon (Tagetes lucida).  Here is a horticulture update from Texas A & M University about The Three Tarragons:  French, Russian and Mexican.  Some good information if you are in the southern half of the country.

This year has flown by.  I'm going to try to do one last post about artemisia tomorrow before the new year.  Seasonably cold here.  No snow yet.  Would like a little dusting on the ground at least.  Hope you are having a great day.  Talk to you later. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

An Artemisia Wreath and Merry Christmas!

Reworked the Size of This Grapevine Wreath
Didn't Have Enough 'Silver King' Artemisia to Make a Tree
Add Some 'Sweet Annie' Artemisia
Here's How It Looks on the Front Door!
Well, three days until Christmas and it certainly doesn't look or feel like the holidays.  I think we are going to be 45 degrees today and 50's tomorrow and Christmas Eve!  No white Christmas for the 'Burgh!  We haven't had a white Christmas since 2002! 

I got my wreath done for the front door.  You can see the differences in the artemisias on the back wall of the house.  On the front door, the silver blends in with the door.  Will try to get one more post about artemisia before the year ends.  Going to take a few days off from blogging.  Hope you all have a wonderful holiday and I'll see you sometime next week!

Friday, December 19, 2014

For Christmas A Book of Herbs and History, The Herbalist's Bible!

The Best Blend of Herbs and History in The Herbalist's Bible!
Well, I'm still reading this, but I wanted you to know how much I am enjoying this read.  You see I have been a history buff for a long time.  Enjoyed history in high school, thought I would enjoy history in college (not so much), but I did end up an art history major in college.   I have always loved the history of the United States and of the world, etc.  So history has always been in my blood.

This selection and commentary called The Herbalist's Bible by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal is of John Parkinson's massive herbal, Theatrum Botanicum or Theater of Plants of 3,800 species and 1,788 pages published in 1640.  If you click on the link above and scroll down to Viewability:  There are three links.  The second and third links are a page by page view of the text of the book.  I will definitely get several cups of herbal tea on a cold and snowy winter day and enjoy looking through it.  Julie and Matthew's adventures to obtain their own copy of this treasured herbal is recounted.  It was published between two well-established herbalists' herbals by Gerard and Culpeper.  Gerard and Culpeper much better known as English herbalists.  Parkinson grew herbs in his garden called Long Acre. 

What gave Parkinson validity was that King named him King's Herbalist.  Another writer looked at his work as a theft of de l'Obel, but Parkinson came through the critics with his reputation intact.  For his time, Parkinson used a wide range of methods to treat diseases and illnesses with herbs.  He was very interested in gynecology.  A lot of diseases were the same in the 1500 and 1600 as today.  There were exceptions though.  The plague was still a big problem as was leprosy and syphilis.   Infectious diseases were also a problem without the vaccinations and antibiotics of today.

This book is just a selection and commentary not a translation of the complete work.  The three criteria for what herbs that Julie and Matthew chose to comment on were as follows:

"Herbs well known to Parkinson that continue to be medicinally popular today, some times with different uses.

Herbs known and used medicinally in Parkinson's time but which have since dropped out of common practice--in other words--lost herbs that we think deserve a second look.  AND

Herbs new to Parkinson from either European herbal knowledge or as part of the explosion of plant samples or seeds then arriving in England from North or South America."

So I think it is safe to say that Julie and Matthew will continue their journey with this treasured classic and keep us enthralled by the results.  In this volume, I was just so happy that Julie and Matthew picked a lot of herbs that I was familiar with but also some I'm not.  Parkinson's words and Julie and Matthew's commentary in modern terms are side by side.  I loved reading from Parkinson that lemon balm calms bees.  There is a chili bread recipe from Parkinson that calms the heat of the chili.  Would like to try that and that chilies improve acid levels (maybe for people with low acid).  There were several herbs used for snake bites or mad dogs in Parkinson's time.  Betony was used for reflux and burdock was used for skin conditions then and now.

I do have a lot more to read.  I will add more thoughts as they come along.  It is wonderful to actually see an old herbal come to life in modern times.  This will be an ongoing project for them as for me as well.   Besides the history leading up to its publication, the selection of herbs, the notes are a book of their own and the appendix is full of inside facts about the times and the book, a timeline of Parkinson, his firsts in plants and what always gets me in trouble, a bibliography!  If you are thinking of a history selection for your herbal friends, think of The Herbalist's Bible.

Well, my car is encased in ice at the moment.  Christmas is less than a week away!  Where did the year go?  Hope you are ready for all of your festivities.  The one of the boxes for my latest giveaway was delivered early this morning in Michigan and my Texas delivery is in the vicinity.  So I will talk to you later.

Monday, December 15, 2014

And the Winners Are!

My Greek Cheese Making Basket Does the Trick!
Thanks to everyone who participated!  The Herbal Husband has picked the following winners one winner from the blog entries and one winner from Facebook entries and they are:

SUSANNE DRAZIC
KIM DAVIS WRIGHT

As soon as you can get me your addresses, we will pack up your boxes and get them to the post office.  It will probably be in the morning (Tuesday) because today is the craziest day of the year for the mail.  So you should still get them in plenty of time for Christmas entertaining.  The winners who entered on my blog post can e-mail me through my gmail account.  If you are my Facebook winner, you can message me or e-mail me through my gmail account, glenshawgalATgmailDOTcom.  Congratulations to you both!  Merry Christmas to all!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

More Christmas Book Suggestions for the Beginning Herbalists!

A Beginning Guide from Rosemary Gladstar
Two Volumes from Henriette Kress for the Practical Herbalist!
Well, never in a million years would I think that I would be posting about medicinal herbal books, but here I am.  As I am getting older, I am turning to more herbal remedies.  I will not be prescribing for you, but will talk about my experiences and what successes I have had.  So we are less than two weeks away from Christmas and if you are still trying to find that perfect gift herbally speaking, I think I have some help.

Natural Health Magazine calls "Rosemary Gladstar one of the most influential herbalists."  I have always heard her name and when I had the chance to buy one of her latest books, Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs, A Beginner's Guide, I did so.  The book is divided into four chapters, Chapter 1 Welcome to the Wonderful World of Medicinal Herbs, which talks about what a medicinal herb is, how it is used, the benefits of medicinal herbs and starting a medicinal herb garden.  Chapter 2 How to Make Your Own Herbal Remedies talks about making tea, syrups, oils, salves, etc. and dosages and duration.  Chapter 3 9 Familiar Herbs & Spices to Grow and Use talks about very common herbs and spices like cinnamon and rosemary and that's why I thought this is something I could do myself.  Chapter 4 24 Safe & Effective Herbs to Know, Grow and Use.  Again,  I don't think there were any on this list that I hadn't heard of, such as chickweed and burdock, but I really don't know the medicinal value and I think I will enjoy learning about them.  Well, now I have a little more time to read and learn for next year's season!

The second books I would recommend come from an herbalist in Finland named Henriette Kress called Practical Herbs and Practical Herbs 2.  I have always said as always as long as you know the botanical name of the plant you are learning about, you will be able to read anyone's book from anywhere in the world.  These books were recommended by my herbal sister, Debs Cook in England.  She has never steered me wrong at least herbally speaking!  Henriette has basics for making various basic preparations in her first book and then a description of various herbs and some pages called quick helps.  Her second book has more recipes, a chapter on energetics whether an herb is hot or cold, dry or moist, a chapter on problems and the last chapter with a different description list of herbs than in the first book.  Again, I liked the information I found about heartburn.  As I read both of these books in more detail I will comment further.  Both of these women grew up with strong herbal backgrounds with family members.  I trust their opinions.  I was just given the name of a fourth book for you to consider.  Just ordered it on BookFinder.com.  It is called Herbal Home Remedy Book by Joyce Wardwell.  It was recommended by one of our members of Herbaholic's Herbs on Facebook.  Always learning something interesting about herbs from them.  Ms. Wardwell is an American and Sarah who recommended it to me says she recommends it as a beginning book in all of her workshops.  Thanks Sarah!  I'll put a photo up on this post when I get my copy!


My Joyce Wardwell Book Arrived!
All three books are very well written, have good photos and I think would give a beginner herbalist a great start.  Less than two weeks until Christmas.  You still have a chance to enter my giveaway.  Two people are winning this year!  Here is a link A Holiday Giveaway with a Lemon and Artemisia Twist!  U.S. Readers Only!  We will draw the winning names on Monday afternoon.  So check for a new post after 1:00 PM EST.  Maybe the winner will be you!  Cold and gray in the 'Burgh!  Typical winter day.  Hope you are having a great day wherever you may be!  Talk to you later!