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 moat 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!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Four Rosemarys and Zero . . .!

Zero for lemon verbenas.  We had such a mild winter and I still lost plants, but ones that were inside.  We (or The Herbal Husband) get carried away with potting tender herbs up and bringing them in.  This year was a bit different.  We both paid less attention to what was growing or not growing inside.  We lost the savory varieties I was going to talk about.  We lost several scented geraniums.  Some did survive.  And again I killed a lemon verbena in my garden and the one we brought inside croaked too!
In better herbal news, we got four (Yes, you read that correctly.) rosemarys through the winter.  I have always heard that a dry rosemary is a dead one.  So to get four through in great shape is an herbal miracle!  So the varieties are two creeping (can't be more specific), two upright varieties, one called 'Spice Islands' and one called 'Golden Rain' that has a gold variegation.  You can definitely find the creeping variety of rosemary here in the 'Burgh and maybe 'Spice Islands'.  'Golden Rain' was developed by Thomas DeBaggio and I got mine last year on the way to the national herb society meeting at DeBaggio's Herb Farm & Nursery in Chantilly, VA.  Just got their latest catalog in the mail and it is a very good resource for how to grow rosemary.  They don't do mail order, but you can subscribe to their catalog.  It is a good one.
We are supposed to get rain today after eight days of none.  We have been moving plants around in the garden and maybe I will talk about that next time.  Still trying to get the inside of the house moved around!  Hope you are having a great day.  Talk to you later!
We Never Have This Much Luck!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

28 Brown Figs and Counting!

Well here I am again!  I'm just going to blog when I can.  We did get the first installment of Windows a week ago and have been totally exhausted trying to clean (historic dust) and reassemble rooms.  We use pictures like wallpaper so we just finished putting those pics back on walls that had windows installed
So The Herbal Husband asked if I was still blogging!  No because we had the chaos of the windows.  So The Herbal Husband is excited to show you the figs!  This is the kind of fig I enjoy the most!  Hope you are having a wonderful day!  Please let me know what is going on in your herb garden.  Talk to you later.
My Favorite Fig!  So Many to Choose From!

Friday, April 1, 2016

A Bit More Time Please!

Can't believe it is April already!  My buddy Elizabeth had to remind me about blogging!  I thought that April 1 would be a good target date.  So much for that idea.  We are getting new windows for the house in two installments because we have so much stuff (I use that term loosely!) starting next week.  Oh and the TV died last night.  Did you know they don't fix TVs much anymore?  Fortunately we can recycle our old TV.  A very good thing!  Well, I am asking you to be patient with me.  Hope to be blogging again soon!
Some Sunflowers to X-Stitch!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Continuing the Herbal Hiatus!

In the Home Stretch!
I had hoped by the end of January that I would have The Herbal Husband's citizenship sampler done!  I am almost there!  The photo shows my progress to last night.  Once the border is done, I only have to outline the capitol and I will be done after 24 years and it can be framed.  This project was much bigger than it needed to be and through trial and error, we have made it simpler.  The chart was the size of a poster!  It was HUGE!  I have pleased The Herbal Husband and he really has asked every day "How is it progressing?"  It will be a big relief to have it done.  I really have discovered my love for my stitching again so much so that I have joined The Embroiderers' Guild of America as a member at large.

But just when you think, oh no, she's gone to the other side, I touch a scented geranium or my 'Clevelandii' sage that are perched on the windowsills and I can't give up my love of herbs entirely!  We have had a bunch of herbal casualties this season.  Whether from low light or too much water, we have lost a couple or three lavenders in pots and some of my favorite scented geraniums have gone to the great herbal beyond!  We get a bit carried away when we bring herbs in.  Don't we all?
The 'Clevelandii' Sage is Doing Great!
I think I said to a friend that as much as I enjoyed blogging every day in December.  On the flip side I have enjoyed not blogging at all in January.  I feel as though I need to continue the herbal hiatus into February and maybe March!  I have decided to reemerge not unlike the groundhog in April.  So you will see me again for sure blogging in this spot on April 1 and that's no joke.  Again, I may pop up from time to time, but maybe not!  Oh, BTW, the weather has been very spring like the last few days.  We survived the snowstorm of two weeks ago with about 5 inches or was that last week?  Today it will be almost 60 degrees in the herb garden!   So enjoy this nice sunny day if you are in the 'Burgh'!  The Herbal Husband and I are going to take a walk!  Talk to you again soon!
Been an Unusual Winter!