Saturday, January 31, 2009

More About Bay Laurel Infused Sugar

This is a Ragu spaghetti sauce jar that I used for the bay laurel infused sugar. Eight fresh leaves that I opened slits in the leaves. Use 14 dried leaves if you wish. Three cups of sugar just fit into the jar. You then just shake the jar every day for two weeks or so. You can use it in the sugar cookie recipe I gave you in the January 29, 2009 posting. You can give the extra sugar with a copy of the recipe as a gift. The possibilities are up to you!

Friday, January 30, 2009

More Snow!

It was pretty peaceful on our street after the latest snowstorm. It is just one storm after the other. Not a lot of snow each time, but it is beginning to pile up! Getting closer to spring! Hope it gets here quick!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bay Laurel Infused Sugar

We have two different kinds of bay laurels. This one is the more traditional one. Sort of a Y shaped form. Remember bays do better with trimming. We have the don't prune, don't shape policy at our house! Most everything has that wild over the top look! I'm going to make some infused sugar with 8 fresh bay leaves (14 dry) from this tree and layer them with 3 cups of sugar. Shake it every day. It takes about 2 weeks for use. Just in time for Valentine's Day! The recipe is on a blog that I found from Canada called Food and Whine. The recipe is for Infused Sugar Sugar Cookies. The only thing I would add to the recipe is to use pasteurized egg white at the end to brush on the cookies to add additional infused sugar. You can purchase a carton of pasteurized egg whites in the grocery stores in the US. I haven't tried this recipe so hopefully we will all enjoy them. Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Good Day for Herbal Tea!

It is a cold, icy and icky day in the 'Burgh! It is a great day for an herbal cup of tea. It is National Hot Tea month and I pretty much forgot. So I thought I would go out with a bang! I made this cup of herbal tea this afternoon. Some crushed lemon verbena, rose petals, lavender, stevia, peppermint, winter savory in my magic basket. I do get carried away. It was a little too intense. So I would combine lemon verbena with the stevia and peppermint or the rose petals, lavender and winter savory with some stevia. If you like sweet in your tea, you will love the dried stevia. It is very good. I only put one or two leaves in and it is more than sweet enough for me. It is fun to experiment and hopefully I will give you a few more ideas before the end of the National Hot Tea celebration. Every day whether it be cold or hot is a good day for tea!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Balance of Nature!

We looked out our front door window yesterday and got a picture of this hawk. It may have been a young red tail hawk. Usually the small birds leave the area when the hawks are in the vicinity. We have a lot of wildlife in our residential area. He is keeping the balance of nature.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bay Laurel-2009 Herb of the Year

The container on the left in this photo is Laurus nobilis or Bay Laurel or Sweet Bay. This one is over my head and I'm 5'6" tall. Bay laurel is a native of the Mediterranean area. In ancient Greece, poets and scholars were crowned with wreathes of bay. Hence, the term poet laureate was coined.

If you live in Zone 7 or higher, you should be able to grow bay in the ground. Here in the 'Burgh, we have to have it in a container and take it inside during the winter. This one is about 6-1/2 feet tall. It is slow to germinate from seeds or cuttings (taking up to six months to root). So you should buy an actively developing young potted plant. Bay needs full sun and prefers dryish soil and avoid mulching. You do need to provide moderate moisture in summer, especially if you grow it in a container. It does best if it is pruned on a regular basis.

Bays are susceptible to mites, scale and mealy bugs indoors, but once they come outside, they mostly lose those problems. You need to be vigilante when they are outdoors that the scale or other insects do not reoccur. Here is an article by Sandy Feather on the treatment of scale insects which is the main problem for bay laurels indoors even though it is for a ficus tree the treatment for bay would be the same. More in the coming days.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Pomander Update

These pomanders don't look much different than when they went into this bowl weeks ago. I think the thick skin has impeded the drying process. Glad I didn't have to give them as a Christmas present. Maybe they will be ready for this coming Christmas! Hope so. Will be talking about the herb of the year, bay laurel later this week.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Brief January Thaw!

What a difference a day makes! 50 degrees yesterday and 18 degrees today! We got rid of some of the snow. Still have about eight weeks of winter left. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Quick Herbal Flavor!

We have been having great avocados from Chile this winter season. Our food comes from lots of different place in the world and different areas of our own country. I love a good herb mix. If you are lucky enough to live in Mechanicsburg, PA or Chagrin Falls OH, you have two great herb shops, The Rosemary House and The Village Herb Shop. If you are online a lot like I am, Penzey's has great herb combinations like the one in the photo. I sprinkle Tuscan Sunset on a lot of things, including avocados. It is a salt free blend. What is also great about Penzeys Spices is that there are suggestions for using their spices on each label. They also have a great catalog with recipe suggestions. A good herb blend is a quick fix for a recipe. Try it!

P.S. I missed National Pie Day today. I did find this link that you might like with pie recipes from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette website.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Playing Tag!

Nancy and Susanna Reppert have tagged me!

Here are the rules to the photo meme: 6th Picture Meme!

1.Go to your Picture Folder on your computer or wherever you store your pictures.
2.Go to the 6th Folder, then pick the 6th picture in that folder.
3.Post that picture on your blog and the story that goes along with the picture.
4.Tag 6 other people that you know or don’t know to do the same thing and leave a comment on their blog or an e-mail letting them know you chose them.

Here are the spoils of herbal and vegetable harvesting! A jar of dried dill, very easy to dry and keep for winter use. We had tons of Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes! They are our favorite cherry tomato.

So far, I have tagged Leslie at New Beekeeping Mistakes
Ximena at Ximena Heraud
Nicole at Nicole's Corner.

I will tag three others later today! I have tagged my best friend and her daughter. I have one more tag left! Who will I choose? I chose a fellow master gardener. Thanks for enjoying one of the fun childhood games I remember fondly.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Crows Keep Us Laughing!

Most mornings we have crows sitting up in the trees around our house waiting for treats. They call each other. They are a very unified bunch. When the Herbal Husband puts scraps out for them. The crows come immediately, but they jump back when they try to pick the treats up. They think they are alive! This one on the birdbath was softening a peanut! Find something to make you laugh today!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day!

Today is a very important day for the Obamas, the Bidens and the United States of America. I have been working on this Capitol for quite some time. The Herbal Husband became a United States citizen in 1992! I was hoping to get this done sooner, but maybe there is a reason why the sampler has not been finished until this year! Yes, we can!

Monday, January 19, 2009

More Language of Flowers Presents

Santa brought several language of flowers books for Christmas. This is a favorite French one. It has a leather binding with the initials CC on the cover and lovely colored plates on the inside. There is a name and the date 1842 on the inside. So the book itself is probably a little bit earlier. The Herbal Husband can help me translate. Multi-talented that man!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Winter Wonderland AGAIN!

More snow last night! It is really nice when the snow comes on the weekend and we do not have to go anywhere So I will give you a break from other things and show you the garden in winter. The first picture is our front garden.

This picture is of my herb garden. It would be nice to keep some of this snow cover for a while. It is protection from the cold wind and an insulator.

We got about six total inches as seen on our stone bench on the patio and in the stone container.

The sparrows love to take baths in the birdbath on a cold winter day. The female cardinal was also in the area on the sunflower feeder. Hope you enjoyed a little snow today. Stay warm wherever you may be! I'll be working on my seed order this week.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Presents of the Language of Flowers

I know it is a little late to be discussing Christmas gifts, but I was really spoiled by Santa last year. I am a book collector and one of my passions is books about the language of flowers. Santa took that hint and got carried away. Last Monday I went out to the mailbox and had to sign for a package from Argentina addressed to the Herbal Husband. Instead of it being for him, it was for me! Surprise! It was a very nice language of flowers book in Spanish. It has really nice bouquets of flowers on the inside pages. I'll have to learn more than the bad words in Spanish! I do know more. I know how to get to the bathroom! That's very important! More books tomorrow.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Baby, It's Still Cold Outside!

Well, last night was the coldest night in 15 years! It was minus 7! Fifteen years ago it was minus 22! When the Herbal Husband and I met 25 years ago, we were watching a PBS special on Railways of the World one evening. The program was talking about the railways of Peru. The one statement that stuck with me is that Peruvians enjoy eating! The Herbal Husband loves to eat and cook! Soooo we enjoyed the tropics indoors with a little Peruvian speciality for lunch. Shrimp cocktail, Peruvian style! Yummy! The avocados from Chile have been wonderful this year. So to spoil me a little bit more, the Herbal Husband mixed some thawed chopped shrimp (you can leave them whole if you wish) with some light mayo, salt and pepper, granulated garlic and some frozen peas and carrots, slightly cooked. He placed that on top of the avocado, but you can also chop up the avocado and place the entire salad on a plate (or back in the skin of the avocado) with a lettuce tomato garnish. Chopped scallions and parsley are sprinkled on top. Makes you think of summer on a very cold day in the 'Burgh!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Winter Wonderland in the Herb Garden!

Brrrrr!!!!! It is getting really cold! The one thing good about below zero temperatures we are going to have in the next couple of days is that we have sunshine! We are one of the cities with the fewest days of sunshine during the whole year. Soooo if you are lucky enough to be in the southern hemisphere where it is summer, enjoy a little bit of below zero weather!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cardinals in Winter

At dawn or dusk the cardinals are at this feeder. It is a magnet for them. I was lucky to get any pictures at all because they tend to fly when we are around. It's really hard to see in this picture, but there is a beautiful male cardinal sitting in the middle of the sunflower feeder in the herb garden. Click the picture to enlarge it. We have several pairs of cardinals who come and eat with us every day. Some times there are up to four pairs feeding at one time. They have their fights, but in the end they find a way to coexist together. I love that the male and female cardinals both sing. Mostly it is the male in the bird species that sing. Cornell University has a great website for all things bird. The picture at the bottom is one of the females that comes each day. They are very comical with the tuft or crown standing up when they become alarmed. We enjoy all the birds that feed at our house, but the cardinals in winter are particularly beautiful.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Snow has a Benefit for the Herb Garden

I know I have been whining about the snow in the herb garden since around Thanksgiving, but it does help the plants survive. It is going to get a lot colder this week. There is now a layer of snow on the ground and that has a benefit in the herb garden and in the garden as a whole. The snow is acting as an insulator. As long as the herbs you planted have good drainage meaning the soil has been tested (you can get a soil test kit from your county extension office or local nurseries have soil test probes for sale) and amended for the particular herbs you have planted. The best amendment is your own compost or the bagged kind works as well. We have clay soil in the western Pennsylvania, so amending the soil is a given. If the soil is amended properly, and the plants do not hold water around the crowns or roots of the plants, the perennial herbs such as lavenders, sages and thymes will survive the winter. Hope you are staying warm wherever you may be!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Swinging Blue Jays!

Every morning the Herbal Husband whistles and feeds the birds. Here is the peanut caddy in our Japanese maple. The blue jays, cardinals and titmice love it. The caddy swings back and forth for several minutes. It does not take long for the peanuts to disappear. This next story is entirely true. We also feed a group of crows. They will come below the caddy and wait for any peanuts that drop to the ground. On occasion, the blue jay will toss a peanut to the crow and the crow catches it! I'm not making it up! I'm just sorry you have to imagine it. Maybe some day, I'll get a picture or video of it happening! Remember your feathered friends during the winter.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

It's Icy and Cold in the Herb Garden!

Winter is cold, snowy and gray in the 'Burgh. Now it is icy today. We had mostly frozen precipitation yesterday. It could have been worse and been snow. We would have been buried today! Fortunately the low tracked further south or north and we were spared. We're supposed to have the coldest weather of the year so far this week. I hope the forecasters are wrong! Stay warm wherever you may be!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Hope the Garage Helps!

This peppermint scented geranium that was doing so well only a few months ago has collapsed! What a difference a few short months makes here. It was in our basement and there is not much of a light source there or it is covered by other plants searching for the light.
As I have said repeatedly, our garage is a magical place for containers in the winter. I'm sorry the Herbal Husband's car takes up so much space! There I said it! We actually thought of making this a workout room/plant room. Put one of those transparent garage doors in. We decided the winters are too cold here to put the transparent door in. The plant beside it (toward the bottom of the picture) is a Habek mint (Mentha longifolia).Habek Mint on Foodista
It is sort of dormant at the moment. I got it several years ago from Mulberry Creek Herb Farm. In their catalog, they call it the authentic mint for tabbouleh. It has very narrow bluish-green leaves. It has seeded once in another part of the garden. Now that the peppermint scented geranium is in the garage, I expect it will make a comeback.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Garage Is The Place To Be!

These Logee's Snowflake scented geraniums and the sweet lavender are doing very well in the garage. The magic recipe is the southern exposure and the cooler temperatures in the garage. I'm going to try to move other plants that aren't doing as well in here, but there is only so much room. The Herbal Husband's car is taking a majority of the space! The negotiations will begin!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Probably Brought Too Many Herbs Inside!

I was thinking the other day that you should get a picture of how the indoor herbs are doing. You saw the lemon verbena. This is the old fashioned rose geranium. The Herbal Husband couldn't stand to leave it die back. It is slowly losing its leaves. It probably be good to put it in the magical garage with the southern exposure windows. Herbs in the winter need all of the light you can give them. I will show you tomorrow some plants that are in the garage and are doing well.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Good Night for Chicken Stew!

The Herbal Husband ate a lot of stews in Peru. He makes one called seco con culantro. It is a meat stew with meat cubes, potatoes, peas, sherry, lemon and cilantro. I'll do a post on that wonderful stew soon. The one I made here is called Garlic Orange Chicken. It doesn't sound like a stew, does it? I found it a while ago in The Herb Companion magazine, August/September, 1991. It is served in the magazine with vermicelli pasta. I served it last night with couscous and those new year's lentils. The Herbal Husband loves the sauce for the chicken. In fact, he puts it on the rice we usually serve with it! So here is the recipe and my thoughts on it:

Garlic Orange Chicken (Serves 6)

6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (Last night I used 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs. They worked just as well. If you are serving it for company, I would use breast meat.)
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved (I used 3 cloves of garlic, minced.)
1-1/2 tablespoons oil (I use 1-1/2 tablespoons to brown the chicken, then I add about 1-1/2 tablespoons more to cook the onions and garlic.)
1-1/2 cups chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (I cut this back to 1/4 teaspoon.)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard (I cut this back to 1/4 teaspoon.)
1 cup orange juice
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped chives (I used the ones from the freezer. They were wonderful!)
3 tablespoons chopped lovage (I used 2 tablespoons dried. I started with 1 tablespoon and up it to enhance the flavor. If you do not have lovage, use celery leaves. I would use 3 tablespoons or more as needed to add flavor.)
12 ounces vermicelli (You can use whatever grain you wish. It would even be good with potatoes.)
1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water
6 sprigs basil and 6 chive (or other herb) flowers for garnish

Trim any fat from the chicken. Open two small pockets in each breast half, either by slicing into it with a knife or by separating the muscles of the breast. Insert a piece of garlic in each pocket. (I don't do this step. I just add the garlic to the onions and saute them together.) Pat the chicken dry. In a heavy skillet, brown the chicken on both sides in the oil, then remove it. (Add additional oil if needed.) Add onion (and garlic) to skillet, reduce heat and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the pepper, salt and mustard, and cook for 1 minute, stirring the browned onion bits into mixture. Add orange juice, broth and herbs. Bring mixture to a boil, add chicken, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Cook vermicelli (or other grain or vegetable) while chicken is simmering. Remove chicken from pan and keep warm. Bring the sauce to a boil. Add cornstarch-water mixture and stir constantly until thickened. Spoon some of the sauce over the chicken and the remainder over the hot vermicelli. Garnish with the basil sprigs and chive flowers.

Hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Epiphany-The Arrival of the Three Kings

Epiphany means appearance and it is claimed that on this occasion Christ was revealed as divine to the Gentiles. On Christmas Eve, the Kings are moving closer to Bethlehem and when they finally arrive, they offer their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Originally, January sixth commemorated Christ's baptism. Twelfth Night or the Eve of Epiphany was originally a pagan celebration.

Gold stars are an appropriate symbol. If you have a Twelfth Night Feast, light candles and burn resins with spices. Adelma Simmons talks about it in her book, A Merry Christmas Herbal She says that myrrh burned alone has a bitter acrid odor but when it is combined with the sweeter resin of frankincense it is most pleasant. As the ancient Egyptians and Hebrews knew, the proportion should be approximately six frankincense to one of myrrh. Burn over low heat. Put an ember from the fire on a hearth shovel and shake the incense sparingly over it, then let it burn on the hearth. Don't allow it to flame.

At Caprilands, Adelma's home, they had a masquerade party. They had wassail to drink, a roast beef as a main course and a traditional Twelfth-Night cake. Hope they still carry on the tradition!

Monday, January 5, 2009

My Lemon Verbena Looks Good!!!!

The plant in the center of this picture is my lemon verbena. My namesake. It really shouldn't look like this. It usually drops its leaves when it comes in for the winter. This year it went to the garage for a week while we were in Arizona. The magical garage, cooler temperatures and that southern exposure. I'm going to start removing leaves and use it in tea or tea bread. Click on the link for the recipe. Hopefully, it will continue to do well. Just the smell of the leaves is a great stress reliever.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Perennial Problem for a Tender Perennial!

I was bragging about this rosemary several posts ago. It was blooming and happy. Now I'm not sure it's going to make it. The Herbal Husband loves his plants and maybe loves them a little too much. There is a fine line with a rosemary of overwatering or underwatering. Underwatering means you have a dead rosemary, but overwatering is equally as bad. This is a perennial problem in our house because I water differently than the Herbal Husband. He waters more frequently. I water after sticking my finger into the soil to my second knuckle and watering only if it is dry.

The brown tips are the give away in the picture below. The best place for a rosemary in our cold winter is in an unheated garage with windows to the south. We have that, but somehow this rosemary ended up in the bathroom with forced air heat and too much water. Miracles happen all the time in this house. When I think something has died and it comes roaring back!

I will leave you with an article written by my extension agent, Sandy Feather about rosemary care in the winter. We should have taken her advice. Hopefully this rosemary will make a comeback! I had a discussion with the Herbal Husband and we are going to move it to the garage tomorrow. It's a step forward!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Another Favorite Catalog is Here!

The catalogs have just started to roll in. This catalog from White Flower Farm was one of the first sources for perennial plants I used when I started out in gardening 19 years ago. Their plant descriptions taught me botanical names which I needed to learn. They have added fruits and vegetables, including 145 varieties of tomatoes. I bought The Works of 100 mixed daffodils many years ago and they are still flourishing today. I look forward in the spring to seeing them pop up through the leaves!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Herbal Good News!

The US has a new sweetener on the shelves and it is made with stevia and called Truvia! I've tried it and love it! It's not cheap, but affordable, $3.99 for 40 packets. Each packet contains two teaspoons. I used it on my oatmeal this morning. The herbal husband remarked that it must be good if it made the oatmeal taste good! Visit my earlier post on stevia.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Good Luck in the New Year!

We've had a couple of very cold days and nights in the herb garden!
We started the day with pancakes. A favorite of the Herbal Husband. For lunch we had guacamole and our pomegranates from Arizona. A little different combination.

Even though it is known as a biblical fruit and from the Mid East, all of the pomegranates Americans eat are grown here. It is the perfect diet (an ugly four letter word) food, because it takes a very long time to eat them. The word, pomegranate, derives from Middle French, pomme garnete, literally, seeded apple. I ate all the seeds, the Herbal Husband spit them out. More fiber eating the seeds! The red liquid is really delicious! There are lots of products, especially drinks, made with pomegranate juice. The juice can stain clothing or countertops so you need to be careful when eating it. Pomegranate is a good luck food as well. So it has all kinds of bonuses!

We are going to have lentils, rice and apanado (a thin spiced fried ground meat patty from Peru) this evening. No pork and sauerkraut here! Lentils are a good luck food of many people in the world. Hope we all have good luck in the coming year! Remember Bay Laurel is the 2009 Herb of the Year! WE ARE PENN STATE!