Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Multitude of Mints!

The Herb Society (UK) A Multitude of Mints by Guy Cooper & Gordon Taylor
Continuing my review and comments of the quartet of booklets from 1981 and The Herb Society (UK), here is a booklet called A Multitude of Mints.  This herb is most associated with the English and English cooking.  Even though I do grow mint in various places in our garden.  My major clumps of mint are in containers.
The Best Way to Curtail the Spread of Mint!
Like a lot of herbs, mint was brought to England by the Romans.  It seems like good digestion was the major reason the English served mint sauce with lamb.  Mint sauce doesn't appear in cookbooks until the 19th century.  Mints are from southern Europe and the Mediterranean regions.

Mints have these basics in common:

1.  Mints have square stems.
2.  They have opposite single leaves.
3.  White to purple flowers formed in clusters
4.  Mints spread quickly underground.
5.  Mints are very invasive in any garden unless controlled.
6.  All are perennial.

Mints are very easy to grow.  They do not like compacted and heavy soils.  The ideal planting area is a warm, sheltered south-facing one with partial shade, as the essential oil seems to evaporate if mints are planted in full sun.  Propagation is best and easily done by root division in spring or autumn.  Personally I think it could be done in winter if you have a mild one.  Beds should be renewed every two or three years which will improve the quality and growth habit.  A separate pot of mint will grow on an east facing windowsill very easily.  The soil should be kept moist but not waterlogged!  It is easy for a plant to die because of too much water which is unnecessary.  The book mentioned that mints can get rust and have problems with red spider mites.  Here in southwestern Pennsylvania my main problem for mint is the four lined plant bug who love all square stem plants, including mint!  Here is a post I did for Herb Companion (now Mother Earth Living) called Herbal Pests:  The Four-Lined Plant Bug.  In that post you will see a photo of the damage it does to peppermint!  The good news is there is only one generation a season.  Some years they do a lot of damage and others not so much.
This is Damage on Oregano, but Mint Gets This Same Damage
Here are the Four-Lined Plant Bugs That Damaged Square Stems Herbs, such as Mint!

It should be harvested in bud and not in full flower.  Harvest in the late morning or late afternoon.  If mint is wet when harvested, it will turn black and not dry well.  Good air circulation give mint good color when drying.  The easiest way of preservation is drying on a line or between paper towels or freezing in ice cube trays or in plastic bags or containers.

One of the earliest mentions of mint is in the New Testament of the Bible in Luke 11:42 which talks of tithes of mint, anise and cumin which the Pharisees were commanded to pay.  Greek mythology also talks of mint including how the genus got its name Mentha.  The two forms of mint in ancient times were wild water mint and pennyroyal which was also known as flea mint.

Mint was used in ancient times as a strewing herb to drive away mice and insects.  It was also used in bathing, cosmetics and medicines.  Mints are found on all medieval plant lists.  Culpeper lists almost forty diseases for which mint is 'singularly good.'

A healthy mint leaf fresh or dried can be used interchangeably without affecting the taste of the dish.  You only have to use a quarter dried to fresh in any recipe.  I really don't use mint too much because of my GERD or reflux disease.  It gives me a major bout of coughing.  So I stay away.  And mint and chocolate which is a favorite of many people around the world is really a no no for me.  I do use some spearmint, pineapple or orange mint in my tea blends and they don't seem to affect me as much as peppermint does.

I would like to try some of the recipes in this booklet such as:

Mint Jelly
Mint and Parsley Salad
Moroccan Mint Tea

Mint has been used for centuries as an antiseptic, appetizer and digestive.  In 1981 Egypt was the largest producer of spearmint.  Now it is the United States, India and China that are all major producers.  Because it has been so mild here, I will be harvesting a bit more mint to dry in the coming days.  Hope you are enjoying these booklet reviews.  I'll talk about the final one about rosemary in Friday's post.  It was a mild beautiful day.  Halloween will be a bit soggy here.  Happy Halloween everyone!
Happy Halloween from Our House to Yours!

Monday, October 28, 2013

In Praise of Parsley!

The Herb Society (England) In Praise of Parsley by Guy Cooper & Gordon Taylor
I have been mulling over topics for the colder months that are coming.  Just a thought that I would keep reviewing herb books from my vast library.  I think I have tried this in the past without much success, but this time with your help, I will do it.  So a couple of times a month, starting next month (November), I will select an herb book and if you have it, you can read along with me and we can discuss it when I do a post on it.  You see 30 plus years ago I was in a bus accident where I was reading and believe it or not, I have trouble reading to this day.  I am able to read.  I just read very short books or magazines.  I can read a mystery on the plane back from London.   So I think if I have a mission and if you don't let me veer far from the path, I will get back to reading and discussing my herb books with you.

Today's selection from the bookshelf is a continuation of my review of four small booklets from England and The Herb Society from 1981.  This one is In Praise of Parsley.  It seems like I never know everything about herbs, I am always learning something new each time I read a book or article in a magazine.  In each of these booklets, there is a Preface by a guest author and known writer in England.  This one is written by Arabella Boxer who talks about parsley as the best known and most neglected of the herbs.  It is always underutilized.  I will always thank my mother for making me eat my parsley garnish when we went out for dinner.  One of the wonderful things about parsley is it has a large content of Vitamin C.  It is usually added to the end of cooking time because it loses its punch if added too early.  I like to add some to the beginning and then some at the end of cooking time.  That seems to work best for me.

In 1981 the curly form of parsley was the preferred parsley in England.  There are three types, curly, French/Italian flat leaved and Hamburg which is grown for its root.  Its taste is a cross between parsley and celeriac.  Cook it like a root vegetable, grate it and eat it raw in salads or use it to flavor soups, stews and casseroles.  I love to see it used as a hedge in an herb garden.  Parsley is a true biennial but I usually grow it as an annual.  It is a tough seed to germinate.  You can soak the seeds for 24 hours in water or urine! or pour boiling water into the holes prior to sowing.  You should also not plant them too deeply.  An eighth of an inch is sufficient.  Even with these tactics, germination takes six weeks and may be as long as eight weeks.  I have just taken to buying plants, because we just don't have the indoor space to start seeds ahead of time.  It is said that the best and most tender leaves are picked during the first summer.  More reasons to grow it as an annual.

Dried parsley is not worth the effort.  Freezing parsley in ice cube trays and then in plastic bags or containers is the way to go.  Here are two of my favorite recipes using parsley.  I'm looking forward to making some of the recipes in this booklet.  I went to an elementary school where lunch was homemade!  I loved the parsley buttered potatoes.  There is a parsley butter recipe and I'll give you my version of it.  There is a cream of parsley soup recipe.  I think you will enjoy the version of parsley dill soup in the link above.  Cheese and parsley biscuits.  It is soup and stew weather.  So I think these would be a great addition.  I'll share these recipes as soon as I try them out.  Remind me if I don't! 

It was a beautiful day here in the 'Burgh.  We did have some frost last night.  The nasturtiums finally came to an end!  We just had a ton of them this season.  Everything else has survived to live another day and we are going to be mild through Halloween.  So I hope you have had a great day.  I'll talk to you later.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Peppers Galore!

Had Yellow Peppers for Stuffing!
These Little Ones from Peru Are a Little Hot or Maybe A Lot!

This is the Yellow Pepper from Peru that actually will turn orange!

More Stuffed Peppers on the Way!
We have gone pepper crazy here.  I guess because they aren't in the ground and they are ALL in containers, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed.  The Herbal Husband has fun and I guess that keeps him out of trouble.  We have all different sizes of peppers.  The little guys are hot.  I can't eat them anymore because of my reflux disease.  The medium size peppers are the true flavor of Peru in their salsas.  The green ones are just the regular bell peppers that I make into stuffed peppers.

I was busy making jelly yesterday and the rose geranium wine will be ready for tomorrow to make jelly.  Then I will have rosemary garlic jelly to make and maybe something else because I'll have two packages of Certo left.  Maybe I'll make a couple of recipes of my favorite, lemon verbena!

We had another cold night, but everything survived.  Some parts of the 'Burgh had that four letter word that we don't like to hear, snow!  We have had a beautiful fall and we sometimes get snow this early, but before Halloween!  Well, I hope you are having a great day wherever you may be in the world.  I'll talk to you later.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Setting Up for Rose Geranium Jelly and An Herbal Cocktail Too!

Sterilize Quart Jars with Boiling Water for Ten Minutes!
Twelve Rose Geranium Leaves in Each Jar with a BIG Bottle of White Zinfandel Wine
A Little More Than Two Cups of Wine in Each Jar
Our weather has gone downhill FAST!  I actually had the heat on in the car today!  Winter can't be far off.  I harvested pineapple sage leaves yesterday and separated them into small Chinese takeout soup containers.  The leaves hold very well in those containers.  One recipe in each container.  I'll make those tomorrow.  I also as you can see set up the rose geranium jelly.  An extra bonus in that is that the extra flavored wine (about 1-1/2 cups) can be an aperitif for you and a close herbal friend!  My herbal companion, Bonnie and I had a toast with our friend, Sharon Lovejoy and her phone man in Cincinnati last year!   So it is very fast to make.  This will be ready on Friday and is very delicious. I also pulled out one of my favorite books called The Herbal Pantry by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead.  In it Emelie says you only need a couple of days to enhance a wine and about two weeks or so for other liquors.  I'm thinking of doing some Cabernet Sauvignon with either sage, thyme or rosemary.  Of course, the traditional herb and wine combo is Riesling with sweet woodruff for May wine.  I think you get the idea.
Lots of Good and Easy Recipes for Holidays Gift Giving!
I've already had a couple of cups of tea today!  The Herbal Husband and I were huddling about what can survive a 30 night and what needs to get harvested or potted up!  Yes, yes, we are still doing that.  I think the last one is coming in tonight.  Hopefully you are enjoying a bit of outside heat!  Look I'm already whining here!  I'll talk to you later.  Really happy and you should be too, I've reserved my space and one for my friend, Bonnie at the Village Herb Shop for their annual holiday basket class on December 14th.  I feel a giveaway coming your way!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Decisions, Decisions, Herbally Speaking!

'Rose Velvet' and 'Rober's Lemon Rose' Scented Geraniums
'Lemon Meringue' Scented Geranium
A Sprout From the Bottom of the Plant!
I think that this is the other favorite herb that I wanted to talk about the other day!  I knew it would come to me eventually!  Well, we are noticeably cooler today than yesterday.  It's going to rain again tomorrow.  Now we have to decide when the rose geranium jelly gets set up and whether to take the 'Lemon Meringue' scented geranium inside.  I do love all lemon herbs even lemon balm.  As you can see the lemon meringue geranium has a little sprout at the bottom so I think we will be cutting it back and taking in that little sprout.  It should survive the winter nicely inside.  Hopefully there will be a bit of windowsill space left for it!

The Herbal Husband has been working on the annual project of cutting the ivy.  He leaves for Peru three weeks from today.  Not counting the days yet.  Just the weeks!  Hope you have had a great day.  Have a great weekend.  Talk to you next week.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

In Celebration of Chives!

The Herb Society's In Celebration of Chives Compiled by Guy Cooper & Gordon Taylor
Cut a Huge Bit of Chives Down for the Freezer
Two Containers for the Freezer Full of Sliced Up Chives!
Before I Pour in the Egg Beaters at Breakfast with Chives!
Always Have to Take That Bite!
Well, I said in my last post that I would talk about another favorite herb in my next post.  Couldn't think of what that might be!  Ha!  The mind even with herbs is going fast!  So, chives is one of the easiest herbs to grow and use.  I got my first clump of chives from a friend and it is still going strong.

I came across a quartet of small booklets from the UK several years ago.  In Celebration of Chives is one of them by Guy Cooper and Gordon Taylor.  Not a big book.  Only 48 pages, but jammed with historical, cultural and culinary information.  Just about half of this booklet is recipes.

One of my favorite ways to use chives is in my Egg Beaters at breakfast.  I wrote about chives for The Herb Companion (now Mother Earth Living) called Spring Favorites:  The Good, The Bad and the Curly Chives.  You'll find the recipe for Hungry Girl's Classic Egg Mug Recipe in my guest post.

Damp and dreary out in the 'Burgh.  Hope you are having a great wherever you may be.  Got the first round of pineapple sage jelly made.  A second round will be sometime over the weekend.  Always something this time of year.  Talk to you later.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Long Live The Queen!

The Beautiful Grandiflora Rose 'Queen Elizabeth'
We are getting to the end of the growing year here.  The Herbal Husband came in with this surprise from the garden over the weekend.  'Queen Elizabeth' was the one rose that was in our garden from the start and she is still going strong!   We moved here 24 years ago!

I'm dragging my feet about the last jelly making.  The pineapple sage has been so beautiful that I can't cut it yet.
October Blooming Pineapple Sage!
I think you can see my dilemma.  It is even more beautiful since this photo was taken!  Well, I hope you are having a great day wherever you may be.   It's a gray day in the 'Burgh!  Getting ready for the winter to come.  Rain by Wednesday.  Will talk about another favorite herb this time of year in my next post.  Talk to you then.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Darn Birds!

The birds are eating the ripe brown figs!  My favorites!  We ran out of bags or we might have bagged the whole tree!  Hasn't been a fun year.  No grapes because of frost, little raspberries because of too much rain and stink bugs.  Now the stink bugs, pill bugs and birds are getting the ripe figs!  Ugh!  Hope your day is going better than ours!  We have had minimal rain from Karen.  Hope you have a great weekend!  Talk to you later.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Lemon Verbena and Vanilla Sugar!

Layer lemon verbena leaves in the bottom!
Jar Should Be Able to Hold At Least Four Cups of Sugar!
Layer Two Cups of Sugar on Top of Lemon Verbena!
Get Good Vanilla Beans!
These Pods Are a Bit Old But Still Smell Heavenly!
Stick Pieces of Vanilla Bean in Various Places in the Sugar.
Add More Lemon Verbena Leaves and Pods and Top with Additional Two Cups of Sugar!
OK, I got the recipe from my handy dandy book/magazine from Meredith Publishing called Herb Gardening.  I'll give you the original and then give you my version in parenthesis.

Some of You Won This Magazine in My Giveaway Earlier This Year!
Verbena-Vanilla Sugar
Makes 4 cups (I used 5 cups.)

Harvest one branch about 12 inches long of lemon verbena leaves.  (Mine was about 24" long.)  Cut branches into 3 inch pieces (Mine were longer.)  Layer the verbena in the bottom of a glass jar.  The jar should be large enough to hold 4-5 cups of sugar.  Pour two cups of sugar into the jar.  Stick three vanilla beans split in half lengthwise evenly into the sugar.  My vanilla beans did come from Penzey's.  I would always recommend that you buy very good ingredients.  Unfortunately, these vanilla beans have been in my pantry for a very long time.  So while fragrant, they may not be as potent as they once were!  I hope I'm wrong.  Maybe once they get into the sugar, they will come to life!  I added the extra lemon verbena leaves and added three cups of sugar to cover everything. The recipe says to seal the jar tightly and let stand for at least one week.  (I'm going to let it stand for four weeks.)  Once the sugar is aromatic, remove the leaves and the beans.  If the sugar becomes hard or clumped, break pieces with a wooden spoon and sift the sugar before using.

 Hope this gives you another gift for the holiday season.  Looking forward to using mine when I bake for The Herbal Husband.  Adds another layer of flavor.  Beautiful fall days here in the 'Burgh.  The jelly making has been lengthen by the beautiful weather.  Will have to start watching those low temperatures at night.  The frost will sneak up on me.  Hope you are having a good day.   Talk to you later.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Guest Blogging for Mother Earth Living!

Trying to get you thinking about Christmas before Halloween!  Isn't that what all the stores are doing?  I have given you some quick and easy ideas for herbal Christmas craft projects that you can do with your kids and grands.  Here is the link called Simple Holiday Crafts with Herbs.   And until they fix it, here are the instruction for the spice wreaths that is missing in the post.   Oh, and one more idea or two, applesauce ornaments and gingerbread ones as well.  Hope it gives you some holiday inspiration!  Getting this post done, because tomorrow, I'm going to give you another easy way to preserve lemon verbena for the fall and winter season.  Stay tuned.

Monday, October 7, 2013

It's Stuffed Pepper Time and Other Gardening Thoughts!

I have come to realize that The Herbal Husband enjoys growing peppers.  Different kinds, colors, etc.  Here is this year's version of stuffed peppers.  I gave up eating this recipe because of the tomato sauce, but it is just so tasty that I'm back to eating it again.  I'll take another pill if I need it.  There were a couple of oranges ones and three green ones.  He has been busy.  I will take a photo of all of the different varieties.  It is a dizzying collection.  And I get to take care of it when he goes to Peru in November.  Didn't we donate plants to the Aviary?  Somehow we have babies of some of the plants we donated!  I'm throwing my hands up and giving up!

We are definitely chilly here!  The rain blew through this morning and we were 80 something yesterday and we are going to struggle to get to 60 today!  Ah, it's fall.  Hope you are having a wonderful day.  Talk to you later.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Smell of Tangerine in the House!

Tangerine Sage, Smaller and Blooms Earlier than Pineapple Sage!
Tangerine Sage Jelly!
We are all about the jelly this time of year.  I made a box of nasturtium jelly and The Herbal Husband said that was enough.  But there are more flowers!  I guess vinegar it is!  This is tangerine sage jelly.  I made it just like my recipe for pineapple sage jelly.  Substituting tangerine sage for pineapple sage.  The link will give you three different recipes I use for jellies this time of year.  We were in Whole Foods Market the other day and I found tangerine juice.  I'm sort of a purist when I make jelly.  Tangerine juice by itself is difficult to find.  So because it was in a carton, I knew that it would be a cloudy juice not clear.  I decided to try it.  It is not as clear as I would like, but the taste with the tangerine sage was good.  Now if I could just find the time to make more!  Always that problem this time of year.  BTW, you can make 4 batches (16 jars) from one 64 oz. carton of tangerine juice.  A very good value!

We are still warm in the 'Burgh.  I think rain comes tomorrow and then we may cool off.  Somehow The Herbal Husband "found" a baby bay rum plant and I'll show you that in my next post.  We're starting over!  Have a great weekend.  Talk to you later.

Tangerine Sage Plant in Bloom.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Donation to the National Aviary!

Well, continuing our reorganization in the garden and TRYING to downsize, we made a significant donation of tropical plants to the National Aviary this morning.  Here are before and after photos.

Called by Some An Herbal Arboretum!
A Bit Less of the Herbal Arboretum!
Really we are so fortunate to have an Aviary where they have lots of open spaces and places to use the tropical plants we had.  Thanks to our friends, Denny and Lyn who came with their truck and helped secure them for the ride to town.  Thanks to Jessie in Development and Tom at the Aviary for his passion for plants and birds.  I think we will probably have a future donation to go, but we know they will be in good hands when we do.

A hot and humid sunny day with drops of rain included.  The nasturtiums are just going crazy.   Hope you are having a great day.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

You Don't Grow This Herb For Its Flowers!

There are a lot of herbs that you don't grow for its flowers.  My favorite is one of them.  And don't think you can get seeds from these flowers.  You will wait a long time.  I had a reader say that she was growing lemon verbenas from seed.  I asked her when the lemon verbenas got bigger to let me know how they were doing.  She never got back to me.  I would tell you if you want to propagate your lemon verbenas, you need to take cuttings.  I wrote about lemon verbena for Herb Companion in 2009.  The post was called The Lemon Verbena Lady's Favorite Herb.  In fact I have written several posts for Herb Companion (now Mother Earth Living).  You can find the rest under the Page Links to Guest Posts for Mother Earth Living.

Getting ready for a big move tomorrow and I will fill you in on Friday.  Hope you are having a great day.  The weather is like summer here.  That's why I like fall in the 'Burgh.