Thursday, August 28, 2014

It Was a Perfect Day!

A 'Queen Elizabeth' Rose Adorned the Dining Table!
A Fruit Salad with Lemon Verbena!
The Herbal Husband Shared His Favorite Waffles!
My gift, A Souvenir Spoon!
The Birthday Cards I Received!
Time in the Garden to Pick Raspberries and Bugs!
Picked Enough For Another Batch of Raspberry Jam!
K-P Duty for Lunch!
The Herbal Husband Prepared a Wonderful Causa!
Spiedino di Mare
Dessert Rosa for Me!
We Enjoyed Our Dinner and Especially Dessert!

Well, I hope you can see what a great birthday I had!  The Herbal Husband took care of making breakfast and lunch.  Well I did help with lunch boiling the potatoes and eggs!  Here is a link for the causa recipe.  I got to work in the garden.  We had a little drive to Ohio and had a lovely dinner.  Now back to reality and not eating so much and moving more tomorrow!  Thanks to everyone that wished me a Happy Birthday on Facebook and here.  It was a beautiful day here.  Back to summer heat tomorrow and over the weekend.  If you are in the U.S., have a great Labor Day weekend.  Talk to you later.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Herbal Harvesting and Preserving Again!

Having Been Getting A Great Raspberry Crop Despite the Stink Bugs!
Well, when we get to late August, you are still not too late to be taking care of herbal chores in the garden!  We always seem to wait until the last minute to harvest, move plants inside, etc.  Don't worry you aren't too late!  Hope you weren't thinking that!  Erase those thoughts from your head.  I decided not to reinvent the wheel and give you some links to past posts I have done.

Vinegars are a very quick and delicious way to preserve your herbal harvest.  This first link is my favorite recipe for nasturtium peppercorn vinegar from Kathleen Gips' book called The Complete Vinegar Book.  If you have a lot of nasturtium flowers, this recipe is a good way to use them up!  Any of the small leaf basils, such as 'Minette', 'Boxwood' or 'Spicy Globe' can be put in vinegar as well.  I just had a beautiful salad burnet plant this year and I think I will be making a vinegar recipe from Alma Otto in Phyllis Shaudys' book, Herbal Treasures using salad burnet, chives and garlic.
The Cucumber Flavor of the Salad Burnet Minus the Extra Protein is Great in Vinegar!
I really don't have extra time to do a lot of fancy preserving techniques.  Well, you are going to say and I can hear it now but you can and make jelly and jam, Lemon Verbena Lady!  Yes, I know but everything else I do has to be very easy.  Here is a post I did in the early days of this blog called Herbal Crunch Time!

So I hope these links gives you some information you may have forgotten or may be new to you.  At the very least I hope you are enjoying your herb gardens.  We have had a wonderful season here in the 'Burgh!  A beautiful day is forecast for my birthday tomorrow.  Will post my favorite lunch The Herbal Husband makes me every birthday and we are going to Carrabba's Italian Grill in Ohio tomorrow night.  Hope you are having a great day and evening in your herb garden.  Talk to you later.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Another Surprise from Benevolent Botanical Greetings!

My Birthday Potpourri and Speak the Language of Flowers Card!
A Potpourri and Card for Giving Comfort and Sympathy in the Language of Flowers!
The surprises just keep coming in the mail.  Yesterday my Facebook friend, Elizabeth Bergstrom Case who operates the website Benevolent Botanical Greetings sent me a birthday card and potpourri surprise with lavender and rosemary among other herbs and blossoms and a sympathy card and potpourri as a sample.  Our buddy, Kathleen Gips brought us together!

You see in January of 2013 I lost my cousin, Dottie.  I asked Elizabeth at that time if she had a sympathy card that might work.  Her husband may have not been comforted by it, but I thought it was a good idea for others grieving.  Fast forward to yesterday when I received my package in the mail.  Elizabeth hoped that I would not have to use it right away.  Unfortunately I have the perfect couple to receive it, because they have both lost their mothers this summer!  Take a look on the website and see what you think.  Everything is artfully and beautifully designed and packaged.  Custom orders are always available.  I have added the website to my favorites on the right hand side of this blog.  Elizabeth and I teamed up to do a Valentine's Day post of Mother Earth Living called Crafts for Valentine's Day and the Language of Flowers.  Remember to think in the Language of Flowers for an unexpected and lovely take on holidays and in times of need.

We are having the ickies and stickies here again!  Last gasp of summer!  Can't believe Labor Day weekend is coming!  Got to work on more raspberry jam and basil jellies.  Life is never boring in the herb garden.  Hope you are busy harvesting and preserving.  Talk to you later.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Thanks for the Wonderful Surprise, Mar!

A Clue to My Surprise with Her Heartfelt William Morris Note!
Next a Sampler of Possibilities from Barbara Brackman and William Morris!
My best friend, Marilyn (I call her Mar) and I went out for a birthday/anniversary lunch last week.  Mar and I have been through many ups and downs over our 40 years of friendship!  She reminded me of one of those moments in her birthday note for me.

You see we share a birthday and anniversary.  Thirty-two years ago I was dumped by my boyfriend and I was not the ideal wedding guest for Tom and Mar's wedding on my 30th birthday!  And somehow she was glad that that episode occurred!  Over the past year she has weathered a couple of storms in her health.  She is lucky and happy to still be alive.  I love her kids like they are my own.  She is a terrific seamstress and she surprised me with some swatches of William Morris patterned cloth from Barbara Brackman for a quilt just for me.  William Morris was a British force in design in the 19th century.  Not going to be a large quilt just enough to cover me when I'm rocking in the nursing home!

I have tried to get away from presents between the two of us and have even given best friend coupons as a gift for her.  I thought spending time together would be the greatest gift.  It hasn't worked very well yet.  I still have hope!  So I was very shocked to find a gift bag in the front seat of the car when she picked me up.

Thank you so much Mar for your support, love and friendship.  Sisters couldn't be closer than we are.  I look forward to the reveal of my surprise birthday quilt!

Lovely hot weather in the final week of August.  Trying to pick raspberries before they are ruined by the stink bugs!  Looking forward to my birthday later this week.  I'll post my traditional lunch that The Herbal Husband makes for me and we are taking a road trip to Ohio for dinner.  I'll share that in a later post!

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Flavors of Summer from the Garden!

Chicken Salad in Avocado
A White Pizza
Lunch Today!
The tomatoes are coming in like crazy.  Not quite like in the early days when I canned them into tomato sauce.  Unfortunately I can't eat sauce any more in great quantities.  So we just have to find ways to eat them every day and almost every meal.  I had an English muffin this morning with some peanut butter and a Zebra tomato which is green if you don't know.  It is one of my favorite tomatoes.  The top photo is from a lunch a few weeks ago where I made chicken salad with a bit of mayo and herbs and a bit of mixed veggies thrown and placed in a half of an avocado.  

The middle photo is dinner one night several days ago.  Since I can't have tomato or pizza sauce because of my GERD and The Herbal Husband doesn't like red sauce, we do a white pizza.  Lots of toppings, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, ham, cheese on a Boboli crust.  You get the idea.

The bottom photo is our lunch today.  We had a big salad with avocado and feta cheese, croutons and lots of different herbs and fresh tomatoes!  Hope you are enjoying the flavors of summer before it is gone!

The ickies and stickies are still with us.  Hope you are having a great day!  Talk to you later. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

On A Very Sunny Day in the Garden!

Have to Pick the Second Crop of Raspberries Before the Stink Bugs Get Them!
'Silver King' Artemisia Almost Ready to Cut!
The 'Mt. Fuji' Phlox is Beautiful, Fragrant and No Mildew!
The 'Fairy' Rose Keeps On Blooming!
The 'Fireworks' (Goldenrod) Have Started!
In The Front Garden, the Hostas Have Been Beautiful!
We have been lucky and lush in the gardens this year.  We just got 2.7 inches of rain in the gauge overnight!  The sun is out at the moment, but we are supposed to get more rain later!  Hope the forecast is wrong.  Just wanted to show you some of the standouts in our garden this year.  Hope you are having a great day wherever you may be.  What is doing wonderfully (besides the weeds) in your garden?  Talk to you soon.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Pot Luck Picnic for Gardeners and Friends at Schenley Plaza!

Lemon Verbena Cookies On the Way to the Picnic!

Gardeners Know How to Cook!
Me and One of My Gardening Mentors, Jessica Walliser!
Jessica and Doug with Fans of Their Radio Show and GE Events!
The title of this post may be a mystery for you.  A couple of weeks ago I got invitation from Jessica on Facebook for a pot luck picnic for gardeners and friends organized by Doug Oster, her Organic Gardeners radio partner.  He and Jessica are a very talented pair.  Jessica taught me everything I know about horticulture and probably much more that I have forgotten and should have remembered.  We were giggling yesterday that she would stand in front of us holding her notes so tightly and would start to read.  Two and one-half hours later she would be done and the class would have been writing the whole time!  It was an amazing time.  I learned so much that has made me the gardener I am today!  Thanks Jessica!  Thanks Doug for organizing the event.  BTW, Doug is a columnist and blogger for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and a garden author as well. 

The event was held at Schenley Plaza.  There is a big tent in one corner that is used in all kinds of weather for eating and socializing.   I thought I may have known a few more people, but I didn't know a soul besides Jessica and Doug.  As it turned out, a lovely couple asked me to join them.  Thank you Veronica and Dennis for asking me to join you.  Always interesting to hear about the same problems or different ones in the garden.  Universal problem is the deer population.  Veronica cooks what Dennis grows.  I would say it's a great partnership.  I had lunch before I went and so I didn't try everyone's dish.  I did love an individual quiche that turned out to be Veronica's contribution.  She gladly shared the recipe with me.  It is simple and delicious!  I'm going to share it with you plus the recipe for lemon verbena sugar cookies I have shared before.

ZUCCHINI CHEESECAKE (OK, so it's more like a quiche.)
Serves 6
Contributed by Mary Ann Fennimore

1 cup Bisquick
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
1 T. parsley, chopped
1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
4 eggs
2 medium squash, shredded and drained (3 cups)  

Mix the oil with the eggs first (This step seems to help the batter come out smooth.) and then add all other ingredients except for the squash.  Squeeze out the excess moisture from the squash and fold into the batter.  Bake in a greased 8 x 8 inch casserole dish about 30 minutes at 350˚.  (Veronica said she used a muffin top pan for the individual quiches and topped them with a slice of tomato (Hers was a Roma variety.) before baking.

(Makes about 4 dozen cookies)
Source Unknown

2-1/2 cups flour                                          1 cup butter, softened
2 T. fresh lemon verbena, chopped            1-1/2 cups sugar
2 t. baking powder                                       2 eggs
1/4 t. salt                                                      1 t. vanilla
1-1/2 t. lemon zest                                      extra sugar for rolling

NOTE:  If you don't have any lemon verbena or other herbs, I think you can just omit it and just let the lemon zest be the surprise.  Preheat oven to 350˚.  Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt) in a bowl and set aside.  I put all other ingredients (butter, lemon verbena, lemon zest, sugar, eggs and vanilla) except for the extra sugar in the food processor and combine or beat in a bowl with a mixer.  The food processor finely chops the lemon verbena and lemon zest so they aren’t big pieces.  If you don’t have a food processor just make sure to finely chop the lemon verbena and lemon zest (or other herbs) (fresh rosemary or lemon balm would work as well) and add them to the dry mixture.  Add one half of the flour mixture to the food processor or bowl to combine.  Then stir in the remaining flour mixture with a wooden spoon.  This is a very sticky dough.  I have tried to refrigerate it, but it is still sticky.  So make rounded teaspoons and roll them in the extra sugar.  Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake them for 8 to 10 minutes until golden on the edges.  When you take them out of the oven, let them sit for a minute or so and then take them off the cookie sheet to cool.

I think I won the grand prize (an automatic grass seeder) briefly.  I passed it on to the next ticket holder.  I don't have enough grass to warrant a grass seeder!  The person who finally won it was thrilled!  They gave away a lot of prizes yesterday.  My prize was getting to talk to Jessica.  Was very glad to be with her again.

The other point in Jessica's and Doug's story is that they had a partnership with the local Market District Giant Eagle stores to come and do a cooking demo and answer people's questions and give organic gardening tips on a monthly basis.  They had quite a following.  Giant Eagle pulled the plug on these events and this picnic was a thank you to their followers because Giant Eagle didn't give them a chance to say goodbye.  I know these two will come up with a solution.  So stay tuned!

Back to the ickies and stickies in the garden.  I actually have a Youtube page started, but it is about The Herbal Husband's flight on the Memphis Belle over the weekend!  How do these things happen?  Hope to get some gardening videos on there shortly.  Hope you are having a great day.  Talk to you later.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Is It A Weed, Herb or Groundcover Or Maybe Two Out Of Three?

New Use for Purslane as a Groundcover!
Well, I would say it's at least two out of three.  It is better known as purslane (Portulaca oleracea).  I have always considered it a weed first and now I'm more likely to consider it an herb or a groundcover.  I first learned about it being so good for you from my herbal friend, Jekka McVicar who wrote this fabulous cookbook called Jekka's Herb Cookbook.  She states that "This (purslane) is an important culinary herb as it is one of the few vegetable sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids.  It also contains vitamins A, B and C and minerals such as magnesium, calcium and potassium."  You can also pickle purslane with sliced garlic, peppercorns and apple cider vinegar.  May try this if I have enough.  The Herbal Husband and I started putting purslane leaves and stems (if not too woody) in our salads after Jekka's visit in 2011.  You can read about Jekka's visit to Pittsburgh in my blog for Mother Earth Living called The Herb Channeler's Adventures with Jekka McVicar.

Just recently Barbara Damrosch in her column for the Washington Post called Dealing with a Glut of Weeds said a friend asked whether she could just leave the purslane instead of pulling it.  Damrosch adds that her husband says that the "soil is much happier with vegetation on it."  Why not purslane?

Well, we had another spectacular day in the 'Burgh!  Hope you had a great one as well and that you have a great weekend!  Talk to you later.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Be Sure You Cut These Blooms or You'll Have Tons, Herbally Speaking!

The Beautiful White Flowers of Garlic Chives!
As we are winding down the summer season here in the 'Burgh, it is a sure sign that August is here because the garlic chives are blooming!  A lot of my herbs are done for the year, borage is just about done.  So is the bee balm.  The mountain mint has started to bloom.  The calendulas continue.  The white star shaped flowers are attracting all sorts of pollinators and can be mesmerizing!  Don't be lured in by their pretty shapes and garlic smell.  As soon as you see their seed heads start to form, cut them off or you will have garlic chives everywhere!  I really had to clamp down on these several years in my herb garden and of course, The Herbal Husband replanted them elsewhere in the garden!  My twist on the old expression, if you can't beat them, join them, but don't let the garlic chives seed!

The gardens are growing by leaps and bounds!  We had three inches of rain in less than two days!  Fortunately didn't have floods like other areas.  Was so sad to hear of the passing of Robin Williams.  I was diagnosed with clinical depression in the 80's and got help.  Not as easy with addiction thrown into the mix.  RIP Robin!  Like someone said online, Make God laugh!  Hope you are having a great day!  Talk to you later.

Monday, August 11, 2014

I'm Just a Basket Case, Herbally Speaking!

Had to Use The Herbal Husband's Camera for a Better Shot!
Well, I can't take much more of this season!  Oh, it has been one of the best for me in the herb garden.  Having said that, I'm on edge about the stink bug attacking!  And now we have these eggs being laid on the lemon verbena which I love so much!  They aren't stink bug eggs.   I don't think.  I have asked my friend, Jessica Walliser who just wrote a book called Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden for Timber Press what they might be.  I'm hoping that it is a beneficial insect.  Can't take much more. ;)  So I will let you know as soon as I know.  Well, here is Jessica's response to me just now and it is all good news:
I'm fairly certain they are the cocoons of a parasitic wasp. You can see how the tops have been chewed open so the adult wasps could emerge. My guess is that there was once an insect on the leaf that was parasitized by the female wasp (probably a caterpillar of some sort) and just stayed on the leaf as the wasp larvae consumed its body. The body eventually disintegrated, leaving only the pupating wasp larvae behind. Cool find.
The rain has started to fall here.  We may have up to 2" by tomorrow!  It has been a beautiful year in the herb garden.  Hope you are having a great day.  Talk to you later.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Celebrate the 2014 Herb of the Year-Artemisia, Part Two!

I think I wrote in January that I would be talking about the 2014 Herb of the Year once a month!  That's really funny!  Well, eight months in I would like to continue my conversation with you about the 2014 Herb of the Year-Artemisia.  When you think of artemisia, you might think about wormwood, or southernwood.  As I talked about in January, tarragon is an artemisia.  There are 200 plus species of artemisia and they come in annual and perennial varieties.  I have grown a few in my garden.  I found a very good article by Betsy Strauch in the October/November 1993 Herb Companion (now Mother Earth Living) magazine called The Many Faces of Artemisia to give you some information about these wonderful herbs.

The Wildlife Love the Southernwood!
Several years ago I had a beautiful bush of southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) in my garden.  Between the shade of a tree and the tunnels of a chipmunk, the southernwood died, but it was a glorious addition to my garden while it lasted.  It was placed by the front or back door in Medieval times so that a lady’s skirt would brush over it or by it and take the fragrance into the house.  It is used more as a moth repellent today and should never be ingested.  I am growing a lemon southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) in my lemon and lime herb garden this season.  I am going to use it when it is a bit bigger to put in moth chasers.

The annual artemisia is called sweet Annie (Artemisia annua) and is used for fragrance in potpourris and in wreaths for your wall or door.  I have to work with sweet Annie outdoors not inside because it gives me a headache.  It was a beautiful day today and I was able to use the sweet Annie I cut last fall for a wreath for my front door.  I just poked the stems into the grapevine and then wired it down using 24 gauge green wire.  It makes a very upright plant for the herb garden but the other caution is that it can reseed rampantly.  I know all of these cautions, but sometimes you just have to live on the wild side for a bit!
Sweet Annie Adorns This Grapevine Wreath on Our Front Door!
'Silver King' Artemisia Drying for Use in Wreaths!
Another nonculinary Artemisia that I have worked with in wreaths and decorations is ‘Silver King’ Artemisia (Artemisia ludoviciana).  Some artemisias are clumpers and some are reseeders.  This Artemisia is a runner, but not too bad and the good news it increases the size of your plants each year.  It is starting to form flower heads and I'll try to be vigilant now so that they go past and turn black.  You will need quite a bit if you are going to make more than one wreath each year.  Recently, I made a Christmas tree with my ‘Silver King’ Artemisia for a blog post.  It is really fun to decorate with natural decorations and it lasts for several years.
Spring is a Wonderful Time for Tarragon in the Herb Garden!
The final Artemisia I am going to discuss in this post is one of the culinary ones and there are only a few.  French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus 'Sativa') is the only good tarragon to grow and use in cooking.  It is a sterile plant and if you see seeds of tarragon for sale in a store, it will definitely be Russian tarragon which has an inferior taste.

For those of you in the deep south who can’t grow French tarragon, I would grow Mexican tarragon or Mexican marigold mint (Tagetes lucida) which can stand the heat of the south.  I can’t say this enough there are many common names but only one botanical name.  So if you always learn the botanical name, you will get the correct plant.

French tarragon is preserved very well in vinegar for winter use and the sprigs of preserved tarragon can be used just like fresh.  Here is a favorite omelet recipe with my twist on it:

Indulgent Omelet (from 1990 April/May Herb Companion) by M.J. McCormick

Makes One Serving

2 T. butter

2 Eggs (or equivalent in egg substitute)

1 T. water

1/2 t. fresh tarragon

3 T. cream cheese (or equivalent in Laughing Cow Cheese)

2 sprigs of parsley, chopped

½ t. paprika

¼ t. fresh tarragon

¼ medium onion, chopped

Lightly stir together eggs, water and ½ t. tarragon.  Set aside.  Cream together cheese, parsley, paprika and ¼ t. of tarragon.  Set aside.  In an 8-inch skillet, sauté onion in butter over medium-high heat.  Pour in eggs and cook as for any omelet, pushing cooked portion of eggs to the center of the skillet and allowing runny portions to spread around the edges to cook.  When eggs are set, spread the cheese and herb filling down the center of the eggs, roll the omelet in half and slide it onto a plate.  Garnish with paprika, pepper and additional parsley and tarragon.

Hopefully I'll get back on track and read Adelma's take on artemisia and let you know what she has to say!  Hope you have a great weekend!  We had a beautiful day here and another one is coming tomorrow!  I have been busy making jelly if you think I've been slacking!  Enjoy your herb garden! Talk to you later!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Six Years And Counting!

It doesn't seem possible that six years ago today I started my blog.  It all started with reading the sisters (Nancy and Susanna) Reppert's blog, Rosemary's Sampler.  Well, it hasn't been as productive a year as some, but I am still blogging!  I have been lucky enough to guest blog for Herb Companion now Mother Earth Living and occasionally review books for Timber Press.   I want to thank all of you who read what I write. You are why I keep writing! 

I also want to say a very special thank you to The Herbal Husband for all of his help and his garden gifts.  I'm just happy to have really enjoyed my garden this year, diseases, pests and all!  So hopefully I can continue to translate my joy for my herb garden into this blog that I call Lemon Verbena Lady's Herb Garden.  Hope you are having a great day!  Talk to you later!

An Old Sign Finding A New Place in the Garden!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Birds and Butterflies and an Special Bonus in the Herb Garden!

One of My Favorites, a Goldfinch on the Sunflower (Edible)!
A Swallowtail Butterfly on the Butterfly Bush (Flower Not Edible)!
'Brother Cadfael' (Edible) The Gift That Keeps on Giving!
I seem to be taking good photos of the birds in the herb garden.  The Herbal Husband has been working on the bees and butterflies!  I think it is a very good combination.  He found another 'Brother Cadfael' the other night and cut it for me before the Japanese beetles got it!  Sometimes this rose doesn't open well when cut early, but this one worked!  The fragrance is wonderful!  It reminds me of why we both garden.  Hopefully you are having a great day in your garden whether it be herbal or not!  Got to run.  To the garden!  Talk to you later.