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!


FlowerLady Lorraine said...

I love tarragon. Haven't had any for awhile. Now that fall is approaching I need to see if I can find it.

Your wreath is very pretty.

You inspire me with your herbal knowledge and projects.

Have a lovely weekend ~ FlowerLady

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

Thanks FL. I had tarragon in my omelet this morning! It was delish! Hope you have a great weekend as well. xo