Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Herb Garden Planning

Now is a great time to plan which herbs you would like to grow.  Making a list now will reduce the chance of you purchasing something you have not prepared a place for and the chance of buying something you won't be able to care for or find a spot to grow.

What herbs do you use now in cooking, for crafts, or for other purposes?  I would recommend starting with a few you are already somewhat familiar with even if you have only used them dried.  Chives, parsley, mint (if grown in a container), sage, lavender, tarragon, thyme, and oregano are some that are usually easy to find and grow. 

Once you have a list check to see if they will grow in your area by researching the herbs and finding what climate zone you are in.

Even if you can't grow an herb outside in your area you may still be able to grow it indoors.  I grow several herbs in pots that would not survive the winter in my yard.  I can still enjoy them and have some houseplants to eat over the winter.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wreaths, Swags, and Pomanders

Wreath


Swag
My daughter and I made our first Christmas wreath and swag.  I bought the frame, moss, and florist tape.  The boughs came from a tree lot.  I looked through books and online for ideas then experimented.  We added from our yard with juniper, hawthorne, mountain ash, and oregon grape berries and greenery.  Ribbon was chosen from my box of ribbons.  I think for a first try we did all right.   For the swag I just gathered boughs together with wire and decorated in a similar manner.  I think the swag turned out much better.



Pomanders - lemon, orange, pear
Potpourri and pomanders can be used for ornaments or placed in a dish for decoration and to add some seasonal scent.
I have made pomanders from oranges, tangerines, small lemons, small pears, and small apples.  Stick whole cloves into the fruit. For fruit with tougher skins you may need to poke a hole with a needle or nail before placing the cloves.  Either cover the entire fruit or leave areas for ribbon for hanging as I did in the ones pictured.  After adding the cloves roll the fruit in a mixture of ground spices - cinnamon, cloves, and/or nutmeg.  Leave in a dish of the spices turning regularly until dry.  Add the ribbon if desired after fruit has dried. 
Pomanders can also be made from a clay of applesauce and ground spices.  Mix throughly and form into balls or cut out with cookie cutters.  Set in ground spices turning a few times per day until dry.   I wrapped mine with sheer fabric and hung them from the tree.  They did not last as long as the fruit pomanders I made but were still fun to make.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gifts for Herb Lovers, Gardeners, Cooks, Crafters

Herb related gifts are a great choice for crafters, cooks, gardeners, and anyone who loves herbs or wants to learn more about or try using herbs.  

For some garden and herb related ideas including books, DVDs, dried herbs, herb posters and more check here.

Do you know someone who loves essential oils and/or natural personal care products?  
Therapeutic grade essential oils are best for crafts, aromatherapy, culinary use, and health improvement.

You can order directly from the above sites for delivery to your family or friends.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Herbs for Christmas/Chocolate Dipped ???

There are so many ways to use herbs during the holidays: ornaments, pomanders, potpourri, wreaths, and of course in food and drinks.

Ideas and directions for some of these - Squidoo

Some foods you can enhance with herbs are cheese balls, hot cider, butter, cookies, breads, soups, dips, and chocolate.

Ever dipped chocolates? 
What about chocolate dipped dried fruit or garlic? Chocolate dipped peppers?
I found two more recipes for chocolate dipped hot peppers - 1& 2

I am interested in trying all of them except maybe the habaneros. 
If anyone tries any of these please comment on this post.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipes Using Herbs

The Herb Companion Magazine has several Thanksgiving recipes including Cornbread Sage Dressing and Whole Roasted Salmon with Fennel & Rosemary.
Check them out here.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Salad From My Garden in November

Today, 5 November, I harvested vegetables and herbs from my garden for a salad.  That is pretty remarkable in my zone 6 garden. 
My salad contained home grown kale, beet greens, chard, lovage, green onions, miner's lettuce, dandelion leaves, and most amazing - currant tomatoes. 
This is the first year I have grown currant tomatoes.  The flavor was fine though not spectacular.  Due to their small size you have to pick many for them to be usable so I had not planned to grow them again. The weather has been cool enough that larger tomatoes struggle to ripen.  The currants have continued to ripen though more slowly.  I lost some squash to a freeze a couple weeks ago but everything else - including peppers and tomatoes - are still alive.
The cool season plants are doing great.  It will be interesting to see how long I will be able to harvest this year.  Maybe I will contribute a homegrown green salad to Thanksgiving dinner at my brother's house.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chamomile - guest post by Kiva Rose


Today we are excited to have a guest herbal columnist on our site today. Kiva Rose is a well-known herbal blogger, and co-founder of the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference.
Kiva is finally coming out with her secrets of how she learns so much about plants without using books. Her plant monographs, like the one below, are famous for their deep exploration into herbs that you will not find in other places.
Do you REALLY know chamomile? I doubt it. Enjoy the article…
Earth Apple: The Bittersweet Medicine of Chamomile
By Kiva Rose
I am excited to finally be able to go deeper into explaining herbal energetics in my upcoming course, Herb Energetics
Let’s begin with an herb we all know and love, chamomile.
However, do you REALLY know Chamomile?
Chamomile means “earth apple” which is easy to understand when we accidentally trample the flowers and underfoot and suddenly smell the welcome fragrance of apples rising from the earth. In the same way, Spanish speaking peoples often use the name Manzanilla, literally meaning “little apple”.
Even for those largely unfamiliar with herbs, the distinctive sweet scent of Chamomile is often both familiar and comforting. This plant is many people’s first and perhaps only introduction to herbalism, often from a cup of honey-sweetened and belly-calming tea from their grandmother.
Many children enjoy eating the buds or just opened flowers, savoring the sweet aromatic taste of the plant, and rarely seeming to mind the slightly bitter aftertaste. Some patches of Chamomile, depending on phase of flowering and availability of moisture, are much more bitter than others but the fragrant sweetness persists even in the most bitter batches.
Far from irrelevant, these signature sensory characteristics of Chamomile that make the plant memorable in our minds are also the primary keys to understanding how to work with Matricaria as a medicine.
As with almost any herb, the taste and scent of Matricaria tells us a great deal about its properties, allowing us to use our senses to listen to the plant and understand its essence as a medicine. That blissfully apple-like scent that children so love to breathe in from the flowers tends to bring relaxed smiles to their faces and anyone who’s ever drank a cup of the tea can testify to the relaxing, tension alleviating effects of the plant.
That aromatic component, stemming from the plant’s high volatile oil content, is predictably nervine, meaning that it has a discernible effect on the nervous system. In this case, a specific relaxing, calming effect. Additionally, that same volatile oil content is responsible for Chamomile’s actions as a carminative, relieving digestive stagnation in the form of gas, gut cramping and mild constipation. A traditional remedy by several North American indigenous tribes for the uterine cramps of girls just beginning their menstrual cycles, Chamomile is a mild relaxant for the smooth muscles of the gut, uterus, bladder and respiratory tract with a specific affinity for the gut.
Matricaria is not just aromatic, even in the sweetest Chamomile flowers we find a notably bitter aftertaste. Rather than ruining the flavor of an otherwise tasty herb, that bitter element enhances and expands the medicinal properties of the plant. The bitter flavor tells us that it has a distinct effect on the digestive system, even beyond the aromatic/carminative qualities.
The bitterness increases the secretion of digestive juices and enzymes in the gut, thereby improving digestion wherever there is a lack of secretions, which is a common cause of heartburn and many cases of general gut discomfort. This combined with its obvious nervine properties; Matricaria excels at treating what is commonly known as a “nervous stomach”, which generally implies digestive upset concurrent with anxiety and nervous tension.
Volatile oils and bitter principles together make for a powerful ability to reduce inflammation and promote healing, especially in the gut. I rarely create a formula for those with leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome or even Crohn’s disease that doesn’t contain some proportion of Chamomile. Even as a simple, this pleasant tasting plant can very effectively reduce gut inflammation, pain and cramping while promoting healing of the mucosa and improving overall digestion. And of course, reducing any anxiety that may be aggravating or triggering the gut issues in the first place.
Just as it soothes and heals internally, Matricaria is also a first-rate external application for almost any case of inflammation, irritation, swelling and even potential infection. It finds its way into many of my compress formulas for eczema, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis and other common inflammatory skin conditions.
Steams, baths and infused oil are other effective ways of utilizing the calming, decongestive and healing properties of the herb. It’s also the first plant I think of in addressing the discomfort, irritability, insomnia, belly upset and fever of teething in small children.
Chamomile is one of my favorite remedies for all sorts of eye inflammations and infections. It can be used as a warm compress or saline eyewash to reduce inflammation, possible infection and pain in the treatment of styes, conjunctivitis, pink eye and similar maladies.
It teams up especially well with any Rosa spp. petals where there is a great deal of redness, irritation and swelling in the eye and the surrounding area. Just be sure to strain all those tiny (and potentially irritating) bits of Chamomile flower before using as an eyewash.
Chamomile has a well-deserved reputation as an archetypal remedy for children (or as Matthew Wood says “children of any age”), especially where there is fussiness, restlessness, frequent digestive upset and a tendency to react strongly to any irritant or discomfort. If one were to read the first dozen monograph on Matricaria they came across, the word “soothing” would be likely to show up in nearly every one. While now a somewhat clich├ęd representation of this common herb, it is nonetheless very accurate.
There’s a tendency by some of us to be less interested in the classic gentle herbs whose effects seem obvious, mild and less than profound. And yet, Chamomile has retained it’s popularity and reputation over the years for a very a specific reason. It works. It’s an effective, widely applicable, safe medicine well-loved by countless generations of mothers, herbalists and more recently, even medical doctors. This small but fragrant apple of the earth remains an invaluable medicine for all of us. Through both sweet and the bitter tastes, Chamomile provides us with a simple yet essential remedy.
Considerations: People with sensitivities to plants in the Aster family may have similar problems with Matricaria. Also note that Pineapple Weed (M. discoidea) often has a stronger bitter component and overall action than the common garden grown M. recutita.
The low down…
Common Name: Chamomile, Manzanilla, Pineapple Weed
Botanical Name: Matricaria recutita (as well as M. discoidea)
Botanical Family: Asteraceae
Taste: Aromatic, sweet, bitter
Vital Actions: relaxant nervine, relaxant diaphoretic, aromatic bitter/carminative, vulnerary,
Specific Indications: Irritability, tension, heat, hypersensitivity to pain
Energetics: sl. Cool, dry
So, exactly how does Kiva learn about plants by using her senses?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Chives

Chives
Chives are fairly easy to grow anywhere.   You can grow a pot on your kitchen table or counter or you can grow them in your yard or garden - or both.  Garlic or Chinese chives are also easy to grow.

Chives are small onion like plants which grow in clumps.  Chives have purple edible flowers, rounded leaves, and a light onion flavor.  Garlic chives have white edible flowers, triangular shaped leaves, and a garlic flavor.  If using chive flowers harvest just after they open.  The flowers will separate into small pieces (florets) which can be scattered into salads for an attractive appearance and a chive (or garlic chive) flavor.

Both types of chives can be started from seed, purchased as a plant, or divided from an existing plant.  When starting from seed plant many seeds together since each seed will grow to be one plant.  At first they will look like tiny grass plants but as they grow the stems will thicken and they will be more obviously chives.  Chives can be harvested when the leaves are just a few inches tall.  Since you probably won't have many at first you can still cut them (leaving 1/2 - 1" for regrowth) and throw them in a salad.

To divide chives just cut into the bunch with a trowel or spade.  Dig up the portion you want and plant in another location or into a pot filled with good quality potting soil. The pot need not be much larger than the clump you are planting.


If moving indoors to or in a pot your chives will do better if exposed to the first light frost first - then move indoors.

As with other herbs use your imagination: top a baked potato, stir into scrambled eggs, throw into a salad, mix some with softened butter or cream cheese.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Edible Landscaping Blog

In addition to this blog I now have an Edible Landscaping Blog.  You can view and Follow it here: Eat Your Landscape
I also have a general gardening/landscaping blog on my website: Herbarium
I look forward to hearing your comments here as well as there.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Potted Herbs - Moving back indoors

The nights and days are getting cooler so it is time to prepare some of my herbs for the move indoors.  Those I already have in pots include 2 lemon trees, scented geranium, lemon verbena, pineapple sage, and bay.  I will need to move my lemongrass from the garden where it spent the summer back to a pot.

Before moving my herbs indoors I will prune any broken or dead growth or any that seems to be growing in an undesirable direction.   As it gets closer to the move I will then spray them off with water and apply horticultural oil to the leaves, trunk, and stems.  This should take care of any pests that try to move inside with them.  It has always worked so far. 
 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Organic Gardening Ebook

I wrote an ebook on organic gardening to help those who want to get started with organic gardening or those who might like some extra tips.                                                            Organic Gardening ebook - preview copy only $5.00 to the first 100 people. I would appreciate personal feedback about it. You will receive the updated version for free plus a copy of Basic Herb Growing ebooklet.

 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Harvesting My Herbs

I have been harvesting my herbs for awhile now both for immediate use and for preserving for later. 

Many herbs I just pop into a freezer bag and put  in the freezer.  This winter I can just take out the amount I need for a recipe.  After freezing they easily crumble into whatever dish I am creating.  I use them fresh from the bag without thawing first.  I also prepare some by drying. In this case I rinse them off and set them on the trays of my dehydrator.  I don't turn the dehydrator on.  At room temperature in my dry climate they are usually dry in a day or so.  I then seal them in storage bags or glass jars and store in a cool dry place.  Again, I don't crumble them but leave them as whole as possible to preserve as much as the oils as possible. 

Of the many herbs I use fresh from the garden basil is one of my favorite.  I don't think you can ever have too much basil.  When using herbs don't be afraid to experiment.  As long as you know it is edible and does not cause any problems for you specifically (such as allergic reactions) feel free to try different combinations and see what you think.  I love fresh basil, fresh tomatoes, chives, and cheese in my scrambled eggs.  Another way I love basil is to layer fresh zucchini, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, and green onions in a glass pie pan and bake in the oven until the zucchini is tender.  Sometimes I top it with cheese before baking.  Since it is almost time to eat I think I will go prepare some right now.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Learning About Herbs

Herbs have been a love of mine for as long as I can remember.   When I was young the only herb I remember using fresh was parsley.  Dried oregano was something I always added to pasta sauce although my mom thought I added too much.  I love the smells and tastes of herbs whether fresh or dried.  Learning about herbs is an ongoing process for me.  I have been compiling a list of herb resources that you may want to check out.  If you know of any sites to add please let me know.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Drying and pressing flowers

Have you dried or pressed flowers?  Oregano (the purple flowered variety) has beautiful flowers that dry easily.  Pansies can be set face down and just shrink as they dry creating lovely minature pansies.  Most of my flower drying has just involved placing the flowers in a vase without water or lying them on a dehydrator tray.  Smaller delphinum flowers can turn out beautifully although they are quite fragile. Bachelor buttons are among the flowers that add nice color to potpourri.  Rose petals and lavender are the flowers I dry most often.  Potpourri, decorating sachets, and creating dried arrangements is how I have used most of my dried flowers.  Pressing flowers is something I have little experience with.  Flower Pressing Secrets can give me more ideas of how to dry and press flowers and how to use them.

Basic Herb Growing

I have written a booklet on Basic Herb Growing - available as a PDF for just .75
Check it out and let me know what you think!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Drying herbs

I have begun harvesting herbs for drying.  In my climate it is fairly easy to just lay the herbs on screening and let them dry.  I use trays from my dehydrator.  The air has been warm enough and lacking in humidity so the herbs have dried very well in a short period of time.  I could use my dehydrator since it has a low temperature setting but with the warm weather we have had I felt the herbs would dry quickly enough.  I place the trays out of direct sunlight and check them a few times per day.  So far this season I have dried oregano, dwarf oregano, thyme, lemon thyme, spearmint, chocolate mint, pineapple mint, applemint, rose petals, and sage.  Herbs can also be hung upside down for drying.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Compost

Compost is decomposed organic matter. It is what nature does naturally. Soil in a forest is very rich in organic matter because of the plant and animal life that has returned to the soil.
Compost is fantastic for soil improvement - adding organic matter, nutrients, and microorganisms to your soil.  I know of nothing better for soil improvement whether your soil is clay, sandy, or lacking in nutrients.

Soil microorganisms help plants get the nutrients and water they need.  Another benefit to composting - Significantly reduce the amount of garbage you will need to dispose of.

A variety of items can be added to your compost pile including: spoiled vegetables and fruits and vegetable and fruit peelings, plant debris, prunings, straw, leaves, bedding from vegetarian pets, eggshells, coffee grounds, tea bags, cotton fabric, cardboard and paper – not slick – although it may be better to recycle paper in another way. You can also add manures from rabbits, cows, horses, goats, poultry, or sheep.
Ideal proportions would be 2/3 brown or dry (dried leaves, straw, etc) to 1/3 wet or green (vegetable peelings, spoiled fruit). If you compost pile is smelly it is because the proportions are wrong, your pile is too wet, or you have added things that should not be in a compost pile.
There are some items that should not be put into a compost pile: meat, bones, fat, dairy, manures or litter from carnivores including dogs and cats. Ammonium sulfate is not needed for the composting process and I feel defeats the purpose because of the harm it can cause to microorganisms.

For more information and ideas about composting visit my website blog.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Perennial Herbs

Many of my perennial herbs are grown in 2 x4' Square Foot Garden boxes.  Mints are planted in their individual pots so they won't take over my garden. I also have peppermint in a larger area from which it cannot escape.  I use peppermint more and since it is next to the house it may also be a good insect/rodent repellant - although my cat is a good rodent repellant.

One of my perennial boxes contains oregano, dwarf oregano, lemon thyme, English thyme, Bronze fennel, and French tarragon.  The other box has chives, garlic chives, sorrel, anise hyssop, and lovage.  I planted lemongrass there for the summer hoping that it would increase in size.  Towards fall I will pot it and bring it back indoors.  Some herbs are perennial in warmer climates but not in my climate (zone 6).  Lemongrass is one of these.
Anyone know how to get the individual lemongrass stalks to increase in thickness?
I also grow lemon verbena, scented geraniums, and bay in pots which I bring outdoors after the temperature is over 45 F and return them to house in the fall when it is predicted to drop below 45.  In addition I have two lemon trees, a navel orange, grapefruit, and lime that also enjoy the summer outdoors.

In other parts of the yard I have golden sage, lavenders, silver thyme, catnip, creeping thymes as well as common and unusual edibles.
I look forward to increasing my collection to more than what it was a couple moves ago when I had 14 varieties of mint and several thymes and oreganos among other plants.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring Snows

When heavy, wet snow comes in Spring (or in Fall) check your herbs - especially the shrubs and trees.  Extra weight from the snow can damage plants either breaking branches, permanently damaging the form, or pulling the plants out of the ground.  Plants with new leaves in the spring or those that haven't lost leaves in the fall are the most susceptible.  Gently knock snow from branches. A broom works well for this purpose.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Seed Catalogs & Garden Planning

Seed catalogs are coming in the mail.  They are so fun to explore and are a great source of information and enjoyment - especially when I can't be out working in the garden.  I can be planning my garden and yard for spring - deciding what to grow and where to grow everything.  If you haven't gardened much in the past it is good to start with a few things - what do you enjoy eating or using the most.  Do you love tomatoes and basil?  Then those could be some great things to start with.

Some of my favorite books for information whether you are experienced or a beginner:
All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!
Smithsonian Handbooks: Herbs (Smithsonian Handbooks)
The Pleasure of Herbs: A Month-by-Month Guide to Growing, Using, and Enjoying Herbs
Growing & Using Herbs Successfully (Garden Way Book)

My favorite magazines include:
Herb Companion
Organic Gardening

One of my favorite sources for herb plants and seeds:
Richters

Open-pollinated and heirloom seed sources