Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween with Spooky Corn!

My herbal husband's purple corn got frosted the other night. I just wish it was in the front yard. It would give the kids a FRIGHT! It will be a nice warm evening for Halloween. Not like others with rain or snow. Enjoy the time with your kids!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Holy Bloomin' Rosemary, Part III

Can you believe it! This rosemary is one of the bright spots in otherwise cold and windy weather. I need to trim the ends, but they are starting to bloom also! Oh well, I will just use them and prune them after they bloom. Hoping to take the twist ties away soon.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My Herbal Husband's Pizza!

I must say that in this herbal household, we eat pretty darn well! My herbal husband's two favorite summertime passions are gardening and eating his harvest from the garden. Now that things are winding down outside, we had one of our last "homemade" pizzas the other night. It was full of cheese, homegrown tomatoes, ham, mushrooms, onions and basil and a Boboli pizza shell. Remember those herbal confessions the other day. The basil was from the package! It was really delicious.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Herbal Soup Day

It was a cold, windy, rainy and raw day in Glenshaw today. Soooo I made a batch of Cream of Carrot and Lovage Soup. Never having made it, I made a double batch! We had our own carrots (white not orange) and potatoes and of course, herbs, lovage, parsley, even the fresh dill it called for. It is delicious and I think you will enjoy making it. Here is the recipe from the cookbook called A Celebration of Herbs Recipes from the Huntington Herb Garden, based on the lectures of Shirley Kerins. She spoke to the Western Pennsylvania Unit of the Herb Society in 2005.

Cream of Carrot and Lovage Soup

4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup chopped onion
6 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup chopped lovage leaves
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1/3 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
5 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
1 (3-inch) sprig fresh dill
1 cup light cream or half and half
Salt and pepper to taste
Ground fresh nutmeg (optional)

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and lovage. Cook 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the potatoes and parsley; stir until coated. Add the chicken broth and cook, partially covered, until the potatoes are almost tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add the sprig of fresh dill and cook another 5 minutes, until the potatoes are completely tender.

Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Puree in batches in a blender or food processor. Return the pureed soup to the saucepan. Stir in the light cream and season to taste with salt and pepper. This soup can be serve hot or cold. Chill if serving cold, or reheat without boiling to serve hot. Sprinkle with a light dusting of ground nutmeg, if desired.

The Huntington Library in San Marino, California was built by Henry Edwards and Arabella Huntington in the early twentieth century, creating an extraordinary educational and cultural institution. They also have an extraordinary collection of herbals and recipe books. The herb garden is on the site of what was originally Mrs. Huntington's flower garden and was first converted in the 1940's. The garden lay neglected until 1975. Each bed was dedicated to herbs of a particular use, including medicines, cooking, salads, teas, confections, perfumes and cosmetics, sachets and insect repellents and dyes. In 1985 the garden was again refurbished, this time under the direction of Shirley Kerins, a licensed landscape architect and trained horticulturalist, who became curator of the Huntington Herb Garden. Today the Huntington Herb Garden is regarded as one of the finest in the country because of its extensive collection of herbs. I'm hoping to get to see it some day soon. Check out the website. It is a good one.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wonderful Ornamental Grasses in Bloom!

I took this picture a couple of weeks ago when my herbal husband commented that it was blooming! It has never bloomed. I bought it eight years ago at Limerock Ornamental Grasses in Port Matilda, PA. Sadly, it is another wonderful nursery that has closed as of last year. This is Miscanthus sinensis 'Dixieland'. A dwarf form of Miscanthus sinensis Variegatus. It is supposed to be a dwarf, but it is not. Not sure why but I love it and now it's blooming! A big bonus.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Berry Bushes for Birds and Decoration

These pictures were taken a couple of weeks ago and shows our holly bushes that are just full of beautiful berries. I love to decorate our front door with a holly wreath. Very effective on a blue door! It is also a hiding place for a lot of birds. The picture at the bottom is a beautyberry. Very interesting for the birds during the winter because it is a great food source for them. It has really taken over the space. It has been moved a few times already. Remember to feed the birds all year long with these two great bushes.

Friday, October 24, 2008

My Herbal Husband's Purple Corn

My herbal husband likes to experiment with the garden. He brought back seeds of the purple corn (Zea mays) that is used in many ways in Peru, including a drink called chicha morada. The picture above is around the end of September. It has continued to grow and it is well over our heads in the 8 to 10 foot range. This picture was taken just last week. It has just dodged frost this past week, but it will really get it this week when we are supposed to get SNOW!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Herbal Crunch Time!

I was out cutting some of the last herbs of the season. We are supposed to get snow flakes next week! The first picture shows curly parsley, winter savory, thyme and oregano in the center between the parsley. The oregano, thyme and winter savory are drying between paper towels and the parsley is being frozen in plastic containers. It all works really well.

Next I cut some lovage (Levisticum officinale). It is very much like celery in looks but stronger in flavor.
If you like Bloody Marys, you can use lovage as a straw because the stem is hollow! Great conversation piece.

It is very easy to dry and I will use mine for a chicken recipe that I will share later.
Here it is hanging on the clothes line in the basement. The herb at the far left is summer savory.
Next I worked on the Italian flat leaf parsley. I again just placed the leaves in two plastic containers.

Finally, I had this pile of chives that I cut into small pieces and placed in one plastic container. You can use it by the teaspoon or tablespoon on baked potatoes with sour cream and my favorite way in the winter to use them with scrambled eggs. Yummy! A little work yields big herbal flavor during the cold days of winter.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

An Herbal Day of Celebration!

It was a day of herbal learning and fellowship with the Western Pennsylvania Unit of the Herb Society of America. I'm a Member at Large. It was held at Old Economy in Ambridge, PA. It was a sunny but cold day. The Unit maintains a medicinal and dye garden there. It is called Herbes de Pittsburgh VII. They sold a tin with an herb mix. I have purchased several of them and given all of them away. This time I'm keeping this one because I can make the Herblets from the first Three Rivers Cookbook. A staple of cookbooks in this area. The recipe is on Page 20 if you have this cookbook. The tin contains dried shallots, dill, basil, thyme and marjoram. Here is the recipe:

"Keep these on hand for unexpected guests."

thinly sliced Pepperidge Farm bread
shallot buds

Slice each piece of bread into 4 sections. Do not remove the crusts. (if you don't have the dried herb mixture). Cut shallot buds in slices and gently saute. Dip each section in melted butter sauteed with shallots. Remove from dip and place on cookie sheet. Sprinkle with finely chopped herbs. Use any one, or make a variety of toasts. Toast in 350 oven for approximately 10 minutes or until browned. Cool and store. Will keep indefinitely in air tight containers. Use for soups, salads or cocktails.

Preparation: 15 min. Easy
Cooking: 10 min. Can do ahead
Mrs. Howard G. Wilbert
(If you have the dried herbs, I would melt the butter, dip the bread into the butter, place on cookie sheet and sprinkle with herbs. Bake as noted above.)

Old Economy was the home of the 19th century Christian communal group, the Harmony Society. Established in 1824, Economy was known worldwide for its piety and industrial prosperity. Despite the Society's economic success, time and events brought about its decline. By the end of the 19th century only a few Harmonists remained. In 1905, the Society was dissolved. It's always a good day when you are learning about herbs.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Herbal Confessions!

OK, OK, I confess, I had to BUY basil for our salad today. We still have those wonderful Cherokee Purple tomatoes and NO basil anywhere. What to do? What to do? For $2.49 (at our local grocery store) I can buy fresh organic basil. I always tell my audiences, herbs are available even if you have no interest in growing them. It works and works very well. As you can see, the basil is big and beautiful and holding its own in the refrigerator. Here is another look inside.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Frost Got My Pineapple Sage!

Yes, Jack Frost has visited our garden the last two nights and the pineapple sages are done for this year. They were really magnificant all season and brought the first hummingbirds for regular visits to my herb garden. I will always treasure the pictures I was able to get of those adorable birds. Here is the pineapple sage today.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Finished Herbal Vinegar!

I started with this jar and cinnamon basil, purple basil, parsley, tarragon, oregano and chives on September 18th.

I placed it on the windowsill for about two weeks and then two weeks in the basement.

Yesterday we tried it and deemed it ready! The purple basil really added a lovely color to it. I will use it in salad dressings and beef stews and homemade vegetable soup. Herbal vinegar is very easy and delicious and a great way to preserve the herbal harvest.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Rosemary Garlic Jelly Day!

In June I took a topiary class from The Rosemary House. As you can see they are doing rather well. They both have blooms on them. The heart shaped one has buds all along the heart and the non-spiral spiral next to it is also blooming. It is more of a rocket shape because the herbal husband pulled up on the spiral while I was pushing down. It is happy though because it's blooming. The Rosemary House has a very wonderful blog at Rosemary's Sampler. It has both tea and herb postings. It is really a treasure. Well, more about the jelly. I have adapted a Certo recipe because it has my ultimate pet peeve, it makes more than four glasses. That little half jar is a nuisance especially when it is a surprise. So here is my adaption:

Rosemary Garlic Jelly (Makes 4-8 oz. jars)

1-1/4 cups dry white wine (I use Pinot Grigio)
1/4 cup minced garlic (a whole head, maybe more)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
3-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. butter or margarine (This ingredient must be used!)
1 pouch CERTO Fruit Pectin

Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Boil jars in water for 10 minutes. Let stand in hot water until ready to use.

Mix wine, garlic, vinegar and rosemary in 3 or 4 quart saucepot. Stir in sugar. Add butter or margarine to reduce foaming.  Bring mixture to full rolling boil that can't be stirred down. Take saucepot off the burner and add package of Certo quickly.  Return to boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.  Start stirring again.  This will take the foam away and stir for another 5 minutes before jarring it.  This will help suspend the rosemary and garlic throughout the mixture.  It does work.

Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with 2-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars in pot or canner and make sure that water covers jars by 1 to 2 inches. Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 5 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. (If lid springs back, lid to not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)

Here is a finished jar. Use it over a block of cream cheese with crackers or put a teaspoon or two on a piece of boneless, skinless chicken or pork in the last 15 minutes of baking.

Friday, October 17, 2008

If You Grow Only One Herb, Make it Parsley!

My mother always made me eat my parsley garnish when we would go out for dinner. She was right, it is rich in vitamins A, C and magnesium. This is one curly parsley (Petroselium crispum var. crispum) that has grown well in the herb garden. I love using it as a hedge in a garden. Although as it is a biennial, it goes to seed the following year. I really use it as an annual. I always have several Italian flat-leaf parsleys (Petroselium crispum var. neapolitanum) in different spots in my garden. Actually some were seeds we brought back from Peru. I brought some curly parsley in and placed it in plastic containers for the freezer. I have also placed it in plastic bags. I think the containers work a little better. Parsley does stand up to a light frost. I know some cover theirs with a basket and continue to harvest it from the garden until a killing frost comes. Here is a picture of the Italian (by way of Peru) flat-leaf parsley in bloom. An excellent larval food for the swallowtail butterflies. Here is a favorite soup recipe from a favorite herb farm of mine, Buffalo Springs Herb Farm. Sadly they are no longer in business. It is a very easy and delicious soup to make and is always doubled in our house.

Parsley Dill Soup

1 large onion, chopped or thinly sliced
2 large carrots, scrubbed, sliced thin
4-6 tablespoons, butter
1 large potato, scrubbed, peeled, sliced thin
4 cups stock (vegetable or chicken) heated
1 cup fresh Italian parsley (frozen works
just fine)
1/2 teaspoon of dill seed
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine onion, carrot, butter and potato in covered saucepan and stew for about 10 minutes, add dill seed.
Add stock and simmer for another 30 minutes.
Cool slightly. Add parsley and puree in blender.
Reheat and add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with parsley and/or fresh dill garnish
Serves 4.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Still Picking Radishes and Planting Garlic!

My herbal husband planted the garlic yesterday. He first was going to plant 24 cloves and then when he came inside, he said "I planted 40." When I asked "Why?" He said it looked more even. He was an architect and planner. He found these beauties above. Some are even coming up in the lawn! We don't have much of a lawn, but we are able to grow great radishes in it! The weather is going down hill here. Not too much gardening left to do. Will be working on cutting more herbs in the next few days.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Beautiful Day for Pineapple Sage!

Yesterday was a beautiful day in the herb garden. I love this last warm days. The pineapple sage has been magnificent this year and yesterday was just the icing on the herbal cake. You need to use it fresh. It does not dry well. Enjoy the beauty of this wonderful herb.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

One More Lavender to Bring Inside!

I forgot to show you this lovely lavender called 'Goodwin Creek'. It is a tender perennial and it does very nicely indoors over the winter. It is from a nursery in Oregon called Goodwin Creek Gardens. My friend asked me whether she should cut back her lavenders before bring them in. I told her to cut the blooms that might be on the lavenders, but not to cut them back. They may be a little bit leggy at winter's end, but they will survive better without pruning in my opinion. Our garage will be a busy place over the winter.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Herb of the Year-Calendula

I thought today was National Herb Day. It was Saturday, October 11, 2008. Oops! Oh well, they said on the website that it could be celebrated any day. So today I'm celebrating. Whoo Hoo! My pictures make the flower look like puffs when they are actually ray flowers like a daisy.

Calendula officinalis is an edible flower and is a native flower of North Africa, Europe and Iran. They self-sow easily in our climate, and grow wherever they find a home, whether you want them there or not! Calendula seeds should be planted when the night temps are at least in the 40's or after daytime temperatures are in the 60's. Purchasing fresh seed assures good germination. Calendulas boom best in full sun, but will bloom adequately in part shade, and they grow well in just about any garden soil. Flowers start to appear in June and they will continue to bloom until frost. The flowers close at night and reopen in the day.

In the language of flowers, calendula means sacred affections, joy, remembrance and grief. Traditionally, the golden petals were used to color broths, butter and cheese (hence the common name "pot marigold"). The petals can be used either whole or chopped. When dried, the petals are chewy, so it is best to chop or run them through a food processor before you add them to a recipe. Calendulas were also known as "poor man's saffron" for the golden color it imparts to dishes, rather than the flavor. You can use the petals in sugar, as an infusion in milk for baked goods, sauces and gravies and in salads of any kind, including fruit salads. Calendula's bright color and lack of fragrance makes them a useful accent in potpourri.

Here is an easy calendula cookie recipe from Renee Shepherd's & Fran Raboff's cookbook, Recipes from a Kitchen Garden:


The petals from 6 to 8 fresh calendula blossoms (2 or 3 T. dried)
½ c. butter, at room temperature
½ c. white sugar
Grated zest of two oranges (orange part of the peel only)
2 T. orange concentrate, at room temperature
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 c. all purpose flour
2 ½ t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
1 c. almond halves

Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets. Rinse calendulas (if using fresh petals). Pull off petals and set aside. Do not rinse if using dried. Fresh or dried, chop the petals finely or process in a food processor. In a bowl, cream butter, sugar and orange rind until fluffy. Add orange juice concentrate and vanilla. Mix in eggs, stirring until blended. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Blend calendula petals and dry ingredients into creamed mixture. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Press an almond half into each cookie. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Makes 3 to 4 dozen.

They are really yummy! Hope you enjoy them.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Peppermint Scented Geranium Has Gone Crazy!

I decided early in the season to place some of my scented geraniums into garden pots. This peppermint scented geranium needs shade when it is grown in the garden. Most other scented geraniums need full sun. As you can see, this one has liked its location and has gone crazy! It spends most of the day under our Japanese maple. I will cut it back before it comes in for the winter and dry the leaves for potpourri. Remember to use containers for herbs. They add another dimension to your garden.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Unclassified Pepper Plant

This beautiful ornamental plant is a very, very hot pepper from Peru that my herbal husband couldn't find a classification. He wrote to the Chili Pepper Institute in Las Cruces, New Mexico and they asked him to send a seed pod. They couldn't classify it so they were going to grow it and let him know what it might be. Here is a close up of the pepper. Muy picante!

Friday, October 10, 2008

My Herbal Trough

This was a picture of my herbal trough just after it was planted this year. In the back corner on the left is a Victorian rosemary from down under Australia, next to it is a compact sage and in front on the left is a thyme 'Moonlight'. This is just this past week so all plants have done well. We are going to move it indoors along with the many other herbs and hope they winter over.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Are We Bringing in the Lavenders?

The lavenders I referring to in the title are my tender lavenders that we planted in the ground earlier in the season. The lavender at the right is a green fringed lavender or maybe its the grey fringed (Lavandula dentata) that is tender in our area and has been in this pot all season. It is in a beautiful pot that has lavender on the side with its meaning in the language of flowers. It is the herb of devotion. I have several others that are in the ground and doing well. My herbal husband has already brought in the Peruvian Salvia. Remember I told you it was going to happen. Well today, he asked whether we were going to bring in the other lavenders. I have a sweet lavender (Lavandula heterophylla), grey fringed lavender (Lavandula dentata var. candicans) and a beautiful silver lacy leaved lavender called (Lavandula buchii var. buchii) which is pictured below on the top. The sweet lavender is on the middle. The green or grey fringed on the bottom. They all may be saved! I'll let you know. The garage is going to be full!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Surprise Perennial in My Garden

Rudbeckia herbstsonne is a real surprise in my garden. I love it because it's so tall and that it is still flowering late in the season. The bees and butterflies love the flowers and the birds love the seedheads. It is an all around winner!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Huacatay-Herbal Husband's Favorite Peruvian Herb

There is Huacatay (Tagetes minuta) everywhere in our garden. It is native to southern South America and is used as a condiment to enhance sauces. We gave a lot of it away to a local Peruvian restaurant. It has flowers, but you grow it for the leaves.

It is an acquired taste just as cilantro is. Because it is in the marigold family, it has that marigold taste and smell to it. Here is a website from Purdue University on Huacatay. Hope you learn about this interesting herb from Peru.

It also grows into funny shapes! It is taking a bow in our garden.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Second Bloom of Lavender

If you cut your lavender in June or July, you may be able to cut a second harvest around this time of year. This bouquet consists of 'Hidcote' and 'Munstead', the two lavenders most hardy here in western Pennsylvania along with some others. We are going to have temperatures in the low 40's tonight and the wild process has started to cut all of the herbs that are on my list. It is not a big list, but I will have to start thinking about what to cut next! It is all a process and the more organized you are, the easier it will go. I need to check on the tea herbs that were cut last week. I think they are ready to be mixed and stored.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

We Don't Have a Window Big Enough for this Lemon Verbena!

As I have said in numerous postings, this has been a great season for herbs in containers. This one to the right is the lemon verbena that is coming inside. It will lose most of its leaves after coming in. More lemon verbena bread on the horizon! Also a lot of tea. It makes a great cup of tea in the winter. I made 12 jars of lemon verbena jelly yesterday. Changed the recipe up so I will have to let you know how they turned out. Hope you are enjoying the warm weather where you are. Not quite Indian summer yet. Haven't had a frost. It was a fabulous day in western Pennsylvania.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

My Herbal Husband and His Potpourri!

We have been cleaning out our garage and basement! This morning I was working on some lemon verbena jelly and my husband was finding some older dried herbs. I told him just to compost them. Without my knowledge, he had been saving all of the older dried herbs during the season in a plastic bag! Hopefully, when we really get things organized, I will be able to add some fixatives to the dried mixture to make a satisfactory potpourri. One that my herbal husband will appreciate.