Ever since humans discovered the many, powerful uses of herbs and spices, they’ve been fascinated by their smells, their tastes and their medicinal purposes. What many people fail to realize, is that the simple herbs and spices that are growing in their gardens and sitting in their kitchen cabinets have had important roles in the history of human civilization. Before modern refrigeration, spices were one of the only ways that people could keep their food from spoiling or enhance its flavor.
Herbs were around before the advent of contemporary medicine, so mixing plant ingredients together in a homeopathic remedy was the only option for relief from some illnesses. From the opening up of the spice trade in Asia in the Middle Ages to the misdirected spice seeking voyage that led to America, spices and herbs have played a powerful part in our legacy as a people. Here are some of the most storied tales of the most popular herbs and spices used today. (more…)
Congratulations on growing your own fresh herbs! As you’re harvesting your fresh herbs you may be wondering of different ways to use them. One of our very favorite culinary uses for fresh herbs is to create Herb-Infused Oils. It’s relatively easy to create your own oil that’s at least as good if not much better than the expensive stuff at high-end grocery stores or specialty food shoppes, and at a fraction of the cost.
Use these delicious herbed oils on almost anything:
- Marinades for meats, fish, and veggies
- Perfect as a salad dressing
- Drizzle over bread, risotto, pasta or any other grain dish
- Stir fry
When it comes to cocktails, most people probably focus on the alcohol that goes into them. While alcohol is one of the major components in cocktails, you can take yours to the next level by adding various ingredients. Things such as garnishes, rims adornments, herb infused syrups, and bitters can dramatically change the taste and flavor of a cocktail. However, herbs remain the most underrated when it comes to mixing cocktails. The good news is that you don’t have to be a connoisseur of drinks to come up with a great herbed cocktail or mocktail drink. Here are some of the herbs you can add to cocktails and how to go about it. Read below for the best herbs for cocktails! (more…)
No doubt, you are somewhat familiar with the plight of the pollinators. If you listen carefully, it feels as if so much of our natural world is facing a challenge, and it is, but there is something that all gardeners can do to help. Plant a garden packed with the right plants for these pollinators.
We are placing our focus on bees right now, as bees are the most critical pollinator we have. To refresh your memory, the issues facing bees are simple:
- Loss of flowering plants
- Loss of habitats
- Pests and diseases
- Climate change
We want to think that all of us can affect change, and make a difference, and in this case you can. If we focus on the loss of flowering plants, we can definitely be of service to bees in our world. If the problem is the loss of flower-rich habitats, the solution is to plant the best varieties of plants that provide both pollen and nectar. We grow herbs, and over 60 of our herbs are considered bee friendly. (more…)
Truth be told: I’m a huge fan of apocalyptic or dystopian fiction. Or, a fancier term, ‘speculative fiction’. Meaning the ‘what ifs’ in life; what if there was a pandemic, a nuclear explosion, or some cataclysmic event that creates a VERY challenging world for those left behind.
I’m no writer, but if I was, I think an interesting topic that could jump start one of these novels would be the elimination of pollinators from our natural world. Oh, wait. That is already happening. Let’s consider the bees. We, and I’m including myself in this collection, are terrible for bees. We’ve caused pollution, we’ve destroyed a lot of their habitat and the use of certain pesticides have threatened their existence. There is also the issue of a parasitic mite that is a huge contributor to their decline.
Bees. Did I mention that we can’t live without them?
Many cooks have never cooked with Lemon Grass – what a shame! Lemon Grass is an easy, zesty herb that packs a robust punch of flavor to many recipes. Lemon Grass has a plethora of health benefits, especially when paired with other flavorful spices such as Garlic, Coriander, and fresh Chilies.
Cooking with Lemon Grass is as easy as can be.
Simply cut off the lower bulb and remove the tough outer leaves. Most recipes call for the main (yellow) stalk, though some cooks reserve the upper green stem to add to soups and curries for extra flavor. (more…)
We’ve written a lot about soil over the years, mainly passing on information that we’ve gathered over 40 + years of gardening. And, although this basic element is so essential to the success of any herb garden, and you’d think we ‘knew it all by now, there is always more to share!
We can’t emphasize this enough: knowing your soil, and understanding what to do to improve your soil, is the most important thing you can do to guarantee healthy and happy herbs. Nutrients must be available to plant roots. Too sandy and porous means that the nutrients are not going to stay in the soil, and will not get to the plants. Too compact and heavy, the soil won’t give up the nutrients and compaction around the roots means that you run a good chance of losing your herbs.
Good soil is the foundation for healthy herbs:
- Soil provides access to nutrients, water, & air
- Soil stabilizes a plant’s roots
- Soil assists a plant’s natural resistance to pests and diseases
We classify soil in terms of its consistency:
- Sandy soil is easy to dig, but it doesn’t hold nutrients or moisture. On its own, sandy soil cannot provide your plants with the necessary ingredients for growth.
- Heavy Clay soil is heavy and the clay tends to bind the soil, not allowing air to penetrate and holding water risking rot of your roots. Additionally, that sticky soil will not release the needed nutrients.
- Loamy soil is a perfect balance that provides your plants with moist and crumbly soil that smells rich and ‘earthy’. A significant component of this wonderful blend is compost, decomposed organic matter sometimes referred to as humus.
Plants are first mentioned in the Bible in the first chapter of the first book: “Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind…” (Genesis 1:11). Throughout the ages, the Hebrews have attributed holiness to many species of plants. The Scriptures associate feasts, rites and commandments with many plants and their cultivation. Early written information about herbs is found in the Bible back to the time of Moses or even earlier. In Exodus 12:22 Moses tells the children of Israel how to save their children by using the herb and lamb’s blood. “And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin.” In Numbers 19:6, 18 hyssop is again mentioned. Also, in 1 Kings 4:33 God gave Solomon wisdom, “And he (Solomon) spoke of trees, from the cedar tree of Lebanon even to the hyssop that springs out of the wall…” Psalms 51:7 refers to this plant: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” While pride is symbolized by the majestic cedar of Lebanon in Jewish tradition, the lowly hyssop represents modesty and humility. At least eighteen plants have been considered for the hyssop of the Bible, but modern botanists have generally agreed that Syrian majoram (Origanum syriacum) is the likely plant. It seems to fit well with these verses. It was used to cleanse homes defiled by leprosy or death and came to symbolize cleanliness. Its fragrance and taste led it to be prized by the ancient Romans and the Greeks before them. Bridges and grooms wore crowns made of marjoram. It was also quite likely prized in the kitchen, as it is now.
I once read somewhere that humans tend to take better care of their cars than they do their own bodies. My car is a wreck – it’s the one place that I let it all ‘all hang out’. So, in my case, I’d say I take better care of my garden tools than I do my own body. And, by extension, I have a lot of tools that have been with me for a really long time. I’m not alone in this; most of my closest friends are gardeners, and all of us have one or two tools that are older than we are – your mother’s snips, your grandfather’s hoe, and even a handmade grain scoop.
The only common denominator to account for this longevity is that all of these ‘tools of the trade’ were lovingly taken care of. Back in the day, out in the country, no one had the luxury of a Saturday errand to Home Depot to pick up the latest gizmo or cheap-as-dirt-made-in -you-know-where-thingamabob that was guaranteed to make your chore quicker, easier and more effective than anything on the market! Your tools were not replaceable at a moment’s notice, and lots of time, you even had to improvise. Yep. Make something out of something else.
I’m going to play weather woman: the current conditions, right outside my window, is 26 degrees and clear with an overnight of 15 degrees. The ground is rock solid, leaves on my evergreen bushes are a bit limp, and the birds are covering my feeders. Some of my garden boxes still have cold weather leftovers – collards, kale, and arugula, and the paths are a patchwork of weeds.
On the farm, a heat lamp is on in the chicken coop, the cows are munching on an endless supply of hay, the horses are in every night, and the goats are unfazed. We are going through our firewood quickly and going outside isn’t the first thing I want to do each morning.