The New World: Medicinal Herbs in Colonial Times

The New World: Medicinal Herbs in Colonial Times

As much as I love growing herbs, I really love talking about them.  And, believe it or not, I get lots of nice invitations from lots of nice folks who don’t mind listening to me ramble for an hour or two.  My last show was for a group of truly dedicated gardeners at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden.  So, if you remember your American history classes, right around my farm is the birthplace of our nation.  Jamestown!  We even have a little competition going on about the site of the first Thanksgiving;  in theses parts, we claim it was at Berkeley Plantation, a mere 20 miles down the road.  But, I digress…

Bottom line: if you are speaking to a group of gardeners in Williamsburg, you better be prepared to toss in a bit of history so here goes;  as the early settlers began to colonize these shores, herbs were among the most important cargo.  Herbs for healing, herbs to improve the flavor a what would be considered a very bland diet, and herbs to disguise the smells that were a part of poor sanitation as well as spoilage.  Herbs were vital to the establishment of a thriving colony. (more…)

Lavender & Calendula Healing Salve

Lavender & Calendula Healing Salve

Whether you are suffering the effects of this current Arctic Blast or wintering is South Florida (lucky you), most of us are feeling the effects of winter on our skin.  Dry, chafing, itchy skin that looks nothing like those hand models on TV.  Here is a quick and easy way to use herbs to relieve and revive, as well as use those herbs that you grew all spring and summer.  If you don’t have any on hand, a quick trip to the your local health food store may provide all you need! (more…)

Savory Beef Stew

Savory Beef Stew

There is nothing better on a cold winter night than to light a fire, open a bottle of a nice deep, dark red wine, slice up a warm loaf of crusty bread and dip into a hearty bowl of Savory Beef Stew.

A few words before you begin:

Start Early – although it is possible to overcook this stew, I’d count on at least 2 ½ hours to make sure that your beef gets to that ‘shredded stage’.  I’m using our own grass fed beef with not a lot of fat, so slow and low simmering works best for me.

The Right Pot – use a good old fashioned Dutch Oven or treat yourself to a Le Creuset Casserole.  Honestly, I got mine at a deep discount at Home Goods and it’s gotten more use than my car!

Herbs herbs and more herbs – fresh is best, but if you are cooking this in the deep dark days of winter and the garden is a memory, used dried.  I can’t stand to see folks waste their good $4 on a clamshell of half dead ‘fresh herbs’! (more…)

Maui: 4,000 Miles Away, but Still Feels Like Home

Maui: 4,000 Miles Away, but Still Feels Like Home

Just got back from a ‘Bucket List’ trip to Maui – 10 nights, 11 days exploring paradise with my family.  Did I mention that we totally skipped the whole holiday thing?  No tree, no lights, no stockings and no annual Christmas Party!  Still got some of that in Hawaii, but honestly, I didn’t have to lift a finger, much less the 10’ Fraser Fir.

So, what they say is true:  Hawaii is paradise.  The Leis covered with orchid blooms, gorgeous purple/white dendrobium blooms hanging around your neck.  Water, water everywhere – and torrential downpours at night followed by awe-inspiring sunrises and garden awaking lush and flush from their soaking the night before.  No sprinklers needed at this time of year.  Green, green and more green with punches of color everywhere.  Fruits, flowers and herbs – passion fruit, star fruit, cherimoya, breadfruit, pineapple, bananas.  Farmer’s Markets bursting with so many wild and wonderful offerings – fresh cut coconuts complete with a straw. (more…)

How to Choose the Right Lavender for Your Garden

How to Choose the Right Lavender for Your Garden

Trying to unravel the tangled web of species under the genus Lavandula is a challenge to event the most accomplished horticulturalist. There is a lot of misinformation out there, so dear customer, please note that there is no such thing as English lavender!

There has been a lot of cross breeding that has resulted in a huge number of cultivars, even creating a bunch of sterile plants that are humorously known as ‘mule hybrids’!

The most widely grown lavender, commercially used for cosmetics and scent, is Lavandula Intermedia. This popular variety is a cross between L. angustifolia and L. latifolia; you will find this variety growing commercially throughout France, as well as in the largest producing country, Bulgaria. Commonly referred to as lavandin, these are extremely hardy plants with long flowering periods. (more…)