What Is The 2013 Notable Native Herb?

Just announced this week by The Herb Society of America, the 2013 Notable Native Herb is Monarda fistulosa, or commonly known as Wild Bergamot or Bee Balm. The information debuted at their annual educational conference held this year in Austin Texas, and we are honored to have been selected to be the exclusive grower and distributor for this program! Katrinka Morgan, Executive Director of the Herb Society of America, chose use because we are long term members, are dedicated to conserving natural resources and encouraging native plants, and said “This historic American farm is the perfect partner to help us bring attention to the vast selection of native herbs found in North America.”

The honor of Notable Native is bestowed on native herb plants that are found growing wild throughout the U.S. and who thrive in most any garden in every planting zone. Morgan goes on to mention that, they consider the plants versatility and usefulness as a culinary, medicinal and companion plant, as well as additional benefits like its aroma, usefulness in attracting pollinators, and longevity in the garden.

“Bee balm is used mostly today to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden, but its uses are far greater. We selected it for its culinary, medicinal and aromatic values, as well as its usefulness as a companion plant,” Morgan explains. “It also performs well in most gardens throughout the US.”

We are overjoyed to be a member and partner to the HSA and hope you will visit their site to learn more, donate or become a member, too! You can visit the “Try This” section of our Bee Balm page to read more about the HSA and visit their site!

Fun With James Farmer

We had a great time showing James all around the farm- we even sent him home with some potted herb souvenirs!

 

Last week, our good friend, James Farmer came up for a demonstration on garden to table living and while here, he stayed in the cottage on our farm. We had a wonderful time strolling through the test gardens, talking about his favorite culinary herbs for his infamous Southern recipes, and chatting about country life, gardening and everything in between!

In the greenhouse, James discovered the benefits of Holy Basil and even helped us pot his very own herb garden kit, the James Farmer’s Favorites Herb Collection, where he includes his favorite culinary herbs for making his delicious drinks and dishes.

 

Our newest herb kit, the James Farmer's Favorites Herb Collection was hand picked by James himself!

 

We introduced James to Holy Basil and taught him about its rich history and wonderful medicinal benefits.

 

When walking through the test gardens, we discussed the investment and versatility that perennial herbs lend.  For example, I showed James that more than just a beautiful flower for the garden or in arrangements, Pyrethrum is a natural insect repellent and is used in many organic insecticides.

 

"Pyrethrum is beautiful in the garden or in arrangements, and is also a natural insect repellent used in many organic insecticides."

 

 

 

You can purchase James’s book, A Time To Plant: Southern-Style Garden Living and get loads of design tips, recipes and more, AND six of his favorite culinary herbs to create endless concoctions and dishes when you buy the James Farmer’s Favorites Herb Collection and Book!

 

We had such a wonderful time with James on the farm, we can't wait until he comes for another visit!

We had a such a fantastic time with James and can’t wait for him to come back! For more information on James, or his newest release, Sip and Savor: Drinks For Party and Porch, please visit his website!

 

What Are James Farmer's Favorite Herbs?

 

We are so excited that our good friend, James Farmer is coming to visit and stay at our farm this week!  As part of Virginia’s Historic Garden Week, James is coming to visit and give us an exclusive demonstration on his garden to table arrangements as well as share some of his favorite food and drink recipes from his two books, A Time To Plant: Southern-Style Garden Living, and Sip and Savor, Drinks For Party and Porch, which was just released.  James has a wonderful eye for design and has used his talents to bring gardening to a gourmet level. Throughout his elaborate table settings, stunning arrangements and in his Southern-chic food and drink recipes, James incorporates his passion for herb gardening for a refined but “down home” feel.  As the most creative new personality in the garden living world, James still stays true to his Southern roots, drawing his inspiration from his family farm in Kathleen, Georgia.

James Farmers Favorites

To celebrate James’s visit to our farm and his fantastic new book, A Time To Plant, Southern Style Garden Living, we’ve created the James Farmer’s Favorites Herb Collection to offer some of his favorite herb plants! We’ve included Lavender ‘Hidcote’, for its beauty in arrangements or as a garnish, and for  its wonderful fragrance and light, floral flavor in drinks and recipes. For a true Southern experience, we added ‘Kentucky Colonel’ Mint, a robust spearmint that grows effortlessly and is the key component to a real Southern tradition, the Mint Julep.  ‘Lemon Sweet Dani’ Basil was chosen for its delicate citrus tones and lovely blooming spires, making it perfect for flavoring seafood, salads and garnishing summer desserts. To share a savory note, we also added our Rosemary ‘Arp’, a flavorful, cold hardy, Rosemary that seasons meats, stews and full flavored desserts. (James loves using the Rosemary twigs as skewers for adding fruit kebabs to his delectable drinks!) Rounding out his favorites, are ‘Italian Flat Leaf’ Parsley for its full body flavor and lovely leafy foliage, and ‘English’ Thyme, a classic culinary herb that grew in his grandmother’s kitchen garden and of which he has fond, flavorful memories.

We have even included the option to buy either this collection of six culinary herb plants to get your garden started with Southern style, or the James Farmer’s Favorites Herb Collection AND James’s new book, A Time To Plant, Southern-Style Garden Living, for a lovely added gift.

If you may already have these wonderful culinary herbs in your garden, you can purchase A Time To Plant: Southern-Style Garden Living sold separately. Whether you treat yourself or give this as a thoughtful gift, the James Farmer’s Favorites will be a sure delight for entertaining in the garden and in your home!

Why Should You Build Your Own Rain Barrel?

Rain barrels are easy and very inexpensive to make and you'll save lots of water, time and money.

In keeping with our green theme this week for Earth Day on April 22nd, here’s another great project that your plants will appreciate! Our Marketing Director, Caroline and her boyfriend built the one above, for their gardens last summer.

She swears by her backyard barrel, ” This is a great alternative to the chemicals in city water and to paying city water bill prices! My herbs and his tomatoes went wild over this water last summer!”

Reduce your water use considerably by building a rain barrel. Watering your plants with rainwater is better for them than tap water because of all of the minerals that collect in the rainwater that feed the plants. Also, many municipal water systems treat their water with chlorine and fluoride, which can build up in your soil over time and reduce its quality. Watering your gardens may also use quite a bit of water, and especially in the summer when things are extremely dry, some areas institute mandatory water restrictions. Having your own rain barrel also reduces runoff which can carry lots of pollutants back into the water system, and it allows you to have a source of water in a part of your yard that may not have a spigot nearby. A rain barrel will keep your plants healthy and well watered, save water, and save you money!

 

Building a rain barrel is easy and very cheap if you have the right resources.

  1. Start with a large food barrel that you’ve rinsed thoroughly. Place it on top of four cinder blocks that are laying flat on the ground. (This will help to give the barrel more height and better gravity, allowing the water to flow better once it gets to a lower level.) Large restaurants receive shipments of these barrels all of the time, and if you can’t get one directly from them, try looking online. We found the barrel pictured above in a garden listing on Craigslist, and it once held A LOT of olives.
  2.  Using a Dremmel tool or saw, cut a 6″ hole in the top of the lid, so that the center is hollow but you can still screw the cap onto the top of the barrel.
  3.  Take a piece of old window screen and cut it so it just fits the top of the barrel, while still allowing you to screw the top in place. Make sure the screen is well fitting, as this will keep insects and debris out of your water.
  4.  Drill a hole at the bottom front of the barrel that is just slightly smaller than a small spigot that you can find at your local hardware store. Fit the spigot into the hole for a very snug fit (this prevents you from having to use chemicals to seal the spigot into place.)
  5.  Place beneath or connect to your gutter runoff spout. Then, just wait for it to rain! Your barrel will fill with rainwater and you can water your flowers and herb plants with a watering can or by attaching a short length of hose.

Go Green For Earth Day!

 

It's actually VERY easy to be green!

“Going Green” is a term that’s often used liberally, and rarely followed through. Written off as an advertising catch phrase or something that “hippies” may be worried about, going green is really about sustainability and choosing to treat our planet better.  April 22nd is Earth Day and as a gardener, grower and outdoors man, I have a very deep respect for our planet and its natural resources. In sharing a love of gardening and growing plants, I believe we all share the similar belief that we should cherish and preserve the natural gifts that we’re given.

We stay green at The Growers Exchange by composting excess plants and incorporating organic matter from our cattle. We try to use as little packaging as possible when shipping your plants, and the peanuts we use for packing are made of cornstarch and are biodegradable. We grow our flowers and herb plants without the need for high powered commercial insecticides and sprays, instead opting for applications that are plant based. Around our farm we grow warm weather grasses and leave plenty of buffer area between us and the James River to help filter runoff. We replant and replenish trees around our farm after natural disasters blow through (like Hurricane Irene last year) that knock mature trees down. We then used the downed trees to heat our greenhouse this past winter. These are just a handful of the ways we remain a green company in our daily practices.

Although we should incorporate more ways to conserve everyday, Earth Day is a great chance to reaffirm those sustainable practices. This week, we’ll be sharing gardening tips and ideas on going green.

What ways are you gardening sustainably in your own garden and going green in your community?

 

Transform Your Food With Fresh Herbs!

 

Our Marketing Director, Caroline, proves that fresh herbs can make even the worst frozen dish, fantastic!

 

As a struggling cook with little more than the ambition to want more than take-out every night, cooking can be hard. Cooking something that you’re actually excited to put on your plate can sometimes be even harder, if you’re a frugal yet resourceful, 20-something year old, like myself. So how do you get the most punch for your palate, while on a budget? Dress up inexpensive, everyday foods using fresh culinary herbs.

Between my indoor winter herb garden and the dried or frozen herbs I preserved from last year’s garden, I’ve been getting creative in my kitchen. I’ve turned cheap frozen pizzas into delectable masterpieces with Basil that I harvested and froze for a rainy day, and fresh Italian Oregano and Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, which have thrived outdoors in our mild winter this year. I’ve created every soup imaginable from canned pantry items, frozen veggies and English Thyme, Cutting Celery and Curly Parsley from my garden. And, most recently, I even conquered breakfast by adding freshly dried Rosemary ‘Salem’ to my instant pancakes to create one of my newest favorite foods. (To see WHERE I got these fresh Rosemary ‘Salem’ clippings, check out our video of our herb expert, Briscoe, teaching you how to hard prune your woody perennials!)

Herbs offer a terrific way to really jazz up your culinary routine, or if you’re cooking on a budget like me, they add tons of flavor and lots of valuable vitamins and nutrients to otherwise bland food. Don’t forget that your herb garden is a valuable investment that offers many flavorful rewards, so try experimenting with your favorite dishes by incorporating fresh herbs into your next meal and take your culinary skills from “ramen” to “righteous”! Check out our Cook’s Exchange for more herbal recipes, or try the one below.

After watching a Top Chef marathon and deciding it was time for brunch this past weekend, I tried my hand at some VERY creative pancake combinations. Luckily, a few of them were worth eating, so here’s one to try:

Caroline’s Accidentally Awesome Rosemary Pancakes

 

 

Ingredients:

  • Instant Pancake Mix
  • Water
  • Oil
  • Fresh Rosemary (pick your favorite, they’re all great!)
  • Andes Mints, chopped (optional)

Preparation:

  • Just follow the follow the directions for the desired amount of pancakes, on the back of the box,and mix the batter until there are no lumps.
  • Add oil to your frying pan on medium-hot heat.
  • Wash, dry and crush or chop the fresh Rosemary.
  • Pour pancakes to desired size in your frying pan, and top with a generous sprinkle of Rosemary. (I was also making Andes Mint pancakes during this experiment, and some of the chocolate get mixed in with the Rosemary. It tasted terrific together, so for a sweeter pancake, try adding a little chocolate and Mint to compliment the Rosemary.)
  • Cook til golden brown on both sides and eat until you’re full!