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!

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!

 

 

 

 

Meeting Southern Living's James Farmer

When our Co Owner, Kenan White, recently found an opportunity to see James Farmer speak, she immediately booked her flight to the AmericasMart show in Atlanta, Ga. Meeting him after his talk was an exciting added bonus! Read on to see why we are so impressed  with this brilliant Southern gentleman.

James Farmer’s lecture on “Herban Gardening” at the Atlanta Mart was the highlight of my buying trip!

This true Southern gentleman would make his mama proud!  Handsome, polite, self-effacing, and oh so talented.  Since I have been following James’ work for some time, I didn’t quite know what to expect, but this one is the ‘real deal’!  I’ve been in this business for over a decade, seen them come and go, but my guess is that James is here to stay.  Talented for sure, but authenticity counts almost as much.

I’ve tried to recreate his gorgeous arrangements and delicious recipes at home, but after spending an hour watching him arrange and cook and entertain, I realized I have a lot to learn.  His seamless and gracious presentation had me imagining myself on his front porch, a late afternoon summer breeze making it all bearable, sipping on his mint infused tea and taking a bite of Mimi’s Apple Cake.

For anyone who’s unfamiliar James, check out his website … and go out and get his book – A Time to Plant: Southern Style Garden Living.   For all of us below the Mason Dixon, he reads like a well known novel.  For those of you outside of the real South, get ready to experience ‘our’ way of life!

Bless him for sharing.

 

 

Warm Up With Homegrown Herbal Tea

While winter is still flirting with us here in zone 7, many of our friends are already hunkered down throughout the country to weather out winter storms. Though I love the simple beauty of winter, I hate that freezing feeling. You know the one, where you can’t seem to ever get warm. The one that no matter how many layers of socks you put on, you still have toecicles. It’s that down-in-your-bones-cold feeling that no heap of blankets can seem to remedy. If you’re having trouble staying warm from the inside out, then it’s time to brew some delicious hot tea. There’s no quicker cure for this kind of coldness, than a steaming cup of herbal tea to lift your spirits, warm your bones and relax your mind. For an added benefit, try mixing medicinal herbs into your brew to ward off those worrisome winter sniffles.

Here’s a great recipe from our Marketing Director, Caroline, who usually uses her cats as a “mew”-lectric blanket, but when they’re not enough, she turns to a hot cup of herbal tea from her garden.

We’ve had a relatively mild winter here in the Richmond, VA area this year, so when we experienced our first cold day, it was a shock. I got home after a long commute in the cold, and I just couldn’t  leave the January chill at the door. I turned the heat up and donned a sweater but still wasn’t satisfied with the temperature. After a quick survey of the kitchen, I realized that it must be time to grocery shop, because I was out of herbal tea. Instead of chattering any longer, I realized that because of the unseasonably warm winter we’d had until this point, I still had a few hardy herbs left in my gardens outside and some indoor potted herb gardens thriving in my kitchen.

Younger Horehound leaves are covered in a protective fuzz that they shed as they grow bigger.

I gathered a handful of Horehound, an old fashioned medicinal herb, related to mint that acts as a soothing expectorant. Though not approved by the FDA you can find Horehound in many candies, cold remedies and lozenges, and makes a wonderful tea. (As with all medicinal herbs though, you should consult your doctor or herbalist if taking other medications and it shouldn’t be taken in large doses, especially by people with heart conditions or who may be pregnant because it may affect your blood pressure or existing heart conditions.) I think it’s a beautiful plant in the garden, with its fuzzy, textured leaves and was excited to try it in tea. I found it to be slightly on the bitter side, so next time I’m adding more Mint and maybe even some Stevia to sweeten it up!

Chocolate Mint is a beautiful addition to your kitchen garden.

I also picked a few dark sprigs of Chocolate Mint and some large, bright green leaves of Kentucky Colonel Mint for flavor. Mint has always been one of my favorite plants- it’s easy to grow, easy to use, and each variety has its own charm. The smooth, dramatic leaves of the Chocolate Mint and the brilliantly green texture of the Kentucky Colonel Mint look as great in an herb bouquet as they taste in a tea!  These two varieties are a unique twist on the standard Peppermint flavor. Kentucky Colonel has a bold, spicy spearmint taste that works well in summer drinks and salads. Chocolate Mint has a smoother, more subdued flavor, warmer than some of the other varieties, and tastes great in desserts. Both of these culinary herbs are perfect for making tea, as Mint is a great digestive aid and its strong  mentholated aroma allows you to breathe more easily.

Kentucky Colonel Mint is great for more than just Mint Juleps!

Being too impatient to dry my herbs, I washed and chopped them and then packed them into a small tea infused. Just add hot water and let the leaves steep for a bit! You can also dry your herbs in advance for more of a traditional tea.

You can also use cheesecloth to make a small pouch for infusing.

Consider tisanes (herbs for making tea or herbal infusions) when you’re planning your next garden. We all love teas with more floral flavors, like Chamomile and Lavender, but don’t forget that many culinary herbs make a great tea, too. Some other unlikely candidates for a healthy, flavorful tea to warm your bones are Lemon Grass, Rosemary, Basil and Lemon Thyme. Try mixing different variations of your favorite culinary herbs and discover a delicious new way to use your garden! Want to get a start on your herb garden during these cold winter months? Try one of our Potted Herb Garden Kits, like our Time For Tea Gift Set and we’ll give you everything you need, from soil to saucer, to grow your own tea garden.

Herb Gardening Resolutions, Part 3: Harvest and Preserve

Missing the taste of fresh herbs from your garden already? Our third resolution for our herb garden is to savor the flavor!  By that I mean, harvest and preserve your herbs to enjoy them throughout the year in your favorite recipes. Dry your herbs for soothing medicinal teas or preserve your culinary herbs in butter for a seemingly gourmet trimming for your table. The possibilities for your herbs are just as boundless as the ways to preserve them!

3. Harvest and Preserve

For the best techniques on harvesting your herbs, here are some things to remember:

  • Harvest often once your herbs are established, which will encourage overall healthier growth.
  • Make sure to gather herbs in the early morning after the dew has dried and the sun is less intense, for the least amount of stress to your plants.
  • When harvesting, use a clean pair of scissors for a fresh cut, and for best flavor, pick foliage before the plant begins to flower. (You can prolong this harvesting period by deadheading your herbs.)
  • You can harvest annuals, like Basil, right up until you see frost, but it’s best to stop pruning perennials like Rosemary about a month before the ground freezes, as trimming them late in the season may make them too tender to withstand winter.

Preserve your herbs, like Basil, by freezing it into cubes!

When it comes to preserving your herbs, you can freeze them, dry them, add them to vinegar or oil, or create herb butters. When drying, make sure to wash your herbs thoroughly, and hang them in a loose bunch in a cool, dark area to dry. They need good, non-humid air circulation to dry without rotting, and keeping them in the dark helps to preserve their natural oils. Herbs like Basil are easily chopped and frozen in ice cube trays for easy storage, while herbs like Stevia can be easily rendered and the sweet extract can be preserved in the fridge for use in desserts or tea.

By preserving your garden, you can appreciate its wonderfully fresh flavors well into the winter months. A wonderfully simple but powerful way to enhance a dish, using your own herbs will also prevent you from buying overpriced, out of season plants or cuttings in the grocery store. By incorporating your garden into your everyday life, you’ll be surprised at your constant return on investment. With our resolutions for your 2012 garden, you’ll stay healthier by infusing your diet with vitamin and mineral-rich herbs, and you’ll save money by preserving your bounty for the year to come.  Try creating some of your own garden resolutions for this coming year and experience the joy and satisfaction of a more sustainable lifestyle.

Moving In – Bringing Your Herbs Indoors For Winter

The time has finally come where the nights are getting crisper and the threat of frost is upon most of us in zone 7. While the fall foliage is beautiful, it marks the end of many outdoor gardening tasks until spring thaws the ground again. Before you begin to panic and go harvesting your herbs for drying and freezing, consider transplanting them for indoor use to enjoy fresh flavors all winter long. While we definitely recommend preserving your herbs so as not to waste their taste, many of your plants can easily be transitioned indoors and kept happily throughout the cold winter months. Keeping your herbs indoors will ensure a wealth of fresh flavor and natural aroma for all of your hearty winter dishes, holiday meals and hot teas. Keeping your plants indoors will also promise to cheer you up through the winter doldrums and keep your home smelling green and clean without the toxic effects of synthetic air fresheners.

Choose Wisely

Plants like Rosemary, Bay, Lavender and Lemon Verbena will pot very easily and do well over the winter, as do most culinary herbs. For plants that go dormant during this time of year like Mints (they tend to get leggy), you may need to enhance the lighting in your home with grow lights to encourage the plants out of their natural cycle. Herbs need approximately 14 hours of light a day, and about 6-8 hours of direct sunlight to maintain  healthy growth. As you’re considering which herbs to bring in, make sure you also consider proper indoor locations for your plants. Southern facing windows will get the most amount of light daily, and as the days grow shorter moving into winter, make sure to accommodate for the waning sunlight by rotating your plants and substituting with alternative light sources.

Transplanting

A few weeks before your area gets its first hard freeze of the year, it’s best to transplant your desired herbs into pots for the winter. Choose only the healthiest plants, leaving any wilted, broken or feeble plants for the compost pile. Dig your plants carefully, and try to extract the entire root system. Once your plants are removed from the ground, pot them into new containers with new potting soil to prevent spreading any disease. Make sure to pot them in deep pots and leave them outside for a few days to acclimate to their new environments before bringing them inside.

Find The Right Spot

Once your plants have recovered and have been moved inside, make sure to not only choose a sunny location, but also consider the temperature and humidity in the area they are placed. For example, you wouldn’t want to place your plants on the mantle of your fireplace that you enjoy using, as they will dry out quickly, just as you don’t want to place them near a drafty door as they may get too cold. Monitor their needs for a while to see if they need more or less water and pay attention to their color and growth. Typically herbs don’t need a lot of water, and you can maintain this by sticking your finger about a half inch into the soil to test for moisture.  As long as the temperature in the room does not go below 50 degrees your plants should be warm enough to keep growing.

For more information and some tips on growing herbs indoors, see our article Growing Herbs Indoors.