Herbal Aromatherapy: Do Scents Make Sense?

Herbal Aromatherapy: Do Scents Make Sense?

Inhale something lovely, a sprig of lavender perhaps. What happens? Better yet, open the bottle of perfume your mother always wore. Memories flood in. Why?

Our sense of smell has been vital to our survival. We, in 2018, may not rely on that sense as we once did, but think about it: sniffing food to see if it is still edible, smelling the smoke of an enemy’s fire, detecting the healing properties of herbs through smell.

Our minds are a creation of the inputs coming from our five senses, and our sense of smell has the power to both heal as well as awaken memories. It is the most enduring sense, and it can take us back in time and flood our brain with memories, both good and bad. (more…)

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…)

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…)

Surprising Facts About Your Favorite Herbs and Spices

Surprising Facts About Your Favorite Herbs and Spices

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…)

Phytonutrients, Why They’re so Good for You

Phytonutrients, Why They’re so Good for You

As a grower, I tend to focus on the more garden-worthy properties of herbs.  What attributes it brings to my many garden beds.  The impact of those big white blooms of Angelica, the steadfastness of a reliable rosemary hedge, the mystery of Passion Flower, or the stark drama of my Artichoke.

But, as the years go by, my interest in the herbs I grow has extended beyond the garden and into the kitchen or the medicine chest or even my fledgling attempts at DIY.  Yes, I’ve even made lip balm!  So, in my research, I’m constantly reading about the health benefits of these plants.  Look at my bookshelves and you will see that my lifelong interest has been the interplay between the natural world and man.

“Let Food Be Thy Medicine and Medicine Be Thy Food” – Hippocrates

A well-known quote and much used, especially as we become more and more interest in the dynamic relationship between our health, and the nutrients found in our foods.  Additionally, a very concerning relationship as we are moving further away from our foraging past towards sophisticated hybridization of food crops to the point where we are ‘watering down’ the physiological punch of plant food. (more…)

Success: The Growers Exchange

Success: The Growers Exchange

“To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.”

Mark Twain

Couldn’t have said it better myself  However, I’d say it a bit differently:

“If I knew then what I know now, I may not have ever tried”

Briscoe White

Which is just another way of saying that I was didn’t realize how much I didn’t know, but I had the confidence (and stupidity) to just keep going.  

The easy part was the first 20 years;  gave up a promising career in my mid twenties, but at that point, I had nothing to lose and I didn’t really like my job anyway.  No kids, no mortgage and some crazy ideas about making making a living by doing what I loved.  That pretty much worked for 2 decades.  I had a thriving store, great employees, wonderful customers and greenhouses that pumped out plants that people wanted to buy.  I’m not saying it wasn’t hard work, but it was a helluva ride.  Spring and fall, we worked like mad.  Summer and winter, we sat back and occupy ourselves with travel, vegetable gardens, a bit of hunting and raising a bunch of kids. (more…)