Folks in my neighborhood have taken Halloween to a whole new level; it is incredible what a bit of technology will do for a holiday. Back in my time, we’d have a Casper mask with an elastic strap. Very hard to breathe in that thing, so you were forever lifting it up for a breath of fresh air. Moms gave away homemade popcorn balls and candy apples. You knew who was going to have the ‘good stuff’ (Milky Way bars were a favorite) and who to avoid (the elderly neighbor who thought handing out pennies was acceptable). Gone are those days – we’ve got big scary spiders climbing up the sides of houses, and tombstones with automated skeletons waving from the ground. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent close to 9 billion dollars on Halloween in 2018.
But, the origins of Halloween have little to do with candy and zombie costumes. Most of the ancient festivals associated with Halloween had to do with the harvest and magic. The Halloween that we celebrate today didn’t arrive along a single path; it is a combination of traditions that tie transitioning seasons to the thin layer between life and death. All of these traditions, the broomstick, the apples, the witches, have ancient roots. No image of Halloween is complete without witches and broomsticks, and when it comes to witches, we need to talk about HERBS! (more…)
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. (more…)
It is that time of year again. We spent months anxiously awaiting the first signs of spring – your perennial herbs emerging or warm enough weather for annuals. And, because we sell to every conceivable zone in the continental US that ‘just right time’ spans months. For us in Zone 7, we try to wait until ‘Tax Day’ but don’t always make it!
From Spring to Fall
Nevertheless, spring arrives and the fun begins – the act of planning shifts to actual planting, and more planting followed by pruning and tending and clipping. Using your herbs in all sorts of ways, because all we know, herbs are so versatile. All summer to enjoy the fresh taste of mint in tea, fresh basil on your Caprese salad, real dill on your grilled fish, tarragon chicken salad and a farm fresh chicken stuff full of fresh Bouquet Garni. We’ve done it all! For our clever DIY customers, the fun never ends while our homeopathic friends are creating all sorts of healing ointments, tinctures and teas.
But, we can all sense the change. Days are shortening, Helianthus and Joe Pye Weed are announcing the arrival of cooler nights. Fewer butterflies on fewer blooms. No more delighting in hummingbirds at the feeders. (more…)
Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias Tuberosa) is a native plant that creates a wonder area of your garden for monarch butterflies. The Growers Exchange wants to encourage our gardening friends to set aside a sunny space in their gardens to help these majestic butterflies thrive and slow the decline of their population.
The bad news: there can be no question that natural habitats, areas where monarch butterflies live, are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Habitat destruction, defined as changing an area in which a plant, animal or other organism lives to the point where that species can no longer survive. The destruction is generally described as either actual destruction, degradation or fragmentation. In the case of the Monarch butterfly, the major threat to their survival is the loss of milkweed habitat, which is an essential plant in their life cycle. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the counts of Monarch butterflies are trending down sharply, and their migration is now under threat.
The good news: restoration of habitat can be achieved with very little effort on the part of concerned gardeners. You can easily offset this loss of a critical host plant in your own yard by planting milkweed, the vital host plant for Monarch butterflies. (more…)
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…)
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…)