Harvesting Herbs in the Fall

Harvesting Herbs in the Fall

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…)

Help Save the Monarch Butterfly with Asclepias Tuberosa, Butterfly Milkweed

Help Save the Monarch Butterfly with Asclepias Tuberosa, Butterfly Milkweed

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…)

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…)