Sunday, September 27, 2009

Our first bus tour - and beyond

On Monday of this week, we had a blast hosting a segment of one of The Rosemary House's bus tours. Susanna puts together several trips each year. Some are close to home while others go quite a distance and last for days. You can stay up to date with their Calendar of Events!

It was the first time we did anything like this, and had agreed to do it sometime before the beginning of the year. If you've been reading along, you know that my sister and I are sometimes mightily challenged by the rollercoaster of taking care of our brother, and this continued to be the case. Getting the yard and gardens into some kind of order as well as preparing a snack and presentation took some doing - but we did it, and it came together pretty well.
The bus arrived in the driveway at precisely the time it was expected. I was glad nephew Rob went out and got a picture of the bus. Pretty cool.

We had the still filled and all put together, so that it was ready to roll when everyone got settled.
The table was set with lots of goodies. We served a Rooibos tea punch from the soon-to-be-printed Nov/Dec issue, dip and crudites, herbed pretzels, and pesto pockets (from the Sept/Oct '09 issue). Every morsel turned out to be delicious, and the gang loved it all!
2 pkg (10 each) refrigerated biscuits
1/4 C Pesto
1/2 C shredded Mozzarella
1 beated egg white
(optional - bacon, ham, pepperoni)
Separate the biscuits. On a lightly floured surface, flatten each biscuit into a 4" circle with your hand. Spread 1/2 t pesto on half of each circle to within 1/2" of the edge. Use half the cheese to sprinkle over the pesto on each circle. Brush edges with egg white. Fold plain half of each over the filling. With tines of fork, seal edges together. Prick top once with fork. Transfer pockets to a greased baking sheet. Brush tops with egg white. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake at 400 for 8 to 10 minutes until golden. Serve warm. Makes 20.

3/4 C basil leaves
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 C grated Parmesand cheese
2 T pine nuts (or walnuts)
1/4 C olive oil
Puree all ingredients together in food processor.

1 C Mayonaisse
1 C sour cream
up to 1/2 C snipped and chopped fresh herbs.
I use whatever is out there. For this gathering, that included sage, purple basil, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, holy basil, oregano, chives, and parsley. I added caraway seed and dehydrated onion. Luckily I remembered because the tour folks wanted an exact recipe.
I had intended a weed walk, but instead there was just a bit of time left to walk to the edge of the yard where we talked about elderberries, pawpaws, vitex, holy basil, and lavender - among others.
Everyone hoped on the bus and went over to Kathy and John Musser's place, Cloverleaf Herb Farm.
Kathy took us on a tour of her gardens and then into the shop where we gave her a hand (as she had done for us, coming over a bit before the bus got to our place).
All in all it was a lot of fun and now my yard looks beautiful!
Our brother John managed to hold out during the day, but there was no doubt he was sick again. I'll talk about that on his blog.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunchoke Chips

For some reason I woke up today with the idea of making chips from roots. Like Jerusalem artichoke (sunchoke), burdock, dandelion, etc. I grabbed the shovel as soon as I was dressed and headed out looking for nice burdock, but all I could find was yellow dock and sour dock. I did dig some yellow dock, and then came back up to the house to dig sunchokes. Not much, though. We have a tour tomorrow and it wouldn't do to dig up the whole patch today (although the idea came to me when I was trying to think of something unique to serve our guests).
The sunchokes were a delight to work with. They fried up crispy and delicious.
The yellow dock was difficult. It was tough and didn't want to be sliced, although slicing on a diagonal helped slightly.
I sprinkled the chips with some popcorn seasoning blend that came in a spice blend swap we did last year, and it was really good! Plain salt would have worked too.
Considering that these are to be pleasant, I probably wouldn't try the yellow dock again. I will be looking for burdock, though. Oh - and the oil was coconut, which was very easy to work with!

REVIEW: Numen - the Nature of Plants

Although I will be reviewing this in the upcoming issue of TEH, I just finished watching it and would like to comment.
The structure of the film reminded me of What the Bleep? in that there were a series of experts and individuals that were interviewed in turn on a lot of topics so that it almost feels like we are sitting in a huge room talking to everyone at once.
The most important element to me was that in the time it took to watch, concepts that took the first 5 or 6 years of my herbal enchantment in order to become fixed and cemented in my heart, were expressed clearly and concisely.
That means that those who are just now opening up to plants as food and medicine will be able to grasp those things more quickly, without having to stumble along. So now, 15 or more years after having them firmly held inside, I can watch and nod and at times be moved nearly to tears. It is interesting to imagine how this might effect the newest wave of herbal enthusiasts - being able to understand all that information all at one time.
Bravo! Well done. Knowledge can change individual behavior and we can change the world.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Say it Loud, Roger!

Today we were vendors at the Lebanon County Master Gardener's Symposium. All of the vendor tables were along the walls of the main room where everything took place. It is unusual that we get to be right in the middle of things, and it was exciting to hear Roger Swain of "Crockett's Victory Garden" fame speak for several hours. He could have gone on for many more, I suspect, without ever becoming boring in the least.
I apologize for my fuzzy picture. Darkish room and too fascinated to remember the camera! The talk was in three parts. He began talking about "planting villages". What he meant was that Americans have become insulated and that gardens can help people to know each other. Planting gardens in our front yards means that we go out and water them and prune them and see our neighbors at the same time. He said that "gardening is a language that everyone should learn to speak." As you can imagine, I was shaking my head and shoutin' "amen!"
My sister and I both got a good chuckle when he mentioned that automatic garage door openers are the devil's spawn because they enable people to come and go from their homes without ever being outside.
Roger sprinkled his talk with his opinions on some fairly hot-button topics and I realized that either nobody told him how conservative the area is OR he just says what he thinks. Either way, I appreciated his forthrightness, and that goes as well for when he told the crowd that he considers his gardening practices as PMO. That stands for "pretty much organic". He grows tree fruits, and they are nearly impossible to grow 100% organically, so he does as much as he believes to be reasonable. His produce is for his own personal use and his friends and neighbors.

He gave us his 5 principles for Planting Villages:
1. Generosity. He had several anecdotes that referred to the glut of zucchini by this time of year, including telling us that he needs to keep his car locked lest it be filled with the squash during the night. But that there is always lots to share and once again, that will grow the village. He also tries to spend $10/wk at a farmers market, saying that there is always something he doesn't grow.
2. Competition (friendly). Why not have competition with neighbors for the first peas or the first tomatoes? I think a lot of us do that now. Where he comes from they grow those 800 pound pumpkins.
3. Rules - not many. This one is near and dear to my heart. In the herbal world, it is a something I stress to readers - TRY IT! See if it works! Too many rules make it difficult and rigid and no fun.
4. Whimsy. Just like less rules, it should be fun. To illustrate this point, he showed a slide of a garden sculpture depicting a goose being bitten on the butt by a snapping turtle. He then helped us with the difference between "tacky" and "gaudy". Tacky is 2 pink flamingos. Don't do it! Gaudy is a dozen or more. Better.
5. Celebration. When asparagas is available 365 days a year, we never get to miss it. Same with strawberries and so many other things. We've talked about this before, so I was in complete agreement when he talked about eating asparagas 3 times a day for a few weeks, and then not wanting it again until about March - at which time it started to sound wonderful again. I do remember as a child, celebrating the seasonal foods. Ah, the first spring peas and new potatoes! Strawberries! Here we have our peach farmer over the hill, and I wouldn't even consider eating peaches out of season anymore... they are just no good! So we need to eat in season in order to celebrate the crops. Like basil, for instance. Is this not the most gorgeous opal basil ever?The second part of his talk was about growing fruit, and the third part concerned keeping things over the winter. They were both very interesting, but the first segment really resonated with me.

So the event was a terrific way to spend the day.
Then we came home and finished getting some stuff ready for the next leg of our September Journey - the bus tour on Monday. Stay tuned :-)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


This new film about plants is going to be reviewed in the upcoming issue of The Essential Herbal. In the meantime, you may want to go check it out and view a 15 minute segment. Read what the makers have to say below...

is a new film on the healing power of PLANTS
Hi Everyone - GREAT news!

The DVD of Numen is Arriving Very Soon!
If you haven't heard of Numen by now - check
out a quick preview here at

The DVD's are in production right NOW and we
are expecting the shipment in the next
few weeks...

***But - there is a LIMITED supply, and they
will go fast, especially when you see all the
extra bonuses from Herbal Companies,
Herbalist teachers and authors that come with
the DVD.

***Click here to ensure
you are in line to receive updates on how buy
the DVD!
All the best,
Terry and Ann

***P.S. The release of Numen is a huge event
for the herbal community - and for anybody
concerned about healthcare... (and who isn't
concerned in the current raging national
debate?) ****SO - Click here to join the Numen
Grassroots movement to take control of our
own health!

Friday, September 11, 2009

El Der Berry!

To date, I have spent hours and hours working with the elderberries this year. In the spring, I saved lots of the blossoms, and this past month I have tinctured, syruped, dried, frozen and candied what seems to be tons of them - and yet there are about 1/2 of them out there still on the trees. Only a few days until the next magazine deadline, so we need to wrap this up soon.

It's time to start cooking now that most of the medicinal preparations are out of the way. I've looked around and found some interesting recipes. First up for us will be the pie. The rest - who knows? They sure look like they might be fun to try. Oh - our usual cobbler was a consideration, but I've read that it comes out too runny. Maybe a little cornstarch? 

Elderberry Pie (
3- 1/4 c elderberries
1/4 t salt
1- 1/8 c sugar
3-3/4 T lemon juice
2-1/4 T cornstarch
Combine above and cook until thick.
Place in 9" unbaked pie shell.
Dot with butter and cover with top crust.
Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

German Chilled Elderberry Soup (
Makes: About 2 quarts
Field Guide to Herbs & Spices , by Aliza Green
Exotic elderberries and tart apples become a unique dessert.
3 c fresh (or 1 cup dried) elderberries (stems removed)
6 c water
3/4 c sugar
1 T cornstarch
2 T water
2 c tart apples, peeled and diced
1 T grated lemon zest
gingersnap cookies
sour cream
Wash 3 c of fresh (or 1 cup dried) elderberries (stems removed) and place in a large nonaluminum soup pot.
Add 6 c of water and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes or until the elderberries are soft.
Blend and then strain through a sieve.
Return the strained liquid to the cleaned pot over medium heat, and add 3/4 c of sugar.
In a separate bowl, make a slurry by combining 1 T of cornstarch with 2 T of water. Whisk the slurry into the pot and bring back to a boil, whisking often.
Add 2 c peeled and diced tart apples and 1 T grated lemon zest, and simmer for 5 minutes or until the soup is thickened, smooth, and clear.
Cool the soup and refrigerate to chill. Serve cold topped with crumbled gingersnap cookies and dollops of sour cream.

Elderberry Catsup (
2 qt Elderberries Vinegar to cover
1 c Sugar
1 T Allspice
1 T Cloves
1/4 t Cayenne pepper
1 t Salt
1 t Cinnamon
Cook elderberries in vinegar until berries burst.
Put berries through a food press or sieve, add sugar, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and pepper.
Simmer until thickens. Pour into sterilized jars and seal.  

Elderberry Chutney (
2 c. vinegar
2 qt. elderberries
2 lg. onions
2 apples
2 c. brown sugar
2 t salt
1 t ground ginger
1 T cloves
1 t mustard seed
1 clove garlic
1 t cayenne pepper
Bruise berries, chop onions.
Add all ingredients, place over moderate heat, bring to boil, stirring until it thickens

Dark Chocolate-Elderberry Truffles
Makes 20 (1-ounce) truffles (Erna's Elderberry House in the San Francisco Bee)
For the ganache:
1 pound dark chocolate
8 ounces fresh or frozen elderberries
6 ounces granulated sugar
6 ounces heavy whipping cream
1 ounce dark rum
For the chocolate coating:
1/4 pound dark coating chocolate
1 teaspoon dark rum
To make the ganache:
Place chocolate in a stainless-steel pan or bowl. Set aside.
Place elderberries and sugar in a 1-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, just until elderberries have formed a syrup thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Stir in heavy whipping cream and rum, then increase heat and bring to a boil.
Remove from heat. Pour cream mixture over chocolate.
Let stand 1 minute.
Stir together until smooth.
Let cool to room temperature, then chill in refrigerator until solid (2 to 4 hours).
Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
Using a 1-ounce ice-cream scoop, form balls with the ganache and place on a baking sheet.
To make the chocolate coating:
Melt dark coating chocolate according to directions.
Add rum and stir to combine.
To finish the truffles: Dip ganache balls, one at a time, in coating chocolate, roll to coat.
Return to baking sheet and allow to harden at room temperature.
Repeat, then serve.  

Elderflower-Champagne Vinaigrette: 4 ounces champagne or sparkling wine 2 tablespoons elderflower syrup 1 tablespoon apple-cider vinegar 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil 1 teaspoon fresh chocolate mint, chopped Salt Freshly ground black pepper also from Erna's There. That ought to keep me busy....if the rain slows down so I can get to the berries before the canes snap.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Cranberries are Coming, The Cranberries are Coming!

The Cranberry, it’s All-American!
From the Sept/Oct issue of The Essential Herbal
Written by Susanna Reppert of The Rosemary House

A holiday favorite since that first great feast, there is nothing so American as cranberries. First discovered by the Indians who introduced them to the Pilgrims. John Josselyn wrote in 1663, “The Indians and the English use them much boyling them with Sugar for Sauce to eat with their Meat, and it is a delicate Sauce.”
Because of their fine keeping qualities – up to a year- and elevated Vitamin C content, early New England sea captains took casks of cranberries aboard clipper ships to prevent scurvy. The tart “crane berries” were soon a part of the trade between the new colonies and Merrie Olde England, where they were enjoyed by all including himself, King Charles.

The astounding acidity of this remarkable small fruit is something to marvel at. Once called ‘bogland medicine’ it is used today as daily vitamin C and is quite helpful with urinary tract problems. You will see it on the shelves in markets in gallon jugs, outselling all other fruit juices. Popular and available 12 months of the year, cranberry juice makes an extraordinary spiced drink, brilliantly ruby red in color. See recipe at the end of the article.

Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) grow on low evergreen shrubs that were found growing wild in the bogs of New England. Called “crane berries” after the birds who feasted on them in the marshes, they are a bright red cousin to our more perishable blueberry. They have been transplanted as far a field as the state of Washington which in now one of the largest producers of this succulent fruit.

Although some ornamental garden shrubs with berries are called “high bush cranberry” or low bush cranberry” these are viburnums and in no way related. The tiny berries from these shrubs are edible if you are desperate enough, but are best left to the birds who will feast on them in winter.

Under continuous cultivation since 1816, when commercial bogs were first established on Cape Cod, cranberries have been hybridized into a good plump size making them easy to string into ruby colored jewelry for the Christmas tree. Easier yet to make is a stunning wreath. All you need is a pound of cranberries, a foam wreath form and toothpicks. First poke the berries on to the picks and then into the wreath closely, voila! You have a stunning door piece. Place greens on it if you want to make it larger or poke in a ruffle of magnolia leaves along the outer edge. Use a pretty bow to finish off your creation and enjoy throughout the holidays. The birds will enjoy it when you are finished with it.

Because of their amazingly high acidity, cranberries can be crushed and used in an emergency to quickly clean silver for your holiday meal. The acid berries were also used by the Indians to preserve meat. Pounded into dried game they made their famous “pemmican” a trail meat that kept indefinitely.

Too bitter to be eaten raw, the fresh new crop now available can be turned into delectable dishes when cooked with sugar, honey or maple syrup. Available in cans year round, cranberry sauce can be served as a condiment anytime. A favorite trick is to melt a can of cranberry sauce with a bit of honey to glaze a ham. Candied Cranberries can easily be made by placing 1 pound of cranberries in a shallow baking pan and covering with 2 ½ C sugar. Let stand 30 minutes and then cover and bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes stirring occasionally. Chill to use. ‘Course then there’s cranberry sorbet and cranberry cordial and on and on with these marvelous native American berries.

American Cranberry Tea
1 qt cranberries
½ t cinnamon
4 qt water
½ t allspice
2 ½ C sugar
Juice of 3 oranges
½ C cinnamon candies
Juice of 3 lemons
½ t nutmeg
Bring cranberries and one quart of water to a boil. In another pan, bring three quarts of water and sugar to a boil; add cinnamon candies, cloves, and spices and simmer. Put cranberries through a sieve and combine with other liquid. Before serving, add juice of oranges and lemons. Serve Hot. 12-15 servings.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

11 pictures on the triple 9's

I went out this morning strictly to enjoy the view. The last couple of weeks have been a blur of weeding and gathering and harvesting and tincturing and candymaking and college and all that autumn jazz, so this morning was just for the beauty of it.
This moonflower awaits directly outside the door. I love the colors of the buds and leaves and the soft purple around the outer edges of the open blooms. At night, sphinx moths come and play with the flowers. I like to call this one "Blurry, the little hummingbird". I was looking at the Vitex behind the bush, and *poof* there is this little gem flitting about. She helped me out on the grill the other night, too, although I think it was because I was too close to the red hibiscus flowers. Yes, that's right, I'm naming pictures. So what, who cares? This one I like to call "Pretty in Pink". The seedpods are what are really amazing to me later. They will look as though they are crafted of leather. The petals of these remind me of baleen whales, with their great, expandable throats. You're going to love this name - Passion Awakening. Isn't it beautiful how ruffled and grumpy it is in the morning? Dewy and tangled up. Again, the colors are staggering to me.

The blue morning glory amidst the burgundy privet is so pretty. If I were an insect, I'd be making a beeline for the center of that flower, or....
perhaps for the landing pad that this hibiscus has stretched out and supplied for the weary flyer!
I've mentioned the slip of a fig tree that Susanna gave me during their 40th anniversary celebration at The Rosemary House last year. For the longest time this spring it seemed to have succumbed to the cold, but LOOK! There are figs all over it - at least a dozen. I am hoping some will ripen before a frost comes.
Out on the anise hyssop, the bumblies are playing. The scent of this plant is delicious, and I've saved quite a bit of it for tea this coming winter.
After weeks of drying berries, making tincture, making candy and syrup, the elderberries are still so heavy on the bushes that they are nearly touching the ground. A few branches broke. These bushes are about 12' tall, so this is really something.
It was probably a month or so ago when we talked about the many bees on this plant - the mountain mint. As you can see, they are still loving it. The plant is spreading like wildfire. Something needs to move - either it, or the elderberries, or the blueberries. None would be simple.
Look what the birds brought me! Beauty Berry right in the middle of the Yews out front. They highlight the remaining balloon flowers. Such a beguiling color!

That about does it for the photo portion of today. There are tinctures to be strained, elderberries to be dehydrated, and mints to harvest. The vitex berries are only a few days from harvest, and the beans we'll be using for seed next year probably require some attention. OH! And there's that article that came in the mail today that needs to be typed in.
See you soon!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

A Spoon Full of Sugar

Over the summer, we've been playing around with different kinds of herbal preparations. That's always just fun to do - especially during a summer like this one, where the weather produced several cuttings of everything. One purpose was to give some of these herbs to our brother. He must have zero alcohol, and isn't the type to drink tea. Now I know all about the amount of alcohol in a tincture being equal to that of a ripe banana... heck, we told that to our customers at the shop 15 years ago! But when someone truly has a problem and cologne might set them off, who really wants to take that chance?
So syrup was a brief fascination, but it rapidly turned to hard candy! Now this is fun!

Here are instructions

The first is Elderberry Bits. We picked fresh, plump elderberries and added ginger and lemon. The resulting candies are delicious and both our brother and my college girl have handy, tasty elderberry available.
Next is Herbalicious. This one is crammed with herbal goodness. We added mint, holy basil, elderberry, rose geranium, lemon verbena, orange, lemon, thyme, ginger, cardamom, and rosemary. It is surprisingly wonderful, and the name of the line just popped into our heads.
Then Lemon Balm Bombe. Luscious lemon balm, along with lemon juice, passionflower, and a few blueberries from the garden. Tulsi Twist is a combination of Tulsi (holy basil) with goji berries and a kiss of peppermint. Exquisite.
You might want to give these delightful hard candies a try. They are such a sweet and convenient way to keep your favorite herbs handy - wherever you are!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Milestones can be heavy...

To begin with, this is the 500th post on the blog. I've been mulling it over and thinking about it - and you'll notice that I haven't written for a long time! Somehow it felt that it should be monumental or important. Let's just say that we could wait forever for that to happen - OR - we could say that happens every day. Depends on the outlook.
The other milestone was the littlest herbie going off to college. She didn't go far, but it is very different here. Before she was born, I loved to feel her moving around, safe and warm. It was a feeling that all was right with the world. After she was born, I missed that feeling.
The other day I woke up and stayed a while, thinking against the pillow, realizing that each morning for the last 18 years my first thought upon waking has been about Molly, being conscious of where she was, whether she was awake, what we had to accomplish that day. Having her live somewhere else is a little disconcerting. I will probably get used to it. I may even come to like it. We'll see.
There. I did it.
Now we can move on and not fret until the 1000th post.
In the meantime, download this free issue of TEH and share it with your friends.
Happy Labor Day!