Monday, April 22, 2019

Essential Herbal May/June 2019

 Let another season begin!  Every day, something new opens and blooms.
Overnight leaves burst from buds and flowers unfurl.  Bulbs and roots push
up, up, up, to reach the sun.  My backyard is full of white blossoming trees,
a few tulips, and all kinds of green.
We have a great issue to get you inspired and excited to jump in. 
Get it here:
Field Notes from the Editor, Tina Sams
All about the perfect season, coming right up.

The Birth of Herbal Wellness, Danielle Bergum
A healthy pregnancy is the goal. Ideas and recipes included.

May Wine, Maryanne Schwartz
An ancient tradition to welcome the glorious spring.

A Garden Journey - The Still Room,
Rebekah Bailey
Along the way, with the work comes reward.

Fragrance & Foliage - The Lure of Scented Geraniums,
Kathy Musser
There are so many varieties of these beauties.  Grow one or six!

Our Favorite Essential Oils for Spring Cleaning,
Amber M. LaBord
Lose the harsh cleaning solutions, and switch to simple and fresh.

Bravo Blackberry,
Kristine Brown
A plant that offers help from roots to fruit, don’t overlook this beauty.

List Article - Herbal Mistakes
Sometimes the lessons that stay with us were mistakes we made.

Recipes from Mountain Mary,
Mary Graber
Some delights from Mary’s tea room.

Sassafras Soap,
Marci Tsohonis
A soap full of benefits, this old remedy comes through the process. 
Souvenirs from France, Rita Richardson
Unusual plant markers for the garden.  

Sweet Cicely,
Theresa Mieseler
This fragile looking beauty is a fragrant treat. 
Flower & Herb Syrups, Tina Sams
Fun (and useful) experimentation for the early summer.  
All in the Family - Pt.1, Rosaceae Family, Jackie Johnson
A family reunion of Rosaceae would be enormous!   
Cherry Bounce, Tina Sams
It’s purely medicinal, of course.  Really, ask your aching joints.

Summer Iced Teas,
Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh

Great tea blends and recipes for keeping cool this summer.

We hope you enjoy it!

Monday, April 15, 2019

First Herb Garden Part 2 - Medicinal Plants

There is a lot of crossover between herbs for cooking and food for medicine - in fact, I almost cannot divide them anymore.  Eventually, you'll probably feel the same way.  Indeed, because I live in the middle of a field, several of these plants are wild for me.  My "lawn" is sprinkled with the medicine of plantain, chickweed, self heal, yarrow, and occasionally chamomile.  Right now cleavers is everywhere, and various mints have been plowed into the fields and will forever be with us.  But for a first medicinal garden, planting a few of these along with some good culinary herbs would be a great start.
Each of these plants have many uses and I'll just touch on them, so take some time to get to know them. 

These bright little daisy-like flowers make a mild tea that has long been the first thing we reach for when someone is over tired, restless, cranky, or tense.  Molly reached for it almost every year the night before a new school year began to help her relax and sleep.  We usually have some tincture too.
It is very easy to grow.  Just treat it like a weed in a sunny, well-drained location.  I often notice it about to get dug uner when passing new construction, and rescue it for my garden.
More about chamomile...
Lemon Balm
Most people say that lemon balm moves all over their garden.  That isn't my experience for some reason, but it has finally taken up a permanent residence out in the back border.  Lemon balm is a mint that has a strong, bright, delightful lemon fragrance and flavor.  It can be used in cooking, but in medicine it is often a relaxing tea for anxiety, cabin fever, and the blues.  It is worth growing simply for the fragrance.
More about lemon balm...


Calendula flowers are often infused in oil to make all purpose healing salves, and tea or tincture internally is healing for the mouth, throat, stomach and gut.  They grow easily from seed, and here in zone 6b they almost always reseed and volunteer the next year.  They prefer sun and good drainage.
More about calendula...

Holy Basil

I love holy basil.  It's one of my favorite herbs because it is so versatile.  I started using it for stress, and found that it helped fend off viruses and kept my immune system running.  The benefits of holy basil are pretty astounding.  It is not generally used as a culinary herb, but it is a great tea herb.  It is easy to grow, but I have a problem with birds who chop it up.  They use their beaks to snip off the tiny, tender leaves and stems, right down to the ground.  Some netting is often required out in the garden, but they leave them alone (so far) in pots.
More about holy basil...


I don't use a lot of echinacea anymore, but I love the flowers and will probably always grow them.  The entire plant can be chopped up for a tea (more like a decoction) or tincture.  It is used to support the immune system.  It is a perennial that will spread if happy in the location.
More about echinacea...


Ah lavender... Lavender is a very strong flavor, so it should be used sparingly.  It is great for so many things, from relaxation, to soothing skin issues, to headaches and much more.  Different varieties may be more suitable in your area than others.  In 6b we grow Grosso, Provence, Munstead, and Hidcote, and cross our fingers that they'll be back in the spring.  They like drier weather and lots of air circulation.
More about lavender...


There are several varieties of yarrow, and the native one is white, sometimes with a pink blush.  The yellow and paprika cultivars are also medicinal, but the white is generally chosen for medicine and considered to be more effective.  It grows like a weed.  Sun, semi-shade, and good drainage will give you a plant that returns year after year.
More about yarrow...

There are so many others that will eventually find their way into the medicinal garden.  Elderberry and St John's wort are allies here, and elecampane, valerian, and Solomon's seal are held in high esteem.  Everyone will have their own favorites, but these are good choices to get started. 
Happy growing and herbalizin'!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

First Herb Garden, Part 1 - Culinary

If you're planting your first herb garden, the choices can be overwhelming.  Below you'll find the ones I wouldn't want to be without, in order of importance from top to bottom.  They can go in containers on the deck, or be tucked into the soil.  They'll love sun and good drainage, and give you lots of enjoyment.

In my area (zone 6b) most of these herbs will be replaced each spring, and it will cost well less than $50.  If you use these herbs in cooking, it will be a tiny investment on enormous flavor, and all of them have great health benefits, too.  It's always hard to separate herbs into categories such as culinary or medicinal.  Most of them cross-over.

These are easy to grow and will bring a fresh, delicious sparkle to your dishes.
Parsley -  Parsley is probably the first herb people new to herb think of when we talk about culinary herbs, that sprig on the side of the plate.  Once you grow it and have it fresh and handy at all times, it can be sprinkled into nearly every meal.  Pasta, potatoes, stews, soups - there's almost nothing that doesn't benefit from a little spiffing up with chopped parsley.
The plant is a biennial, meaning that the first year it is just the leaves and it is exactly what you want.  The second year, it will bolt (flower) very early in the season and certain butterflies will seek it out as a host plant for their caterpillars.  If you can, leave it for them. Here's a recipe you might like:

Tabouli from Sept/Oct '09 Essential Herbal
1 cup bulgur (cracked wheat)
Handful or more of fresh chopped parsley (2-3 cups)
1 small chopped onion
2 cloves garlic chopped
3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
3 chopped ripe tomatoes
1 chopped cucumber
Salt and pepper to taste
Pour boiling water over the bulgur and let set 30 minutes or until soft.  Drain off excess water. Combine bulgur with remaining ingredients and mix well.
This is a great end of summer salad which will supply you with plenty of vitamins and minerals. Enjoy. Since dried parsley has little taste, enjoy it now with all your garden fresh foods. Dry some however to use on your skin this winter!
Cindy Jones, Ph.D.
Thyme blossoms
Thyme - Like parsley, thyme is super easy to learn to cook with, because it's fairly mild in taste, but takes the flavor of dishes up a few notches.  From scrambled eggs to hearty chili, and everything in  between, thyme is usually a good choice.  Thyme is also a terrific herb to eat regularly because it has so many great health benefits.  It helps us stay healthy, and fights all the things that try "bug" us.
There are many different cultivars of thyme.  Lemon flavored, variegated, elfin (miniscule leaves) and on and on.  Go for the regular garden thyme that is deep green with narrow 1/4" to 1/2" leaves.  It is considered perennial here, but mine tends to wander off or doesn't make it through winter, so it is replaced pretty often.  It's worth it.  Thyme tea is also great in the winter to ward off illnesses.
Cheese "Cookies"
Varieties of basil I grew last year
 Basil - There are so many basils, and I can't ever choose just one.  Last year I tried the "lettuce leaf"in addition to my usuals, and found it to be great on sandwiches.  Any dish that would be good withgarlic and parmesan can usually stand some basil.  Lots!  All of the herbs listed here are very fragrant, meaning that they contain essential oils.  Eating them will provide you with the perfect amount.  They all have antibiotic properties, among other really healthy benefits, so eat up! 
Basil is an annual and they all need to be planted new each year. 
Pesto with Basil and Other Herbs

Rosemary in the snow
Rosemary - Although there are supposedly varieties that will survive here, it's a 50/50 proposition.  It's worth replacing when it dies.  The flavor of rosemary is amazing.  A nice sprig of rosemary under a chicken while it roasts will infuse the meat with that flavor.  It's delicious in roasted veggies, and I've enjoyed it in shortbread, too.
Many people plant rosemary in containers that they can bring inside over the winter, keeping it in a semi-dormant stage in the garage or basement.  I am not good at that. It is easily dried for use over the winter.
Potatoes with Rosemary and Cheese
Cilantro blooms
Cilantro - Not everyone likes cilantro.  It can usually be replaced with parsley in that case.  However, if you like cilantro like I do, you'll really want to grow your own.  Did I mention how incredible it is to go outside and cut fresh herbs to be used immediately?  Instant earth-mother vibe comes over you as you serve pure health and life to your family :-)
I planted cilantro once and it has always reseeded every year.  The seeds, by the way are the spice known as coriander.  I do save some of them, but leave the rest to grow the next year. 
Cilantro is a refreshing lively taste and it makes salsa and Mexican dishes come alive.  This cucumber lime salsa recipe made my sister like cilantro for the first time.
Chive blossoms
Chives - For a nice mild onion-y flavor that also provides a beautiful decorative element to dishes, chives are a plant to have around.  The hollow stems are sliced into rings, usually, and most people have seen them sprinkled over sour cream on a baked potato.  They're good in salads, eggs, breads, and many places where a little onion would be tasty.  The blossoms are edible and beautiful.  They grow from little bulbs, and usually do come back each year.  They're about the first thing to poke out of the dirt in the herb garden each spring, and that alone is worth planting them.  All of the alliums (chives, onions, garlic, etc) share the healing properties that we attribute to garlic, but in different levels.  Chives are good for you!
Chive Blossom Vinegar
Purple sage
Sage - Sage is strongly flavored, and most people are only familiar with sage at Thanksgiving.  It is surprisingly delicious in a tea, and the leaves fried in butter are crazy good.  It isn't quite as versatile as the others because of that strong flavor, but it's good to have around.  Make some vinegar with it.  You can use that in salad dressings or to help dry up skin rashes!  Rich, thick stews or roasts are complemented with sage, and it's a natural with winter squash.
There are several varieties that are typically used.  Garden, Bergarten, Purple, Tri-color, and Golden are the most common.
Sages are generally perennial.  Too much moisture around the roots will kill them, though.
Sage Honey
Dill weed
Dill - The fresh flavor of dill is a little addictive.  We get so used to the flavor as a pickle that it can be surprising how good it is without the vinegar.  In potato salad or deviled eggs, cooked with fish, and in just about any type of salad, dill peps things up. 
It's an annual that often reseeds for the next year, and also a favorite of butterflies.  Dill tries to bolt from the minute temps are warm enough for it to grow well.  Keep after it so it doesn't bloom to have a longer growing season.  This dip is a favorite of ours.
Dill Dip
1 C sour cream
1 C mayo (not light)
3 t dill weed - not seeds
2 T dried parsley
1 t garlic powder
1 T caraway seeds
Mix all ingredients together.  Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours to allow flavors to blend.  Delicious with crudites (I especially love it with carrots).
Fennel umbel
Fennel - The anise flavor of fennel is bright and mild, with the seeds being a little stronger.  The bulbs that grow above ground sort of like celery are so good sliced crossways and mixed with orange sections, chopped red onion, olive oil and lemon juice.  It usually reseeds from year to year.
Article on Fennel

Try some or all of these.  You'll be glad you did!
Stay tuned for part 2, where we'll talk about medicinal herbs for the new gardener!

Monday, April 01, 2019

Miracle Weight Loss Herb!

Dateline April 1, 2019

According to the International Academy of Research in Banana Reef, MN, there is very promising research that has now reached the human trial stage.

The best part is that it is a herb (heretofore known as a weed) that most people have worked to eradicate - almost all variations of Digitaria, also known as Crab Grass.

Digitaria sanguinalis (photo from is the most valued.
In what may be the best news to those battling obesity, the active components in Digitaria are activated by bacon fat.  A secondary activator is full fat ice cream, with coconut oil being a good choice as well.

Expect to see lots of recipes for all sorts of preparations for Digitaria in the coming months.  From simple stir fries to more complicated syrups and electuaries, this is going to be a game changer!