Lemon Verbena- An Herb That Should Get A Lot More Press!

Lemon Verbena:

Aloysia citrodora is a species of flowering plant in the verbena family Verbenaceae, native to western South America. Common names include lemon verbena and lemon beebrush.[2] It was brought to Europe by the Spanish in the 17th century and cultivated for its oil.

Lemon Verbena  was/is used by those believing in magic and spells.  Lemon Verbena is for love- to make yourself attractive to the opposite sex.  I don’t know about all that, but after one growing season I am in love with lemon verbena!

lemon verbena 2

“This is my favorite herb,” Jonathan will reply when a customer asks him which herb he likes.  And who can blame him, Lemon Verbena has a wonderful citrus scent, bright green, glossy leaves and it grows with little or no care.  This herb is a friend to your immune system, nervous system and to your kitchen- making wonderful teas and jellies.  And of course, lets not overlook the the sweet serenity caused by dropping fresh lemon verbena leaves in your hot bath!

At first introduction, many people hear “verbena” and think of the low growing perennial with clusters of brightly colored blooms.  But lemon verbena is quite different as you can see by the pictures.  It does bloom once a year with long conical spikes bearing clusters of tiny white flowers.  The flowers are lovely and a great help to the butterfly and bee populations.

About 20 plants encircle my herb garden providing me with plenty of material for using fresh and drying.  One or two plants will serve the average home well, our home is not average given that is houses our herb business.  The plant itself will grow quite large- 4-6 ft tall, but the more you cut on it, the more compact it will stay.  It is a lovely shrub, dropping its leaves after the first hard freeze and budding back out as soon as the days get longer and the earth warms up.  With low water requirements and heat and drought tolerance, this is a great herb to grow in Texas.

The leaves of lemon verbena can be tossed in with any tea while it steeps or it can stand alone as an herbal tea.  The dried herb can flavor breads and muffins or saved as tea for the winter months when your mood and immune system need a boost.  Lemon Verbena Lemonade is a great refreshing drink on a hot day.   I also like to place fresh stems with the leaves in tact directly on the grill and lay my fish on top- this infuses the fish with a mouth-watering flavor.  I also made apple jelly with lemon verbena last week- all I can say is wow!  This recipe is well worth the time and effort.

apple jelly with lemon verbena

For health, Lemon Verbena is a heavy hitter as well.

WebMD states

Lemon verbena is a plant. The leaves and the flowering tops are used to make medicine.
Lemon verbena is used for digestive disorders including indigestion, gas, colic, diarrhea, and constipation.  It is also used for agitation, joint pain, trouble sleeping(insomnia), asthma, colds, fever, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, skin conditions, and chills.

In foods and manufacturing, lemon verbena is used as an ingredient in herbal teas, as a fragrance in perfumes, and as an ingredient in alcoholic beverages.
How does it work?

Lemon verbena contains a substance that might kill mites and bacteria.

 

 

Any time you make a lemonade, tea, or cook with lemon verbena, you are making your own medicine.  The more herbs you eat, the healthier you will be!

lemon verbena in the herb garden

 

 

How To Make Herbal Tea

lemon sage tea on wood

Cool weather makes one want a nice cup of hot tea, and an herbal tea will not only warm the soul but it will boost your immune system as well.

To Make A Tea:

Place one teaspoon of dried herbs in a  tea bag, a tea egg, or loose in a cup and pour hot water over the herb, cover and let steep for five minutes.  Remove bag or egg if using.  Sweeten with honey & add a shot of fresh lemon juice, if desired.

Enjoy!

Yes, teas are that simple.  By covering the tea while it steeps, you are keeping the essential oils in the tea.  Otherwise, the essential oils can evaporate into the air along with the steam.  Also, you can substitute a tablespoon of fresh herbs for the dried herbs.  You can also add herbs such as lemon balm and mint to any green or black tea while it steeps.  This not only adds flavor that is just scrumptious, but it adds lots of health benefits, too.  Such a boosting the immune system, relieving stress, calming the nerves, and calming the digestive tract.

Another tip to improve the flavor of you tea, is to heat the water just till the boiling point.  Then remove the water from heat and pour over the tea.  By doing so, the water will contain more oxygen and this leads to a less bitter tea.

A great combination for a tea to boost the immune system and brighten your mood, is lemon verbena, lemon balm, pineapple sage, and sage.  I blend this tea and sell it at our farmer’s market.  It tastes great and makes the body feel good.

Herbs are easy to grow and easy to use, every one should be growing some.  Even if all you have room for is a pot of mint on a window sill, you will benefit from it.

Herbs Make The Difference!

lemon sage tea with window shadow

Five Things Friday

Wow, Friday is here again.  Here are my five things this week that really get under my skin:

#5- 500 people standing in line at Wal-mart and only 2 checkers are open.  Really?  Does Wal-Mart really have to worry about making ends meet to the point that they can’t open a few more lines?  This item would have once been #1 on my things that irritate me but now that I have decided to read while I wait, I don’t mind so much.  Do I carry a book with me?  NO!  I simply read any and all magazines I want to while waiting in line.  I figure that if they don’t want me reading magazines and not buying them then they will open more checkers.  So, now I pick the line that has the best selection of magazines, forget which line is longer- the longer the better means more time to read.

#4- Ants– I HATE ants.  We have been battling them all summer.  They build under every rock edge I have around my gardens.  They bite me every time I weed the gardens.  Trying to control them organically meant putting out dried molasses- which usually works great.  However, the ants seemed to thrive.  I had a chat with my Extension Agent and come to find out I have Pharaoh Ants, also known as sugar ants.  I was feeding the bloody devils!

#3- Smart Farm Animals– Smart farm animals are the most irritating things you can encounter on this earth.  The reason being is they can figure out any gate latch, constantly check all fences for any holes, wait for the moment when a barn door has been left open and never give you a moments peace.   And when they do get out, they will ALWAYS remember where the feed is stored and where your favorite rose bush is planted.  However, the dumb animals- they stay in their pens, eat the feed that you bring them and generally have no plans to take over the world.

#2  The Burn Pile-  Now its not really the burn pile that irritates me, when you live in the country this is just a fact of life.  Trees fall, storms blow limbs down so you usually have a pile.  What bothers me ( I would say “what aggravates the piss out of me” but my mother doesn’t like it when I say that and my city friends get the weirdest looks on their faces when I do, so I will refrain) is when a young person is told to put something in the burn pile and what I get is what is pictured to the left.  What Part of “IN the burn pile did you not understand?”  These boxes are clearly not in the pile.  I would blame his teachers, but he is home schooled.burn pile

#1- When I hear someone say, “Young people don’t…” you can fill in the blank but usually I hear it in regards to young people understanding what it means to work hard, how the country should run or about being appreciative.  Well, if the young people don’t it is because the old people didn’t.  The younger generation only possess what the previous generation gave them.  If the children have not been taught then it is our fault.  I love my young people, they are responsible, kind, courteous and brave.  I put in a lot of work to see that fruit. So, if you don’t like what you see then get involved and build some relationships with young people.  Our future is in their hands, we should invest in them.

la mancha dairy goatNow if you will excuse me, I am sure there is some smart farm animal misbehaving.  Don’t let Salsa’s innocent expression fool you, anarchy lurks behind those eyes!

Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries with Rosemary

I must say that for years, I had an aversion to sweet potatoes.  The only form in which I had ever encountered them was creamed with marshmallow on top.  While most of my family loved these at Christmas, I did  and do not.  Not until my husband requested sweet potato fries did I reconsider this versatile vegetable.  Now, I can’t imagine a pantry that is not stocked with a box of sweet potatoes.  I love to chop one up and add it to vegetable soup.  While sweet potatoes are on the sweet side of life naturally, they are not so sugary that they would ruin a good savory soup.  On the contrary, they add a depth of flavor and texture along with a great punch of vitamins, flavor, and anti-oxidants.

As oven roasted fries, sweet potatoes are fabulous with a caramelized outside and a tender yet firm bite.  These compliment any meat dish and pair well with rice, quinoa, and most other grains.

For a simple, non- processed meal, sweet potato fries are a great side.  Easy to make, very healthy, and quite tasty- a great recipe.  This is the time of year to purchase sweet potatoes, they keep for months so you can buy them in bulk at your local farmer’s market and stash them to grace your table all winter.

 

Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries With Rosemary

Serves 6

 

4-6 Sweet potatoes

Olive Oil

2 Tsp. dried Rosemary

Sea Salt to taste

Slice sweet potatoes into French fries.  Place on cookie sheet, cast iron skillet, or baking stone. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat, sprinkle with rosemary.

Place in a 450’ degree oven for 20-30 minutes.  Cook until tender with a nice bit of caramelizing.  After 15 minutes, give the fries a stir flipping the potatoes over.

If you are not a fan of Rosemary, just omit the herb.

sweet potato friesSweet potato fries prepped and ready to go into the oven.

sweet potato friesOven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries, cooked and ready to into my mouth!

Try some, you will be glad you did.

 

 

Rosemary For Remembrance- And A Whole Lot More!

trailing rosemary

When folks think of herbs, Rosemary is always one that comes to mind.  We have sold a lot of rosemary which always surprises me given the fact that once Rosemary is established it grows quickly and makes a rather large shrub.  It would seem that one plant would be all a person needed in a decade.  But, with its lovely evergreen foliage, fabulous scent, and many uses Rosemary is one that people just can’t pass up.

But, I have confession to make about Rosemary.  I don’t really like the taste of it in my food.  Yes, there you have it, an herb farmer that doesn’t like to cook with Rosemary.  The flavor is growing on me as I have been experimenting with different flavor combinations.  I am also finding that with Rosemary being such a strong scented/flavored herb that you only need just a dash of it in a dish.  That may be part of the reason that my first excursions into the world of cooking with Rosemary were disappointing- I treated it like thyme or parsley and used way too much.  I am finding that just a smattering of dried Rosemary on oven roasted sweet potato fries or home-fries made with regular spuds it very tasty.  Most have eaten rosemary in some form and the culinary uses are the uses most thought of in considering this lovely shrub.

Rosemary is a great plant for landscaping- it can be used as a hedge. .  But for the herbal medicine cabinet, Rosemary is an essential herb to grow.  Thankfully, in most areas of Texas, Rosemary thrives as our winters are mild and drought and poor soil are not of much concern to an established plant.

Health Benefits of Rosemary:

A rich source of calcium, Iron and dietary fiber, Rosemary is a powerful addition to the diet.

Rosemary is used to stimulate the mind and in stimulating the brain, clarity is achieved.  This benefit of Rosemary is what lead the ancient cultures to believe that Rosemary was for remembrance and those in higher learning would wear wreaths of rosemary on their heads to help them remember all the information they were learning. Now wearing the sprigs on your head my not have helped (except for the aromatherapy) but studies have now proven that the oils from rosemary do stimulate the brain.

Medical New Today reports these attributes concerning rosemary:

Rich source of antioxidants – laboratory studies have shown rosemary to be rich in antioxidants, which play an important tole in neutralizing harmful particles called free radicals.

Improving digestion – In Europe rosemary is often used to help treat indigestion – Germany’s Commission E has approved it for the treatment of dyspepsia. However, it should be noted that there is currently no meaningful scientific evidence to support this claim.

Enhancing memory and concentration – blood levels of a rosemary oil component correlate with improved cognitive performance, according to research in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, published by SAGE.

Neurological protection – scientists have found that rosemary is also good for your brain.Rosemary contains an ingredient, carnosic acid, that fights off free radical damage in the brain.

Carnosic acid can protect the brain from stroke and neurodegeneration. The findings were published in The Journal of Neurochemistry and Nature Reviews Neuroscience.

Prevent brain aging – Kyoto University researchers in Japan revealed that rosemary may significantly help prevent brain aging.

Cancer – Research published in Oncolocy Reports found that “crude ethanolic rosemary extract (RO) has differential anti-proliferative effects on human leukemia and breast carcinoma cells.”

Another study, published in Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, concluded thatrosemary can be considered an herbal anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor agent.

In addition, a report published in the Journal of Food Science revealed that adding rosemary extract to ground beef reduces the formation of cancer-causing agents that can develop during cooking.

 

Protection against macular degeneration – a study published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, led by Stuart A. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D. and colleagues at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, revealed that a major component of rosemary, carnosic acid, can significantly promote eye health.

The rosemary plant that I take most of my cuttings from was planted the summer before the record drought of 2011.  During that drought I could not water all my property and the bed containing the rosemary was one that received no extra water for two months.  To my amazement, that plant doubled in size- despite temps that never came out of the 100’s, no rain, and winds that felt so hot you would have thought that they were blowing straight from the pit of hell.  Rosemary moved up my list of plants I love just because of that summer.  Then I began to learn of all the benefits Rosemary has and I would never have an herb garden without at least one plant.

A couple of weeks ago I pruned the plant pretty heavy needing cuttings for propagation.  From the cuttings, I filled 10 flats containing 20 cups each- that is 200 new plants, provided all the cuttings root and prosper.  I am pretty confident they will, Rosemary roots like a dream.  Rosemary officinallis is the strain of this rosemary- just the original “plain Jane”.  I know there are a lot of more fancy cultivars out there, but this one has proven itself in our climate unlike several other varieties that I have planted. Therefore, this is my go-to plant.  I want folks to succeed when they take plants home from Hollyberry Herb Farm so I am sticking to what works.  I do have an “Arp” variety that is so far doing well and we will see, if it is still going strong next summer I will add that to my favorites list.

Jonathan and the rosemary.  What a great, tough plant

Jonathan and the rosemary. What a great, tough plant

So, if you haven’t already, plant some rosemary!  You will be glad you did.

Do you cook with rosemary?  If so , how do you use it?

Five Things Friday

I have seen several of these “five things Friday” posts and they are usually along the lines of things that inspire you or photographs.  Well, my five things are of a different vain.  I have decided to do Five Things That Chap My Hide.  So here we go, we will be counting them down from least aggravating to most aggravating, the same kind of order that David Letterman uses.

#5- Pony tail holders and bobby pins– these irritate me because they can never be found.  A whole package can disappear with in 48 hours leaving all 4 females looking for them desperately while the 2 males help look just to shut us up but really can’t understand why we can’t keep up with these items.  The next time my mother says, “Well, it didn’t sprout legs and run off.” I will submit exhibit A- ponytail holders and bobby pins as evidence that things do sprout legs and run off.  Exhibit B would be the empty black cups and pots that I use for the herbs- they run all over my yard on their own.

#4-Self-filling laundry hampers– I don’t know how we keep managing to purchase these defective hampers, but we do.  Every time I get one emptied I walk in an hour later and it is half full.  I like a glass half full but not a laundry hamper.

#3- Walmart– you knew at least one item would have to do with Wal-mart.  Actually, I could have done a whole list every Friday for a year on this subject, but today we will keep it to just one thing.  There is this huge warehouse behind Wal-Mart and never, I mean NEVER, is there anything stored back there.  If the shelf is empty or just has 2 items and you need 3 of the thing- don’t even ask because I can tell you that they do NOT have anymore in the back.

#2- Flu-shot advertisements– these things should be outlawed.  How these companies can claim that you are protected from the flu guaranteed I do not know.  The truth is there are numerous strains of the flu and one strain can mutate into another strain as the season progresses.  The idea that the one or two strains that you get vaccinated for will be the only ones you are exposed to is ridiculous.  The odds are better at the Black Jack table in Vegas.  If you really want to protect yourself, eat more herbs and use herbal supplements to boost your immune system.

#1- Stupid Questions– Whoever said, “There is no such thing as a stupid question” never had children.  Example: My daughter walks into my room and says, “I spilled milk in the kitchen, do you want me to clean it up?” My response, “No, we have fairies that fly around the house every night and clean.”

Now that I am done fussing, I will go chill like our farm cat- Cheezit

Now that I am done fussing, I will go chill like our farm cat- Cheezit

Chickens Again and Rose Pruning Goats

Luffa gourds to go with the herbal body scrubs.

Luffa gourds to go with the herbal body scrubs.

Each morning I wake up with a very full to-do list.  Everyday I go to bed with a lot scratched off the list and yet at the end of the week there is so much yet to be done.  As I write tonight, I can feel the slight sting on the back of my neck left by the sun.  We reached 90′ today, but the breeze was so cool and the sun was so pleasant that I didn’t even notice while I was working at my table.  Often, I am in the herb gardens in the morning when neighbors head off to work.  I wonder as they pass by if they realize that I am in my office?  Probably not, I know what I do looks much like a hobby to lookers on.  However, if you could see my to-do list you would know that it is definitely not a hobby.

Whenever family or friends ask what I have been up to, I usually say “more of the same” .  By that I mean more harvesting, drying, and processing of herbs.  More planting, propagating, and watering of herbs.  More retrieving the escape artist goat, planning for the breeding of animals, more feeding of what we have and so on.  But really, no day is ever the same.

We learn new things every day, too.  Like today, I learned how to unhook a fuel line on the riding lawnmower and how to drain the gas tank.  Why would I do this?  Well, because diesel doesn’t work will in a gasoline engine.  It seems that, according to my husband, the label on the can with diesel came off.  He was at work or he would have known better than to use that can in the lawnmower, but I was ignorant of the fact that the gas can did not in fact contain gasoline.  Yes, I know many of you rule followers are appalled to hear that we used a gasoline can to hold diesel, but if you knew my husband you would not be surprised.  Anyway, I am still a bit suspicious as to whether the can was ever marked properly- I do know my husband.  But, I noticed that the lawn mower did not run quite right and parked it immediately.  When Tony called to check in he was just so thrilled with the news.  Never fear, I know my way around an engine well enough to manage.  The tank is drained and we will refill with the right fuel and see how it goes.  Once before, I added the wrong fuel (not diesel) to the push mower.  When we took the mower to the shop, the old fellow said that it wouldn’t matter much, no worries.  I like that sort of answer and will proceed forward as if this is no big deal until proven otherwise.  The can in question with the push mower was also not marked properly- I should know better by now, right- so I still don’t think I am to blame.

Thankfully, the vast majority of the farm got mowed before the refueling incident.  I am relieved due to the fact that we are looking at rain for the better part of the coming week.  If I hadn’t gotten the mowing done we could have lost a small child in the grass by the time mowing was again possible.  I am hoping to get more seeds into beds before the rain begins.  I love fall gardening!  We have many types of  lettuce growing along with spinach, kale, radishes, beets, and greens.  All the herbs are growing like mad and I am harvesting heavy each week.  Buds are appearing all over the rose bushes, those that were not pinched back by the heat were “pruned” by the goats when they got out while we were in Galveston.  I can’t even begin to communicate what went through my mind when I received the text that said “Are the goats supposed to be in the front yard?”  Mercifully, they hadn’t done much damage when my older daughters found them.  Seriously, though, I have only pruned my own roses a few times the goats have always seen to that chore for me.

The new chickens bedded down for the night.

The new chickens bedded down for the night.

Speaking of goats, my two bred does are building udders and I am excited.  There is nothing cuter than baby goats- except maybe baby pigs.  Raw goats milk will soon by back on the menu in the Ross household, oh happy day!  The farm is expanding and the business is growing.  New chickens have arrived, 6 Dominique hens and 1 Black Wyandotte Rooster.  The rabbits have been moved to their new home.  The chickens and the rabbits will be housed in a new building we are building.  So far, the rabbits are in their side and the chickens are in a tractor for the time being.  Of course, the birds free range in the day.  Propagation has begun in earnest, time to get Spring 2014 under way.  Lavender, mint, & rosemary are in such demand that I have to begin now for next year.  However, I am selling all that I root just as soon as it is ready but I am certain that I will get ahead of the demand sooner or later.  Not that I mind, selling the herbs is the name of the game.

I hope you all had a wonderful day!

 

The freshly tilled garden patch, soon to be seeded with hairy vetch.

The freshly tilled garden patch, soon to be seeded with hairy vetch.

Earthworms & Sibling Rivalry

The Siblings & Their Dad

The Siblings & Their Dad

I am certain that if you have ever had children, grand children, babysat, or visited a friend/family member with children you can relate.  Today as I was harvesting earthworm castings from my earthworm bins outside at my workstation, very loud voices could be heard from within the house.  With only two children left at home, I certainly knew who was making all the ruckus.  I, of course, assumed it was fighting and someone would appear and ask me to settle the dispute- unless a compromise or winner was determined.

More often that not, my kids will settle it themselves.  I realized when the first two were young so much of their fighting and getting me involved as a referee was really a power play to see who I would side with in the altercation.  Therefore, I removed myself and told them to sort it out themselves.  I won’t deny that with the fiery temperaments of my daughters that fists sometimes came into play.  No one died and they are better off for having learned to settle things themselves.  I should also note that no bullying was allowed in our home and the playing field was pretty level- the older two are almost exactly 2 years apart and the younger had caught the older in size by the time she was 3 and they stayed neck and neck until the younger was 12- and passed the older sister.  Often times, mothers need to be needed and want to be in the middle of the children’s scraps as they feed off of the sibling rivalry as it feeds their own emotional needs.  I determined not to be that way and wanted my children to have an honest relationship with each other apart from me.  No triangles in our family.

So anyway, I kept picking earthworms out of the castings dumped on the table wondering just what had set off the two of them.  Soon, Sierra emerged from the house and began her sentence with “Mother” always the term she uses when she deems action is necessary on my part.  But I must say that I was not prepared for what followed next.  “Will you please tell Jonathan that he is not allowed to annoy me for no reason and this includes standing outside my door and clucking like a chicken at the top of his lungs!” Sierra says giggling and trying to look perturbed.

I burst out laughing, he was staying out of her room but had still found a way to bug her- a very creative way I might add.  Of course, I did say that he could not come within five feet of her door, this distance would put him in his own room.  In his room still meant that her could cluck like a chicken but that was the best I could do.  As I type this, lots of noise is coming from the living room- all four kids are home and they are engaged in a wrestling match.  The young bull (Jonathan) has grown quite strong and Cheyenne loves to wrestle him to see if he has passed her in strength.  Siblings are funny.

Sierra & J

The earthworms did get their bins refurbished with compost and shredded paper.  Using earthworms to compost your kitchen scraps in called vermicomposting- a  name which I dislike it reminds me of vermin.  Now, the castings are fertilizing my garden boxes, making compost tea in the drum, and providing mulch for a rose bush that is trying to recover from being eaten by goats.  I am amazed at how quickly the worms can eat watermelon or an old cucumber or anything else they find in their bin.

Vermicomposting

It was a full day- the master gardeners and I began our Earthkind demonstration plot.  Today we removed a lot of Bermuda grass- that is hard work!  I am the youngest member by about 25- 30 years and these little ladies worked like you wouldn’t believe.  I am hoping to be so agile and sturdy at their age.  Five pounds of earthworm castings went up to amend my plot.  We are conducting an experiment- one side of the garden is done using synthetic chemicals such as round up and Miracle-Gro and my side is going the organic route.  I am looking forward to see the difference.

Back at the farm, I mowed, weed-eated, painted signs, and mopped some really dirty floors.  Needless to say, I am looking forward to my bed. Oh, and speaking of clucking like a chicken- we are getting our chickens this week!  I cannot wait.  I have missed having hens singing the “I laid an egg” song and pecking at bugs in the grass.  I plan to get 6 hens and one roo- for now.  Pictures to come.