Garlic & Texas

Now is the time! September is garlic planting time in Texas!

The Making of a Home

As we get out and about now selling our herbs a Farmer’s Markets and Garden Festivals, I am frequently asked if I have any garlic.  When I ask questions to clarify just what the customer is looking for, I am surprised that they are looking for seedlings so that they can grow their own Garlic.  How marvelous!  Just one problem…

If you want to grow garlic in Texas you need to plant is in September, the same with strawberries- but that is a whole other blog and soapbox.  Once planted in September, the bulbs will sprout and grow all winter long then in June or so, the tops will start to turn brown and it is time to harvest.  Yes, no matter where you live garlic takes that long to grow.  But, it is so worth it and it really is easy.

To get started, you will need something to…

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The Dandelion

“She turned to the sunlight

And shook her

yellow head,

And whispered to

her neighbor:

“Winter is dead.”

A.A. Milne

I have always loved dandelions.  Blowing the seeds was a wonderful pastime when I was a child.  Little did I know that I was spreading the love- dandelion love.

Now I love dandelions for a whole different reason.  It is such a joy to see their little sunny faces shinning in the sun.  This always signals that the deep of winter is over.  But the real beauty of the dandelion is in the healing properties that the plant possesses. Even without reported healing properties, the dandelion has a high amount of vitamins and minerals.  The University of Maryland Medical Center has this to say:

While many people think of the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) as a pesky weed, it is chock full of vitamins A, B, C, and D, as well as minerals, such as iron, potassium, and zinc. Dandelion leaves are used to add flavor to salads, sandwiches, and teas. The roots are used in some coffee substitutes, and the flowers are used to make wines.

Herbalists recommend dandelion for liver cleansing and ridding the body of toxins.  You can drink tea made from dandelion leaves and blossoms, take a tincture made from the plant and roots, or you can take supplements found in your local health food store.

If your looking for dandelions in your own gardens, look for the yellow blossoms suspended on a single stem, the yellow blossoms on branching stems are not true dandelions.  They are actually called “false dandelions”- how creative.

 

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Dandelion

 

In the photo above you can see the single stem with one flower.  When I harvest dandelions I want to get as much of the root as possible.  To do this, I use an old finished weed popper.

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Weed-popper, works like a charm

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Harvested dandelions

Once the plants are harvested, I wash the soil away and let them air dry.  Once dry, the plants are then chopped and covered with vodka or brandy.  The mixture will steep for six weeks and then be strained.  After the liquid is strained it is now a finished tincture.  I use this for my family anytime our immune system needs a boost.  This post is not intended to be medical advice, just for information- you do your own research and then make your own health decisions.

Even if you don’t choose to use dandelion for your own benefit- leave them for the bees.  Dandelions are one of the first sources of pollen and nectar for the bees in the spring.

Vegetable and Herb Seed Germination Chart

I was just talking about this on Facebook @ Hollyberry Herb Farm. This is a great chart, Thank you Town and Country Gardening.

Town & Country Gardening

Temperature, it’s all about the soil temperature.
Soil temperature is almost never to warm, however, soils that are to cool and damp at worst can cause your seed to rot in the ground and at best take many days to germinate. Seedling in cool soil grow slowly and often do not develop into healthy productive plants.

vegetable seed germination chart

herb seed germination chart

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Mastering The Art Of Herb Gardening

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Mastering The Art Of Herb Gardening-

Any sort of gardening is an art, one that takes time and experience to master- it is certainly a journey.  Heather Rinaldi, founder of the Texas Worm Ranch, and I are teaming up to offer you a great beginning to your journey of herb gardening.  In our class you will gain knowledge and confidence from the hands on projects and informative lectures.  A workbook is included to help you keep your notes and ideas in one place and to give you a reference for when you are in your own garden and have a question.

Once this class is completed you will have a working knowledge of soil biology- an overview of how plants feed from the soil and how to keep your soil healthy, a working knowledge of how herbs work in the body, how to grow, harvest, and preserve herbs, and how to propagate plants from seed, cuttings, and root division.  All the tools you need to be successful in the herb garden- or vegetable or flower garden as well.  The skills you gain will not only enable you to grow herbs, but they will carry over into the vegetable and flower garden as well.

For both of us, our first memories are in the gardens eating fresh produce right from the fields.  We have both been seriously gardening for more than 10 years and are eager to share our hard earned experience with you.

Each attendee will leave with five herb plants propagated by them, a workbook &  3 seed packets, 10 lbs of premium worm castings and one gallon of Worm Wine ™ to improve soil health. – plus a wealth of knowledge!  It takes a lifetime to master gardening, but with out class you will be on your way to having gardens that are the envy of the town.

 

The Texas Worm Ranch is located in Garland, TX and this is where the class will take place.

 

Hollyberry Herb Farm & Texas Worm Ranch present:

Mastering The Art Of Herb Gardening

Tuesday Classes for 3 weeks: 8:30-12:00
July 29,2014-
Herb Overview, Growing, Harvesting & Preserving
August 5, 2014
Soil Biology Made Easy So You Can Garden Easy
August 12,2014
Propagation 3 different ways- Hands On Workshop

Cost is $175.00/person

Class includes:  Workbook, 5 herb plants and 3 seed packets, 10 lbs of premium worm castings and one gallon of Worm Wine ™ to improve soil health.

Sign up at Texas Worm Ranch– class is limited to 20

Cucumber & Peach Salad

I am in the middle of a  lovely and busy week.  Heather of the Texas Worm Ranch and I teamed up for a class on Tuesday.  We had a sweet, small group of ladies who enjoyed a wonderful herb themed lunch.  Those recipes will be posted later.  First, I need to post the recipe I made for the White Rock local market Go Texan cooking demo.  This was a great recipe and it was so much fun cooking for the patrons of our market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talk about simple and tasty!  This comes from the blog- The Spiced Life.com

For the basil, I substituted lemon basil and holy basil

 

Cucumber and Peach Salad

Ingredients
  • 3 medium cucumbers, peeled if the skin is thick and sliced into rounds
  • 4 medium peaches (ours were small so I used more), cut into chunks
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ c cider vinegar
  • 1 T water
  • 1 T agave syrup, or to taste
  • 1 T finely chopped sweet basil
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh mint
  • Pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Place the onion slices in a bowl with cold water to calm the onion fumes down. Set aside for 10 minutes while you prep the other veggies.
  2. Whisk together the water, oil, vinegar, agave and salt. Add the chopped herbs and whisk. Taste for more agave, salt or even vinegar.
  3. Place the cucumbers and peaches together in a large bowl. Drain the onion slices and add them. Then toss everything with the dressing.

– See more at: http://www.thespicedlife.com/2013/09/cucumber-and-peach-salad-with-mint-basil-vinaigrette-alex-chops.html#sthash.He3cjotF.dpuf

 

Give it a try- you will be glad you did!

 

 

Sunflowers & Sunshine

As I look back over notes from the gardens of 2013, I am pleased.  We were productive and met many goals.  One of my goals was to finally, successfully grow sunflowers.

sunflower herb

I know this may seem like a simple goal, one so simple why put it on paper, but I have had a terrible time with sunflowers.  I would plant many seeds and only get a few flowers.  Then, I had an epiphany- perhaps it wasn’t me that was a terrible sunflower grower but, perhaps, it was those pesky squirrels.  As I am sure you know, squirrels love sunflower seeds.  It seems that they would sit up on their branches and watch me plant then steal into the garden to help themselves.  So, I got smart.  I started my sunflowers in the greenhouse with all the other vegetable seedlings.

sunflower seedlings

And success!  I had very many sunflowers to transplant out and they did wonderfully.  There is something that is just so happy about sunflowers in a garden, you can’t help but smile when you look at their sunny faces.

It is not too late to order and start your sunflowers.  I order my seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and have had excellent germination rate that resulted in very healthy plants.  The top of your refrigerator makes an excellent place to start seeds, once they poke their cute little cotyledons out of the soil, you need to move them to a sunny window unless you hang a light over the fridge.  Florescent shop lights work great for this purpose and can be taken down once seed starting time is over.

short stuff sunflower seedlings

Sunflowers like the sunshine so they won’t go to the garden until after the danger of the freeze has passed.  In my area its looking like Easter will be the time to move warm season transplants out to the garden.  There are many, many kinds to choose from, I choose varieties that were high in oil content as these are the ones the birds favor.  Also, I did not want a hybrid because I wanted to save seeds so that I could spend that money on another variety!  One can NEVER have too many flowers.

In this past season, I planted sunflowers at both ends of each row in my tomato patch and around the other veggie plots as well.  This resulted in an unexpected benefit- the birds ate on the sunflowers all summer and didn’t touch a tomato until all the seeds had been eaten from the dried sunflower.  Needless to say, this will be repeated.  Only I will plant in succession so that that I can have sunflowers blooming until fall.

sunflower herb 2

I did clip one sunflower just as the seeds ripened but before the birds ate them so keep for this year’s seeds.

dried sunflower for seeds

Help For Reoccuring Ear Infections

As I mentioned in my previous post,  my second daughter had a terrible time as an infant and toddler with ear infections.  At that time, I knew nothing of alternative medicine or holistic healing so I did what the vast majority of mothers do- I took her to the pediatrician.  He, then did what most doctors do and prescribed an antibiotic.

This cycle began and continued to several years.  When there seemed to be no end to the infections, tubes in the ears started to be mentioned.  I was not excited about this because I had heard where it was just another cycle of treatments and surgeries that did not really fix anything.

Along came Dr. Tina Ingram.  She and I were friends at church and as all young mothers do we discussed what was going on in our children’s lives.  She knew of our struggle with ear infections and asked me to let her have a try at helping Savannah.  My infant daughter, Sierra, also had an ear infection at the same time so, Dr. Tina treated her as well.  Both girls had vertebrate in their necks that were out of line, pinching the Eustachian tubes preventing the ears from draining off excess fluid.

Notice the tube leads from the inner ear to the throat, this allows for drainage

Notice the tube leads from the inner ear to the throat, this allows for drainage

Sierra, the 3 month old, was a simple adjustment, she just celebrated her 15th birthday and has never had another ear infection.  Savannah was a bit more complicated.  As it turns out, she had a vertebrate wedged up under her scull.  Not only did she have ear infections but she was really clumsy.  She tripped a lot and lost her balance.  We would get tickled at her and then we parents felt like heels when we learned that her clumsiness was due to her legs being uneven because her vertebrate as under her skull- poor baby.  In case you are wondering, as I was, just how did the vertebrate get there?  Dr. Tina suspects it occurred while she was passing through the birth canal.  The bones are very soft at that time and as you might imagine, birthing involves a great deal of pressure.  When my fourth baby arrived, we made a bee line to Dr. Tina just to be certain that everything was inline.

After a series of visits, Dr. Tina had Savannah all straightened out.  Come to find out, Savannah is our most gifted athlete and rarely loses her balance.  The ear infections did reoccur for a time.  The heavy use of antibiotics had suppressed her immune system so it took time for her body to learn how to protect and heal itself again.  We began to use garlic oil as an antibiotic.  Given time, the infections ceased and tubes were not needed.  Her ears are still the weak link in her system, if she gets sick(which is rare) this is where it will show up- but with the right natural treatments she heals up.

As it turns out, we were not alone in the neck being the source of the ear infections- this is an excellent article:

Ear Infections (Ottis Media)

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, over five million children suffer from chronic ear infections, resulting in 30 million visits to doctors’ offices and over 10 million prescriptions of antibiotics each year. 50% of the antibiotics prescribed for preschoolers are for ear infections. Symptoms of ear infections may include mild discomfort, irritability, fever or severe pain. Almost half of all children will have at least one middle ear infection before they’re a year old, and two-thirds of them will have had at least one such infection by age three. Frequent ear infections are the second leading cause for surgery in children under two – right behind circumcision.

If you have little ones in your life, seek advice from a pediatric certified chiropractor in your area.  I believed that chiropractors were just for car accidents and bad backs- boy was I wrong.

Herbal Tinctures- What Are They & How To Make One

An Herbal Tincture is a method of preserving the medicinal attributes of an herb in such a way will allow you to use the herbs long after their season is gone.  As I have said before, the more herbs you eat, the healthier you will be.  However, at certain times of the year, certain herbs are not available.  So, by making tinctures you can use herbs all year round.  Typically, to make a tincture you steep the herb of choice in vodka or brandy for four to six weeks.  Once the herb matter is strained out and the liquid re-bottled, the tincture will keep indefinitely.

The essential oils and herbal essences are soluble in alcohol making alcohol a better solvent than vinegar for making tinctures.  Once the menstruum (plant material and solvent) has steeped, all the herbal goodness and health benefits of the herbs will be suspended and concentrated in the alcohol.  This concentration is why so little of the tincture is needed in an individual dose.

There are many combinations of herbs that can be used- select the herbs based on your needs.  Dandelion is an all around great herb with so many medicinal qualities.  I use this herb alone to make a tincture that is taken by anyone feeling “under the weather” to boost the immune system and ward off the colds and flues that tend to go around in the winter.

A small amount- 1/4 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon per day is all that is taken by adults around our house.  When the children were toddlers a few drops in their sippy cups helped battle the snotty noses and colds that came with childhood.

There are many resources on the internet for recipes and several good herbal books that give instruction as to preparation of tinctures.  I like to use Growing 101 Herbs That Heal, by Tammi Hartung.

A basic recipe is:

1 clean 1 pint glass jar with a fitting lid

Approx. 1 cup chopped fresh herb or 1/4 cup dried herb, coarsely chopped.

1 pint of brandy or vodka.

 

Creating an herbal tincture

Place the chopped herb matter into the jar.

herbal tincturesPour in Vodka or Brandi, let steep for 4-6 weeks, shake weekly, then strain.

herbal tincture

Herbal tincture steeping and waiting to be strained.  Be certain to label with contents and date- the only way to be certain you will remember what is in the jar.

Once strained, pour liquid into a bottle and cap

There you go, it is that easy!

This is what I use for my family.  Research for yourself and decide what is best for your family and yourself.  This is not meant as medical advice or to diagnose illness.

Basil- For A Moment More & How To Make An Herbal Vinegar

As I left out on my morning run, for the first time this year I wore a hooded sweatshirt over my t-shirt and wind-pants with a cap on my head.  For us here in East Texas, that is just almost cold.  I could see my breath but there was no frost on the ground, just a heavy dew.  Oh, but how brilliantly the dew shone in the early morning sun with the reds and golds of the leaves finally beginning to show.  I was not the only one feeling invigorated by this Autumn morning, as I ran by the field across from our place, the resident horse came galloping up to the fence and ran along with me until she ran out of field.  Some days, it is an effort to choose to run but not today.

purple basil and kale

One thing the morning did tell me was that basil and it’s other hot weather friends are not long for this world.  So, in preparation for the influx of herbs & peppers that are about to line my drying racks and the hall (I have to make use of the space I have so I have fishing line strung down the hall to hang herbs on) I am getting the jars and vinegar’s ready to go.  Making herbal vinegar is an easy process, they make wonderful gifts and they add so much to your kitchen prowess.  A pork loin marinated in basil vinegar tastes like something from a five star restaurant.

purple basil and vinegar

For the most part, which herb you use and which vinegar to use are completely up to you and your taste buds.  A good place to start is with white wine vinegar and basil.  This will make a wonderful vinaigrette or marinade.  If you have purple basil, you will have the most beautiful purple/pink vinegar you ever laid your eyes on as seen in the above picture.  The purple basil is Dark Opal and the green is Sweet Genovese- both of these are the standard type basil flavor with which you would make pesto or spaghetti sauce.  Health food stores will generally have better prices on large quantities of vinegar in its various forms.

The recipe below calls for chives, if you don’t have any you can leave that off.  If you have not been growing herbs long enough to have this much material to cut from, you can purchase fresh herbs at your local farmer’s market.  Remember, any flavors you like together will go together in the vinegar such as rosemary and garlic, oregano, basil, and sun/oven roasted tomatoes.  While learning the way, start with small batches this way if it tastes bad, you didn’t lose much.  However, every mistake is a lesson learned and experience is the best teacher.

For sterilizing your jars, wash them with hot soapy water, rinse and dry in a 225′ oven for 15 minutes or use a dishwasher.

 

Basil, Chive, & Lemon Vinegar

Zest of ½ lemon

5 Basil Leaves

10 stalks of chives

1 cup white vinegar ( any type such as rice or wine)

 

Zest lemon, crush or chop basil and chives, place in a clean dry jar.  Pour vinegar in and cap- vinegar should cover all the herbs completely add more if needed. After 24 hours add more vinegar if the herbs have soaked up the vinegar.  Vinegar is ready to go after 24 hours, but the flavor will develop the longer it sits so 10 -14 days is fine too.  Strain herbs out and compost them.  Store  vinegar in a cool dark place, it will keep indefinitely.

Making these things at home is a safe activity- it has been being done since ancient times.  Use good sense, clean and dry utensils and jars- moisture is your enemy- and all will be well.  Remember- if it is growing funny things, bubbling like it is boiling but there is no heat or it smells raunchy- throw it out.  Please consult your county extension office if you would like more detailed information on canning.

herbal vinegars

 

The choices are endless, just make certain that you label and date all your creations at the time to place them in the jars.  Trust me, you won’t be able to remember it later!

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