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…

View original post 289 more words

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.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Weed-popper, works like a charm

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

View original post

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!

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?

Could You Use A Little More Thyme?

This is one from the archives, but I love this herb and thought it worth repeating!
Thyme
Lovely plant and wonderful scent
Kitchen Dictionary: thyme
Pronounced: TIME
This is one of those little plants that laughs in the face of a Texas summer and remains undaunted by a few freezes.  The creeping variety has been spreading between the rock stepping stones in my herb garden for months.  I have to harvest it or it will cover the stones.  It is fabulous!  With dark green foliage that is so petit it belies its strong flavor, it is a perfect choice for edging the bed or filling in between the stones.
For me, it was surprising to see that Thyme is classified as a Southern European and Mediterranean ingredient.  I thought it was totally southern cooking.  When you think of decidedly southern dishes such as Chicken n’ Dumplins, Turkey & Dressing, Roast Chicken, Meatloaf, and so on, Thyme is a key player in creating the warm comforting tones of these dishes.  If I am boiling chicken for almost anything, I have Thyme in the pot, too.  Nothing beats the flavor of a lightly battered filet of Tilapia with Thyme mixed in the flour and cornmeal, I don’t care who you are- that is good right there!
Being that Thyme is a perennial, it is easiest to start with a seedling in the garden.  Soggy places are no good for Thyme as it likes will drained soil.  Lots of sun is a must, but a little afternoon shade in a Texan summer is greatly appreciated.  This is an extremely easy plant to grow. 
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
With Thyme being available in the garden year round, there is no reason not use fresh Thyme in all your cooking.  Just snip off what you need and chop it finely or tie the sprigs together with kitchen twine and remove before serving.  Thyme is a well-mannered herb and is not given to being over-powering in a dish.  To a roasted chicken, I will sprinkle about 2 teaspoons over the skin or add about 2 tablespoons to a pot of soup.  Your personal tastes really are the determining factor in how much to use.  Experience is the best teacher, so give it a try.
Thyme is perfect for filling gaps in a rock pathway
However; some days it may not be very convenient to get to the garden, so I like to keep dried herbs in the pantry. To dry Thyme, cut as much as you want from the plant- but never taking more than two thirds of the mother plant- and using a rubber band, secure the stems and hang in a dry place with good air circulation.  I have a little “clothes line” strung above my refrigerator where I clip bunches of herbs for drying.  Once dry, which will take about 2 weeks, remove the leaves from the stems and place the leaves in a air-tight container and store out of the sunlight.  Dried herbs keep for about 6 months and any extra you may have makes great gift ideas.
A “mini- clothesline” works great for drying small amounts of herbs
Matches well with: beef, carrots, chicken, figs, fish, goat cheese, lamb, lentils, onions, peas, pork, potatoes, soups, tomatoes, venison 
So, get planting!  Everyone needs a little more “thyme” in their day!

Garlic & Texas

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 plant- right?  Garlic can be purchased in the store as a bulb.  In that bulb are many cloves.  Each clove when planted will produce another bulb and the cycle just keeps going.  So, once you purchase your garlic you will not ever need to purchase more, just save some cloves from your harvest and you will be good to go.  You can plant the garlic from the grocer or you can order from a seed company.  If you order from a seed company you will know exactly what variety you are getting and in the supermarket you will have no idea.  I have planted plenty from the grocer and did just fine.

The looser the ground, the better for growing garlic.  However, I have grown in clay and done fine.  Just dig a little whole twice as deep as the clove is long and plant the clove pointy end up.  Then wait.  You can inter plant with something like lettuce that has a shallow root system to make use of the open soil and double your harvest from the same square footage.  For the best harvest, you will need to water- but no more than you would for any other crop.

You will know when to harvest by the fact that the stalks have bloomed and now are beginning to turn brown.  Use a pitch fork or something similar to loosen the soil.  Gently pull the garlic up.  Spread the stalks on a dry and flat surface and let the cure (dry out a bit and the outer “paper” will dry).  Garlic can by stored for the better part of the year easily meaning that if you plant enough you will never need to buy garlic again.

Happy Planting!

garlic bulbgarlic plantinggarlic young plantgarlic bloom

How To Make An Herb Infused Oil

Filling a large jar with citronella to make an infused oil.

Filling a large jar with citronella to make an infused oil.

There are many reasons for making an infused oil and all are great.  Really, the infused oils fall into two categories- for culinary purposes or medicinal purposes- because of all the great benefits of herbs, any  oil used for culinary purposes gets to double as a medicinal oil.  Either way, infused oils are made the same way- and it is simple.

You will need:

1 qt jar- clean and DRY

Desired herb

desired oil- I like to use olive oil, it is good for you and easily available.

Place 1/3 cup of dried herb in the jar, add enough oil to the jar to fully cover the herb.  Check jar after a few hours to make sure the herb material has not soaked up the oil and left any of the herbs exposed.  If this has happened, add more oil to cover herbs.  Make certain that your jar and all utensils are dry as moisture will ruin your oil.

Cover the jar with a piece of cotton cloth, cheese cloth or an unbleached coffee filter and secure it with a rubber band.  Do not cap with a lid yet as the herbs may release gasses that can blow the lid off.  The results would be awful to clean up!  Let the oil infuse on a sunny window seal or the kitchen counter for at least 10 days.

After that time, strain out herb matter and discard to the compost pile.

The resulting oil can be stored in a glass bottle at room temperature for up to one year.

Citronella oil ready to steep.  Always label with name and date- leave nothing to chance!

Citronella oil ready to steep. Always label with name and date- leave nothing to chance!

Suggestions for medicinal oil-

  • Mullein for ear pain.- add a drop to the hurting ear.
  • Calendula will sooth and heal skin
  • Lemon Balm will help to sooth the nervous system.
  • Simply rub oil on skin and let your skin absorb the oil and use the herbal goodness.

Suggestion for Culinary Oil-

  • Lemon Pepper Oil- zest of one lemon, 2 tsp of multicolored peppercorns, 1 cup of olive oil
  • Garlic, Chili, and Oregano
  • Parsley and Cilantro
  • Basil and Garlic

There are so many combinations so explore and be creative!

Hyssop- An Ancient Herb With Benefits Today

A lovely herb for the body and the garden.

A lovely herb for the body and the garden.

“Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7

For centuries, herbs were used more for health and healing more so than for simply culinary purposes and hyssop is one of the oldest in recording.

Hyssop is one of those that has been known for its abilities to help clear excess mucous and phlegm.  Hyssop is also said to be a caminative- an a herb or preparation that either prevents formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract or facilitates the expulsion of said gas, thereby combating flatulence. With antiseptic properties, this is an herb that is also good for skin irritations , scrapes and bruises.  An excellent herb for combating the common cold.

Two good sites for herb information say this about Hyssop

Medicinal Action and Uses—Expectorant, diaphoretic, stimulant, pectoral, carminative. The healing virtues of the plant are due to a particular volatile oil, which is stimulative, carminative and sudorific. It admirably promotes expectoration, and in chronic catarrh its diaphoretic and stimulant properties combine to render it of especial value. It is usually given as a warm infusion, taken frequently and mixed with Horehound. Hyssop Tea is also a grateful drink, well adapted to improve the tone of a feeble stomach, being brewed with the green tops of the herb, which are sometimes boiled in soup to be given for asthma. In America, an infusion of the leaves is used externally for the relief of muscular rheumatism, and also for bruises and discoloured contusions, and the green herb, bruised and applied, will heal cuts promptly.  A Modern Herbal

Hyssop is used in herbal medicine to move excesses of fluids or phlegm. Since the expectorant qualities of the herb depend on its essential oil, always brew hyssop tea in a closed vessel and keep the bottle of hyssop tincture tightly closed. American folklore prescribes a bath of hyssop to help ease rheumatism. Japanese research published in 2003 in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology suggests that hyssop teas can help lower the sharp increase in blood sugars after eating which is common to people who have or who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.    Mountain Rose Herbs

There is also good information at www.livestrong.com

Not only does hyssop help the body, it is beautiful in the garden.  An evergreen perennial, bushy herb, growing 1 to 2 feet high, with square stem, linear leaves and flowers in whorls, six- to fifteen-flowered.  The blooms, depending on the variety of the plant, are going from August to October.   The colors of the herb vary in color some being blue, white or red.  Just as with all other herbs, butterflies and insects love the blooms.  Being an evergreen you will have green herb to work with all year long.

Your health, your responsibility-For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

So Many Herbs, How Do I Choose?

A wonderful looking herb with lots of great benefits.

Of all the plants we offer in our shop, herbs definitely draw the most attention.  And for good reason, the uses are too many to list, most are extremely hardy, and they are beautiful.  For a beginner gardener, herbs are a great place to start because of the ease of growing.

Before I get into the different aspects of herb gardening, I would like to clarify some vocabulary words.  Herbs are generally grown in all temperate regions of the planet.  For the most part, it is the aerial parts, roots, and blossoms of these plants that are used for cooking, medicine, and fragrance.  Spices, on the other hand, are grown around the equator and it is the seeds that are used for the fragrance, cooking, and medicinal qualities.  But then to muddy the waters, you have some plants that are both.  Cilantro is an herb as you use the leaves in your cooking but, if you let it go to seed then you have Coriander- a spice.  Now, some herbs are herbaceous and some are not.  Herbaceous mean that the plant parts die back to the ground each winter and the roots put out new plants each spring.

Now, let’s get planting.  Regardless if your yard or garden is shady, full sun or somewhere in between, there are herbs for you to grow.  The things to consider as you choose you plants are their origin, water requirements, growth habits,  and their function.  Each of these factors will determine what plants you choose and where you put them.  If given a little bit of research, you will be amazed at the wide variety and functions that herbs provide.  Not only will you derive great joy from your herbs, but the good bugs will love them, too.  Basically any herb that flowers is a favorite of butterflies, hummingbirds, and ladybugs.

Understanding where herbs come from will tell you a lot about the growing conditions they will need.  If a plant originates in the Mediterranean region, you can bet it will be a tough plant that has relatively low water requirements, sun loving, and tolerant of poor soils.  Lavender, Rosemary, and Oregano are examples of such plants.  I had a Rosemary plant that doubled in size in the worst drought in Texas history with no extra water.  Needless to say, when folks come to me asking about tough shrubs that will tolerate our heat- I recommend Rosemary.  On the other end of things, if a plant is naturally found in moist woodlands, you will need to provide a shady spot with rich soil for that herb.  Goldenseal is an example, due to over-harvesting in the wild, Goldenseal is in danger and there is a great need for gardeners to grow this herb.  Their origins also point to their water requirements.  Obviously, you don’t want to put a plant that likes dry conditions with a plant that needs regular watering.  Thus, mint and lavender are not good roomies.  Mint with Calendula or Pineapple Sage are good choices, with Lavender, Sage, and Rosemary being good buddies with oregano acting as a ground-cover in a sunny spot.

Just as you would plant a flower garden with tall plants being at the back and low growers being located at the front, these same considerations need to be given to the growth habits of herbs.  There are so many sizes and shapes to choose from along with blossom color, scent, and function.  Let your imagination be free, there are no rules.  If you like the formal gardens with clipped boxwood as edgings, then plant that type of garden.  For those of you with free spirits drawn to the rambling, free forms of plants then plant away and enjoy the seed heads blowing and nodding in the breezes.  Joy is one of the great harvest reaped from herbs.  Some things you plant will die.  Don’t let that discourage you, plant again.  If it lives and thrives, plant more of it.

Beans, and Texas natives make good companions with herbs.

Herbs I love in Texas:

Thyme- creeping lemon, Sage (Salvia Officinallis), Italian Oregano, Lemon Balm, Lavender- English, Spanish, & Fern Leaf, Citronella, Mints, Salad Brunet, Parsley, Texas Tarragon,  Roses, Lemongrass, Anise Hyssop, Borage, Dandelion, Dill to name a few.

Here are some other article on herbs:

http://farmonthehill.blogspot.com/2012/02/roses-herbs-and-compost.html,

Summer’s End Herbs,    The Farm On Holly’s Hill: Could You Use A Little More “Thyme”?,  

Dill- an easy herb,

What is your favorite herb?  Tell me about your gardens, I love to learn from other gardeners.