Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lavender Wands Make Me Happy

OMG!  I cannot believe that it has been since July that I have posted anything on my blog!  Where did the summer go?  I look out today and there is snow on the ground and I wonder where the year went?  It certainly has been another whirlwind of time.  So I have lots of catching up to do!
Beautiful Lavender in Full Bloom
In July, our Indianapolis Herb Society paid a visit to Willowfield Lavender Farm.  And what a glorious visit it was!  They treated us to a nice program about growing lavender and a brief tour of their farm. It's not a large farm, but large enough to grow lots of lovely lavender.
Rows and Rows of Lavender in Bloom.
When the lavender is in full bloom, they offer U-Pick to their customers.  My daughter Grace and I decided to take advantage of it and we each picked a bundle of 100 lavender blooms.
Grace picking lavender.
We enjoyed our visit to the Lavender Farm and very much enjoyed our purchase from the lavender farm!
Grace with our lovely bundles of lavender that we picked.
Once we were home, I decided that Grace and I should try a little crafting with our lavender purchases.  We decided to try our hand at making lavender wands.
Here is the objective of our crafting afternoon.  Take the lavender stems and make them into a lavender wand.
Lavender wands are not hard to make, just a little tedious.  It just takes a good eye and a little patience.  To start your lavender wand, select some nice, long, freshly picked stems of lavender.  Lavender stems will remain pliable for a few days after picking, but once dry, you will not be able to bend them.  You need an uneven number of stems and I believe we used 17 stems of lavender in our wands.  (Note:  you can also use an even number of stems, as long as it comes out with an uneven number when divided by 2.  For example:  18/2=9 or 22/2=11 -- I'll explain why in the next couple of steps.)
Once you have gathered your lavender stems, you will want to tie a piece of ribbon right below the blooms and tie it tight as show in the following picture.
17 stems of lavender cinched tightly with some ribbon.
Once you have tied the ribbon under the blooms, you will bend the long stems down - as shown in the next picture.
Bending down the stems over the blooms.
You essentially want to 'encapsulate' the blooms with the stems.
These stems will cover the blooms with your ribbon woven through them.
Now comes the tedious part - weaving the ribbon over and under the stems.  This will weave it all together and close the blooms inside the wand.  Your ribbon must go over and under each stem and wind down to the end of the blooms.  If you are using an even number of stems, you will weave over and under 2 stems at a time.
Starting the weaving.
Beginning the weaving is the hardest part, I think.  Once you get a few rows done, it gets easier.
Keep weaving the ribbon over and under the stems, spiraling down until you get to the bottom of the blooms (or, rather, the top of the blooms!).  Then you can tie off your ribbon and finish your wand.

Almost finished weaving.  Just a few more rows until I have the blooms all covered.

Lavender will hold its fragrance almost indefinitely.  So these wands will be fragrant for years.  I hope I can do more of these next year! 

This is Grace's finished wand.  She did a great job making it and I think hers turned out even better than mine.
If you are interested in making lavender wands, you can grow your own lavender or visit these two great herb farms:
Willowfield Lavender Farm, 6176 East Smokey View Rd., Mooresville, IN.  You can view their website at   They deal strictly in lavender items - plants, dried lavender, lavender sachets, lotions, teas, etc. -- all lavender.
Also visit Carolee's Herb Farm - 3305 S. 100 W., Hartford City, IN.  You can view her website at  Carolee has quite a large lavender field and hosts Lavender Daze every year the first week in July.  She also has a large variety of herb plants and many herb and garden related items in her gift shop.
I promise that I won't wait so long to post again!!!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Purple Basil vs. Red Perilla

I have to share with you one of my little pet peeves.  I have several customers each year comment while they are browsing through the basil plants that they have "TONS of basil that just comes up everywhere".  Some claim that it must be a perennial basil and some claim that it just seeds everywhere.  I explain to them that if they have a basil that seeds so prolifically, then they probably don't have basil after all but rather red perilla.
Do you have a patch of purple basil that seeds like this?
Red Perilla is an herb and is often called beefsteak plant.  It is edible, but it is not in the basil family and does not have that lovely basil flavor, but it does have a pleasant flavor and can be used in many dishes.  The best description that I have ever read comes from The Big Book of Herbs by Arthur O. Tucker and Thomas DeBaggio.  I quote "Beefsteak plant looks so much like basil that some gardeners believe they have discovered a "perennial" basil, or, at the very least, a basil that self-sows so extensively that they will never have to purchase basil seeds or plants again.  This claim of a reseeding basil is another example of the old adage that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.  Although it is not a perennial basil, beefsteak plant can stand on its own as an interesting, flavorful herb.  An alternative name used by gardeners who must endure continual emergence of seedlings every spring is "wild coleus"."
Red Perilla (Perilla frutescens) or Beefsteak plant.
Some of the differences are serrations on the edge of the leaves (although ruffled varieties of basils also have serrated leaves) and I notice a difference on the veining with the perilla have a little more curve to the veins coming down the leaves.  And, of course, basil smells like - er - basil.
In Japan perilla is called shiso and is frequently used in Asian cooking and often eaten with sashimi or cut into thin strips in salads, spaghetti, and meat and fish dishes.  In 2009 Pepsi Japan released a new seasonal flavored beverage - Pepsi Shiso.  There is also a green variety, but the red variety is often used to add color to dishes, even as a dye for some foods.
Green Perilla
Here are some pictures for comparison:
Purple Ruffles Basil
Opal Basil
Osmin Basil (purple variety)
Red Perilla.  Note that the leaves do not seem as glossy.
Another perilla of note is Perilla magilla - a landscaper's dream! 

Perilla magilla
Perilla magilla is an ornamental variety that gardeners love!  It looks like a coleus but can be planted in full sun!!!
I hope this clears up some mystery about basil/perilla.  Do you have any questions about your basil?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tomato Salad

I love this time of year!  The fresh produce is all around us.  I was hoping to have a large garden this year.  We did manage to get some things going, but it's going to be very late in the season before I have much of my own veggies to harvest.  But I am hitting the Farmer's Markets every week and selling my delicious jams and jellies..........but while I'm selling, I'm also shopping!!!  Quite a nice bonus!
Some of the fresh produce that I bought this past week at the markets.
So let me share with you my simple salad recipe.  I made this tonight and took it to our Master Gardener meeting.  Everyone asked for the here it is!
First, let's get one thing recipes are not strict lists of ingredients and measurements but merely suggestions!  I often gather whatever I have on hand and then improvise.  So that's how this 'recipe' began.
For tonight's salad I used 2 cucumbers (about 6" each) 1/2 golden zucchini, 1/4 or less red bell pepper, maybe about 2 Tbsp. onion (chopped small), 1 clove garlic (chopped fine), some red ripe tomatoes (maybe about 2 cups chopped) and DARN IT, I meant to add some corn, freshly cut off the cob and forgot to add it!
After chopping the veggies and tossing them in a bowl, I added a couple of pinches of sea salt, a little coarsely ground black pepper, some freshly snipped dill and then drizzled it with some Italian dressing.  Then right before serving I tossed on some feta cheese (maybe about 1/2 cup).  Our local grocery store had some feta cheese with sun dried tomatoes and basil - so it was a great blend.
All those pretty veggies tossed together and topped with feta cheese.
You can change up this 'recipe' in many ways:  Spice it up with more onions and garlic and even add some jalapeno peppers.  Mix in some black beans and serve it with tortilla chips!  Use an oil and vinegar dressing instead of Italian.  Add in the corn that I forgot to add!  Use cilantro instead of dill.  Use basil instead of dill.  Any of these ingredients can be omitted or increased, the dressing can be changed to ranch or even raspberry vinaigrette.  Serve it as a side salad.  Serve it on a bed of salad greens.  Serve it on crusty bread as bruschetta.  It's very versatile.....and delicious.  How can you go wrong with fresh, locally-grown veggies?
What's your favorite summertime recipe?

Garlic harvest

It's time to harvest our garlic!  Well, actually, we should have been harvesting our garlic anytime in the past 2 weeks, ......... but what I harvested today is looking pretty good!
The garlic that I harvested from one of our garlic patches.
I've been telling Shawn for the past few weeks that we need to get our garlic harvested.  If you remember one of my earlier blog posts last November, we planted our first garlic this past fall.  Garlic needs a longer growing season than most plants, so you need to plant it in October or November. 
Several years ago, a local man who raised lots of garlic (I believe he planted around 1500 garlic cloves each year!) did a program for our herb group in Greenfield and he said that he always harvested his garlic on the weekend closest to the 4th of July.  So we should have been harvesting a couple of weeks ago.  However, I also did some reading and chatting with other folks and got the opinion that the 4th of July might be a little early to harvest.
You want some of the leaves to be dying off and browning......but you want the protective papers that surround the bulb to still be intact.  Leave it in the ground too long and the paper wrappers will start to deteriorate.  Harvest your garlic too early and it won't dry and store as well.  So it's all trial and error for us at this point.
We planted 6 varieties of garlic -- 2 of them were softnecks and 4 of them were hardnecks.  Today I harvested Silver Rose - which is a softneck variety.  I was very pleased with the harvest!  The first few bulbs I unearthed were rather puny and disappointing.  But soon I was digging up more substantial-sized bulbs and some of them were plump and full!
I will put them in the barn to cure for a couple of weeks.  I'll trim off the tops and rub the dirt off of their skins.  Maybe I'll trim the roots shorter once they are completely dry.  I might even try my hand and doing a garlic braid (which you can do with the softnecks, but not the hardnecks).  And once they are cured, I think I'll store them in the basement and I'll save back a few of the nicest bulbs as my 'seed' for next year.
Tomorrow I'll try to get another variety of garlic harvested.
I laid them loosely in my garden cart to put them in the barn.  I hope that tomorrow we come up with an idea of what to put them on in the barn so they can spread out and dry.  I ended up with 67 bulbs from this patch.
I'll update you later on the rest of the harvest!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Our little Fairy Garden

Many of you know my daughter Grace and know what a promising young gardener she is becoming.  You have probably bought some of her flowers that she sells at GardenFest every year -- she starts most of them herself from seed.  She does the seed trays, she transplants the seedlings and she takes care of the whole process.  (I help with the watering and the transporting for her.)
Here is a picture of Grace and I at our booths during GardenFest 2008.  She has grown up quite a lot in the past 3 years and now is as tall as I am!
For the past few years we have talked about doing a Fairy Garden.  Grace has enjoyed many books about fairies in the garden and has done some research on it.  But we are always too busy in the spring with the greenhouse and garden shows that by the time we get around to doing something in our own yard, the weather has turned too hot to want to do much of anything too demanding.
This year has been a little milder -- or at least we have had some up and down weeks in the tempurature.  So it has allowed us a little more stamina to be creative around the house and yard.  We had picked out a nice spot under one of the maple trees.  It is in the side yard where there is not much foot traffic, but it is visible from the front porch and driveway.
Grace spent an evening digging out the sparse patch of grass beneath the tree and then working some composted material and some potting mix into the area in an effort to enrich it and loosen it up for some tender new plants to take root.
I suggested that she plant as many 'tiny' plants as we could find in the garden - because fairies are small and like tiny plants with small leaves and blooms.  We planted some Corsican mint which has tiny, tiny leaves and even tinier blooms.  The little blooms are lavender colored and it will add some nice fragrance to the garden with its minty smell.  We also had some miniature lamb's ears and some native geranium that we had gotten at the Hancock Co. Herb Society plant sale. 
Thyme is absolutely a "must have" plant for a fairy garden.  Not only does it have tiny leaves and blooms which are pleasing to fairies, but it is reported that the fragrance of thyme will help you see the fairies!
We added some blooming plants to the garden that Grace had grown herself - zinnias, cosmos, and galliardia.  I thought they would be too big, but Grace assured me that we needed to add some larger blooms to the bed because fairies use those blooms to make their clothes!  Something that I hadn't thought of.  Those blooms will also attract bees and butterflies to the garden -- friends of the fairies.
Grace as she is placing her pots of plants in the garden - deciding what plants will go where.
A fairy statue to adorn the fairy garden.
Since she planted her fairy garden about 4 weeks ago, she has come up with many new ideas of things to add to the garden.  She has added some rocks that will serve as a resting platform with smaller rocks as steps.  More rocks will be added as we find them and used as edging in the garden.  She plans to add a tiny swing made of twigs and jute.  And another fairy has been added that was given to her as a birtday gift 2 years ago.
Grace looks very satisfied after planting her fairy garden.
I'll post more pictures in a later blog as she adds more items and the plants start to fill out.  I can't wait to see what it will look like in another month!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Garden Tea

I know this is a little outdated, but I've had some really good stories to tell you and haven't had the time to sit at the computer.  So I am trying to catch up with all of the things I want to share with you.


Back in June, I was happy to again be a part of "A Garden Tea".  It was held on Sunday afternoon, June 5 and was co-hosted by The Herb Society of Central Indiana and the Purdue Master Gardeners of the IMHM Medicinal Plant Garden.  IMHM stands for Indiana Medical History Museum and is located at 3045 Vermont St., Indianapolis (formerly Central State Hospital).  This group of Master Gardeners has planted beautiful gardens on the site with medicinal plants.  The thought behind doing the tea was to get more people to visit the museum and gardens.
St. John's Wort

You can see some of the beautiful medicinal plants in the pictures.  Touring the gardens would be enough to entice me to visit -- but the day was rounded out with many other delights!  There was a tent with beautifully decorated tables and herbal tea and lemonade and many other tasty treats. 

Beautiful table centerpieces in the refreshment tent.
There were fresh-cut flower arrangements on all of the tables -- gracefully arranged in tea pots!  These beautiful arrangements were given away as door prizes throughout the day.  The Herb Society had also made favors of herbal tea that were given to each visitor. 
Two programs were each given twice during the afternoon.  Kathleen Hull, MD gave a talk on medicinal plants and I gave a talk on the benefits of herbal teas.  Both programs were well attended.  My talk was in the lecture hall - which is an historically delightful room at the Medical Museum.

Lecture Room

Judy Eudaly, harpist, provided live music throughout the day.  She was in the loft of this room so it was a joy to spend time here while I prepared for my program to begin.
We were so glad that the light rain that began the day disappeared and the Plein Air Artists were in the garden painting.
Plein Air Artist
I believe this event will be planned again next year, so hold open a spot on your calendar.  It should be around the first week in June. 
You can learn more about the Indiana Medical History Museum by going to their website:  I will again be at the Museum this coming Thursday (July 14) as I present a program about "Civil War Herbs".  Program begins at 6:30 pm and you can find more information on their website.  (I think you might have to register if you would like to attend.)
You can also keep track of events of The Herb Society of Central Indiana by visiting our website:
Raised Bed in the garden with fennel and foxgloves.
I've recently joined the Herb Society on a trip to a lavender farm -- I'll post more on that in a few days!
Have you even visited the Indiana Medical History Museum?  Do you grow any medicinal plants in your garden?  How do you use them?  Please share with us!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Garlic Scapes

If you saw my earlier posts at the end of last year when I first started blogging, you probably know that we planted garlic this year.........or rather, we planted garlic last year.  Garlic needs a long growing season, longer than we have here.  So you plant it in the fall.  Mid-October is optimal time to plant garlic, but I think we got it planted around the first week in November (we always run behind!).  You need to get it in the ground before it freezes, and that can vary from year to year.  The garlic starts to grow right after you plant it and then will overwinter and continue growing in the spring and will be ready to harvest around July. 
We planted 5 varieties of garlic, and hopefully I will be able to find my diagram of what was planted where so we can decide what varieties we liked.  We planted both hardneck and softneck varieties.  Hardnecks have a hard stem coming out of the top and will usually produce larger cloves than softneck varieties.
During the growing season, garlic will produce a bloom.  This bloom comes from a hard stem that comes up in the middle of the garlic tops and they are called scapes.  You really don't want garlic to bloom.  When any plant blooms, it focuses its energy into the bloom and producing seeds.  In garlic, you want the plant to focus its energy into producing larger cloves.  So you need to cut off the scapes.
Garlic scapes can be tasty treasures from the garden and this year is my first experience with them.  I didn't get them harvested as early as I should have (I told you we always run late getting things done!), but I did get them harvested last week.  These scapes can be sauted, chopped and added to dishes, or pickled.
I got my information on pickled garlic scapes from Victoria Wesseler.  Victoria is an Indiana based food writer from Labanon, IN.  I met Victoria last year when she and her husband Robert did a presentation on pickles for the Herb Society of Indiana's Spring Herb Symposium.  Dill was the herb of the year for 2010, and they did a wonderful job of explaining how to make delicious pickles.  Victoria likes to eat as local as possible and she and her husband grow and preserve about half of all of the food they need each year on their "Dirtpatch" farm.  You can find Victoria's information on pickled garlic scapes at
I didn't have nearly as many scapes as Victoria had, so I had to improvise.  I collected and washed my scapes.  I know that they say to discard the blooms, but I didn't have very many and I wanted to experiment -- so I used as much of the scapes as I thought could be usuable.
I cut the scapes and packed them into 2 pint jars.  Then I used 2 cups distilled vinegar, 2 cups water and guessed at the salt amount.  I put the vinegar mixture in a stainless steel pan to heat.  I didn't have any whole cayennes, so I used about 1/2 tsp. of pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp. dill seeds and 2 bay leaves in the bottom of each jar.  Once the vinegar mixture was hot, I poured it over the scapes, filling the jars.  I wiped the rims of the jars clean and put on the lids.  I did not process them in a hot water bath.  I am just keeping them in the refrigerator since I only had 2 jars.  I will let you know in 2 weeks how we like them!
My precious 2 jars of pickled garlic scapes.
I hope to find many ways to use these scapes and share those ideas with you soon.  Have you ever had garlic scapes?  Let me know how you like them!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Chive Blossom Vinegar

I've been so busy with garden shows and Farmers' Markets and trying to keep up with stuff at home.  I've been pretty good about taking pictures of the stuff I'm doing, but not so good about finding time to sit at the computer and blog about it.  This week I'm making an effort to try to get caught up and get back on a regular schedule.  It's just really hard in the summer to stay on much of a schedule!
One of the things that I love to do each spring is to make Chive Blossom vinegar.  If you have a clump of chives, you know that they are very hardy perennial plants and one of the first to break ground in the new year.  I generally see them start poking through the ground in February - although this year it was a little later since we were covered in 2 inches of ice in mid-February.
Around the first of May you will see plenty of bright pink blooms - which I always look forward to seeing.  They are one of the first things to bloom in the garden and the bees and butterflies are happy to see something with nectar and we are happy to see something with color!  The blooms are edible and I sometimes use them in salads and herb butters.  They have a very light, sweet onion flavor.  If you don't use the blooms, once they start to fade, they will produce lots of seeds.  If left on the plant, these seeds will drop and you will have chive plants coming up everywhere in your garden the following year.
I like to collect fading blooms and let them dry and then I will shake out the seeds to use the following year in the greenhouse.  I'll plant the seeds for my next batch of chive plants that I will sell at the shop, shows, and Farmer's Markets.

Chives in full bloom.  Beautiful color in the garden!
My dad has some chive plants in his garden.  He likes to get rid of the blooms so he doesn't have plants popping up all over his garden.  So each year he calls me and asks if I want his chive blooms.  I always say YES -- I never pass up free stuff!  He collects the blooms, or I go out there and collect them and then I bring them home and make vinegar.
Making herbal vinegars is VERY EASY!!!  Take your plant material (chive blossoms, or whatever you would like to flavor your vinegar) and simply add it to vinegar.  You can use almost any kind of vinegar, and I use a variety of vinegars, depending on what herb I plan to use.  With the chive blossoms, I like to use white wine vinegar.  It is almost clear, and the pink chive blossoms will color it up beautifully!  It also has a nice mild flavor which lets the light onion flavor of the chives come through.  You can use distilled vinegar, but I find the flavor of distilled vinegar to be VERY sharp, which I don't like.  And distilled vinegar is also made from by-products from the wood pulp industry, which I do not find appealling for food products. 
You can simply put the blossoms in a glass jar and add your vinegar.  Let it sit for 3 to 6 weeks and the vinegar will draw the flavor and color out of the blossoms and into the vinegar.  Or you can use the quick method and heat your vinegar before you pour it over your blossoms.  Once cooled, it is ready to bottle.
Chive blossoms in vinegar.
When working with vinegar, always use glass, stainless steel, ceramic or enamel coated items.  Vinegar can react with other metals.  And ALWAYS use a vinegar that is 5% acidity (it will list that somewhere on the label).  Bacteria cannot grow in acidity of 5% or more.  I used to use a rice vinegar that was 4.3% acidity. The last time I used rice vinegar and bottled it with a few stems of chives in the bottles -- after a month the chives had mold growing on their stems.  So 4.3% acidity is not high enough to prevent bacterial growth.
I like to use the quick method, but don't always get it bottled that same day.  For this batch of chive blossom vinegar I divided my blossoms into two quart glass jars (I use what I have on hand - don't feel the need to go buy new stuff just to make vinegar).  I also purchased 3 bottles of white wine vinegar.  I poured the 3 bottles of vinegar into a stainless steel pan and put it on the stove.  I heated it until just before boiling - there was a little steam coming off of the top and a few tiny bubbles starting to form in the bottom of the pan.  I poured the hot vinegar over the blossoms (splitting the vinegar between the 2 jars of blossoms).  Then I just let it set until cooled. 
Meanwhile, soak the empty vinegar bottles in some hot water to remove the labels.  Then put the bottles and caps into a pan of water (covering the bottles) and boil them for 5-10 minutes.  This will sterilize the bottles and you can use them for your vinegar.  (Like I said -- I use what I have on hand.)
Bottling this beautiful vinegar.
I put a coffee filter into a funnel and pour the vinegar back into the bottle.  If you don't have a coffee filter, use a plain white napkin or paper towel.  This will filter out any little plant particles.  I even dump the blossoms into the funnel and squeeze them out to get all of that delicious vinegar that I can back into the bottles.
Dump the blossoms right into the funnel.
Squeeze out as much vinegar as you can without tearing your filter.
If you cannot bottle your vinegar right away, put a lid on your jar and it will wait until you have time to bottle it later.  I put a piece of plastic wrap over the jar first, then put on the lid so the vinegar won't have a reaction with the metal lid.  This batch of vinegar waited another 2 weeks until I had time to wash the bottles and finish it up. 
Herbal vinegars can be used anywhere a recipe calls for vinegar, lemon juice, or wine.  I use my herbal vinegars to make viniagrette dressings, meat marinades, and I also use it as a splash of flavor for greens and other vegetables as well as cole slaw.  I use the chive blossom vinegar in a cucumber dill salad that I make (recipe follows) and I like to use either tarragon or thyme vinegar for cole slaw.  I usually make single herb vinegars, but you can mix several herbs together for many vinegar blends.  You can even use garlic, peppers, and fruits for vinegars!
My pretty, pretty chive blossom vinegar!
 Herbal vinegars should be stored in a cabinet or dark pantry to preserve their color and flavor.  (Unfortunately, the color of chive blossom vinegar will not last much beyond 6 or 8 months.  The flavor is still there, but the color fades.)  Vinegars will last indefinitely.  They may get cloudy, but that doesn't mean that they are spoiled.  You can always re-filter it if cloudy.  Another way to use up the vinegar if it gets past your comfort zone of shelf life is to add it to your bath.  Vinegar in the bath is very good for your skin and an herbal vinegar would be even better.  So add a cup of vinegar to your bath water and relax for a beneficial soak.
Here is the recipe for the cucumber salad:
Dilly Cucumber Salad
8 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar (I use my chive blossom vinegar)
¼ teaspoon coarse ground pepper
8 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
¾ teaspoon grated lemon peel (optional)
Mix these together in a glass or stainless steel bowl.  Stir until the sugar dissolves.  Then add:
2 cucumbers sliced in ¼ inch slices
6 or 7 radishes, cut into match sticks
2 tomatoes, chopped
Toss well to combine flavors.  Refrigerate for ½ hour, stirring a few times to marinate well.
You may also add:
Onion slivers
Green peppers
Sliced button mushrooms

Feel free to add comment about what kind of herbs you like to use in your vinegar, or if you have any questions about making herbal vinegars.
Later this week we'll talk about medicinal gardens, fairy gardens and garlic scapes!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Herb of the Week

I'm baaaaaaack!  Actually, I didn't go anywhere, but just have been toooooooooo busy to spend time at the computer.  The past 2 months have been filled with garden shows, programs, work in the greenhouse, 4-H projects, yard work (that never seems to be caught up!) and now I am into Farmer's Market season.  Whew!  That's how spring is here every year.
I had a brilliant idea a last week and thought I would put it into action.  Herb of the Week.  Each week I would like to present to you a specific herb or group of herbs that we can identify, learn about, see pictures of it, and learn how to use it.  Maybe I can expand your horizons and also expand your herb garden.
This week my Herb of the Week is Pineapple Sage.  It is a delightful plant to grow.  When you rub the leaves, it smells just like fesh pineapple.  It is in the Salvia family which includes regular sage (for Thanksgiving dressing), ornamental sages like scarlett sage and blue bedder sage, ceremonial sage like white sage used in smudging, and even salvia seeds that they use on Chia Pets.
It is easy to grow, but is a tender perennial - meaning that it will not take our cold winters here in Indiana.  You can try to keep it in a pot and take it in for the winter, or just treat it like an annual and buy a new plant each spring.  Many people do that because they love having pineapple sage in their garden and it gets so big it is difficult to take in for the winter.
It grows quickly, so allow plenty of room in your garden for it as it can grow up to 3 or 4 feet tall and almost as wide!  That was one of many mistakes that I made in my very first herb garden.  I planted not 1, but 2 pineapple sages!  And they quickly overtook almost everything else in the garden because they got so big!!!  Life is full of learning experiences, isn't it?  Plant it where it will get at least 6 - 8 hours of sunlight a day and make sure it gets plenty of water, especially on hot summer days (but don't keep it constantly wet).  In late summer or early fall it will be covered in bright red tubular flowers.  The butterflies and hummingbirds just love it!!!!
The beautiful blooms of pineapple sage.
Pineapple sage is a great tea herb.  It can be dried and used for winter tea making, but it does lose a lot of its flavor once dried.  So use it fresh for teas and maybe freeze some of it for fresh-tasting teas in the winter.  Pineapple sage can also be used in cakes, pies, fruit salads, sweet vinegars, marinades, and I even found a jelly recipe that I plan to try later this week.  Look for it at my Farmer's Market booth soon!  You can add it to puddings, salads, cream cheese, and the flowers are edible and add great color!  You can also add fresh pineapple sage leaves to lemonade or iced tea.  You can make a delicious sun tea by simply putting equal parts of pineapple sage leaves and lemon verbena leaves in a jar and fill with water.  Set the jar in the sun, and brew a naturally sweetened and refreshing iced tea.
Like cake?  Who doesn't?  Here is a yummy recipe for a Pineapple Sage Pound Cake:
Cream together 1 cup butter and 1 cup sugar until very light and fluffy.  Beat in 1/4 cup honey.  Add 5 eggs, one at a time, making sure to beat for one minute after each addition.  Beat in 2 Tblsp. chopped pineapple sage leaves, 3 Tblsp. pineapple sage flowers, 4 Tblsp. well-squeezed, chopped pineapple, and 1 tsp. grated lemon peel.  In a separate bowl, stir together 2 cups flour and 1 tsp. baking powder.  Fold the dry ingredients into the beaten ingredients until just blended.  Pour into 4 mini loaf pans (6" x 3" x 2") and bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans.
Want to grill out this weekend?  Try this lovely marinade for Pineapple Sage Chicken:
1/4 cup Teriyaki or Tamari or Soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tblsp. lemon juice
2 Tblsp. apple juice
2 tsp. freshly grated ginger root
Handful of Pineapple Sage leaves, chopped
Add some chopped jalapenos if you would like a little more kick!
Marinade chicken in the above ingredients and cook on the grill.  Serve with pineapple kabobs.
So there is some information and recipes to get you started.  Come see me a my Farmer's Market booths or visit the store and get at least one pineapple sage for your garden!  I'll have them on special while supplies last!
More news to come.  I have been taking pictures of various events, experiments, and projects and hope to post them in the next few days.  But now, I'm off to make blueberry jam!!!!!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring updates

Spring is a VERY busy time for me.  Although it doesn't FEEL like spring with our cool temperatures this week and it doesn't LOOK like spring with the snow we had flying yesterday and the heavy frost on everything this is really spring!  Normally I would have lots of things going on in the greenhouse by now, but since we moved the greenhouse last November, and we didn't get the plastic on it until this past week, I am WAY FAR BEHIND in my work!!  But it might have been a good thing that I'm behind with the temperatures that we have been having!  All things work out for a reason, huh?
Getting the plastic on the greenhouse.
Thank goodness that our nephew Josh and his friends Marty and Chris Fette were available that day to help us hoist up 2 layers of heavy plastic over the greenhouse frame and help get it clamped down.  We couldn't have done it without them.
Shawn and Josh clamping down some of the plastic.
We also had the family working on it again a couple of days later to get things readjusted and pulled a little tighter and buttoned down a little more securely.  Our daughter Grace was a big help as well as our son Jake who stopped by to help with the project.
The inside of the greenhouse.  Larger than we had it before.
The following week was used to move the racks out and get them put into place.  There are still many things to do.  We have to install the large vents and put in a fan.  And Shawn will also have to dig in a water line and electrical.  But for now, I can run a hose from the hydrant by our back door and am happy to at least start to function in the greenhouse.  I had many plants that were left in our old backyard for the winter.  They endured the snow and ice and cold temperatures and are starting to reawaken for the season.
Chives coming back to life.  They are very hardy.
I had many hostas and daylillies in large pots and they are starting to come back up.  I also had chives, garlic chives, mints, and various other herbs leftover from last season that are starting to pop back up.
A French tarragon comes back to life.
A lovage plant is up and running.
I have lots of clean up tasks to do before I am really ready to go into pot production.  I scrub down all of the racks and I wash up all of the trays and pots left from the previous year.  So I was eager to move in my double washtub to begin the process.  I filled it with water, and then let it warm up in the sun before I stick my hands in there to wash up pots!  The weather hasn't been very agreeable about warming up my water thus far.  But if we have any sun at all, things will get pretty warm in the greenhouse in a hurry.  I have managed to wash up a couple hundred pots in the last couple of days.  I have a few more hundred to go.
My double wash tub.  It has washed a lot of pots and trays!
I have seed trays that I started in the back room of my shop and have them on a heat mat.  I have lots of herbs up and a few are ready to transplant.  I hope to move them out to the greenhouse this weekend and begin potting.  Grace also has many flower seeds started and we hope to dig up some plants around the yard for her plant sale at GardenFest in May.  We can begin this week to dig up some hollyhocks and black-eyed susans.  I also have 2 tubs of iris roots to pot up for the Master Gardeners' plant sale.  Someone donated them to me late last summer and I have been storing them in the basement this winter.  Next week is gonna get really busy!!!
We also have a wildflower project in 4-H this year.  So Grace and I traveled over to the woods last week during spring break to see if anything is up yet.  We didn't stay long because it started to rain.  There were several things up, but unless they are blooming, I have a hard time identifying them.  We hope to make a few more trips to the woods in the next few weeks to see what spring ephemerals we might find.  I'll post pictures when we do.
Grace and Tippy on our brief trip to the woods last week.  Tippy LOVES to look for wildflowers!
I have a full schedule booked for the next couple of months.  I did a garden show in February, one a couple of weeks ago, and now I have a show booked each weekend until the middle of May.  I also have a soap class scheduled for the first Sat. in June in Morgantown.  I hope to line up some classes at the shop in the near future.  Let me know if you are interested.
Next week well talk about transplanting seedlings!