{ Archive for the ‘herb gardening’ Category }

What’s your plant personality?

I took this fun quiz from Traditional Medicinals to find out my plant personality. If you have a few minutes to spare, take the quiz here. How did you do? Apparently I’m an intriguing combination of chamomile, fennel and peppermint.

Share your plant personality with the hashtag #herbnerd.

Q&A with Cold Spring Apothecary’s Stacey Dugliss-Wesselman

Long before modern science and technology, botany and medicine went hand in hand. I spoke to Cold Spring Apothecary founder and author of The Home Apothecary Stacey Dugliss-Wesselman about going back to basics with homemade natural remedies featuring much-loved healing botanicals. I can’t wait to try the Beauty Salve and the Joint and Muscle Soak that we excerpted HERE.

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Garden project: Cocktail toppers

Wouldn’t you like to make these DIY herb ring drink toppers created by the talented staff at Terrain. Using sprigs from your windowsill herb garden, you can easily fashion these to grace your winter cocktails.

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Hostess gift idea: Rosemary tree

A rosemary tree makes for a festive hostess gift, don’t you think? Its conical shape resembles a miniature Christmas tree (although its boughs aren’t sturdy enough to hang ornaments off of) and its fragrance is just so herby and delightful.

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DIY holiday gift idea: Herbal tea

Well before most of my garden had called it quits for the season, I decided to dry a few herbs. I snipped bunches of sage, oregano, French tarragon and spearmint. As I was crumbling my spearmint to save for tea the other day, I though to myself: “Wouldn’t this make a cute Christmas gift?” For my birthday, my friend Brenda gave me one of those ceramic jars from Anthropologie with the chalkboard label on the front, as well as a package of these lovely little drawstring tea bags. This is the perfect packaging if you choose to share some of your herbs. Looseleaf tea bags can be found at most tea shops. I would recommend a teaspoon of dried herbs in each. Or, make it a spice jar and fill it with savoury herbs you’ve dried, like oregano or thyme.

Writing in chalk was the hardest part. I must have erased various wordings (Tara's tea, peppermint, etc.) at least 20 times. I settled on "Tea" because it was short and sweet.

Propagating rosemary… and Christmas cheer

I love rosemary. It’s an easy plant to love: fragrant, edible, medicinal, good looking. It is not, however, easy to keep alive in our neck of the woods. While it might be evergreen at a lower latitude, mine has to come inside and struggle through the winter as a houseplant–often unsuccessfully. It gets woody and lethargic and I often end up buying a new pot from the greenhouse in the spring.

I tried growing it from seed once; I got tired of waiting for it to sprout and gave up thinking I’d done something wrong. Then, a passing comment from a friend several weeks ago turned a light on in my head: why was I not propagating rosemary by cuttings?

I started to do a little research, and guess what that little packet of rosemary seed forgot to mention? It can take up to three months to germinate! Also, the best way to propagate rosemary is from cuttings.

When all else fails, April, read the instructions.

Anyhow, I’ve rooted lots of things in water (and you can root rosemary in water too), but I bought myself a little bottle of rooting hormone to try putting the cuttings right into the soil.

Start with a 3-4 inch length of stem. Use a sharp blade -not scissors- to avoid crushing the stem, and make an angled cut. Take the soft bits at the tips rather than the older, woodier stems; they will root much more easily.

Strip the leaves off the stem. The little nodules where they grew are the primary rooting points, so make sure there are lots. You only need a few leaves left on top. Quick, go take something out of the freezer that you can use all those stripped leaves with for dinner.

Dip the stem in the rooting powder and shake off any excess. I've heard you can use honey, but I've never tried it. You can skip this step, but rooting will take longer.

Poke a hole in your potting soil, place the stem in it, and firm the soil gently. Ta da! Now, keep it moist and be patient.

As I was gathering my supplies to do this, I remembered seeing a little rosemary topiary of a Christmas tree once. Then it hit me: why not do lots of cuttings (especially if my current plants are destined for their end pretty soon anyway) and give away tiny rosemary ‘trees’ to neighbours and friends this Christmas? Way better than circulating more sugar.

Maybe I’ll do some lavender as well.

I can’t believe I thought of this soon enough to actually (possibly) pull it off! I should get a prize…

My baby rosemary forest!

 

 

 

An edible inventory and an unwelcome beetle

Last year I planted a few things in the small veggie patch that was already in the backyard when we bought the house – garlic, tomatoes, a few herbs. In the fall, my husband built a couple of raised vegetable boxes out of cedar, so after a soil delivery this spring, I was ready to plant a whole lot more. I planted so much I had to go elsewhere to find a spot for everything. It all fit eventually, but it will be interesting to see what thrives where. Because of the cool, wet spring we had, my tomatoes weren’t looking that great until the past couple of weeks. Now they’re finally taking off. I’m out there every night carefully inspecting everything. What’s that they say about a watched pot that never boils?

However it’s a good thing I’ve scrutinized my plants so closely or I wouldn’t have noticed the Colorado potato beetles (kindly ID’d by a social media follower) and their eggs and larvae attacking my tomatillos and potatoes. I’ve been hand-picking them off the leaves and drowning them in a water/dish soap mix. My fingers are crossed they won’t completely ruin my harvest.

Here is a mostly complete list of the edibles I’ve planted this year:

  • Tricolor Carrots Circus Circus (Renee’s Garden)
  • Golden Detroit Beet (Urban Harvest)
  • Radish Raxe – eaten about two weeks ago (William Dam Seeds)
  • Vates Blue Curled Kale (Urban Harvest)
  • Tomatillos (Richter’s Herbs)
  • Zucchini (unknown origins… I bought the plants on sale)
  • Bush beans from my neighbor (grown from seed)
  • Mammoth Melting Sugar Pea from Burpee’s Heirlooms collection
  • Fingerling potatoes (Urban Harvest)
  • A fig tree (from Steven Biggs)
  • A potted strawberry and blueberry plant (President’s Choice)

These radishes marked the beginning of my harvest season. They were delicious in salads. I'll be planting more in August!

My kale has already found its way into salads and the steamer!


I’ve also planted some interesting herbs:

And a bunch of tomatoes that I will list in an upcoming post!

I feel like I’m forgetting something…

Lovage, that loveable herb

I toured the garden this evening after finishing prepping the veggie beds (three points for me!) and ended up doing another hour’s worth of random weed pulling, tidying, and assessing. I discovered, to my dismay, that my sage has all succumbed to public enemy number one (quack grass, for those new to my gardening adventures) and that my parsley has disappeared entirely (rabbits?). Add this to the basil I killed in the windowsill already, the tarragon that was inadvertently dug up last fall, and the savory that called it quits in the shade, and things are looking downright sad in the herb department for me. As in, the chives are alive. I was wallowing in a little black-thumb pity party when I rounded the corner by the garage and met with this sight:

Lovely lovage, in all its bushy glory, happily reminding me I’m not a complete failure. I picked a spring and inhaled the sharp, clean celery scent and a smile returned to my face. I don’t know what I’m making for supper tomorrow, but lovage will be involved. And possibly chives.

The last of my pesto stash

I had great luck with my herbs last summer. For the first time, I didn’t just use the bounty from one or two plants, I used most of them at one point or another to season summer dishes (especially my basil and parsley). Towards the end of the season, I cut back a great deal of my columnar basil, which had reached about three feet high, and whipped up a winter’s worth of pesto. I froze the whole lot into cubes and then tossed my pesto-cicles into a Ziploc bag. Sadly I used my last two cubes for dinner last night. Whenever I didn’t know what to make for lunch this winter, I’d toss together some of my favourite brown rice pasta with a pesto cube and marvel at how I’d made it myself. I can’t wait to start this year’s crop of herbs.

Inspired by an article about preserving herbs that Charmian Christie wrote for me last year, I also dried some of my herbs for the first time. My house isn’t particularly big, so I found a new use for an Ikea contraption (see below), which provided the perfect place to hang everything. I especially have enjoyed the dried tarragon. I use a lot of it for a quinoa with edamame recipe that I make rather often.

This was one of my end-of-summer hauls. I thought it looked so pretty waiting on the counter, so I snapped a pic. The lavender went into a little vase in my bathroom and the herbs were dried.

These are my herbs drying on an Ikea rack that usually has little tin cups hanging off of it.

Frozen pesto cubes for winter pasta

Last weekend I had a tall, beautiful columnar basil plant (courtesy of President’s Choice) nestled beside my tomato plants (to help their flavour). It was almost up to my waist. Rather than let it go to seed, which hadn’t happened yet thanks to my consistent pruning, I decided to make pesto.

I found an easy pesto recipe online from Whole Foods and then did a little research to see how to preserve it. The easiest way I found was to freeze it in an ice cube tray, wrap it in saran, being sure to let out all the air, and then pop the frozen cubes into a freezer bag (again, letting out all the air). I left out the cheese from the recipe because I wasn’t sure how it would freeze.

Now throughout the winter, when I want to make a quick weeknight meal–say shrimp with brown rice pasta fettuccine–I can just grab a cube or two, let it thaw a little and then stir it in! No more jars of store-bought pesto required.

I’m feeling ambitious about my herb saving, so this weekend I intend to clip some tarragon, oregano, sage and thyme and dry it out. Charmian Christie wrote a great article for the site that I posted this week called 5 ways to preserve your herbs in 5 minutes. If I get the time, I might also try to create some herb-infused vinegars.

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