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Archive for the ‘herbs’ Category

….. parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Can’t get the song out of my head today 🙂

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IMG_4868Whenever we see the word “herb” most of us think of small, fragrant plants that Grandmother grew in a corner of the vegetable garden: Basil, thyme, rosemary, mints, dill, savory, sage, parsley, chives, anise and marjoram.  The word, however includes all plants that do not develop a woody tissue.  It was perhaps 100 million years ago when Mother Nature executed one of its major miracles and evolved the enclosed seed which contains all the chromosomes essential for the growth of a complete plant organism.

Tens of thousands of species of herbs help make our flowering world.  The leaves of grasses, flowers, weeds, annuals and biennials are soft and succulent, not stiff and enduring like the needles of pines, hemlocks and spruces. The hard, encased seed is the basis of the herbs that clothe our fields and meadows, uplands and forest glens.  For even as the massive oak develops its seed in a hard shelled fruit, so also does a tiny violet nestling unseen among the thick-growing grasses of the meadow.

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The violet who will lift its blue cheerful face to the golden sun in these upcoming warm Spring days is a fragile plant, but when Spring, summer and fall have passed into eternity, it has a time-tested method of protection while zero temperatures freeze Earth’s breast.  The life power of the violet and countless other small herbs simply withdraws into the roots of the plant beneath the soil surface.  In the dormant roots, waiting for time to be fulfilled, is a force man cannot comprehend.  Too often we walk unseeingly; we look but we do not see.  None of us can understand the mystery of life, but each of us can feel the glory that is all about us.  When you walk the countryside in these up and coming warmer months heading our way, you will be surrounded by the wonder of herbaceous life.  Tread gently.

 

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Calendula officianalis also known as ‘Pot Marigold’ is one of my favorites in the herb garden.. for not only their showy colorful appeal & addition to any garden.. but medicinal, cosmetic, culinary & dyeing benefits. The flower petals are the most resourseful part of this very versatile & lovely plant and contain the highest concentrates of healing resins.

Yes, this humble plant has been an inspiration of herbalists and gardeners for centuries. Named for it’s ability to bloom every month of the year, Calendula comes from the latin, ‘Calends’ or ‘New Moon’ and since the calendula flower head follows the sun.. it’s also known as ‘summer sundial’.

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The flower itself means ‘winning grace’ in the language of flowers and you’ll get no argument from me here, with colorful hues from pale yellow to bright deep oranges.. but the sweet calendula has been valued as a ‘wellness herb’ for centuries. Some marvel at it’s ability to soothe pain and prevent scarring. It’s also an excellent antiseptic, thereby preventing infections. Calendula is commonly used to soothe skin and reduce inflammation, and the key ingredient that will go into my Calendula Agave soap bars. Additionally it is good for small children to help alleviate skin disorders and diaper rashes. The dried flower heads are used to flavor soups & stews, added to the dye pot for some marvelous earthy golds & yellows, or added to a natural healing balm.
It’s been a great season for the calendula in the gardens this year. Much of it has already been dried, that will go into my formulations… soaps, balms, creams & salves. Some, into meal making and even my baking.. and a good amount will go to my friend, Rita and into her dye pot to make me some lovely golden wools that will be incorporated into my hooked rugs this winter.

Calendula… in my mind, least of humble. More so, simply marvelous.

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SO worth the wear and tear on this back for months on end, for one luscious bite into one of these babies 🙂 LOL! Betcha thought I was going to say steamed clams! 🙂 Caprese Salad on the menu tonite! Yum!

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… in the gardens 🙂 Even when I’m battling mystifying critters each day. I never knew of a mouse that enjoyed leeks, basils, dill & sage so much! Grrr

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With the herbs nearly all harvested now, its time to make sure the winter medicine cabinet has all it needs. Elderberry syrup and Thyme honey are two of the important parts of my medicine cabinet.. mainly used for colds, influenza and sore throats.

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Thyme is a powerful antiseptic and it’s loaded with antioxidants. It works hard to:

  • ward off colds.
  • relieves a sore throat & inflamed tonsils
  • provides relief from hay fever
  • helps improve digestion

It’s strong antiseptic properties including activity against viruses, insects, bacteria and fungus, is just another reason to always have some on hand.  Traditionally, thyme was used to treat bronchitis but I find it to be useful in my house for treating winter illnesses such as colds like the one I am fighting now. 😦

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One nice way to use thyme is as honey… and its very easy to make. You can still pick thyme now, it should withstand a mild frost just fine. Cut stems short and put them in a glass mason jar. Cover the thyme with wildflower honey. Put the jar in a pan of water to slightly heat the honey while pushing the thyme down and adding more thyme. Once the honey is fluid, put the lid on the jar and store the honey with the thyme still in it, until needed. You can use this honey to add to tea or use it straight for a sore throat… and I just love it drizzled over my fresh yogurt too! Be well!

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Winter being the longest season here, at least for me ~~it’s time for rest. Many of the other seasonal chores have been put to bed under a blanket of snow..

The seed catalogs are quite the gayest blizzard afforded during this cheerless month of January. Since about half of every catalog is given to annuals, is it any wonder that these visionary Edens are a true delight of three-foot larkspur, glowing snapdragons, fragrant mignonette… and culinary herbs, Lavender, Basils, Rosemary and Thymes.. and vegetables–so many delicious varieties of tomatoes, squash, peppers and every other perennial flower we’ve ever wished to grow to perfection?

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We can sketch some tentative plans on paper, make out seed lists… and think green! Then, on the first of February, my growing season begins in the grow room, with about as many flats of herb seedlings you can imagine–setting, all in rows over heated benches. And here they will remain until mid March, when they can safely be moved out into the coldframes for hardening off before their final stages of growth into the garden in mid to late May here in Maine.

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Last season a friend send me here, GrowVeg.com where I was able to design my garden plot. It was a fun project, and it gave me a good resource guide, (because I can no longer depend on this old memory) as I put to paper my plan for this years garden. You might want to give it a try–it surely beats shoveling snow 😉

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