Archive for the ‘herbs’ Category

Herbalicious Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

I should probably tell you to gather your herbs before the nights get too close to frost. Many herbs are native to a mediteranean (temperate) climate. They can’t take much cold and wilt at the first sign of crispness. One way I could stretch my herb harvest is to bring the pots I have herbs planted in inside at night, but I’m (once again) too lazy and my pot is large. I’ll have to harvest what I have.

I’ve already taken a few handfuls of oregano in to dry. I set the pile on a plate in the dark cupboard and left it there for a couple days til it was crispy the pulled off the tough stems from the crumbly leaves, poured what was left on a piece of paper and used that as a funnel to put in a recycled glass spice jar. My favorite spices are the Wild Organic – not just because they are good spices (great ground pepper) but because the glass jars are great to reuse. Unlike plastic spice jars, glass ones don’t absorb odors that can taint new spices.

I’ve also been meaning to get some pesto made – I have all the ingredients, just haven’t gotten it done. My basic is: basil, garlic, salt, walnuts (cheaper than pine nuts), lemon, olive oil. Put in a food processor or good blender til pulpy or finer then place in ice  cube trays to freeze portions. Later, when using it you can add the parmesan, the pesto keeps longer if you don’t have cheese in the mix. This type of process can be used for fresh-tasting herbs. You can even suspend fresh herbs in water and freeze in trays for use in soups and sauces too.

Also good – collect mint, lemon balm for teas (thanks LadyBug!).

Herbal Monday, July 26th, 2010

This year my herbs were fewer than previous years, but I’ve tried them a different way than past years. Most herbs like good drainage and lean soil so I put a few in pots and they’ve done so well that I don’t think I’ll ever go back to flowering annuals. I have a large one with oregano, greek basil and lavender – it looks lovely, is easily accessible on the front steps and I’ve hardly had to water and it doesn’t require feeding like fussy annuals. Awesome! Nothing like adding more edibles.

  • I have one tuft of thyme – love it on roasted potatoes, meat or poultry.
  • The dill is booming – it seeds itself every year with variation. Last year, not so much and this year it is e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e – it’s great on grill fish, potatoes, in sour cream for dressing veggies or used as a condiment in wraps and sandwiches.
  • Oregano – great on roasts, cold pasta salads, sauces
  • Basil – pesto, salads, sauces
  • Mint – mojitoes, ice tea, lemonade, garnish – I haven’t used much but I should use it more
  • Catmint – it is everywhere. The purple flowers are pretty but I’ve not used it for culinary purposes but, like most herbs in the mint family, it would make a lovely hot tea.
  • Lavender – This can be used in breads, muffins, cakes and butters but I’ve not tried it – I’ve been clipping off the heads when they are in full bloom and setting them aside to dry so I can collect enough for a couple sachets. I picked up the Munstead variety – before fall I might sink it into the ground and see if it will come back – it’s slated for Zone 5 though. But, my mother has had a patch of lavender come back for a few years now but she’s amiss at what variety she’d picked up.

Just came across this story from AP – don’t think it’s made it to these parts but it is sure something to be on the lookout for in future years.

Associated Press Writer
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A fungus spreading among the nation’s basil crop may leave lovers of Italian and Thai food feeling a bit bland.
Basil downy mildew first surfaced in the U.S. around 2007 and is slowly but surely ruining the herb at spots across the country. Hardest hit areas are on the East Coast but it also has been found as far west as California.
For growers, the fungus can be devastating.
‘‘We destroyed all our crop this year,’’ said Francesco DeBaggio of DeBaggio’s Herb Farm in Chantilly, Va. ‘‘We killed about 6,000 plants, or about $18,000 worth of plants.’’
DeBaggio said he first noticed it in May and didn’t realize what it was. Once he determined it was downy mildew he decided to destroy his crop.
‘‘It’s huge for us,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re small so it’s fairly significant. We would have sold 100 percent of those that were destroyed.’’
Basil is a commonly used to make pesto and tomato sauce and is a popular ingredient in Italian and Thai recipes. It’s also often used in salads or sprinkled on tomatoes.
Margaret McGrath, an associate professor of plant pathology at Cornell University, said the fungus is likely more of a problem for home gardeners and herb farmers who may not have access to fungicides that are available to larger commercial growers.
‘‘We think it’s moving around each year, surviving over the winter and then moving north during the summer,’’ McGrath said.
The relatively recent emergence of the fungus means many growers don’t know about it, McGrath said.
‘‘If you don’t know what you have, you may not be responding correctly,’’ she said.
In some cases, growers may think the yellowing leaves indicate the plant needs more fertilizer.
‘‘And that’s not going to help at all,’’ McGrath said.
She said areas of shade and high humidity seem to be more susceptible to the fungus and that gardeners can help control it by spacing the plants further apart and planting them in areas that get more sun.
It is carried by spores that travel through the air, which means ‘‘it has the potential to go almost anywhere,’’ McGrath said.
The spores are a gray or purplish color. Affected leaves begin to yellow but quickly turn brown before they die, McGrath said.
Downy mildew fungi have been around for years, with different forms affecting different plants and vegetables, but the downy mildew affecting basil is new, McGrath said.
It takes about two weeks from the time the plant is infected to when the fungus first appears, and DeBaggio said that means some growers may be selling infected plants without knowing it.
‘‘They can’t see it until it’s too late and that plays a huge role in keeping the disease from being controlled better,’’ DeBaggio said.
Margie Pikarsky, owner of the organic Bee Heaven Farm in Redland, Fla., said she has had problems growing basil since 2008. Until she recently heard of the fungus, she didn’t know it was to blame for her failed crop.
At first she and other farmers thought there was a problem with the seed. The next year she blamed cold weather. She switched seed sources and the weather warmed but the herb still would not grow.
‘‘We had no way of confirming any (cause of the problem), all we knew was we had no basil,’’ Pikarsky said.
The fungus, which poses no risk to human health, could have the biggest impact on the market for fresh cut basil.
‘‘When you harvest it and turn it into pesto, no harm no foul because no one will know the difference,’’ DeBaggio said. ‘‘When you sell leaves that aren’t possibly green — I can’t sell something that’s imperfect. If there is any visible damage, it reduces the potential it can be sold.’’
So far, McGrath said the problem isn’t so bad that it has cut into supplies or caused prices to rise.
George Ball, chief executive officer of Warminster, Pa.-based Burpee Seeds, said it’s important for people to realize the blight is manageable if precautions are taken, such as spreading plants out and putting them in sunnier locations.
Ball also said there are some varieties of basil, such as purple ruffles basil, that appear to be more resistant to the fungus.
‘‘Try darker leaf varieties,’’ he said.
McGrath agreed that some darker leaf and spice varieties have had less disease in variety comparisons.
For DeBaggio, who grows some specialty varieties, the fungus raises concerns about next year’s crop. And he’s decided against trying to grow more basil this year.
‘‘We’re just not going to take any chances,’’ he said. ‘‘To have another season like this, that would put us out of business. We couldn’t survive that again.
‘‘Once you ruin your reputation, you can’t get it back.’’
Associated Press writer Annie Greenberg contributed to this story from Miami.

First spuds Friday, July 9th, 2010

Norland Red and Yukon gold fingerling potatoes

In April we’d planted Norland Red and Yukon Gold potatoes. A couple days ago I asked The Hub to see if there were some potatoes ready for eating. I was grilling some spice rubbed chicken on our charcoal grill and we’d used up everything in the fridge as far as veggies go. He came back with two plant’s worth of new potatoes. Since I alternated the gold and red potatoes we got a variety. I cut them up with a small white onion our daughter picked, drizzled them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted them on  a sheet in the oven – about 425F for 20 minutes.

A little extra – I used oregano and thyme, chopped, from the garden with a mix of dry coriander, salt, br. sugar, pepper, nutmeg and garlic powder for the dry rub on the chicken. To top the potatoes we mixed some light sour cream with a generous portion of fresh dill leaves and chives.

It was goooood eats!

Singing in the rain Friday, June 11th, 2010

Singing in the rain because I don’t have to lug watering cans back and forth through the garden. We have two rain barrels and two broken outdoor faucets so I get to do it the old-school way. It reminds me of hanging out with my paternal grandmother as she toted 5-gallon buckets around the farm to water and feed chickens, pigs, etc., using a cart on only the longest walks. Good grief she was strong.

I did get a chance to glance about the very muddy garden – I stayed out of it so as not to cause compaction. All my pumpkins, gourds, melon and beans have sprouted. They will need to be thinned a bit but I’m never sure how many to keep for good crop insurance vs. having my entire yard engulfed in vines. 2-3 maybe? At least until they start producing flowers.

My nasturtiums and cilantro that I planted weeks ago and almost gave up on have also shown up. I guess they just needed a few muggy, warm, wet days. Cilantro is always tricky to keep going long enough to pair it with the tomato and pepper harvest. I’m hoping my Slo-Bolt variety and the fact that I planted it in a cooler, shadier pocket of my yard will keep it producing and not bolting (going to seed) so quickly. Other varieties I’ve tried only produce a 1/2 dozen harvestable leaves and then up shoots the flowering seed head.

Can’t wait to hear about ‘Ladybug’s’ tomato taste reviews. Please send me any and all you have!

Anticipation Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

During a brief time of it not raining, my son and I got some herb seeds planted in a pot. I’ll probably plant more directly into the garden but it’s fun to do with the kidlet when we are both stir-crazy from the wind and rain. Basil, Purple Basil, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemay and Luffa. Yup, Luffa – it’s a gourd that can be picked and eaten when young, but if you leave it on the plant to mature it looks like a bath luffa and can be used as such. I’ve never tried this before but I’ve wanted to so I decided this is the year.

There are also some random boards laying out in my untilled garden. Happy Mother’s Day to me. The Hub and kiddos got some supplies for raised beds. I’m pretty excited but it will be a lot to get accomplished even if I push the date to June 1. This coming weekend marks the last average frost date and is also supposed to show a weather turn-around – from 40s to 70s and 80s next week. So I’ll be more than eager to get my garden planted before the skeeters come and my maternity leave is up.