I like herbs! They multi-task. I love cooking with them, using them for companion planting, and arranging them with dried flowers. One of my all time favorites is Rosemary. There are two Rosemary trees out in the herb garden. They are growing in big clay pots and have to come inside for the winter. Right now, they are enjoying the sunshine and the company of the rest of the herbs. Herbs like to be planted near other herbs.
Rosemary compliments lots of different foods, including breads, rolls, lamb, and even potatoes. Rosemary has a dominating flavor, so be careful of how much of it you use in your cooking.
Soon we will be digging our new red potatoes, the Norland Red variety. We harvest some of them when they are about the size of a quarter. Our favorite way of cooking with them is to use Rosemary.
Sarah’s Rosemary Potatoes:
- 2 Tablespoons fresh Rosemary - snipped fine
- 3 cloves of fresh garlic - chopped fine
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pounds of new red potatoes (or substitute your choice)
- 2 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon pepper (or black)
- 1 teaspoon salt – or more to taste
Place garlic, snipped Rosemary, salt, lemon pepper and olive oil in the skillet and cook until garlic is tender. Take it off the heat. Leave the peelings on the potatoes and slice them about an 1/8 inch thick. Put the potatoes in a large mixing bowl and pour the garlic mixture over them and sprinkle with the lemon juice. Arrange the potatoes in a circle of layers in the cast iron skillet. It will make several layers.
Bake at 400 degrees for 35 – 40 minutes and check for doneness. I cover mine while they are baking for the first 25 minutes. I also serve them right in the skillet. This is one of Bob’s favorite ways to eat potatoes and makes a good dish for company. Beside the red variety, we also use Yukon Gold potatoes in this tasty dish.
SAGE – from my garden
Did you know that the American Indians mixed sage with bear grease and used it to treat skin sores? Did you know that in the 1800 era of America, that folks used sage to help heal warts, epilepsy, insomnia, and measles? Did you know that in Germany, sage was used to treat sore throats, mouth irritations, and cuts and bruises? Some people believe that it lowers blood sugar.
I do not use Sage for medical things. I do use it in my cooking. The young fresh leaves are delicious in salads, soup, and great in poultry stuffing. It is also good with lamb, duck and goose. I use it to flavor some vegetables, including tomatoes, beans, cabbage, onions, and lentils. Sage has antibacterial properties and can be used as a natural preservative for meats, poultry and fish.
Sage can be use fresh or dried. To convert if a recipe that calls for 1 teaspoon dried sage, use 1 tablespoon fresh sage.
1 teaspoon dried herb = 1 tablespoon fresh herb
This formula works will all herbs.
Some varieties of Sage are perennial plants, which means they will come up every year. My experience is that I have to plant new plants every few years. My garden contains Clary Sage and Garden Sage. I use them fresh or dried and enjoy the flavor they bring to my food.
BASIL – my most frequently used HERB –and one of my favorites!
Basil is being used by some herbal medical people to aid digestion, to expel gas, to kill internal parasites, and to relieve vomiting and constipation. I do not know about any of that. What I do know that it tastes great in my spaghetti sauce! We eat a lot of pasta with different forms of sauces and Basil is a prime herb that flavors most of them. I also use it in pesto and in herbed vinegars. I love Basil in Thai and Indian dishes. It is better tasting when used fresh, but can be used dried. Use the same 3 parts fresh to 1 part dried formula listed above.
I gather the Basil in the morning, and hang it in large bunches to dry. It makes the house smell good like I've been cooking all day. The varieties that I grow include Cinnamon Basil, Purple Ruffle Basil, Lemon Basil, Lime Basil, Large green leaf Basil, sweet Basil and Genovese (Italian) Basil.
OREGANO – the bees love it—and so do I!
The honey bees love my oregano. They can be seen sun-up to sundown on the flowers. I like to encourage the honey bees to come to my garden, and the oregano helps them to feel welcome. Greek oregano is my favorite because of its great flavor.
In cooking, I like it with tomato sauce, cheese, eggs, meats, onions, beans and squash. All my Italian dishes contain fresh oregano. I keep Jamaican oregano in the house over the winter to cut the fresh leaves. I like the flavor better than dried.
There are folks who use oregano as a healing aid for coughing, indigestion, and headaches. A poultice of the leaves is said to be beneficial for painful swellings. I have never tried this.
MARJORAM – mild “oregano”
Marjoram tastes like very mild Oregano. It can be used in cooking the same dishes. As a medicinal Herb, there are people who recommend Marjoram for asthma, indigestion, hay fever, and sinus congestion. They say it even inhibits the growth of herpes simplex (cold sores).
I like to dry the marjoram and arrange it with dried flowers that hang from the ceiling. It is pretty and smells good.
TARRAGON – French Tarragon is the best
I make Tarragon vinegar. This is simple and adds variety to my salads. By combining Apple Cider Vinegar and a few long sprigs of French Tarragon in a quart jar and steeping for a few weeks, it is ready to use.
The distinctive flavor of Tarragon can also be used for flavoring sauces and cooked dishes.
Did you know that the Romans used Tarragon to treat snakebite? I have not tried that!
Tarragon can be invasive and move itself into areas and crowd out other herbs. It does well as a container plant. Ours grow in the main garden and I thin it to keep it in check. It dries well and is an attractive addition to herb and flower bunches hanging from the ceiling in the kitchen.
CHIVES –lots and lots of chives
I use chives a LOT! They are great in salads and on the top of our potatoes. (Equal amounts of chopped chives and parsley make a great potatoes topper) They provide a mild onion flavor or garlic flavor, depending on the variety. My favorites are the garlic chives. Chives are better fresh, but can be dried and used in soups and strews.
MY chives have all been started from heirloom seed under grow lights in the basement. This starts in Jan. They are slow to start. By March, they are moved out to the green house and by April, are planted in the main garden and the herb and flower beds. The blossoms are a pretty shade of blue and can be eaten. I toss the blossoms into salad.
Chives are perennial plants. That means that they come up every year. I have clumps of them in six or seven different places and they grow in all soils and lighting conditions. They are good pollinators and attract the honey bees.
HOLLYHOCKS ARE HERBS!
When I think about Hollyhocks, I remember my Grandma Berry. She had huge bunches of Hollyhocks planted by the cellar door and the old pump. Sometimes, she would play "dolls" with me and we would dress up wooden clothes pins in Hollyhock flower skirts. It was a gentle time and life was simple.
I have been planting Hollyhocks for several years. They are started from seeds under gro lights in the basement. The tiny plants are moved out to the greenhouse in April and then to the garden in May. This is "the year" of the Hollyhock. They are gorgeous and the flowers remind me of my Grandma.
Did you know that the Hollyhock is an herb? Its leaves are used for medicinal purposes and the flowers yield dye.
MARSH MELLOW (not the roasting kind)
Closely related to the Hollyhock is the Marsh Mellow. They are used by adding their flowers, seeds, and leaves to salads. The leaves can be eaten as a vegetable and the roots boiled and then fried. They contain soothing mucilage and some folks use it for weather damaged skin. The roots are used for this. They are first soaked in cold water to release mucilage. They have a history of being used for gastric ulcers, coughs, and insomnia. Our Marsh mellow plants are almost seven-feet tall and they have white and pink flowers on them. The bees like them a lot.
Comfrey is big and can be invasive. We are pulling it up to give room to the other herbs. My bees love it and the blue flowers are pretty.
These plants have been used for medical purposes including leaf poultices to reduce swelling of sprains. Some of my farmer friends use it as a natural wormer for their sheep and poultry. We have tried this and the sheep like it—so do the geese and chickens. I am careful not to give them too much or it can cause problems.
I only write about what I know and grow!
I write about what I do and what works, here at Milk and Honey Farm. The pictures are of herbs that I have grown from seed. A few years ago there was a lot of attention to "PET ROCKS." I just happen to have a whole lot of "PET HERBS"!
I cook with herbs and learn new ways to use them each season. Recipe Ring #1 and Recipe Ring #2 contain some of my recipes containing herbs. They are available in our "Country Store". The all natural soaps that I sell, contains herbs too. They are also available in our country store. (The sales of these items help support our missions project through Compassion International.)
I plant two types of dill. One type is the Fern Leaf dill. It is bushy and a beautiful shade of bright green. I use the leaves in salads. The other kind of dill is a giant heirloom variety that is used for its seed. This is what goes in my dill pickles.
This year, dill is companion planted with the cabbages and the potatoes. It is working well. Dill is an annual that will self seed if not picked. The swallow tail butterflies use my dill as a habitat. It draws them to my garden and that is fine with me.
Hyssop is a perennial plant whose flowers are very popular with my bees. Since we welcome the bees and as pollinators, I let the Hyssop grow. It can become invasive so we occasionally pull it up. Hyssop honey has a marvelous flavor.
Hyssop flowers are used in my dried arrangements as a backdrop to the everlastings. The leaves smell good and they add a pleasant smell to the rooms. They dry well and can be used as“filler” in dried arrangements.
HORSERADISH-the real thing
We have an area separate from the garden that is our Horseradish patch. Horseradish is invasive and hard to get rid of, so we keep it separate from the main garden. It is an heirloom variety known as Bohemian and we love it. I make a horseradish cream sauce that we use on roast lamb.
It is a perennial plant and Bob digs the roots each fall. We give some away to folks who want to start their own Horseradish patch and I use the rest in my sauce.
I LIKE HERBS
This morning I "played with my Herbs". Firstly, I cut the herbs for my lunch salad. This is so fun, because depending on what combination of herbs that I use, the salad always tastes different. Today was no exception. I cut Curly parsley, Hamburg parsley, Lemon Balm, Garlic Chives, Cilantro, and Leafing celery. Added to a basic green salad, it was amazing how good the blend of flavors was.
Next, I cut the culinary and medicinal herbs to hang up for drying. These include, Russian Comphry, Valerian, Mother Wort, St. John's Wort, German Chamomile, French Tarragon and Lovage. I enjoy cooking with herbs and am also learning about some medicinal uses too.
Herbs, like other garden plants, have two cycles of growth - a leaf growing cycle and a reproduction cycle. Herbs are most tender and have the most flavor when gathered in the leaf growing cycle. After the herb begins to flower, the leaves may become tough or bitter. If you have nothing but herbs that have begun to flower, use them in cooking rather than in salads. There are a lot more varieties of herbs in my garden, but these are the ones that I picked today. Some will be used fresh and others dried and stored. I store the dried herbs in quart jars and they keep well in a dark place. They retain a lot of their color and are kept dry. If anyone would like to share information on how they make use of these herbs, I would like to hear from you.
Genesis 1:29 And God said, "See, I have given you every HERB that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food".
I did not know that Lavender seeds were hard to germinate and took a very long time to do it. So my first attempts at growing it failed miserably. However, since Lavender can be used as an aromatic, an ornamental, for crafts and even for dye, I persevered until I could grow nice plants from seed.
Once it does germinate, it grows very very slowly-so it is one of the earliest herbs to be planted under the grow lights in the basement. I use several six pack cells and barely cover the seeds-and then prepare to WAIT.
Lavender is a perennial plant and I have planted several areas in the kitchen garden and in the main garden with large clumps of it. Each year, the clumps spread and get bigger. The bees love the lavender flowers and the fragrance is wonderful.
I plan on dividing some of the larger clumps and spreading them around other areas. They will bloom from late June until frost. There will be several cuttings and the plants will be dried. I use some of the dried Lavender in my everlasting arrangements. They act as filler, look nice, and smell good too especially in the bathroom.
YARROW and BEEBALM
Yarrow and Beebalm are two of my favorites perennial herbs that I use to attract bees and other beneficial insects. Beebalm smells good and looks pretty-in shades of scarlet, pink, red and salmon. Yarrow comes in all colors and has lacy, fern like, foliage. Both are extremely hardy. Press the seed down into the potting soil firmly, but do not cover it. These plants will do well in the sun or shade. Another name for Yarrow is Achillea.
There is a 25-degree below zero wind chill today. It is good to plant herb seeds and enjoy the wood stove in the basement. Spring will come. This is picture of my Yarrow in June. .
THYME, GERMAN CHAMOMILE
THYME takes a long time to germinate and grows slowly.so I start the seeds in February under grow lights. The seeds are covered with ¼ inch potting soil and kept evenly moist. Thyme is a perennial and winter hardy even in Minnesota. I cut it back in the fall and use a lot of mulch.
I dry thyme and use a lot of it in meats, strews, and homes made soups. There are quite a few varieties of Thyme, but I usually plant English or Common Thyme. It is a good idea to divide the plants every two or three years. I also use it in some of my dried flower arrangements. It makes good filler, with dark green pointed leaves, and smells great.
CHAMOMILE needs to be cold treated to germinate. (Put the seeds in refrigerator for several weeks before planting.) It also needs light to germinate. Scatter the seed on top of the potting soil and press down. It has a sweet apple scent and taste. I plant at least a full flat of Chamomile each year. It is an annual and the bees love it. We like Chamomile tea with a teaspoon of honey in it.
Last year, Lemon Balm, was one of my new experiments and it worked well. Seeds were started in the basement in February and barely covered with potting soil. They took a while to get going, but were big and bushy by the time they needed to be moved out to the green house.
I grew a lot of it and was glad I did. The fresh leaves are great cut up in fresh salads, as well as making a good tea. The plants got a lot larger that expected and were quite attractive. I grow certain plants to attract beneficial insects and Lemon Balm is one of them. The bees just love it and I like bees in the garden for pollinating purposes. Each year I plant certain plants just to attract the bees. (I have never been stung. They do not bother me, even when we are working on the same plants.)
Lemon Balm will flower from June to October in Minnesota. One of the reasons I like herbs so much is for the lovely flower heads. The main garden (8000 square feet) is extremely diversified, with herbs, flowers, and vegetables all growing together. The herbs will all have flowers on them and this makes for an interesting place to be. The garden smells goods, tastes good and looks good.
It helps my disposition to remember in February when it will be twenty degrees below zero and the wind chill bout 40 degrees below zero. It will be good to make a cup of hot Lemon Balm tea. It is especially yummy with a teaspoon of honey!
I really like Echinacea (coneflower) so there is a lot of it planted here. It is a perennial and comes up by itself, but since it is one of my favorites, I plant more every spring. I save the seeds in the fall and the new seedlings are started in the basement under grow lights in February. It is easy to grow, looks good and is useful. The plant is pretty for cut flowers and also useful for medicinal purposes. These are attributes that make it very popular with me. I do not mess with fussy plants!
Echinacea can be sprinkled on the top of the soil and simply damped down. When the seedlings come up, I will transplant them in larger pots. When moving the plants, it is necessary to be very careful with the roots. They seem to grow in any spot of the garden. I have them planted in the herb garden, the main garden, and the kitchen garden. These areas all have different soil quality and sun patterns, and the plants do well in all of them. All of the perennial herbs and flower are mulched in the fall. We use l2 to l4 inches of straw from the sheep shed.
I have read a lot about Echinacea ability to promote healing. These books include Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs and The Healing Herbs by Michael Castleman. This may be one of those items that are worth further investigation.
I learned the hard way-that unless parsley seeds are soaked over night -they will not germinate. After several years of failure-I now grow a LOT of really nice parsley plants each year. They do take a long time to germinate-20 to 25 days. I have learned to wait them out.
The seeds are planted in a potting soil mix about ¼ inch deep, and placed under the grow lights. This year I have planted two 36 cell flats with parsley. I have two favorite kinds of parsley. The tripled curled/petroselinum crispum tastes great and is very pretty as a border plant. I juice handfuls of fresh parsley in my vegetable drink mixtures, so the fact that this type grows fast helps make it easy. My other favorite is flat leaf Neopolitanum. The seeds came from Italy and the flavor is exceptional.
Parsley is a biennial, but it is too cold here for it to over winter. I can start the plants under the grow lights in the basement and then plant them in the cold frame in the main garden the first part of April. I use a lot of parsley in the kitchen herb garden by the back door. It looks good as a border plant and is convenient to pick.
Parsley dries well by cutting large bunches and hanging them upside down in a dark place. Some people freeze parsley-but when I tried it, the parsley was soggy and almost black. The dried Parsley works for me.
Did you know that the Monarch butterfly loves to lay its eggs on parsley plants? When the eggs get to the caterpillar stage, they will crawl all over the plants. I put in a lot of extra parsley for them as the Monarch butterfly migrates through this area each year. I plant certain herbs and flowers especially for them. (This does not slow down or harm my parsley crop and I always have more than enough) We have 10,000 times 10,000 huge gorgeous Monarchs for several weeks each summer. They are some of my favorite summer visitors!
Well, now that you know how to do it, I suggest you give growing your own and cooking with herbs a try! Its not that hard and all organic. Some growers use commercially available growth retardant on their plants to make them look bushy and give them a long shelf life at consumer outlets. How much of that stuff do you want in your garden? Do it yourself. It's fun!
This year I will plant a lot of my very favorite herbs, and fewer of my experiments. Since I use a LOT of oregano-both fresh and dried, I will plant a 36 cell flat with oregano seeds. This should produce enough for our use and some extra to sell. By selling my extra plants at a competitive price, I pay for the cost of my garden supplies.
I have learned that oregano takes several weeks to germinate and that it grows slowly. In order to have nice size plants to set out in the garden in May (usually the first week of May) I start the seed in the basement under grow lights in January.
By putting three to four seeds in each cell, I will have bushy plants that look good in the pots. The grow lights keep the baby oregano from becoming spindly. I have tried to start seeds on a window sill, but it has not worked for me.
Oregano plants like full sun. They grow well about l2 inches apart. I always save some of the sprigs of leaves and flowers for my dried flower arrangements. They are pretty, with pink and mauve flowers, and smell good in the house.
Oregano is a perennial plant and should return year after year. However, since we live in Minnesota (zone 4), it is very cold and sometimes they die out over the winter. I have learned to cut back the remaining plants in the fall after the last picking, and mulch heavily with straw. This helps keep them over the winter, even in Minnesota. I mulch about l2 to l4 inches deep over all my herbs and perennial flowers. This would not be necessary in a moderate climate.
Get More Information
Is it any wonder that I like herbs? I have been teaching a classes on HERBS for a long time. I bring lots of samples of of herbs and several tasty dishes to try. Everybody gets to sniff, taste and ask lots of questions. I also talk about where to get herbs, raise them and prepare them for use. The class is called –
"EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT HERBS AND WERE AFRAID TO ASK"
This informative and entertaining class can be brought to your event. Click here for more information.