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Monday, May 18, 2015

A Fun Event

Hi everyone!

This week DTL Herbs, aka Troy and I, were invited to be the guest speaker at this years Macomb Master Gardeners Associations Annual Banquet. The theme was an old fashion tea party. Troy gave a wonderful presentation on the history of tea and various interesting tea facts. I had created a special blend of herb infused tea just for this group and prepared 150 individual tea bags for all the guests.

Many of the ladies created their own special hat just for the evening. There were so many cute and pretty hats! They also had tables filled with gardening themes prizes.

peopleThe food was amazing!

foodEach table had two door prizes. One was a teapot with an herb planted inside and the other was a teacup planted with an herb as well.

table gifts

And at each persons setting they had a few little gifts. All tea related and so fun! Someone had made the cute tea pouch to hold the teabag I made, there was a package of two herb infused scones and a copy of Tea Time Magazine! What lovely gifts!


It really was a very fun  and lovely event. The banquet committee did an amazing job putting it all together! And Troy and I are so happy to have been part of it! We had a wonderful evening!


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Growing Hot Peppers for Flavor and for Fun.

When you’re Hot, your Hot!

Habanero’s, Ghost Peppers, Cayenne Peppers, Trinidad Scorpions, Hungarian Hots, Jalapenos? From North to South America, from Europe to Australia to India, from Africa to Asia to New Zealand and a lot of small places in between, hot peppers are not only a bright and colorful addition to your garden, but an important part of local cooking, and a necessary ingredient in some of the worlds favorite dishes.

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Who can eat a bowl of chili on a cold autumn afternoon without thinking about the fact that although different cultures spell them Chile’s, or chili’s or chillie’s, they all use these delightfully flavorful fruits to add a little bit of pizazz to what might otherwise just be a bowl of beans, or rice, or cabbage?

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Of course, that bowl of chili may range from the  

barely feel the heat’ 

kind you feed to Grandma, with her tea and crumpets,  to the

Holy-Guacamole! My mouth is on fire, My tongue is convulsing, My eyes are crossed and bulging, My nose is running, I have sweat dripping off my bald spot, I can’t feel my toes or fingertips! I want some more of that!

kind of chili that is the star of any tailgate party, harvest festival, deer camp or other fall or winter gathering.

Have you ever wondered what makes a pepper hot?  Or contemplated why we can rub pepper juice on our skin and feel the heat, but we can’t pour it on our driveway to melt the winter ice?

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Peppers are very clever plants really (OK, not really, but I like to anthropomorphize my plants.)  They have developed defense mechanisms over the years, to help prevent fungus and bacteria and predators from destroying the species.  One of those mechanisms is called capsaicin and it is the compound found in pepper spray (hence the name.) Capsaicin is a colorless, odorless, oily, anti-bacterial, antifungal substance found in hot peppers that plays a really mean trick on our nerve endings.  Interestingly enough, most of the capsaicin in a pepper is found in the seeds, since it is the seeds that carry on the species, so it is the seeds that need to be protected form predators and disease.

Without getting all scientific and technical, capsaicin binds to the nerve receptors and sends a pain signal to our brain.  Our nerve ending believe they are being burned, when in fact no real damage is generally being done. Sometimes, the sensation is so strong, that our bodies defenses kick in, and we see the same swelling, redness, or other reactions that our body will show to sudden heat, even though there is no actual burning that occurs.

Interestingly enough, this is the opposite of the compound found in
MintMentha works the same way on nerve endings, only instead of tricking the nerve into thinking it is  hot, it tricks it into thinking it is cold.  This is why you get a cool sensation in your mouth when you eat peppermint, and why mentholated rub makes you feel cold when you rub it on your chest.

A few other things to note about capsaicin.  It is believed to not only raise metabolism, but also to raise digestive metabolism, so you burn calories faster, but you also absorb less, because your body processes food faster.
Also, studies have shown that starting your meal with an appetizer high in capsaicin can cause you to eat less in that meal, so hot peppers can be a very valuable addition to healthy eating when weight control is an issue.
When you cook, you may wonder,  how do you know what type of peppers to add, and how many of them to use, to get it just the way you like it, just hot enough, but not too hot?
In 1912, an American pharmacist, Wilbur Scoville, developed what he called the Scoville Organoleptic Test (Organoleptic is a fancy word for a test that uses our sensory organs)  to measure the amount of heat in peppers.
Scoville extracted the heat components (capsiniods) from peppers and then diluted them in sugar water.  Using a panel of five tasters, he would keep adding the pepper compounds a little at a time, until at least three of the panel members could detect the heat.  Then a number was assigned to the peppers, based on that dilution.
In essence, for jalapeno peppers, which register roughly 3000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units) heat can be detected when the ratio is one drop of pepper extract to 3000 drops of sugar water. (approximately 2/3 c).  If you want to barely register heat, add one drop of pure jalapeno juice for every 2/3 c of chili.

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The Scoville test was used as the primary method of rating peppers for years, despite the obvious weaknesses.  It depended on human testers, so it was subjective, humans all vary, as does their sensitivity.  Moreover, who could work eight hours a day as a pepper tester for very many years without developing a certain immunity or resistance? Many different scientific scales and methods have been developed over the years to replace the Scoville Test, but ironically, we still use SHU’s to describe the heat in a pepper.  Modern equipment allows us to analyze and determine the exact amount and concentration of capsinoids in a pepper, but once we know that the number is then converted into a SHU number for comparison.

So, as we discuss Hot Peppers, I will refer to them in terms of SHU’s and now you, as the learned reader of this blog will know exactly what I am talking about.

But first some growing tips:

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Many people have planted their gardens, thinking they were planting hot banana peppers, sweet banana peppers, jalapenos, green peppers, sweet cherry peppers and habaneros, only to discover that all of their peppers were hot peppers.  This often leads to someone who believes that since their two peppers cross pollinated, then their tomatoes must be cross pollinating and that is why they grew funny, or their cucumbers crossed with their squash and that is why they have strange shaped cucurbits.

Again, without getting all nerdy-technical, let me assure you that isn’t what happens. When two varieties cross pollinate,  the fruits they produce this year will be the fruit of the parent plant, and it is the seeds that they produce which will, if planted next year, produce a different variety of fruits.  So why does it happen with peppers?  Remember, most of the capsaicin is carried in the seeds, so while the green peppers you grow this year may be sweet bell peppers, the seeds inside could be a cross between a bell pepper and a Habanero.  So the results of the cross pollination effect this years crop.
Lesson learned?  Plant your hot peppers and your sweet peppers as far away from each other as is practical in the space you have to work with.

There are many varieties available from nurseries, but it is more fun, more challenging and more rewarding to grow your own from seed.  Many of the hottest peppers
DTL Herbs grew in 2014 took 3-6 weeks to germinate, so allow yourself plenty of time.
Your plants will do best if the soil temperature is at least 60 degrees before transplanting them outdoors, this generally occurs two to three weeks after the last frost (of course, sunshine, water and air temperatures will all impact this, so predicting soil temperature is still not an exact science)

Plant your pepper plants far enough apart that they have room to grow and produce, and they don’t fight each other for water and nutrients.  Hot peppers require less space than sweet peppers, but should still be spaced no closer than 12” apart for maximum yield. Overcrowding can lead to less and smaller fruits.

Hot peppers have very few natural predators, as ground hot peppers are often used to deter pests from other plants, but be alert for aphids, cutworms  rabbits, deer or other pests that may eat the plants before fruiting begins.

Even, consistent watering leads to a better tasting pepper, while dry spells, interspersed with irregular water can lead to woody or bitter peppers

Pepper, and particularly hot pepper or chili flakes, is a spice rather than an herb, because it comes from the fruits and seeds of the plant rather than the leaves.  But as we have expanded our product line and started growing other things we have seen more and more demand for a variety of hot peppers, so we grew several varieties this year and plan to grow even more in future years.

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Some of the most popular this year were the ones one each end of the SHU scale.  This is a quick overview of the peppers we sold at the farmers markets in 2014.

Now that you know more than you ever dreamed you would want to know about hot peppers, the final question everyone asks is “How do I use them?” Jalapenos are easy, you just slice, dice, chop, mince or cut them up into your food.

Or you make a quick poppers by slicing them from stem to tip, removing the seeds, mixing cream cheese, or chorizo, with a little bit of shredded cheddar, stuffing them and roasting them.  Personally, I like to wrap a strip of bacon around them before I bake them for 45-60 minutes at 350°

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When we get to some of the more exotic peppers, people become intimidated.  More than once I have seen someone actually afraid to touch some of the peppers on our table at a market.  The media hype, particularly around peppers like the ghost pepper, (Bhut Jolokia), has people so afraid of them that they will never get to explore the wonderful flavor the peppers have and that is truly a shame.

For those who are not ready to cook with the fresh peppers, they can still be dried very easily, and once dried and crushed, can be added to food in small amounts, so as not to overwhelm the timid palette.


When drying peppers, we have found it useful to slit them from stem to tip with a sharp boning knife or fillet knife, to allow moisture to escape and prevent mold inside the pepper.  These ghosts and cayennes are all ready to be dried and packaged.

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Once dried, peppers can be crushed or ground and sprinkled on food,  or added whole to slow cooker meals. 

For a little kick in your next pot of chili, break off about half of a dried ghost pepper, and put it in a saucepan with 2 cups of tomato juice.  Allow it to simmer all day long, while your chili cooks, then, take out the pepper and add the pepper infused tomato juice to the chili pot.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Inaugural Harvest Celebration at Eastern Market

I had the amazing opportunity Thursday evening to be among the  200 people  invited to attend the Inaugural Harvest Celebration at Eastern Market.

A benefit for Detroit's Eastern Market, a non profit, six block, public market that has been working to bring farm fresh food to the people of Michigan for over 120 years, the Oct 16 event was billed as a celebration of the richness and vibrancy of the Market, to feature  exceptional food and entertainment showcasing this Detroit landmark.

It was said that dinner would be an “”epicurean exuberant farm-to-table feast” with “exquisite cuisine, appetizers and desserts will be prepared by Michigan’s newest and most talented local food artisans.” paired with Michigan wines.

I must say, the event lived up to the billing.  From the servers who met me at the door with drinks and trays of hors d’oeuvres, to the string ensemble from Detroit Symphony Orchestra, who played during our dessert, I was temporarily transported, from the world of  farming, to a magical world of fantasy and luxury.

hors doeuvres

I made sure, as the trays of hors d’oeuvres circulated, to limit myself to one of each type, so as to save room for dinner.  It wasn’t easy, particularly with the Caribbean Baked Wings, The Apple Chutney Crustini, or the Tomato and Basil sliders. (They had other sliders, but the Tomato and Basil were the best.)

Along with are business leaders, and government officials, several local celebrities were there. Cynthia and Edsel Ford made an appearance early in the evening,  and although I would not previously have known him by sight, everyone knows the voice of Paul W. Smith of WJR who was the Master of Ceremonies.   It was exciting to “bump shoulders” with some of the people who make things happen in Southeast Michigan.

A film shown during dinner highlighted two of the projects Eastern Market has focused on this year.  Farm Stand, a series of pop-up markets, has allowed local grown produce to be introduced to inner city neighborhoods, and Kitchen Connect a program that provides commercially licensed ‘incubator’ kitchen space for entrepreneurs.

The newly refurbished section of Shed 5 at Eastern Market features a sparkling new community kitchen, made possible in part by a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

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A “Farm to Fork” dinner, prepared by some amazing chefs, using ingredients sourced from Michigan farms was a highlight of the evening.  (And I have to admit, it was rewarding to be able to explain to the people at our table what a Delicata was, how it was grown, what they looked like and why it made such good soup.)


Sometimes it is easy to get discouraged. To think that as a farmer, perhaps I don’t belong with the upper echelons of society.  I think maybe some people hear the title farmer and attach subtitles like redneck, bumpkin or hillbilly. So it was encouraging to be there, among a group of some of the most influential people in the region, and know that I could hold my head up and be proud to be a farmer.

Without farmers, the entire event would have never come to pass.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Saving Seeds

Hi everyone!

We are coming to the end of the farming season now at DTL Herbs Farm. It was an interesting season as well as a learning season for our first year actually having a farm to work with.

Besides planting, harvesting and selling our produce this year, we also made sure to do a lot of seed saving. We are specializing in all heirloom veggies (and hopefully fruit in the coming years) so, we made sure to harvest as many seeds as possible. This helps consistency from year to year.


Our dining room became seed saving central this past season. I think I might actually see our table in the near future! LOL

Did you know that there are Seed Banks all over the world? Some of the world’s largest Seed Vaults are right here in the United States!


The reasons for storing seeds may be varied. In the case of food crops, many useful plants that were developed over centuries are now no longer used for commercial agricultural production and are becoming rare. Storing seeds also guards against catastrophic events like natural disasters, outbreaks of disease, or war. Unlike seed libraries or seed swaps that encourage frequent reuse and sharing of seeds, seed banks are not typically open to the public.

Source: Wikipedia


Of course, this too has taken up the table since Spring! The dehydrator. I don’t think we have had a single day in about 3 months that this thing wasn’t running. Honest! We definitely need to get several more for next year.


We have dried a lot of various veggies this year. But, without a doubt the biggest time has been concentrated at drying our hot peppers. We have grown several of the world’s hottest peppers this season and are developing a new product. Our customers at DTL Herbs have been asking us for some hot and spicy mixes. We listened and dedicated a lot of time this year to grow these peppers in order to fill this need.

Oh, and in case you are wondering what those “sticks” are in the above picture, they are dill stems. Did you know they are filled with flavor as well as the leaves? Yup, I use them to flavor my oils and vinegars for here at home. They don’t look as pretty so, I don’t use them for products. but, for home use, they are just fine.

Do you save your seeds?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Visiting an Apple Orchard

Hello everyone!

This is my favorite time of the year, Autumn! And one of our favorite activities is a visit to an apple orchard. We stopped by Spicer Orchards a couple of weeks ago and had a great time walking around and smelling all the amazing scents!

ap DTL 1


At this point we could smell the fresh donuts being made. Oh, is there a better smell that fresh fried donuts? I can’t think of one!

ap dtl 2

Okay, so we made a beeline straight to the donuts! Might as well get that over with.


Having had our immediate donut fix, we could enjoy looking around.


All the gorgeous fresh fruit!


I sneaked into the apple cider making room and took a picture! Shhh!

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Even a wonderful little café and wine tasting room!

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Loved this sign! LOL


Definitely Fall!


They had a beautiful outdoor sitting area where you could enjoy apple cider and fresh donuts!


One view of the orchards.


The trees were loaded with fresh ripe apples!

Do you like to head out for a day at a local apple orchard? If so, where is your favorite place to go?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Kicking Off the Autumn Season


One of our Farming friends is Mums the Word. A local Mum farm.


Taking a trip to check out the Fall harvest is something we look forward to every year.

DTL Herbs

Seeing the fields with beautiful mums it such a treat! Every color you can imagine a mum coming in, they are grown here!

DTL Herbs

We like to have some of these beauties for our customers and this is the only farm we would ever think to buy from! Carol has us go out in the field and pick the ones we want to be potted up.

DTL Herbs

Just like our herbs and produce, nothing but the freshest, best quality and locally grown will do!

DTL Herbs

We don’t just buy for our customers, all of the mums that are around our home come from Carol at Mums the Word. I have had the best results with Carol’s mums. Every year they come back beautifully!

DTL herbs

This is such a fun place to visit. We definitely recommend taking a trip out to New Boston, MI and enjoy all the Autumn splendor!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Make a Simple Compost Bin

Hi everyone!

One of the things we were happy to get into place at the farm is compost bin areas. We make our compost completely organically and with only vegetation (no animal products).

Cost and time are always an issue for us. Fortunately making a compost bin doesn’t require either!

pallet compost bin

We grabbed a few pieces of lumber that we got off of Craiglists for free (just had to load it up) and 5 pallets from the pallet pile at the farm. Craigslist is a good place to find free local pallets. They are always listed for free if you pick them up.


Simply stand the pallets on ends and start nailing the extra boards to the top. You are just joining them together. You don’t need to join them on the bottom if you don’t want. We didn’t.


Although ours is up against a hoop house, it is still free standing. Nothing was nailed into the end of the hoop house. And as you can see, we aren’t going for beauty here. The beauty lies in the compost! LOL


This is so simple, you don’t even need to worry about doing any measuring. Nothing has to be perfect. Pallets rarely are. One side is used for the fresh “to be broke down vegetation” and once it does, it gets moved to the other side.


This whole compost unit could be lifted and moved somewhere else if we wanted.

We are making several more of these compost stations in other areas at the farm. Keeping compost bins close to where you farm/garden is ideal. Less work and you are more inclined to use them.


Start dumping in your weeds and vegetable/fruit scraps. I am always so amazed when we drive down local streets on trash day and see the bags of yard trimmings and what nots that you have to bag up separate and put out for the trash. And quite often you have to pay for a certain amount of extra bags!


compost bin

Do you compost? If so, what is your method?