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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Greenhouse News - Seedlings

We had just started our partnership with Roosevelt High School (click here for details), and worked with them for a few days when it was time for spring break.

The kids get time off, but somebody still has to water the plants.

So the advisor and I have been making sure that everything got lots of TLC.

The Horseradish is off to a great start.

The Thyme and Marjoram were the first ones to sprout and they are really looking good.

The Dill, Oregano, Salad Burnet, Savory, and Bunching Onions, have all sprouted, and many of the edible flowers we planted are showing a few sprouts per tray.

By next week, when the kids come back to school, there should be lots and lots of seedlings for them study.

We are very excited about this partnership and, because we want to share our progress with everyone we can, this post will be linked to Fertilizer Friday, a blog party where garden enthusiasts share the happenings from their gardens.

Click here, so you can visit Fertilizer Friday for tips, ideas, suggestions and pictures from gardens and gardeners around the world.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Business Partnership

We have recently entered into a partnership with Roosevelt High School, in Wyandotte MI.

Roosevelt has an amazing Agriscience program, dedicated to helping students learn about careers and a future in agriculture.

A recent article about the program had this to say:

The program [incorporates] FFA and supervised agricultural experiences, with a strong emphasis on landscaping, floriculture and greenhouse activities...

...Students put in as much effort outside the classroom as they do at their desks, working on the school's natural turf athletic fields, maintaining two working greenhouses and an in-house floral shop, and marketing their own poinsettias and other holiday foliage products.

Students raise and merchandise annuals and perennials for a spring sale and for use in RHS school gardens. In addition to their two working greenhouses, Roosevelt ag students also maintain city gardens containing ornamental and edible plants, process their own tomato crop as part of Campbell Soup's national gardening promotion effort, and raise their own flock of chickens to compete in the FFA broiler contest.

Along the way, they learn the importance of sound recordkeeping practices and business skills; promote proper pet care and host pet adoption days; coordinate activities with local garden clubs; and interact with public officials on the school board, Wyandotte Downtown Development Authority and city council.

Roosevelt's FFA program has grown into a regional powerhouse, currently boasting more than 120 students and routinely earning chapter and individual proficiency awards. RHS students have attended every state FFA convention for the past five years and gone on to the national FFA convention four times.

I met the advisor for this program at the farmers market last year, and as we talked, we realized that by adding herbs to the repertoire of plants the students grew and understood, we could enhance their program while helping to keep herbology, which seems like a dying craft, alive.

So we began recently, working with a small group of students, introducing them to herbs and working with them in the greenhouse to plant a wide variety of seeds.

In two days, this week, we were able to plant seed for just over 1250 herbs plants.

We planted many of the standard herbs commonly grown by beginners, as well as a few of the more unusual herbs.

Some of these plants will end up in the school gardens, some will end up being sold, and some will be used strictly to grow seed for next year's gardens.

As the year progresses we hope to be able to teach the students how to prune, and care for their plants, how to harvest herbs, and how to dry, preserve and use the herbs that they grow.

This is an exciting partnership for us and we are looking forward to a long term relationship with the high school.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Unusual Herb Presentation.

On Tuesday evening I gave a presentation for the Monroe Herb Study Group, at the library in Frenchtown MI.

The presentations I have done so far this year were all aimed at getting basic information to beginning herb gardeners, to help them start an herb garden.

I usually discuss the basics of herb history and soil preparation, and then give some tips on herb selection. I end with some specific information and tips on several of the most common herbs grown by beginners.

After I had agreed to do this presentation, I got an email from one of the officers of the group, pointing out that most of the members of this group were experienced herb growers, and I may want to gear my presentation toward advanced topics rather than novice herb information.

So I picked some of the more unusual herbs to talk about. As the group members arrived, they saw this picture projected on the screen:

I gave them each a blank answer sheet so they could fill in the ones that they knew.

Most of the people there were able to identify at least a few of them. want to play along?

Take a pencil and paper and see how many of them you can name.

OK, times up.

Here is a brief recap of eight unusual or uncommon herbs that the experienced herb gardener may want to consider adding to their garden.

Dysphania ambrosioides

Other Names: Jesuit's tea, Skunkweed, Mexican Tea, Wormseed,
Pigweed, West Indian Goosefoot, Hedge Mustard, Jerusalem Parsley

Used in Mexican cuisine for thousands of years dating back to the Aztecs who used it for cooking as well as for medicinal purposes. Considered by many to be essential in any authentic Mexican dish. The taste is strong, slightly bitter, with hints of lemon or citrus.

It also known as wormseed because of it's effects on preventing worms in animals. It is often added to animal feed for this reason.

Epazote is poisonous in large quantities, and the pure concentrated oil is an explosive.

When cooked with beans, it can help relieve gas. (This is called a carminative)

The smell has been described as a combination between kerosene and dirty socks. The word epazote comes from the Aztec words 'epatl' and 'tzotl' meaning smelly animal.

Although it is not the same, Savory can be substituted for Epazote in many recipes. The flavor will be different but they both go well with similar foods, and they are both carminatives.

A self seeding annual, it prefers full sun, dry but not arid, neutral light soil, and can grow as tall as 36” tall.

Tea Berry
Gaultheria procumbens

Other Names: Eastern Teaberry, Checkerberry, Boxberry, or American Wintergreen, Canada Tea, deerberry, ground berry, hillberry, mountain tea, spiceberry

Grows in acid soil, In full sun to full shade,, although it generally produces fruit only in sunnier areas

Leaves and fruits (berries) have a clean minty flavor used in teas and candies. Inspired the name of Clark’s Teaberry chewing gum.

Native Americans brewed a tea from the leaves to treat, headache, fever, sore throat and various aches and pains. During the American Revolution, wintergreen leaves were used as a substitute for tea, which was scarce.

Wintergreen oil is made almost exclusively of methyl salicylate, a precursor to common aspirin. People with allergies to aspirin should not use wintergreen oil.

In the spring, Wintergreen leaves are bronze-colored, tender, and edible. They toughen in the summer, turning a dark green, and emit the familiar wintergreen aroma when broken. Wintergreen is a nice autumn ornamental, as its leaves become red or purple in colder regions.

The leaves will have a much stronger flavor if allowed to ferment for 24-72 hours before using.

Red Shiso
Perilla frutescens
Other Names: purple mint, Japanese basil, or wild coleus Beefsteak plant

Used in Japan to make tempura, and to color pickled plums. Its purple-red leaves add a splash of color to the herb garden.

An attractive annual, Shiso aggressively self-sows.

Use fresh in salads, soups, and as a garnish for fish

In the summer of 2009, Pepsi Japan released a new seasonal flavored beverage, Pepsi Shiso.

Perilla oil has a rich taste and scent slightly resembling dark Sesame Oil. Perilla seed can be cooked with meals, roasted, crushed to intensify its taste and/or mixed with sesame and salt.

The pure oil, while toxic to some animals, is a source of Omega 3 fatty acid.

Cuban Oregano
Plectranthus amboinicus

Other Names: Spanish thyme, Indian borage, Mexican thyme, Mexican mint, in Cuba, interestingly enough, it is known as French Oregano.

A succulent perennial herb it can reach up 10 20 inches in height with fleshy leaves in opposite pairs. It occasionally produces pale violet flowers.

Cuban Oregano is neither Cuban, nor Oregano. It is actually of Middle Eastern Origin, most likely from India and it is actually more closely related to Coleus than it is Oregano.

This is a sprawling herb that will take up a lot of room indoors, but is also a tender herb, very sensitive to the cold, so in Michigan, it will need to be taken inside in the winter..

Although not grown for its flowers, occasionally it will produce spikes of a small purple flower in the fall.

It is sometimes used as a substitute for Oregano, and if you find a food that is labeled "Oregano Flavored" odds are that this is the plant that was used.

It can be used as a substitute for sage in many recipes, is widely used in stuffing and has a flavor somewhere between Oregano and Thyme, with just a hint of sage.

Tanacetum balsamita

Other Names: scented salvia, farmers' salvia, balm leaf, fragrant leaf, bible leaf

Costmary is an "old-fashioned" herb which gardeners are beginning to re-discover. In the Victorian era, nearly every kitchen gardener grew this sweetly scented plant

A flowering perennial, Costmary should be renewed by division every few years, since the old plant becomes bare at the center. Costmary blooms from late summer until long into the fall. The daisy-like flowers are small and yellow and, like the leaves, have an exquisite fragrance.

Costmary obtained the name 'Bible Leaf' when sermons were unendurably long. A leaf was placed between the pages of the Bible; when fatigued it was taken up and sniffed in an effort to keep one awake. It still makes a fragrant and fun bookmark and has the added benefit of repelling insects, especially the small ones that like to feed on paper.

Has a mint like flavor and smell with a hint of citrus.

This herb loves light and sunshine. Plants are quite hardy and survive cold winters.

Salad Burnet
Sanguisorba minor

Other Names: Salad burnet, Garden burnet, Small burnet, Pimpinela (not to be confused with Pimpinela anisum)

An herbaceous perennial, it grows from up to 20“ tall and the same distance across.

It is used as an ingredient in both salads and dressings, having a flavor described as "light cucumber". Typically, the youngest leaves are used, as they tend to become bitter as they age.

Brought to the New World by the first English Colonists, it was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson and Francis Bacon.

In summer the plant produces tiny red blossoms on green flower globes and these can be used as an attractive garnish. They are edible, but lack flavor.

It will self seed if the flowers are not cut, but cutting the flowers will produce a fresh crop of tender leaves.

Sanguisorba translates literally at “drink up blood”. This plant was used medicinally in Elizabethan times to treat internal bleeding. Knowing this soldiers would drink it in tea or wine before going into battle.

Pimpinella anisum

Other Names: Anis, Aniseed,, Anisi Fructus, Pinella, Shatpushpa, Sweet Cumin.

An herbaceous flowering annual member of the carrot family, known for its’ flavor which is also found in licorice, fennel and tarragon.

Sow directly into the ground or transplant very early, established plants do not transplant well.

Hippocrates recommended it for coughs, and the Roman scholar Pliny used it as a breath freshener.

Anise seed will germinate more rapidly if sown near coriander. It has been shown that the presence of coriander improves the actual seed formation of the anise plant.

The leaves are used in salads or as a garnish and dried for teas and in eggs, fruit, cheese, pastries, cakes, and cookies

The delicate white flowers are a favorite of honeybees.

Symphytum officinale

Other Names: Knitbone, Ass Ear, Black Root, Blackwort, Bruisewort, Consolidae Radix, Consound, Consuelda, Gum Plant, Healing Herb, Knitback, Salsify, Slippery Root, Wallwort

Known for centuries as the Miracle Herb because it was a favorite of herbal practicioners and healers.

Has a deep tap root that will go as deep as six feet into the ground to draw out minerals and nutrients, especially potassium.

Plant it where you want it, because it will be very hard to move it once established.

The leaves have concentrated potassium and nitrogen, but very little carbon, so they decompose very rapidly. This makes them a natural compost plant and an excellent source of organic fertilizer.

The plant is very tolerant and grows in almost any site except shallow or dry chalky soil. It does not do well in containers.

The leaves and roots contain allantoin, an anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory compound found in medicated creams and lotions shown to stimulate and accelerate cell proliferation.

Baked Potato Salad

Since chives are in season and we are running crazy with them, I try to use them in a lot of recipes. Last year I found a recipe for "Baked Potato Salad". And I made it several times because it is so easy and so yummy and not to mention, very inexpensive!

Here's a picture of the ingredients:

How easy and simple are those ingredients!

(I so rarely measure anything so, I hope I can guesstimate it for you)

I had all these little Yukon Gold potatoes that had bad spots so, that is why I thought I would use them up to make this dish.

1 cup of sour cream. Add more if you like it really creamy.

about 1/2 C chopped chives

Unfortunately our dill is still too little to chop, so I am using a half of a teaspoon of dried dill that we dried last year. I way prefer the fresh, but oh well.

Remember, when using dried herbs use the 1:3 ratio.
1t dried herbs = 3t (1T) Fresh herbs.

salt and pepper to taste

Boil potatoes. Let cool (you can leave the skins on if your like potato skins). Slice cooled potatoes into about 1/2 inch slices. In a separate bowl, I toss in the rest of the ingredients and stir everything up. Then I gently toss the potatoes with the dressing (you don't want potato mush LOL). Put in fridge for a bit (let the flavors come out). Serve!

I have added crumbled cooked bacon and/or shredded cheddar cheese to this before as well and that is also very tasty. And I have used Ranch dressing instead of sour cream. I liked that, but I prefer the real baked potato flavor that straight sour cream gives better

Originally posted at The Thrifty Groove

Friday, April 8, 2011

Herbed Butter

One of my favorite things to do with our herbs is to make herbed butters. It is the easiest things to make and it gives butter a special touch.

You can use any herbs that you like. Fresh or dried will work. Play around with combining flavors.

I have made four different herbed butters for you today. These are the most popular ones I make.

Rosemary, Dill, Mint and Oregano.

My rule of thumb for ratio of herb to butter is simple:

1/4 teaspoon dried herb & 2 teaspoons of softened butter.

1 teaspoon crushed fresh herbs & 2 teaspoons of softened butter.

recipes 028recipes 030Just cream the herb and butter together.

recipes 029   Refrigerate for at least 4 hours so the flavors really meld into the butter. When I make herbed butters I tend to play with the butter and put them into fun molds. It is a fun way to present butter at a party or just a dinner get together. it is that extra little wow factor.

I purchased two of these deviled egg carriers at a thrift store. They did not have the lids so they were only .49 cents. I saw them and thought they would be so cute for molded butter pats for Easter. I just filled in the eggs and put in the fridge.

recipes 031These ended up not coming out of the container as easily as I had hoped. If I were having a dinner party, I would have taken time to carefully smooth them out with my finger so they were much prettier.

 recipes 032 Since I have 4 different flavors of herbed butter here, I use two of my little topiary cardholders and put two signs with the flavor in each (front and back).

recipes 033You can see some of them cracked and some just did not have smooth edges. That is a easy fix. Like I said, the warmth of your fingers works the best.

recipes 035It is so nice to add little extra details like this. And it is fun to treat your family and friends to different flavored butter. As the hostess, it just shows that you enjoy going a little bit above and beyond for the people you care about.

recipes 036   Yummy on fresh pretzel rolls!

recipes 039 There are so many variations you can try. Garlic butter is probably our number 1 favorite here. I also like to make a lemon.lime cracked pepper butter. So, just try some flavors you normally enjoy.