SIGHTS OF THE SEASON

For many, the joy of the holiday season is in the decorations. Whether you’re the one decorating or simply enjoying them, you can’t miss the appearance of this timely native herbal stunner. The brilliant red berries, or pomes, pop with color in contrast to its green leathery leaves. Some mistake it for Holly (Ilex); it is not. Others may think it’s Pyracantha (Firethorn.) Wrong; no thorns. It goes by many names, like Christmas berry, or California Holly. Legend has it that the name, Hollywood, shortened from Hollywoodland, was so named because this bush profusely dots the slopes and hillsides of Los Angeles. It’s also widely evident in the California Santa Monica Mountains, Griffith Park, chaparral, oak woodlands, hill bottoms, and canyons. You may have lived in California for years and just called it the red berry bush, but it’s “Toyon,” pronounced “Toyown.” The name is the Spanish transliteration of its original name “Tottcon,” named by the …

GUESS WHAT’S COMING TO DINNER?

As you gather together with friends and family this year, undoubtedly buttered corn will quietly make its way to your Thanksgiving table. . . again. But imagine this ordinary yellow or white veggie served in a completely different way. What if it looked nothing like corn but was corn, only transformed into a highly-prized delicacy originally from Central America. Would you try it? I did. In a trendy new restaurant in Northern California, I ordered the Mexican truffle quesadillas. (Hey, it was my birthday!) I knew I would be eating “cornsmut,” or “Huitlacoche,” as it’s well known in Mexico. I’ve seen a good deal of corn smut while growing up in the Midwest, but never thought to eat it. I really couldn’t even look at it very long. When my love of herbs led me to learn about mushrooms and fungus, I also learned of their many medicinal benefits. I have eaten many varieties of mushrooms and …

Herb A-peel

We’ve made it. We have successfully crossed through the intersection of summer and into fall. So fasten your seatbelts as we head into the holidays! Up ahead, the first signpost reads “Halloween.” We’ll be there before you know it. Now’s the time to enjoy Fall’s bounty of aromas and flavors with herbs! That is if the different viruses and maladies of the world will allow it. The mind naturally conjures up an emoji of a carved, smiling pumpkin at the mention of Halloween. Being the quintessential October garden herb, after all, recipes for using pumpkin abound. But one special herb that is available year-round happens to be red. It’s the true fall harvest herb. It’s an apple! This year more than ever before, apples will take precedence in recipes and drinks of all kinds, decorations too. Maybe you never think of our red friend as being herbal. But in defense, apples are …

NATURAL INTEL

In attending a recent outdoor garden design workshop, I came away with more than just another specialized way to arrange herbs in a garden. No, I learned so much more. I just had to share. . . I listened as two horticulture instructors explained that in order to obtain the most productive and energy-efficient herb garden, the best design is a spiral herb garden. Most gardens of this type usually measure six feet wide and three feet tall. But the beauty of a spiral garden is that it can also be scaled down to suit smaller growing spaces. Maximizing space, herbs can be planted horizontally and vertically. Herbs needing different light levels and moisture conditions can all be planted together. Full-sun herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, or lavender would be planted at the very top, with sage, basil, and cilantro in the middle and possibly parsley, chives, or mint at the bottom. Plants arranged in a spiral not …

ABscent

Among Covid-19’s many insidious trademarks is the possible sudden loss of your sense of taste and smell. One study done last June involving almost 9,000 Covid pa- tients, showed that over 41% were affected in this way. Most had some sort of olfac- tory dysfunction, while 18% suffered total loss of smell, called anosmia. While not fully understood, Science does know that the Coronavirus infects the sustentacular cells that support neurons in the nose. To make matters worse, people can also lose their sense of taste along with their ability to detect tongue sensations such as spiciness. This is chemically triggered, and is known as chemesthesis. Taste and chemesthe- sis are very different from our sense of smell. But, all three perform together to bring us the flavor in our foods and beverages. Whether a loss of smell by itself, or smell, taste and chemesthesis happen together, it’s a traumatic …

HERBS ARE TRENDING

What’s trending this year? Herbs are. Our world is clearly fo-cused on Immune health and it’s one of the most important top-ics today. Plant medicine has blended with mainstream medicine, and the myriad of new herbal products on the market proves it. Herbs are no longer associated with “hippies,” or mainly identi-fied with marijuana. One example is the explosion of the supple-ment industry. Vitamins and minerals such as B, C, D, A, E and zinc, calcium and magnesium combine with herbs such as mush-room, elderberry, ivy leaf, turmeric, plantago, cranberry and ba-copa for added immune protection. Read the ingredients closely and you may even find borage, echinacea, saffron, fennel, ginger and horehound listed. Whichever form you prefer (capsules, gummies or soft gels), herbs are there. The makers of Vicks products have a special line of children’s botanicals. They are drug-free multi-care cough syr-ups, containing mallow root, elderberry and ivy leaf. …

SING A SONG

Looking back on what I can only describe as an unexpected, topsy-turvy year, 2021 surely will put things right. And of all things suggested to help cope with 2020’s chaos, such as prayer, meditation, nature, aromatherapy, exercise, and sunbathing, music was most helpful to me. Whether listening to the radio, old CDs, or simply bursting out with a song in my home or garden, music is my strategy to manage my stress and anxiety. As for my singing in the garden (when no one can hear,), I was excited to read some studies that claim music can tell a lot about gardeners. The music you enjoy can predict the type of plants you will include in your garden. If you play your preferred music while gardening, this will also predict how well your plants grow. Call it “Musical Garden Personalization.” If you love the “oldies” or nostalgic music, you will …

No Holiday Reindeer On This Roof

In Downtown Fallbrook, facing Mission Road, many pass a special green roof-top garden, and hardly ever take notice. This eco-roof belongs to everyone and it’s planted atop the town’s Library! It’s actually the first ever innovative and award-winning rooftop garden constructed in the San Diego Library system! The Fallbrook Woman’s Club, originally named The Saturday Afternoon Club, helped to establish the San Diego branch Fallbrook Library in 1913. It opened with only 250 books and occupied a small corner of Hardy’s Drugstore. The public was eager to withdraw books and did so in amazing numbers. There was truly a need for a library. Since then, the Library has moved a total of eight times and has undergone many changes, including an arson fire in 1985 that completely destroyed the building and its contents. The present day location boasts a state-of-the-art building. The architect designer described it as a modern “Fallbrook …

CATTAILS ON THE FALL MENU?

Pandemics, politics, protests, and then there’s ponds. Making it a point each day to pass a certain pond to pause and reflect seems to drive all negativity from the other P-words away. The view there changes daily. The color of the water, the wildlife it brings, and the beautiful plants growing in and around its perimeter are new with each visit. This may be a strange way of introducing you to one certain swordlike perennial plant that can be found there. But I have to set the scene. Right? It’s the cattail. Typha latifolia, also known as bulrush, reedmace, and corndog grass, is spread by rhizomes underwater and is not actually a true grass. Each of the tall slender leaves wraps around the main stem underwater or under the soil. They too spread from the rhizomes. Found in ponds or marshes, it’s considered an herbal plant because every part is …

Opportunity In Disguise

“Be careful what you wish for.” You might say my wish for more time to explore the things I love, minus the pandemic was granted. Although my heart goes out to those affected by the virus in any way, time to explore the many subjects associated with herbs has been plentiful. I have read books, articles, scientific papers, emails, and newsletters, gone on exciting virtual garden tours and herb walks, listened to podcasts, attended numerous webinars, zoom classes, and club meetings to my heart’s content. Too much to share in one newsletter contribution, I hope some of what I write may interest you. I’ll begin with tea. Tea recipes flooded my inbox daily. Teas for this or that, all to either soothe or lift your spirits during confinement. I found one particular tea, named the “last good nerve tea,” especially good hot or cold. Using garden herbs such as chamomile …