Herbal Mop

Do you use a “herbal mop?” No, you can’t clean house with this mop, but you can clean your blood. Certain foods and herbs, called “astringent,” used together in cooking, are known to “mop up” free radicals that can lead to disease. Along with fighting disease, they can rev up the flavors in our meals. So why not include an herbal mop in your cooking? The world’s healthiest herbs are probably in your kitchen right now. Most mops are usually first made as a dry mixture, and then mixed with vinegar, oil, lemon juice, and water to make a “mop” which is applied to meats. Others are used with vegetables. Marinades and sauces are also used as mops. While it’s impossible to list all the healthiest herbs, there are a few standouts. You’ll find these herbs are used extensively in world cuisine. Used in a mop, or with meat in …

Don’t Mess with Thanksgiving

The holidays are back once more. But you know that. It seems every magazine printed now until the big feast is giving tips on how to prepare your holiday bird or roast. And if you’re lucky, the myriad of articles will be accompanied by a day-by-day countdown planner. Good cooks everywhere have already started planning their tablescape, festive drinks, special appetizers, and most importantly, the main menu. This is the season for herbs and spices to shine. But for every traditionalist who counts on parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, there are those excited to try something different this year. They scan pages of recipes that call for new flavors to excite the palate and wow their friends and relatives. My mother always warned me not to try a new recipe on an important occasion, least of all Thanksgiving. At the table, she said most would complain and maybe one person …

Fall Flavors

Just in from my evening walk with my dogs and I return, as usual, at least this summer, with remnants of spider webs in my hair, on my clothes, and sometimes even on my face. Webs clinging to the stucco of my house, under the eaves, on the screens, in every corner, even in my herb and flower containers. The palm trees have them; my native grasses sway with them. As intuitive gardeners, we instinctively notice the subtle signs of nature. Since early times, these signs have been giving us a “heads up,” of the season ahead. Whether it be the number of seeds in a persimmon, the thickness of the husks on an ear of corn, how early the monarchs pass through in migration, the absence or abundance of nuts on a tree, the behavior of ants or squirrels, they are all signs of things to come. However, in …

Is The She-Shed The New Still Room?

With Halloween fast approaching, I bet you are expecting to read something of magical herbs and potions. But, not this time. Instead, I want to acquaint you with a special room apart from the main house, reserved only for an adult woman to pursue her interests. A still or apparatus used in distillation was often found there. It is the still room. Dating back to Medieval times, this room was often associated with witchcraft. (That’s all for the Halloween connection.) The Still Room was a very integral part of most great houses and castles in Europe. Some still rooms were very elaborate, and some very basic. Medicines, cosmetics, cleaning products for the home as well as beer and wine were prepared there. Herbs and flowers of all varieties were dried and preserved in the still room. It was here the essential oils of these plants were extracted by distillery and …

Summertime Sameness

There’s a certain sameness to the end of summer. The increased fly population, uninvited to outdoor picnics and patio gatherings; the honey bees circling out-door garbage cans, looking for those sweet, discarded remnants of fermented fruits and veggies; and the fading of summer blooms, as they wither and fall to the ground. As we look forward to summer breezes changing direction, heralding the start of autumn, we know that this summer has not held that comfortable “sameness.” Most of the time we are prepared for each season and know what to expect, but the summer of 2015 has been very unexpected in a number of ways. Erratic weather patterns of extreme heat and humidity, coupled with the on-going drought, have made the summer one loaded with challenges for all gardeners, even the herb gardener! Since most herbs enjoy a Mediterranean climate, they will usually thrive in the hot sun. But …

The Slime Means It’s Herbal

The bulk of okra crop production in California remains in Imperial County, 129 miles from Fallbrook. Though a relatively small amount of acreage there (184 acres) is devoted to this plant, okra remains an important and lucrative crop for California farmers and everyone who loves it. Oh, you don’t care for okra? All you can think about is its gooey or mucilaginous insides? And you always thought it to be strictly an old Southern vegetable mainly found in gumbo. Think again. Mainly grown in India, okra (abelmoschus esculentus) or lady’s fingers is technically a fruit, like string beans, eggplant and squash. In the mallow family, with a gorgeous yellow, cream, pink or white flower, it is related to hibiscus, cotton, cocoa and hollyhock. Valued mainly for its pods and seeds, the entire plant is edible. The “slime,” or mucilage inside the pod is especially medicinal. Okra is high in fiber, …

Mindful?

Over the past year I have lost interest in the “mindful” preoccupation being drilled into almost every aspect of our lives. And if you believe you are not mindful of your actions, countless magazines, newspapers, talk shows on radio and TV and aisles of books at stores and in the library will show you how to turn your mindless life around. The fact is, I am mindful. Always have been. I am a gardener. I am mindful of Nature, and all that it comprises. The environment, the soil, what I grow in that soil as well as what I give back to it have always been paramount in my mind. I know this holds true for most of the people in this world, no matter their profession. We know we are all connected. Being mindful of that fact, we try to make this a better world everyday. Implying that I …

What’s That Got To Do With The Price of. . . ?

Suddenly celery is the star of the produce aisle everywhere. In fact, some grocers have spotlights shining down on overly misted and perfectly stacked bunches of celery. And this display remains as is for days due to prices of $3.49 – $5.99 or more. Some glance at the price, then look at the thin stringy ribs on the sparse bunches and walk away. Without hesitation others blindly pick up two bunches, quickly stash them in the store-provided produce bag, and place them into their cart. Celery has always been there for us. It’s the crunchy, green leafy herb that flavors our salads, soups, stews, stir-fries and more. It was usually a fair price and a vegetable drawer staple. But what happened? It seems back in December “The Celery Juice Challenge,” started by New York Times bestselling author Anthony William, challenged people to drink celery juice daily for a week. This …

Long Day, Herbal Plants

Living where we do, you are most likely aware that 95% of the world’s Easter lilies are grown on the coastal fertile land along the California and Oregon border. If you didn’t know, well, there’s some trivia for your back pocket. You may also know that the Easter lily is native to the Southern islands of Japan. After World War 1, in 1919, a soldier brought a suitcase of hybrid lily to the Southern coast of Oregon. He gave them to lucky gardening friends and neighbors, who quickly planted and continued to raise them. Later, the source of these bulbs was cut off due to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Gradually, as the source and production of this valuable bulb increased, it remained centered here at home along the Pacific West Coast. However, the Easter Lily, with its beauty, folklore, medicinal, magical and Biblical reference is not the lily I …

Oh Deer!

Having spent the past Christmas holidays in Wisconsin where the weather was brutal, I was surprised to return to such cold weather in Fallbrook. A fresh new year has begun, but I must admit a few holiday decorations still adorn various spots in my home. And the cold rainy weather outside finds me still thinking of Santa and deer. In Wisconsin, it was lovely to see graceful beautiful deer quickly leap into the pines as our car approached a few of themgathered along the road. When the setting is a moonlit snowy night, you forget how destructive they can be to a garden and native vegetation, as they also were in my previous home in Virginia. But besides delicious venison steaks, I was surprised to learn deer provide another valuable feature, and it’s highly medicinal. They even carry it with them; on top of their heads. Herbal antlers; who knew? …