2012 Herb of the Year – ROSE

The International Herb Association celebrates the Rose (Rosa species) as 2012 Herb of the Year!

Family: Rosaceae
Growth Form: Shrubs 2 to 30 feet (61 cm to 9 m)
Hardiness: Many routinely hardy to Zone 6
Light: Full sun
Water: Moist but not constantly wet
Soil: Well-drained garden loam
Propagation: Cuttings or grafts
Culinary use: Salads, desserts, tea
Craft use: Potpourri, sachets, topiary form
Landscape use: Shrubbery or rear of herb border

Rose Culture: Roses perform best in a garden location that provides full sun and good air circulation to help reduce disease and insects. Most roses do best in deep, fertile, moist but well-drained soils with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. The choice of species or cultivar (as well as your climate) will dictate spacing between plantings. If rooting of the scion is desired, plant the bud union about 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) below the soil level; otherwise, be sure that the bud union sets above the soil level. Some gardeners prefer fall-planting, but in Zone 7 and north, some winters will be so cold that the fall-planted roses will not survive.

Do not fertilize newly planted roses; wait four to six weeks for the plants to become established. Roses are heavy feeders and require yearly feedings of about a cupful of 5-10-5 fertilizer per established rose bush sprinkled in a circle around the base, supplemented with monthly feedings of fish emulsion, manure tea, or other organic sources of nutrients for maximum growth. Robust roses may require additional fertilizer and is best to consult with your local nursery. Do not expect typical blossoms of a species or cultivar until the second year after planting. The blooms of the first year are smaller and sparser than are typical.

DIY Projects with Roses:

Rose Potpourri – First, collect petals from roses as the flower reaches fully open maturity, but before it turns brown. Air dry them until crisp on a screen, cookie sheet or any flat surface. Red roses, when dried, turn a rich burgundy color and look lovely in a ginger jar, candy dish or antique canister. For each quart of petals you collect, add 1 tablespoon fixative such as dry lavender, oak moss, sandalwood or orris root (available at many craft stores).

 

Next, add your favorite complementary spice. Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, dried citrus peel and vanilla beans all make excellent choices. Last, add a few drops of essential oil or your favorite perfume. Seal the potpourri mixture in a jar (out of direct sunlight) and allow it to mellow for approximately 2 weeks. Shake the jar  every couple of days.

To use, add the potpourri to the stuffing of pillows or hang it in pomanders in your closet. Small sachets can be used in any drawer or as thoughtful gifts for friends and loved ones. An easy way to make a rose potpourri sachet is to place a small handful of the fragrant mixture in a vintage lace or linen handkerchief or other delicate fabric and tie the four corners with a satin bow or ribbon.

Topiary Forms: Dried rosebuds may be ‘glued’ to a variety of topiary forms for a fragrant and pleasing home decoration! Or, long-stemmed roses may be simply arranged and wrapped with pretty ribbon to form a topiary arrangement. Place in oasis and water to prolong life.

Culinary Use of Roses: The ‘flavor’ of roses  (Rosa rugosa or R. gallica officinalis) depend on type, color and soil conditions. Flavors reminiscent of strawberries and green apples, sweet, with subtle undertones ranging from fruit to mint to spice. All roses are edible, with the flavor being more pronounced in the darker varieties. Miniature varieties can garnish ice cream and desserts, or larger petals can be sprinkled on desserts or salads. Freeze petals in ice cubes and float them in punches also. Petals may be used in syrups, jellies, perfumed butters and sweet spreads. NOTE: Be sure to remove the bitter white portion of the petals and use organic, pesticide-free roses ONLY! 

FLOWER BUTTER:

1/2 to 1 cup chopped fresh or dried petals
1 pound sweet unsalted butter, room temperature

Finely chop flower petals and mix into softened butter. Allow the mixture to stand at room temperature overnight to allow the flavors to fuse. Chill for a couple of weeks or freeze for several months.

CANDIED ROSE PETALS

Makes 2 dozen petals. Candied flower petals were a favorite treat in Victorian times.  This easy-to-make confection can decorate cakes, petit fours and candied fruits.

 24 small, colorful, well-formed rose petals

2 egg whites, slightly beaten

1 cup superfine sugar

Brush both sides of the petals with a thin coating of egg white.  Sprinkle both sides lightly with superfine sugar and place on a tray sprinkled with additional sugar.  Sift a bit more sugar over the top to lightly cover any bare spots. Allow to set overnight a room temperature and use within a few days.

FLAVORED SUGARS:

Flavored sugars are very easy to make, taste great and add a surprising note to just about anything you’d sprinkle sugar on. They can be mixed in a few minutes, will keep for ages and really transform plain Jane meals into a memorable experience! Flavored sugars also make easy, thoughtful gifts.

For best results, keep sugar mixes in airtight containers, so you don’t lose the aromatics to the outside air. A few ideas: rose petal, lavender buds, vanilla (pod), citrus zest (microplaned), orange cinnamon.

1 lemon, lime, or orange zest, flowers to taste

1 cup of sugar (Ilike to use raw, organic)

Bury/mix the flower/spice/zest into a cup of sugar. Store the sugar in a sealed container for 2 weeks, shake/mix occasionally, and then use for ages.

Sweet dreams of rose gardens…

simple fare – preserving the herbal harvest

As the days grow shorter with the approach of Fall, prolong the tastes of fresh herbs from your garden into tasty treats that can be kept on the pantry shelf. Herbs are a wonderful boost to low-salt diets and are packed with minerals and vitamins.

It’s difficult to keep the goats out of the parsley…it’s packed with Vitamin C!

Unlike our grandmothers’, who pickled and preserved out of necessity, prepare a few tasty bottles of herb vinegar and oils to add zest to salads, sauces, marinades and even desserts! Remember, herbal vinegar and oil are also a wonderful hand-made gift!

HERB VINEGAR

Flavored vinegars are a simple way to add zest to salads, sauces, desserts or whatever you’re cooking without added fat, sugar or salt! Generally, a ratio of 1 cup fresh herbs to 1 quart of vinegar works well. The vinegar should be the best cider or wine variety available. Use only perfect, clean & DRY leaves and/or flowers. WATER WILL CLOUD THE VINEGAR.

Place herbs in a clean sterile glass bottle with plastic/cork lid. (HINT: Over time, metal caps will corrode from the acidity of the vinegar!) Pour the vinegar over the herbs & close tightly. Set the bottle in a sunny window for two weeks, turning frequently. Strain through a paper coffee filter & re-bottle the vinegar after steeping. You may add a fresh herb sprig to the bottle for decoration. Don’t forget to add a pretty label or tag!

Recycle/reuse vintage bottles! Basil makes an awesome vinegar…red basil adds a beautiful natural red color to the vinegar.  And don’t forget French tarragon!

HERB BUTTER

Add a little WOW to your butter! Herb butters can be kept frozen and ready to be sliced on grilled meat, pasta, steamed vegetables or fresh bread. All fresh herbs can be used, whatever is in season. Parsley, chives, sage, dill, basil and mint, to name a few, make delicious herb butters. (HINT: Perfect for Thanksgiving!) Try dill butter with grilled salmon or mint with lamb. The amount to use depends upon the herb, but a rough guide is 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herb to ½ pound (2 sticks) of unsalted butter. Chop the herbs very fine and add to softened butter. Shape as desired. Add old-world charm with a butter stamp once the butter is hardened a bit. (HINT: Roll the butter in a ‘log’ with wax paper…it’s easy to slice a slab or two as needed.) Freeze up to 6-months. You’ll be back in the garden with fresh herbs by then!

HINT: Make plenty of lavender butter now, for baking sweet treats mid-winter.

HERBED OIL

Since oils tend to become rancid once opened, they can not be stored indefinitely as vinegars.

Choose one or two flavors to reflect the foods/tastes you prefer and make a small bottle or two. Use only perfect, clean & dry herbs and olive oil, peanut or vegetable oil. Place herbs in a sterile glass bottle (approx. ½ cup herbs for each pint oil). If you use garlic, remove it after two weeks or it will overpower other flavors. Cover all ingredients with the oil or mold will develop and let “steep” for 2 weeks. To avoid problems, strain herbs after they’ve flavored the oil. Don’t forget to add a pretty tag or label! Use immediately. They’re great for dipping fresh artisan bread ~ YUM!

NOTE: As an alternative to fresh-picked herbs, you may also use dried herbs & spices.

So, get outdoors and savor those herbs!!! Better hurry before the goats eat them all cuz they know what’s good for ’em!

To press or NOT to press ~ Cheese Curds?

I have not YET ventured into the world of HARD or PRESSED cheesemaking since my on-going love affair with my goats.  Did you know that cheese is basically milk, a starter culture & rennet. The difference between one cheese and another is the temp the milk is heated to, the type of culture added and the way it is ‘processed’.

HARD cheese takes the home do-it-yourselfer to the next level of cheesemaking, requiring pressing (to force out the whey), waxing and aging under controlled temp and humidity. I’m told, you could use a spare refrigerator to duplicate a make-do cheese cave? But, I don’t have a spare refrigerator…

Awhile back, a fellow goatie told me of herbed cheese curds she delighted in when traveling to and from Wisconsin to visit a daughter. Hmmm…why can’t I attempt to make a HARD cheese…just short of pressing, waxing and aging? 

I have made my herbed cheese curds (with my goat milk) three times now, and appears to be a big hit with everyone who tastes it! Once again, add a different herb for a different variety…it’s great for snacking or tossing on a salad, etc.

If I can do it, you can make it too!

You’ll need 1 gallon fresh goat milk, 1/4 cup cultured buttermilk (a mesophilic non-heat loving culture; this is your starter), 1/2 teaspoon liquid rennet and 1/4 cup cool water.

Warm milk to 88 degrees F. Stir in 1/4 cup buttermilk and allow milk to ripen for 1 hour, maintaining temp at 88 degrees. Add 1/2 teaspoon liquid rennet to 1/4 cup cool water and add to milk. Hold temp at 88 degrees and allow to ‘set’ for 45-minutes.

Curds and whey should be visible. Cut into 1/4-inch cubes and allow to rest for 20-minutes. Stir gently while increasing the temp from 88 to 98-degrees ~ slowly ~ over a 30-minute period.

Then, keep stirring gently at 98 degrees for additional 30 – 45 minutes until the curds no longer have a custard-like interior. Allow the curds to settle to the bottom of the pot.

Pour off they whey; drain the curds in a colander for 10-minutes. Place the curds back into the pot and gently break-up the curds with a spoon. Add 2-teaspoons cheese or kosher coarse (non-iodized) salt. Mix well.

Keep the salted curds warm at about 98-degrees by placing the pot in a sink of hot water for 1-hour stirring every so often.

After the salted curds have set for an hour, drain off any liquid. Add fresh minced herbs, garlic, etc to taste and stir gently (you want the curds to remain in tact). Place herbed curds into a colander lined w/cheesecloth (I used a ricotta ‘basket’ mold).

Allow to drain for 2 – 3 hours, stirring once or twice to keep curds separate. Refrigerate and enjoy!

Sachets

sa·chet \sa-‘sha: n 1: a small bag or packet 2: a small bag containing a perfumed powder used to scent clothes and linens

In my opinion, herbs are magical! These modest looking plants have the power to heal and protect against disease, flavor foods, perfume the body and delight the senses.

Scents, aroma, fragrance… evoke memories, especially florals, perhaps of childhood days when there wasn’t a care in the world.  Since everyone’s sense of smell is different, you really must experiment with different plant materials to find your preferences.  Most everyone likes lavender; it’s a nice relaxing base scent and often used in sachets (but you can use a mixture of your favorite scents).

HOW-TO:

Pretty little sachet ‘pillows’ are a beautiful way to add a lovely scent to any room of your home. A sachet ‘pillow’ may be made from any fine cotton, linen, muslin-type fabric. HINT: Recycle old linens and pretty hankies for pretty sachets!  Simply cut 2-fabric squares (mine are approx. 4X4 inches) allowing for a 1/4-inch seam; print side facing inside. Stitch all around, leaving a 2-inch opening at one end. HINT: You may add a piece of twine or yarn for a ‘hanger’. Once the sides are sewn, turn right side out. I tea-stained my sachets for an ‘aged’ prim look.

A Refresher on Tea & Coffee ‘Dyeing’

Tea or instant coffee can be used to create an ‘aged’ look to your handmades. I like to use Lipton tea or Maxwell House instant coffee.  Put a kettle on to boil. Add 5-6 teabags (depending on the appearance/depth you’d like to achieve) or several tablespoons instant coffee into a bowl, add water and allow to steep. You can use the tea bags to blot your item to be ‘aged’ or submerge the entire item into the cooled bath water. Gently squeeze out excess water/towel blot. Pre-heat oven to lowest setting (about 170 degrees F) and place items on a cookie sheet and into the oven with the door slightly cracked. Check your piece often until desired effect is achieved! Viola! Instant heirloom!

My sachets are filled with lavender and a touch of flax-seed (about 1 tablespoon). The flax-seed makes them feel great…nice and squishy! They stack nicely and look pretty tied in a bundle for a gift and look great tossed in a bowl together.  HINT: Save a 1/2 gallon or  smaller plastic jug, cut off the bottom and use the ‘top’ half as a funnel!  

A few more benefits of scented sachets:

They make a great hostess gift
Linens smell fabulous when used in a linen closet
Freshen your car or office
Eco-friendly
Display near your bed or toss under your pillow to aid in sleep
The scent lasts and lasts, just give a squeeze to release heavenly scent
Toss in your yarn stash as a natural moth repellent
Freshen your closet and clothes or toss in the dryer

LAVENDER FACTS:

Lavender is one of the most treasured herbs. It is loved for its rich aroma and garden beauty.  An effective medicinal herb, it helps relax and revitalize. A favorite herb for bath & laundry since Greek and Roman times. For fiber enthusiasts, a natural moth repellant! English lavender, Lavandula augustifolia, hardiest of the species, is most often used in cooking.

GROWING TIPS:

Lavenders want well drained soil, good air circulation, and as much sun as possible to promote flower production. Lavenders prefer neutral to alkaline soil. In humid climates, coarse sand worked-in around the crown will help the plant dry out. Lavenders require no feeding, though an occasional dressing of low-nitrogen organic fertilizer will make your plants happy. 

PRUNING TIPS:

Lavender can be pruned in the early spring or in the fall (not too late so as to give plants time to harden off before winter). Generally speaking, trim plant by one-third, keeping the typical mound shape of the plant. If you do not plan to harvest the flowers, then a light pruning just after flowering, will be sufficient to promote new growth. Cut each flower stem back to the first or second pair of leaves.

♥blessings!

Horseradish: 2011 Herb of the Year

Horseradish, the leafy plant, and its root.

Horseradish, Armoracia rusticana, is a perennial plant that comes from the same family as mustard and cabbage. It can reach 1.5 meters in height and is mainly cultivated for its root that is used as a condiment for meat or fish.
Besides the root, almost all the constituents of this plant can be used by man in order to release pain or to treat health disorders, as horseradish is a very efficient herbal plant. Raw leaves of horseradish pressed against the forehead can chase away almost instantly headache, the root cures tonsillitis, while the tea made from horseradish flowers can treat the most serious cold and flu. Indians used to chew the horseradish root to escape toothaches and it was used as a natural medicine to treat scurvy.

The spicy root of horseradish can be used as a natural treatment against rheumatic disorders and respiratory disorders. Juice or sauce extracted from horseradish root can release sinus infections by dissolving the mucus in the nose. (Ever taste a spoonful that brought tears to your eye?) Due to its antibiotic properties, horseradish can cure urinary tract infections and kill bacteria in the throat that cause bronchitis, coughs and related problems. It is so beneficial because it is laden with a high amount of vitamin C and B complex, nutritive minerals (potassium, calcium, iron), natural antibiotics, enzymes etc.

In the kitchen, the pungent root of horseradish adds assertive flavor to all types of dishes from cocktails to dessert. An essential ingredient to a proper Bloody Mary, but, the most popular use of horseradish is in cocktail sauce. Made from ketchup and grated prepared horseradish, sometimes with a squeeze of lemon juice, this sauce is used as an accompaniment for shrimp, bivalves such as clams, oysters and mussels and with breaded or battered fried fish. Try embellishing simple ho-hum tartar sauce with horseradish for an uplifting zing! Fold freshly grated horseradish into just-whipped cream for a regal accompaniment to roast beef.

The early, small tender leaves have a pleasant flavor with just a touch of pungency and can be added to salads.

You can mix fresh grated or prepared horseradish with fresh beets, mayonnaise, sour cream, yogurt, cream cheese – and mustards to make them more piquant – embellish with chopped herbs such as garlic, parsley, chives, tarragon, basil, paprika, or a pinch of sugar or a dash of lemon juice or vinegar, and salt and pepper.

Lastly, dried horseradish leaves yield a yellow dye!

Article resource: Softpedia and IHA.

Word for the day…

GARBLING, TO GARBLE –

Garbling is the old-fashioned and technical term used by herbalists to denote the process of stripping dried herb leaves from their stems, removing the ‘impurities’ such as twigs and stems, yellowed and decayed leaves, fauna, etc. to prepare them for storage and/or use.

The word garble has been around for a while—500 years in English and more in other languages. It was first applied not to communications but to trade goods. It was used to describe sorting the good from the bad.  For example, picking the husks out of a shipment of spices was called ‘garbling‘.

The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that it had different forms within Arabic and that this likely means it wasn’t originally from Arabic. Instead, it might be related to the Latin word for “sieve.”

This meaning was used in English also to apply to people, so that if you were going to decide on membership in a club you would ‘garble’ the applicants so that you would accept your favorites, but not allow people you didn’t like.

The word changed its meaning in English.  Originally sorting good from bad, it soon came to mean mixing bad in to fake more of the good. In other words, traders were evidently trying to pad their shipments.  This intentional contamination of commodities was what lead to the word being used to mean intentionally misrepresenting messages. From there a logical progression would seem to be that unclear messages were called by the same term, garbled, even when the loss of message clarity was unintentional.

Origin of GARBLE

Middle English garbelen, from Old Italian garbellare to sift, from Arabic gharbala, from Late Latin cribellare, from cribellum sieve; akin to Latin cernere to sift. First Known Use: 15th century

Be still, my bleeding heart.

Do you have a lot of shade in your garden? My shade garden actually exists very happily on the north side of the house between a stand of blue spruce pines we planted over 20-years ago to buffer the predominately winter northwesterly winds. Shade tolerant herbs and plants thrive equally well in my shade garden – with very little care on my part…an added bonus!

Here’s a list of a shade tolerant herbs/plants to consider: 

 

There are also many native woodland plants that thrive in shady conditions. Do a little research before purchasing plants to understand their cultural needs – and you’ll be rewarded with a shade-loving garden too.