Petite Purple Irises and Stinging Nettle

It is the last day of February and my dwarf irises are blooming. I was surprised to see their purple petals as I returned home from a weekend trip. Winter isn’t over, but my tulip and hyacinth bulbs are sprouting leaves.

Dwarf Iris

What will our spring be like? My thoughts turn to garden plans. Every year I like to introduce a new plant to my herb garden.

It is so convenient to have fresh herbs for the kitchen. I have thyme for chicken and broth, sage for turkey, rosemary for potatoes and soups, chocolate mint for coffee, tarragon for salad dressing and basil for pesto and tomato sauce.

This year I want to add stinging nettle. I am familiar with nettle tea, having read about it in the Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year.

The common stinging nettle is a uterine tonic and general nourisher with a special ability to strengthen kidneys and adrenals. Its high mineral and chorophyll content makes it an excellent food and tonic for the hormonal system.*

The New American Herbal has more information about this plant. It is called stinging nettle because the leaves have fine hairs that cause pain and inflammation when touched. It is important to wear rubber gloves when harvesting the leaves of this plant.

Properly handled with gloves and long sleeves the leaves can be easily gathered and then neutralized by the heat of cooking . . . Once you know how to respect them, you’ll find nettles deliciously mild with a deep nutty green taste and a slightly minty finish. **

I saw a recipe for nettle soup in a Swedish cookbook. I think the nettle leaves would be a good addition to broth—adding good mineral content as well as flavor.

And so I will order some stinging nettle seeds from Mary’s Heirloom Seeds. Then I have to decide on a safe place to grow them—perhaps in a container.

Do you have some garden plans?

*Susun Weed, Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year, Ash Tree Publishing: Woodstock, New York, 1986, p. 2

**Stephen Orr, The New American Herbal, Crown Publishing Group, New York, 2014, p. 330

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Daffodils, Crocuses, Flowering Rosemary, Oh My!

Spring is coming to the southern states. I am enjoying the colors that are brightening the landscape. And I wish rosemary grew as abundantly at my home as it does in New Mexico! Flowering tree

Kansas_5174

 

Kansas_5175

Rosemary
Rosemary plant (bush)

 

Rosemary flower
Rosemary flower

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Preserving Herbs: Thyme Vinegar

The mild fall weather is so welcome! Yard work is pleasant and I have found some fall raspberries to savor while I work.

Preserving Herbs

Wilting vines
And a layer of leaves
Yard clean-up
Sweetened by fall raspberries

My calendula is still blooming and my rosemary and thyme are still growing.

Thyme Vinegar
Lemon Thyme

I plan to bring the rosemary and thyme inside for the winter. Last year they survived in a south bay window. But I have been also         preserving the thyme in vinegar.

The thyme vinegar is good for salad dressings. I also add one or two  tablespoons to vegetables and bones for broth that I prepare in my crockpot. The vinegar helps to leach out minerals from bones with the    additional benefit of thyme.

I found this recipe for thyme vinegar in Early American Herb Recipes*.

A very delicious flavour of thyme may be obtained, by gathering it while in full perfection; it must be picked from the stalks, a large handful of it put into a jar, and a quart of vinegar or brandy poured on it; cover it very close—next day, take all the thyme out, put in as much more; do this a third time; then strain it, bottle it and seal it securely. This is greatly preferable to the dried thyme commonly used, during the season when it cannot be obtained in a fresh state.*

I followed the recipe. I put 3 Tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves in a pint of white wine vinegar. The next day I strained it and added fresh thyme. The following day I repeated the straining and added more fresh thyme. While I was adding thyme leaves and straining the vinegar I used canning jars. Then I strained it a final time, returned it to the original bottle and capped it.

thyme vinegar

*Alice Cooke Brown, Early American Herb Recipes, Japan: The Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc., 1966. p. 114.

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Apple-Sage-Cheddar Muffins

The sage in my garden is thriving. This summer it flowered.

Sage in Flower

The beautiful weather this fall has extended our growing season. I have plenty of sage. The texture of the leaves has an artistic appearance, lovely to the touch.

 

Sage leaves

Sage in the Sun_edited-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am going to use it in some in apple-sage-cheddar muffins. The muffins can be gluten free by    using brown rice flour instead of unbleached white flour.

1 cup flour
½ cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh sage leaves
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 apple, peeled, cored and grated
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons honey
¼ cup butter, melted and cooled
½ cup plain yogurt

Heat the oven to 375°. Lightly grease a muffin tin with twelve muffin cups. (I like to preheat the muffin pan by putting it in the oven 5 minutes before I am going to put the batter in the pan.)

Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sage and salt in a large bowl. Add the grated apple and grated cheese, mixing them with the dry ingredients.

In a medium size bowl combine the eggs, honey, melted butter and milk with lemon juice. Add the egg mixture to the flour & apple mixture. Mix until just combined.

Divide the batter between the 12 muffin cups. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. Leave the muffins in the tin to cool and then turn out and enjoy!!

sage & tulip_3090

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Calendula: A Healing Flower

Art Shades Calendula

In recent years I have been charmed by the benefits of a flower that has a long history. According to the Complete Herbal Book: This sunny little flower—the “merrybuds” of Shakespeare—was first used in Indian and Arabic cultures, before being “discovered” by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks.*

The medicinal qualities of calendula are listed: Calendula flowers contain antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial properties that promote healing.*

This year I bought some heirloom seeds from Select Seeds—Art Shades Calendula and Orange King Calendula. Both are growing in my garden.

Calendula Flower
Art Shades Calendula
Calendula Flower
Orange King Calendula

Calendula is an edible flower, and the dried the petals of this flower have been called poor man’s saffron. I dry my calendula flowers by placing them on cheesecloth or a paper towel over a drying rack.

Drying Calendula Flowers

It takes approximately 2 weeks for the flowers to dry in room air. Then I place them in an airtight canning jar for use throughout the year.

Calendula flowers make a healthy tea. Tips for a variety of ways to benefit from calendula tea are posted at thenerdyfarmwife.com. Be sure to note the caution mentioned for use during pregnancy.  Calendula salve is another way to make use of the flowers. It is fairly easy to make. You can find my process here.

Every couple days I pick the blossoms, but when I am not fast enough they go to seed. The seeds can be saved for next year’s flowers.

Calendula Seed

The curved seeds with a bumpy surface are released from the dried flower head.It is possible for the plant to self-seed for the following year, but that hasn’t worked well in my garden. I plant the seeds outside in the early spring.

If you don’t have calendula in your garden but would like to add it to your stock of helpful herbs, you can order a package of dried calendula from The Bulk Herb Store.

Great selection of bulk herbs, books, and remedies. Articles, Research Aids and much more.

*McVicar, Jessica, The Complete Herb Book, Kyle Cathie Limited: London, 1994.   p. 56-57.

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