Garden, Plant, Cook!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Agriscaping is Edible Landscaping - My Heirloom Pumpkin is Still Growing.

Dear Folks,

I HAVE to share this video with you.  I know of, but had never met, Justin Rohner of  This is an amazing display of edible landscaping, and his home is in an HOA and shows how edible landscaping can be as beautiful and decorative as ornamental, non-edible plants.

Justin's video could be a visual of my gardens (only his are neater :-) and since he did such a great job showcasing the beauty of edible landscaping I felt you NEED to see it.

He recently gave a video tour of HIS home to illustrate what edible landscaping - what he calls Agriscaping - looks like - and I was blown away by his meticulous layout.  He even has a "farmacy", an area devoted to herbs which can be used medicinally.  This video, for those who live outside of our valley, was taken December 17, 2017 - the middle of early winter in many parts of the country.

Justin Rohner -

Here is the link to his website.

One of the points he makes is the different climate zones in YOUR gardens.  I know in mine there can be as much as an 8 degree difference in these different zones and that can be a great guide to what to plant where.

. . .

My Upper Ground Sweet Potato Pumpkin is coming along.  Since this is the first time I have ripening fruit on it (last year's plant failed) I am trying NOT to pick too early.  I sowed the seeds in July and the plant put out a ton of male flowers for weeks once it got going.  This fruit probably pollinated in mid-September. With our lovely warmish weather this fall, I have at least 1 or 2 other young fruit.  We shall see what happens.


If you missed my recipe for Cranberry/Pistachio Biscotti, -  Here is the link
None of the ingredients are from my garden, but it is the holidays and these cookies are so good, I hope you will try them out.  Let me know what you think if you make them.   catherine  at herbs2u dot net

In case you missed it - did you see the release on my new perpetual monthly calendar?  Blog post and links are here.

 You can also get the link in the upper side bar to the print edition (it is available in print and PDF).

There is still time to donate food to your local food bank to help make sure those in need have holiday dinners. Click here to enter your state to find food banks near you.

Have a great week.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Friday, December 15, 2017

Cranberry/Pistachio Biscotti - Gluten Free and Delicious

Dear Folks,

Probably every family has at least one family member with some food allergies.  One of them may be gluten.  The challenge is to make something they can eat and the rest of us can enjoy too.

While researching recipes a number of years ago on gluten issues, I was turned off by some of the replacement ingredients like xanthan gum and hard to find flours.  So as I usually do, I decided to step back and look at flours more readily available which had no gluten and while doing so I reached into my "memory bank" of how can I make this more nutritious.  And Beans and Grains popped up!  Specifically soy beans and rice and corn.  So I cobbled this recipe together and it was such a winner, I almost was not allowed to mail them to the intended family member :-)

I thought the cranberries and pistachios gave a lovely Christmasy look to the cookies and who does not like chocolate!

So without further ado here is my gluten free and delicious biscotti recipe. 

If you are not familiar with this cookie it is a traditional Italian cookie which means twice-baked. You will see how below.


1/2 cup dried cranberries (you can use dried cherries instead)
1/2 cup boiling water

1 cup each: white cornmeal, brown rice flour and soy flour*
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3 jumbo eggs (in place 1 egg try 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree for a little extra flavor if you like)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, halved or rough chopped (leave in large pieces)
1 package dark chocolate chips (12 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Place cranberries in boiling water and let stand until cranberries are plump about 15 minutes, drain and set aside.

Sift flours, baking powder and salt together.

Place chocolate chips in top of double boiler or on very low setting on stovetop to melt - you want them melted when the cookies are ready for dipping.

Prepare two large cookie sheets - one sprayed with vegetable spray for baking (or use parchment paper) and one lined with aluminum foil or syran wrap for chilling the dipped cookies. Set aside.

In an electric mixer beat butter and sugar together very well. Add eggs and mix in very well, add vanilla, mix well. Begin adding dry ingredients a little at a time until all are incorporated together. Stir in nuts and cranberries. This dough will be more like a very thick batter.

On the sprayed cookie sheet, spread the batter into two long rows about 2 inches wide, pat or tap into place so they are evenly thick all over - use flowered hands.

Bake for 18-20 minutes but watch carefully so they do not burn.

Remove from oven and let cool until you can hold them for cutting. When cool enough slice each loaf into 3/4 to 1 inch wide pieces and arrange back on the cookie sheet cut side down. Return to over for about 8 minutes - watch carefully. The cookies should just brown lightly on the exposed edges.

Remove from oven and get the foil prepared cookie sheet. When the cookies are cool enough to handle, dip the bottom of each in the melted chocolate and place on cookie sheet, and put in the freezer for 15 minutes or the refrigerator for 1 hour to firm up the chocolate.

*I chose the flours for maximum protein.

I hope you enjoy this recipe!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady If you enjoyed this post, subscribe below by entering your email, to get all my posts!
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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

My New Calendar, Planting Information For Each Month - Desert Southwest and USDA Zone 9b+

Dear Folks,

Here it is.

My new calendar, designed for you to use each month, year after year.  Add your own notes from your garden observations.

I've added in some recipes, herb and food pairings suggestions, and added more maintenance information where appropriate.

The monthly planting/sowing information is developed from recommendations and my own gardening "trowel & error" over more than 3 decades, as my gardens taught me what worked and when.  All the pictures are from my gardens and kitchen.

All the monthly recommendations are based on 'best success' for our desert year-round gardening opportunity.  I highly encourage every gardener to experiment.  If you want to push the envelope on when to plant, go for it.

I have enjoyed making a new calendar each year, with new pictures from garden, and it has been kind of exciting to make a new one each year.

However, I realized there was not a lot of space for YOU to make your own notes as your garden taught you its characteristics.

Outside of the occasional new-to-me plant the information does not change year over year, so I decided a "permanent" calendar with the ability to add your own notes would be a good gardening thing.

You will see the links displaying a side wards picture, as the calendar is an 11 x 8.5 opening to a 11 x 17 size which can be used at your desk or hole punched for hanging on the wall.  [Technically, for design purposes the "calendar" format would not work to give the additional space for the information I wanted to include, so the marketing picture is side wards.]

Under each link picture is a "preview" which will show you some pages of the calendar.

The Print Edition purchase link is here.

The PDF Edition is identical to the print edition, but can be read on any device you have which reads PDF files.  And, of course, you can print out pages if you wish to keep a journal with your own notes.

The PDF Edition purchase link is here.

The Print Edition will be available on other sites such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble later - usually within 30 days.

I hope you find this calendar a great gardening tool.

Have a best day in the garden, and kitchen,


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Plant Potatoes! And other January Planting Tips

Dear Folks,

My annual tradition is to plant my potatoes (the Irish kind - sweet potatoes are planted in May-July) on January 1st to celebrate the new year.  I also like to suggest you try a new edible to honor your new year.

Planting Potatoes.  I plant two "sizes".  I save the smallest ones from last harvest to replant.  And, if I have some organic ones left over from the holidays I cut into sections with an "eye" or two on each section and let air dry at least a day.

In the collage to the side here you, see the cut ones ready to plant.  I loosen the soil in the bed I will be using and lay the potatoes on top of the soil, then cover with leaf mulch.  I will continue to cover the plants as they grow with mulch to ensure the growing potatoes never see the light of day to stop "greening" which is a toxic condition* that cannot be cooked out.  A little bit of green on your potatoes won't hurt you but a lot will.   *Solanine is a glyco-alkaloid found in plants of the nightshade family, usually in the leaves and certain fruits.  Tomatoes for instance are safe to eat - the leaves are not.

From Internet-UnivOf-Calif
This year I am waiting for the arrival of some Purple Tree Collards, my "new" plant to try, and will be seeing how they grow in the gardens this year.  I have been wanting to try these in my gardens for a couple of years and kept missing best-shipping-time (fall/early winter) for ordering.

Brassica oleracea var. acephala is a variety of collard,  perennial in USDA Zones 8-10 and can grow 6-10 feet tall.  They can only be reproduced from cuttings.

I am hoping for more diverse greens year round with these plants.


SEED Selection:  Where possible choose short maturity (75 days or less) for maximum production.  Plant short rows in succession of veggies like carrots ( 2 feet at a time) to provide continuous harvest potential (can you really use 12 feet of carrots all at once?).  Also, start seeds like tomato, basil, eggplant and peppers  indoors under lights or in a greenhouse to set out February 1st (with frost protection)

Bok Choy
Fennel, Leaf
Fruit, Bare Root
Fruit Trees
Garlic, Green (planting cloves for use as scallions through spring - they will NOT produce heads)
Greens (lettuce, kale, arugula, spinach etc.) 
Onions, Green
Oregano, Greek
Ornamental Cabbage/Kale (Brassica Oleracea)
Peppers (seed)
Shungiku Chrysanthemum


Carnation (Dianthus)
English Daisy
Jasmine Sambac (Arabian)
Scented Geraniums (with protection)
Stocks (Matthiola)
Sweet William (Dianthus)
Sweet Alyssum

GARDEN TIPS for January
    As we are nearing the end of the primary perennial planting season, I like to celebrate the start of the new year by planting at least one new plant on January 1st.  This year I am going try Purple Collard Trees (see above).
    Celebrate New Year’s Day by planting potatoes. (I like the purple ones because they are unusual and have more anti-oxidants.)
    November through January can be a ‘rainy’ season for the desert. You can usually hold off on regular watering (keep trees on your normal schedule) if you have received a half inch or more of rain within 2 days of normal watering days.  Make good use of your water meter to determine soil moisture.
    If rains are heavy this month, in addition to foregoing some water days, you may need to put down Ironite or green sand to compensate for mineral bonding (which makes iron unavailable to the plants) due to both the excess water and the cold soil.
    Prune citrus and deciduous fruit trees no later than early January before flowering starts.  Shrub trees such as pineapple guava which bloom in late spring, need to be pruned later -- in April approximately.

WHY Edible Flowers? To attract pollinators to your fruit, herbs and veggies year round and to use as safe garnishes and additions to your dining table.

FROST damage:  Do not prune until danger of frost is over - the damaged plant protects the lower growth.

FROST/FREEZE NOTE: Have protective covers ready anytime the overnight forecast is 40 or lower.


One of the delights of spring is the peach and apricot bloom time - clouds of light to dark pink flowers cover the ends of the tree branches with the bees busily doing their work.

Just as the tree's flower buds are starting open you can select a few branches to 'force' into bloom inside for a lovely arrangement.  I emphasize 'a few' because you will loose that potential fruit.

Select a branch and clip off 12-18 inches - arrange in a vase of room temperature water or slightly warmer, after re-cutting the branches under water.  You will be treated to a spring display as one after another of the flower buds are 'forced' to open in the warmth of your home.  Change or freshen the water each day - if you need to, re-cut the branch, under water, every several days to keep the moisture flowing up to the buds.

At the end of the display, add to the compost pile, or dry and use as kindling for the grill or firepit.

Coming Soon!

My New Perpetual Month-By-Month Calendar!

I am waiting for the proof copy.  This new calendar will be available in print and PDF form.

If you have family in USDA Zone 9b and above, the planting information would be helpful for them too.

I really have enjoyed creating a new yearly calendar for the last several years, bringing you new photos from the garden and adding new edibles I have grown.

I just think it is time to give you a calendar you can make your own notes on with what you "learn" from your garden!

There will be space in each month to jot seasonal information unique to your garden with extra space in the middle of the calendar for additional notes.  I am including a few recipes too!

With the PDF you can print out the pages as you need to make notes, or simply refer to the calendar as needed on any of your devices which can read a PDF.

Watch for my release posts.  The calendars will be available first through my publisher and then through sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

If you missed my post on the 25 Days of Herbs Celebrations plus, here is the link.

Have a safe and wonderful month in the garden and kitchen!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Make Yule Log with Wood, Herbs and Citrus From The Garden.

Yule Log
Dear Folks,

Check out my "16th Day of Herbs & Celebrations" craft project, using fun plants from your garden.

25 Days of Herbs and Celebrations Day 16.

The Yule Log is an old tradition used by both pagans and Christians for different celebrations. 

It is a fun project for the family to create for use in your fireplace, firepit or chiminea (do check on burn restrictions because of air quality).  Parts of the prior years log were saved as kindling for the current year.

Pictured.  I used Rosemary, Myrtle, an Orange citrus rind to hold some dried Roselle, and  few pieces of paper ribbon, glued to a cut branch of one of our peach trees.

If you make this week, it will dry in time to light December 24th or 25th (the wood needs to be already very dry).

Look for my post in a couple of days for January Planting Tips.

Have a Best Day in your Garden and Kitchen!


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

25 + 12 Days of Christmas - herbs + history + fun stuff.

Dear Folks,
Syrian Oregano

With my love of all things culinary herbal, two years ago I decided to expand my research and knowledge into the culinary herbs mentioned in the Bible.

The Biblical lands are home to 3 of the world's major religions and those lands are so similar to our own desert southwest, we can grow those herbs here.

You may wish to bookmark this page so you can come back as you wish to look up a day or herb.

So without further ado - check out my "Herbal Advent Calendar" of multi-cultural herbs and celebrations.

25 Days of Celebrating the Multicultural festivities of December, I thought I would pick an herb or spice which is referenced in the Bible (land of three of the Major Religions of the world) and used in many cuisines around the entire world, as a way of gathering together all the wealth of diversity around us - in true celebration.

A note about the herbs and spices I selected. There is agreement on some of the herbs of the Bible (garlic, onion and mint for example) and some continuing discussion on which plant the Bible referred to.  After many years there is a consensus - although still discussed by some - that the Hyssop of the Bible is Syrian Oregano (Origanum maru).  Since Hyssop (Hyssopus officionalis) is not indigenous to the lands of the Bible but Syrian Oregano is, I have included it as the Biblical plant.

I am including some of the most enjoyed songs of the Christmas and secular celebrations of the month.

Herbs of The Bible

Myrtle, Anise, Cinnamon, Cassia, Chamomile, Chicory, Dandelion, Sow Thistle, Horseradish, Sorrel, Coriander, Lavender, Cumin, Dill, Mint, Hyssop, Garlic, Leek, Sage, NIgella, Laurel, Onion, Mustard, Marjoram, and Saffron.

Cassia (Cinnamomum iners)
Sow Thistle (Milk Thistle)
Coriander (Cilantro seed)
Lavender (called Spikenard in the Bible)
Hyssop – of the Bible is generally recognized as Syrian Oregano Origanum syriacum
Nigella (BlackCumin or Black Caraway)
Laurel (Bay Leaf)

12 Days of Christmas Blog Post links

While some folks, particularly the commercial companies,  celebrate the 12 days of Christmas leading UP to Christmas Day - the 12 days actually begin with Christmas Day and end on January 6th, Epiphany.  Sometimes called "Little Christmas" (our family celebrated this too), these 12 days are usually ended with a "12th Night Feast".

I first posted on the 12 days of Christmas back in 2008.

A nice site for talking to and teaching your children or grandchildren, about the multicultural celebrations of December, is Education World, with this nice page.

If you want to grow more culinary herbs - check out my herb planting chart for purchase ($5.00).  It is a PDF so you can have it handy all the time.  I cover 48 culinary herbs with suggested planting times and food pairing information.  Click here to go directly to the page or find it in the side bar on the top right of this blog.

I hope you find this a fun way to explore herb history and fun ideas.

Have a best day in the garden and kitchen!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Garden Harvest and A Holiday Crafting Site

Dear Folks,

I hope you all had a wonderful, peaceful Thanksgiving.

A few days ago, I went out to check on my sweet peppers and tomatoes and filled my apron with a bunch of each!  I have some pepper and tomato plants in a couple of different locations.  This one is a Southwest area which means it gets very little morning sun this time of year but is loving what it gets.

The sugar peas are starting to give me some edible pods.  I am still getting cherries from the Barbados (Acerola) tree.  And I still have lots of sweet potatoes and the occasional eggplant to harvest.  I used the sweet potato leaves for a BLT last night, always fun.  I add fresh basil leaves and a few sugar pea leaves to the "lettuce" portion of the sandwich and those gorgeous looking tomatoes.  Yum.

I like to make my own cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving and through the holidays (pretty much to have on hand all year, in fact).  I try to get organic cranberries and use organic sugar.  I canned up some the day before Thanksgiving.  We use cranberry sauce like jam for any and everything (turkey sandwiches!).

Since cranberry sauce recipes usually start out with "a bag" of, I tweaked the recipe to accommodate whatever size bag you purchase.  For each 4 ounces (by bag weight) you need 1/3 cup of water and 1/3 cup of sugar.  Bring the water and sugar to a boil, stir until dissolved then add cranberries, reduce to a simmer, cover and WATCH, even at a simmer they sometimes want to boil over.  And if you are as bad at multitasking as I am you need to monitor.  :-)  Simmer for about 8-10 minutes until all the berries have burst, stirring once in a while.  The lovely thing about cranberries is how much pectin they naturally have..  They "want" to be a nice firm jam when cooled.  I decided to use 4 ounce jars for canning from now on, as even the 8 oz can be too much all at once.  Even refrigerated they can go bad if you have a guy like my guy who likes to have 4-6 types of jam available all the time.

Fun craft ideas from the Victorian Age.  I have loved all of the BBC special "farm" series shows which each highlighted a farm time in history.  This link is to a special craft page for creating Victorian type Christmas ideas from cards to decorations.


I am posting with links to my 25 Days of Christmas - but wait there's more - and the 12 Days of Christmas!

I am The Herb Lady, so two years ago I decided to expand my research into the herbs of the Bible for the holidays and focused on 25 culinary herbs to create my version of the 25 days of Christmas - sort of an Herbal Advent Calendar.  Be sure to watch for the blog post.

I also then created a post for each of the 12 Days of Christmas which traditionally does not start on December 1st but, in fact, starts with December 25th.

When you get the post you may want to bookmark it so you can come back to it whenever you want to check out "the day".  I have a lot of information in each one.

Speaking of Herbs - check out my Herb Planting Chart for sale as a PDF in the side bar here on the blog. I have information on growing 48 different culinary herbs here in the desert southwest and USDA Zone 9b and above.

Have a best day in the garden and kitchen,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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