Garden, Plant, Cook!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Boyce Thompson Arboretum - 15th Annual Herb Festival

Dear Folks,

I have participated in this annual event at the wonderful Arboretum in Superior, Arizona for, I believe 8 or 9 years — I think this is the first year we may have potentially-bad weather for it. Usually we have balmy high 80s-low 90s, but it is so worthwhile, benefiting the Arboretum and giving visitors a chance to visit with herb-related vendors and experts like myself, plus lovely music provided by the Levno duo flute and guitar. The Arizona Herb Association always has plants and experts available. Susan Corl, a folk artist, always brings her amazing talent and creative wares to the festival. Her email is

Jean Groen, my friend the desert foods and herbs expert, will be there today with her co-author and research partner Don Wells. Jean's foods are always super and amazing. Check out their website

If you don't get the chance to come out (today, April 11, 2009 — 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), do plan on visiting another time. Visit their website, or call 520.689.2723.

So if you miss us today, I'm featuring one of my salt-free herb blends — RosemaryPlus. Here is the menu and recipes.

Cut tomatoes in half and sprinkle with RosemaryPlus, serve with toothpicks.

If you have not heard by now, artichoke hearts are number 7 on the top 20 antioxidant lists, and of course beans are always good for you. This light dip can be enhanced by more garlic (there is garlic in the RosemaryPlus).
2 tablespoons sesame seed, ground
2 cans garbanzo beans (15 oz.), drained
1 can artichoke hearts (not marinated) (13 3/4 oz.) liquid reserved (Can use frozen, reserve cooking water
1 teaspoon capers
Juice of one lemon
½ cup packed, fresh parsley, rinsed
1+ teaspoon RosemaryPlus

Tahini the traditional component of hummus is sesame seed butter - you can pre-grind* or even pre-toast the seeds before grinding

In a processor pulse all ingredients, using liquid from artichokes to create the desired consistency. This tasty dish can be a dip or a spread. Serve in hollowed-out cucumber boats or cucumber cubes, mushroom caps, in a hollowed-out roll, with crackers or chips.

*A dedicated coffee grinder - meaning never used for coffee - is a great spice grinder and it makes small batches of any seed or nut butter in seconds.

I always like to demonstrate the flavor-absorbing nature of bland tofu (its blessing and curse) — it you think of tofu as the cheese it is, then adding to foods becomes creatively easier. You always need to add a bit of salt to the tofu.

1 package of extra firm tofu, cubed
1 tablespoon RosemaryPlus
1/4+ teaspoon of salt, or to taste
Olive oil

Express/press out extra moisture from the tofu before cutting, but placing a heavy weight on it for about half an hour before cubing.

Place cubed tofu in bowl, gently toss with spice and half the salt. Let sit for half hour. In a clean jar pour a little olive oil in bottom, pile mixed tofu in jar, being sure to scrape bowl juices and spices into jar, add rest of salt to top, cover with additional olive oil, cap tightly and turn jar to mix well. Turn several times over one hour and serve or refrigerate — will keep for approximately 4-5 days. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.

Sprinkle pineapple chunks with RosemaryPlus, serve with toothpicks. The brisk spice of the RosemaryPlus brings out the sweetness even more so of the pineapple. Can use fresh, frozen-thawed or canned (only in juice, not syrup). Makes a great appetizer or dessert.

Have a wonderful weekend!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Green Politics - the new farm bill.

Dear Folks,

If you have not heard of US House Bill 875, you should look into this proposed legislation. As with all bills this one is long and laborious reading. However well-meaning any bill to increase food safety in our country is, this one is not it. I do try to stay neural on political stuff, keeping my focus on the importance of gardening and cooking with our families, but occasionally something like this bill comes up and I feel the need to let folks know about it and make their choices on the issue.

Many organizations are seriously concerned about:

1) who and why this is being sponsored (the initial sponsor's husband is associated with Monsanto), Arizona's own Representative Raul M. Grijalva (D) for Arizona's 7th Congressional District ( is a co-sponsor (If you live in his district by all means contact him).

2) the provisions which may create unrealistic registration and oversight for backyard farmers, small farmers and organic farmers — under the worst case scenario overenthusiastic enforcement could put farmers markets out of existence.

3) the possible "requirement" to use chemicals.

I have pulled several (there are more) sections of the bill for you to read for yourself, and this link will take you to the government's page on it where you can read the full text.

While some provisions by themselves may not be of concern, when read in conjunction with others it is alarming.

(14) FOOD PRODUCTION FACILITY- The term ‘food production facility' means any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation.

[External Note by Catherine: The act wording includes the full ability to 'inspect' any 'food production facility' but then conflicts with exclusions - the lack of clarity makes it appear that registration and inspection of any of the listed food production facility entities can be required to register and be inspected at will and then to be subject to various penalties under the law including criminal acts.]

(19) PROCESS- The term ‘process' or ‘processing' means the commercial slaughter, packing, preparation, or manufacture of food.

(a)In General- Any food establishment or foreign food establishment engaged in manufacturing, processing, packing, or holding food for consumption in the United States shall register annually with the Administrator.

(3) for a food establishment or foreign food establishment to fail to register under section 202, or to operate without a valid registration;

(b) Purposes- The purposes of this Act are--
(4) to establish that food establishments have responsibility to ensure that all stages of production, processing, and distribution of their products or products under their control satisfy the requirements of this law.

(8) CATEGORY 4 FOOD ESTABLISHMENT- The term ‘category 4 food establishment' means a food establishment that processes all other categories of food products not described in paragraphs (5) through (7).

9) CATEGORY 5 FOOD ESTABLISHMENT- The term ‘category 5 food establishment' means a food establishment that stores, holds, or transports food products prior to delivery for retail sale.

I promise my next blog will be back on subject!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady