Garden, Plant, Cook!

Friday, December 13, 2013

12 Days of Christmas - Worth Re-Sharing

Dear Folks,

Boy, it is busy for me this year - we have more family in town so it is presenting opportunities for more gatherings, and cooking!

I'm re-sharing my past blog posts on the 12 days of Christmas, and I found a like-minded foodie blog to share also.

 There is still time to make a Yule Log for your fireplace or chiminea click here.

The Old Foodie blog is written by Janet Clarkson of Australia - and I find her view and fun recipes to be up my alley so to speak.

 I hope you have a wonderful Holiday Season, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My books





Friday, November 22, 2013

Sage, and Stuffing and More for This Year's Unique Holiday - Thanksgiving!

Dear Folks,

Sage is the November Herb of the month.  How timely!

There is a bit of interesting history on the use of sage in our beloved Thanksgiving Day stuff or dressing.  By The Way - the difference is, dressing is prepared as a side dish and stuffing is, well, stuffed into something, usually poultry.

Sage is one of the primary components of "Poultry Seasoning" liberally in use around the holidays with turkey and other fowl.

While researching my cookbook some years ago I traced back the use of "sage and onion" to make stuffing in England.  The real origin is not exactly known, but what was discovered was that the cooks found that their Masters and Mistresses digested their fatty meals better when sage was used.  Modern science has shown that as with many herbs which are digestive aids, sage in particularly helps the body digest fatty meats.

From my book "101+ Recipes From The Herb Lady":

Herb Facts:
There are some 900 identified members of the sage (Salvia) family (including the stuffing sage we are all so familiar with) which originated in the Mediterranean and Asia Minor areas of the world, and has been known since the ancient Greek and Roman times. Sage (Salvia officinalis L.) is another member of the immense mint (Lamiaceae) family.
          Sage's antiseptic qualities (Salvia comes from Latin meaning "save") are generally used for mouth and throat ulcers and menopausal sweats (as a tea or gargle). Externally it can be used in an ointment for insect bites.
          The rubbed dried sage you purchase in the spice section is usually a combination of Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis l.) and Greek Sage (Salvia triloba).
          The use of sage in our traditional stuffing mixes most likely came from the “sage and onion” stuffing used beginning in Elizabethan times.  The cooks discovered their master, mistress & guests digested their food better when the stuffing was used. While all strongly aromatic herbs are digestive aids (at least) sage in particular helps digest fatty meats better.
          One old piece of wisdom notes the mastery of the household by the woman, where sage flourishes.
          Several varieties of the garden sage are not only tasty but also stunning landscaping plants: Purple Sage (Salvia officinalis 'Purpurea'); Tricolor Sage (Salvia officinalis 'Tricolor'); Golden Sage (Salvia Officinalis 'Golden'); and a variety, Berggarten Sage (Salvia officinalis 'Berggarten') which puts more energy into its tasty leaves than the flowers. Try a little wisdom in your garden!

Our Family Stuffing has always been very simple:

Poultry Seasoning

The proportions are never exact.  For a typical 14lb turkey, I melt 2 sticks of butter in a large skillet.  Finely chop equal proportions of celery (including leaves) and onion (about 4 cups worth), about a lb loaf of good bread cubed, and liberal seasoning.  Cook the celery and onion down until opaque, sprinkling periodically with the seasoning.

The cubed bread was prepared the night before to dry out.  When the celery and onion are done, scoop into the large bowl containing the bread, pour heated broth, about a cup at a time (first cup into the skillet first to get up all the good stuff), into the bread, folding as I go until I get a product that will stick together without being soupy.  I add more seasoning as I go.

Stuff the turkey.  If I have too much stuffing to fit in the turkey - I do a 'Mae West" bird by loosening the breast skin and gently stuffing under the skin.  This actually does two things.  The stuffing gets the flavor of the turkey and it keeps the meat very, very tender.

This is one of those meals where I liberally use butter, softened or melted over the turkey, rub in more seasoning and pop in the oven.  I baste several times with more broth.

Gravy from the the cooked turkey is easy with all of the flavors from the stuffing, seasoning and basting.

I generally try to offset the butter heavy turkey with various vegetable side dishes along with the usually mashed potatoes.

For those who want a different side dish or want a vegetarian friendly main dish - Stuffed Pumpkin!  This is one of my favorite recipes for any holiday when you have a pumpkin or very large squash, and room in the oven :-)

Catherine's Stuffed Pumpkin

I wish you a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving and to my Jewish friends and family - A Happy Thanksgivukkah.

Buzzfeed created a special page and recipes to have a fun "Thanksgivukkah" - I love the take on American Gothic :-)  Potato Lakes with Cranberry/Applesauce anyone?  Enjoy!


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My books





Thursday, November 07, 2013

Tell FDA to Not Apply Burdensome Restrictions to Small Farmers, Ranchers and Growers - particularly Organic

Dear Folks,

I'm back for a trip and found a quickly expiring comment time on a very important issue with the FDA.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has been proposed to handle health issues related to growing practices, among them how manure, water etc. is handled.  Much of this arose from some of the bacterial contamination cases which occurred where manure runoff from infected animals contaminated fields of vegetables.

Among the problems with the wording (according to Oregon State's excellent point list) are that many of the requirements directly contradict the requirements for, and keeping, Organic Certification.

Read through Oregon's point list and then please, please, consider commenting.  It is not arduous - you can even choose not to include your name.

Please pass this around ASAP.  The comment period expires November 15, 2013.

Oregon State put together an excellent point list of the problems with the proposed changes and I incorporated the link into my comment.

Cut and paste this link into the body of your comment.

Go to this link and scroll down to comment form

FDA - Comment Form

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My books





Monday, October 14, 2013

Garlic is the October Herb of The Month - How Timely - Time to Plant Garlic!

Dear Folks,

Garlic, the wonderful condiment, is also an herb of distinction for its many medical properties.

It is a base dishonourable unworthy part of the College of Physicians of London to train up the people in such ignorance that they should not be able to know what the Herbs in their Gardens be good for. —Nicholas Culpeper, A Physical Directory, 1650*

If you need any additional boost to consider using more garlic and also growing some here is an article to read.  Always do your own research when you are considering using alternative treatments for medical issues.

Garlic Compound Fights Source of Food-Borne Illness Better Than Antibiotics

In the desert we plant Garlic between October 1st - and no later than October 31st.  This is to ensure a long cool growing season which creates the head of cloves we want.  The picture is from my garden last year, showing the sprouted garlic one month after planting in October. I planted both regular and elephant garlic.

If you really love garlic plant extra and harvest as green garlic when you need a scallion-like addition to your food preparation.  Look for the cloves to have swollen a bit and the greens to be about 8-10 inches tall.

Garlic needs full sun, well draining soil, regular but not overwatering and pull the weeds.  That is it.  It is pretty simple to grow, it just takes about 7 months to harvest time of the heads.  Choose heads without any visible mold, separate, do not peel, plant each clove about 2 inches down, pointed end up.

All parts of the garlic edible, from the bulb to the greens to the flower head bud (called a scape), so what are you waiting for?  Get growing your own garlic.

* I took the quote from Susan Wittig-Albert's fun weekly newsletter.  Read it here.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My books




Sunday, October 13, 2013

Recipe! Eggplant, Pasta Sauce and Pumpkin, oh my.

Dear Folks,

My huge white eggplant is giving me a lot of fruit and I was in the mood for something pasta-ish yesterday.  I've also been in the mood for more pumpkin dishes.  (The picture was taken at my table at the Mesa Farmers Market where I took my extra to sell.)

So, I made a pumpkin tomato pasta sauce for sauteed eggplant and angel hair pasta (threw in some diced cooked chicken for a little extra protein).

Pumpkin / Tomato Sauce
Serves 2-4

1 1/2 cups of tomato sauce (I did not have any of my homemade ready so I got Muir Glenn's organic tomato basil sauce)
1/2 cup of pumpkin puree (make sure you get only the puree and not the pumpkin pie can - or you can cook up your own pumpkin puree*)
6 fresh basil leaves, slivered
2 small eggplant or one large one (the white and smaller varieties are a little less seedy and do not require the salt soak to remove bitterness)
2-4 ounces of angel hair pasta (or any small pasta like shells would work nicely)**
2-3 tablespoons of onion or shallot minced
1-2 tablespoons of fat of choice (butter, olive oil, bit of uncured bacon fat, other oil)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
Pepper to taste
Salt - maybe, taste first
Optional:  Cooked and diced meat, chicken, pork, beef or could use diced drained firm tofu.

Mix pumpkin and tomato sauce and set aside.
Dice eggplant
Mince onion or shallot.

Start water for pasta, add salt.

Heat oil in frying pan and add onion  Stir and cook on low-medium for about 1 minute (the onion should sizzle a little but you don't want it to burn).  Add eggplant, stir and cover on medium, stirring frequently, until the eggplant begins to turn opaque (about 5-7 minutes).  Sprinkle with black pepper.  Add sauces, stir to mix well, cover and continue cooking until the sauce is nice and bubbly, add meat or tofu.

When you add the sauce to the eggplant, add the pasta to the boiling salted water.  Cook until 1-2 minutes under directions, i.e., you want the pasta not quite completely cooked.

When the pasta is ready, drain, and add to sauce.  Add basil and cheese, stir to combine and serve.

The pumpkin marries nicely with the tomato without adding a 'pumpkin' flavor which is what I was looking for.

Left-over tip:  Next morning or for lunch the next day, heat some of the pasta and sauce in a frying pan, add water if needed to loosen it up.  Make a center opening in the mix.  Add 2 beaten eggs, and begin incorporating the leftover pasta into the eggs until eggs are completely cooked.  Serve with toast.  Or heat the sauce in the frying pan to bubbling.  Crack 2-4 eggs into the mix, cover and poach eggs to desired done stage, serve over toast.

*Making your own pumpkin puree is easy - a bit of time required but easy.  Cut a pumpkin up into sections.  Remove all the seeds and membrane but don't skin (save the seeds to rinse and make toasted pumpkin seeds later).  Bake the pumpkin sections without anything (no oil) on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees until you can insert a knife easily in it.  Remove and cool completely.  Pare the skin off and chunk up the pumpkin.  Use a food processor to puree the pumpkin add a little water if needed to keep the blades going.  Refrigerate for use or freeze in batches.

** I favor Barilla Plus for its high protein and fiber count even though it is not organic.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Special Request!

Dear Folks,

I have a special request, and hope you can also pass this on to others.

Lucy is my grand-niece, a sweet natured child with a serious challenge.  Her parents have been through all the 'have you tried this' options and are now turning to a fund-raiser to get and maintain medical equipment and supplies.

Please consider donating a few dollars or more if you can spare it.

And please pass this on to others who may be able to help.

In addition to Lucy's needs her parents also want to try, through medical options for Lucy, to help other families who are faced with the same life-changing challenges.

Thank you from my family.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Herb Soup

Dear Folks,

With the weather getting a little cooler I'm in a soup / stew mood.

  This is adapted from a recipe from the Provence area of France.  Originally in my book "101+ Recipes From The Herb Lady"

        A wonderful blend of herbs, lettuces, croutons and cheese. The greatest of this soup, besides its fabulous flavor, is the ability to vary the herbs, lettuces, croutons and cheeses for different flavors. I developed this recipe from Provencal soups.

You can certainly use broth instead of water but I urge you to try the water version first.  The flavor of the herbs and greens creates the most incredible flavor.

1    shallot, finely chopped          
2    tablespoons butter, unsalted
4    cups mixed fresh herbs, finely chopped (I used Thai basil, cilantro, parsley, see note below*)
1    package spring lettuce mix (4 cups)
1    teaspoon coarse salt
1/8    teaspoon black pepper
6    cups boiling water (can use broth - but try the water the first time)
6    cups croutons (any stale bread diced will work too - some day-old nice artisinal breads would be great for this)
3/4    cups Parmesan cheese
        Set aside 1/2 cup each of herbs and lettuces for garnish. Divide croutons and cheese into 6 soup bowls.
        Saute shallot in butter for 1 minute. Add herbs, salt, and lettuces all at once and cook—stirring for 5 minutes. Add boiling water, cover and simmer for 15 minutes—stirring occasionally. Ladle greens and broth into soup bowls. Add garnish of herbs and lettuces to each bowl. Serve and enjoy. Serves 6.
        *Traditional recipes call for sorrel and chervil or any combination you like - the Thai Basil has a tarragon aspect to it which mimic the chervil with a kick and cilantro's citrus back-note mimic the sorrel.

Here is another type similar using farmers market sourced ingredients which I put together after seeing a recipe on Better Homes and Gardens and seeing all the great greens at the farmers market and what my garden was giving me.

Green Harvest Soup

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My books




Tuesday, October 01, 2013

How To Help Your Meat Eaters Enjoy World Vegetarian Day October 1st!

Dear Folks,

If there is one truism in the world it is that folks who love their meat, think vegetarian or vegan food is for rabbits.

I am an omnivore in the true sense of the term as I like vegetables, fruits, eggs, cheese, and meat.  I eat fats and salt.  But I also LOVE the diversity which comes with a broader approach to making food look and taste good.

While a meat lover may 'think' only a plate with steak, potatoes and tomatoes is the only thing in the world worth eating, I think some of these recipes can help them enjoy some other foods - even if they treat them as side dishes - and give them a genuine taste of something else.

Careful shopping for vegetarian friendly meals can also be an economic helper too.  Meat can be very expensive - where a little attention to combining foods gives you not only better nutrition but more food for your money.

Below are links to prior post recipes, but one of my favorite uses for oatmeal (besides breakfast).

Salad with Edamame

Avocado Bean Dip

Chili Beans

Here is a side dish for any meal -- warming and satisfying.

This would go nicely with the Chili Beans.

1 cup regular oatmeal (not instant or quick cook)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not the pumpkin pie spice kind, just plain)
14 oz can of vegetable broth
1/8 teaspoon smoked salt (or sea salt)
8 large basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
Optional: other nuts such as pecans.
Stir pumpkin into broth in sauce pan, add salt and oatmeal and  bring to boil.  Reduce to simmer and cook for 5 minutes stirring  regularly.  Add nuts. Rinse and sliver basil leaves and fold into  oatmeal just before serving.  (Left Over Tip: form into patties and fry  gently in a bit of olive oil, about 1 minute each side (just until  warmed all the way through and slightly crusted on both sides.)

Optional: For a sweet version: Add 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, 1/2  cup raisins or dried cranberries, and omit (or leave in as you prefer)  basil leaves, and use only plain (non-flavored) salt.

A vegan/vegetarian friendly Thanksgiving recipe


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Plant Flowers in Your Garden and Save the Bees!

Dear Folks,

In a world, and at a time in history, when trying to make a difference with small acts seems futile it is important to remember that every great event or invention started with a small idea or step.

Please watch this video, pass it on to your friends and family with a simple request:

Plant flowers at your home, work or school, even if just in a pot, do not use any pesticides and YOU will help save the bees.  In doing so, you will also help ensure the food you want to find at the grocery store or farmers market will always be available.

Marla Spivak in her TedX talk.

Save the bees. 

For those of you who are, or you know someone who is, afraid of bees, keep this in mind.  Working bees are not interested in you, they are interested in the flowers.

-- Move slowly around them
-- Wear light colored clothing when working in the garden
-- Save heavy pruning for days when the bees are not as active (cold, overcast, or early evening)
-- Don't swat at them - ever!
-- If you are stung get inside a building or vehicle - do NOT jump in the pool.

 I have a bee story, which I have written about before.

Briefly - one sunny morning at my old house I was working in the front yard near one of the citrus trees.  Bending over I was weeding or harvesting or both.  The hum of the bees working is a regular companion for me and it is such a common sound I pay no attention to it, simply being mindful if  I am near bees working the flowers.  I stood up under the citrus tree and found myself inside a swarm!

Swarming bees are impressive to say the least - there can be 20,000 plus bees in a single swarm.  But over the years Deane had taught me much of what he learned as a beekeeper and one of the most important is that swarming bees are 1) filled with honey, and 2) not interested in people, they are looking for a home.

I stood very still trying to determine my options and paths away.  I was an equal distance from my car and the front door.  I had many elderly neighbors in this particular area so I chose to go towards the car because I wanted to see if I needed to warn anyone.  As I moved slowly towards the car the bees initially flowed with me but I just kept moving slowly away and they drifted back towards the tree where the queen was resting.

It might have been more difficult if the queen had landed on me, because I would have had to find a way to get her onto a stick and moved to the tree.  But I was saved that effort.

I was not stung, my neighbors were not in danger as the swarm moved off a little later on, and it was an experience that reinforced much of what I learned from Deane and practiced daily in the garden.

One additional point is that bees apparently do not like our exhaled breath, so if you are confronted by bees on you or around you, keep calm -- and do not exhale through your mouth - keep-it-closed!

Thank you to Nancy K. for sending me this video to share.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Free Seed Share and a Class coming up.

Dear Folks,

A couple of events coming up please share this with friends and family.

The "why garden" article referenced below is applicable anywhere, not just the desert.

Friday September 27th, from 9 a.m. to Noon
Mesa Community Farmers Market

Center Street, South of University on the East-side grass area

I have been host this event FREE 3 times a year to coincide with best planting time.  You do not need seed to participate, but if you want to bring some, make sure it is either seed you harvested from your own garden or is non-GMO.

If it is squash or pumpkin type seeds, bring a couple of table spoons for sharing and roast the rest for your family to snack on :-)

Tuesday, October 1st, 10:30 a.m. to Noon
Smiling Dog Landscaping

From Ground to Table – How to Have a Bountiful Garden with Catherine Crowley  Tuesday October 1st from 10:30 a.m. to Noon.
Seasonal transition tips, the basics of soil, sun and water, and why you CAN grow  just about everything edible in our desert, year round, if you understand our climate. Cost is $15 and minimum 10 participants for this class to be a go!  Register at or call 480 288 8749.

Why Garden?

Read my contribution to the brand new newsletter by Urban Farm here.

 I hope to see you at one of these events.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Parents - Have you really looked at what is in Chicken Nuggets? And recipes.

Dear Folks,

We have been having a family discussion today about chicken nuggets whether spelled with a "Mc" or not - fast food or frozen food section of the grocery.

The ingredient lists remind me of the old 'parts-is-parts' commercials of some years ago.  In short - chicken nuggets and similar prepared foods are an amalgam of 'parts' and other things.  While some of the fast food places insist their version is mostly chicken breast meat, for instance, they can say that --  if it is 50.1 %.

Every time someone says to a parent - you can make that at home - I know many of them respond with:  1) why, and 2) WHEN!

The fact that homemade conjures up hours over a stove, like the old movies, is as out of touch as most of the modern idea of what food is and where it comes from.

Real, wholesome food is about something that looks like what it is, not canned, pre-made, or packaged.

Okay enough of the 'lecture' -- if you want to read up a little on what a nugget contains you can read here:
. . .

Homemade ground meat with a food processor.
I just did this last week and it only takes a few minutes after freezing.  It took me maybe 2 minutes to cut the meat up to prepare.
Start with any good quality meat:  beef, boneless chicken, boneless pork, or turkey breasts.
Cut into small cubes between 1/2 - 1 inch in size, place on a cookie sheet - not touching - and put in freezer for about 15-20 minutes.  They should feel 'firm' on the outside but not frozen.
The purpose is to keep texture like ground meat and not have it coming out like puree.
Depending on your size food processor, put in enough cubes to just cover the blades.  Pulse until you get a good ground chop - about 7-10 pulses.
The cold meat comes out of the processor without sticking to the blades.  Continue in batches until you have ground all of your meat.
It is ready to use or freeze in packages to use later.  A few extra minutes and you can make up large batches for freezing.
Chicken/Sweet Potato Burgers
Last week I wanted to make up some chicken burgers using some left over sweet potatoes.  I went to the store thinking I would pick up a package of ground chicken.  I was turned off by the label "natural flavoring" added - you need to add flavor to chicken!!!!????
Natural Flavor in case you are not familiar with this term of art is industrial food speak for 'made in a lab' from something probably unrelated to the food item in question.  ICK.

So I chose some organic chicken tenders which happened to be on sale (was way cheaper than the ground chicken package) and followed the general make-your-own-ground-meat tip above.

I had a pound of ground chicken now
shredded up 1 sweet potato
mixed in with a bit of salt and pepper and some of my own dried celery leaf and garlic chives
used my wonderful old TupperWare burger maker and voila - chicken burgers.

I cooked them up in a pan with a knife tip of my fat blend* and Deane declared them wonderful and that he did not think a chicken burger could be as satisfying as a hamburger (my meat and potatoes guy is a good sport but has very particular preferences when it comes to what is satisfying).  I won this one :-)

Here is a link for a recipe for homemade chicken nuggets which I think you and your family could thoroughly enjoy.

I think you could skip the ground meat and use cubes as an option.

The nice thing is you can pre-make them up to ready to put on the tray for baking point and freeze, ready to make whenever.
You can certainly swap out the herbs for others - maybe even try a little mild chili powder for a southwest version.

*for flavor and to reduce the need for too much fat while sauteeing or searing foods, I make a bland of 3 fats in equal portions, gently melted together, poured into a mason jar, capped after completely cooling and I have it ready for use whenever.  A knife tip is literally about a 1/4 to a 1/2 teaspoon.

1/3 each organic butter, organic olive oil, and uncured rendered bacon fat (saved from cooking up the bacon).

For the dipping sauce I recommend my version of dill/onion dip:

1 cup of plain yogurt
1 heaping teaspoon of dried dill weed
1 tablespoon of dried minced onion
a couple of shakes of the salt shaker

Mix all together and let sit in the frig for about an hour to let the flavors blend.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Bye Bye Buzzards Day Food Sampling at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum - September 21, 2013

Dear Folks,

Below are the recipes for the food sampling I did today at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.  I developed this menu for the first time last year and it was a fun 'take' on the celebrations surrounding the migratory flock of Turkey Vultures which summer at the Arboretum.

My chili recipe is a version of the real chili of Mexico which uses no tomatoes.  While I love tomatoes and tomato products in my opinion it is overused as a seasoning instead of good spices and herbs.

“No Kill” Chili

Adapted from my book “101+ Recipes from The Herb Lady

Vegan and vegetarian friendly.  The refried beans give the thickness to the chili.  All herbs and spice measurements are listed for dry.  Triple the amount if using fresh.  (I doubled the basic recipe adding 1 can of Great Northern Beans– any white bean will do – including the liquid, and used 2 cups of edamame - not 4 but you can add more or less beans and liquid to suit your preferences.)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 cup water
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
1 tablespoon Epazote (divided)
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 can (15 oz) black beans w/liquid
1 can (16 oz) vegetarian refried beans
2 cups frozen green soybeans (shelled)
Optional: Topping using favorite Corn Bread Recipe.

Heat oil in heavy pan, add onion and garlic and stir for 1 minute, add all spices, and only half of Epazote and 1/2 cup water. Continuing stirring until all are well mixed, add other 1/2 cup water, refried beans and black beans (including bean liquid). Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Add soy beans and continuing cooking for additional 15 minutes adding reserved Epazote in the last 10 minutes.

Optional topping. Set oven to 400 degrees and have ready a medium casserole pan. Mix corn bread batter according to your recipe and set aside. After adding soy beans to chili cook for 5 minutes. Add epazote, stir and pour beans into casserole. Gently pour corn bread batter over beans. Bake for 20 minutes approximately, until bread is golden brown.  IMPORTANT: The chili should be hot from the stove to make the cornbread cook faster.  If you start with cold chili you may need to add 50% more cooking time +/- so keep an eye on it.

Chili recipes are all about options: Add any of the following to the top of the beans before serving or before adding the batter: shredded cheese, chopped fresh onions, chopped fresh cilantro, green chilies or jalapenos if you want heat, chopped celery (I like the crunch).

Carrion Chili Con Frijoles
To the basic bean chili recipe, I grilled up top round boneless thin steaks that I rubbed with a bit of olive oil and some of the oregano and cumin, cut into small pieces and added to the chili.

True Grit Cornbread
I am not a fan of dry cornbread.  I like it moist and slightly sweet.  The ‘grit’ in the recipe title refers to my swapping out half of the cornmeal called for with corn grits/polenta.

3/4 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup corn grits / polenta
2 1/2 cups milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup white sugar (I use organic)
1/3 cup honey**
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used avocado oil this time but any good quality oil including olive works nicely)
4 ozs. shredded whiter cheddar

**Tip: use the oil measuring cup to measure the honey and it will all slide out easily into the mixing bowl

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 cake pan.

Mix the cornmeal and grits with the milk, stir and let sit for 5 minutes while you measure the other ingredients out.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.

In the cornmeal mixture, beat in eggs, oil, and honey, stir in cheese, add flour mix and whisk until batter is smooth.  Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean. (Mine was done at 32 minutes.)

Something Weedy This Way Comes Salad

Organic Baby Spring Greens (5 oz package is about a gallon of greens, fluffed)
about 1 cup of mixed fresh herbs, chopped:
Lemon Verbena
French Tarragon
Horseradish Leaf
Za-tar (Middle Eastern Oregano)
Sweet Basil

I made a simple dressing of 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, 6 tablespoons of olive oil and a scant ½ teaspoon of salt.

You can find more recipes in my book, available at these sites:




-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bird of Paradise - One of My Few Ornamentals

Dear Folks,

Isn't she gorgeous!

Taken today September 17, 2013, I do not have many ornamental-only plants in the garden because I want to concentrate on food-producing plants.

As with some of the other ornamental plants (like the Amaryllis bulb my dad gave me back in the early 1980's), this beautiful dwarf bird of paradise has a story.

By the way, the dwarf bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) has the prettiest flower, I think.  The giant bird of paradise has a blue/white flower and is not nearly as showy. The plant family is part of the a large family which includes ginger.

When I moved to Arizona I was taken with the possibilities of what could be grown here, but as I was in an apartment, I had no real room to try out some things.  On the other hand the office I worked in at the time had a large picture window in the front.  I happened across a package of bird of paradise seeds and thought I would try to grow them.  So I potted them up and one of the seeds germinated and took off.

This was in late 1976 or early 1977.  I then carried the plant around in one succeedingly larger container over the years keeping it inside or outside as the conditions of my home allowed.

I finally planted at our home about 8 or so years ago.  These plants need a certain number of leaves to produce enough energy to create this large flower.  It bloomed for the first time 3 years ago and we promptly had the first killing freeze in 20 years!!

The plant went to the ground but I was hopeful.  It came back, then got somewhat frozen again this past winter but did not go completely to the ground.

This and 2 other flower spikes which have not yet opened are only the second time it has bloomed for me in the 37 or so years I have trundled the poor thing around.  So I found her happy spot and hope to enjoy blooms in succeeding years.

. . .

Coming Up

Bye-Bye Buzzards Food Sample Fun at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.

Free Seed Share at the Mesa Community Farmers Market

Ground to Table Class at Smiling Dog Landscaping.

See my website page for links.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

You can find my books at these links:





Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Salad Recipe - Just Because!

Dear Folks,

I enjoy making salads and trying to come up with varieties to make them interesting.

Recently I decided to be more conscious of my weight and need to drop some pounds.  I generally eat quite healthy - comparatively speaking - but truth be known I gorge when I'm stressed with 'stuff', so I decided on a simple plan:  try to keep the starches to a minimum, focus on protein, vegetables and fruits and keep the small plate handy :-)  (There is no dearth of information on just how big our portion sizes, let alone the plate sizes have grown in the last 50 years.)

A while back I read an article about a trainer in Scottsdale (and sorry if I could find the exact info I would give you who and where) who came up with her version of a healthy, easy, way of plating up your food to focus on healthy and losing weight.  Imagine the plate divided in 3 sections:  Protein, low-starch vegetables, and fruits.  Works for me!

A note about salts and fats - we need some and the problem is not THE food item, it is what we do with it.  Swinging in extreme directions does our bodies no good.  Too little salt and we have water retention issues; too little fat and some of the good foods we eat are not properly absorbed.

I will put a little more about my general eating preferences below the recipe.

Catherine's Composed Salad

Romaine lettuce
Curly kale
Sweet Italian Basil
Garlic Chives
Edamame, cooked and drained
Roasted Red Peppers

Lime juice, fresh squeezed (can use lemon, grapefruit, orange or vinegar)
Olive oil
Black pepper

Chop or tear the greens into bite-size pieces.  Toss together. Dice the peppers and cantaloupe.  Arrange salad in a pleasing-to-you manner.

Dressing is a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio of lime juice depending on how tangy you like your dressing.  I add salt to taste, roughly a 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon depending on how much liquid I wind up with.  Citrus dressings are nicer for not only the taste but also with a couple of shakes, they will stay mixed for quite a while at the dinner table.

Every couple of days I chop a mix of greens and herbs to keep as a base in a container in the refrigerator

Recycling: I kept one of those 'salad' boxes of pre-mixed greens come in from the grocery, and re-use for this purpose - I place a paper towel over the greens after chopping and spinning and putting the lid on, to keep the condensation from the greens.  This way I can make a fast salad when I'm short of time or ideas :-)

So, protein, vegetables and fruit makes a great salad meal for lunch or dinner.

. . .

My preferences on food are largely guided by nutrient density.

I have my guilty pleasures just like anyone else.  I LOVE excellent artisan bread, White Castle Hamburgers (or their cheeseburgers), Taylor Ham (both east coast favorites) and the occasional fast food sandwich.  Most of these I indulge in 2 or 3 times a year, except for the bread, which is why I had to re-consider how to go about losing some weight.

I also use whole goat or cow milk and yogurt (making my own yogurt when I can); a bit of bacon grease from uncured bacon, different oils like olive and avocado, real butter (organic).  I'm a lover of dark chocolate and find ways to make homemade versions of decadent treats (Fudge and fudge sauce).  I use organic cane sugar, agave nectar, honey and stevia, depending on what I am making.

I generally have a cast-iron stomach and can eat anything with no problem, but a while back I had an 'episode' of I don't know what.  I changed my morning yogurt routine from 'most of the time' to 'every' morning.

I have become very fond of Himalayan pink salt and buy it coarse when I can and grind as needed. I also use sea salt for fine salt needs.

For sauteeing I have come up with an excellent combination of flavor and tolerable fat combination that gives my food really good flavor without going into 'heart attack territory'.

I gently melt 1/3 cup of my stored uncured bacon grease, 1/3 cup of organic butter and 1/3 cup of organic olive oil.  Stir to mix well and pour into a mason jar.  Let cool on the counter before capping (so you do not have condensation) then store in the frig.  Literally a knife tip in the pan will flavor anything you cook - probably less than a teaspoon of total fat, but full of lots of flavor.

For my dieting purposes I have shifted to selecting a bread/cracker for the day.  I select or put out one serving and use it for whatever purpose during the day.  So for example I will use 4-5 crackers to scoop my yogurt in the morning; I may crumble some of the crackers over my salad (like croutons), or take a piece of meat or cheese with a few as snacks during the day.

For snacks, I also wrap slices of meat or cheese around: cucumber, carrot, sugar pea pods, green bean bundles, or fold the meat or cheese into a leaf of romaine.

I either make my own crackers - see link here for my seed/nut/cheese gluten-free cracker. or purchase 'good' options.

When selecting bread or crackers I use my 'nutrient density formula' - the protein and fiber grams are totaled and divided into the calories per serving.  The density has to be 20 or less.

My current go-to cracker choices are original Triscuit; Kashi's Original 7 Grain Sea Salt, or Kashi Toasted Asiago.

I also use the treadmill at the gym 3 times a week because I can adjust for a steep incline and a fast past, doing 60 minutes or about 4 miles.

. . .

And lastly I enjoy a glass of wine or beer and love all varieties, but they are not the lowest-calorie beverage options nor are they even remotely nutrient dense.  Also opening a bottle of wine without a stew or 'something' to cook with the remainder is not an option right now for me (unless I want to pull out the crockpot I'm not doing 'hot meal' type cooking now.

I have a 'beer' cocktail I came up with adjusting a fun drink a friend made for me recently.

The basic premise is to rim a large glass with lime juice and salt as you would a margarita - here is my version.  Makes 2 drinks.

Catherine's Beer Cocktail
Currently I'm fond of Sam Adams Cherry Wheat beer but any light beer will blend nicely with the lime juice

1 lime, cut in half
Himalayan pink salt
1 bottle of light beer
1 can of sparkling seltzer (not club soda - has more sodium in it) or water
Ice cubes

You have the option of NOT rimming the glass with the ground salt.  Instead you can add a small grind after you put the ice cubes in.

Squeeze one half lime into each of two tall glasses.
(Optional:  Run the cut lime around the edge of the glass before squeezing, and dip in ground salt)
Pour half a bottle of beer down the side (to avoid a head) of each glass.
Pour half of the can of seltzer in each glass
Add ice
Add a tiny grind of salt to the floating ice cubes if you choose.

Sip and enjoy.

I have some events and classes coming up.  Check out the "about" page on my website.

I hope you find these ideas and recipes enjoyable!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My books





Monday, August 26, 2013

Lemon Verbena - August Herb of the Month / Ready Set Sow!

Dear Folks,

Although the month is almost over, I thought I would focus on this outstanding herb.  Lemon Verbena is the Herb Society of America's herb of the month and it is justly deserving of attention.

Aloysia citrodora (aka Lippia citrodora ) is a fabulous lemon-flavored and scented herb sometimes called the "lemon drop" plant.  Once you smell the bruised leaf you will understand why, the fragrance is amazing.

This member of the verbena family is closely related to Mexican Oregano another great herb for your garden.

Both are sub-tropical and will withstand some freezing, but not hard (killer) freezes without proper protect.  Both can grow to be very tall hedge/shrubs - which is a very good thing for all the opportunity to use them in cooking.

Like many of the other lemon-flavored herbs, Lemon Verbena gets its taste and scent from one or more of the essential oils found in the skin of lemons.  Except without the acid, so you can use these herbs as you would lemon in cooking, and it stands up to heating very well, unlike some more delicate flavored herbs.

In the desert garden the plant will go somewhat dormant in the winter.  Prune dead branches in late winter/early spring when you start to see new growth at the base.

Plant in early fall or early spring (February/March) for best success, in full sun and well draining soil.

Check out my prior blog post where I discuss lemon verbena along with other gardening and cooking aspects.

. . .

September Gardening -- Ready Set Sow!

First off, if you are planning on planting garlic (October 1-31) or potatoes (November 30-January 1st) you may wish to start looking for sources for the starter 'seed' cloves or potatoes.  I like Potato Garden, but local nurseries like Harpers may soon have either of them for sale.

Next, if you have not done so or need to 'fluff' the garden, begin preparing the soil.

Fall is THE spring in the desert garden for heavy planting of not only cool weather annuals but also THE best time to transplant fruit trees (October-November).

Before you start looking for seeds to sow, think about how much of what, particularly root crops, you want to be harvesting.  Successive sowing means planting seeds every 2-4 weeks, generally through mid to late winter for continuing harvesting.

Successive sowing means, instead of planting 15 foot rows of carrots or beets or radishes, but 2-4 feet each and another 2-4 feet in 2-4 weeks. 

Choose short maturity varieties of roots and greens (lettuces, kale, arugula, spinach, chard, etc.) to have faster harvests.

Head variety vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts take not only a long time to get to harvest stage (90-120 days), but also each take up a lot of room, so consider size of mature plant when laying out your sowing/transplanting plan.

If you do decide to go with head varieties - when you harvest use the greens!  The leaves are edible like the 'flower bud' you are picking.

One of my all-time favorite vegetables to grow during the cool time of the year are sugar peas.  These prolific producers of sweet edible pods will produce for months if you keep the pods picked regularly.  (Sample the tasty growing tips from time to time in your salads, stir frys or omelettes -- just not too often you want all those healthy vines to keep growing and producing the pods :-)

Beans (bush and pole beans in first two weeks in September at latest)
Bok Choy
Brussels Sprouts
Cornflower/bachelor Buttons (Centaurea Cyanus)
Endive (and Chicory)
Fennel, Leaf
Onions, Green
Kale, Ornamental Cabbage
Lettuce (leaf lettuce, arugula, mustard greens etc.)
Scented Geranium
Snapdragon (Antirrhinum Majus)
Sweet Alyssum
Sweet William Aka Pinks (Dianthus Barbatus)

Get out and get growing - what else is more of everything in life than growing some or much of your own food!

. . .

By the way - I finally got my website up and running again.  Check it out when you have a chance

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My books




Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Celebrate More Herbs - Less Salt Day! - August 29th

Dear Folks,

August 29th is More Herbs, Less Salt Day

Let me first say that salt (or fat) is not a bad thing, it is how we use it that comes into question.

The prosperity of post World War II began a succession of ‘time saving’ services and products which were mostly a good thing, but literally and figuratively took us away from our roots of having a small kitchen garden or herb pot out side the back door.  Entire generations followed, hooked on salt substituting for taste through frozen TV dinners, fast food, and prepared meals in a box.

Very simply, if you season first with herbs and spices you will get the real taste of the food popping in your mouth.  Then if you need to add salt, do so but to taste, not recipe.

There are exceptions.  Most starchy cooked or baked foods (like bread or pasta) need some salt, but even there you can try halving the salt and substituting herbs and spices which will really make the flavor stand out.

Like baked potatoes (Russet or Sweet)?  Try this the next time you are going to bake, roast or grill them.

Have ready a fresh lemon cut in half and finely minced rosemary (fresh or dried - fresh is best if you have it).

Cut open the cooked potato, sprinkle with the lemon juice, follow with a sprinkle of rosemary and taste - you may not miss the butter or salt this tastes so good!

Not sure what herbs or spices to use with what food?

Here is a simple tip.

Your nose is a gate way of determining ultimate flavor (sense of smell and taste differs from person to person) – put a small amount of an herb or spice in the palm of your hand.   Rub and sniff.  If you like it add another, and rub together, sniff again and determine if you like the combination.  You can stop with each separately or continue to add a couple more different herbs/spices to create your very own ‘go to’ blend for everything.  Trust me, if you do not like the smell of an herb or spice you may not like the taste, but if it smells good to you it will taste good on your food.

My personal “go to” flavor combinations are:

Rosemary, garlic and black pepper

Lime, basil and black pepper.

The picture is of three different types of basil - possibly the most loved herb in the whole world, literally.  From top to bottom - Sweet Italian, Lime (really, it has the scent and taste of lime with a light basil flavor) and Thai an incredible combination of basil and tarragon flavor.

Make this day your personal creating day to add more flavor and less salt to your meals.  Your family and you will benefit all the way around.

More Herbs, Less Salt Day = Happy Cooking!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My books




Sunday, July 14, 2013

Eggplant -- Why it is called 'egg'-plant.

Dear Folks,

Our eggplant is a little over 4 feet tall at its' tallest right now, and putting out lots of fruit and lovely, but toxic, flowers.

So why is it called eggplant -- the picture shows the whole story -- white, shaped like an egg :-)  The British call eggplant aubergine, a name derived from a Catalan word for the plant by way of France.

Eggplant is a member of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family which also gives us tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, tomatillos and ground cherries.  All of the fruit of these plants are edible, including the seeds, but the entire rest of the plant is toxic/poisonous because of the alkaloid Solanine.

Solanine is also the element that gives the green cast to potatoes exposed to sunlight during the growing time and cannot be cooked out, which is why it is recommended to toss (or save to plant later) any potatoes showing more than a minute amount of green.

Back to eggplant.  Many people are familiar with the native of the India subcontinent and has been cultivated since pre-history (according to wikipedia).  Most American know the large purple variety, particularly used in Italian cooking.

The varieties now becoming better known are the white, plus wonderful green, lilac or lavender, blush and stripped versions, along with physical forms that are long and slender or round and ribbed.

As a general rule the smaller varieties are sweet, less seedy and do not require the salt-pre-soak to remove bitterness.  Also the smaller varieties are generally eaten skin and all.  They are wonderful roasted or on the grill and the dishes prepared with them range from eggplant Parmesan to the Middle Eastern dip Baba Ghanoush.


In the valley eggplant like the rest of the family are tender perennials and can grow for multiple years if we do not get a hard frost/freeze (we have had 2 in the last 3 years).  You can protect the plant over winter by mounding leaves completely over the plant or at least 12 - 18 inches up the base.  Chicken wire will keep the leaves in, an additional towel over the top on freezing nights will help.  (I was able to keep a tomato and sweet bell pepper alive this past winter freeze by doing this - it worked where other types of just-covering did not.)

The primary reason for keeping the plant alive during the winter, since they produce no useable fruit, is to have a larger root base going into spring and the plants have a jump-start on growth.  They like the heat and respond accordingly.

Unlike tomatoes which stop producing in the middle of the summer (restarting again in late summer when the night time temperatures fall back below 80), eggplant (and peppers) will continue to produce all summer long and into first frost.


Eggplant needs to be cooked to be eaten.  I came up with the what I think is the best grilled cheese sandwich when I was grilling slices of eggplant several years ago as a side dish and then for some reason was thinking of a grilled cheese sandwich.  I had some sweet bell pepper, fresh basil and a cheese I like and viola - awesome grilled cheese sandwich.

Catherine's Grilled Cheese

The idea is to layer grilled eggplant and peppers with fresh basil leaves alternating layers with cheese, starting and ending with cheese between the bread slices.

Eggplants sliced and brushed with olive oil
Sweet bell pepper cored and either halved or quartered depending on how big they are
Optional:  Hot pepper if you want some heat
Fresh basil leaves
Cheese of choice, sliced - American, provolone, mozzarella, gruyere or whatever one you like
2 pieces of bread for each person

Have the sliced cheese and rinsed basil leaves ready.
Grill the eggplant and peppers until done, with some bit of charring for flavor.
Toast the bread.

Assemble while hot.  Start with one bread slice, layer with cheese, a layer of eggplant, some basil, layer of cheese, layer of peppers, some basil, layer of cheese - you can really stack these - end with last slice of bread.  Return to grill if you want to melt the cheese, turning once - it will take only a minute or so on each side to melt the cheese slightly - don't over due it or you will lose the cheese into the coals.

Slice and enjoy,  Serve with sliced apples.


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My books




Monday, July 08, 2013

RIP Prescott Granite Mountain Hotshots!

Dear Folks,

One of the saddest sights in recent memory.

The 19 Prescott Granite Mountain Hotshots - going home.

Last Alarm:  June 30, 2013

You can make a donation to the families of the these fallen heroes through the Arizona 100 Club which assists the families of fallen or injured first responders.

No real words.  I am from a first responder family and my love is a retired EMT/Firefighter.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Friday, June 28, 2013

TELL THE EPA to lower not raise acceptable levels of "Round-Up" on your food crops.

TELL THE EPA to lower not raise acceptable levels of "Round-Up" on your food crops.

The comment period is over July 1st.

Despite more and more studies showing consequences of roudup use on our food crops (not to mention all the homeowner users of roundup) the EPA gave preliminary approval to Monsanto. EPA is now accepting comments from anyone. A brand new study adds hormonal cancer exacerbation to the list of toxic effects of roundup.
Please share this - the EPA needs to know the public does not want more chemicals we want less.

One of the many, many consequences of the continuing use of chemicals to control pests and weeds is the resulting SUPER weeds and pests, the very reason for Monsanto's request to increase the levels.

Please add your voice.

 You can just fill in your comment, preview and submit - the Deadline is July 1st.  You can put "Citizen" in the Organization box if you like.

 EPA Commennt Link on Round-Up

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Senator Stabenow on GMO Labeling "Runs counter to...the public interest"

Dear Folks,

The Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee on GMO Labeling.

In other words the consumers are idiots.

I think Senator Stabenow needs to hear from us idiots, don't you?

Tell Senator Stabenow what you think

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Monday, June 10, 2013

Who Loves Basil? Around the Garden, and more on Monsanto's Shenanigans.

Dear Folks,

The Herb Society of America has a wonderful 45 page booklet out - all about basil, lore, facts, recipes and varieties - this is a booklet every gardener should have.  I think I have grown at one time or another all 46 or so varieties and I have my favorites: Dark Opal, Thai, Cinnamon and Lime are at the top of my list, but they all have something wonderful that answers an age old conundrum:  Chicken again!!  If you HAD to serve chicken each night of the week, for weeks, how could you get it to be 'oh boy' instead of 'not chicken again!'  Herbs are always the answer but with a plant like basil the flavor options create a real pallet to choose from.

Herb Society Basil Guide

Around The Garden:

Harvested the last of our beets (Deane loves beets) and sauteed up with some our crook neck squash.  The squash and tomatoes are still producing and I'm trying to encourage the last of the fruit set on the tomatoes before the nighttime temperatures stop fruit set.

My decision to plant 60+ yellow onion sets last fall has provided me with 'scallions' these last many months, and I have about 3 which I will let got to good storage bulb size before harvesting when they set flowers.  I may double the planting or at least go to 100 sets.

The method is this:  plant the sets in the fall (late September - November) about 3-4 inches apart.  After about 6 weeks you can begin harvesting 'green onions' by pulling every second or every third onion.  Gradually as you work your way through the winter and spring the distance between sets gets bigger and therefore the bulbs have room to expand.  As you get towards the end of their season  7 - 10 months later - the remainder are at 'storage' size, and can be pulled and cured (dry out of direct sun until skin turns papery) and you have storage onions like you would buy in the store.

Critters In The Garden:

We encourage many critters in the garden, occasionally we also encourage them to not stay long and other times we want them to take up residence.  Bees are one of the ones we want to hang around, although we do not want a hive in the yard (Deane is a former bee keeper and knows their needs and management considerations), so I bought a 'bee house' to encourage the independent Mason and leaf cutter bees to move in.  We have one tenant and that is after I moved the bee house to an area I thought more to their liking.

About the time we think we have critters figured out they surprise us.  Each year we know the leaf cutters are around because of the 'watermelon smiles' cut outs they leave behind after taking a wedge out to shape their cells for depositing eggs.

FYI for you folks who are too in love with your precious flowering plants - bees pollinate those flowers so give them some slack when they take pieces of your plants leaves - you are being blessed by their presence!

So anyway, 1 tenant in the bee house and no other indications of where they might be setting up housekeeping -- until . . . Deane has a work bench on the patio, on said work bench is a piece of carpeting he keeps there to cushion projects and also keep the bench from deteriorating.  So the other day he took the carpet off to get some sawdust or debris or something  off of the carpeting and look what he discovered!!!!  An entire straightline condo of leaf cutter bee nests!  If you have never seen these before - focus on the line of green running along the edge of the bench in the bottom photo.

We laughed and laughed - that is a lot better choice than the spout on our drinking fountain where in the past when we did not use it for a time, turn the faucet on and out shoots a bee nest like a projectile from a gun!.

So Deane carefully put the carpet back and there it will stay until the bees hatch and fly off.  And so goes our Garden TV as we call it - always something interesting going on in the garden. :-)


The chemical giant who turned our farms into chemical experiments are apparently now reaping some payback.  Lawsuits have been filed as class-actions in Washington state and Kansas on behalf of US wheat farmers.  I would not be surprised if more do not join in.  Normally I am not happy when lawsuits are filed - there is a lot of harassment-by-lawsuit in this country, a situation I do not endorse, but I have to say I am almost doing a happy dance over these filings.  Monsanto has developed a reputation for suing farmers, this may be payback.

But there is actually worse news --  After the discovery of GMO wheat in an Oregon field, Monsanto repeatedly stated: 1) they stopped the trials of GMO wheat years ago (references varied from 7-10), 2) they had no idea how the wheat seed go into the Oregon field, 3) made thinly veiled references to 'activists' maybe being responsible for the seed, and 4) re-affirmed what the USDA has said - there is not approved GMO wheat in the US.

WELL GUESS WHAT - Monsanto has been trialing GMO WHEAT in two states THIS YEAR 2013!!

Sorry for 'yelling' I am fuming at not only Monsanto's actions (after all they are the poster-child of corporate greed and Machiavellian rules -- the end justifies the means) but also the Monsanto 71 - Our Senators  who sided with Monsanto over our right as consumers to know what is in our food.

Monsanto 2013 GMO Wheat Planting

We as consumers have another chance to get our voices heard with Congress - a bill introduced at the end of April 2013 is specifically focused on labeling Genetically Engineered foods.

Currently it is considered 'unlikely' to make it out of committee.  Let's see if enough people want to change that to get it out of committee.

Below is the government track on the house and senate versions of the bill.  I've listed the page for the Chair of the committees assigned the bill.

"Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act"

Chair of the House Committee assigned this bill

Chair of the Senate Commiteee assigned this bill

Absent ANY effort by our elected Congressional representatives - I would continue to encourage everyone to contact their favorite grocery chain and ask them - politely - to follow Whole Food's lead and require GMO ingredient labeling on all foods they carry.  Whole Foods has committed to a 2018 target (because these things do take time).

Below are the facebook pages for some of the largest chain companies.

Mesa and East Valley residents - mark your calendars and save the date FREE SEED SHARE - Friday, July 5th, 9 a.m. - Noon at the Mesa Farmers Market.  Get together your home-harvested seed or organic or heirloom varieties you would like to share.  You do not need to have seed to get some seed :-)  Our heavy sowing season for fall begins July 15th through the summer. -- more details as we get closer to the date.

Be safe out there - make sure there is water for any one or any critter outside.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Ask Your Senators to adopt certain amendments to the Farm BIll

Dear Folks,

There are some amendments which are / will be considered this week or soon that will aid GMO labeling efforts and small farmers.  Below are a list of the amendments (provided by Farm To Consumer Defense League).  Please consider calling your Senators on these.

Also yesterday I sent out a google newsletter listing the facebook page of some of the major grocer chains.  If Congress can't or won't act to require GMO labeling, maybe we consumers can get the corporate stores to do it for us.  Whole Foods has committed to requiring GMO labeling by 2018 (it takes time to ramp up).  This can be done, and has been before when Krogers was one of the first to require rBHT dairy products be labeled even with the threat of lawsuits from suppliers.

Ask your favorite store to require GMO labeling

1. YES on Senator King's Amendment #1042 that helps protect more small-scale, direct-marketing farmers from burdensome new federal regulations. The FDA has undermined the original intent of the Tester-Hagan amendment to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) by basing farmers' qualifications on all the food they sell, rather than the food subject to FSMA. Senator King's Amendment restores the original intent and brings more farmers within the protections of the Tester-Hagan provision, preventing them from being driven out of business by new federal regulations.
2. YES on Senator King's Amendment #1033: The FDA's proposed rules under FSMA are not based on sound science. Instead, they assume the worst of every situation and force farmers to find science on their own to prove that their farming methods are safe. Many traditional and sustainable methods of cultivation will be guilty until proven innocent. Senator King's amendment would require the agency to do an analysis of the scientific information used to develop the proposed rules, as well as analysis of the rules' economic impacts. The analysis would specifically include the impact on local food systems and the availability of local food.
3. YES on Senator Tester's Classical Breeding Amendment #972 to provide alternatives to genetically engineered crops. Senator Tester's amendment prioritizes public cultivar and breed development through classical breeding. The amendment doesn't call for any new expenditure by the government, nor does it stop all funding for GMO research. It's a modest approach that allocates some existing research funds for non-GMO research.
4. YES on Senator Merkley's Amendment #978 to repeal the Monsanto Protection Act. In the last continuing budget resolution, pro-biotech forces inserted a provision that allows companies like Monsanto and DuPont to continue to sell genetically modified (GMO) seeds for planting even when a court of law has found they were approved illegally. The provision forces USDA to grant temporary permits and deregulate GMO crops even if a Federal court has ruled that USDA hadn't adequately considered the environmental or economic risks to farmers. Senator Merkley's amendment repeals the provision and restores judicial review of GMO crops.
5. YES on Senator Begich's Amendment #934 to ban GMO salmon. The FDA continues to consider the application for AquaBounty's genetically engineered salmon, and it appears likely to approve it despite objections from hundreds of thousands of Americans and many scientists. Since it will not be labeled, people will have no way of choosing to avoid genetically engineered salmon in the stores if this fish is approved.
In addition, the GMO salmon poses a threat to those who wish to eat wild salmon or other seafood; scientists have predicted that escaped GMO salmon would likely wipe out wild salmon populations, which will destroy the livelihood of coastal communities that depend on fishing. Senator Begich's amendment protects both consumers and our important wild fish populations.
6. YES on Senator Boxer's Amendment #1025 that expresses support for labeling of GMOs, although it does not directly mandate labeling. "It is the sense of the Senate that the United States should join the 64 other countries that have given consumers the right to know if the foods purchased to feed their families have been genetically engineered or contain genetically engineered ingredients."
7. YES on Senator Wyden's Amendment #952 that allows American farmers to once again grow hemp to the extent that it is allowed under state laws. Industrial hemp is the non-psychoactive, low-THC, oilseed and fiber varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant. Hemp has absolutely no use as a recreational drug.
Hemp is planted in many countries, and it is legal to use in the U.S. - but it is not legal to plant it in the U.S. The seed is known for its healthy protein and rich oil. The outer fiber from the stalk can be used for clothing, canvas and rope; the inner core fiber can be used for construction and paper production. This crop provides excellent opportunities for farmers for a sustainable, profitable crop. 
8. YES on Senator Boxer's Amendment #1027 to protect honeybees and other pollinators. Senator Boxer's amendment would require the USDA, the Department of Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the long-term viability of honeybees and other pollinators. Honeybees are disappearing at an alarming rate, and the federal agencies have been just sitting by and watching it happen. This poses a threat to all food production and we cannot afford to let it continue.
9. YES on Grassley's Amendment #969 to create a USDA special counsel on consolidation and fight back against the corporate takeover of our food system. A small handful of companies control the vast majority of our agricultural system. This unprecedented level of consolidation has gone almost entirely unchallenged, allowing these companies to squeeze out farmers. For consumers, this means lower quality food at higher prices. Senator Grassley has filed an amendment that would create a USDA special counsel to monitor consolidation in agriculture. The counsel would coordinate antitrust enforcement and efforts to improve competition in the industry.
10. YES on Cruz's Amendment #1083 to prohibit mandatory check-offs. Under the current "check-off" programs, anytime a farmer sells a cow or a gallon of milk or any other covered commodity, the farmer is required to pay a fee to industry-run organizations. These funds are used to pay for things such as the "Got Milk?" and "Pork, the other white meat" advertising campaigns. The problem is that these advertising campaigns benefit primarily the retailers and grocery stores, not the farmers, but the farmers are stuck paying the bills.
When it comes to raw milk, the industry adds insult to injury by promoting only pasteurized milk products and running ads against raw milk - yet raw milk farmers are still required to pay into the check-off to support those ads. And now there is a proposal for an organic check-off, to tax even more farmers. The Cruz Amendment would bar any check-off program from being mandatory. If producers wish to fund a joint advertising campaign, they still could, but they would no longer be coerced to support advertising efforts that are not in their interest.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady