Garden, Plant, Cook!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2016 International Year of Pulses (Legumes)

Dear Folks,

The United Nations has designated 2016 as the International Year of Pulses.  You can read up a bit about the focus here.

Are you a lover of beans? Or, not so much?

I grew up with a general disdain for beans, mostly because of the canned varieties used by everyone from my mom (and mom was a good cook) to those who brought the ubiquitous baked beans to picnics etc.

When I met my dear Deane, who has never met a bean he did not love, I needed to TRY and find beans and other legumes I could love and lovingly prepare for him.  My top favorites are Edamame (I LOVE the nutty not-beany taste of them), Lentils (fast cooking) and Garbonzos (mild and picks up the flavors of what they are cooked with) as hummus or part of stews.  Oh and I do like peanuts and peanut butter :-)

I am going to do a series of posts on legumes.  You probably already have read more than you need to on why they are so good for you and why you should eat more of them, but I will just list the high points:

--CHEAP protein!
--No cholesterol
--High Fiber
--Filling
--Plays well with other foods (even assuming the flavor identity of what they are cooked or prepared with)
--Naturally low in sodium and sugars

Let me start you off with several things.

1)  I found a great site that lists many legumes in order of protein to calorie ratio.  This site did a lot of the research work for me on nutrient content.  Under each legume you can click on a more expanded chart of all the nutrition pulled from the Nutrient Data Base on the USDA - a site I use a lot to get as accurate a list of nutrition data on a food.

http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/beans-legumes-highest-protein.php

Nutritionist Daisy Whitbread runs this site and she lists soybeans as number 3 on the best protein to calorie ratio.  Specifically this one is for Mature Soybeans.

So I went and pulled comparable data from the NDB on Edamame (green, immature) and the ratios are about the same

Edamame, shelled and boiled:

100 Grams (equal to 3.5 ounces weighed - about 5 ounces in a cup measure)
Calories:  121
Protein Grams 11.91 g
Fiber Grams 5.2 g
Protein Gram to Calorie 1 Gram of Protein per 10.15 Calories

Soybeans, Mature, and boiled (from healthaliciouness.com)
100 Grams
Calories:  173
Protein Grams:   16.6 g
Fiber Grams:   6 g
Protein Gram to Calorie = 1 Gram of Protein per a 10.4 Calories

The ratios are the same.  With the mature soybeans you can go for more protein per portion, you also get more calories which can be a good thing if you need the energy.  If you are looking to control calories, go with the Edamame.

2)  While I'm discussing soybeans - a little history is in order.

Soy and soy products like Tofu, Tempeh (both on the chart) and Soy Sauce* have long been used in Asian cooking.

Before the growing interest in tofu and soy products when vegetarians and vegans wanted better protein sources starting back in the 60s and 70s and rapidly expanding in the last couple of decades, soybeans were grown primarily in the US for cattle feed.

Soybeans as food for people and as a soil nitrogen regenerative, became better known with the Great Depression. "Prior to the 1920 in the USA, the soybean was mainly a forage crop, a source of oil, meal (for feed) and industrial products, with very little used as food." -- wikipedia

In the past I have had some "ugh" reactions from folks who obviously grew up with canned soybeans when I've talked about the wonderful aspects of Edamame.  Poor-folk food and cattle feed were their memories.

As many of you know, the GMO chemical companies have so taken over the soybean growing something like 93% of soy grown here in the US is GMO.

BUY ORGANIC!  Whether for eating or sowing make sure the beans you purchase are organic.

*Soy Sauce (Tamari) actually has protein, but since it is only used sparingly in cooking the ratio amount is low.  See the chart here.

Growing Soybeans In the Desert Garden

This is a fun crop to grow here in the desert.  You can begin planting Soybeans in late March and successive plant every 2-4 weeks through the end of May and into early June.  The successive planting works very well, because the beans ripen at the same time on each plant (for edamame), so you can harvest well into the middle of summer.  Always leave some to dry completely on the plant for 1) re-sowing next year, and 2) to have some dried for storage and cooking later.

Saving beans for re-sowing ensures you have NON-GMO beans AND you are regionally adapting your beans to your garden with each subsequent sowing and saving.

As with all legumes you get a two'fer when growing them and letting some of them dry completely.  Food and nitrogen fixing into your soil.  The nitrogen recharge of the soil is when the plant completes its life cycle and the nodules on the roots stay in the soil.

Plant in a sunny, well-draining spot.  Harvest for Edamame when the pods are plump, green and yield a little to pressure, about 50-65 days after sowing.  Let them go to full dried brown if you want them dried.


Recipes:

When purchasing Edamame, go for the shelled as it is usually a better price break, unless you want the fun "popping" appetizer of the pods simmered in seasoned water or broth.

I have use the Edamame beans in everything from salads to hummus type dips.  I've added them to my Stuffed Pumpkin recipe to boost the nutrient density for a Vegan Main Dish, to my Bean Chili, to Pasta Primavera, and all sorts of stews.

Tips:

--Any good size squash can be used in place of a pumpkin.
--Pasta dishes with vegetables (like the Primavera) are a breeze to make.  Just add the vegetables to the pasta while boiling.  Calculate the amount of time for the vegetables to cook and add at the point in the cooking of the pasta.  Example:  The edamame needs 5 minutes, shredded zucchini or similar needs 1-2 minutes etc.  The pasta cooks for 9 minutes, so add the edamame after the pasta has cooked for 4 minutes, add the zucchini 3 minutes later.  Drain all together, and add seasonings and sauces.


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Where To Purchase Plants and Monthly Planting Comment.

Dear Folks,

First thank you to all those who are taking the time to answer my survey question!

The survey, in the upper side bar, runs through January 6th.

JM asked where to purchase the plants I discuss, and also asked about a monthly planting list .  Very good questions.

PLANTS and SEEDS, Where I buy:

I cruise plant nurseries like some people cruise bars - I am addicted to seeing what might be new or I may be on a mission to purchase something, but can't resist looking at more additions to my gardens.

I also pick up seeds and plants at events where groups such as the AZ Herb Association may be participating or at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum or Desert Botanical Garden annual plants sales.

I also purchase a lot of seed for 1) my gardens and 2) to add to the seed bank inventory I bring, free, to the Mesa Community Farmers Market 3 times a year to coincide with the next sowing season here in the valley.  (The next one is January 20th - 9 a.m. to 1 p.m..)

Some of the more uncommon plants I grow I've grown from seed - like Roselle and Syrian Oregano (aka Hyssop of the Bible or Za'atar").

Locally I do shop at the chain nurseries but also A&P Nursery, Harper's Nursery and Suzanne Vilardi's plants (available at some farmers markets and several locally owned nurseries).

Some other than local nurseries resources I've used over the years are:

Plants:  Mountain Valley Growers

Seeds:  Bake Creek aka Rare Seeds  / Richters out of Canada  -- both companies have catalogs that will have your drooling.

. . .

I post a monthly planting list on the Valley Permaculture Alliance (VPA) site.  I do "cross-pollinate" posts but have not duplicated the lists, trying to keep some separation and subject matters unique.

Here is the link for the list for January

FYI - The VPA is a site dedicated to sustainable / permaculture of growing food, raising chickens etc.  Membership is free, but you do not have to be a member to read the posts on the forums.  VPA offers classes on a variety of subjects with low fees to attend.  I would encourage you to consider joining, it is free and is you are a member you can post and answer questions.

The number one comment I receive back from people on planting at the right time for the variety is "I don't remember to look at the 'book', 'post' etc.."

Back to the monthly planting lists.  I created my wall calendar for the specific purpose of giving you, the desert and deep south gardener, a tool to refer to, right there in your home.


While I have now published 2 years of the wall calendar, and I intend to do one each year (with new photos from my gardens) for the foreseeable future, the monthly planting information on vegetables, fruits, herbs and edible flowers does not change from year to year unless I find new-to-me edibles to trial in my gardens.  So you can consider the calendar a perpetual one.

My calendar - in two forms - one stapled and one spiral bound.

Keep the comments coming, folks, and thank you JM for your comment.


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

P.S.  I am readying a new short cookbook with a very special theme.  Watch for my release post.


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Sunday, December 27, 2015

My Survey - What Do YOU Want To See More Of?

Dear Folks,

I have not done a survey in a while, so check out the survey question at the top of the side bar and let me know what you want to see more of.  The survey will be open until January 6th, when I will check and post the results (you can see the results when you vote).

If you have some specific topics not listed, by all means email me so I can add those topics to the list of preferences.

catherine at herbs2u dot net

Have a great day!



-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Dinner - Trying some new things and Celebrating my Garden Salad

Dear Folks,

I hope your Christmas Day was wonderful, and filled with love and peace.  Today is the 2nd traditional Day of Christmas.

It was just 3 of us for dinner yesterday, Deane, a friend and I.   I wanted to try a couple of new things and they turned out well.  My sweet Deane and friend are such good sports on being guinea pigs for my recipes!

It was such a fun thing to go out into the garden Christmas morning and harvest for my salad:  red romaine, red sails lettuce, curly escorole, arugula, and I added some cilantro and chervil for extra flavor, plus a red scallion (I grow red bulb onions, with extra for harvesting a scallion through the winter when I need it).

When I make mashed potatoes I dice the potatoes so they cook faster and always, always leave the skin on.  Extra fiber and more of the vitamins etc.

Meat Roast in Pastry Dough

A recipe I wanted to try was a meat roast in pastry dough ala Beef Wellington.

The traditional recipe calls for a coating of liver pate (not interested) and a duxelles (finely minced mushrooms and herbs) and can't do that as Deane is severely allergic to mushrooms.

[Pictured one of the roasts ready to go into the oven and the pork roast finished, showing the apple stuffing.]

So I went looking for ideas and had a 2 pound pork loin in the freezer and decided to jump in and do two roasts so I picked up a bottom eye round beef roast.  (This was the roast beef we had as a special treat on Sunday dinners - one of the cheapest cuts of beef because it is also very tough, or can be - the trick is to carve on the bias and you have a nice tender piece of meat.)

I purchased 4 frozen pie crusts (next time I will try to make my own - another of my 'need to try making lists' or purchase puff pastry).

I sprinkled both meats with salt and pepper on all sides, then quickly seared all sides (1 minute each) in avocado.  I left the beef roast with just the S&P, but decided on a stuffing for the pork.  Alton Brown had a nice idea for this (his "Pork Wellington") so I took the general idea and made a mix of dried apples from our trees, a tiny bite of my garlic dried and added some walnuts and stuffed the mix into the pork and put extra on top.

I rolled out the pie crusts and had to kind of cut and paste into a rectangle (the reason why I need to either make my own next time or get puff pastry).  It worked just not quite as sturdy.  It looked beautiful when done, but fell apart when cut for dinner.  Still tasted great!

Since this was my first time making roasts in pastry I chose a 400 degree oven, put each roast in a separate small pan lined with aluminum foil and started the pork first, put the beef in 15 minutes later and pulled them both out at a total hour.  The pork was done perfectly and the beef was still too red in the center for everyone's tastes so I moved the beef off the foil into another dish and popped into the microwave for 4 minutes, perfect!

I used the pan drippings from searing to start a gravy.  There was not quite enough, so I had to improvise with some water, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of espresso coffee powder (I keep a jar in the freezer for use when making things like brown gravy and some chocolate desserts), and a bit of turkey stock.  Salt and pepper and it all came together in a nice flavor blend gravy.

After some years of cooking you get to be a good improvisational cook, but keep notes in case everyone likes it.  Some years ago I whipped up a green goddess dressing*  for a special salad and afterwards my friend asked me what ingredients I used and I could not tell him!  I was just going for texture, look and taste and adding to as a I went. :-)

*Green Goddess Dressing:  All the greens and herbs go into the blender with the acid and oil to make a gorgeous dressing for chunky type salads - almost a sauce rather than a dressing.

Cheese Ball


For a while now I've been wanting to try making a cheese ball.  I know it is simple and folks have been doing this appetizer for years but I kept balking at the Cream Cheese component most recipe ideas start out with.  I LOVE cheese and I want real cheese and real nutrition density.  Then I did some research on recipes using yogurt and found some good ideas.

I had purchased a new Arizona Cheese at the farmers market:  White Cheddar with garlic and black pepper and thought that would be a good start.  I finely grated about half a cup of that along with about an equal amount of Parmesan, added a couple of tablespoons of Greek yogurt, several tablespoons of diced red bell pepper, a sprinkle of sweet paprika. Blended all with a spatula, then I dabbed my hands with a bit of my butter spread* and rolled it into a ball, then rolled it chopped walnut nuts and used plastic wrap to keep in a ball shape to chill.

I served this as dessert with sweet potato chips, blackberries, grapes, some spiced nuts a friend gave us and a mix of chocolates and cookies.  A take off on a dessert tray of cheese, fruit and nuts.

 * Organic butter and avocado oil blended with a pinch of salt to make a healthier butter spread

Gardening:

We desert gardeners can get back into the garden now (with most of the celebrations behind us), unlike 4-season gardeners who can only drool over the seed catalogs waiting until April or thereabouts to sow and plant.

Traditionally I begin the new year by planting my potatoes on New Year's Day.

Keep my month-by-month calendar in mind when considering your next garden plans for sowing and planting.  There are two versions of the calendar - one with stapled (perfect) binding and one with spiral.  Either can be hung on the wall.

Enjoy the rest of the holiday season while planning your garden planting, be safe and have a great week.


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

P.S.  NEW COOKBOOK coming - watch for my posts on its availability.  This is going to be a small special-focus book and hope it will inspire some fun ideas for your next dinner or party.

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Friday, December 25, 2015

25 Days of Herbs and Celebrations - December 25




Dear Folks,
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.

Day 25

 
My Saffron growing no blooms yet.
Herb: Saffron, Crocus Sativus,  Song of Solomon  4:14, “Nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, With all the trees of frankincense, Myrrh and aloes, along with all the finest spices. 15 "You are a garden spring, A well of fresh water, And streams flowing from Lebanon."

Christmas Day! The Day Jesus Christ was born and is celebrated, and the 1st Day of The Twelve Days of Christmas*

Luke
6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. . .9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord
.

The Herb:
Saffron is an ancient spice beloved for both its flavor and value.  Made from the stigmas of the crocus flower, they must be hand-picked.  To glean 1 lb (450 g) of dry saffron requires the harvest of 50,000–75,000 flowers.

The “Safflower” plant (Carthamus tinctorius L.) is considered a poor man’s Saffron substitute, as is Calendula flower, both used to brighten foods, but with out the real Saffron flavor.

Planting:
Saffron will grow in our desert gardens.  I have finally found a good location for my current plantings (they had too much shade in my first try) and keeping my fingers crossed for a harvest.  Pictured are my 3 bulbs doing nicely so far.

In desert gardens plant the bulbs in the fall, in full sun in well draining soil.  I have been advised to watch carefully for when the flower blooms to quickly collect the stigmas for use.  A few is all I expect so I need to plan on what special dish I will use them in.

Recipes:
Saffron is most commonly associated with rice recipes, such as Pilaf, where it imparts its beautiful color and flavor.

Saffron is also used in baking and a traditional way to use the spice is in “St. Lucia Saffron Bun” aka Swedish Saffron Bun and several other names.  Sometimes associated with St.Lucia’s Feast Day December 13th, this recipe would be a nice one for any time in December.


Rachel Ray has a recipe for Saffron Rice Pilaf, and would qualify as a comfort food.

Music:

Oh Holy Night
Celtic Women
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZ-8jYpa1-o

12 Days of Christmas


*The 12 days of Christmas are commercially celebrated starting on December 14th, with ads and promotions of various kinds.  However the REAL 12 days of Christmas begins December 25th the Traditional 1st Day of Christmas celebration and ends on the January 5th – the eve of the Epiphany – January 6thIn Western Christianity, the feast commemorates principally (but not solely) the visit of the Magi to the Christ child, and thus Jesus' physical manifestation to the Gentiles  Epiphany is also known as Little Christmas.

In 567 the Council of Tours proclaimed that the entire period between Christmas and Epiphany should be considered part of the celebration, creating what became known as the twelve days of Christmas, or what the English called Christmastide. On the last of the twelve days, called Twelfth Night, various cultures developed a wide range of additional special festivities. The variation extends even to the issue of how to count the days. If Christmas Day is the first of the twelve days, then Twelfth Night would be on January 5, the eve of Epiphany. If December 26, the day after Christmas, is the first day, then Twelfth Night falls on January 6, the evening of Epiphany itself. -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelfth_Night_%28holiday%29

Twelfth Night is a festival celebrating the coming of the Epiphany in many branches of Christianity.  My family celebrated both Christmas and Epiphany/Little Christmas.  Our tradition was to leave the tree up until after January 6th.

A Twelfth Night Dinner to celebrate the coming Epiphany is another tradition.  Southern Living gives one example of a celebratory Twelfth Night Dinner. 


In 2008 I posted about each of the 12 days of Christmas.  Here is my 2014 blog recap of all 12 links so you can continue celebrating Christmas until January 6th.


Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady


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Thursday, December 24, 2015

25 Days of Herbs and Celebrations - December 24

Dear Folks,

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.


Day 24

Herb: Marjorum/Marjoram, Origanum majorana Leviticus14:4  Then the priest shall give orders to take two live clean birds and cedar wood and a scarlet string and hyssop for the one who is to be cleansed.


Marjoram is one of the plants mentioned as the Hyssop of the bible, and while it is a member of the same family as the Syrian Oregano (Za'atar) which is generally agreed to be THE Hyssop, marjoram would have been known to the people of the biblical time and area.

Light The Yule Log!

NORAD's Santa Tracker for the family and children to watch Santa's Travels.

Marjoram is a member of the “oregano” family but with a big difference in flavor.

Marjoram:  Oregano’s Citrusy Cousin
by Catherine, The Herb Lady  - originally published in the East Valley Tribune September 25, 2004

     Many new-to-cooking or gardening get a little confused between Marjoram and Oregano.  It's not surprising.  Sweet Marjoram, Origanum majorana L. (formerly called Majorana hortensis Moench and sometimes called Majorana majorana L.) is from the same family as Greek Oregano (Origanum vulgare hirtum),  and they both have relatives in the same Oregano family (Wild Marjoram is Origanum vulgare - not hirtum) and some of those relatives are called Marjoram and taste more like Oregano, and vis-a-versa. All are perennials from the mint family (Lamiaceae) many of which come from the Mediterranean area of the world, while Sweet Marjoram hails originally from Asia Minor (Turkey and Cypress).
     So what is the difference?  Sweet Marjoram has a sweeter, citrusy backnote rising from the essential oils Terpineol (Cardamon) and Sabinene (Star Anise, Cardamon, Lemon, Lime and the Lavadin branch of the Lavender family), and lacks the pungent, peppery bite of Greek Oregano (which comes from Carvacrol and Thymol - also found in Thyme and Savory).

Whooeee! Got all that?
     While frequently associated with sausage and stuffing recipes, Marjoram is another herb than can stand on it's own. A preferred herb (over Oregano) by many cooks [it is the preferred herb in Herbes de Provence over Oregano], its flavor and spicy aspects are dependent on soil quality, sunlight and time of year.  My Golden Marjoram is only golden in the winter when the sun moves to the southern sky and it gets more light.  [Pictured is my Golden Marjoram not golden when the picture was taken in August – because it was on the south side of a large citrus tree.]
     Like many aromatic perennials it needs excellent draining soil, 4-6 hours of light a day and deep watering. Marjoram tends to a creeping or sprawling habit, which makes it great as a ground cover.  It grows slowly and over a couple of years with intermittent harvesting can be 2-3 feet in diameter.

Planting.
Plant Marjoram in the fall for healthiest plants.  Transplant into sunny well draining area. The plant, like most perennials will not do a lot of growing during the winter but they will be putting down deep healthy roots, which is what you want.

Recipes:

Marjoram Raspberry Jelly
From my cookbook “101+ Recipes From The Herb Lady”
     Herb Jellies are an excellent flavor addition to roasts (in addition to a toast or cookie topping).

2 cups (divided) reconstituted frozen unsweetened raspberry juice (use 1/3 less water recommended)
1 teaspoon gelatin
1 teaspoon marjoram, crushed

     Sprinkle gelatin over 1 cup cold juice to soften (about 2 minutes). Meanwhile heat second cup of juice to near boiling.  When hot mix, with cold juice and stir well to dissolve gelatin.
     Chill until soft stage starts.
     Stir in crushed marjoram pour in jar, cap and gently shake jar every 1/2 hour to keep herb mixed (keeping refrigerated). About 5 hours to loose jelly consistency. Store no longer than 4 weeks, DO NOT freeze or process for canning.

Stove Top Roast w/Herb Jelly
From my cookbook “101+ Recipes From The Herb Lady”

One  2-pound pork roast (or small chicken)
1  good size onion
1/2 cup Marjoram Raspberry Jelly
1/2 cup water
1 or 2 firm pears or apples cored and cut in half (leave skins on).

     Peel and slice onion in 1/4 inch slices, make a bed of these in the bottom of a heavy pot.  Place roast on onions, coat top with half of jelly. Turn burner on high, add water, cover, cook for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, and cook until meat is done. Use rest of jelly to glaze through cooking retaining 1 tablespoon.

     About 50 minutes into cooking place fruit cut side down beside roast.  45 minutes for first pound, 35 for each additional pound. Remove meat allow to rest for 10-15 minutes and glaze with final tablespoon of jelly.
     Serve with fruit and a nice green salad.

Music:

Silent Night
Pentatonix
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sme8N2pzRx8

Oh Little Town of Bethlehem




-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

25 Days of Herbs and Celebrations - December 23

Dear Folks,

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.


Day 23

Herb:  Mustard, Brassica nigra,  Matthew 13:31 “He presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32 and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES."

Festivus  a Secular celebration Originally a family tradition of scriptwriter Dan O'Keefe, who worked on the American sitcom Seinfeld, Festivus entered popular culture after it was made the focus of the 1997 episode The Strike.  Theme:  Festivus for the Rest of Us, guides the "parody holiday festival" and as a form of playful consumer resistance.

Read up on Festivus and ways to celebrate it at:  -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Festivus

Planting:

Plant Mustard seed in the fall and expect 80+ days to mature seed harvest.  You can pick some of the green leaves during the growing period, but don’t harvest too much – you want the plant to have plenty of energy to flower and produce seed.

As with all these edibles you need well draining soil and a sunny spot for maximum healthy plants.

Harvest when the seeds are dry and store for cooking use and to replant out next fall.

Recipes:

My Almost Empty Mustard Jar Recipes
...ah, the possibilities...frugal cooks once routinely saw the almost empty mustard jar as an opportunity for a salad dressing or sauce. Even 1 tablespoon left over could be turned into a tangy dinner enhancement, and it comes in its own shaker jar!

Salad Dressing:
1 almost empty mustard jar
2 tablespoons citrus juice (orange or tangerine are lovely)
4 tablespoons oil
Dash of salt and pepper
1 tablespoons fresh herb of choice, finely chopped (rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram or combination)
Place all ingredients in the jar, cap and shake well, dress the salad.

Options: If you enjoy chunky salads aka chopped salad (where the ingredients are left larger sized) create your own ‘green goddess' dressing — in a blender place this salad dressing and add 1-2 cups of finely chopped salad greens (lettuces, kale, escarole, etc.), blend to combine and pour over coarsely chopped vegetables.

Marinade / Sauce:
1 almost empty mustard jar
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons vinegar, citrus juice or other fruit juice (pineapple, apple, etc.)
4 tablespoons finely chopped thyme, or 2 tablespoons finely chopped oregano, or 1 tablespoon of finely chopped rosemary.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Mix well and pour over boneless chicken or sturdy fish (tuna, shark, halibut, swordfish). Marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Grill until cooked through, about 10-15 minutes per side depending on thickness and heat of grill, basting with marinade periodically during grilling.

Music:

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
Jimmy Boyd

 

O come, O come, Emmanuel

The Piano Guys

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iO7ySn-Swwc

 

 


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

25 Days of Herbs and Celebrations - December 22



Dear Folks,


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.

Day 22

Herb:  Onion, Allium cepa, Numbers 11:5  "We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, 6 but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna."

I know many of us would also miss onions from our kitchen.  I just have to put some chopped in a hot pan with a bit of oil or butter and the house already smells like something good is cooking.

Onions along with garlic and leeks are considered both an herb (because the inside of the bulb is made up of leaves) and a vegetable. 

All herbs are "spices"  but not all spices are herbs.  Herbs are the green, leafy part of the plant, whereas a spice is generally referred to as the dried seed, stem or root.

There is a lot of information on this common vegetable at Wikipedia, including some of the nutrient information.

Considerable differences exist between onion varieties in polyphenl content, with shallots having the highest level, six times the amount found in Vidalia onions, the variety with the smallest amount. 36 37 Yellow onions have the highest total flavonoid content, an amount 11 times higher than in white onions.Red onions have considerable content of anthocyanin pigments, with at least 25 different compounds identified representing 10% of total flavonoid content. 37 --   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onion

It is not surprising that this much-loved food not only adds great flavor to our dishes, but also healthy components.

Planting:
Onions are planted by either seed or “sets” which are tiny baby onion bulbs.   The typical varieties of “bulb” onions – the kind we like to keep on hand with a papery skin, can be grown here in the desert garden.

My practice is to purchase a package of sets in the fall – preferably before October 31st and start planting them out in successive planting every 2-4 weeks, about 4 inches apart.  I do this so I can pull them as young scallion-type (there is a specific variety that is grown only as scallions – but I like the dual purpose of the bulb type) whenever I need some during the cool months and into spring.  To achieve bulb size the plants need to be in the ground about 7-10 months.

When I harvest for scallions, I pull every 2nd or 3rd one, which eventually leaves more room for the bulb to form on the remaining ones.

Once the remaining onions begin to send up a flower head, they can be harvested at any time.  Like Garlic, they need to be hung to dry in the shade until the outer surface gets papery, then you know they will keep for storage.

[In the picture I show the onions in January and then the rest harvested in August.  I chose to chop and dry these in the sun so I now had a jar of chopped dried onions to use as needed all year.]

Onions, yellow, red, white etc. are also divided into “day length” sensitive growing preferences.

From the Oregon Extension Service – this explains what day length means:

The varieties of onions that require a shorter period (11 to 13 hours) of daylight to bulb are termed "short day" onions. Those that require the longest period of daylight (14 hours per day or more) to form bulbs are known as "long day" onions. Those with intermediate requirements (from 13 to 14 hours of light per day to bulb) are called, logically, "intermediate" onions.

Short-day onions include: Yellow Bermuda, White Creole and Eclipse onions (12 hours daylight to begin bulb formation). California Early Red, Ebenezer, Early Strasburg (13 hours).

Long day onions include: Yellow Globe Danvers (14 1/4 hours) Sweet Spanish, Yellow Flat Grant (14.9 hours) and Yellow Rynsburg, Zittan Yellow (16 hours).

Intermediate-day onions include: Early Yellow Globe, Australian Brown, White Portugal and Southport Yellow Globe (13.5 hours) Red Wethersfield, Southport Red Globe, Italian Red and Flat Madiera (14 hours).  -- http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/onion-bulb-formation-strongly-linked-day-length

Here in the desert garden where onions won’t happily grow in our 100 degree summer heat, you want to stay with short-day varieties and you can try intermediate types to see if they work for you.

Short-day anything applies to growing in the cool months in the desert garden because that is what we have – short days.  [Corn is another vegetable that is also classified as short or long day which is why we can plant corn twice – once in the winter and a second crop in the summer.]

Recipes:
There is no dearth of ways to use onions.  Sliced and grilled along side burgers and other meats on the grill is one of my favorite ones.  Like many vegetables, grilling or roasting onions caramelizes the sugars making them taste even better.

One of my other favorite ways to use onions is a dill and onion dip with yogurt (instead of sour cream) with my own dried dill and onions, add a bit of salt and you are ready.  Good tasting and healthier too if you go with a variety of dippers, like vegetables, instead of just chips.  This dip makes a good topping on baked potatoes and if you add a bit of horseradish, good on a steak, roast beef or burger.

Did you know there is a National Onion Association?  Every vegetable has to have a group-support network :-)   They have some good sounding recipes with onions.  https://www.onions-usa.org/recipes

Music:

Suzy Snowflake
Rosemary Clooney

Mary’s Boy Child
Boney M
 

 
-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My books and month-by-month gardening calendar

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Monday, December 21, 2015

25 Days of Herbs and Celebrations - December 21

Dear Folks,


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.

Me with my bay in front of orange tree


Day 21

Herb:  Laurel (Bay Leaf),  Psalm 37:35 “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.  Isaiah 44:14  He plants a laurel, and the rain makes it grow.” There are several different translations of these passages some referring to Laurel, Bay,  or luxuriant tree, Cedar, Fir, or even Ash.

Since Bay is native to the Biblical lands, I will focus on Bay for this post.

Celebrations:

Light The Yule Log!

Winter Solstice - The Shortest Day of the Year

Yule - Lighting of The Yule Long to welcome back the sun as the days grow longer.

Pancha Ganapati is a modern five-day Hindu festival celebrated from December 21 through 25 in honor of Lord Ganesha, Patron of Arts and Guardian of Culture.

Dongzhì Festival or Winter Solstice Festival is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese and other East Asians during the Dongzhi solar term (winter solstice) on or around December 22 when sunshine is weakest and daylight shortest. The origins of this festival can be traced back to the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos.

About The Herb:
Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis L.) sometimes called sweet bay or Grecian Laurel, native to the Mediterranean area, is a shrubby tree. Used by the Greeks to honor their Olympic winners in a wreath, the herb is also associated with Apollo and the nymph Daphne.

Planting:
Transplant Bay into a sunny, well draining spot in your garden.  It grows slowly the first couple of years and then really starts to take off.  As a shrub, Bay can be harvested at will once your plant has good size growth on it.  Leaves can be picked as needed or whole branches can be harvested and dried.  Don’t toss the stems, they can also be used to flavor food or used as kabob skewers.

I did grow one of my plants from seed and I do not recommend it.  I planted 13 seeds and one!! came up 8 months later!!  Go with a transplant for happier success.

Recipes:
If Bay reminds you of some of your other favorite herbs such as Basil, Oregano and Marjoram it is because it shares some similar essential oils, cineol and eugenol.

Like many of the highly aromatic herbs, bay has long been used as a digestive aid and to help eliminate gas —bay leaf teas have also been used to treat colic (ask your pediatrician first!!).

CAUTION NOTE: Some recipes call for crumbling the bay leaf —do NOT do this. The leaf is so tough it does not break down in cooking and there have been a few cases where the leaf actual cut the throat or esophagus of the diner. To release flavor, crack the leaf in half or quarters, but leave together if possible. Always remove bay leaves before serving the dish.

There are few long-simmering soups, sauces or stews that will not be enhanced by a couple of Bay Leaves added during the simmering time.

Try substituting Bay for oregano or marjoram.

Store some leaves with your rice or beans in glass jars and pre-flavor them slightly.
Bay leaves discourage pantry pests, leave several exposed on shelves-makes the pantry smell great too!

Make an infusion to use in place of the whole leaf by steeping 4 leaves in cup of just boiled water. The finished color should be deep green.

Music:

Wizards In Winter
Trans Siberian Orchestra
(This musical piece is now a favorite audio for Christmas House Light Displays.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkAhmH40kiM

The Holly & The Ivy
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FvE-z8xV1g

 



-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

25 Days of Herbs and Celebrations - December 20

Dear Folks,



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.
 
Day 20



Herb:  Nigella, Nigella sp.   Isaiah 28:26, different translations of the Bible refer to Cumin, Black Cumin, or Black Caraway, which of God’s instructions for sowing and reaping.  25. Does he not level its surface And sow dill and scatter cummin And plant wheat in rows, Barley in its place and rye within its area? 26  For his God instructs and teaches him properly. 27 For dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge, Nor is the cartwheel driven over cummin; But dill is beaten out with a rod, and cummin with a club.

Two plants share the name Black Cumin, Bunium bulbocastanum and Nigella sativa.  For the purposes of this post we will discuss Nigella, aka Love-In-A-Mist.

Nigella --Love-In-A-Mist (also called Black Onion Seed) is an unusual and striking flower, also called Black Onion Seed, and Black Cumin and used in East Indian foods.  The seeds smell like strawberries and taste like pepper, a most interesting spice.

Nigella grows well in our desert gardens, preferring the cooler months, seed in a sunny spot with good drainage.  Let the flower go to full maturity to harvest the seeds for culinary use and later re-sowing.

I have really enjoyed growing this flower, with all of the textural contrasts it is very pretty in the garden.

Prepare Yule Log ready to light tomorrow or Christmas Eve.  To turn night into day in the home/Emblem of the return of the Sun, and the lengthening of the Days.

Recipes:

They're [Nigella seed] also part of the spice mixture called panch phoran, along with fenugreek, mustard, fennel and cumin seeds, common in Bengali dishes. Bread seems to be a cross-cultural use for nigella seeds—aside from naan, it's also used to top flatbreads in Turkey and elsewhere in the Middle East, and in Eastern Europe is sprinkled on Jewish rye bread in place of caraway seeds.  – Smithsonian Mag

Epicurious suggests substituting Nigella for Sesame in baked breads, etc.

Here are a couple of recipes from Epicurious for using Nigella Seeds



Music:

Happy Holiday (From the movie “Holiday Inn” )
Bing Crosby

Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time
Paul McCartney

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

25 Days of Herbs and Celebrations - December 19

Dear Folks,


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. 

Day 19
Herb:  Sage - (Salvia sp.) Jeremiah 18:18 – “Then they said, "Come and let us devise plans against Jeremiah. Surely the law is not going to be lost to the priest, nor counsel to the sage, nor the divine word to the prophet! Come on and let us strike at him with our tongue, and let us give no heed to any of his words."

The word Sage has long been used to denote a wise person.
My Common Garden Sage

2016 has been designated by the United Nations as the International Year of the Pulses, to celebrate all the great benefits of eating legumes.  See the references for beans in recipes below.


The Bible describes the belief, even then, of the health value of eating pulses.

Daniel 1:12 -- "Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink.  13 "Then let our appearance be observed in your presence and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king's choice food; and deal with your servants according to what you see."

During captivity, Daniel shows the benefits of eating only pulses (vegetables etc.) and water, so effective "And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm." -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Fast
Sage, Salvia officinalis, is a member of the prodigious mint family (Lamiaceae formally Labiatae).

[My "Azurea" Blue Sage (above) is not as tasty as the primary culinary sages, but the flower is stunning.]

Sage is one of the herb/spice components of Poultry Seasoning and so identified with Thanksgiving turkey stuffing with onion and celery, in my family it would not be a good tasking stuffing or turkey with out it.

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 [now known as
Salvia fruticosa]).
          The use of sage in our traditional stuffing mixes most likely came from the “sage and onion” stuffing 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!

Sage is a perennial in the gardens and is best planted during the cool time of the year in a sunny, well draining spot.  The first year or two it can be slow growing, but can eventually be a huge shrub.  Do not overwater sage.

Recipes:

With 2016 designated the International Year of Pulses, this is an opportunity to match Sage with various beans.

TheKitchn is a great site for recipes and food discussions and this link has suggested herbs for use with various beans.  I would bookmark the link.

Sage is suggested with Cannelli, Fava, Kidney, Lima and Pinto – but really try sage with any bean together with other herbs like thyme and rosemary.


Baked Potatoes, Sage And Eggs
From “101+ Recipes From The Herb Lady”
Here is a great recipe to have on hand if you have left over mashed potatoes.

            Incorporate the sage in the potatoes or sprinkle on top of the eggs before baking.

3          cups of mashed potatoes
4          eggs
1          teaspoon dried sage, or 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh sage
1/2       cup spinach, kale or arugula, finely shredded
Salt & pepper to taste

            Preheat oven to 350. Have casserole or other pan ready, spray lightly with Pam if desired. If using leftover mashed potatoes fluff up so they will spread easily. Fold sage into potatoes and spread the potatoes thickly in the center of the oven dish—to about 1 inch thick. Using a small juice glass make 4 depressions in the potatoes. Evenly distribute the shredded greens in the depressions, crack and place an egg on top of each "well." Salt and pepper to taste. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the eggs are just set (poached) but not hard. Serve as a breakfast entree or a side dish. Enjoy.

Music:

Do You Hear What I Hear
Bing Crosby

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
Frank Sinatra
 



-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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