Garden, Plant, Cook!

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

25 Days of Herbs and Celebrations - December 1

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.

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

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

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

Day 1
Herb:  Myrtle

By Catherine, The Herb Lady - originally appearing in the East Valley Tribune December, 24, 2005
      Is there a more appropriate biblical herb to contemplate for the holidays than Myrtle (Myrtus Communis) with its ancient meanings?
      Biblical references (Nehemia 8:15; Isaiah 41:19 and 55:13; Zachariah 1:8-11) speak to Myrtle as a symbol of recovery, festivals and the divine establishment of the people in the land.
      Myrtle was woven into wreaths for the winners of Olympic games; was a sacred plant of the Greek goddess Aphrodite and the Roman goddess Venus; and the Myrtle-nymphs were prophetesses who taught the god Aristaeus, son of Apollo and Cyrene, how to make cheese, build beehives, and cultivate olives.
      Parts of the Myrtle have been used in tanning which also imparted scent to the leather.
      Here is a fragrant shrub suitable for hedges, or as a lovely specimen plant, and is available in several varieties including a dwarf and variegated. The lovely white/creamy flowers always remind me of a fairy's wand with its many stamens rising from the center of honey-scented petals.  Myrtle will take substantial pruning, either for hedges or to showcase the lower limbs.
      This evergreen beauty from the Myrtaceae family does exceptionally well here in the Valley as it does in its native Mediterranean home. Other members of the Myrtle family are
Pineapple Guava (another wonderful plant for Valley gardens) and Eucalyptus.  Give it direct sun, well-draining soil and deep watering and it will thrive for years.
      Myrtle relatives Lemon Myrtle (Backhousia citriodora) an Australia native known for its incredible lemon oil, and Wax Myrtle (Myrica - several varieties) are often discussed in
gardening/cooking literature, but may be a challenge to grow here, as their normal environment is coastal.
      The bitter essential oils flavor meat (especially game), sausages, wines and liquors.  The dried berries (fruit) have been used as a substitute for black pepper and juniper berries.
Sometimes described as a cross in flavor of Bay Leaf and Rosemary, use Myrtle on the grill to smoke or as a bed/cover to flavor the food while grilling (soak the whole sprigs for at least an hour before hand).  Add to a marinade prior to cooking, or tossed the strained marinade with cheeses and olives for an appetizer.  Try it as an herbal vinegar component.
      Add the Myrtle herb of joy, peace and renewal to your garden this year!


It's The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

Joy To The World
Mormon Tabernacle Choir

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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David Oberpriller said...

Typo: Isaiah reference is 55:13, not 5:13.

Another reference, though not at all obvious (unless you're reading the Hebrew), is Esther 2:7 where it is noted that Esther's original Hebrew name is Hadassah. The Hebrew hadas is the myrtle tree (or bush), which is the root of the name Hadassah.

There are numerous "hidden plants" in the Bible -- names of people, towns, regions -- if you look at the original texts.

Catherine, The Herb Lady said...

Thank you David for catching the typo.