Garden, Plant, Cook!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

25 Days of Herbs and Celebrations - December 16

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.
My Syrian Oregano in July - with Bee!

Day 16
Herb:  Hyssop – of the Bible is generally recognized as Syrian Oregano Origanum syriacumaka Origanum maru, is native to the lands of the bible.  Leviticus 14:52 "He shall thus cleanse the house with the blood of the bird and with the running water, along with the live bird and with the cedar wood and with the hyssop and with the scarlet string. 53 "However, he shall let the live bird go free outside the city into the open field. So he shall make atonement for the house, and it will be clean."

Syrian Oregano is a superior culinary herb and can be used in place of Greek Oregano Origanum vulgare.  Where Greek Oregano has a distinctive “bite” the Syrian is slightly sweeter, still having all of the culinary and medicinal properties of oregano.

If you have enjoyed the authentic Middle Eastern spice blend Za’atar, then you have tasted Syrian Oregano, known as “Za’atar in that region.  The blend is a combination of ground sesame seeds, sumac berries (a specific plant -- Rhus coriaria -- known as the “lemonade tree” for the tangy flavor of the ripe berries – not to be confused with poison sumac) and Syrian Oregano, and is the “go-to” blend for seasoning many dishes.  Many Za’atar blends substitute some form of Thyme for the Syrian Oregano.

Baker Creek sells the seeds and they germinate easily in our desert gardens. The herb can get really happy in the garden if planted in full sun, well draining soil, giving you years of harvest potential.

Craft Project:
Yule Log!  The Yule Log is an old tradition used by both pagans and Christians for different celebrations.  It is a fun project for the family to create for use in your fireplace (do check on burn restrictions because of air quality), firepit or chiminea.

Gather ingredients for a Yule Log.  The Log can be lite on December 20th/ 21st (celebrating the Solstice) or December 24th (Celebrating Christmas Eve) or both.  It can be used as a centerpiece and/OR you can burn it - to burn it the herbs etc. must be perfectly dry or it will smoke.

My 'yule log' "recipe" - this is a fun project using all edible herbs and spices for decoration and aroma. You can make the log exactly as described or use your own special herbs, edible plants, fruits and flowers - just be sure if you are going to actually burn it (it makes a lovely centerpiece) that all components are perfectly dry before lighting or it will smoke.  Pictured are the ingredients I chose from my garden, some wrapping paper, paper ribbon, some of the last of my Roselles, lavender, myrtle, rosemary, orand and grapefruit peeo, and bay leaf, I also gathered some cloves to tuck in here and there and elmer's glue.  I am so not creative, but I think this turned out nice.  It will dry nicely and be ready to light in a week or so.

--1 piece of log wood with bark, cut to fit your fireplace, chiminea or fire pit (the knurlier the better) - use hardwood for fireplace or concrete/metal fire pit; use softwood for chiminea (this is important hardwood will get so hot it can crack your terra cotta chiminea).
--Peel of 2 oranges, cut in strips, small pieces or spirals
--Elmer's (or other white) glue (not cement, hot glue or like – will create toxic fumes)
--Sprigs of rosemary, lavender, oregano, thyme, sage or any aromatic herb
--Any combination of whole spices:  allspice, star anise, cloves, cinnamon sticks
--1 Bow (or you can arrange orange peel in the form of a bow before drying) you can use strips of Christmas paper to make a bow or bows.  The paper ribbon which can be twisted using a sharp blade are pretty also.

     Glue herb sprigs decoratively all over top and sides of log.  Arrange and glue orange peel in amongst the herbs.  Fill in with whole spices.  Add bow.

       If the bow is not made of paper or orange peel, remove before lighting.

       Legend says the longer the log burns the longer your good luck for the new year. 
      For Christians, traditionally lite on Christmas Eve, this is so fragrant and pretty you may wish to make several and use during our winter months for special celebrations.


White Christmas
Bing Crosby

Oh Christmas Tree (from the Perspective of the Cat)

. . .

Garden more successfully in the Desert with my month-by-month planting calendar.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady
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