Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Home News Newsletters February E-Newsletter
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Feb E-Newsletter ‘10

   Adjustment to reality is hard!  Having just spent a week on the famous scenic beaches of the Pebble Beach golf course near Monterey, California returning to the realities of Indiana’s blustery winter temperatures in the teens and two feet of snow, with drifts that are much, much taller seemed pretty harsh.  The normal drive from the airport took twice as long, and once we’d drug our suitcases through the drifts to the house, we discovered we had no water.  No bath, no problem!  But, no tea?  Now, that’s a problem!  Reality bites!
     It’s snowing again today.  The view outside is a winter wonderland—totally different from the ocean views and green hills we just left, but just as beautiful.  However, trudging through waist-high drifts to the greenhouse this morning was not so wonderful.  It was probably good for my waistline, after all that great California food, but definitely not fun.  I needed snowshoes, or maybe skis.  Fortunately, inside the greenhouse, all was calm and the seedlings seemed happy, and it was good to get my hands in soil again.  We’ll have to push to get the transplanting caught up before I leave for Florida and then directly to the Philadelphia Flower Show!  The next four weeks are a whirlwind, including lots of speeches, travel, and a visit from our children and grandchildren that reside in Germany!  I can’t wait to hug those grandbabies!

The Flower Frog Results
     Surprisingly, most of you don’t pick your flowers for bouquets, but enjoy them in the garden!  Of those who do bring flowers into the home, 71% of respondents just put them in a vase or jar.  The 29% that do use flower frogs break out this way:  63% use glass frogs; 21% use the metal “needle” type frogs; 9% use the metal “grid” lids on glass jars; and 6% use plastic, “hairpin” style, and 1% use glass marbles to hold the stems.  Nearly everyone who uses frogs, especially the old glass ones, cherish them because they belonged to a relative or dear friend.
And the winner of the January E-poll, and a $10 gift certificate is:  Jan Lewis, Gaston, IN


Mustard in California
     One of the pleasures of driving through the California countryside in February, besides the sunshine, green hills and daffodils is the sight of bright yellow mustard along the roadways, winding through the vineyards below the grape vines, and sprinkled here and there throughout the artichoke and broccoli fields.  It is such a cheerful sight, and if you ever have a chance to attend the Mustard Festival in Napa Valley, do go!  Traditionally, mustard was grown with the vines to help repel insects.  The intense yellow flowers were also a signal that it was time to finish pruning the vines.
     Seeing those swaths of yellow brought to mind lots of mustard lore, and reminded me of mouth-watering recipes.  Mustard has a history of use as a food, spice, condiment and medicine that dates long before Biblical times.
     The word mustard comes from an old Middle English word moustarde, which probably came from old French words moust, meaning must (the unfermented juice pressed from grapes) and ardens, or burning.  The earliest known mustard condiment was a mixture of ground mustard seeds and grape juice.  Mustard is second only to pepper as the most used flavoring world-wide.
     Most people have at least one jar of mustard in the refrigerator, and some have many, including Dijon, brown mustard, honey mustard, or other gourmet combinations.  Many people enjoy the flavor and healthful benefits of mustard greens, which are good source of vitamins and minerals, including calcium.
     Mustard is an expectorant, which helps the lungs eliminate phlegm, clearing the respiratory system and sinuses.  In olden days, the use of a mustard plaster on the chest to ease congestion, and on sore muscles or joints to ease pain and stiffness.  It also aids digestion, which is why it is often served with fatty meats and it stimulates blood flow.
Modern medicine uses mustard intravenously for Hodgkin’s disease and certain cancers! 
     The Bible speaks of mustard, and so did Shakespeare.  It can represent accomplishment in the phrase “he certainly can cut the mustard.”
     Mustard is easily grown in the garden.  Harvest the greens while small for salads.  Larger leaves are generally steamed or cooked with bits of onion and ham or bacon.  The seeds can be harvested and ground to make mustard or left for the birds, who love them, too!
     If you’d like to learn to make a variety of mustards, and learn more about this fascinating plant, register for our “Marvelous Mustard” workshop.  The details will be on the website and in our newsletter in early March!


Coral Pink-“the color of vitality”
     I’m always looking for trends as I travel, read, or converse with others.  At the major Gift Marts last month, I observed lots of coral pink in linens, dishware, and garden accessories.  Designers say it is the color of vitality, and predict it will be “hot” this spring and summer.  It is fresh, youthful and lively.  When the plant catalogs arrived, I noticed an increase in flowers with coral pink blooms.  Several magazines have shown coral pink walls, tablecloths and floral centerpieces.  I think of it as soft and feminine, but surprisingly, several of the professional golfers at the AT&T at Pebble Beach were wearing coral slacks or shirts!  I saw lots of wealthy women wearing sweaters or jackets, and even shoes in coral pink.  The color is showing up everywhere, especially combined with other “poppy” colors in paintings and upholstery, or paired with turquoise or soft blues and greens. 
     The photo is of California poppies combined with calendula, dusty miller and petunias outside our hotel room.  I can’t wait until we have flowers like this growing here at home!  I’m seeding some beautiful coral-pink zinnias that should be perfect with them!

Lucas Oil Stadium “Home & Flower” Show
     I’ll be speaking at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 7 at the new Indy “Home & Flower” Show at Lucas Oil Stadium.  This is the first of what is hoped to be an annual show, and they are pulling out all the stops to get great display gardens and a full schedule of speakers and information. Check out their website, and join me!  And while you’re there, be sure to look for the Central Indiana Herb Society booth!


Ice Plant
     One can’t visit the Monterey area of California and not see Ice Plant or Mesembryanthemum.  The finger-like succulent leaves cover sandy slopes, line the edges of the roads and fill the crevices around parking lots.  They were beginning open their 2-3” blooms while we were there in early February, with colors ranging from white through yellows and pinks to deep rose and purple.  Cool temperatures cause the normally soft green leaves to turn shades of gold, rose, or almost red, depending upon the species, which made swaths of color along the dunes and highways.  There are 74 kinds of ice plant, which thrives in sun-drenched dry soils anywhere that remains above freezing.
     I always take books to read during the waiting periods while traveling, and one of my choices this trip was Second Thyme Around by English author Katie Fforde.  Imagine my delight when the heroine, a greenhouse grower who specializes in supplying salad greens to hotels and restaurants, shows ice plant to a visiting chef!  He is ecstatic to be able to add these tasty, hard-to-find leaves to his upscale salads.
    I immediately hurried outside our hotel to sample a leaf, finding them somewhat similar to lettuce in flavor.  I could have put a few starts in my suitcase, but I didn’t, deciding that I have too many tender plants to tend already.  I’m content to grow the tiny ice plant we use in our fairy gardens, which seems to be a bit more tolerant to cold temperatures.  But, I may have to take a nibble now and then!  If I want to grow ice plant, it is easily grown from seed.  Some types are annual, some are biennial.

Our February E-poll—Pansies!
     This time of year, when winter surrounds us and our plants and gardens are shrouded in snow, our thoughts turn to spring.  One of my favorite plants for those cold-weather weeks that shift from winter to spring and back is the pansy.  These cheerful plants come in a range of colors and styles.  Our February question is:  “What is your favorite pansy, and why?”  Do you like the ones with “faces” or the clear ones?  The blooms with contrasting blotches, or picotee edges?  The ruffled ones, the new hybrids, or the heirlooms?  Yellow, blue, purple, or rose?  Tell us your pansy preferences!  A random drawing of respondents will produce the winner of a $10 gift certificate.    

As many of you know, I’ve finished the story for the sequel to Herbal Beginnings, which is titled Herbal Choices.  It’s Callie’s second season at Joyful Heart Herb Farm, where she has lots of difficult choices to make.  And, it will feature the second course, a choice of soups or salads!  I still have lots of recipes to perfect, but here’s one in the works:
Chicken, Sprout & Orange Salad
     Peel and segment 2 oranges, cutting each segment in half.  Place in a bowl with 2 c. bean sprouts (use fresh, or drain canned sprouts) 1 T. snipped chives, 1 T. drained capers, 3 T. finely chopped parsley, and 2 c. diced cooked chicken.  Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours.
     In a jar or small bowl mix:  1/2 c. salad oil of choice; the juice of 2 oranges and 1 T. lemon juice.  Season with freshly ground pepper and a dash of salt.  Pour over salad and toss.  Sprinkle with additional snipped chives and slivered almonds.  4 servings.

Well, I need to get to the greenhouse, so that’s it for this issue.  Enjoy the remainder of February.  I’ll have lots to report in March, after my travels and conferences.  Hopefully by next month, we can report seeing crocuses! 

Herbal blessings,