Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Home News Newsletters October 2019 Newsletter
October 2019 Newsletter Print E-mail

October E-Newsletter 2019

What a lovely month October has been!  We were blessed with beautiful, sunny days for much of the early part, allowing me to do lots of gardening whenever I was home. Colorful leaves, falling walnuts, football games, apple picking, and carving pumpkins tumbled together to enhance our appreciation of the autumn harvest season.  The combines wove their way from field to field into the wee hours, changing the landscape on a daily basis.   Because our normal (Oct. 5) frost did not arrive, I was able to continue harvesting in the potager more than usual and get the garlic planted.  I’m still digging carrots and harvesting beets, radishes, kohlrabi, cabbage and broccoli.  The fall salad crops are doing nicely, with kale, various lettuces, arugula, spinach, radicchio in abundance.   A bit of rain here and there was welcome, because it made weeding lots easier.  And then, Mother Nature must have glanced at the calendar and realized how late it was because she sent frost one night that finished all the tender crops. Wicked winds plucked most of the leaves from our trees, and made me shiver as I moved plants indoors for their winter slumber and harvested the baskets of red and green tomatoes, peppers and beans.  It took a few days to turn it all into cans of piccalilli, green tomato mincemeat, tomato juice, etc. 

Now I’ve started planting the 915 bulbs ordered back in August.  I’ve finished in the front island and the front garden, but there is still the deck garden and the shrub islands to do, plus the potager’s interior and exterior borders.  And yes, I’ve already received the first seed order for next season!  A true gardener is always looking forward!  Hopefully a blanket of mulch can be added once the ground has frozen.  Then, I can concentrate on the other seed orders!

Upcoming Events:
Herb Society of Central Indiana:  Nov. 6, 6:30-8:30 at the Clay Township Center, 106th and College.  “Cooking with Plant Based Dishes.” Our speaker is Deb McClure-Smith, a professional cooking instructor and educator. She was voted as best vegetarian cooking instructor by Indianapolis Monthly.  She has co-authored a book, and has been teaching vegetarian cooking all around the Circle City since the 1980’s.  Refreshments provided. Visit, or call 317-251-6986
     Philadelphia Flower Show:  February 29-March 8, 2020.  Established in 1829, this amazing show quickly became the largest indoor display in the world, covering 10 acres with gardens and garden-related displays.  This year’s theme “Riviera Holiday,” beckons you to embrace your inner romantic and create a Mediterranean inspired garden of your own. Ornate pottery and patterned tiles, a well-placed pergola and abundant clusters of scented flowers, ornamental fountains and herb parterres provide irresistible appeal along with sustainable lower maintenance, water-wise options that are both responsive to and reflective of temperate conditions. Tickets can be purchased on-site, but book your hotel room now to get one within walking distance.
     Indiana Flower & Patio Show:  March 14-22, 2020 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.  Lots of interesting speakers this year, including Chris Lambton from “Yard Crashers.”  Check the show website for lots more info.

The Harvest continues….    
     Until it actually freezes, and brings the season to a final close, continue to harvest the herb garden. Snip and freeze small bags of chives. Make simple syrups with mints, lemon balm, anise hyssop, cinnamon basil, etc. by bringing 1 c. water with 1 c. sugar to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved, and infusing the herbs in the hot syrup.  Cover until cool, then strain and store in the refrigerator.  These make great toppings over cakes, pancakes, custards or additions to tea and cocktails.  Continue to dry herbs for culinary use, teas and bath mixtures. Make herbal sugars by layering sugar and herbs in a tight container.  After shaking several times a week for two weeks, remove the leaves. (Add those sugared leaves to teas!) Use the flavored sugars in baking tasty cookies, pound cakes, puddings or drinks.  Make herbal salts, herbal butters and vinegars.  Freeze small containers of various pestos.  Snip fresh new growth of dill, rinse, pat dry between paper towels, then put the sprigs into a freezer container.  When you need it, simply snip off the required amount of frozen dill, and return the rest to the freezer immediately.  This winter, you’ll have the flavors of the garden at your fingertips.
Did you know:
*October is a busy month holiday-wise.  Not only is it the month of Halloween and Columbus Day, but it is also National Apple Month, National Corn Month, National Eat Better Eat Together Month, National Caramel Month, National Chili Month, National Popcorn Poppin’ Month, National Seafood Month, National Spinach Lovers’ Month, and many, many more!

October Travels: Part 1
     The first weekend in October David and I traveled with his MG club to Ashtabula county Ohio to drive the scenic, winding roads among the wineries and see some interesting sites.  Our first stop was the Spire Institute, and national and international academy focused on the education and especially the sport skills development of young men and women. 

The facilities are some of the best and largest in the world, containing over 750,000 sq. ft. of indoor courts, tracks and pools. 

If this indoor track or the indoor pool look familiar it’s because the Big 10, Big East and other organizations and conferences hold their championships here for track and field, diving and swimming so you may have seen them on television. 

There are basketball courts, volleyball, and indoor soccer fields as well as a second pool.  In addition, there’s space for food vending during big events (sometimes there are 3 or 4 events held at once, with huge crowds) in the large cafeteria, as well as a full kitchen upstairs for banquets, weddings, and other events.  The largest single event ever held was a Trump rally during his campaign which not only filled their parking lots, but backed up into streets and roads for several miles.  It certainly is an impressive facility, with internationally known trainers and coaches.


     Most of our days were spent driving through the pretty countryside, and in doing so we viewed twelve covered bridges.  We also visited a reenactment village. 

The mercantile store was packed with provisions, but naturally my favorite spot was the pharmacist’s office. 

He was “away for the day” but his assistant was willing to share some of the basic herbal information used in the pharmacy.  Their herb garden really tempted me to give it a good weeding, but I resisted.  Of course we had good food and great fun with the other MG club members.  Just a few days later, I went on a longer trip.  More about it in next month’s newsletter, but here’s a clue:


Garden chores:
*Remove any weeds—they’re trying to seed, and growing great root systems!
*Collect mulch, shred leaves, etc., but don’t put mulch on plants until after the ground freezes, or you’ll be inviting rodents and insects to live in your garden all winter!
*Dig dahlias, cannas, caladiums, glads, begonias, and other tender bulbs after frost.  I love to plant fall bulbs (crocus, scillas, guinea flowers, species tulips, etc.) in the holes as I dig.  It makes the chore serve double duty!
*By the way, traditionally when planting fall bulbs, one should repeat the following charm, once while placing them in the hole and again after covering them with soil to ensure good blooms in spring: “Seasons change—the Wheel turns round;
Bulbs, I plant thee in the ground.  Death-like bulbs, you’ll gain new life,
And in the Spring, will sprout and thrive.”
*Move any tender plants indoors before frost, giving each plant a good sloshing in a bucket of sudsy water (use insecticidal soap) to remove insects and insect eggs.  Do not up-pot plants unless absolutely necessary, unless they are houseplants that were just vacationing outside.
*Map your garden, taking measurements and locating each plant on your diagram.  This will be so helpful during winter planning/dreaming sessions.
*It’s a good time to check plant labels for faded writing, missing tags, etc. so you won’t mistakenly dig up someone next spring.

Orange—the color for vitality and energy….that’s why we love orange pumpkins, orange daylilies, and all the fall leaves.

Herb to Know:  Thyme
     As winter approaches, we appreciate the vigor and stamina of thyme even more.  It withstands the early frosts so much better than those wimpy basils and many other herbs.  However, if you want to capture good flavor, do harvest it before a hard freeze, when much the essential oil can be lost.  The photo is of one of my favorites, “Lemon Mist” a narrow-leaf thyme with outstanding lemon flavor and fragrance.  I’m sure it’s a favorite of the fairies, too.
     Thyme is an easy to grow, hardy perennial requiring only a sun-filled location with excellent drainage, especially during a wet winter.  Therefore, thyme is especially happy in raised beds or rock gardens with loose soil.  There are dozens and dozens of varieties of thyme, but the fall into two general categories, upright or creeping.  Within both these categories there are smooth-leaved and wooly-leaved members.  Generally, the wooly or hairy leaved thymes are not used in cooking only because of the unpleasant texture in the mouth.  Both types can have gold, silver, green, or variegated foliage, and some of the green thymes have a reddish cast, especially as temperatures drop.  Leaf size can vary, too, with the uprights (such as German, English, Mother of Thyme) often having larger leaves and some creepers (like “Fairy, Elfin, and Miniature”) having the tiniest leaves.
     Upright thymes are generally the best for cooking, although some have better flavor than others.  They are also best for clipping into small hedges for edgings.  Mat-forming creepers are generally faster-growing and are good groundcovers.  The lowest ones are especially good between stepping stones or as “lawns” in fairy gardens.  All thymes have interesting fragrance and are excellent for honeybees.
     Cooks love thyme for soups, stews, biscuits, and seasoning mixes.  It is also a staple in many marinades, salad dressings and many mushroom dishes.  If a recipe calls for thyme, it generally means “English” or “French” thyme.  Do note that “French” thyme with its narrow leaves is less hardy than many other thymes, and takes more plants to furnish the same amount of herb than “English.”  Some recipes may call for “Lemon” thyme, especially for fish, chicken, or in cookies, cakes or scones.  An adventurous cook may also use “Caraway,” “Orange,” “Lime,” or “Rose-scented” thyme.  Nearly all thymes are excellent for teas, too.
     Thyme has been recognized and cherished for centuries for its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties (long before bacteria or fungal diseases were actually identified!) so it has a long history of medicinal use.  It is a common ingredient in mouthwash, treatments for athlete’s foot, and minor skin irritation products.  A strong tea of thyme has often been sprayed on pets to remove fleas and other insect pests.  Thyme oil is now often used in hives to protect bees from deadly mites.
     In herbal lore, thyme is added to sleep mixtures to prevent nightmares.  A sprig of thyme, added to a sprig of lavender and one of mint tied with ribbon is said to help one find a sweetheart.
     These are just a few of the reasons to grow a variety of thymes in one’s garden, so over the winter, look into adding a fragrant thyme or two to your gardens!

Recipe:  Pumpkin Crostini
     This easy recipe looks like it should be served at Christmas, but make it now while pumpkins are plentiful.  I always add a bit of mint to parsley pesto to reduce that “grass” taste
     Slice a small pumpkin in half.  Remove seeds and place cut-side down on an oiled baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees until fork tender.  
     While pumpkin bakes, make a pesto using a handful of parsley, two or three mint leaves, a pinch of salt, and enough olive oil to process into a nearly smooth paste.  Add a bit more olive oil, 1 T. shelled pumpkin seeds, and 2 T. grated parmesan and process just until seeds are broken into small pieces.
     Remove the seeds from half a pomegranate and set aside.
     When pumpkin is baked, allow to cool a bit then peel and dice 1 c. finely.  Season diced pumpkin with a pinch of salt, a drizzle of honey, and a drizzle of olive oil, tossing lightly.  

     Slice a baguette thinly and toast one side under the broiler.  Spread diced pumpkin on each baguette’s toasted side.  Grind a bit of black pepper over each.  Top with a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds and a drizzle of parsley pesto. Serve immediately.
     Note:  Store any remaining pumpkin, pesto, and pomegranate seeds separately in the refrigerator.

Happy Halloween to all.  Remember to put rue by your doors on Halloween night so the evil spirits lurking about looking for a nice, warm home for the winter won’t pick yours!  Enjoy these last beautiful days of autumn, and I’ll be back to talk with you again next month.  

Herbal blessings, Carolee