Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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December 2019 Newsletter Print E-mail


 December  E–Newsletter 2019
     It’s hard to believe this is the final newsletter for 2019.  Another year has flown by, faster than the one before and a new decade will soon begin.  The bulbs are planted safely in the ground, seeds were ordered & have arrived, and the planting scheme and seeding schedule are already written out in great detail for the coming season.  Now, there’s a slow wait for Spring to arrive.  The days will inch longer when the Winter Solstice has passed, giving us hope and promise of gardening ahead.  And, happily, it won’t be long until there are lots of wonderful gardening events to attend.

Upcoming Events:
    16th Annual Valparaiso Garden Show:  Jan. 25, 8 a.m.-4p.m.  One of Indiana’s largest garden shows.  Held at the Porter Co. Expo Center, tickets $10.  This show features speakers, Seed and Bulb Exchange, Garden Shed, garden photo contest, speakers, over 100 exhibitors and vendors of gardening products and more!  This year’s theme is “20/20 Vision in Your Garden.”  Attendees are asked to bring gently used eyeglasses to donate to Lions Club International.  There are 7 outstanding speakers.  For more info, go to

    Indiana Hort Congress:  Feb. 11-13.  This is a super show for anyone involved in farm markets or commercial crop production, wine, agri-tourism, food safety and organic or greenhouse growing.  Attend the entire conference, or go for 1 day.  The trade show is worth seeing for packaging, production machinery, wholesale seeds, irrigation equipment, etc.   Schedule and registration available at  Held at Indy Marriott East, 7202 East 21st St.

     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.

     Kentuckiana Spring Herb Symposium:  Saturday, March 28.  Always a great event.  Mark your calendar now!
     Morgan Co. “GardenFest”:  Saturday, March 28, 9am-3pm.  This is a fun show, and a great place to buy those early spring pansies, because they have thousands!  Speakers include Colletta Kosiba “Poison in the Garden,” David Mow “Edible Mushrooms,” and Tom Flatt “Backyard Apple Orchards.”  Lots of garden-related vendors.  Hoosier Harvest Church, Martinsville.
     Monroe Co. Master Gardeners’ “2020 Garden Fair”:  Saturday, April 4th, 9am-4pm.  Expanded to two buildings.  More info upcoming.

     HSCI Herb Symposium:  Saturday, April 11.  Fabulous event!  Mark your calendar now.  More info upcoming in future newsletters.

London Trip: Part 2
Historic Oxford, home of the celebrated Oxford University.  Oxford is enchanting…think “Brideshead Revisited,” sun-warmed gold stone buildings and spires. 


Our first stop was the famous Covered Market , home to hundreds of vendors.  Of course, I loved the shops selling produce, and the herb shop.

These adorable mini-cakes would make a perfect gift, and there were dozens of designs and flavors.

   I had to check out the seed rack in this jam-packed garden shop, and I debated over purchasing this unique “garden book” purse; didn’t and now wish I had!!!


     From there we trekked to the university, which is huge and contains various colleges.  We chose a walk through Magdalene College, established in 1458, where C.S. Lewis graduated.  It was very picturesque, and the New Building was added in 1752! 


  This historic carriage door opens into the enclosed courtyard.

   Can you imagine being a student here? 

   Stone passages led into surprises, such as this hidden garden. 

   Another passageway contained beautiful, colorful bosses and led to a Cloister area. 


We followed a walkway through the meadow to see deer in the park and rowing scows on Holywell Mill Stream.

   Notice this shrub was trimmed into a bishop’s hat.  So much history, and to think this is just one of many colleges included in the university.

   Of course, my goal was the Oxford Botanical Gardens, the oldest in Britain, having been established in 1621!  As we approached this unassuming entrance, and knowing it was so late in the season, my expectations were low.  They shouldn’t have been!  This is England, home of gardening passion after all. 

The perennial borders were still outstanding.  This one is near the entrance, but there are also other long borders containing plants from other continents:  The New Zealand border, The South African border, The South American border, and The Japan Border. 

  This one is the Autumn Border.

   I wish I could grow a patch of cyclamen like these growing happily under this ancient tree.

   The asters were plentiful, and the deep blue monkshood was brilliant.

    Many of the small idea gardens were inspiring. 

  There were several specialty gardens, such as this one dedicated to gin, and the rock garden.

     The Medicinal Plant area contained dozens of beds, many with informative signs.  

   The Autumn border was amazing!   Protected by high stone walls, many tender plants will thrive late into the season here.  There was just so much to see, I could have spent a day, but we had a train to catch, back through the beautiful Cotswold countryside.
     Before we returned to the apartment, we purchased traditional mince pies, which we all love and an elderberry infused cider, which was delicious.

     Dinner was a variety of “starters” at a Lebanese restaurant near the apartment.  Later, I wrote my journal entries while sipping tea and listening to rain on the roof, happy that we’d had a dry day for our excursion.  Such a fun time; so many memories created.

Winter chores:
     With little to do outdoors, now is a good time to read through last season’s garden journal (I DO hope you keep one; they are invaluable to improving your gardens and skills, and to avoid repeating mistakes!) and make a list of crops you want to increase in number (like more carrots for late harvest and storage) or things you wished you’d done (like put a support ring around the new peony or cut back the mums earlier.)  It may be time to refine your planting schedule (in my case, move the Minnesota Midget melons earlier, and move the fall plantings of cole crops up a week.)
     It’s also a good time to take a walk around all the gardens, looking for fences that need to be repaired, supports that need to be added or replaced, plants that may have heaved up during that last really cold spell, or mulch that may have been washed away during the heavy rain last month.  Keep the gardens tidy, so that when those first bulbs push through the soil you can enjoy their beauty without the competition of the toppled brown stalks of perennials.
     Speaking of bulbs, stock up on deer and rabbit repellents now so at the first sign of damage spraying can begin.  Nothing is sadder than having the bulbs you planted so carefully last fall being devoured before they have a chance to bloom!
     It may be a good time to build a cold frame, or make hoops for covering early spring crops, or to read about berry growing, or clean the greenhouse, or sterilize seeding flats.  Set-up seed starting areas early, and bring a bag of soil inside so it will be thawed and ready to use when you are ready to seed.  And put some of those gardening tools and books on your Christmas with list!  Remember, thankfully after this week, every day will get a bit longer and the garden season will soon begin.

An Herb to Know:  Ginger
     Ginger has always been a traditional ingredient for holiday favorites:  gingerbread, pumpkin pie, mincemeat and tasty teas.
     Ginger is a tropical plant, native to either China or India, or both, depending upon which source you trust.  There are writings by Confucius from about 500 B.C. and records of early Arab traders taking ginger root from the Orient to the Greeks and Romans.  Invading Roman soldiers carried it to more northern parts of Europe.  Soon it traveled via the Portuguese and Spaniards to parts of Africa, Mexico, the West Indies and the Caribbean.  Ginger’s popularity grew and spread until by the 14th century, it was second only to pepper as the most-used spice.
     Its scientific name, Zingiber officinalis, is thought to originate from the Sanskrit term “singabera,” meaning “shaped like a horn.”  That may have evolved through the Greek word “zingiberi,” to the Latin “zingiber.”  
     If you look carefully at the photo, you may notice that in the center bottom, a tiny tip is showing signs of life, which is why I selected this rhizome from the basket at the grocery.  I’ll place it on top of fresh potting soil in a sturdy pot, horizontally as it is shown in the photo, pressing it down so that only the bottom half is buried.  The pot will go in a warm, sunny location and shortly green sprouts will appear.  Ginger has large, deep green spear-shaped leaves that grow upright.  The decorative leaves grow as high as three feet in ideal conditions, which is a hot, moist climate.  When mature, it produces yellow flowers that are tinged with purple.  In the tropics, harvesting can begin as quickly as nine or ten months after planting a section of rhizome, but it will take a little longer here in Indiana!  However, eventually my original root will expand and multiply.  Then I will harvest most, and replant a pot or two.  Globally, most of the crop is dug, scrubbed, sun-dried, and ground to a powder.  Only a fraction of the crop is sold fresh, but I will use as much as I can fresh, slice and candy the bulk, because once it is dried, the rhizome is too difficult to grind easily.  
     Only the rhizomes, which have a complex aroma and flavor, are used in cooking.  The root should have a hint of lemon and a sharpness that is pleasant.  Most experts report the rhizomes grown in Jamaica have the best flavor.  Rhizomes grown in Kenya are darker and less flavorful.  Fresh ginger root is a common ingredient in many dishes, including stir-fry, curry, salads, pastas, and meat recipes, especially marinades.   The root is usually peeled and then it can be sliced, diced or finely grated.  When choosing fresh ginger root for cooking or planting, look for pale, smooth skin.  The root should be heavy.  Older ginger may be wrinkled and light, indicating that much of the essential oil has evaporated during storage.
     Dried ground ginger is essential for gingerbread, cookies, cakes, scones and pickles.  It is the flavor for traditional ginger ale, ginger beer, and many teas.     .
     Crystallized ginger is another useful product.  Fresh ginger is sliced and preserved in heavy sugar syrup, allowed to dry, and then rolled in sugar.  It can be nibbled fresh, chopped to be added to scones, biscuits, cookies, cakes and other desserts.
     Ginger is important not only as a culinary herb, but as a medicinal famed for settling upset stomachs, especially for motion sickness when traveling in boats or planes.  Historians believe this is one of the main reasons ginger spread across the globe so quickly, as sailors recognized its value.  When I hosted bus trips or flights, candied ginger was always passed out to my passengers.  It also helps fight morning sickness.
     Interestingly, when I was researching ginger for this article, I found that Dr. James Duke touted ginger as one of the herbs to help prevent cataracts.  He even gave a recipe for Cataractea:  Boil 2 qts water.  Remove from heat and had a handful of catnip, rosemary, and lemon balm.  Add a few teaspoons of grated fresh ginger and a dash or two of turmeric.  Steep for 20 minutes and drink warm or cold with lemon juice and honey.  (From “Green Pharmacy.”)
     Duke also suggests ginger is an anti-inflammatory, due to its content of zingibain, and that it helps prevent strokes because it has anti-clotting properties.  In studies, ginger helped reduce the pain and inflammation of both osteo and rheumatoid arthritis.  He states that ginger is second among all herbs in the number of antifungal compounds (23) which means it helps relieve all types of fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus.  Its antiviral properties may also help treat colds, coughs, fever, hives, and sore throat.  Additionally, he states that studies show ginger helps lower cholesterol.  His own study revealed that ginger contains 8 liver-protecting compounds…good to know as we over-indulge during the holiday season!
     Asian cultures use ginger to prevent migraines.   It is also used for menstrual cramps, since it contains 6 pain-relieving compounds and 6 anti-cramping compounds.  It has also been used to induce menstruation.  Arabs traditionally have used ginger to improve sperm mobility and quantity.
     Folklore tradition indicates that ginger is also helpful for anxiety or depression, although no studies have been concluded.
     With all these benefits in mind, think about adding more ginger into your daily routine diet.  Many stores have sales on spices during the holidays, so take advantage of them to stock up on ginger!

Recipe:  Golden Milk
Attending conferences is always a learning experience.  At the IHA conference this fall, author & culinary expert Susan Belsinger shared this recipe, saying that she first drank golden milk while studying Kundalini yoga in an Ashram in 1971. They drank this age-old Ayurvedic beverage every night before going to bed and said that it “oiled the joints and kept us limber” and of course warm milk is supposed to help us sleep. Besides being high in antioxidants, present day studies have shown that it reduces joint pain and inflammation.”

Heat together (for 1 serving):  1 c. milk (any kind); 1 tsp. ground turmeric; 1 tsp. ghee (or unsalted butter or coconut oil); 1-2 tsp. local honey or maple syrup; 1 grind or pinch of black pepper (essential to make the turmeric available to the body.)
     Since ginger is so beneficial, I now make this beverage adding 1 tsp. ground ginger.  A dash of cinnamon or a splash of vanilla can vary the flavor a bit for this healthful bedtime beverage.

As snow covers every branch with royal icing, creating a true Winter Wonderland, I wish you and yours the happiest of holidays, safe travels, memorable times with family & friends, and a 2020 filled with Herbal Blessings