Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Carolee’s April E-Newsletter    
     The new season began on April 1, and it was so good to see old friends returning to the farm for colorful, fragrant plants and welcoming hugs.   It’s always great to see familiar faces and to greet new ones as well!  We’re happy that the weather cooperated and we were able to move the perennial plants outdoors, where they hardened off nicely before the weather turned chilly again.  Then the cold frame was refilled with new varieties and even more new plants once the hardy annuals were moved outdoors.  These beautiful days have allowed us to get an early start tidying the gardens, although I have not yet begun to do any serious planting.  Moving a huge number of new varieties to the cold frame the past two weeks has created a bit of space to transplant more seedlings and pot more cuttings in the greenhouse.  Abundant sunshine has encouraged the plants to grow quickly, so I’m hard-pressed to keep up with labeling. 
     Between customers, we’re making up colorful bowls of pansies, fragrant alyssum, and stock which is always fun, and culinary baskets and planters for Mother’s Day gifts or just to brighten a patio or porch.  There are new succulent containers, and lots of climbers.  The tomatoes and peppers are growing by leaps and bounds and the cold weather vegetables are hardened off and ready for the garden.  Now we just need some rain!
    I’m going AWOL soon.  If you want a book signed, plants identified, or questions answered by me personally, come by May 12.  I’m heading off to the Floriade and other events the next day & won’t be available until June 1st!  


Don’t Forget--Sat., April 28th is our special “Creative Culinary Herbs Day!”
     Look for special displays, lots of free recipes, 10% off on culinary herb plants, tours of the Cook’s Garden at 10:30 and 2:30, discounts on culinary planters, and special complimentary refreshments.  I’ll do a quick cooking demo at 11:30, using some of my favorite culinary herbs & recipes.  There are still a few spaces left for the “Culinary Strawberry Jar” Workshop at 1:00.  You can register on the website or by calling the farm.
     As part of our efforts to encourage folks to grow food, we’re giving away FREE Tomato Plants!  The Seminis Seed Company sent 5 packets of tomato seeds for me to trial.  That’s way more tomatoes than I want, so I’ve decided to let you trial these new introductions, too!  So, on April 28th, customers (that’s a person who actually purchases something!) can choose a free tomato plant, as long as supplies last.  I hope you will report back to us on their flavor, productivity, and just how well they performed in your garden.  The five varieties are:  Amsterdam (high sugar levels, 68 days, plum shape); Caramba (Italian heritage, large size, excellent flavor, 75 days); Poseidon 43 (pink, sweet, low acid, globe shape, 78 days); Tye-Dye (orange & red; large, good flavor, 78 days); Yaqui (blocky plum shape, high yield, disease resistant, 75 days)

Spring Open House--- Sat., May 5—“The Fragrance of Spring!”
    A Special Day to celebrate the magic of fragrant plants, with handouts, and a new display.  At 11 and 1, I’ll introduce some of my favorite fragrant plants, and we’ll discuss how to use them in containers, the garden, and in the kitchen!
  The May Pole will be set up for dancing, and the plants will be smiling.  We’ll be giving out some door prizes and complimentary refreshments to celebrate the beginning of the planting season.  And a reminder….we have LOTS of perennials in 3” pots right now.  Once we have time, we’ll begin up-potting and that means up-pricing, too!  Buy now, and save!

National Herb Week is May 7-13th—The Rose is the 2012 Herb of the Year
     We’ll host our National Herb Week Celebration on Saturday, May 12th!  Enjoy complimentary rose tea and rosey refreshments.  At 10:30 & 2:30, I’ll give a brief talk on some rose uses and rose lore.  Anything in the shop with a rose on it will be 20% off.
A study found that diets high in salt contributed to more bone loss. Salt tends to leach the calcium from bones.  That’s just one more reason to use fresh herbs to flavor recipes rather than salt!  Snip those herbs over salads, grilled veggies and meats.  We have a great selection of culinary herbs.  If you want to learn more about cooking with herbs, there’s still time to sign up for the Sunday, April 29th workshop on “Growing & Cooking with Herbs”  See the website workshop listings for details.

April Garden Tips
     We’re running ahead of normal, so there’s plenty to keep us busy in the gardens.  Here are my suggestions:
1.  Deadhead daffodils and tulips as soon as flowers have faded so the plant will put its energy into making more bulbs rather than trying to produce seeds.  Also remember that these plants must retain their leaves until they are totally brown and dried up, so don’t mow them or pluck off yellowing leaves.
2.  Mark clumps of bulbs that need to be divided.  Move them once the foliage has ripened and disappeared, or sometimes I move them if we have two or three rainy days in the forecast.
3.  Prune spring flowering shrubs right after they bloom.  Cutting off faded blooms and clipping back ungainly stalks can help your flowering shrubs produce more flowers next year.
4. Check your iris….the borers seem to be unusually prevalent this year, maybe because of the mild winter.  If you see round spots on the leaves, trim the leaves off just below the spots and trash them.  Do not put them in compost piles..
5.  Shear thymes and savory to keep them from getting too leggy, unless they are already budded.  Trim off brown stems. 
6.  Clipping asters, mum, and sedums when they are about 6” tall to about 3” will make them more dense, and less likely to flop later in the season.  It will also produce lots more blooms! You can do the same thing with phlox, monarda, catmints and many other perennials.  Repeat as needed for mums and asters until July 4th, then stop clipping.
7.  Divide perennials when they are 1-2” tall for the least stress possible.  Do this on a cloudy day if possible.  If not, provide a bit of shade for the plants in their new location.  I use an old card table that I can move from spot to spot as required to act as a canopy.
8.  Make notes of “empty” days when little is blooming in your garden.  Visit a public garden or display garden to see what you can add in the colors you prefer.  Don’t visit big box garden centers to see what perennials are in bloom….they’ve been shipped in from greenhouses and may not actually bloom then in the “real world.”
9.  Mix radish seeds with newly sown perennial or annual seeds.  It will help keep from seeding them too densely, and the radish seeds will emerge quickly to remind you that a perennial may be sprouting there in a few weeks (or months!)
10.  Enjoy primroses on the coffee table or kitchen table, keeping the faded blooms picked off.  When they are done blooming in another month or so, plant them in a shady location to enjoy outdoors next year.
11.  Plant annual statice plants now for best bloom.  They can tolerate cold weather.  Annual statice is a long-lasting cut flower, and can be dried for everlasting bouquets.
12.  Now is a good time to edge gardens.  Be sure your edging shovel’s edge is sharp!
13.  The weeds are making seeds even as we speak, so get them out of the garden before they drop seeds to save hours of work later in the season.

And the winner is………
Our March Question addressed social media.  Most of you are too busy outdoors to spend much time playing on the computer or reading blogs.  Our thanks to all of you who used some of your precious minutes to respond.  The winner is Ka Freeman.  Send me your snail mail, Ka, and your gift box will soon be arriving in the mail!

FRIEND Carolee’s Herb Farm on Facebook!
   We’re going to send a free copy of my newest book, Herbal Passions, to one of the farms Facebook Friends.  If you haven’t “friended” our farm page, do so before April 30th to have a chance to win the book.  Help us avoid the fate of many other unique plant places.  We’re going to use the farm’s Facebook page for special announcements, discount offers, and contests.  If you want us to continue,  keep spreading the word and help keep us in business!  Bring friends to the farm, suggest our website!


     I love this herb!  The dark green foliage is tidy; the flowers are brightly colored and provide lots of nectar for bees & butterflies.  It has a long history of medicinal use, is a fantastic tea plant, and I’m learning to appreciate it in many culinary treats!
     There is some confusion when it comes to this pretty, tidy herb known as hyssop.  Hyssopus officinialis is a neat, shrubby plant with narrow dark, dark green leaves.  The most common form has beautiful blue flowers, although it is also available in soft pink or pure white.  It is a native of southern Europe, where it thrives on sun and good drainage.  It is even more attractive if given a light shearing occasionally to prevent it from sprawling and becoming straggly.  It is an excellent candidate for edgings, hedges, or for clipped forms grown in pots.   It is a hardy perennial that needs no protection over the winter and can be propagated easily by seed or cuttings.
     The confusion comes from two directions.  The first is the hyssop that is mentioned in the Bible, which describes a plant that is totally unlike the true hyssop.  However, people who have read the scriptures often expect hyssop to be tall, which it is not.  Biblical scholars disagree on the true identity of the plant named as hyssop, but nearly all agree that Hyssopus officinalis is not a candidate.
     The second problem is Anise Hyssop, which is not a member of the hyssop family at all, but an Agastache.  Its leaves do not in any way resemble a true hyssop, but unfortunately people often ask for hyssop, expecting to find the anise scent, fuzzy purple flowers, and tall stature that characterize the Anise Hyssop.
     Hyssop has a long history of use.  It was considered a sacred herb by early man, and used to sprinkle holy water during ceremonies.  The Romans and Saxons used it in cooking, where its bitter taste added flavor to meats, stews, stuffings, sauces and bland potherbs.  It was often chopped to sprinkle over salads or to help hide the flavor of fish or chicken that was on the verge of spoiling.  In medieval times, hyssop was one of the herbs, along with parsley, sage, winter savory, thyme and marjoram that were wrapped with a piece of bacon and used in soups or stews like an early bouquet garni.  The French were especially fond of using the potent flavors of hyssop, rue and pennyroyal with game, which tended to be strong-flavored.  Fruits were often poached in hyssop syrup, which was also used to flavor custard.    
     Medieval households used hyssop as one of the strewing herbs to cover earthen or stone floors.  Strewing herbs provided a pleasing scent to help hide the prevalent odors of the day, and also were a deterrent to insects and rodents.  The oil has been distilled for use in the perfume industry and in liqueurs.
     As a tea, the leaves of hyssop have been likened to traditional black tea.  Use the  leaves fresh, or dry them for winter use.  Harvest before flowering.  Clip the plants after flowering to provide a second harvest.  Use 1 T. fresh or 1 tsp. dried leaves per cup of boiling water.  Sweeten with a bit of honey, if desired.  Hyssop is especially pleasing when blended with other herbs such as mints, sage, rosemary, or thyme.  Many people use it as a tonic, and hyssop tea has been commonly used for asthma and breathing problems.
     Medicinally, hyssop has traditionally been used for regulating blood pressure, bruises, and as a poultice for black eyes.  Some “healers” used it for snake bite.  It is also a remedy for head lice when mixed with soap and used as a shampoo.  The monks and nuns of the thirteenth century always included hyssop in their physic gardens, and prescribed it for “the singing in the ears.”  More recently, it has been used as an expectorant for relief of bronchitis.  Early American colonists used a strong tea as a lotion for rheumatism.
     Farmers always grew a patch of hyssop for treating coughs, sore throats, worms and eye disorders in their livestock.  Generally, it was included in fencerows, where animals could nibble the herb to treat themselves.  A popular book of the eighteenth century, “Every Man his Own Gardener” by Mawe and Abercrombie lists that both common and variegated hyssop were essential to plant behind the stable. 
Here’s the Cherry-Hyssop Scone recipe that I served at the farm a few weeds ago.  It was a big hit!  And, you get a bonus recipe this month, that I developed for my newest book, Herbal Passions! It’s a great main dish to stretch expensive beef.
Cherry-Hyssop Scones
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In large bowl combine:  3 c. all-purpose flour, ¼ c. sugar, 1 T. baking powder.  Cut 1 stick butter into pieces & with a pastry blender, work until mixture resembles cornmeal.  Stir in 2-3 T. finely chopped fresh hyssop leaves, 1 c. dried cherries (or dried cherry-flavored cranberries) and 2 T. orange zest.
In a small bowl:  Beat 2 eggs with a fork until blended.  Add ¾ c. cream.  Stir into dry ingredients, just until all the flour is moistened. 
Put dough onto a baking sheet and with floured hands, pat into a square about 1 ½” thick.  Sprinkle top generously with sugar.  With a sharp knife, cut into desired serving size.  (I cut it into 32 small tea-sized squares, but 16 is a “normal” serving, or you can do 4 huge ones!)  Bake 18-20 min., until golden brown.

Meat Patties with Hyssop in Red Wine Sauce
This is a great dish to stretch expensive beef!  Combine in a mixing bowl:  1 c. ground beef; 3 T. finely chopped fresh hyssop; 1 T. finely chopped parsley; ¼ c. finely chopped onion; ¼ tsp. salt; 3 T. prepared bread crumbs (plain); freshly ground pepper.  Divide mixture evenly to make 6 small patties. 
     Heat 1 T. butter in a skillet on medium high heat.  Brown patties 4-5 min.  Turn meat over to brown on second side.  Add 8 oz. sliced mushrooms and ¾ c. dry red wine.  Cover.  Reduce heat to medium.  Simmer gently until mushrooms are cooked, about 20 min.  Remove patties, covering to keep warm. 
     Mix 2 tsp. cornstarch with ¼ c. water.  Stir into wine sauce, stirring until thickened.  Return patties to sauce.  Serve over mashed potatoes, rice, noodles, or bread.  3 servings.

Upcoming Events
Sat., April 28  Creative Culinary Herbs Day!
Sat., April 28  “Culinary Strawberry Jar” Workshop
Sun., April 29  “Growing & Cooking with Culinary Herbs” workshop
Sat., May 5  Spring Open House—“The Fragrance of Spring
Sat., May 5  “Seed Sprouting Workshop”
Sun, May 6             “Garden Finial” Workshop
Sat., May 12  National Herb Week Celebration!

That’s all for April.  We look forward to seeing you soon.  Business hours are Tuesdays thru Saturdays, 10-5, and the teapot is always brewing for your visit!  Carolee

***************************Carolee’s April E-Coupon***********************
     Take 20% off any succulents in the plant sales area.  Valid until May 15, 2012.   Limit One coupon per customer.  Cannot be combined with other discounts.
                                                    Carolee’s April E-coupon
    10% off any framed artwork in the Big Barn Gift Shop or Cottage.  Valid until May 15, 2012.  Cannot be combined with other sales or discounts.   Limit one discount coupon per customer.