Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Home News Newsletters December 2017 Newsletter
December 2017 Newsletter Print E-mail

 December E-Newsletter 2017

     It’s hard to believe this is the final newsletter for 2017.  Another year has flown by, faster than the one before.  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 are inching longer now that 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.

Mark your calendar:
     Valparaiso Garden Show:  Jan. 27, 8 a.m.-4p.m. “Renovate! Repurpose! Revitalize!” One of Indiana’s largest garden shows, now in its 15th year.  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!
     Indiana Hort Congress:  Feb. 13-15.  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 at Indy Marriott East.
     Hoosier Hillside “Spring Tonic”:  March 3, 8-3:30.  This show is definitely a spring tonic, just what you need to get your garden juices flowing.  Orange Co. Community Center, Paoli, IN.A full day of speakers, vendors, delicious lunch and more.For more information email  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call Sharron at
(812) 278-6794
     Philadelphia Flower Show:  March 3-11, 2018.  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 is “The Wonder of Waters.”  Tickets can be purchased on-site, but book your hotel room now to get one within walking distance.
     Indiana Flower & Patio Show:  March 10-18, 2018 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds
     Chicago Flower & Garden Show:  March 14-18 at the Navy Pier.  “Every Garden has a Story to Tell” is the theme, with 20 major gardens and dozens of vendors, speakers, seminars, and more.
     HSCI Herbal Symposium:  April 14.  One of my favorite days of the year.Great décor, food, speakers, vendors, silent auction and more.Hamilton Co. Fairgrounds, Noblesville.  Visit the HSCI website for more info, or keep watching this space in future newsletters for more details.

Sad News
     It is with heavy heart that we report the passing recently of one of our country’s greatest herb researchers, Dr. James Duke.  Noted speaker, teacher, author and scientist, Dr. Duke did much in past decades to debunk incorrect herbal lore, and to promote the actual benefits of these special plants.  He traveled the world to discover and study plants, and then to educate any who would listen.
     I had the privilege of taking an herbal walk with Dr. Duke many years ago.  He told me the reason he began to study herbs initially was that he was naturally curious about plants, but his interest grew as his family history showed most relatives passing away by age forty!  Throughout his entire career working for the USDA, he studied statistics that showed crop production and its relationship to the American diet.  He told me he strongly believed that many health problems were due to the very limited types of foods commonly consumed.  So at an early age, he began to “nibble and graze” as he gardened and walked outdoors.  “Eating small amounts of a very wide variety of plants is preventative medicine,” he stated, as he pulled leaves from various plants and explained their history and uses.  It was a piece of advice that I have followed in the decades since our taking that informative, valuable walk.  Dr. Duke lived an active life for 88 years, much beyond his family’s average.  I hope by “nibbling and grazing” I can do the same.
     To learn much of Dr. Duke’s knowledge, get a copy of his best book, “The Green Pharmacy.”

Mad Hatter Pepper
     The seed catalogs are already arriving.  As you are planning next year’s garden, may I suggest a new pepper variety to try?  As a Garden Writer, I often receive seeds for new plants that will be coming on the market in the coming season.  This past summer, I was given a new pepper to trial called “Mad Hatter” bred by Pan American Seeds. 

It was a bit late in the season when I planted them, but they took off quickly, growing to about 2 ½ feet in height.  The plants were sturdy, dark green, and didn’t flop or yellow.  The peppers themselves are about 2 ½- 3” in diameter, with a unique shape that inspired the name because of its “hat shape” with a curvy “hat brim” atop what might be a person’s head.

     The peppers themselves are a pretty light, “chartreusey” green that eventually turn orange and then bright red.  Although the seed packet described the flavor as a “sweet citrusy flavor,” I found that they actually had some heat, especially near the seed cavity and as usual, the heat increased as the pepper matured.   Maybe that’s where the “Mad” part of the name occurred.   However, even ripe the heat was mild.  I used them raw and enjoyed their crunch and rich flavor, but the breeder says they are also excellent pickled, or stuffed with cheese, etc.
     A bit of research finds that this new AAS Winner is a member of the unusual Capsicum baccatum species, originating in Bolivia and Peru.  The seed company indicates the plant will reach 3-4’ in height and may need support.  Mine didn’t get that tall, possibly because I planted them late.
     In the catalogs, the seeds are a bit pricey (8 seeds for $2 in one; 5 seeds for $3 in another, etc.) but if you are one of the first 3 people to respond by e-mail, I’ll send you 5 seeds for FREE!

Did you know:
*40% of America’s food goes from farm to landfill
*Pantone’s selection for the color of the year for 2018 is “Ultra Violet”
*Uneaten food is the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste landfills
*About 1/6th (10 million tons) of U.S. fruits & vegetables never make it to market, usually due to imperfections or labor shortages

An Herb to Know:  Comfrey
Comfrey, with its huge hairy leaves forming ever-expanding clumps, has been tagged with a “thug” image in the plant world.  Despite its pretty purple flowers that are loved by many pollinators, and its wide repertoire of medicinal uses, comfrey still gets a bad rap.  Despite this, it’s one of my favorite herbs, and one I use frequently.
     Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is among the oldest of herbal remedies.  Early Greeks used it for any kind of skin injury, and they were indeed observant because comfrey contains allantoin, a chemical that promotes skin repair that can be found in many skin creams today.  Comfrey is also anti-inflammatory and has been found to be beneficial for carpel tunnel syndrome and arthritis (as a poultice or water bath.)
     Much of comfrey’s negative reputation comes from another chemical it contains, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are toxic to the liver.  Several years ago massive amounts of comfrey were fed to lab mice, and they developed cancer.  Immediately, comfrey became an herb to avoid.  Experts generally agree that comfrey should not be ingested, but most feel it is safe to use externally.
     Comfrey is an easy-to-grow, tough perennial that is happy in almost any non-soggy soil, and part to full sun.  It can reach 3’ in height, with leaves that are 8” wide.   One of my favorite uses for comfrey is as a tonic for ailing or spindly plants, which seem to love it.  Simply brew a tea using fresh or dried leaves, cool, and pour it on and round.  And, because it grows quickly, just a few plants can produce a lot of green matter for the compost pile, providing rich nutrients and many minerals.
     On my homestead in earlier days, comfrey was a quick fix for goats or rabbits with upset tummies, especially when they first began eating quantities of green, green spring grass after a long winter of dried hay.
     At the herb farm, I grew common (often called Russian) comfrey, and a more refined, slower-growing variety with raspberry-colored blooms.  A low-growing variety, reaching only 8-10” in height had pale yellow blooms, but beware because it is a rampant ground cover and took over large areas.  Walking to the grocery in Germany, I saw this lovely white-flowered comfrey, and wished I could bring a bit home.
     In the past few years, various variegated forms of comfrey have been introduced.  I tried many of them, but they all reverted to the common green or the yellow-flowered variety very quickly.

Recipe: Cheesy Celery Swirls
This tasty recipe can be served warm as an appetizer or stored in a tin for several days, where the flavors will blend even better, and be a great accompaniment tomato or potato soup, or clam chowder.
     Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray.
     Finely chop 1 c. celery and set aside.  In a mixing bowl, mix together 1 ¼ c. self-rising flour; ½ tsp. salt; ½ tsp. dried sage.  When dry ingredients are well mixed, cut in 6 T. room-temperature butter or margarine until there are coarse crumbs.  Gently stir in 1 ½ c. grated sharp cheddar cheese until evenly mixed.  Set aside.
     In another bowl or jar, mix together 5 oz. milk; 2 T. Dijon mustard; 1 slightly beaten egg, mixing well.
     Place an 18” long piece of waxed paper on the counter and lightly dust with flour.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in center of oven.
     Mix the milk mixture with the dry ingredients, stirring gently and only just until the flour is moistened throughout.  Turn out onto dusted wax paper and press dough with lightly floured fingers into a rectangle 9” x 13” (about ½” thick.)  Sprinkle evenly with celery, very lightly pressing it into the dough.  Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.
     Using the waxed paper as an aid to lift and roll, roll the dough along the long edge to form a log.  Slice the roll into ½” pieces.  The dough will be soft and may need a bit of pinching once on the sheet to be round.  When all the pieces are placed on the sheet, use the back of a spoon lightly dipped in flour to press down any high spots so each swirl is nicely round and level.
     Bake at 400 degrees 15-18 min, until lightly browned on tops and bottoms.  Makes18.
     (Note:  If creating a roll is too much bother, simply add celery along with milk mixture, and drop by spoonsful onto baking sheet, pressing lightly with a floured spoon back to form a nicely rounded, even-topped biscuit.  If you leaved them mounded, the centers take too long to bake before the bottoms burn.)

As we approach the New Year, we hope you enjoyed a Very Merry Christmas filled with warmth and joy, and wish all of you a sparkling New Year filled with health and happiness!  May 2018 be filled with all things good, and a bounty of Herbal Blessings,