Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

NOTE: To use the advanced features of this site you need javascript turned on.

Home News Newsletters May E-Newsletter 2014
May E-Newsletter 2014 Print E-mail


May E-Newsletter 2014

The merry month of May is nearly half over!  We’ve already celebrated May Day with May baskets, The Derby with traditional mint juleps, Mother’s Day, some graduations, and experienced the Wabash Valley Herb Faire (see below.) Indy racing and Memorial Day remembrances are just over the horizon, as well as some exciting traveling this month.  May always seems like so special to me, a magical time of flowering trees, soft breezes, make-a-wish flowers, and the return of the hummingbirds.  Everything is carpeted in fresh green, and seed-sowing begins outdoors.  Planting time is finally here.  Oh, there are just so many things to celebrate in May. What a great month!   

Sat., May 17  Herb of the Year “Artemisia”
     It’s our National Herb Week Celebration (albeit a week late due to other commitments!)  I’ll give a light-hearted, informative PowerPoint
introduction to the Artemisia family at 11 and 1:00.  That's Artemis, goddess of the hunt and moon above.  Learn how useful these plants can be.  All artemisia plants--- and we have LOTS of different members of this special, useful family---including the various fragrant southernwoods, mugwort, the silver group, miniature “Tiny Green,” the decorative “Powis Castle,” wormwoods, and more, will be on sale! Special refreshments & free recipes.  See our indoor and outdoor Herb of the Year displays!

Minnetrista Garden Fair, June 7& 8
Look for the farm’s booth at this annual fair on the grounds of the former Ball mansions.  We’ll be bringing lots of garden treasures, but while you are so close, we encourage you to drive the additional fifteen minutes north on Walnut Street to visit the farm to see our entire selection!

Herb Society District Gathering:  Friday, Aug. 22- Saturday, Aug. 23
     Plans are underway for a really special herb gathering in Champaign, IL.  Mark your calendar and plan to attend.  There will be fantastic gardens to visit, three terrific speakers, herbal treats and continental breakfast provided by the local herb group, silent auction, door prizes, and lots of herbal information and networking.  I’m making some special herbal desserts, and we’ll have a couple of make-it/take-it crafts, and hosting a little party in my hotel room for the Friday evening attendees.  So, plan to come “Pop Some Corks in Champaign!”  You do not have to be a HSA member to attend.  More details in next month’s newsletter, but mark your calendar now.

Mystery Daylily Sale
Look for a wagon of daylilies on sale!  These named varieties have lost their labels, so we are selling them at a greatly reduced price.  If you want gorgeous, hardy plants, and don’t care what color they are, this is for you!  Or, keep them potted until they bloom and then plant them where they blend well!  Limit 3 per customer, while they last.


Wabash Valley Herb Faire
     This special herb event has been held for decades on the banks of the Wabash River in Terre Haute, IN.  Despite horrid weather forecasts, we loaded truck and headed south, hoping for the best, but expecting severe storms, mud, and low-turnout.  However, it was a gorgeous day with absolutely perfect weather.  We had a great location, where we could simply park the truck and unload, without having to cart anything.  It was the easiest show we’ve done all year!  The local herb club fills an entire pavilion with herb plants, which were practically sold out by 10:00.  However, 85 other vendors offered plenty of other things to see and treasures to find.  Everyone was cheerful and grateful for the sunshine, and we certainly enjoyed our relaxing day. 

HSCI Herb Garden at WRG
     Years ago, the Indiana Unit of the Herb Society of America was invited to plant a demonstration herb garden at the White River Botanical Gardens in Indy.  Members tend the gardens under the direction of talented committee chairman, Sue Arnold.  Each year, I plant one of the corner pots using the Herb of the Year.  So, this year my pot has a silvery theme, since it contains Artemisia “Valerie Finnis,” Artemisia absinthium (wormwood), Artemisia versicolor “Sea Foam,” Artemisia “Powis Castle,” Artemisia “Silver Cascade,” and Artemisia “Tiny Green.”  For a bit more color, I added some white sweet alyssum and white trailing verbena.  See the before and after photos below.  If you are in the area, be sure to visit our garden!


Herb To Know:  Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)
Specifically French Tarragon, is a culinary delight.  Its scientific name dracunculus comes from the Greek word drakon, or dragon.   In olden days, it was called “The Biting Dragon” and peasants grew it just in case an errant dragon might bite them, for it was said to cure dragon bites.  It was also used as a tonic for the heart and liver and to clear the head of fuzzy thinking.  In general in those days, it was chopped with other greens into salads and soups or stews.  It's an attractive plant with dark green, glossy leaves, as you can see below.

     Helen Fox reports in “Gardening with Herbs” that Ibn Baithar was the first European to write about tarragon, saying that the Syrians cooked it with other vegetables and that the juice was a precious drink of the kings of India for its medicinal effects.  It is commonly called “Little Dragon” for the burning sensation is leaves on the tip of the tongue when chewed.  Its flavor is a combination of anise and thyme.  The plant is native to Siberia, but was quickly adopted by the French, who call it “Herbe au dragon” and quickly discovered that tarragon made an excellent flavoring for vinegar.  In fact, Alexander Dumas said that no vinegar is good without it.   Soon afterwards another adventurous cook incorporated it into Sauce Tartare.  French Tarragon is essential in Bearnaise and Ravigote sauces.   Most chefs agree that tarragon is perfect with chicken, to flavor brown stock, mayonnaise and fish sauces.
     True French Tarragon is a perennial that prefers a sunny location with good drainage.  It cannot be grown from seed so it is propagated from divisions or cuttings taken in very early spring.  French Tarragon generally grows to about 18” in height, with dark green, alternate slender leaves that are smooth.  Some authorities suggest that dividing the plant every three to four years keeps it vigorous.  Packets of seed that are labeled “Tarragon” are generally Russian Tarragon, an artemisia that is a rampant self-seeder often reaching 5’.  It is nearly void of flavor, and will take over the entire neighborhood in a flash, so avoid it.

Pineapple Tarragon Cake
I developed this recipe for my latest book, Herbal Blessings, which features herbal desserts.  Hope you enjoy it.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a 9 x 13” pan.
     In large mixing bowl, beat 2 eggs.  Add 2 c. sugar and 2 tsp. vanilla.  Open a 20 oz. can crushed pineapple and drain juice into measuring cup.  Add juice to egg/sugar mixture.  Mix well. 
     Mix together:  2 tsp. baking soda and 2 c. flour.  Gradually add to egg/sugar mixture.  Remove from mixer.  Stir in pineapple and 2-3 T. chopped fresh tarragon (or 2-3 tsp. dried.)  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake 30 min.
     When cool frost with icing:  8 oz. cream cheese (room temp.) and 1 stick margarine (room temp.)  Add 2 tsp. vanilla and 2 c. powdered sugar.  Remove from mixer and stir in 2 T. chopped fresh tarragon.  Spread over cake.

And as a bonus, here’s a recipe I found years ago in “A Garden of Recipes” by Cynthia Gibson, published by Country Living Gardener magazine.  If you find this cookbook in a used bookstore, grab it.  I use this recipe often for tea sandwiches for children and especially for vegetarians.  It’s pretty enough to use for a ladies’ luncheon salad.
Recipe:  Carrot-Tarragon Sandwiches
3 c. coarsely grated carrots  3 T. fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
½ c. chopped walnuts   2 T. powdered sugar
½ c. mayonnaise             ½ c. sour cream
8 slices bread    dash salt, freshly ground pepper
Combine all ingredients except bread.  Spread mixture evenly on 4 slices.  Cover with remaining slices.  Slice into halves or quarters and serve.
Note:  I’ve also substituted anise hyssop, chervil, or fennel for the tarragon and it’s delicious.  You can also try other herbs, like lemon thyme, mint, or summer savory!  The mixture is great in pita pockets, too.

I’ll be whizzing across the ocean next week for a whirlwind trip to the Chelsea Flower Show in London, with some special stops for afternoon tea, shopping at Selfridge’s, Foyles, and Fortnum & Masons, some garden visits, the special exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery by WWI soldiers and more.  Then it’s off to my granddaughter’s birthday party in Germany, a few days’ visit at all my favorite garden shops there, and back home just in time for my eldest granddaughter’s high school graduation!  You can expect lots of photos and reports in the June E-Newsletter!!! 

Herbal blessings, Carolee