Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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


June E-Newsletter 2014


I love June!  It’s the month that the elder perfumes the air.  My three-year old elder (shown above) really put on a show this year.  June brings the roses and lavenders, the penstemons, rose campion, wine cups, and many other gorgeous flowers.  It’s the month for picking gooseberries and peas and broccoli, for tender lettuces and strawberries.  It’s hard to believe June is nearly over!  As most of you know, I journal daily.  Last year at this time, I wrote that the farm rarely looked so good.  We had all the gardens weeded, planted and mulched except the Moonlight garden.  The Lavender field  was weeded, and we’d begun picking.  Colorful annuals were filling in nicely and I’d already harvested and dried lots of herbs.2014 has been entirely different.  The winter was destructive; the spring wet and cold.  I’m not sure I’ve ever been this far behind.  Some gardens have been weeded, but only three have been planted, and not one has been mulched.  If July, August and September pass as quickly as April, May and June I’ll still be planting when frost arrives!  Part of my confused time-line is because I was in Europe part of May (see below), and I came back to cool, wet weather and waist-high weeds. We’ve done more shows than usual, so the calendar has been fuller than normal.  Mother Nature seems to be in a hurry, pushing plants along.  The June roses and lavenders are almost finished blooming, the lavandins are in full bloom, and the daylilies (which usually bloom in mid-July) are bursting with color.  The growing season is rushing by, and I can’t seem to catch up with it.    
     It’s hard to believe there are only a few days left on our schedule for this year.  If you haven’t yet visited the farm, make plans now!  The sales areas are still full of beautiful bloomers and useful plants.  We have gorgeous succulents and miniature plants, and lots of culinary herbs to flavor summer barbeques or to store away for winter meals.  The Big Barn Gift Shop has many treasures for your garden or for holiday gifts.  I’m giving away
selected plants (with any purchase) in an effort to empty the greenhouse.  Come visit.  Your support is the only thing that keeps us going!



Lavender Daze Cancelled!
     Due to many factors, we’re canceling the official Lavender Daze for 2014.  We will have Lavender Lemonade & Lavender Cake on June 28th, but there will be no speakers or demonstrations.  There may be freshly picked lavender for sale, and we will hold a lavender wand class at 1:00 ($5), but there may not be lavender left for U-Pick.  We will hold our annual “Annual Sale” that day, with all annuals (basils, zinnias, cosmos, petunias, coleus, and many more!) 50% off.  
We will be closed on Sunday, June 29th.


Herb Society District Gathering:  Friday, Aug. 22- Saturday, Aug. 23
     Reservations are being taken for a really special herb gathering in Champaign, IL.  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 for the event, and hosting a little party in my hotel room with a couple of make-it/take-it crafts for Friday evening attendees who’d like to come.  So, plan to come to “Pop Some Corks in Champaign!”  You do not have to be a HSA member to attend.  Registrations are filling fast (and limited to the first 50!) For registration information Google “Herb Society Gathering August 2014” which will give you the HSA calendar of events.  Scroll down and click the green “for information and to register.” Hope to see you there!


My Travels to England
     May is always a jam-packed month, but this year it was especially busy because I decided to mark one more thing off my bucket list.  Although I’ve attended the Hampton Court Flower Show in England, I’d never been to the exalted Chelsea Flower Show in London.  Added impetus was that both of my daughters are living in Europe now, so it was easy for them to join me.   I’ve been in London several times, but there are always new experiences, and old favorites to savor once again. I loved seeing all the elders in bloom along the train trip from Heathrow to Earls Court tube station, where I met my girls.  We walked a short two blocks to Orjowan, a delightful Lebanese restaurant for a gorgeous vegetarian lunch.  We ordered appetizers, knowing that later we were attending the special “Chelsea Flower Tea” at the extravagant Claridge’s.  However, the food was terrific, and our waiter insisted on giving us complimentary desserts, a lovely rosewater rice pudding and baklava.  We felt compelled to eat them….right down to the last crumb.
     After all those calories, we were ready for a brisk walk to our apartment in Kensington.  Hotel rooms in London aren’t cheap during the Chelsea Flower Show, so we rented a beautiful apartment in a great neighborhood.  We barely had time to unpack before we had to hurry to Claridge’s for late afternoon tea. 







     Tea at Claridge’s is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most, because it is exorbitantly expensive, especially at the current dollar to pound exchange rate!  The room is fabulous, with a huge white Chihuly sculpture hanging in the center and art-deco décor that made me feel as if I were in scenes from the “Great Gatsby.”  Huge bouquets of fresh peonies filled the room with perfume.  The service was, of course, impeccable.  Live music played in the background.  Claridge’s is famous for its tea selection, and choosing one from the extensive menu was difficult, but after much debate I finally settled on the Cornish Earl Grey.  It’s the only tea grown in England, at the Tregothnan Tea Plantation in Cornwall, where “Doc Martin” is filmed.  It was delicious, although the “Claridge Special Blend” and “Iron Goddess of Mercy” teas my daughters chose were also excellent.  The tea is brewed one cup at a time.  Our hostess explained that is the only acceptable method, since brewing an entire pot results in poor quality.




     Our first course was a selection of savory finger sandwiches:  ham and chive; chicken and walnut; butternut squash with arugula; smoked salmon; salmon biscuit with caviar and fresh pea tendrils.  Several had delicate flower garnishes. Next came plates of sweet sandwiches:  Passion fruit and orange on milk bread; rosewater and raspberry preserves. 



Traditional scones followed.  There were two flavors, raisin and chamomile.  Both were delicious, especially with the hand-crafted apricot jam and clotted cream.By the time desserts arrived, we were wishing we hadn’t eaten the complimentary desserts at Orjowan!  There were fresh blackberry tarts with whipped topping, red raspberry meringues, lemon pound cake with glaze, and more!  By the dessert course, the everflowing tea was replaced with pink champagne from Laurent-Perrier, an official sponsor (and winner of the gold medal) of the Chelsea Flower Show. The entire experience was an experience!  I’ll never go again, but I will cherish the memories made there. 



Afterwards, we felt the need to walk off those calories, so we ventured down the street to Selfridge’s, the historic department store featured in the PBS series.  I bought a few little items, but the neon-lit, chrome and high prices were disturbing….not like the store in the series at all, except for one beautiful wall of woodwork that I recognized from the show. 
     The long walk home was enjoyable.  Being in London is always magical, and being with my daughters was a special blessing.  That’s Day 1!  Watch for more editions, including the Chelsea Flower Show report, my visit to Princess Di’s gardens, the historic Fulham Palace gardens, and much more in future newsletters.


Did you know?

*Europe has nearly lost a quarter of its 68 bumblebee species, largely due to long periods of drought and loss of habitat.  46% are in decline, and 24% have been put on a “near extinction” list.  Bumblebees contribute 22 million euros by pollinating major crops.


Herb to Know:  Pineapple Sage
     Many people are surprised at the delightful scent of pineapple sage, and even more surprised to hear that it is actually a sage!  Salvia elegans doesn’t resemble common garden sage.  Its leaves are much greener, fuzzier, and more pointed, and they really do smell like pineapple.  Growing waist-high, this plant appreciates sun and adequate moisture.  As a tropical plant, it cannot survive frost, so wait to plant it outdoors until the night temperatures are in the 50’s, and bring it inside before winter cold arrives.  
 Although I’ve always felt the scent of the leaves is much better than the actual flavor, pineapple sage is often used in teas, lemonades, fruit salads, and desserts.   However, I do love the scarlet flowers, which have a sweet honey-like flavor, especially sprinkled on ice cream, cakes, or salads.  Hummingbirds love them, too!


Recipe:  Hummingbird Cake Hummingbird Cake
Here’s a lower calorie, healthier version of the old favorite!  Use green, powdered stevia for maximum health benefits.
     Drain a can of unsweetened crushed pineapple, reserving juice.   Place ½ c. golden raisins in pineapple juice.  Microwave about 30 seconds.  Remove from microwave and allow to soak and cool slightly. Lightly spray a 9” cake pan.  Line bottom with waxed paper.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
     In small bowl, stir together:  2/3 c. oil; 3 T. pineapple juice; 3 T. finely chopped pineapple sage; 2 eggs.
     In small bowl mix together:  2 mashed VERY ripe bananas; ½ c. drained pineapple; 2 tsp. green powdered stevia; drained raisins.
     Blend two mixtures together.  Fold in 1 2/3 c. self-rising flour until well-blended.  Pour batter into pan and bake until center is set and skewer inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 min.  Cool 10 min., then invert onto a platter.  Remove waxed paper and frost with the frosting below.
     Make frosting by beating together:  4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature; 2 ½ T. softened butter; 2 c. powdered sugar; 2 T. pineapple sage syrup or pineapple juice.  Garnish with the bright red flowers of pineapple sage.
     Note:  For an elegant dessert, double the recipe to make two layers.  Spread pineapple sage jelly between layers, frost and decorate.  The leaves and flowers of red monarda can be substituted for pineapple sage for a slightly different flavor.

     We’re working hard to make the final days of the season extra special.  I hope you’ll come see the results, take a few moments to relax and enjoy our efforts, and show us that you care that we’re still here!  I’ll be heading to Cultivate 14 (formerly the OFA Short Course) in Columbus, Ohio in mid-July.  It’s a huge show for horticultural professionals, so watch for a report on it next month, along with more herb info, gardening tips, and gourmet recipes. 


Till then, Herbal Blessings, Carolee