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 April E-Newsletter 2015
April E-Newsletter 2015 Print E-mail


April E-Newsletter 2015

It already seems like Opening Day (Wednesday, April 1) was long ago.  We’ve been celebrating “National Frog Month!”  every day with various “froggy” refreshments (shown below, frog canapes, froggy cupcakes, and a frog fruit salad) and our adorable frog napkins.  Our “Kermit Baby” petunias surrounded by the walnut frogs my grandchildren made have been a big hit, too. 


Fortunately, the early weeks of April were warm and beautiful, so I made lots of progress on the gardens.  Is it because I am leaving them, that they seem more beautiful than ever, or is it the fact that finally after 23 years of improving the soil that the plants are actually happier?  Whatever the reason, I am finding that working in the gardens is bringing me great joy. 


The Fairy Gardens were all ready for small winged visitors, and the Enchanted Forest (above) never looked more enchanting.  I had a few emotional moments as I donned my Fairy Godmother dress and wings for the final time, and again when some of my young fairies of earlier years brought their own fairy babies to Fairy Days.  It is hard for me to believe that is possible.  Remember, we’ll be closing our doors forever on May 30th, so plan your visit before that date.

Because we’ve had some computer problems that still have not been resolved, I am including the remainder of our final schedule in this newsletter.  Unfortunately, you are unable to register for workshops online at this time, so you will have to use the old-fashioned method of phoning! (765-348-3162) or mail.
Sat., May 2 “Gardening for Pollinators” Presentations at 11:00 & 1:00.  See a display of plants and herbs that are exceptionally beneficial for bees & others.
May 4-9 Note: I will be attending the HSA conference in Williamsburg, VA., so I will not be at the farm this week to sign books or answer questions.
Sat., May 16 “Herb of the Year: Savory” Presentations at 11:00 and 1:00.  Learn to use savory in a variety of ways.  Recipes and tastings.  All savory plants on sale.
Sun., May 17 “Culinary Planter” Workshop: 1-3p.m.  Learn to grow the 20 most popular culinary herbs.  Plant a selection of six in a container.  Culture and usage handouts included.  $22
Sat, May 23 “Time for Teas, Shrubs, & Kombucha”  Presentations at 11:00 and 1:00.  Learn which plants make tasty, healthy teas and other herbal beverages.
Sat, May 30   Our final day to be open…We will be closing our doors forever.

“New”Items for Sale
     As time and weather permit, I will be potting plants from the gardens and placing them in the sales areas.  I’m also moving items from the sales shed, farm garage, basement at my house, and barn loft into the classroom for sale.  We will also be selling some of the statuary and garden arbors, and some of the garden tools and benches.

HSA Conference, Williamsburg, VA
     As you may have noticed in the schedule, I will be attending the Herb Society of America’s annual conference, this year located in historic Williamsburg, VA.  Although I have visited that lovely living museum many times, it is always a treat.  I plan to make a few stops at interesting gardens on the way there and back, so watch for that report in next month’s newsletter.
     If you are attending the conference, note that I will be bringing a truckload of herbal treasures to the trade show.  If there are special items that you want me to include, let me know and I’ll put them on the truck.

Did you know?
*The most asked for plant at the farm this season, as usual is lavender.  With all the press on the destruction of the monarch butterfly, the second most sought-after plant is milkweed!
*In some cases, Mason bees are even better pollinators than honeybees.  They take less space, do not require tending, and are less aggressive because they are not defending a queen.
*These plants can tolerate drought, and are also good for pollinators:  Agastache, Threadleaf Coreopsis, Coneflower, Gaillardia, Lantana, Sedum, Russian Sage.

Report from the Cook’s Garden
     We have already been enjoying additions to our salads, soups, marinades, and omelets from the Cook’s Garden.  Sorrel, chicory, chives, lovage, salad burnet, orange mint, and garlic chives already abound.  The rhubarb is almost ready to use, and the alpine strawberries are beginning to bloom.  The two beds of garlic are growing nicely.  You can easily tell which one received the layer of worm castings from my worm bin after planting last fall.  Those  plants are much bigger and greener, so I’m expecting some really big bulbs by August.  Already, I’ve planted three kinds of peas, kohlrabi, radishes, scallions, cabbage, broccoli, and a new Italian cipollini onion that I learned to love in Puglia.  I planted several varieties of lettuce, although there are hundreds of volunteer seedlings of various colors from the plants I let stand for the birds last fall.  Those seedlings will be ready to harvest long before the seeds I planted, and I may dig some out of the paths and place them in the beds or in container planters.
    I can also confidently report that bunnies prefer Italian parsley to curly parsley.  Both rows were planted the same day.  The next morning, half the Italian parsley was eaten down to ground level.  The following morning the remainder had been devoured.  The curly parsley still stands untouched (knock wood.)
     I intend to plant purple beans (Royal Burgundy is my favorite) this week.  They can tolerate colder soils than regular green beans.  I’ll also put in beets…lots of beets: Detroit Red, Golden, and Chioggia.  I love them roasted, pickled, and even raw.  And carrots and chard….oh, I have a wonderful recipe from Italy for chard, so I’d better plant an extra row.
     The soil is still much too cold to plant tomatoes, peppers, squash or cucumbers, although all those plants are already thriving in the greenhouse.  I’ve also started two flats of peanuts….yes, peanuts.  I always grew them at my old farm, and we made our own peanut butter.  They take a long, hot growing season, so they’ve been growing in the greenhouse for a month already and I won’t plant them outside until late May.
     I could dig some horseradish, since we are still in a month that contains an “R” but I’m pretty sure I have enough in the refrigerator to get me through the non-R months of May, June, July and August.
     Thanks to loyal customer, Kathy Hopkins, I have a new dandelion recipe to try (dandelions with mushrooms and white beans, published recently in the Indy Star) this evening.  I’ll not only harvest some luscious greens, but get a section of the Cook’s garden weeded in the process!  I love it!


Recap:  Kentuckiana Herb Spring Education Day
     Three hundred happy herb lovers gathered earlier this month to celebrate “Herbs Past and Present.”  A lot of effort went into making this event a success, including the creative centerpieces shown above and the huge array of herbal baked goods and treats for sale.  The setting, at the Huber Winery Plantation House, was elegant.  Two excellent speakers provided ample education, but allowed lots of time for shopping at the various vendors.  After the event, I took time to visit the Huber Farm Market and the Cheese Shop which were both a very short walk away.  It was southern Indiana hospitality at its best and the drive through hill country with all the daffodils (when there were none here at home!) was delightful.


Recap:  HSCI Symposium
     Our second big “on-the-road” herbal event this month was held at the Hamilton Co. Fairgrounds mid-month.  “Sweet and Savory” was the theme, and if attendees didn’t come away with a head filled with new knowledge and ideas, it was not the fault of the four presentations!  The “Sweet” was covered by David and Patti Barrickman of Wildflower Ridge Honey, who spoke on the plight of the honeybee, ways to help, and delicious ideas for making herbal infused honeys.  “Savory” is the 2015 Herb of the Year, and ways of using this versatile herb were explained by our good friend, Gisela Riebel.   As always, the table décor, gift bags, morning breakfast and silent auction were impressive.  An array of creative vendors made shopping a fun adventure.  Herb lovers should put both of these spring events on their calendars for 2016.

Herb to Know:  Showy Calamint
     The Greeks supposedly gave this plant its name, Calamintha, which translates to “good mint.”  Much less known than the true mints (Mentha) the calamints do have a minty fragrance and flavor.  In general, the most popular calamint is Showy Calamint (Calamintha grandiflora ‘Variegata’) because it has showy green and white variegated leaves and larger flowers than other members of the family.  The calamints are reliably hardy to Zone 6, although many sources claim Zone 4.   The plants prefer good soil and adequate moisture.  They reach 18-20” in height and about the same diameter.  Happily, they do not spread aggressively underground like other mints. 
     In the garden, use Showy Calamint in containers, borders, or as an edger.  In the kitchen experiment with its minty flavor in teas, or in sauces as the Italians do.

We just celebrated “Lemon Herbs Day” at the farm, and this recipe is one my daughter and I developed during their brief visit from Italy.  It features lots of lemon herbs and lots of flavor!
Lemon Herbs Pasta Salad
     Cook 1 lb. bowtie pasta according to package directions.  Do not overcook and immediately drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking action so the pasta remains al dente.  Cook 2 c. fresh green beans (cut into 1” pieces) about 6 min., just until barely tender and color remains bright.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking action.
     While pasta and green beans are cooking, coarsely chop ½ c. cashews.  Finely chop 2 T. lemon balm, 2 T. lemon thyme, 2 T. lemon basil.  Finely chop 2 large shallots (about ½ c.) ;and 1 clove garlic.
     In a jar, combine:  3 T. white wine vinegar; 6 T. olive oil; 1 T. of each of the finely chopped lemon herbs, garlic, and the shallots.  Add ½ tsp. salt and several rounds of freshly ground pepper.  Shake vigorously until well blended and thickened.
     Combine pasta, beans, and cashews with the remaining chopped herbs.  Pour dressing over salad and toss gently.  Taste for salt and pepper.   (If using raw, unsalted cashews a bit more salt may be required.  If using roasted, salted cashews it is doubtful any additional salt will be desirable.)  I have also made this salad substituting asparagus for the green beans, and pistachios for the cashews.  Experiment!

Another month is nearly over, and the gardening season is in full swing.  As you work, be sure to take time to enjoy the gorgeous magnolia trees, spring bulbs, the songs of birds, and the wee little insects and shiny rocks you may discover as you work.  Life is beautiful, but you have to take time to notice! 

Herbal blessings, Carolee