Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Home News Newsletters May E-Newsletter 2015
May E-Newsletter 2015 Print E-mail


May E-Newsletter 2015
     Has there been a more beautiful May?  The magnolia and fruit trees not only fully bloomed, but held those blooms for day after day, without damage from storms or late frosts.  The spring bulbs also looked fresh longer than usual.  The grass greened to luxurious shades of emerald, and the even the birds’ songs were more cheerful.  Or, maybe it’s just me, and the light-hearted feeling that I’ve had since I made the decision to close the farm!
     Of course, I’m working even longer hours than usual, if that is possible, because I’m not only tending to the farm and its schedule, but hauling items from storage areas as fast as I can, and digging asked-for plants from the gardens to pot for sale.  Customers who have become friends want to chat longer than usual, but that’s a good thing.  I will miss many of you.
     If you haven’t heard already, I have sold the farm to a lovely young local couple who plan to turn the barn into a home and live “the country life.”  They will be keeping some of the gardens for their own enjoyment, especially the Cook’s Garden, which I’ve planted with their favorite herbs and vegetables, and the Cottage may become the girls’ playhouse.  I’m sure their chocolate lab will love the farm as much as my black lab did.  So, the transition has begun.  Here’s the very short remainder of the schedule.  I’ve made a few additions, so be sure to read it carefully.

     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.  I hope to have all the storage areas cleared and decisions made on which statuary I am selling, along with some reduced prices on remaining furniture and display items.  On our final day, all remaining annuals will be 50% off and all perennials will be 20% off.  Selected items in the shop will also be reduced (Lavender motif T-shirts, framed herb prints, all Cottage inventory and furniture, and more.) The 3-tiered wooden plant stands ($10 each) are available. If you have purchased furniture or other large items, be sure to pick them up on or before this date.

Minnetrista Garden Fair
     We will have a booth at the Minnetrista Garden Fair on Saturday, June 6 and Sunday, June 7th.  It is likely that I will bring more items than usual, because I will have had a week without the farm being open to pot and sort, and more time to load.  So, look for our booth.  You will find some great bargains and unique items.

Recap:  HSA conference Williamsburg, VA


David and I had a wonderful trip to the Herb Society of America’s conference, held in historic Williamsburg.  We began our journey east, enjoying the beautiful redbuds and blooming fruit trees. 


Our lunch stop was in Rio Grande, Ohio at the home of Bob Evans.  There is a museum on this pretty farm as well as the iconic restaurant.  Even after all these years, my husband continues to surprise me with the odd bits of knowledge he stores.  While we were having lunch, he asked the waiter if there was a museum for Bevo Francis.  The waiter assured us eagerly that indeed there was, and gave us directions.  David, who is not a sports enthusiast unless we’re talking golf, was surprised that I (who avidly follows college football, college basketball, and NFL along with minor interest in various other sports) had no idea why Bevo Francis was famous.  David was delighted to be able to inform me that Bevo Francis scored the most points in a college basketball game in history…113!  So, we had to drive across the street onto the campus to see the display of mementoes.  It was less than dazzling, but still 113 points by one player in one game is pretty amazing. 
     Then we were onward, and up and over the mountains to Lexington, Virginia with a few stops at scenic areas along the way.  As we passed the many directional signs, I thought how lovely the names of the towns were:  “Mint Springs, Ferncliff, Rose Hill.”  Those Virginians really appreciated the beauty around them.  And then we passed “Goochland.”  Who would want to admit they were from Goochland?  That must be one of the ugliest names in existence.  Ugh!


We spent the night in Lexington, and after breakfast David wanted to visit VMI because George Patton and the most decorated Marine General Chesty Puller had attended the academy.  Luckily, I didn’t have to ask who they were, but I stayed with the car while he took photos.


Some of you may recall that we attended a conference in Williamsburg related to David’s business every year until his retirement, so I am very familiar with not only the historic areas, but all of the plantation and botanic gardens throughout that area.  However, I had never been to Brent and Becky’s bulbs in Gloucester VA.  I know these remarkable people through Garden Writers of America conferences.  After a brief reunion with Brent before he hurried off to a meeting, I toured their extensive gardens, beginning with the testing field, where they grow every bulb they offer in their catalogs so they can be evaluated.  I made notes of the latest flowering daffodils and tulips, which still looked great even though their main spring bulb season was over.  I’m glad I don’t have to deadhead their field.  


The 22 display gardens each are built around a theme, designed to inspire gardeners to use bulbs in various ways.  I enjoyed it, but wished there had been more labels so I could have compiled a list of bulbs I want to order. 


If you’ve never ordered from Brent & Becky, check out their catalog for some amazing plants.  This is a family-run business that we don’t want to see disappear.  Too soon, my allotted time was over, because we had a set time we needed to be in Williamsburg.


I was able to squeeze in brisk walking tour of the gardens in Colonial Williamsburg before dinner, and was pleased to see that they are making a comeback.  Over the years we attended David’s conferences, I watched as the number and quality of gardens kept dropping, and one year the garden staff was reduced by 67 people!  Now there are more gardens, with more herbs and vegetables, which were what the common folk in the village grew most. 


Of course there are flowers, too, especially in the gardens of the wealthier town folk, many of whom also owned nearby plantations where their produce was grown and brought in on wagons so growing vegetables in town was not necessary.  I love the colonial lawns, which were occasionally "mowed" by sheep but otherwise allowed to bloom with wildflowers.


Our dear friend, Don Haynie is director of herb gardens now, leading a group of volunteers to restore and bring the gardens back to their glory.  It was great to be able to spend some time with Don, and hear his advice on life after “giving up the farm.”  You may recall that Don was the owner of the most beautiful herb farm in the U.S., Buffalo Springs.  Some of you went on our bus trip to visit it.  He is bringing his artistic talents and gardening gifts to some of the gardens at Williamsburg now, and it is a blessing.

     It was great to see so many of my herb friends at the conference.  I reconnected with author Kathleen Gipps, who retired from one of the best herb shops in the country and also gave me some good advice for the future.  And finally after years of emails, I met in person the Lemon Verbena Lady, Nancy Heraud.

On our way home, I had to stop at Lavender Fields Herb Farm’s Spring Festival.  I loved their colorful raised beds and the potager filled with veggies. 


Although their “lavender field” left a lot to be desired, the shop wall of colorful bucket planters was adorable.  We drove straight through after that,  and despite the late hour and rainstorm, it was good to be home again.

Herb to Know:  Savory
     Just the name “savory” gives rise to visions of succulent flavors and sets the mouth to watering!  One wonders why this easy-to-grow herb is not more commonly found in American gardens and kitchens.  The plants thrive in sunny, well-drained soils, and all types are good in containers.  Most have attractive white blooms in late August or early September.  There are two common types of savory.  Satureja hortensis is the annual summer savory, which can be seeded in late spring.  It grows about one foot in height but usually sprawls, so it appears shorter.  The narrow leaves are very aromatic and flavorful, reminding one of a blend of thyme, pepper, and oregano.  Dried bunches look like “witches’ hair.” 
     Winter savory, Satureja Montana has darker green leaves that are slightly smaller than the summer variety.  It is a hardy perennial that stays tidy and appealing all season, so it makes a good edging or border plant. In Zone 6 and higher it will generally remain green all winter. The standard upright form reaches about ten inches in height.  There is also a dwarf variety (Satureja m. ‘Nana’) with the same characteristics, but attaining only 6-8” in height.  A wonderful creeping variety (Satureja m.repens) that only grows about 4-5” tall has glossy brighter green leaves that look wonderful draping over the edges of raised beds or containers. It has especially abundant flowers in September and the honeybees swarm over them in delight.  A purple-flowered winter savory (Satureja m. ssp illyrica) is also sometimes available, although seems to be slightly less robust than the standard white-flowered form here in central Indiana, but otherwise, the flavor and growth are similar.  Winter savory is best propagated by divisions or cuttings, but it can also be grown from seed.
    Both summer and winter savories are native to France and Italy.  Grown by the ancients, both savories were thought to belong to the satyrs, thus the name Satureja.   Some lore implies that it is this herb that gave the satyrs their sexual stamina.  Savory was a common ingredient in Roman cooking, especially in sauces and sausages.  Savory was included in Charlemagne’s list of necessary herbs in 768A.D.  During Elizabethan times the savories were used as an anti-flatulent in bean, pea, and rice dishes.  It was nearly always included with broad beans, pea soup, and any pork dish.  Shakespeare wrote “Here’s flowers for you; Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram” in “The Winter’s Tale.”  In Tudor times, a mixture of dried parsley, sage, winter savory, thyme, marjoram, hyssop, calendula petals and basil was a popular seasoning blend for both salads and soups.  The savories were brought to America by the first settlers.  In one of the most popular books of the 18th century, “Every Man His Own Garden” both winter and summer savory are listed as essential herbs.
     One of savory’s claims to fame is that its flavor reduces the need for salt, so it a benefit to most diets.  Savory is a delicious companion for dishes containing beans of any kind, or most starches such as potatoes and grains, especially potato soups.  It is also widely used in pork dishes, especially those that are roasted or grilled.  Both winter and summer savory are often added to cooking cabbage, brussel sprouts or turnips to reduce the odor.  Many chefs feels savory is essential to cold sauces and to egg dishes.  The flavor, as with most herbs, is best when the leaves are harvested prior to flowering.  The leaves dry easily when bunches are simply hung in a warm, ventilated area out of the sunshine.  When they are crispy, store them in an airtight container and the flavor will last for months.
     In some old herbals, it is advised that pregnant women avoid savory, but there is no modern research that indicates such a warning is indicated.  The herb was said to help improve eyesight, and the leaves were applied to wasp and bee stings if plantain was not available.
    There are also some tropical members of the Saturjea family that are fun to grow as tender perennials.  Jamaican Mint, also known as Costa Rican Mint (Satureja viminea) is a tidy little shrub-like plant with bright green, very fragrant leaves.  Lemon Savory (Satureja biflora) has an intense lemon scent in its tiny leaves.  Za’atar Rumi, or “Barrel Sweetner” are common names for Saturjea thymbra.  And probably the most well-known member of this group is Yerba Buena, the good herb, or Saturjea doublasii, a common tea and culinary herb in the Southwestern United States.  All of these plants are fragrant houseplants that can be moved outdoors once the weather is consistently warm.


Savory 9-Bean Salad
An easy dish for summer picnics, but hearty enough for autumn luncheons, too.
 6 strips of bacon
            1 can each:  Dark Red Kidney beans; Cut Green beans; Yellow Wax beans; Lima    Beans; Garbanzo beans; Black beans; Cannellini beans; Cut Italian Flat    beans,  Bean sprouts
 3 stalks celery, diced; 1 green pepper, chopped; 1 red onion, chopped
 ½ c. summer savory, finely chopped
 ½ c. parsley, finely chopped
 sprigs of summer savory and parsley for garnish

 For dressing:  1 c. apple cider vinegar (or better yet, make savory vinegar, it’s delicious!)
½ c. brown sugar, ¼ c. white sugar, 2 T. flour, ½  tsp. paprika, ¼ tsp. ground red cayenne pepper,  a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
     Cook bacon until crisp.  Remove from skillet, cool, crumble and set aside.  Reserve skillet and drippings for dressing.  Drain and rinse in a colander all of the canned beans and bean sprouts. Place in a large bowl. Add celery, pepper, red onion, summer savory, and parsley. Stir gently to mix.  Place in refrigerator to chill.
     Mix together in small bowl:  brown sugar, white sugar, flour, paprika, cayenne pepper.          
     Return skillet with bacon drippings to medium high heat.  Stir in sugar mixture, along with vinegar and freshly ground black pepper.  Whisk and cook until mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat and boil gently, stirring, until it is thickened.  Remove from heat and chill.
     Just before serving, pour dressing over salad, add the reserved bacon, and stir gently until the beans are coated. Garnish with sprigs of summer savory and parsley.  Makes 20 servings.

These last few days at the farm will rocket past, so mark your calendar to visit now and bring a friend.  Next month’s newsletter will contain a report on some famous gardens I’ll be visiting with Garden Writers Assoc. members in mid-June, plus two more delicious savory recipes.  I’ll be retired by then, and living a relaxed, fun life! 

Herbal blessings, Carolee