Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Home News Newsletters February 2016 E-Newsletter
February 2016 E-Newsletter Print E-mail


 February E-Newsletter 2016

     After a sluggish January, February seems to be galloping away.  Of course, it’s been a mixed bag weather-wise, with days clutched in winter’s icy grip followed by balmy days that spoke of spring, only to be followed by another bout of frigidity.  My highlights were cataract surgery and a visit from my daughter who’s been living in Italy.  We had great fun talking and cooking and planning more trips.  I finally took the Christmas wreath off the potager gate and replaced it with the pretty dove “Enter in Peace” plaque, made by my friend Patti Beck. (shown above)
    February brought our second show, which was near St. Louis and took up five days.  Afterwards, I sprinkled a few lettuce and poppy seeds onto the snow in the potager borders, and continued with indoor seeding schedules, although my shelf space is rapidly filling.  Hopefully, the weather will allow me to begin using the new hobby greenhouse, although I am reluctant to risk any of my seedlings.  Otherwise, I’m reading, watching basketball, and counting the days until spring!

Upcoming Events: We hope to see many of you at these great gardening and herb events, which always makes the winter seem a little shorter.  Being with other plant lovers lifts a gardener’s spirit as much as browsing through seed catalogs, the first crocus blooms, and the arrival of robins.

9th Annual Spring Tonic: Saturday, March 5, 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
     We always enjoy this event, held at the Orange Co. Community Center in Paoli.  Speakers are Bill Abel, “Growing Your Own Fruit,” Carol Michel, “Grow Vegetables, No Excuses,” the always interesting Tom Turpin, “Pollen is the Word, Spread It Around,” and Bob Baird “Design Antidotes That Work.”  Registration is $35 by 2/19 or $40 after that date.  Fee includes breakfast and lunch.  We’ll have a full truckload, so come see us! Need more info, call 812-278-6794 or visit Purdue Master Gardener website.

“Raindrops, Recycling and Renewing”:  Saturday, March 5, 9-3:30
     Sponsored by the Grant Co. Master Gardeners, this promises to be a full day of educational activities, many of which are hands-on.  Learn to garden with recycled pallets, worm composting, rain-scaping, and more.  Visit their gardens and hear about the newest in Proven Winners.  Fee ($35) includes speakers, recycling projects, boxed lunch, morning refreshments, speaker handouts, educational materials, & goody bag. For registration, contact  Stacy at (765)651-2413 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it **.  Note:  We have a conflicting event, so we will not have a booth at this show.

Michigan Herb Conference:  Thursday, March 10, 8 a.m.-4:30
     Look for our booth at this event, to be held on the Michigan State campus at the MSU Plant and Soil Science Building.  This year’s theme is “A Garden Fiesta to Remember!” featuring the entertaining Lucinda Hutson, as well as Lori Evesque’s “Plants to Dye For,” Jessica Wright on “Cultivating the Recipe Garden,”and Merry Meyers teaches “Conquering Scientific Names in the Herb Garden.”  Big Silent Auction, Used Book Sale, Make & Take, Educational Displays, Flower Pot Raffle, fantastic herbal morning snack and salad bar luncheon included.  Info on-line at

GardenFest&Pansy Sale:  Friday, March 18 (Noon-7pm) &Sat., 19 (8-3:00)
     Sponsored by the Morgan Co. Master Gardeners, this is one of our favorite events.  It fulfills that desire to see lots of spring color!  The entire stage and front area is filled with blooming pansies! We always enjoy having a booth at this fun, fun show in Martinsville, IN so mark your calendar.  Inexpensive food at the garden café, lots of speakers, and a big variety of vendors.  Hoosier Harvest Church, 4085 Leonard Rd (Hwy 252) follow the signs off of Hwy 37.  Free admission!

Kentuckiana 24th Annual Spring Herb Symposium:  April 9th
This one-day herb celebration, “Some Like It Hot” is one of my favorite events.  The talented members of the Kentuckiana Unit of HSA work all year to make an impressive variety of handmade, hard-to-find herbal treasures, plus there’s always an array of gently used herbal items for sale.  Add vendors all around the perimeter of the big Plantation Hall at Huber’s Orchard & Winery, morning tea, and herbal lunch, a gift bag, door prizes, and you have a first-rate party!  Plus there are two excellent speakers: Terry Gibson, “The Pepper Guy,” and chefLelia Gentle of DreamCatcher Farm.  Registration begins once their flyer is posted on their website at  I’m bringing a full truckload of goodies, so break open the piggy bank and meet me there!

Spring Symposium, Herb Society of Central Indiana:  April 9th
     This is always a special event, and I hate to miss it this year, but I’d already committed to the Kentuckiana event above.  Susan Belsinger will be the featured speaker with two talks on hot peppers.  Other speakers are Michelle Evans, “Herbs with a History,” and Joyce Miller, “Creative Ways to Preserve Your Herbs.”  The décor is always inspiring, the herbal morning treat and lunch are always delicious, and the silent auction is huge.  Hamilton Co. Fairgrounds, Noblesville, 9-3:15.  On-line registration at call Connie at 317-251-6986.

Snow Sowing
February snowfalls are a perfect time to do a little snow sowing.  There are many seeds that benefit from the freeze-thaw cycles that are still to come as spring approaches.  This method is especially useful for plants that hate to be transplanted. So, this week, I sorted through my seeds, bundled up and skipped to the garden for a little fun.  On some of the flower beds, I sprinkled larkspur seeds.  I love their tall spikes filled with flowers.  I use white or salmon, but they come in various shades of blue, pink, rose, and lavender as well.  Once the seeds were distributed, I sprinkled a layer of potting soil over them, not only to help hold in the moisture, but also to hide them from hungry birds.
     Next, I moved to the new potager.  (Read about it in my blog,  The interior borders hold herbs and edible flowers, so I sprinkled nigella, calendula, chamomile, and poppy seeds in their appointed locations, followed by a thin layer of potting soil.  In designated beds, arugula, dill and cilantro were evenly scattered.  Read more about cilantro below.
     Seeds of many cold-tolerant annuals (like snapdragons) and most hardy perennials can be sown this way, directly onto the prepared garden soil, but many people prefer to sow them into containers.  Label each variety, close them or cover them in some way to prevent critters from eating them or dumping them over, and sit them in a protected, partially shaded area until the seeds germinate.  Keep an eye on moisture levels.  On sunny days, you may need to open the containers to keep seeds from cooking.  Germination may take several weeks.  Once the seedlings appear, they will need protection, sunlight, and watering, plus good ventilation to keep them from damping off.  To me, that’s too much work.  Seeds aren’t that expensive, so I prefer to just sprinkle them directly into the garden.  Yes, I lose a few, but generally it works well and I get dozens of plants.  Just one or two healthy plants pays for the seed packet.  

Did you know:
     *America throws away a whopping 31% of its food supply (133 billion pounds per year!)
     *Currently the USA produces enough fresh fruit and vegetables for each person to have 1.7 cups per day, not enough to even meet the recommended 2.5 cups per person per day
   *Head lettuce, potatoes and tomatoes make up 59% of vegetable production (think French Fries and ketchup)
   *Growers in Missouri and Kansas have formed “After the Harvest” which puts less than perfect produce into the hands of the hungry, and a “Gleaning Network” which allows the hungry or volunteers to come harvest fruits and vegetables left in the fields after machine harvesting and take it to food banks, soup kitchens, shelters, or poverty-stricken neighborhoods.
    *Six edibles have been named as All-American Selections for 2016:  a currant-type Tomato “Candyland Red;” a green & yellow striped tomato “Chef’s Choice Green,” two Italian-type peppers, “CornitoGiallo” and “Escamillo;” a white pumpkin called “Super Moon,” and a compact strawberry said to produce all season, “Delizz.”

Herb to Know:  Cilantro
     Over the forty plus years that I’ve been growing herbs, my opinion on some has changed, especially cilantro.  The first time I tasted it, I thought, “Why would anyone in their right mind choose to eat that?”  It’s “flavor” was a combination of dirty, oily, pungent, and grassy that didn’t appeal to me at all.  However, a good friend who was more adventurous in the kitchen kept making delicious dishes that included it, and eventually I was a convert.  Now, I can’t imagine salsas, tortilla soup, Thai chicken, and many other menu staples without it.
     Cilantro (Coriandrumsativum) is an annual that prefers to grow in cool weather, hates being transplanted, and is day-length sensitive.  It likes short days and long nights, so it is a good spring and fall crop.  It can tolerate moderate frost.When days get long, cilantro bolts and goes to seed despite the temperature or soil conditions.  It is a good candidate for snow-sowing (read above) or allowing it to self-seed.  I prefer snow-sowing because I can control the spacing a bit better.  Each small, round beige ball actually contains several seeds.  Place the balls on a cookie sheet and roll over them slowly with a can of soup (or any can that has a slightly protruding edge top and bottom.)  Observe that most of the seeds will split in half easily.  These split seeds will not only germinate much, much faster, but there will be half the seeds per spot so each plant is less crowded and will perform better.
     Cilantro resembles parsley, with bright green, lobed leaves that are essential to many ethnic cuisines in Asia, South America, northern Africa and more.  In Thailand, the roots are often pounded, made into a paste, and rubbed on chicken before baking. 

In Scandinavian areas the seeds (called coriander) are often used in breads, cookies, and pastries.  The seeds are also often ground to add to various flavoring mixtures (such as garam masala) in Indian, Brazilian, and many other cultures.  The plant grows 10-12” tall, until it goes to seed, when a stalk reaching 2’ will form.  At this point, the leaves on the bloom stalk become fine and feathery.  Two-inch umbels of tiny white flowers form at the top, which draw many beneficial insects.  These are followed by umbrella-shaped seed clusters of small green balls that turn beige as they ripen.  Once they are dry, seeds can be collected and stored in a cool, dry, dark place until planting time.

Recipe:  Kale Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash, Apples and Apple Butter Vinaigrette
     I intend to grow lots of kale, spinach and squash this summer so we can have this often!
     Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Peel, remove seeds, and dice a butternut squash into ¾” cubes.  Place the squash on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Drizzle with 2 T. olive oil, 1 T. maple syrup, a pinch of salt and a little ground pepper sprinkled over the cubes.  Roast the squash for 15-20 min., until tender.  Remove from oven and allow to cool. (We actually love this roasted squash as a side dish with roasted pork.  I usually make the salad with the leftover squash, if there is any!  Depends on the size of the squash & how many people show up for dinner!)
     While squash roasts, wash and tear into bite-sized bites:  2 c. fresh spinach, 4 c. young kale (large ribs removed.)
     Make a dressing by shaking in a small jar:  1/3 c. apple butter, 1/3 c. salad oil, 2 T. apple cider vinegar, ¼ tsp. salt, 2-3 grounds black pepper. (This makes a thick dressing that holds up well with the kale.)
     Just before serving, combine in a large bowl (or layer on a platter as shown):  Prepared spinach and, kale; 2-3 c.  roasted squash; 1 red apple (cored but not peeled), diced.  Toss with half of dressing.  Top with 1/3 c. roasted, salted pistachios.  Pass remaining dressing.

As February comes to a close, we look forward to March Madness, and the upcoming shows on our schedule.  Hopefully, there will be some crocuses and other spring bulbs appearing soon.  Until next time, Happy St. Patrick’s Day.  

Herbal Blessings, Carolee