Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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

March E-Newsletter 2016

       February just flew by and March has been super-hectic, but I’m loving it. The flower beds around my house have never been tidier, and every new spring bulb delights me.  (I planted 800 last fall so that’s a lot of delight!)  I’ve done quite a bit of traveling to shows (see recaps below) so it felt as if I was constantly loading and unloading the truck, packing and unpacking boxes, and reviewing speech notes. We squeezed in David’s birthday dinner, kept two of our grandkids over their spring break, and did LOTS of basketball watching in the wee hours.  It’s an exciting month both indoors and out as Spring arrives and both Nature & the NCAA put on amazing shows!
     My little hobby greenhouse is filling nicely, and each day I can’t wait to see what’s popped through the soil in the potager. The winter was so mild that the chives never really disappeared, and we’ve already been able to harvest several times for salads or stir-fry. Rows of radishes, various lettuces, peas, snow peas, kale, garlic, green onions, shallots, fava beans, and more are already visible.  I’ve planted many, many varieties of greens.  We’re salad eaters and greens are so easy to grow!  If you haven’t given it a try, do so!  It’s a good way to get children and grandchildren involved in gardening, because greens sprout so quickly and thinning can be sprinkled on bread and butter for “afternoon tea.”  Help spread the joy of gardening, and grow your own!

Upcoming Events: We hope to see many of you at these great gardening and herb events.  Being with other plant lovers lifts a gardener’s spirit and energizes us for the upcoming garden season.  Plus, these groups work extremely hard to put on a good show!

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 chef Lelia 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  or call Connie at 317-251-6986.  

Van Wert Blooms-Saturday, April 16
     If you are an avid gardener, you’ll want to attend this full-day gardening symposium featuring P. Allen Smith as the keynote presenter, and other outstanding speakers (Maria Zampini, Pam Bennett, Irvin Etienne from Indiana’s own IMA, the hilarious Amanda Thompson, author of “Kiss My Aster,” and Barbara Wise who is known for her excellent blog, “BWise Gardening.”   All of the tickets that included breakfast and lunch are sold out.  However, they have just released a section of balcony seating that just includes the presentations for $30.  Hours are 8-4 and the venue is the Noswonger Performing Arts Center.  Don’t miss this one! I’ve already ordered my tickets on-line.   Just “Google” “Van Wert Blooms.”   If you decide to go the day before, be sure to visit the outstanding Smiley Children’s Garden in Van Wert.  It’s definitely full of ideas for gardeners of all ages!

Garden Expo, Tippecanoe Co. Master Gardeners:  Sat., April 23, 9-3
     Over 1000 people generally attend this popular event, partially because it is FREE, and partially because of the great plant sale and the garden bargains in their Garden Shed.  In addition, two speakers will give programs:  Karen Mitchell, “Pesticides and Other Options,” and Laura Ingwell, “Garden Insects.”  Located at the Tippecanoe Co. Fairgrounds, Lafayette, IN.  Look for our booth, as well as lots of other quality

Dazzled by Daffodils
     One of my complaints when I had the herb farm was that the spring bulbs so carefully planted at my home were never really seen by me until long after it was time to deadhead them.  I was just too busy in the greenhouses, tidying the display gardens, getting the Big Barn Retail & Cottage Shops organized, handling new inventory, and all the work involved in opening for Spring.  One of the joys of retirement is that I can really enjoy these beautiful flowers.  I don’t have the variety at my house (yet!) that I had at the farm, but I am enjoying them much more.  Daffodils are just amazing in their flower form, intricacy, and colors.  Is there anything more cheerful?  Here’s a few photos of my early ones.  Some have simple cups, some are very frilly.  Some flowers are all one color; others have subtle blendings and tones.  In the first photo is a lovely palest yellow with a simple, short bright orange cup.  Beside it are two mini varieties from my new Fairy Garden, Tete a Tete on the right and Topolino on the left.  

The left photo is a split double cup of bright orange, yellow and white, surrounded by pure white petals and the all bright-gold Rijnveld’s Early Sensation.

The right photo makes me wish I were a better photographer.  They both have very frilly cups of bright yellow, but the one on the left has white petals, and the cup shades to a peachy-orange in the center, while the flower on the right actually has pretty pale yellow petals rather than white.  I love each and every one.  Please take time to actually look closely at a daffodil and experience the wonder.  

Did you know:  (Thanks to Tom Turpin of Purdue Entomology Dept. for most of this info)
     *In 1935 the USDA actually paid poverty-stricken Dust Bowl farmers $8.00/acre to plant 70 million kudzu plants to “solve” the soil erosion problem
     *In 2009 the Japanese kudzu bug was found near the Atlanta, GA airport.  In 6 years, it has swarmed over the South, eradicating most of the kudzu, except along highways.  Do we wonder what it will devour once it has eaten all the kudzu?  Corn, soybeans, fruit trees????
     *The last monarch butterfly count found their numbers were 3 times the previous count  Keep planting those milkweeds and eliminating pesticides!  We are making a difference!
     *Researchers monitoring 1,000 bluebird boxes found an 84% drop in populations since 2012. 
     *There are 55 official terms just to describe the differences in the “hairiness” of plants!
     *2016 is the Year of the Carrot!

Travel recaps:   Thought you might like to see a few photos from the Michigan Herb Conference.  This is an event I will attend even though I won’t have a booth.  They do a beautiful job and bring in terrific speakers. 


The photo on the left is of plants in the greenhouses that are destined for their fabulous display gardens.  On the right is the colorful “Fiesta” luncheon set-up in the big conservatory….a gorgeous place to have luncheon surrounded by beautiful plants on a dreary day.  Next year will be their 30th conference.

Herb to Know: Chives
Sometimes when things are too easy or too common, we tend to take them for granted. Such is the case of the reliable chive plant. Since they are so trouble free, easy to grow in nearly any conditions, and extremely abundant, we tend to overlook the contribution they
can make to everyday meals. Maybe if they had been included in the Simon and Garfunkel hit as “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Chives, “they would be more often-remembered and respected members of the herb family!
Actually, chives are one of the most delicate flavored members (along with shallots) of the Allium, or onion, family. They have been used throughout history and should be included in any Biblical garden. In addition to their flavorful leaves, chives should be valued for their lavender-rose blossoms which appear in late spring. These eye-catching spheres of color are wonderful when torn into little bits and added to salads or sauces. The whole blossoms cane steeped in white vinegar. After a week, the vinegar will turn a lovely rose-pink color and have the subtle flavor of chives. This pretty vinegar is very tasty in salad dressings or stir-fry. The blossoms can also be dried for use in arrangements and culinary wreaths. Be sure to pick them just as soon as they are fully open but before seeds have formed for best color.  Picking the flowers prevents rampant self-seeding, so unless you want a carpet of baby chive grass, it is wise to pick the flowers.
Chives are extremely hardy and easy to grow in average soil and full to part-sun. They are 12” perennials that self-seed easily. The leaves can be harvested at any time during the entire growing season, beginning when they are only an inch tall.   Unlike many herbs, the flavor does not grow bitter during the summer months, nor do the leaves get tough.  Simply select a few “strands” and clip them off near the base of the plant. They will soon re-grow. Clipping the leaves higher will result in unattractive brown tips, so it is better to harvest at the base. Snip the harvested chives into small pieces with scissors over sour cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, or mix them into cream cheese.  They seem to go extremely well with any dairy product, especially cheese sauces and dips.  Add them to salads or salad dressings, over baked potatoes, steamed vegetables.  They can make bland zucchini come alive!  Toss them into stir-fried vegetables or over fresh-sliced tomatoes. Stir them into your favorite biscuit or bread dough, or add them to cornbread batter.  Use them in marinades for meat or fish, or simply sprinkle them over grilled or roasted pork, beef, lamb, or chicken.
Chives are one of the earliest risers in Spring, so they have always been included in special Easter dishes.  They are an essential ingredient in the “Green Sauce” traditionally used at Easter dinner that includes sorrel, chicory, catnip, mint, and other early spring greens.  Chives are especially good with egg dishes, such as omelets or deviled eggs, to brighten the bland flavor of macaroni and cheese or plain hamburger patties. Put two tablespoons of snipped chives into a stick of softened butter and freeze to use throughout the winter on rolls, meats, or freshly popped popcorn.

Recipe: Oercchietta with Broccoli Raab
I’m growing lots of Broccoli Raab this year so I can often make this recipe that I found in Italy.  It’s a traditional dish in Puglia.  If you don’t grow your own, you may find Broccoli Raab in the grocery labeled Rapini.  It is a staple of Mediterranean and Chinese cooking, similar to broccoli but with much smaller heads and a slightly more bitter flavor, and loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. I make my own “little hat” pasta, but purchased pasta is fine, it just takes a bit longer to cook since it is fully dried out.  (Pasta:  2 ¼ c. semolina flour, 1 c. water, 1 ½ tsp. sea salt, if you want to make your own!)
     Prepare the sauce by heating ½ c. good olive oil in a LARGE saucepan over medium heat.  In hot oil, sauté 2 garlic cloves, chopped, just until tender.  Add 3 heaping T. black olive paste.  (If you can’t find it in the store, just process good black olives…the one with pits have the best flavor…into a paste, adding a generous dash of ground red pepper, or red pepper flakes if you prefer more heat.)  Stir well, cover, and remove from heat.
     Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
     Prepare 1 lb. broccoli raab by removing larger leaves, discarding any yellow or tough outer leaves and possibly the tough stem ends.  Remove the larger leaves and set aside. Slice stems about ½” thick and add to the boiling water.  Roughly chop the leaves and add them to the stems.  Add 1 lb. pasta and cook 7-15 min., just until the pasta is tender.  Drain pasta and raab in a colander, reserving ½ c. of the water.  Pour pasta and raab into the saucepan containing the sauce.   Return it to medium heat.  Stir gently and cook briefly, just long enough to incorporate the sauce flavors into the pasta, adding a bit of the reserved water if it seems dry.  Taste for salt (some olives are saltier than others) and generously season with freshly ground pepper.  Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Four generous servings.  
Enjoy the final few days of March Madness and Happy Easter!  April is just around the corner, and the gardening season will be in full gallop!  

Herbal Blessings, Carolee