July 2016 E-Newsletter
July heat brings the annual flowers into their glory, with cosmos, cleome, zinnias and gomphrena adding their brilliant colors to the ever-changing palette of perennials in the gardens. It’s exciting to see new daylilies bloom for the first time, and to have all the basil we want for the kitchen. The potager is bursting with produce, so I’ve been doing lots of canning and freezing, pickling, and some jam making, too. The 9 varieties of garlic and potatoes were dug, and almost 50 pounds of shallots were harvested. Read more about those below.
July also brought the annual visit from our family from Germany, so it was jam-packed with cookie baking, launching Chinese lanterns at dusk, strawberry picking, card games & puzzles, and cooking special treats.The month really flew by in a flash!
HSA Central District Gathering: Aug. 12 & 13
I’ll be speaking on the herbal stillroom and signing books at this annual gathering, this year to be held in Waukesha, WI. On Friday, we will tour Boerner Botanical Garden’s Herb and Rose Gardens, and then visit Will Radler’s home for a tour of his gardens. Will is the Knock-Out Rose developer and his gardens are impressive.
That evening is an optional buffet at Thunder Bay Grill followed by an optional craft session.
Saturday will be a full day of speakers, lunch, door prizes, silent auction, and networking. Check the calendar of events on the Herb Society of America website for registration and information.It will be held 8/13 at Steinhofel’s at which is about ¼ mile from I -94 exit 295. Southwest of Milwaukee. This event is open to the public, so you don’t have to be an HSA member to attend.
International Herb Association Annual Conference 2016: August 19 & 20, 2016
The International Herb Association is holding its annual conference at the Sheraton Town Center in Columbia, Maryland, celebrating Chile Pepper, Herb of the Year 2016™ , however the theme is to educate and prepare for next year’s Coriander, Herb of the Year 2017 ™.
There is a great line-up of speakers and subjects. The lunches and Awards’ Banquet will be featuring lots of delicious seasonal and herbal dishes. Pre- and post-conference tours are already sold out space on the buses, but if you drive you can follow along to at least see some of the great herbal places. There will be vendors with plants, all sorts of herbal products and an authors’ book table, along with a silent auction and a live auction at the Saturday banquet. See the list of programs below featuring every aspect of herbs from cooking demos, panel discussions by expert herbalists, botany, business, cultivation, history, medicinal herbs and even an herb walk. For both days, single, or half days—the schedule is online at http:www.iherb.org/. For hotel reservations, call the Sheraton at 855-501-7927 and mention IHA.
Wabash GardenFest: Saturday, Aug. 20
Held at the historical Paradise Springs Park in Wabash, IN, this annual event features dozens of vendors, garden speakers, a decorated chair auction for charity, food, and more. Although I won’t be attending this year, it’s a lovely opportunity to purchase herbs, perennials, dried flowers, herbal products, garden décor, and lots of other crafty items.
A Day in Kokomo
One advantage to being retired is having the opportunity to attend other events on a beautiful Saturday. I met my friend, Chris and we began our day at the Kokomo Farmers’ Market.
Although not as large as the Bloomington or Muncie markets that I know well, this market has a nice variety of truly local growers and producers.
Our next stop was Cossell’s, a local garden center and landscaping business. Their sign said “Herb Plants,” so we had to check it out. Although it was a bit late in the season for most plant sales, looking at the “leftovers” indicated that there had been a decent selection of herbs earlier. There were still Thai basil plants, which are not always available at many places.
The busy day continued with the Howard Co. Master Gardeners 16th Annual “Garden Stroll,” featuring 6 diverse gardens plus a large plant sale, door prizes, and refreshments. An added bonus was the large Community Garden, located at the County Public Library, where the plant sale and “Welcome Center” was also located. I am always intrigued by the individual styles and varietal choices of each plot. In this case, the garden plots are actually beautiful raised beds, and some of them, like the two shown below, were very well done.
After getting our bearings, we headed to the first garden, which was located on the north border of the county, near Galveston. A lovely cottage garden, pond, and perennials made this a special place, with lots of “primitive” decorative touches.
I especially enjoyed the small fairy gardens in containers.
A small urban garden on Union St. was next, the creative space of a true plant collector whose diverse varieties were artistically blended. Creative touches like these colorful bottle trees keep the garden interesting even when there are few flowers.
A butterfly garden, cutting garden, and a small herb garden helped define some areas.
A large wisteria twisting over the garden shed served notice that the next garden was well-established and well-maintained. The home of a talented gardener, areas were well-planned to showcase perennial blooms from early spring until autumn.
The porch areas were so inviting and filled with interesting planters and plants, but there were other gardens to see, so we hurried on.
I had saved the final garden for last because having just planted a hundred berry plants and a large potager; I looked forward to seeing what the brochure touted as a “garden oasis” featuring all sorts of fruits, a veggie garden, and perennials.
Maybe there was an explanation, but the veggie garden wasn’t really planted, there were 3 sad blueberry bushes in the center of some lawn, some neglected looking berry canes, and not much else. After this disappointing stop, we decided to skip the last two gardens and hurry to….
Patti Beck’s Garden Party!
This annual party is a unique opportunity to see an artist’s garden and studio. Plus Patti puts many items of her pottery on sale, which is great incentive to attend, but the lovely gardens, delicious refreshments, and her contagious smile make customers return year after year. This tiny, vintage travel trailer make an ideal place to settle with a good book after a stint of gardening. It’s always the last weekend in June, so mark your calendar for next year.
In the garden:
1. Basil & parsley will appreciate a light side dressing of compost or fertilizer now.
2. Remember the caterpillars you see on parsley, dill, and fennel will become butterflies so don’t disturb, squash, or spray them!
3. My garlic turned brown and the leaves have shriveled, so I’ve already dug it all, even though this doesn’t usually occur until late August. Glad I did, as some of the outer casings were already beginning to split. It was a great harvest with lots of big bulbs. I have braided the ones I’m saving to plant, and cleaned what I plan to cook or sell, and it’s all curing in my new little shed.
4. If you didn’t prune lavender just after it finished blooming, do it now. Remove dried flowering stalks to prevent seeds from dropping. Seed-grown lavender is inferior, and will just crowd the mother plant and reduce air-flow, which can promote disease.
5. Cilantro seeds are beginning to ripen and fall off the stems. Gather some of them to plant in another location, or next spring or to use in baking, if you wish. Those that fall to the ground will germinate to provide another crop of cilantro in early autumn.
6. If you have not had rain lately, be sure to water shrubs, especially blueberry bushes, flowering shrubs, trees, and perennials that you planted this spring. In driving around, it appears some locations have had nice, periodic rains, and some areas are getting dry and brown.
7. Keep deadheading zinnias, marigolds, and other annuals to keep them flowering until frost.
8. It’s time to plant fall vegetable crops: late beans, turnips, lettuces, broccoli, kale, carrot, cabbage, and spinach seeds. Keep them watered!
Farm-fresh sweet corn, green beans, squash, and new potatoes! The bounty from the garden is peaking. Enhance those fresh flavors with herbal butters. Simply soften a stick of unsalted butter and add 1-2 T. finely chopped herbs, mixing well. Try dill with green beans or carrots; mint with peas or sautéed zucchini; savory, basil or garlic chives with potatoes. You can also freeze small balls of herbal butters for use later this winter. Be sure to label each combination. We love a bit of herbal butter on grilled salmon or chicken, especially lemon thyme. For grilled pork chops, try a mixture of parsley & chive herbal butter. And, herbal butters on freshly baked corn muffins or biscuits is a treat.
I also mix cinnamon basil, anise hyssop, rose geranium, or lemon balm butters. I freeze the entire stick, then when I make sugar cookies, pound cake, or frostings, I simply substitute my tasty herbal butters in the recipe for a subtle, lovely flavor. Great on toast for afternoon tea, or spread on baked sweet potatoes!
One of the crops I enjoyed in my potager most this spring and early summer was shallots. I planted 8 pounds of Dutch bulbs, and appreciated the vertical drama they added to the beds. Shallots are members of the Allium (onion) family and contain pro-biotics that promote digestive health, fight atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, stomach cancer, blood clots and Alzheimer's. I’d never grown shallots before, so I read various articles and blogs on the best way to plant.
Next I consulted Penny Woodward's outstanding book "Garlic and Friends." If you want to know anything about the Allium family, it's a great read and she lists several varieties of shallot bulbs and sources where they can be obtained easily in the U.S.
After more research, I was reminded that shallots should be kept dry once they near maturity. Duh! I should have thought of that, since they are in the onion family. But it means that it's not wise to sprinkle them throughout the garden, tucking them here and there as I'd planned, likely near plants that are going to need lots of water in August, when the shallots, garlic, and onions need little or no water to prevent rot as they reach maturity. I debated about revising my carefully designed plan, but decided to just go with it.
It turns out that shallots are as easy to grow as onion sets. Just stick them in the well-worked ground (root side down) and cover with soil. I added a light layer of mulch just to prevent weeds. Most single bulbs produced 5 new shallots, but some produced as many as 8! They did not need any additional care. When the stalks began to fall over, I began to pull them and spread them on a table (out of sunlight, dew and rain with good air circulation) to start drying.
As it turned out, too much moisture from watering neighboring crops was not a problem, because the shallots were actually ready to harvest the beginning of July. They are now braided and curing in the shed, until I’m ready to take some of them to the local Farmers’ Market. I’ve been using them to make French cornichons and also in salad dressings and sauces. If you are interested in some beautiful, organic shallots, contact me! My harvest was over 40 pounds, so I definitely won’t cook them all!
For a more lengthy version of this topic, check out my blog post “Shall We Shallot” with lots of photos at
Did you know:
*There are over 8,000 kinds of mushrooms in the world (including toadstools)
*The average green bell pepper contains more Vitamin C than an orange, plus Vitamin E and antioxidants, and only 29 calories
*Tomato hornworms also devour entire jalapeno peppers!
French Cornichons & a Pickling Jar
The bounty of the potager has been more than we can consume, so besides canning and freezing many vegetables and fruits, I have been expanding my ventures into pickling. While in France, I enjoyed the tiny, sour pickles that are often sliced thinly and used as a tasty garnish on deviled eggs, canapes, salads and quiches. Here’s the recipe I’ve come up with, although sometimes I substitute anise hyssop or bronze fennel fronds for the tarragon. I pick the cucumbers (the variety I grew is “Parisian” and they are terrific) when they are very small (pinkie finger-sized.) I make a pint jar every other day, and when there are 7 that have mellowed for at least a week, process them in a water bath for 5 minutes. Or, you can let them set for a week to develop the flavors and then refrigerate. They are quick and easy. Fill a pint jar with very small cukes. Add ¼ c. Chardonnay or other dry white wine. Add ½ tsp. canning salt, ½ tsp. tarragon (or anise hyssop or fennel leaf), and a shallot (or small onion) that has been peeled and cut in half. Fill the jar with white wine vinegar and cap. Shake daily.
For the pickling jar, I use a gallon sun-tea jar. In a non-metal saucepan, heat 2 c. cider vinegar, 2 c. sugar, 1 T. canning salt, and 1 T. pickling spices, stirring until sugar and salt are dissolved and mixture is warm. Pour into gallon jar. Add your choice of veggies: small onions, tiny carrots, green cherry tomatoes, small peppers, small cucumbers (or larger ones cut into 1” slices) shallots, green beans, small chunks of broccoli or cauliflower, tender okra, baby summer squashes….whatever you’d like to pickle. Often, I add a few sprigs of summer savory, but options are dill heads, basil, or another favorite herb or two. If you like heat, add a hot pepper or two.If there is not enough veggies to fill the jar, you can add more another day. Until then, fill a tightly-capped pint jar with water and drop it into the gallon jar to keep the veggies submerged in the vinegar. If you need additional liquid, usually half the original recipe of vinegar mixture is sufficient. Its best if it sits at least a week, then feel free to remove veggies as you need them for an antipasto plate, salads, sandwiches, or whatever. Refill with more veggies. You will soon learn to identify those that are “newbies” and those that have been pickled nicely. ENJOY!
Every minute in my new garden is a treasure, and bringing me great pleasure.Now another month is nearly over, and we look ahead to August. I hope your summer is filled with….
Herbal Blessings, Carolee