November E-Newsletter 2016
November has been filled with blessings, especially that of good weather for most of the month. This was one of the warmest, driest, nicest autumns that I can remember. All of the gardens have been tidied and over 1100 bulbs were planted. I moved the potager trellises to the north-south paths and planted rows and rows garlic, so it’s all ready for spring. Tender plants have been moved indoors and all the pots and flats have been stored away for the winter. The first seed catalogs have arrived about the same time as the first snow flakes, so some comfy time has been spent studying the new offerings and making lists for next year’s gardens. Some fun time was spent painting snowmen and decorating the potager for Christmas. I hated to see the pumpkins go, so I decided to keep them! Spray-painted “Apple Red,” they are now part of the front garden holiday décor, along with our traditional Santa gourds.
It’s Feast Week—Gardeners Enjoy the Mascots!
Those of us who love sports count the days until Feast Week, a cornucopia of televised college basketball tournaments, college and pro football games, and even soccer and golf matches. It’s a feast for the eyes sports-wise, but also for a colorful picture into American life…the tailgating, cheerleading, bands music, signs, and more. This year, I’m paying more attention to the mascots and team names. Here are a few that require contemplation:
“The Banana Slugs” of the Univ. of Calif. Santa Cruz…just how fast can this team be, and what weapons do they have if not speed? Slime? Is this the same Univ. that did the coffee research mentioned below?
“The Fighting Artichokes” from Scottsdale Community College, AZ. At least they have spines. “The Fighting Okras” from Delta State, Cleveland Mississippi…I’ve
never thought of okra as combative, maybe it requires further
Did you know:
*50% of American households do not buy a single plant, pot, flat, or cut flower, according to data gathered by the American Floral Endowment’s Consumer Tracking Study. How can they live without plants?
*Nearly half of American consumers spend an average of $18 on coffee each week….that’s $936 a year!
*Researchers at the Univ. of California found that inhaling the steam from a cup of coffee provides the same amount of antioxidants as three oranges!
*The average dog owner spends $221 a month on pet supplies; cat owners spend $192.
*Halloween spending reached an all-time high in the U.S…. $8.4 billion
*Burpee Seeds (and the W. Atlee Burpee Foundation) have made a $2.5 million gift to ensure the continuation and maintenance of the White House Kitchen Garden
*Bayer, the German company that began with Bayer Aspirin in 1899, just clinched the deal to purchase Monsanto for $56 billion (or $66 billion, depending upon sources checked) That will give them over one quarter of the world’s market for seeds, pesticides, and farm chemicals.
*Pan American Seeds was fined $4.3 million for allegedly exporting seeds to Iran. The seeds were sold to a distributor, who eventually did sell them to Iran while U.S. sanctions were in effect. Pan American officials indicated that paying the fine was cheaper than litigations. (Sigh!)
Herb to Know: Cloves
I just finished reading “Scent of Cloves” by historical novelist Norah Lofts. It’s an old book, but still a great read and I learned a lot about the Spice Islands and the early monopoly of the spice trade by the Dutch. Then, I began decorating for Christmas, and brought out my container of pomanders. As soon as I lifted the lid, the scent of cloves permeated the air, and these were made in 1993! Pomanders have been made since medieval times, by studding oranges with whole cloves and then rolling them in powdered cloves and cinnamon as they dry.
Technically a spice, cloves are the unopened flower buds of Eugenia carhophyllus,a tree reaching about 40’ that is native to the Moluccas, part of the Indonesian archipelago. It was grown exclusively there until the early 18th century, when the French smuggled a few plants to the Mauritius, Zanzibar, and Pemba islands on the East African Coast and broke the Dutch monopoly. There is an old saying that “Nutmeg must be able to smell the sea, but the clove tree must be able to see it!” The tree must be 6-8 years old before harvest begins. Each clove must be hand-picked to avoid damage to the branches, which would reduce future crops. The drying process is time-consuming and must be precise or the clove buds will wither and split rather than remain whole and plump.
It is thought the name comes from the French word “clou,” meaning nail, and that describes the shape of the dried clove. Cloves have been an important flavoring, preserving, and medicinal agent since earliest times. Records from 3 BC show the Chinese recognized cloves as a medicinal plant. Even earlier, cloves were thought to be a protection against evil. In the Spice Islands (now called Maluku in Indonesia) natives would plant a clove tree to celebrate the birth of a child. If the tree flourished, the child would, too and a necklace of cloves from “their” tree would be worn as protection. In later cultures, cloves were offered to dignitaries to sweeten their breath after a banquet. Over the centuries a clove might be tucked next to a sore tooth to help relieve the pain. I recall as a child, being given a swab of clove oil to reduce a sore tooth or gum. Because cloves are strongly antiseptic the oil is often used in toothpastes and mouthwashes. Cloves are also useful to reduce flatulence, indigestion, and colic.
More importantly, cloves are used as a flavoring. Because they were once so costly, cloves were used sparingly and only at special occasions. That is why they are included in many traditional holiday recipes such as pumpkin pie, gingerbread, mincemeat, and Easter and Christmas hams. Traditionally, an onion or an orange studded with cloves is baked inside a goose, duck, or turkey. An orange studded with cloves was often simmered in red wine for special feasts. Cloves are essential in many classic spice mixtures, such as Chinese five spice powder, Oriental and Indian curry powders, pickling spices, and for mulling wine or cider.
Whole cloves have a long storage life, retaining their wonderful scent and flavor for years as long as they are protected from heat, light, and moisture. Once they are ground, the flavor and scent will deteriorate, so purchase them only in small quantities.
A terrific use for cloves is in tea. This was Adelma Simmons’ favorite, and it became mine. I make it often, but always in her honor on Dec. 3, the day she passed away at the age of 94, in 1997. She always made it with orange mint, and that is best, but other mints can be used.
Adelma’s Orange Mint Tea
Combine 1 qt. dried orange mint leaves; the grated and dried rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon, 8 tsp. of black tea, 1 tsp. of crushed whole cloves, and 1 c. dried calendula petals. Store in an airtight container and allow flavors to blend for a few days before using. Use 1 tsp. per cup of boiling water and steep 3-5 min.
Recipe: Easy Chicken (or Leftover Turkey!) Dinner
I generally make this with chicken legs or thighs, but you can substitute 3 c. leftover turkey and really reduce the cooking time!
Put 4-6 pieces of chicken, a diced carrot, 1 c. sliced mushrooms, ¼ c. coarsely diced onions, and ½ tsp. dried thyme in a pan or crockpot. Cover with water, cover, and cook until meat comes off the bone easily. Remove chicken pieces and allow to cool until you can remove the meat and discard bones. Return meat to pan. (If using leftover turkey, just cook mixture until carrots are not quite tender.) Add 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1 c. frozen (or leftover!) peas, and one box scalloped potatoes (and the envelope of creamy sauce included in the box) along with a few grinds of black pepper. Cook about 15 minutes, over medium heat, stirring occasionally until potatoes are tender. Serves 4.
On my kitchen wall, hangs a framed Mary Engelbreit print that reads “Just living is not enough…one must have Sunshine, Freedom, and Flowers!” It was a gift from a dear friend, and it adds joy and a gentle reminder of all that I have to be thankful for every time I pass it. In this Thanksgiving season, we all need to be grateful. Take a moment to view your slumbering gardens, and sing praises that you have a plot and the ability to grow. Share more hugs, remember a friend or shut-in who may not be as fortunate, and always count your
Herbal Blessings, Carolee