Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Home News Newsletters January 2017 Newsletter
January 2017 Newsletter Print E-mail

January E-Newsletter 2017
Are you in the swing of writing 2017?  I still catch myself writing 2016, because it just doesn’t seem possible that another year has ended!   During these cold weeks, I’m spending lots of time planning this year’s gardens and making planting lists.  Since we are traveling (see above photo and article below) I’m delaying seed-starting even though my fingers are itching to plant.  Hopefully, once we are back the seeds will germinate quickly and the seedlings will grow rapidly so I’ll be on schedule when spring arrives.

Fort Wayne Home & Garden Show:  March 2-5
     The 44th Annual show has the theme of “Dr. Seuss!”  Held at the Coliseum, visitors can see a variety of gardens and plant displays, as well as a huge hall of home construction, materials, etc. 

Kentuckiana Herb Symposium: Saturday, March 25, 9:30-3:00
     The beautiful event is held at Huber’s Orchard & Winery’s Plantation Hall and features tables and tables of herbal goodies made by its members, plus an array of vendors.  Good food, good company.More information to follow, but mark your calendar now.

HSCI Herb Symposium:  Saturday, April 8, 8:30-3:15
     Always a rare treat, this symposium will feature 5 informative speakers in “Herbal Duet in C:  Cilantro/Coriander.”  There’s great herbal food, a huge silent auction, vendors, and more.  The décor is always inspiring.  Held at Hamilton Co. Fairgrounds.  Get info, print out a registration form or register online at

Michigan Herb Conference:  April 26
     This one-day conference will be held at the Eagle Eye Conference Center, Bath Twp., MI.  I’ve attended many times, and there are always great vendors and terrific speakers.

Herbs for Romance—It’s almost Valentine’s Day!
     Throughout history, many herbs, fruits, and flowers have been associated with love and romance.  Aphrodisiacs have been created in an attempt to control love, usually containing fragrant herbs that attract it, hold it, or improve it.  Some of the most common are lavender, rose, jasmine, patchouli and rosemary.  The Roman goddess Venus is said to have used myrtle, rosemary and thyme to make herself more seductive.  In the 16th century a member of the nightshade was thought to be so powerful that is was called pomme d’amour.  We call it a tomato!  So, with Valentine’s Day on the way, here are some techniques and ideas to bring more romance into your life.
     British lore says if you are able to peel an able in one long, unbroken spiral and toss it over your left shoulder, it will form the initial of your true love.
     To attract a man, mix lavender, dried bachelor’s buttons, a pinch of valerian, and a bay leaf together in a small sachet.  Carry it wherever you go.
To attract a woman, mix patchouli, cinnamon, and henbane (that has been gathered in the morning dew, while standing naked on one foot!)  Hope you planned ahead on that one!
     Love Spell:   On a Friday eve when the moon is on the increase, mix a handful of dried rose petals, a pinch of catnip, half a handful of yarrow, a bit of dried mint, a few strawberry leaves, a pinch of coltsfoot, orris root, tansy, and vervain.  Stir gently and divide into 3 equal parts, being sure to get some of each herb into each part.  Yet that evening, take one part outdoors, kneel on one knee and throw the herbs towards the moon, asking the moon to bring you love.  Take the 2nd part and sprinkle it around your freshly cleaned bedroom.  Sew the 3rd part into a green or pink silk cloth and wear it next to your skin.  Love will surely appear.

2017 Gardening Trends
     In step with the overall lifestyle trends of better health & wellness (eating better, exercise, proper rest, etc.); increased happiness (relying more on experiences with family, friends, entertaining, home movie nights, making the home a haven); and simplifying (more life, less things to clutter it visually and timewise) garden trend watchers see the following:
1)    Localism—yes, buying locally has been a growing trend but now it’s skyrocketing and expanding to include not only eating locally, but seeking out locally grown (and often native) plants, garden décor, mulches (from local recycling rather than bagged from abroad) building materials (local stone, lumber, metal art) and more.  Buying local plants is not only less carbon footprint, but often they are more adapted to your growing conditions, have not been stressed by days on a semi, and keeps local growers in business.  It’s not only “Slow Food” but “Slow Flowers”…buying “clean” bouquets from the farmers’ markets or a local grower rather than those shipped to the grocery from South America or other distant places where chemical use is not well-monitored, or actually added to preserve blooms during long shipping.
2)    Recycle, Repurpose—again, a trend we’ve seen, but it’s expanding, too.  Turn that unused satellite dish into a bird feeder, old suitcases and furniture become planters, wine bottles become edgings.  The list is endless, with the goal of using what is available rather than sending it to the landfill or buying.  Swapping, dumpster diving, etc. are no longer the strategies of the poor!  Coinciding with this recycle/repurpose trend is “Nostalgia.”  Think wicker, hammocks, rockers, swings, vintage, homemade.  Anything that helps us feel comfy, safe, and happy.
3)    Growing Edibles—still a growing trend.  More and more interest in raised bed, container, “allotment” and community gardens.  We want the satisfaction of growing our own and knowing what it grew in, where it grew, and assurance that our food is clean and chemical free.  Edibles are being mixed into borders and planters.  Neighbors are turning vacant lots into productive, restful spaces.
4)    Simplicity—remove the clutter, visually and maintenance-wise.  Less cutsey-pie stuff in the gardens, less work.  Replan or replace hard-to-mow-or-maintain areas with areas for play or relaxation.  Croquet, bocce ball, horseshoes, frizbee, and other family/friend games are making a strong revival. Firepits, meadows…a more natural, casual look.  Anything that makes the home more homey!  Staycations, inviting friends for casual dinners, watching sunsets, all things cozy and simple.
5)    Smaller plants for smaller spaces.  As more people downsize, either actually space-wise or in the amount of time they want to devote to yardwork, gardeners are looking for smaller plants that take less space, less pruning, less staking, less watering, etc.  Breeders have responded with compact shrubs, dwarf fruit trees, bushy veggies so more can be grown in less area, and more plants that thrive in containers.
6)    Less Lawn—another trend that’s been around for years, but now it’s really trending.  Gardeners are seeking lawn alternatives.  Even famous gardeners are installing artificial turf, which has become much more realistic and environmentally friendly, not to mention cost-effective as the price of gas and lawn mowers grow.  More lawns are becoming mini-orchards with daffodils and meadow grasses and wildflowers below.  More areas are being planted with easy-care groundcovers.  People are adding trees and shrub borders, not only to improve the planet, but to provide shelter for birds and flowers for pollinators.
7)    Chickens—not only for eggs, but to provide bug-control and natural fertilizer for the garden that does not contain harmful chemicals.  As more gardeners watch their beloved plants die from contaminated mulch, bagged soils, and bagged “manure,” they seek more control of what actually goes into their growing.  Another aspect of the clean “no chemicals, no bug sprays” movement.
How many of these trends will you incorporate into your lifestyle?  Give it some thought during these winter months, as you stare out on snow-covered areas and plan for next season’s growing.

Did you know:
*Pantone’s color of the year is “Greenery,” a slightly yellowed, cheery green that brings thoughts of spring, renewal, and optimism.
*Research has shown that avid gardenersreducesthe onset of dementia by 35-47
*Eating a banana a day can reduce depression.  Bananas contain tryptophan, a protein that the body metabolizes into serotonin that helps one relax and improves ones emotional state, so one feels relatively happier.  It is very helpful for seasonal depression disorder, caused by these gray, sunless days and lack of outdoor activity.
*The shape of a bell pepper tells what it is good for.  Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and will taste best raw.  Peppers with 4 bumps are firmer and better for cooking.
*Use vinegar to clean windows only on cloudy days.  Sunny days makes it dry too fast and promotes streaks.
*Spray plastic storage containers with non-stick spray before putting spaghetti sauce or other colorful foods in them to prevent staining the containers.
*Clean a flower vase by filling it halfway with water and dropping 2 Alka Seltzer tablets in.  No scrubbing needed and it removes odors.
*A banana a day can help those who want to quit smoking because they contain vitamins B6 and B12, potassium and magnesium, which help the body reduce nicotine craving

Sunshine in Florida
     This is the time of year when this Hoosier gets the “blues” due to lack of sunshine and gardening activity.  This winter has been especially gloomy because of gray days and not starting seeds in December.  So, when our daughter and son-in-law invited us to visit them in Florida, we packed our bags.  David golfed, while I simply sat in the sunshine or helped my daughter garden.  Of course, we had to visit her favorite garden center in St. Petersburg, Dolin’s, where I fingered the herbs, coveted the flowers, and inhaled the sweet alyssum.  I’m definitely planting lots more sweet alyssum this year!  The season is just getting underway there, but I could tell people are itching to garden.  Many of the benches had already been nearly emptied, and employees were busily moving in new plants.

     I asked if they could see any new trends, and they replied, “More interest in edibles.”  They are encouraging it by showing ways to easily grow food, like the wastebasket planter filled with healthy, colorful Swiss chard (below left.)  Planting Swiss chard is a great choice, because it is easy, mostly trouble-free, doesn’t mind the heat and moisture, and it can be harvested over a very long period and just keeps producing.  Choosing from the colorful varieties like “Bright Lights” or “Ruby” provides a spot of color on patios, balconies, or decks.


Herb to Know: Purple Japanese Parsley
     I grew this pretty herb years ago, but eventually couldn’t find the seed for it.  In searching this winter, I found it listed in The Fragrant Path flyer.  (Sorry, they don’t have a website, only a paper catalog.)  The scientific name is Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea.  Don’t let that scare you because it is as easy to grow as standard flat parsley, except it has gorgeous deep burgundy leaves.  The flavor is more reminiscent of chervil (French parsley) with that vague hint of anise that one also notices in tarragon.  It does come in a green form, but the purple is prettier.  As you would guess, it is native to Japan, but is also found in China and Korea.  Eventually, if allowed, it will produce tiny white “umbrella” flowers, but I’ve found that if I remove them the plant lasts longer.  However, if the flowers are allowed to remain eventually seeds will form, and the seeds usually “come true.”  Just remember to gather them before the critters eat them, which is what I failed to do.  I won’t make that mistake again, because this plant deserves a place in the herb garden, or any garden where a patch of burgundy is desired.

Recipe:  Vietnamese Lemon Grass Chicken
My daughter took me to a lovely Vietnamese restaurant in downtown St. Pete, where I had this fantastic dish.   Of course, their recipe is a secret, but I tried to replicate it as closely as I could.  One difference is that theirs had kimchi included, but I don’t think omitting it really makes a big difference, except that I like my version better!

  If you haven't dried your own lemon grass (see my jar above) you can use fresh. 
     Pound 1 split chicken breast with a rolling pin or heavy skillet until it is uniformly 1” thick.  Spray a skillet with non-stick spray.  Lay 3-4 stems of lemon grass in skillet.  Place chicken breast on top.  Add 3-4 stems lemon grass on top, along with ¾ c. chicken broth or water.  Cover.  Cook on medium heat until it begins to boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook approximately 50 minutes, until chicken is fork tender and pulls easily from bone.  Remove from heat.
     While chicken cooks, prepare the Spicy Ginger Dressing by combining in a jar:  ½ c. salad oil; 2 T. lemon juice, 2 tsp. soy sauce; 1 ½ tsp, freshly grated ginger root; ½ tsp. dried ground mustard; 1/8 tsp. sugar.  Shake well.  Set aside and allow flavors to blend.
     While chicken cools, prepare the salad by placing in a large bowl:  1-1/2  c. finely sliced Romaine hearts; 1 c. fresh bean sprouts; 1 c. cucumber (peeled and seed center removed) sliced into matchsticks; and ½ c. finely sliced pickled vegetables (I used my home-canned pickled carrots and a cornichon, but any pickled veggie would probably work.)  Toss gently.  Divide salad into two servings.
     Cut and tear the chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding skin and bones.  Divide over the two salads.  Sprinkle with each with 4-5 fresh mint leaves and 6-8 fresh cilantro leaves.  Add 2 T. of the liquid left in skillet to dressing.  Shake again before pouring some lightly over each serving. Two healthy main course servings.  (David likes to add a thinly sliced scallion to his serving, I add more cilantro to mine!)

Don't forget to visit my blog at for lots of gardening info!  Herbal Blessings, Carolee