Category Archives: Herbs

Harvesting Herbs

With the threat of frost looming I decided that a herb harvest was in order.

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Bottom Left: Parsley, Bottom Right: Sage, Top Right: Rosemary and Top Left: Thyme

I collected these yesterday. (Are you singing? I was singing in my mind while I cut these.) After dinner I planned to come back for chives and lavender. I didn’t make it back and this morning frost blanketed everything. I was, however, thrilled to find that none of the herbs had been affected by the frost. I was able to harvest chives, spearmint, chocolate mint and lavender today.

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Lavender

I wasn’t the only one interested in the lavender. There were many bumble bees flying from blossom to blossom – collecting nectar I presume. Not wanting to take it all from them, I only harvested about 1/2 of the blossoms.

All of these herbs will be dried, then some will be used for culinary uses, others will be infused into oils for use in soaps or balms, and some (spearmint and or chocolate mint) might be infused in vodka since we enjoyed it the last time I made it.

Now that we have had a frost there are other things that can be harvested; these include rose hips and horse radish. Look for a future post on how I will be using them.

Thanks for reading and until next time – be well. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Pickin’ and Preserving

I just thought I would do a quick post about what we have harvested in the past week.

Strawberries – Since we began picking strawberries we have harvested nearly 50 quarts of strawberries. After I froze enough to keep us in homemade jam through the year we began offering them to family and friends. We have had a lack of rain so the berries are not big this year but they are delicious.  Due the dry conditions we are not certain that the plants will continue to produce berries much longer.

Garlic Scapes – Several people who visited the farm this week went home with some garlic scapes. We cut, bundled and delivered scapes to a local retailer and are having scapes for dinner tonight.

Oregano – It was time to start picking oregano before it blossoms. Oregano is a very prolific herb that is spreading throughout, and making a nice ground cover in our prayer garden. Since I will not be ready to can spaghetti sauce for at least a month I will dry the herbs as I harvest them and they will keep well until I am ready to use them. When it flowers the bees are very attracted to it.

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I find that air drying herbs works well. I have a couple different methods for doing this. One is to tie the herbs in a bunch, like I have done with the oregano in the above picture, and hang then where they will get good air flow until the leaves completely dry. Once they are completely dry I remove the leaves from the stems and store in an airtight container.

Basil – Basil is another herb that I use in my spaghetti sauce. It is an annual so we plant a few plant each year. It is not very large yet but picking some of it now will encourage it to grow more and discourage it from flowering too soon. Since the basil stems were pretty short I decided it was best to dry them on our drying screen (shown in the photo below).

The drying screen is simply made of a wooden frame with screen stapled together. The frame that we used actually came as packaging from a table that we had purchased. I saved it because I knew there was a better use for it the just throwing it away. The screen that we used was part of a roll of screen that I had picked up for a couple dollars at an estate sale.

Since the drying screen does not have legs I usually put a box under each end so there is good air flow all the way around. Depending on the temperature, leafy herbs will usually dry in a few days on the drying screen. They are then stored in air tight containers until we are ready to use them

Plantain Leaves –  When you see plantain you may think of a fruit similar to a banana that grows on trees (Musa paradisiaca) but we can’t grow that here. Apparently plantain trees grow best in zones 8 through 11 and require 10-15 months with temperatures above freezing to bear fruit. That doesn’t happen in Michigan.

The plantain I am referring to is know as common plantain (plantago major) and common it is. It pops up seemly everywhere and you would probably recognize it even if you don’t know it’s name. Along with not knowing it’s name you may not be aware that plantain had many health benefits and is often included in list of the top weeds that we should be eating. Although we have not yet included plantain in our diet I have been harvesting it for medicinal purposes for several years. The following website includes a photo and information about plantains medicinal uses https://usesofherbs.com/plantain.

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Marshmallow Leaves On The Drying Screen

 

Marshmallow Leaves –  If you are not familiar with the wonder benefits of the Marshmallow plant you can read about it here https://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-marshmallow.html.

We have been growing marshmallow for several years now and in the fall I harvest some of the roots as I use it in my Hair Care soap. Last year I also harvested some of the leaves, dried them and stored them. I enjoyed marshmallow tea a few times and have begun harvesting and drying the leaves so I can replenish my herbal “medicine cabinet”.

I actually started this post last week intending for it to be a short summery of our weeks efforts but as the time passes we are harvesting more and more produce. Before I wrap it up I will quickly add –

Blueberries –  We are picking fully ripened blueberries and not having to worry about the birds getting them first. If you aren’t sure why click here to read about our blueberry patch update.

and last but not least

Currants – I have been waiting for months for these little berries to be ready. In my opinion they are a superfood and I intend on doing a separate post on them and how I am preserving them.

I am going to wrap up this post now before the list gets any longer. As I head to the farm to pick berries I wish you all a blessed day.

If you have enjoyed this post and would like to know what foods are in our future please sign  up to follow this blog and if you have found this information valuable feel free to share it with your friends.

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery Solved -Thank You Lisa!

Our Mystery Plant is a Mountain Mint.

https://garden.org/plants/view/78608/Narrowleaf-Mountain-Mint-Pycnanthemum-tenuifolium/IMG_3088This plant attracted my attention when I saw our honey bees heavily foraging in it. We are in a wildflower transition period where the blossoms on the Sweet Clover and Canadian Thistle are waning and the Golden Rod is just beginning to open. It seems the bees are foraging mostly on white clover which we have much of but we were happy to find something else that they loved.

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My husband and I searched all of our plant reference books and several online data bases and were unable to identify this plant. The plant had grown up in an area where we had planted a wild flower seed mix several years ago. So I decided to go to what I assumed was the source. The wild flower seed mix we planted was from American Meadows https://www.americanmeadows.com/wildflower-seeds . We first search their website and were unable to find any plant that resembled our mystery plant. I then decided to contact the company. I used the contact form on their website and included a picture of the plant I was trying to I.D. This was on Sunday. I received an automated reply that day saying they received my message and would try to respond within 48 hours.

My husband and I continued to search online wildflower data bases to no avail and on Monday I received an email from Lisa at American Meadows. She thought the plant in the photo was Yarrow. I replied immediately. At first glance the plant may look like Yarrow, but we also have Yarrow growing on the farm and there are several differences in the two plants. The flowers are different, but more noticeable is the difference in the leaf structure and I have never seen the bees visit Yarrow.

I sent Lisa a second photo of our mystery plant which showed the leaves more clearly. Lisa replied that same day. From this picture she could now see that the plant was not Yarrow. She could not identify the plant but if I could send a close up of the flowers she would “call in the troops” to help find our answer. On Wednesday I sent a couple more photos, described the light scent of the flowers and told her we lived in South-East Michigan.

Later that day I was surprised and excited to receive Lisa’s email. It read: “Success!

The plant is Mountain Mint, probably Pycnanthemum virginianum, which is the common species in Michigan. There is a related species that is much less common, called Pycnanthemum tenuifolium. The main difference is that P. virginianum has pubescent stems, whereas the stems of P. tenuifolium are glabrous (i.e., not hairy). I can’t see the stems well enough on your photos to tell whether the stems are pubescent or not.”

Lisa said her source of this information was a botanist here in Michigan.

I did an internet search and found photos of Mountain Mint and discovered that it was indeed what we had. I at first believed it was Pycnanthemum virginianum, the more common species. On Thursday after I read Lisa’s message a second time I began to question that. I didn’t remember this plant having hairy stems. On my next trip to the farm I confirmed this. The stems of our Mountain Mint are smooth. We have the less common of the two, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium. Common names for this plant are Narrow-leaved Mountain Mint,  Common Horsemint, and Slender Mountain Mint. My husband and I could not be more thrilled than to have this mystery solved. We will encourage this plant to spread and perhaps even propagate it.

This might go without saying but in a day and age where good customer service is hard to find I have to say that we greatly appreciate the help that we received from Lisa at American Meadows. She certainly could have determined that our plant was not something that came in the seeds we received from them an left us on our own. Instead she went the extra mile to help us solve the mystery. At this time we do not have a need to purchase wild flower seed but if we ever do we will return to American Meadows and perhaps if you decided to purchase wild flower seed you will consider them as well.

 

 

A Garden Dinner

Over the last week we have been so busy with digging and storing garlic to dry that some of the things we would normally do fell by the wayside. Two of those things include planning and preparing a good dinner and tending the garden. We finished up the garlic tasks yesterday morning and decided it was time to play catch up. My husband worked in the garden – weeding, harvesting, and thinning rows. He brought home a nice size bag of fresh veggies that we decided to incorporate into our dinner. I cleaned the veggies and prepared them for our meal. This is what was on the menu. All of the vegetables and herbs were home grown.

Salad – Three types of lettuce, radish, cucumber

Salad Dressing – Basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, garlic, onion powder, sea salt, olive oil, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar

Garlic mashed potatoes – I minced several cloves of garlic, mixed the minced garlic with 1/2 stick of butter, then mixed it into the mashed potatoes.

Baby beets with beet greens – The beets in the garden needed to be thinned so even though the beets were only about 1 inch my husband brought them home. After cleaning them I trimmed the long roots off the cut the leaves off leaving a couple inches of the stem attached to the beet. I put the greens and the beets in the steamer and cooked until the beets were tender.

Grilled pork chops – Since we don’t raise our own pork (yet) the pork chops were not something we produced, but they were seasoned with minced garlic and fresh dill. They complimented our garden dinner nicely.

My husband and I MMM’ed and wowed as we ate our dinner and even after dinner we continued to rave about how much we enjoyed the meal. We could truly taste the nutrition in the foods we were eating. Honestly, my favorite fresh garden vegetable is probably potatoes. They have flavor and texture that I have never found in store bought potatoes and are definitely worth the work it takes to grow them.

If you are growing a garden this year I hope that you too are enjoying the fruits or vegetables of your labor.

Tonight’s menu will include potato salad, sautéed swiss chard with garlic and grilled Italian sausage.