4 March 2013, by gj
Seasonings are so expensive to buy and often have ingredients added to them you wouldn’t want to consume.
They are probably rather old by the time they get to you, too.
You really can grow these.
Most gardeners know how easy it is to grow and dry or freeze a few herbs. You may be surprised to find there is a lot more you can do to make that spice shelf in your kitchen more closely connected to the garden.
Some easy herbs to grow include: Basil, Borage, Catnip aka Catmint, Chamomile flowers, Cilantro, Dill, Lavender flowers, Marjoram/Oregano, Mint, Parsley, Sage, Savory, Shiso and Tarragon.
There are also a few herbs to let bolt so you can collect the seeds for seasoning your food: Anise, Caraway, Coriander (Cilantro seeds), Cumin, Dill, Fennel, Mustard and even Sesame.
A long term project.
This is where it gets even more interesting.
Did you know you can grow celery, onions, garlic and ginger, dry them, then grind into a powder?
This is how ground mustard is made, by simply grinding the seeds you collected.
Chipolte peppers are chile peppers you can grow yourself, then roast to dry and grind; for a fraction of the cost.
You can also make your own pepper mix by growing an assortment of peppers, hanging to dry then grinding into a powder.
Jalapeno, cherry and chile peppers.
Compare that to the list of ingredients on McCormick’s Fiery 5 Pepper seasoning, which also includes salt, some additional spices and ‘natural flavors’.
Do you know what ‘natural flavors’ means?
“The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”
Taken from Title 21, Section 101, part 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
A bug is natural, so is a fish head. Not to be gross, but do you really want to leave it up to food companies to decide what ‘natural’ additive they will use? At the very least you can be sure it is something they could not otherwise sell.
Homegrown, fresh, pure and powerful.
Here’s How to make Garlic Powder.
If your homegrown spices are subjected to a lot of humidity, you may want to pick up a few food grade desiccant packets. We learned that one the hard way.
So go ahead and take a good look at your spice shelf.
In many cases, You Can Grow That!
You Can Grow That! is a monthly collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage and help others learn to grow.
You can find additional posts by clicking on the pic above. You can also follow us on Pinterest.
Categories: herbs, how to grow, you can grow that
9 December 2012, by gj
There are a number of different varieties of thyme, today we’ll look at two.
thyme after thyme
Silver Thyme has grayish green leaves and produces pretty pink flowers during the mid to late summer. It is such an attractive and weather tolerant plant that it is often grown for these reasons alone. Add the benefits that it can be used as a culinary herb or for medicinal purposes and it is very attractive to bees and you find you have an all around winner.
This particular variety can be grown as a perennial in most areas. It will spread when planted in ground, how much depends on your weather. It also does well in a pot, which is how we grow it here in zone 5/6.
You can start by seed or purchase a small plant to transplant. Plant in a sunny location and you are good to go. The only way you can go wrong is if you over water it. How easy is that!
Botanical name: Thymus argenteus
Perennial: zones 4-10
Height: up to 12″
Color: silver-green foliage with pink flowers
Uses: Ornamental, attracts bees, culinary and medicinal herb
thyme times two
This second type known as Creeping Thyme is grown as a ground cover. Like it’s relative, it will sprout pretty flowers that draw the bees to it, in this case the blooms are a pinkish-purple. You can walk on it as well, causing the wonderful scent to be released. Again, this variety of thyme is quite cold hardy, though not quite as much as the Silver. Both of these photos were taken today, after a number of freezing nights and some snowy days. The leaf colors are better in the warmer months. Creeping thyme is also drought tolerant, but has problems with extreme heat. Johnny’s Seeds classifies it as hardy in zones 5-8.
This variety can also be started from seed and transplanted outdoors. Ours started as a chunk from a friend’s yard.
Botanical name: Thymus serpyllum
Perennial: zones 5-8
Height: up to 6″
Color: green foliage with purple flowers
Uses: Ornamental ground cover, attracts bees
Categories: herbs, how to grow
13 November 2012, by gj
There are a number of different types of sage.
Common Sage is, well, the most common. Also known as Kitchen Sage and by a few other names, it is easy enough to grow.
still growing in November
It will do well in a container, though we have had better success growing it in the ground.
Plant in the spring in most areas, keep it moist until it is established. Common Sage is a perennial that can take the frosts and freezes in stride.
Pretty little purple flowers later in the season and showy leaves make this tasty herb good for flower arrangements as well.
Harvest the leaves as needed, less in the first year or until the plant is established. After that pinching off the leaves actually encourages the plant to get nice and bushy.
our spice jars
You can hang branches upside down to dry; we insert them into a paper bag and hang the whole thing. The bag catches any leaves that might fall off.
Sage is a wonderful addition to dressing, baked apples, and sausage. There are many other ways to enjoy it, including tea.
Botanical name: Salvia officinalis
Height: 1.5-2.5 Ft. tall
Hardiness: Zones 4-8
Storage: dried or frozen
Yield: One seed becomes a plant that will keep coming back.
Read more about it.
Categories: herbs, how to grow
9 October 2012, by gj
Usually when you think of Eucalyptus you picture cute Koalas hanging on trees.
Did you know that there are varieties you can grow in your home garden?
dug up from the garden before the frost
While some consider it an herb and others a flower, this bluish-gray somewhat spindly plant does well even in cooler regions like we have here in Zone 5/6.
It succumbs to frost, but can be grown indoors. So plant it in a pot and bring it inside when the cold weather threatens.
Eucalyptus is often used in cut fresh flower arrangements, and can be dried as well for craft projects.
We make an infusion with ours, and add fresh pine for a steam inhalation when, on very rare occasions, we might catch a cold.
happy to be safe and with friends
Eucalyptus also has anti-itch properties, and makes a wonderful and soothing foot soak.
Soap made with it and a little citronella relieve the itch caused by fleas and help to keep those nasties off your dog.
More information on these at the end of the post.
Botanical name: Eucalyptus (different varieties)
Days to Maturity: 3-4 months, but you’ll have the leaves sooner.
Yield: One plant per seed.
Storage: Use fresh or dried.
How to make an infusion.
Real simple soap-making.
Categories: herbs, how to grow
24 January 2012, by gj
Every garden has its good points and limitations, and growing lemons in my area is unheard of.
Yet, I love lemons- but I’m also trying to get away from buying anything I cannot grow.
So last summer I bumped up my effort by growing 2 kinds of plants with lemon flavor.
My favorite was Lemon Grass, which is an annual plant here- but I was able to dig it up and bring some indoors for the winter.
trying to keep it alive until spring
Yikes! I need to water it- hold on, be right back.
I also grew Lemon Balm.
It’s a wonderful perennial herb in the Mint Family that I had grown years ago, and have enjoyed it in tea and have used it in Sweet Dream Pillows.
But I had never cooked with it before… until I started running into a whole lot of recipes.
lemon balm mmm!
You can also try Lemon Verbena and Lemon Basil, but the lemon flavor is not as strong.
So although you must have lemons to make Lemon Meringue Pie-
there are other ways to get that lemon flavor even if you live in a cooler climate.
As far as growing a Lemon Tree in my area- I have a few ideas.
How to Grow Lemon Grass, pt. 1
How to Grow Lemon Grass, pt. 2
Lemon Balm Pesto Spaghetti
More Lemon Balm Recipes
Lemon Grass Recipes
Categories: herbs, how to grow
27 December 2011, by gj
the best herb jars
A recent survey was on Gardening (in real life) posed the question:
“If you could only grow two herbs, which would you choose?”
Although more than 20 herbs were listed, overwhelmingly Basil was mentioned.
I’d have to agree- it’s my favorite hands down.
fine leaf basil
The most commonly grown Basil is the Large Leaf, AKA Italian Basil.
This is what is usually used for Pesto Sauce.
There are many other types, including flavors like Lemon and Cinnamon, as well as Thai and other Asian Basil plants.
Italian large leaf basil
Basil seeds can take a long time to germinate, be patient.
You can grow it indoors or out (after frost), most types are container friendly.
Planting is easy, just give them a few inches between plants, more for the taller varieties.
I generally direct seed in between my rows of tomatoes, this helps cut down on weeds.
Pinching back the tops of the plants will make them get bushier and produce more.
Use fresh until you see it start to produce flowers, also known as bolting- at this point the plant won’t be growing any more leaves and will lose that lush, healthy look.
Now’s the time to harvest.
I used to make a lot of Pesto Sauce, and dry the rest of the leaves-
until a first generation Italian woman told me drying Basil was for amateurs.
“The real way to store it is to freeze the leaves, then you just break off what you need.”
So if you were wondering why the first picture doesn’t have a jar marked Basil-
now you know.
Botanical Name: Ocimun basilicum
Days to harvest: 60-80
How to Make Pesto Sauce
Pesto Cheese Bread
Categories: herbs, how to grow, recipes
18 November 2011, by gj
Chamomile grows like a weed around here.
Literally- it can be seen flowering in gravel driveways, along the edges of fields, and coming up beautifully along the roadside.
It’s almost a sin to plant it.
Except that harvesting it along the roadside is a little dangerous, and this kind of chamomile is not only bitter, it can be dangerous.
calmness in a jar
The problem with Chamomile is that it takes a lot to get a little.
Still, I grow it for it’s calming effects- to use in Dream Pillows and to combine it with other herbs for tea.
Simply plant the seeds in spring, water, and wait.
(Chamomile can take up to two weeks to germinate.)
There are a few varieties to choose from, the German chamomile aka ‘common’ or ‘standard’ generally produces the best flavor and most flowers-
and that’s what you want.
Harvest the flowers and let them dry.
If you leave a few on the plant, you just might find your annual herb has reseeded itself the following spring.
Botanical name: Matricaria recutita
Categories: herbs, how to grow
4 October 2011, by gj
I wasn’t sure if y’all would want to learn about Lemon Grass, but since the first post was well received here’s a little more in-debt info.
If you haven’t yet, please read How to Grow Lemon Grass .
As Patty was savvy enough to comment, there are two different kinds of Lemon Grass.
look mom, no bulbs
The seed I planted was East Indian Lemon Grass.
It does have a mild lemon taste to the leaves; so can be used for cooking, and as Rebecca mentioned, better in teas and for the essential oil.
It is a lot less expensive to grow at the start, so may fit your needs better.
from one plant
The plants I put in were West Indian Lemon Grass, costing more at the start but there may be ways to compensate for that.
If you have a long growing season, this is the way to do it.
As Biddi commented, in warmer climates just cut at ground level and it’ll come back up.
came about a dozen
You can see in the pictures the difference, the West Indian grows a small bulb at the bottom.
It reminds me of scallions in that you can eat the tops, but there’s much more flavor in the bulb.
I found that first when I separated the plants, and again later as I was trimming off the roots.
You can just smell the lemon.
And look how many new plants I got from just one of the ones I planted.
Unfortunately, they’ll never survive the winter here.
So I took one whole clump and transplanted it to a pot.
I also took 4 separated plants and put them in a smaller pot.
come on in my kitchen
Now I’ve mentioned I unintentionally, but inevitably kill houseplants.
The reason is the only window that gets decent light is situated over a fireplace in the kitchen.
We’re talking daily watering, or more, all winter; to keep it from drying out.
Then again, there is a window on the same side of the house, in the now rarely used SaveTheWorld’s bedroom.
I don’t think she’d mind contributing to the cause…
as long as her recluse cat cooperates.
In the meantime, I harvested and froze enough to easily last us through the winter.
Mandolin and I both love it- so it was well worth the investment either way.
Wikipedia East vs. West
The first song reference.
And the second.
Categories: herbs, how to grow
1 October 2011, by gj
I’ve been asked a few times why Cilantro bolts so soon into the season.
Honestly, I didn’t know the answer.
So I went to the herb expert- Rhonda from Growing Herbs For Beginners and she was kind enough to give me permission to re-post her information:
Why Your Cilantro Croaks
by Greenthumb on April 7, 2011
You’ve been to the garden center or market. You have come home with some pretty herbs to plant. You have everything nicely situated in pots and the garden. For a few days or a week it all seems to be going well…and then you notice the cilantro looks a little sad. Maybe yellowing, possibly a little wilting going on.
What the heck is going on with the stuff?
This question gets asked a lot. We just had a few friends on Facebook ask, and like a twit I rambled off the usual herb death possibilities.
My apologies to those that asked this question and I neglected to mention this VITAL bit of Cilantro growing information. All I’ve got to say is I’d make a lousy detective. You gave me the clues-and I completely missed them!
So why does the stuff die shortly after you buy it?
1) Cilantro has a short lifespan.
2) It’s usually harvested less than two months after starting from seed.
3) It bolts and goes to seed when temperatures rise.
4) Growers start plants early enough in the season to look great when you buy them ( sheesh, you’d think being a grower I would have remembered to tell you this!)
5) This does not mean they are at the optimal growth stage for you to plant them. Just the opposite. They may be getting old by the time you get them home.
6) Refer back to item #1.
Cilantro should probably not be bought as a started plant because of these reasons!
Fortunately it is super easy to start from seed.
fresh cilantro seeds
It will give you yummy leaves over a longer period of time, and a packet of seeds is much cheaper and way less frustrating than fighting with your purchased plants and believing yourself to be a dismal failure.
Buck up! You aren’t a dismal failure. It’s just the nature of the plant.
Oh, and if you let it bolt and go to seed, you won’t even have to buy seeds next year!
As a side note, Mandolin prefers Coriander (the Cilantro seed) to Cilantro.
So nowadays I grow Parsley for the green, and Cilantro for the Coriander seeds.
Be sure to check out Growing Herbs for Begginers, tons of info and even video classes.
You can also find her on Facebook.
Categories: gardening people, places & things, herbs
27 September 2011, by gj
I first tasted Lemon Grass while having soup in a Thai restaurant.
“You should grow this” Mandolin said.
“I don’t even know what it is or how it grows” I replied.
“It’s grass” he said, laughing; “how hard could it be?”
you can plant it as a weed
So I ordered some plants from Johnny’s Seeds, a company I knew I could trust.
I have to admit here, I didn’t pick them up at the post office right away (we don’t have a mailbox) and when I did, I didn’t get them in the ground as fast as I should have.
It was my own fault that they weren’t looking too healthy at that point.
you can plant it as a seed
A very dim light bulb went off in my head.
Sure enough, I rummaged through my seed supply and there they were- I had bought some Lemon Grass seeds on an end-of-the season clearance.
I threw a few of those into 2 pots, just to play it safe (with Mandolin’s voice in my head…’how hard could it be?’ Arrgh!)
you can grow it in a plot
Now I should have known better, sure enough the plants rallied and began growing like, well- grass.
And the seeds came up as well.
Not so hard after all.
We’ve been eating from the plants all summer, and I’ll harvest the remaining leaves before the frost.
Lemon grass freezes well, we should have enough for the winter.
you can grow it in a pot
I’m also going to bring in the two potted plants and take them back out come spring.
Since I am a plant geek- I’m going to dig up the roots of the bedded plants and see if I can get them to regrow indoors, the way they would outside in a warmer climate.
Wish me luck! Since I have a tendency to unintentionally kill houseplants, this should be interesting.
Lemon Grass has so many uses. Johnny’s Seeds describes them as “Aromatic grass from India. Essential oil contains large amounts of citral and geraniol, used for flavorings and perfumes. Medicinal: Tea used to treat digestive problems and fever. Anti- inflammatory.”
Add to that the fact that I recently saw lemons at the grocery store- $1 each.
-Plant Lemon Grass in the spring where it will get a lot of sun; about a foot apart if you are in a warmer climate, 8″ in cooler regions.
-In Zones 9-11 they are considered perennials, annuals here. They can be invasive.
-You’ll get one clump per seed or plant, in warmer climates they will self-propagate and form more clumps.
-Harvest leaves as you need them
-Leaves can be stored frozen.
-Use almost anywhere you’d like a fresh lemony flavor; such as in soup, stir-fry and with fish or meat. We used some on fishes and duck; and in our stir frys- num-num-ness.
-Makes a nice cup of tea, especially with a little chamomile.
And perhaps as a gift?
Some interesting recipes can be found here.
Categories: herbs, how to grow