Freelance writer, community herbalist and medicine maker, Jennifer Heinzel hails from the cold city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Jennifer is an avid writer, especially for anything folklore or myth-related to herbalism. She has written for the Chequamegon co-op, United Plant Savers journal, and NorthPoint Health & Wellness center. Visit Thymes Ancient Remedies to read more from Jennifer.
I previously wrote about the history of purslane, a well-traveled herb renounded for its medicinal properties. This is part two of my purslane profile.
In Europe, purslane enjoyed a respectable social position, with several strains of it being cultivated in vegetable gardens as a green. It couldn’t naturalize in England like it could in China, Mexico or the Middle East, but it was still enthusiastically added to salads with oil, salt and vinegar to cool the blood and encourage appetites.
As with any herb that was used historically, purslane comes with many interesting, as well as bizarre, uses and folk names. This herb was believed and used to guard against evil spirits—provided it was strewn around a person’s bed. It was also used to cure "blastings by lightening or planets and burning of gunpowder,” according to Just Weeds: History, Myths and Uses by Pamela Jones. Distilled in water, purslane was traditionally used to ease toothaches, fasten loose teeth, and treat sore mouths and swollen gums. It is beneficial to eat purslane raw when “one’s teeth are set on edge with eating of sharpe and soure things,” according to British herbalist John Gerard. Its juice, when taken with honey, may treat dry coughs, shortness of breath and immoderate thirst,according to Jones. Jones also says that when purslane seeds are bruised and boiled in wine, and given to children, it soothes “heat of the liver” and head pains caused from “heat, want of sleep, or the frenzy.” Lastly, when applied crushed externally, purslane also reduces inflammation of the eyes, according to British herbalist Nicholas Culpeper. The gypsy herbalist Juliet de Baiacli Levy again greatly recommends this herb. Internally she used the entirety of the plant as a refrigerant and soothing herb, treating blood disorders and fevers very well. Purslane is also a mild laxative (the seeds are vermifuge), and useful in the treatment of headaches, anemia, rickets, blood pressure and diabetes. Levy recommended eating up to two handfuls of purslaneper day. For skin ailments, she also recommends applying purslane as a pulp externally bound with a cotton cloth. Lastly, in the 1930s, a United States Department of Agriculture botanist stated that purslane is very palatable when cooked and heartily recommended it.
Herbalists tend to love weeds. They can survive harsh conditions, are very prolific, and also happen to be extremely nutrient- and mineral-rich. Purslane is high in vitamins A and E, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron. Also, as one of the only vegetables in the world to be super-rich in omega 3s, it's no wonder why so many native cultures ate purslane so enthusiastically! Purslane is also very good at treating circulation and overall heart health: vitamin E is one of the best in the world for circulation and improving heart function, and omega 3s significantly help reduce cholesterol. If you are wary about eating purslane for its slightly slimy consistency and are interested in more omega 3 sources, try flaxseed, soy beans, wheat and oat germs, radish seeds, rapeseed (canola) oil and nuts (especially walnuts).
Purslane is also a good antioxidant, antibiotic, hypotensive and diuretic. This small potherb is a refrigerant, and soothes heat-related ailments such as fevers and blood disorders. Its juice treats skin ailments such as caterpillar stings, inflammation, sores, eczema and abcesses, among other skin diseases. In modern-day China, the entire plant is used to treat diarrhea and urinary infections, and to reduce fevers. In Indonesia, it is used to treat cardiac weakness and breathing difficulties.
Patsy Bell Hobson is blogging at Oh Grow Up! When not in the garden or on the road, find her in southern Missouri USA. Read more travel stories at Striped Pot. Find more garden, travel and random rants on her Facebook.
Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) is in the family Asteraceae. This annual, which is cultivated as an herb and can be grown easily in sunny locations and in most any kind of soil, typically produces flowers quickly from seed in golds, yellows and oranges. It is hardy to Zone 6 and is not frost tender.
Calendula comes in a variety of rusty oranges and yellows. While dead heading is not necessary, it will extend the bloom time with a flush of new flowers.
Medicinally, this herb is used to treat burns and open wounds. American Civil War physicians preserved the juice from aerial parts of the plant with a bit of alcohol to use on the battlefield. World War I battlefield doctors poured boiling water over dried flower heads and applied the mixture to soldiers’ wounds to prevent infection and inflammation.
Pick calendula flowers or dead head to encourage more growth. Use the flowers fresh or dry them for later. To dry, cut the flower heads off and spread them out in a shady spot. I use cookie cooling racks and space out the blooms, turning occasionally until they're dry. Once the flowers are papery dry, store in moisture-proof canning jars or Zip Lock bags, away from light.
Calendula is drought tolerant.
This is an easy flower to grow. Start early indoors or sow seeds in gardens. Calendula is not fussy, requires little attention and seldom shows any sign of insect damage or disease. Make room for this flower in the herb garden for a splash of repeating color.
Find calendula-infused beauty recipes for shampoo, hair rinses and salves at Renee's Garden. (The salve moisturizes hands with olive oil and vitamin E.)
These sun-loving herbs are an excellent addition to any herb or vegetable garden.
Photos by Patsy Bell Hobson
Seed Packet Giveaway
Renee's Garden has agreed to give away a packet of calendula seed to three lucky Herb Companion readers. Read Renee's Blog or visit her website, Renee's Garden, to order seeds from her online seed catalogs. You will also find great how-tos and gardening tips on her website.
HOW TO ENTER
• Post a comment telling us how you use calendula, or what kind of calendula you grow in your garden.
• End date: August 10, 2012 (12:00 a.m. Central Time) UPDATE: Time's up!
The winners have been contacted. They were chosen using Random.org. Thanks to everyone who entered my Garden Giveaway! Watch out for even more giveaways.
Thanks again to Renee's Garden.
Liza Gardner Walsh is a children’s librarian in Rockport, Maine. She has been a high school English teacher, writing tutor, museum educator and holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College. Through it all, she has made tiny houses for mice, fairies, trolls, snails and other little creatures. She lives in Camden with her family. Check out her book Fairy House Handbook, published by Downeast.
In Maine it often rains during early summer, and we are faced with an abundance of mud. Luckily, mud is "nature's glue," as one of my fairy-minded friends have said, and so creating mud projects is the perfect antidote to sludging through a muddy pathway.
Despite the rain, my children always seem to make their own mud, even during the recent hot July days, and they delight in concocting their own mud-based recipes. To do this yourselves, simply gather a bowl of dirt from the garden and pour the garden hose right over it. My mother gave us a wonderful book called Mud Pies and Other Recipes by Marjorie Winslow. This lovely book was originally published in 1961 and republished by the New York Review of Books in 1989. It is delightful. The contents include appetizers, soups, salads and sandwiches, main dishes, pastries and desserts, beverages, and suggested menus.
One of my favorite recipes is for Boiled Buttons—"A hot soup that is simple but simply delicious. Place a handful of buttons in a saucepan half filled with water. Add a pinch of white sand and dust, 2 fruit tree leaves, and a blade of grass for each button. Simmer on a hot rock for a few minutes to bring out flavor. Ladle into bowls."
And it goes on and on: Gravel en Casserole, Left-Handed Mudloaf, Pine Needle Upside-Down Cake and the infamous Pencil-Sharpener Pudding. This is exactly what my younger daughter made a few weeks ago featured in the picture below. But she added a rolled-up ball of mud on the top for a bit of flourish.
The beauty of a mud pie is more than the preparation of a play feast. There is, as I have learned lately, a practical use for the mud pie. It is the easiest way to determine if you have good soil for your garden. Dig down in your garden for at least six or so inches and grab a handful of soil. Squeeze that bit of dirt as hard as you can. If it stays together, you have clay soil; if it falls apart, you have sand; if it stays together until you touch it, then you have loam. This is called the mud-pie approach to soil identification.
Photos by Liza Gardner Walsh
Right now, the sun is out and it seems like a perfect day to create a rather less mud oriented recipe from our delicious cookbook. Perhaps, we will have some Honeysuckle Wine (pictured) to go with our Roast Rocks. Bon appetit!
Heidi Cardenas is a freelance writer and gardener in Lake County, Illinois, with a background in human resources. She has written about gardening for various online venues and enjoys The Herb Companion’s valuable resources.
Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) is commonly known as French parsley, cow parsley, salad chervil and garden chervil. It’s an annual herb native to southern Russia and Asia Minor and is naturalized throughout Europe. It is one of the fines herbes used in French and Mediterranean cuisines, along with parsley, chives and tarragon. It has a sweet green, subtle anise flavor and is used chopped or diced in almost all forms of cuisine: soups, stews, sauces, egg dishes, meat and fish, steamed and cooked vegetables, and salads. The roots, leaves and flowers are all edible and high in calcium.
Chervil has slightly hairy stalks, leaves with lacy foliage and small white flowers with five petals. It grows 18 to 36 inches tall from a central base with a long taproot. Because of this it doesn’t transplant well and should be seeded directly in place for best growing results. Chervil is a cool-season crop like lettuce and does best when planted in early spring and late fall or in a winter greenhouse. Its delicate foliage can be cut several times during the spring or fall and will grow a second crop. Chervil self-sows readily. If you want to save seeds for next season, let a stand of chervil flower and set seed, and collect seeds when they start to brown and dry.
Chervil is a green annual herb with a long taproot. It’s easy to grow by sowing seeds directly in warm garden soil in the spring. A location with filtered sunlight is best because chervil will bolt like lettuce if grown in hot, sunny conditions. The plants grow from a central base to form a lacy green cluster, with flower stalks emerging from the center in mid-summer. Clip bunches of foliage in spring or fall to use fresh in cooking, and chop leaves to add to ice cubes for freezer storage. If you don’t want plants to set seed, cut them back to about two inches when flower stalks form in mid-summer, water them and provide a shade cover if possible. You’ll get a flush of fresh growth if the sun and heat is not too intense. Sow chervil seeds every three weeks for a continuous supply of fresh foliage without a lot of maintenance. Plant a patio container with chervil, tarragon, chives and parsley for a fresh supply of your own fines herbes to use in the kitchen. Chervil’s cool season growth habits make it a perfect kitchen herb to grow on the counter or windowsill all winter for a fresh supply of tasty herbal greens.
Health Benefits of Chervil
Chervil is used more for culinary than medicinal purposes, but does have some beneficial properties. Water from boiled chervil is a refreshing skin cleanser and pore reducer, and reduces puffy eyes when cotton balls soaked in it are applied to closed eyelids. Tea made with the flowers has anti-inflammatory and diuretic effects, for relief of bloating and water weight during menstruation and to relieve edema. Try drinking chervil tea in sweltering heat to relieve swelling feet or fingers. Chervil is a source of potassium, selenium, magnesium, and high in calcium, and is also high in Vitamins B and C and beta carotene, making it a healthy addition to salads and side dishes. The fresh pressed juice from chervil, either with a wheat grass juicer or mortar and pestle, provides relief from bladder irritations and pain.
Cooking with Chervil
Fresh-cut leaves are best for cooking, but chopped frozen leaves are a good alternative. Blanch fresh leaves in boiling water for a few seconds, rinse them in ice water and pat them dry with a paper towel, then chop them and spread them on a cookie sheet to freeze them. Once frozen, store in freezer containers until you need them for cooking. Chopped fresh leaves added to savory dishes impart a subtle anise, lettuce-like flavor. Chopped with the other three fines herbes, parsley, chives and tarragon, this fresh chopped herb mix livens up scrambled or poached eggs, fish and poultry. Spread the chopped fines herbes on a cookie sheet and dry them quickly in a hot oven for five minutes to make your own fines herbes to have on hand in the kitchen.
Chervil is a pretty garnish, similar to parsley. It’s a flavorful addition to root vegetables, beans, mushrooms and tomatoes. It combines well with other herbs including chives, basil, cress, dill, lemon thyme, mint, parsley, marjoram and tarragon. Chervil adds its delicate flavor to herb vinegars, sauces and consommés, as well as fresh and warm salads. A half cup of fresh chopped chervil makes a tasty topping for steamed carrots or potatoes, and is a tasty addition to classic Bearnaise sauce, along with chopped tarragon and shallots.
• The New Oxford Book of Food Plants; John Vaughan and Catherine Geissler; copyright 2009
• Easy Growing: Organic Herbs and Edible Flowers from Small Spaces; Gayla Trail; copyright 2012
• Medieval Herbal Remedies; Anne Van Arsdall; 2002
• Herbs & Spices: The Cook’s Reference; Jill Norman; 2002
• Botany.com: Anthriscus-Chervil, French Parsley
• herbs2000.com: Chervil
• HerbBee.com: Chervil
• Home-Remedies-for-You.com: Chervil
• Gourmet Sleuth: Bearnaise Sauce
You can check out the Lemon Verbena Lady at her blog Lemon Verbena Lady's Herb Garden .
I know it is tough for some of you to take a vacation, even when the weather is as hot and summery as it has been for most the country. So because part of my mission is to travel, I am going to take you on my vacations that I took last year to various herb gardens. So sit back and relax, because I am about to take you through Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; Glencoe (a suburb of Chicago), Illinois; De Steeg, Netherlands; and Sault and Pertuis in the region of Provence, France.
Holt Physic Garden
One of the highlights on our trip to Vancouver last May was my visit to the Harold and Frances Holt Physic Garden in the University of British Columbia Botanical Gardens. It is modeled after a 16th century Dutch engraving of a monastic garden.
I loved that it is an intimate garden surrounded by a yew hedge to protect the “ignorant” from the many poisonous plants the garden contains. The hedge is protecting me because I have so much to learn about medicinal herbs, never mind that some may be poisonous!
The Holt Physic Garden is a formal garden that contains 12 concentric brick-edged beds surrounding a sundial. It uses the Doctrine of Signatures, which is an ancient belief that plants are marked with a divine sign indicating their purpose. (For example, lungwort looked like a diseased lung so it was thought to aid in pulmonary diseases.) The garden is best viewed from early spring through early autumn. It obtained herbal seeds for plants from the Chelsea Physic Garden in London, and carries on a historical legacy of seed exchanges between physic gardens in general. The Holts wanted to maintain the connection to Chelsea and introduce medicinal plants of documented wild origin. Here is a post that I wrote in 2011 called Herbal Travels: The Chelsea Physic Garden of London, which will give you a brief history of the Chelsea Physic Garden. If you are going to be in the Vancouver area or live near the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden, pay the physic garden a visit. I know you and your family will enjoy it.
Middachten Castle Gardens
Now we are off across the pond to a castle called Middachten Castle in De Steeg, Netherlands, which we visited during the month of July. This castle is still lived in and run by the Countess Ortenburg-Bentinck and Count zu Ortenburg, although they also run a bed and breakfast with rooms you can rent. In general, the castle is only open on Sundays to the public in July and August, so we could only see the gardens on the day we were there.
The gardens of Middachten Castle are styled in the baroque manner of the 18th century. There is a beautiful rose garden and many perennial borders, but I was really excited to see the herb garden. You enter the herb garden from the orangery, an enclosure that is used to house tropical plants placed in the gardens to add visual interest and stay protected during cold weather. You won’t believe what one of those plants in the containers was. Lemon verbena! It was a beautiful herb garden set up in the style of a kitchen garden. On their website you will find their garden schedule, which features their tour of the herb garden on August 12, 2012 in the afternoon. Middachten Castle is well worth a visit if you live in the area or are planning a visit to the Netherlands in the near future.
Lavender Fields in Provence
On my next visit, I checked off an item from my herbal bucket list: the lavender fields of Provence. During my visit in July I found that both Lavandula angustifolia and L. x intermedia could be found in the lavender fields near Sault, France. I also learned that lavender thrives in very dry and rocky soil. No wonder it doesn’t always do well in our clay soils in southwestern Pennsylvania! The fragrance of lavender is a real stress reliever, and the smell was everywhere we went in Provence.
We also made a trip to Château Val-Joanis in Pertuis, France to see their amazing kitchen garden. There is a sign at the entrance that says jardin remarquable: a remarkable garden!
Pictured is just a small section of the garden showing lavender blooming and Italian cypress trees. They also had fruit trees, vegetables, ornamental plants and herbs with a touch of whimsy in the style of a French potager.
Chicago Botanic Garden
Our final visit will be to Glencoe, Illinois and one of my favorite botanic gardens: the Chicago Botanic Garden. If you are in the Chicago area and love herbs, the Chicago Botanic Garden is having an Herb Garden Weekend on July 28 and 29, 2012. Click on the link and you will find a schedule of herbal displays, demonstrations, vendors and more.
All Photos by Nancy Heraud
The Herbal Husband and I visited the Chicago Botanic Garden herb garden in October. We have found that fall is a particular nice time to travel. It was a glorious day and the herb garden was still full of herbs and flowers, particularly a whole bed of nasturtiums. I know in my garden, nasturtiums keep blooming with the cooler temperatures in the fall season. I wrote about nasturtiums in a post called Edible Delights: 3 Nasturtium Recipes. The herb garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden is an intimate space but full of delicious smells and colors. This herb garden is shaped in a circular fashion and filled with herbs that would be used in cooking and medicine. The beds are separated by wattle fencing and the design is more informal. The herbs are allowed to flower and self-seed making them attractive for bees and butterflies. I hope you can visit this wonderful botanic garden or participate in their Herb Garden Weekend on July 28 and 29, 2012.
I always try to find herb gardens wherever I may be in my travels. I hope you have enjoyed this virtual herbal vacation. Stop by my blog, Lemon Verbena Lady’s Herb Garden, where I will have more photos of this virtual herbal vacation for you to see. Here is a link for a post I did for Visit to Middachen Castle last year, and a post about places we visited in the south of France, namely Graveson and Arles. As always, if you have a comment or question about any of my posts, please write to me here on this post with a comment or my e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and put in the subject line “Herb Comment or Question.” Talk to you soon.
Based in Lake County, Illinois, Heidi Cardenas has been freelancing since 2000. She studied business administration at the College of Lake County and has a background in human resources administration. She has written for "Chicago Parent Magazine" and guest blogs for The Herb Companion, Natural Living and TribLocal. She enjoys writing on a wide range of topics, but especially gardening, natural living, and home and family eco topics, and she helps you get your green on at HCGreenery.blogspot.com.
Busy homeowners with little time to water, weed and separate overgrown landscaping plants will appreciate ornamental grasses. They are a great addition to a xeriscape landscape plan (landscaping with hardy native plants to conserve water and minimize maintenance). If you don’t want to convert totally to a xeriscape landscape, ornamental grasses are still a beautiful, easy-to-maintain addition to any landscape.
I love the beautiful fountain-shaped sprays of the larger grasses and the way they sway and shimmy in the wind. Many ornamental grasses have very showy seedheads that last well into the winter season and look amazing when cut in bunches and displayed in tall vases or floor stands inside. The best part of growing ornamental grasses is that they don’t need coddling. They won’t need careful attention to watering and are not prone to pest infestations, and most are perennials that will return year after year.
Use tall ornamental grasses at the back of flower borders for a dramatic effect or use one or two plants as displays in your landscape. I have seen dwarf grasses used in rock gardens and in “dry” gardens mulched with decorative gravel. Some of the grasses are a beautiful blue-green color and look amazing when planted near purple and red flowering plants. I highly recommend using ornamental grasses in your garden and landscape to add beauty and cut down on water and maintenance.
Pampas grass. Photo By Sergio in Nagasaki/Courtesy Flickr.
Here are just some of my favorites:
Common Quaking Grass
Quaking grass is a pretty, delicate-looking grass that grows 2 to 3 feet tall on thin stems with blue-green leaves. Its tiny light purple flowers add movement and delightful sound to the garden when they rustle in the wind. Also called trembling grass, common quaking grass is great for mass plantings or as a backdrop for pink and purple flowers like cosmos.
Karl Foerster Grass
Karl Foerster grass, or feather reed grass, is a tall, upright grass that grows in neat clumps. It can get up to 6 feet tall and is non-invasive, so it does not spread and stays where you plant it. Its pink/bronze flower heads lend a beautiful, soft watercolor style to the landscape. Feather reed grass is a good plant for along fences or on the side of sheds. It is a good plant to screen undesirable views or to accent a landscape feature such as a pond or fountain.
Pampas grass (Cortaderia) is another tall grass, growing up to 5 feet high with wide leaves and very showy seedheads that resemble thick feathers. Pampas grass has a fountain-shaped growth habit and needs some room in the garden or landscape. It is sensitive to wet feet and overwatering, so it needs a location with full sun and very good drainage to stay healthy.
Heidi Cardenas is a freelance writer and gardener in Lake County, Illinois, with a background in human resources. She has written about gardening for various online venues and enjoys The Herb Companion’s valuable resources.
Sorrel has many common names, including cuckoo’s meat, sour grabs, sour weed and sour suds. It gets its reputation as a sour green from its high concentration in acid oxalate of potash and tartaric and tannic acids, as well as vitamin C. It has been grown since medieval times as a kitchen herb and medicinal plant. There are several varieties of sorrel, but two of the most common are garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and French sorrel (Rumex scutatus). The two are commonly confused but they are different, as garden sorrel is a much larger plant and French sorrel only grows to about 2 feet tall. They both produce large green leaves that have a lemony lettuce flavor.
Sorrel produces pink to purple flowers on tall stalks. It is native to Europe and Asia, and is used widely in French cuisines and kitchen gardens.
Sorrel is a leafy green perennial herb with long roots. It’s easy to propagate by dividing the roots or by sowing seeds in light, rich warm soil in the spring. The plants grow in clumps, forming mounds from a central base. Clipping leaves for salads and cooking throughout the growing season encourages a bushy plant. When the plant produces flower stalks in mid-summer, the whole plant should be cut back to encourage tender new growth for cooking. Garden sorrel prefers moist, damp soils, while French sorrel prefers dry soil in a sunny location.
Health Benefits of Sorrel
Sorrel has antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-cancer properties. It is an ingredient in Essiac tea, an anti-cancer tea formulated by the Ojibwa Indians. It interferes with cancer cell production, as its acids kill free radicals that create cancerous conditions, and its antibacterial properties kill E. coli and other harmful germs.
Water from boiled sorrel used to wash chicken pox sores, boils, shingles-afflicted skin, poison ivy rashes, blisters, acne and other skin sores. It eases the pain, relieves itches and speeds up the healing process. Drinking sorrel water flavored with a bit of honey brings down a fever and helps clear sinus infections. The roots and seeds, when steeped in water, make a good astringent for cleaning oily and acne-prone skin.
Cooking with Sorrel
Young leaves are best for culinary uses since older leaves can be bitter and tough. Sorrel is an excellent salad green that adds a lemony lettuce taste to mixed salads, soups and stews. The large, juicy leaves are also boiled like spinach for a hot side dish of tasty greens topped with butter and salt.
Sorrel is the main ingredient in the French recipe for soupe aux herbes. Like the beloved Mexican pozole, soupe aux herbes has many local variations, some made with kitchen garden ingredients and some made with wild ingredients, many made with butter and chicken, veal or beef stock.
A delicious green sauce used with cold meat dishes is made with sorrel by beating the leaves to a pulp with a mortar and pestle or food processor and adding vinegar and sugar.
Sorrel’s roots tinge water red when boiled or mashed, creating a natural food coloring for cookies, cakes and candies.
• "A Modern Herbal"; Sorrel, Wood; Maud Grieve; 1931
• "Tropical Fruits Newsletter"; Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture; 2005
• "The Purification Plan: Clear Your Body of the Toxins That Contribute to ..."; Prevention Health Books; 2005
• "Journal of Ethnopharmacology"; Essiac Tea: Scavenging of Reactive Oxygen Species and Effects on Dna Damage; S. Leonard, et al.; January 2006
• "Journal of Medicinal Food"; Determination of Antimicrobial Activity of Sorrel (Hibiscus Sabdariffa) on Esherichia Coli O157:h7 Isolated from Food, Veterinary, and Clinical Samples; M. Fullerton, et al.; May 2011