In Basket: November 2011

Dear Herb Companion,

I READ CALEB Melchior’s September 2011 article “Yes, You Can … Grow Lavender” with interest. I have been searching for the lavender variety ‘Grosso’ for several years. Can you suggest a source to purchase plants or seeds? Love the magazine.

–Frances Hedeman, Dubuque, Iowa

‘Grosso’ is a cultivar that cannot be grown from seed. Look for the plant in the spring at a local nursery. Otherwise, try mail-order nurseries Nichols Garden Nursery ( and Richters ( –Eds. 

MY ROSEMARY IS turning brown and dying. It’s about 5 years old and was gorgeous; we have not changed its care. We did recently have several days of much-needed rain. I live in  southern Louisiana. I tried to cut some of it back and fed it with Miracle-Gro, but it seems to continue to turn yellow and die. It was 5 feet tall and about 3 to 4 feet wide; I cut about a foot off.

–Deb LeBlanc, Lafayette, Louisiana

It’s difficult to know for sure what’s happening with your rosemary, but here is our best guess. 

Yellowing leaves are usually a sign of water issues, and in your  situation it could be either overwatering from the recent rain, which may not have been able to drain properly, or a drought reaction from before the rain arrived, which correlates more with your description of everything turning brown and dying. The best thing to do is to try and make sure the soil can drain well and prune the dead branches. Consider adding liquid seaweed diluted in water to try to boost your rosemary’s root health, which can aid any struggling plant.

The other possible problem is a nutrient deficiency. If the above advice doesn’t improve matters, try working some greensand into the topsoil to give the rosemary some iron to work with. –Eds.  

ON PAGE 66 OF your September 2011 issue, there is a sidebar entitled “Growing Chinese Medicinal Herbs in Your Garden.” You must be growing a very small garden, indeed, because the height of each plant is listed in inches instead of feet. For instance, your balloon flower is described as a 2-inch-tall perennial. Mine are a bit over 2 feet tall! 

Clearly someone goofed with inches versus feet, but the miniscule garden you’ve described gave me a good laugh. 

–Mary Ogletree, Macungie, Pennsylvania

What’s the Chinese herb for embarrassment? Yes, those symbols should be for feet, not inches. We apologize. –Eds. 

MY ROSEMARY, SAGE, thyme and sweet marjoram are planted in a raised bed. They all are going brown in the middle of each plant, spreading up. I live in a humid Zone 8 (coastal South Carolina) and it has been hot and dry, so I have been diligent about watering, sometimes twice a day as everything in there looks terrible! Could I be giving too much water love?

–Nancy Lemon, Charleston, South Carolina

We suspect you are overwatering, but it’s hard to say without seeing them. Our suggestion: Find a good local nursery, take in a sample and let them diagnose it. –Eds.

MY WIFE AND I are seeking information on an herb we’ve been growing and using in Central Texas. After an Internet search, I decided that our mystery herb was Porophyllum tagetoides, commonly called chepiche or pipicha in Mexico. It tastes like very strong cilantro. It’s extremely easy to grow and we love the flavor. As we use this herb a great deal, we’d like  to know more about it. Does it have any medicinal value? Is it toxic? 

–Robbis Storm, Burnet, Texas

Pipicha is an alternative to papaloquelite (Porophyllum ruderale) in Mexico. It is occasionally available at Mexican food markets, but seed is not available in the U.S. market. If the plant flowers, get the seed to a U.S. herb dealer! It tastes good in tacos, green salsas, squash and corn. Pre-Columbian versions of salsa would not have used cilantro, which is Asian; they would have used papaloquelite or pipicha. Both are sometimes available at bars in Mexico sitting in a glass of water to garnish food. It does not have FDA “generally recognized as safe” status, but, then, neither does any species of Porophyllum. They’ve been eating this for millennia in Meso-America with no reported ill effects. –Eds.

Facebook Fodder

Which are your favorite fall herbs to plant?

DONNA OSTER LUKE: I like to let all my herbs go to seed. I grab handfuls and ask, “Where would you like to live?” I broadcast them if there is no breeze or let the wind take them if there is one. The next spring, I ask each plant, “How did you get here?” Good clean fun!


CHRIS TOLLEFSRUD SCHAEFFER: I like the second “generations” of cilantro and dill after they’ve gone to seed and grown wherever they want to.


Reader Poll

On Page 32, we discuss the healing powers of aromatherapy. How do you use aromatherapy?

Stress relief/relaxation: 46.68%
Energy boost: 18.18%
Fighting illness: 13.33%
Improving concentration: 13.33%
I don’t use it: 8.48%

Total Votes: 195

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