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Posts Tagged ‘Herbs’

I can ferment sauerkraut with my eyes closed, but I have had a hard time with fermented pickles in the past (didn’t turn out well) … I just keep trying. Instead of using whole pickling cucumbers I decided to try my luck and go about it differently, so I sliced the cucumbers this time.

I did not plant cucumbers this year. I talked to my neighbor/friend about growing cucumbers this season because I grow most of my peppers and the zucchini in their garden and he agreed that this year we could share the cucumbers too. He has been growing Armenian cucumbers (actually in the melon family) for the past few years and he always has way more then he needs. The Armenian cukes are nice, but I want to grown pickling cucumbers again.

Fermenting - Day 1

Fermenting – Day 1

Back to my experiment… I sliced the cucumbers and put them in a glass gallon jar. I added the herbs and spices that I wanted (dill seed, celery seed, and garlic) and poured the brine over the top. The brine was 1 1/2 T to 4 cups water.

The big thing with fermenting is that you need to keep the vegetable below the liquid to avoid bad bacteria from growing. I could not find a jar that was big enough, yet small enough to fit down through the opening of the gallon jar. I had to resort to using a gallon zip-top bag with a little water in it, then I sunk a pint jar into the bag and filled the jar with some water also. I am not a big fan of plastic, but it worked. I will be either looking for the perfect jar to weigh things down or a different glass jar. As I type this and thing about it – I really could have used my fermenting crock.

The past issues that I had when fermenting pickles in the fermenting crock that I have is the weights. The whole cucumbers are so buoyant and the ceramic weights are a bit on the smaller side that the cucumbers can sneak up on the edges. Then they are exposed to air and things go quite wrong in a hurry.

It worked! I have successfully fermented cucumber slices (three times now!) Boy are they good! We now have a ton of them in the refrigerator and we are munching our way through them fast. I have shared several quarts with our neighbor/friend.

Day 7 or 8

Day 7 or 8

Next year I look forward to canning some pickles so we can enjoy them throughout the winter too, but in the mean time we are enjoying these fermented ones. I know they have more benefits to them (chuck full of healing probiotics!) I also look forward to the fall and winter garden to ferment some of the root veggies like carrots, turnips and onions.

Other post on fermenting:

Anyone else out there fermenting things?

Sincerely, Emily

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My German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) has been growing very well this year. I had a few plants come up form last years seeds and I planted a few more to increase my harvest.Chamomile 2 (Matricaria recutita)

The flowers really make me smile. The plant is so delicate looking with pinnately divided leaf – almost feather-like and small white disc flowers. I love seeing them bloom. I harvest the flower and enjoy a cup of tea using the fresh flowers, but most of them I dry to use later. When I am picking the flower heads I can’t resist giving them a sniff because they give off a nice light apple fragrance.

Chamomile, a member of the aster family (asteraceae), is native to Europe and western Asia and has been used as a medicine for thousands of years, dating back to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. It is one of the most popular herbs used in the Western world.  I grow and use German chamomile. I dry the flowers to store and use when I need them.

Growing German Chamomile:

  • German Chamomile is a cool-season annual. In my area S. Texas, it will reseed itself. I usually help it along by crumbling up a few dry flowers in the late fall when I scatter seeds for larkspur and poppy. Be frugal, be sure to save a few extra for more seeds later, or share with a friend. The information I find on it says to “sow the seeds outside 4-6 weeks before your last frost, or as soon as the soil can be worked” or “late fall when the soil is too cold for seeds to germinate.” You can also start with a plant from your local nursery or start your seeds inside 8-10 weeks before the last frost in your area.
  • You can grow German Chamomile in the ground or in container. Whatever works for best you.
  • Can get very bushy and stand about 3′ tall. Mine is about 2′ tall
  • I likes full sun. Since we get so hot here I have planted mine where it will get afternoon shade. The plants will get very leggy if there is too much shade.
  • They don’t need a lot of water, but will benefit from it during dry conditions, and when they start to flower.Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

My plants are done for the season already. they are not putting on anymore fresh blooms and the bottom foliage is starting to turn yellow. We are well into some summer-like temps and have already hit 98F this season. I will leave the rest of the blooms on the plant to help re-seed the area, but like I mentioned above, I will save some seed head for sowing later. the reason I do both is that I will still be putting a layer of horse manure and/or other compost on all the herb gardens and then a thick layer of mulch and a lot of those seeds will get buried too deep, so I will need to sprinkle those seeds later in the fall to ensure that I have plants popping up next spring.

So, what can chamomile be used for?  Anxiety, insomnia, canker sores (mouthwash), irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion and heartburn, acid reflux, gastrointestinal complaints, treat skin conditions and mild infections. What do I use it for? Mainly to relax in the evening to help with sleep and stress, but also for an aid with digestion. How do I use it? As a tea.

Whether you grow German chamomile to harvest the blooms or not, it is a very pretty plant and adds a nice bloom to your spring garden.

Do you have German Chamomile growing in your garden? What do you use it for?

Sincerely, Emily

 

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Spring, in term of nice Spring temperatures, seem to be a thing of the past in my area. We hit 100F a few days ago. UGH! Spring, in terms of things blooming and growing , is still happening.

There are so many things blooming and emerging out there. Some things are absent since we are so, so dry, but others seem to be thriving.

I never seem to be lucky enough to have Mullein (verbascum thapsus) growing in our yard. I seem them in our neighborhood and even have been known to pluck a few dried stalks to spreads those tiny, tiny, tiny mullein seeds in my yard, but still now have emerged. So, I get to enjoy them elsewhere. There is a beautiful one growing at my neighbors. Big and beautiful. You can also see Dakota Vervain (glandularia bipinnatifida) in the forefront of the photos (purple bloom) and some very young Mexican Hat (ratibida columnifera.) I have one that has flowered in our yard, and they will be the next spring flower around here.

mullein (verbascum thapsus)

mullein (verbascum thapsus)

This spring Antler Horn (asclepias asperula – in the milk weed family) seems to be particularly abundant. I seem to see its beautiful, showy flowers all around right now.

antler horn (asclepias asperula)

antler horn (asclepias asperula)

What do you see emerging and blooming this time of year in your area?

Sincerely, Emily

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It’s a busy time. There seems to be a lot going on and I don’t seem to be catching up on certain things, yet I am getting other things done. So anytime I can make a quick meal, it really helps.

Celery Leaf

Celery Leaf

Spinach growing season is over here and my spinach has bolted and I am patiently waiting for seeds to I can harvest them and then get the next phase planted out there. I picked on last large batch of spinach and had plans to saute it and freeze it for meals later, but meal plans can change rather quickly around here. I also had some local chicken and carrots in the refrigerator that needed to get used up. Chicken salad came to mind, but I haven’t managed to make any bread in a few weeks.

Chicken salad

Chicken salad

As I gazed into the refrigerator I decided that the spinach would get used to make chicken salad wraps. Brilliant!

Add spinach

Add spinach

I ran out back and pulled up a bunching onion and also snipped several stalks of celery leaf. Chicken salad coming up!

Lunch!

Lunch!

The meal was quick, easy, and healthy. In fact, I am running in several directions right now and I had a repeat of this meal for dinner too! Yum x 2!

What do you do to throw together a quick lunch?

Sincerely, Emily

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Bunching onions, sauerkraut, local lamb roast, and working in the garden….

Chopping up bunching onions to go in my neighbors freezer

Chopping up bunching onions to go in my neighbors freezer

What do all those things have in common? …. Just more “not dabbling in normal” normal.

Over at the neighbors getting things ready to plant.

Over at the neighbors getting things ready to plant.

Cleaning and clearing out the winter garden. the onions are starting to flower. I let a few turnips and some of the kale flower so I can collect seeds. The monster spinach is just starting to bolt, so will leave a few plants in the ground for seed saving also.

I was over at the neighbors yesterday to help clear out winter plants and get some spring things in the ground. He uses a hoe (made in the USA) that belonged to his grandmother. (my neighbor is 81 years old, so that is one old hoe that he is using.) we planted some cucumber and zucchini seeds and got a few bell pepper plants in the ground. My body is still playing catch up from being sick a year ago…. so that was all we got done. We will work out there again on Saturday. I plan to work in my garden today and hopefully get some plants in the ground. I still get out of breath, but it feels good to work out there and I need to keep pushing myself a bit to keep getting better. I have certainly come a long way, especially when i think back to march 2013 when I couldn’t even walk across the room!

chopping cabbage for sauerkraut

chopping cabbage for sauerkraut

I have picked my cabbages and they are in the crock turning into fermented sauerkraut. I picked up some more local cabbage at the local swap that I go to and those are also fermenting in another second crock. A Roasted lamp shoulder

Dinner the other night was a roasted local lamb shoulder (picked it up at the swap/barter.) I had a second pan in the oven roasting sweet potatoes and onions that I also traded for.

Making a cough syrup

Making a cough syrup

I am also taking an herbal medics class. Learning a lot, and So much more to learn. It is a lot of fun. I am harvesting some wild herbs and edibles as they are popping up this spring. The lambsquarter is popping up so I am potting some up to take to plant swaps and also the month swap/barter.

So, like I said…. Life. There is a lot going on. Spring is in the air (It was 87F yesterday – I think we skipped Spring!)

What are you up to this time of year?

Sincerely, Emily

 

 

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Rosemary (Rosemary officinales) grows really well here. It can handle the full summer sun, and is deer resistant! It is also drought tolerant and does well in many types of soil. rosemary blooming

Rosemary was one of the plants that I planted in the first year were lived here and they have grown big and bushy, but they really don’t bloom. This year a few stalks bloomed on one of the bushes this spring. It is the same bush that had one stalk bloom last year.

The blooms where so beautiful.

I love having rosemary in our yard. It is so easy to walk outside and snip off a few branches to cook with. I use the drying rack my husband built for me to dry several branches at a time to use in herbs blends, like the Italian Seasoning Blend I make up and the black olive rosemary bread that I bake or to go in some Mediterranean bean spread.

I also love snipping a small branch just to have around to sniff. Quite often you can find one in my truck or laying on the desk near the computer. It has just a wonderful scent.

Not only does it have a wonderful scent, but rosemary is an herb that can be used to invigorate you, energize you and help with metal focus. I seem to need that!

Do you have rosemary growing in your garden? What do you like to use it for?

Sincerely, Emily

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I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, but the warmer days have me thinking about the Spring/Summer garden planting.

We have already hit 90F here in South Texas. That is just too hot, WAY too soon for me. Last week we had another cooler down that was right up my alley and it had me opening the bedroom windows at night to cool the me down!

Tabouli

Tabouli

I try hard to purchase veggies in season, but I had an itch (and an event to bring a dish to) to make Tabouli (click on the word “Tabouli” to link to the recipe that I posted back in July of 2013). I picked and used as much as I could from the gardens; parsley, mint, cilantro, onion. But I did have to purchase things like cucumber and tomato (oh I can’t wait to pick that first fresh tomato!)

I am behind in my seed starting, but my tomato seedlings are up and a few of the pepper seeds are starting to sprout. I did pick up some heirloom and non-GMO seedlings at The Natural Gardener a few weeks ago. They are already potted up into gallon containers. The Natural Gardener didn’t have their pepper plants in yet, so I will check back in with them, as well as check a few other local nurseries to find some organic ones.

Reality check: last wee our temps are back in the “Texas Winter” range. We have been 25F at night with a few days that didn’t get about 45F (I know that is a heat wave for some of you out there.) so my seedlings are living in the garage and in the house for while.

What type of seeds will you be starting to prepare for the upcoming gardening season?

Sincerely, Emily

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I have been a member in a Culinary group for the past 2+ years and it has been a lot of fun. We get together once a month and have herb-themed culinary meetings. Our group has been full and there have been many members of the Herb Society that would like to join our group, but we limit it to 15 members since we have sit-down dinners and rotate house. So, a friend and I have mentored a new Culinary group. We officially started the meetings in November. the first meeting was a general meeting, bring a dish to share (no theme) and talk about the guidelines and ideas of getting the new group off the ground and in the right direction. For the December meeting the original Culinary group invited the new Culinary group to our annual cookie exchange. That was a big hit with over 20 people attending (appetizers, not sit-down meal!)

Note: for those of you that know me, you might want to be sitting down to see some of the photos in this post! Seriously!

Goat Cheese - Thyme - Caramelized Onion Crostini Canape - EmilyTonight, I hosted the first themed meeting. Our theme was thyme and everyone brought a dish using thyme. I enjoy having people to house, but I am guilty of never having a clear surface to place anything and that involves time and planning on my part to get the house in order. I have had since the end of November! I did it!

clean house 1This all fits right in to the January Cure that Xan has been posting about. I can’t seem to find time to post on a regular basis on my personal blag, I can’t seem to find the time to read up on all the blogs I enjoy reading, and I can’t seem to find the time to even read the January Cure posts. I’m and very frugal with our money and don’t buy luxury-type items, so I am with Xan and don’t agree with buying fresh cut flowers each weekend. I do not need fresh flowers to feel good. My mom did send me flowers over 2 weeks ago, and I am still enjoying them. Last week I also bought flowers for my neighbor/friends as a thank you for picking up groceries, but also, I know they are sad with the passing of their son and the flowers sure perked them up. That makes me feel good!

Clean table 1Over the past few weeks, I have methodically focused on clearing some of my clutter. In the end, I only shoved a few things in drawers that I couldn’t quite get through. I was expecting 14 people and the house looks really good! I dealt with a lot of paper work. Recycled a lot of paper. Put a lot of things away (where I hope that I will find them again!)

As the day went on, 14 dropped to 4. How they heck do you go from expecting 14 people down to 4! Freezing rain! Yes, we get there here in San Antonio from time to time…. this was one of those times. We had a good time talking about thyme and visiting.

Here is my creation for the thyme-themed meeting tonight. I went with an appetizer – because I was spending all my time and energy cleaning the house, I wanted to keep it simple and easy to make. It was a success!

Goat Cheese – Thyme – Caramelized Onion Crostini Canape

  • 8 oz Goat Cheese – room temperature (you can use cream cheese if you prefer)
  • 3-4 T Sour Cream or Yogurt
  • 2 T Dried Thyme
  • Crostini or Crackers
  • Onions – caramelized

Bring your goat cheese up to room temperature so it is easier to work with.

Slice or dice onion and caramelize it in a fry pan. If you want to sweeten your onions a bit more, add a bit of sugar are you caramelize them.

While onions are caramelizing, mix goat cheese, sour cream/yogurt and thyme together. Use as much sour cream/yogurt as you need to create the consistency you like.

Cut your bread in sizes/shapes that you want and toast it. Set aside to cool.

Spread crostini with goat cheese mixture.

Top with caramelized onions.

Serve at room temperature.

All elements of this appetizer can be made ahead of time. Just pull them out of the refrigerator and allow them to come up to room temperature, and assemble them right before you guest arrive.

I guess this evening fit in with the January Cure – Plan a get-together. We also have some friend coming over for dinner in a few weeks…. I sure hope the house looks this good when that rolls around!

Do you have any house cleaning/organizing projects that you are working on?

Sincerely, Emily

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This past Sunday we focused Flower Power. I grew up with some funky and neat clothes. We had some wonderful flowery sheets and I even have some of those and use them as top sheets to protect our bedding from mountains of cat fur.

winter (either 1975 or 76)

winter (either 1975 or 76)

Each year as I plant more drought tolerant plants and more herbs, I am amazed at the beautiful flowers that some of the plants come out with at times when we have had no rain at all for months. What is also even more wonderful is to see some of them covered with bees and the butterflies working their way from bloom to bloom each day.

My Aunt painted her kitchen cupboard doors.

My Aunt painted her kitchen cupboard doors.

Flowers are amazing. Beautiful. Colorful. Purposeful. Their many shapes and sizes are spectacular. The colors range from bright and showy to soft and subtle. The flowers also have purpose. They pull in the pollinators with scents of sweet nectar and pollen. With out the pollinators we would have no honey, not fruits and vegetables, no nuts.

Flower Power - Old sheet

Flower Power – Old sheet

To me, Flower Power, has a different meaning than it did in the late 60′s and early 70′s. The way I look at it is… flowers do have power.

Bee on my spicy Italian oregano

Bee on my spicy Italian oregano

Do you think flowers have power?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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This past Sunday a few of us gave you a glimpse at what we have growing on our gardens. This week I wanted to share with you what I do with some of that fresh produce that comes out of our garden.

One of the salads that I make a lot is tabouli (or tabbouleh). It is great in the heat of the summer not to have to turn on the stove-top or the oven.bulgar tabouliSome tabouli recipes you find will have you pour boiling water over your bulgar, but I just soak mine. Again, any reason not to turn on that heat-producing appliance!

This salad can be made with the traditional way using bulgar or cracked wheat, but it can also be made using quinoa (need to follow quinoa cooking instructions for that)

Tabouli

  • 2 cups bulgar or cracked wheat
  • 1 tbsp.  salt
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomato
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 chopped mint

Put your bulgar in a bowl or sauce pan and cover it with water an inch above the bulgar. The bulgar will soak most or all that water up and you may need to add more. I let mine sit for at least 45 minutes, usually longer. The last thing I want it to take a bite and come down on a hard piece of wheat.

Chopping Mint

Chopping Mint

If you do end up with more water that your bulgar soaked up, just use a mesh colander and strain it.

While your bulgar is soaking up that water, start chopping all your herbs and vegetables. It is up to you whether you want to de-seed your cucumbers and tomatoes.

I toss things together as I chop. Once your bulgar is ready, toss it with all the vegetables and herbs. Mix your lemon juice and oil olive together ad pout it over your bulgar mixture and toss again.

You want to allow time for all the flavors of the herbs and dressing to mingle so give yourself a minimum of 30 minutes to let everything marinate before serving. If you are in the area of the kitchen, give it a toss and stir as you walk by to bring any of the marinade up into more of the tabouli.

If you want your tabouli heavy on the vegetable and herb side, either double the amounts of the herbs and veggies or knock the bulgar amount down by half. Up to you! This makes a pretty big bowl.

I love making this using all the fresh herbs from the gardens along with the fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. It is a great way to celebrate summer and the harvest from your garden or local farmers markets.

What are you cooking with things from your garden?

Sincerely, Emily

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