A Garden Nibble Walk

What fun to walk through one’s garden and see all the plants coming back to life! Those of you who love and grow herbs will totally understand what I’m about to share, that is, nibbling on fresh spring herbs.  My garden is large enough that I can enjoy a leisurely walk around the perimeter, admire the growing plants and take a few nibbles of the edible herbs. Let’s see what we have on the spring menu from photos I took yesterday:

If I’ve just eaten a meal, I like to start with rue, a bitter herb which aids in digestion. Chewing a fresh rue leaf is known to also relieve tension headaches and anxiety.  The name rue comes from the Greek meaning “to set free” and therefore its ancient reputation “to set free from disease.”

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How about a little hyssop nibble, another bitter herb which acts as a digestive stimulant. Hyssop can also act as a nervine to calm anxiety, but it is better known for its anti-viral actions, especially effective for respiratory infections.

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Lemon balm leaves are a tasty little “snack” while walking or working in the garden. Just like the name reveals, it has a lemony flavor.  Those of you who are familiar with essential oils probably have used Melissa essential oil, which comes from lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and is known to have a calming effect (nervine).  I like to make an herbal tea with fresh leaves or from those leaves I have dried.

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A whole kale leaf (or more) is almost a meal instead of a nibble! 🙂 The kale is doing well this spring in spite of being set back by by a hard freeze because “someone” forgot to close the lid to the cold frame.

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And what would a garden nibble walk be without a couple chickweed stalks? Considered a weed, this little plant is very tasty, especially picked fresh and placed in your favorite sandwich. Flowers, stems and leaves are all edible. I like to add chopped chickweed to our lettuce salads. Nice mild flavor.  Eat weeds? You betcha! Learn more about which weeds are edible from an expert, Green Deane, here

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So what’s for dessert?  Peppermint! Nothing like a fresh peppermint leaf at the end of a pleasant garden nibble walk. The peppermint patch is growing well so I should have plenty of leaves to make peppermint tea for my family and friends this summer.

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Thank you for coming along with me on a garden nibble walk. Even though you didn’t get to actually partake, maybe you will be inspired to plant some herbs and enjoy your very own fresh nibbles.  Blessings to you all.

 

Red Clover Tea, Coming Up!

026How fun! Drying my first red clover flowers so I can make some red clover tea.

This year I entered the “Kingdom of Herbs” and am having so much fun learning about herbs, as well as edible flowers and other plants.  I’ve always been aware of “herbs” and have grown a few culinary ones to snip and add flavor to our home-cooked meals.

When I was in college I majored in biology but never took any botany courses.  I thought botany was boring.  Finally at 68 years of age my view of the plant kingdom is definitely awe, wonder and appreciation.

This new love and awareness may, however, become an addiction.  My kids already are worried, especially if they have to take care of me in old age.  They have visions of a little old lady wandering around outside in the meadows and forests looking for edible plants of unknown safety.  But for now, with some amount of sanity still remaining, I’ll stick with herb guide books and I even plan to enroll in an online course.

001Last year I planted red clover along the edges of my vegetable beds and they are blooming so wonderfully right now.  I read an article about drying red clover flowers for tea.  So, I went out to my garden early this morning and gathered a small bowl full of dew-laden red clover blossoms.  According to the article it is better to pick red clover flowers when they still have some dew moisture so that they will retain the pretty color.

007Here is my first batch! Drying on a rack upstairs in our home where it is warm and dry.

Hopefully in 1-2 weeks I will surprise, and hopefully delight, my family with a cup of  “homemade” red clover tea.

 


Snacking in the Garden

023At this time of year when I walk through the garden I’m always looking for blueberries! They are ripening daily now so just a handful has to keep me content and I’m actually thankful for each one.

Besides blueberries, I now look for my daily “herb snacks.” What are those you must wonder.  This has been the year for me to discover amazing herbs, so I’ve planted several, enjoy watching them grow, and above all learning about their uses as well as tasting them.  I tell my children I snack on herbs when I’m out working in the garden.

One of my very favorite herbs is peppermint and I do love chocolate too, so when I planted chocolate mint (Mentha piperita), I didn’t know what a treat I was in for.  Chewing on a leaf of this plant is very minty and actually has a hint of chocolate.  My daughter made a delicious raspberry and chocolate mint sauce to pour over coconut milk ice-cream last Sunday.  You can also steep the leaves fresh or dried in a cup of hot tea.  Use as an edible food garnish.  015

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a delightful herb, another member of the mint family, with a mild and soothing lemon flavor.  Like lemon in your tea? Put in a couple lemon balm leaves.  So happy to have met lemon balm! More about lemon balm here. How fun to chew on a tender lemon balm leaf while digging in the garden dirt!

034Do you like the taste of licorice? Holy basil leaves have a mild sweet licorice taste.  This is one of my very favorite herbs now.  My daughter and I enjoyed a cup of holy basil tea yesterday evening and when I was passing by the plant today of course I picked off a leaf to snack on as I watered the tomato plants.  Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) is an important medicinal herb with many uses.

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“What is Paradise? But a Garden, an Orchard of Trees and Herbs, full of pleasure, and nothing there but delights.”

William Lawson, 1618

Lavender Lemon Balm Sugar

017With lavender doing so well in my garden this year, I thought I really need to do some fun things with it besides admiring, nibbling on, and sniffing it every day when I walk through the garden.  Although I had planted some lavender from seeds a couple years ago, this is the first year it has bloomed and now I think I might really be able to grow lavender, one of my very favorite herbs.

This year I also planted lemon balm and it has grown into a lovely plant.  Who knew lemon balm leaves could taste so heavenly? 034

My interest and fascination with herbs and their amazing uses has been growing in the past months.  When I saw a recipe on the Herbal Academy of New England’s website for lemon balm lavender sugar, I decided to try it as my first adventure with using lavender.

So here we go!  This afternoon, I snipped off some fresh lavender flowers and lemon balm leaves and set out a clean glass jar to layer the lemon balm leaves, lavender flowers and organic sugar.

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And now flowers, leaves and sugar are all nicely layered in the glass jar with lavender flowers on top to make it look pretty.

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Finally, placed the lid on tightly and set the lavender lemon balm sugar on the shelf to wait patiently for two weeks to try this sugar sprinkled on toast, scones, salad dressings, or to sweeten tea or coffee, or who knows where else it will taste good?

014Recipes for lemon and lavender sugar state you can grind up the flowers and leaves in a blender, coarsely or finely blend as you wish.  You can also remove the flowers and leaves, just enjoying the flavored sugar in ways you may discover.

Herb of Grace

Here it is!  Lovely “Herb of Grace” blooming happily in my garden.  Several years ago I read that the herb “rue” (Ruta graveolens) was a good companion plant for raspberries as it repelled Japanese beetles, so I planted seeds.  Herb of Grace, or rue, has taken up residence in my raspberry patch.  I love its bright yellow flowers and soft green leaves.

008 Walking through my garden each day, I’ve gotten in the habit of stopping by to pick off a couple leaves and enjoy the spicy, aromatic flavor of rue.  It’s a flavor hard to describe.

Not knowing much about the plant, I was curious to know more, and guess what?  There is LOTS more.  How fun to learn about all the amazing plants God has given to us.  An endless adventure for sure.

Ruta graveolens (also known as herb of grace, rue, garden rue, and herbygrass) is a hardy perennial herb plant that is drought tolerant.  Ruta comes from the Latin meaning “bitter” and graveolens meaning “having a strong or offensive odor.”  Its aerial parts are edible and used to flavor salads, egg and cheese dishes.

Rue has been used as a healing herb since time immemorial.  During the early days of the Roman Empire, the herb was considered to be beneficial for over 80 complaints!  The Roman scholar Pliny claimed that using rue helped to protect the eyesight.  Leonardo de Vinci and Michelangelo claimed that rue improved eyesight and helped artists find their inner vision.

And why is it called “herb of grace”?  Some researchers claim it was used in the early Roman Catholic Church to sprinkle holy water on the people during worship, thus bestowing grace upon them.

011“Here did she fall a tear, here in this place I’ll set a bank of rue, sour herb of grace.”

Shakespeare’s Richard II (III.4.104-105)

Time to Enjoy Seed Catalogs

Last night we got about 2 inches of snow, so today was a nice day to enjoy looking through one of my favorite seed catalogs, Botanical Interests.  This company sells only non-GMO seeds, as well as many certified organic and heirloom seeds.  They produce a beautiful free catalog with seed tips, brief histories, planting tips and even a recipe or two.  Looking forward to planting some new flower varieties like lupine and a popular edible flower viola this year.  I appreciate all the businesses which are providing organic seeds and promote sustainable agriculture! I will share some more companies with which I do business in the next several days.  You can order a free catalog from Botanical Interests online here:  https://www.botanicalinterests.com/

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