Posts Tagged With: herbs

Celebrate Seasons

Jacqueline Soule here, busy in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, getting baskets of garden goodies ready for gifting.  Many of the topics we Savor Sister have discussed over the years are finding their way into those baskets.

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Some of the topics I featured in the last twelve months that are great for gifts:
* lemon cordial – December 2016
* pomegranate (made into jelly) – January 2017
* seeds (some used as herbs) – March 2017
* lemon pickle – April 2017
* turmeric root (chopped and dried) – June 2017
* sunflower (dried heads for friends with birds) July 2017

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All of these gifts from your Southwest garden require planning ahead.  Harvesting, drying, preserving the bounty of the earth takes time and effort at the time that the bounty is offered.  Sharing the bounty is – in so many ways – the entire point of this season, no matter what religion or non-religion you embrace.

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As the solar year cycles through, the days get shorter and shorter, the darkness of night gets longer and deeper, until, on one specific day, the days start getting longer again, and darkness decreases.  We humans now living with artificial light may miss the point of just how tremendous this turning back the dark is.

 

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To celebrate this season of renewed light we give gifts that were generated by light! Solar light that is – light that shines down on the earth, ripening the grain so we can make flour, ripening the cane so we can make sugar, growing the trees for cinnamon and cloves, causing the flowers that grow into vanilla beans, and then we combine them in many tasty ways.

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We would not be here, nor have any gifts to give, without the bounty of the earth and sun.  Even if you give gifts made of plastic and metal, the plastic comes originally from plants, and metal came up out of the earth.  Points to ponder as the sun cycle continues and the days grow longer once again.

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However you celebrate the season, I wish you joy and peace and bounty in the year ahead.

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JAS avatarIf you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $26).
© Article copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site.  Photos © Jacqueline A. Soule may not be used.  Some photos in this post are courtesy of Pixabay.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, Sonoran herb, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Admirable Anise

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Jacqueline Soule here with another delightful herb you can plant now in your winter garden – anise.

The fragrant anise plant has a long history of use.  Pictures of it have been found in ancient Babylonian carvings, Egyptian tombs, and Roman ruins.  Ancient uses were perhaps medicinal as well as ornamental.  We know that by the Middle Ages anise was used in cooking, medicine and mouse traps.

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Anise seed and fresh leaves are used to promote digestion and to relieve stomach upsets.  An infusion (tea) of the seeds has been shown to increase glandular secretions, including gastric glands, sweat glands, and mammary glands.  Anise has mild expectorant qualities, thus it was once used in asthma powders, and is currently used in some cold remedies.  There is some indication that it is also helpful to alleviate menstrual cramps.  In aromatherapy, anise properties are: digestive, head-clearing, warming, clarifying, respiratory, and muscle relaxant.

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Much of the anise plant is useful.  Leaves, flowers, and seed are edible, and are often used as a flavoring agent.  Spice uses vary by ethnic origin, but generally the seed is used, as it is most flavorful and easily stored.  If you have access to fresh anise, enjoy leaves and the edible flowers in salads or sautéed with other greens.  And let us not forget anise is used to make liqueurs, including anisette.

In the 1970’s there was some concern that anise oil was carcinogenic.  Those fears have since been shown to be groundless.

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Star anise has a similar flavor but comes from the fruit pods of a tropical tree.

Planting and Care.  
Native to the dry rocky soils of the eastern Mediterranean, anise does well in our area.  Late September to November is the ideal time to plant seeds.  In its homeland, anise grows after the start of their winter rains (the only rain they get).

Due to its taproot, and dislike of being transplanted, anise is generally planted from seed and rarely found for sale as seedlings.  That said, if do you see seedlings -go ahead and buy some.  Much quicker results.

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Plant seed in well drained (sandy) soil.  Keep evenly moist for the best flavor and highest seed production.  Plants require at least six hours of sun and can be grown in containers at least two feet deep.  Fertilizer is not necessary, but if you desire ample seeds, a flowering fertilizer, high in phosphorous, helps produce an ample seed crop.

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Anise seed cleaned and ready for cooking.

Harvesting and Use.
Use anise leaves fresh in salads or as a flavoring in cooking.
Leaves may be used fresh or dried for tea or use as a culinary herb.
Seeds are harvested for use and can be winnowed with a kitchen colander or strainer.

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About Jacqueline: If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).

© Article copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos may not be used.

Categories: Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Sonoran Medicinal, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Joy of the Mountains in Tucson

Jacqueline A. Soule here to tell you of a wonderful perennial herb to plant in your garden or landscape this coming month.  Oregano comes to us from the arid mountains of the eastern Mediterranean, including present day Greece and Turkey.  Oregano grows well here in the Old Pueblo forming a lovely low mounding landscape plant with a little added water.

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In shady sites of our Southwestern yards, oregano can grow quite green and lush.

The name, oregano is translated from the Greek as joy of the mountain. (oros = mountain, ganos = joy) so imagine the rocky Greek mountains as you plant your oregano. Rocky or sandy soil (not clay) works well. Some afternoon shade in summer is best for healthy plants.

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Origanum vulgare ‘Hot & Spicy’ likes the heat and has very strong flavor. Like most herbs, it does best in well drained soil and does not thrive if overwatered. Photo courtesy of Monrovia Growers.

Oregano comes in many species, subspecies and varieties. For the best type able to grow here in the Old Pueblo, go with the true Greek oregano, Origanum vulgare subspecies hirtum. Since many nurseries do not label with correct scientific names, look at the leaves. The one you want will have smallish leaves with silvery hairs on them. When you rub a leaf between your fingers, it should release a strong fragrance of oregano. Avoid the oreganos that are mildly scented, musky scented, or have larger, not very hairy leaves. Indeed, you may run across marjoram (Origanum majorana) or even Italian oregano (Origanum X majoricum). These have their place in the kitchen and in the garden, but don’t plant them next to Greek oregano. The more vigorous Greek oregano will over run the others.

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Majoram is closely related to oregano. It also grows well here.

Like many herbs, the best time to harvest oregano is just before it blooms. Many herbs increase their production of essential oils as they go into bloom since it is a time when they really need to protect themselves from pests. When you first start growing oregano, harvest may mean pinching a few stalks back with your fingers. Once your patch gets larger, trim it with strong kitchen scissors to about two inches high, so it forms a low mat of leaves. Don’t worry, it will get tall again.

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Ideally farvest any oregano you wish to use before it flowers. Once it begins to flower, I like to leave the blooms for the pollinators.

Dry all herbs out of direct sunlight. I spread the cut stems on top of folded paper bags placed on top of the bookshelves. A ceiling fan running during the day helps dry them quickly. The quicker the drying, the less breakdown of the chemical compounds inside the leaves, and thus the sweeter the oregano flavor and less bitter the background notes.

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In the nursery look for the oreganos with very hairy leaves. It is one sign og a true Greek oregano.

Besides its culinary uses, oregano is used medicinally as an antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic. The oil of oregano is reported to destroy organisms that contribute to skin infections and digestive problems, strengthen the immune system, increase joint and muscle flexibility, and improve respiratory health. The medicinal properties or oregano appear to be from high concentrations of thymol and carvacrol. Caution is needed since carvacrol appears to reduce the body’s ability to absorb iron. Moderation is, as always, important.

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Spread out the branches of your oregano and bury all but the tip. The branch will root where buried (blue arrow). This is called layering and is and easy way to propagate your herbs.

Please do tell me your favorite way to use oregano in the comment section below.  We Savor Sisters love to hear from our readers!

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As well as in the ground, oregano can be grown in pots. Normally one doesn’t mix iris and oregano but I needed a spot to put the iris, and then it was about to bloom,,, and if you are a gardener, you know how it goes.

JAS avatarIf you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tumacacori National Historical Park (National Park Service Cenntenial this year!), Tucson Festival of Books and more. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).
All photos (except where noted) and all text are copyright © 2015, Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos may not be used.

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Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Savory Cilantro

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Cilantro is easily grown in our area in the cool winter months.

Jacqueline Soule posting today on a great herb to start growing now.

Most folks think of cilantro as the quintessential Mexican herb, but it isn’t from Mexico. Cilantro is also called Chinese parsley, but it’s not from China either. The seeds of cilantro go by the name coriander, and are a popular flavor in French sauces, and now we are getting closer. Originally from southern Europe, cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) has been carried around the globe by its fans, and has made itself popular in many regional cuisines.

Say “cilantro” here in the Southwest, and most folks think of salsa. And while cilantro can get along with the heat of chilies in salsa, it quickly dies with the heat of a summer day. Therefore you will want to grow this herb in the cool winter months.

Hate the taste of cilantro? You are not alone. Scientists agree that there appears to be a genetic component to cilantro taste preference. Those that enjoy the herb find it pungent and tangy, those that don’t like it often say it tastes soapy. It’s your genes, and both experiences are equally valid.

Cilantro has been used for millennia as a culinary and medicinal herb. An infusion of coriander seed is said to soothe upset stomach, aid indigestion, as a carminative against flatulence, and was reputed to be an aphrodisiac. It was prized in Father Kino’s time as an ingredient in herbal vinegar used to preserve meat.

Planting and Care.
Cilantro is a cool season crop, and is best planted in our area in September. It should grow through the winter and into April before starting to flower, also called bolting. Leaves are more flavorful before bolting. Once bolting begins, reconcile yourself to the fact that you will soon have ample coriander seed, plus seed to plant next year. Harvest the seed if you want it, because otherwise the lesser goldfinch and doves will clean it all up.

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Coriander “seed” are technically a single seeded fruit with a dry papery husk. (Only a botanist would care!) The papery husk can be removed or left when using this herb.

Like many members of the parsley family, cilantro is a tad fussy about growing conditions. Virtually every member of this family grows best in a well-drained, sandy, slightly acidic soil, rich in organic matter. The good news is that this makes them easy to grow in containers. Use a container a foot or more deep. Potting soil with some added sand makes a good growing media.

Cilantro is best grown from seed, because like many members of the parsley family, it does not transplant well. Seeds require darkness to germinate, thus the recommended depth is 1/2 inch deep. Cilantro can also be bought as a seedling from a nursery but be careful not to damage the roots when transplanting it.

Cilantro does best with six or more hours of winter sun. Mature plants can take frost to around 20oF, so cover if a harder frost is expected.

Keep the soil relatively moist during establishment. You can let cilantro dry a little more between watering once the plants get larger. Some people believe this makes their flavors stronger.

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Cilantro roots look like tiny carrots, and are eaten in some cultures.

Cilantro gets very lush and full with some fertilizer. However, if you amended your soil at the start you don’t need to add fertilizer. Plus, avoid fertilizing anything when frosts are a possibility. Come late February you could apply a half-strength general purpose fertilizer.

Cilantro is considered a good companion plant to anise and potatoes.

Cilantro could be justified as a garden plant if only for the job it does in attracting pollinators to the garden. Bees enjoy the nectar-rich flowers and the resulting coriander honey is prized for its flavor.

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Coriander flowers are wonderful to attract pollinators to the garden.

The seed provides the culinary herb coriander, and I harvest a great deal of it, but I also like to leave some stalks with seed behind so that flocks of lesser goldfinch will grace my garden with their bright bodies and cheerful chatter.

Harvest and Use.
Cilantro leaves tastes great when fresh but lose much flavor when dried. Freezing the leaves retains more flavor. Select healthy leaves, rinse, pat dry but leave some moisture. Chop into roughly quarter inch squares and freeze in a labeled plastic bag or other container. Use directly from the freezer.

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Cilantro chopped and sprinkled over freshly cooked tilapia.

The seeds, used as coriander, should be harvested after they begin to turn brown and when outer coat cracks, but before they drop off the plant and scatter. Cut the stem below the seed heads and place the whole thing into a paper sack to dry. To clean the seed, rub them gently to remove the outer shell. Many people skip this step.

 

Note: You can read more about growing cilantro in my latest book “Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening” (2014, Cool Springs Press, $23). I hope you will consider purchasing a copy locally at Antigone Books, Arizona Experience Store, or Rillito Nursery. Or buy from me in person (autographed copy!) after one of my next free talks for the Pima County Libraries. More at http://www.library.pima.gov/

 

Photos copyright free and courtesy of Wikimedia.  Article © 2014, Jacqueline Soule.  All rights reserved. I have received many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you are free to use a very short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact me if you have any questions. JAS avatar

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, Gardening, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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