Saturday

The Health Benefits of Oregano - Is Oregano a Health Food?

OreganoSo, you look forward to that oregano tang in your pizza sauce, and its little leaves make a nice addition to the herb patch. It gives an immediate kick to spaghetti, and it isn't a demanding resident in the garden, coming back year after year with just a little mulching and pruning. Is there more to oregano that might make it a super herb, the go-to herb for your health as well as your culinary needs?

I love all herbs, even the pretty, useless ones that just have a quirky or amusing back story, but when I come across a basic, useful culinary herb that also has pretty impressive health properties, I give it a little more real estate and start figuring out ways to add it to my recipes.

The following oregano information will probably surprise you. It certainly surprised me.

The Health Benefits of Oregano

Oregano is high in thymol, a powerful antioxidant, and one tablespoon of oregano (fresh) has about as much antioxidant potential as a medium sized apple (You know. . . "An apple a day keeps the doctor away.").

If you've been hiding behind the potting shed and haven't heard about antioxidants, they are widely believed to help repair the body on a cellular level. Antioxidants, like thymol, help fight cancer, maintain a healthy cardiovascular system, reduce blood pressure, and slow macular degeneration. The list goes on, but you get the idea.

Oregano is also an antibiotic and antifungal. Based on a study conducted by Georgetown University, a substance called carvacrol in oregano may have as much antibiotic power as penicillin or streptomycin.

You can get oregano supplements at your local health food store, or add more oregano to your stews, sauces and side dishes.

Special note: Avoid oregano in large quantities if you are pregnant or nursing.

For information on growing this useful herb, visit: Growing Oregano

As with all the herb information offered here, check with your doctor before changing your medical regimen. Potential drug interactions, allergic reactions and other problems should be discussed with a professional. My goal here is to entertain you, not treat you. I'd like us to have a friendship for years to come, so be prudent with any information about diet or health that come your way, and for heaven sake, if you haven't seen a doctor in a while, go.

Thursday

Growing Rosemary in Cold Climates

Rosemary is a big favorite at my house. From keeping a dwarf rosemary Christmas tree to having creeping rosemary as a companion in my flowerbeds, this old gal is a friend who defines the herb keeping hobby for me. I made my first herb wreath using rosemary as a base.

I purchased my stock from a local strip mall where the cobbler in residence had a big rosemary bush just outside his door. He gave me permission to "prune as much as you want, honey." From then on, I don't think a year has gone by that I haven't made some craft using rosemary from my garden.

With all the newer plant varieties popping up everywhere, it pays to check up on old favorites every now and then. Rosemary is a good example. Rosemary isn't frost tolerant. . . . or wasn't frost tolerant.

Some newer rosemary varieties are hardy to Zone 5. If you've always dreamed of having a rosemary bush of your very own that would overwinter outdoors, try the Madalene Hill or Arp varieties. Times, they are a changing, and sometimes that's a good thing.

A quick tip: Don't throw your rosemary stems away in fall when you harvest the needles. Keep them to throw in the coals when you barbecue. If they're thick enough, you can even use them as skewers to make lamb kabobs. Yum.

Wednesday

Cilantro Salsa Recipe



Pico de Gallo is the queen of fresh salsa, but this easy recipe runs a close second. Some cooks will tell you that the lime juice is optional, but I think it works perfectly with the cilantro to create a unique flavor combo.


Cilantro Salsa Recipe


5 *Roma (plum) tomatoes, peeled and seeded,
3 Tbsp. Cilantro
4 Tbsp. Scallions
2 Garlic cloves
2 Jalapeno peppers, chopped
½ Tbsp. Lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Lime juice
½ tsp. Cumin
¼ tsp. Salt
¼ tsp. Black pepper

Cilantro Salsa Directions

Mince garlic and peppers; chop onions, tomato, and cilantro. Combine. Add spices and liquid ingredients. Refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

Serves four.

*If you don't know how to peel a tomato, getting the skins off can be the most difficult part of this recipe. For easy step-by-step instructions on tomato peeling (actually, it can be pretty easy), visit: How to Peel a Tomato.

For information about growing cilantro, visit:

Growing Cilantro, and
Growing Cilantro in a Container

For a great pico de gallo recipe, visit: Pico de Gallo for Cinco de Mayo

If you'd like to try a creamy Cilantro Soup, take a look at: Easy Cilantro Soup

Tuesday

Herb Mayonnaise Recipes

EggsThis is a basic do-it-yourself mayonnaise recipe, and the results are better than anything you can get in the store. It's delicious. Really. Spice it up with the herb additions that follow the recipe.

Basic Mayonnaise Recipe

1 1/2 Cups Canola or olive oil (You can blend the two together)
2 Pasteurized Egg yolks
1/8 tsp. Powdered mustard
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 Tbsp. Lemon juice

Blend eggs, salt and mustard. You can either use a blender or a whisk. You want them well incorporated. They'll start to feel thicker as you beat them.

Add oil while blending or whisking. Add the oil very slowly to keep the mixture from separating. Drizzle it.

After you've added about a quarter of the oil, you can pick up the pace a little bit.

When all the oil has been blended into the eggs, add lemon juice to taste.

Now, to spice it up you can make flavored mayonnaise by adding other ingredients. If you're planning a buffet, you can start with basic homemade mayo and add cilantro and parsley for a nice mayonnaise to use with fish, or put in chives, garlic, a little mustard and some nutmeg and you have a wonderful accompaniment to egg dishes. Tarragon works well with cold chicken too.

The blends and quantities are listed below. It's fun to experiment, particularly around holidays when you're feeding a crowd. Use fresh herbs if you can, and always mince them fine.


Cilantro Mayonnaise
Basic Mayonnaise
2 Tbsp Fresh Cilantro
2 Tbsp Fresh Parsley
1/4 tsp White pepper

Garlic Mayonnaise (Aioli)
Basic Mayonnaise
2 pureed garlic cloves

Herb Mayonnaise
Basic Mayonnaise
1 tsp. Fresh parsley
1 tsp. Fresh chives
1/2 tsp. Fresh minced marjoram
1 Minced garlic clove
1/2 tsp. White pepper

Tarragon Mayonnaise
Basic Mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. Fresh Tarragon
1 Tbsp. French Mustard

Sassy Mayonnaise
*Basic Mayonnaise
1 tsp. Ground red pepper
1/2 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp Fresh cilantro
1 tsp. Fresh parsley
1 tsp. Fresh chives
1/2 tsp. White pepper

As wonderful as homemade mayonnaise is, it doesn't last long in the fridge. Three days is about right and five is pushing it.

*For a more exotic flavor for fish tacos or chimichangas, try making the basic mayo recipe for sassy mayonnaise with lime instead of lemon.

Easy Cilantro Soup Recipe

Cilantro Soup
Make a wholesome cilantro soup with you first herb patch harvest. This creamy soup is great with a classic BLT.

After you start the roux (flour and butter mixture), stir constantly until all the liquid has been added to the pan. Add the broth slowly to avoid lumps.


Fresh Cilantro Soup Recipe

1 1/2 C Fresh cilantro
3 12-oz. Cans beef broth
2 Tbsp. Flour
2 Tbsp. Butter
2 Minced garlic cloves
2 Tbsp. Beer
1 Tbsp. Catsup
8-oz. Cream cheese
8-oz. Sour cream
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Black pepper
1/2 tsp. Ground red pepper
1/4 tsp. Ground cumin

Creamy Cilantro Soup Directions
  1. Wash and cilantro remove stems.
  2. Combine cilantro and one cup of the beef broth in blender and blend until fully incorporated.
  3. Peel garlic and mince fine.
  4. Heat saucepan and melt butter; add flour and stir constantly till the mixture turns a light brown.
  5. Add minced garlic. Slowly stir in beef broth and add blended cilantro.
  6. Add beer and catsup.
  7. Add sour cream, cream cheese and remaining ingredients.
  8. Simmer for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serves four

For information on growing cilantro indoors or out, please visit: Growing Cilantro and Growing Cilantro in Containers

For a great pico de gallo recipe visit: Pico de Gallo for Cinco de Mayo

Monday

Growing Cilantro In Containers



In a previous post, I discussed basic cilantro/coriander growing techniques but didn't address the option of growing cilantro in a container. Cilantro has a taproot, which means that it roots deeply. This makes it a poor candidate for transplanting, and pretty much also means that it needs a deep pot. The other option is to grow it in a soilless medium like a hydroponics setup.

Growing Cilantro Indoors


I've kept cilantro indoors successfully  in a southern facing window using a 12 inch pot planted out with shallow rooted herbs like chives. That way I maximize the use of the large pot and still manage to give the cilantro what it needs. Everybody ends up healthy and happy.

Cilantro likes a sunny location, but avoid placing it right next to a window in high heat regions, especially during the hottest part of the summer.  The combination of light and heat will likely burn cilantro's delicate leaves.  Placing plants a foot or two from the windowpane is a good precaution. If heat from the window is uncomfortable for you, it will probably damage plants that aren't desert hardy (like cactus and succulents). 

If you try keeping plants in a less light intensive spot, like in an eastern facing window, make sure you can see the shadow of your hand when the light's shining. Bright light for around six hours a day should be adequate.

Grow Cilantro Indoors
Prefer a quality potting mix, and keep the plants evenly moist but not wet.  Cilantro will tend to get leggy, so harvest a third of the top growth at a time after young plants reach 6 to 8 inches. Harvest again when that much grows back.  You'll be able to harvest multiple times throughout the summer months.


Potted Cilantro Outdoors


To keep cilantro on my deck in summer, I mulch the plant well, including a layer of shredded newspaper. I also improvise a water reservoir using a two-liter bottle. Here's how:

I plug the opening at the neck of the bottle with a small piece of kitchen sponge, cut out the bottom of the bottle and then upend it into the pot. When I fill the bottle with water in the morning, it keeps the soil moist during the hottest part of the afternoon.

Another problem with cilantro is that it's prone to bolting. To keep leaf production up and delay the onset of flowering, pinch back flowers before they fully develop and harvest leaves regularly. There are a few other bolting avoidance tips you can follow, too. My post: How to Keep Plants from Bolting will tell you more.

For additional cilantro information, as well as a link to my Pico de Gallo recipe (fresh veggie salsa), visit: Growing Cilantro.

Friday

Herbal Treatment for a Bee Sting


So, you've planted all those herbs designed to attract butterflies and provide you with spicy food and wonderful fragrances all summer. Suddenly, you discover a small problem. The plants you're worrying over and nurturing - literally on bended knee -- are also attracting bees and all manner of stinging pests.
If you invoke the ire of a bee, wasp, or yellow jacket and end up with a nasty stinger in your tender hide, there are some herbal remedies that can help.

First, if you aren't sure whether or not you're allergic to bee stings, watch for these symptoms and get emergency help right away if you start experiencing them.
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • An itchy, red rash that's larger in area than the sting itself
  • Swelling. This can be in the area of the face, throat or mouth.
  • Problems swallowing
  • A drop in blood pressure
  • Faintness or dizziness
  • Rapid pulse
If you're on the receiving end of a bee sting and AREN'T allergic, try treating it with one of these handy home or herbal cures:

Note: Be sure to get the stinger out and wash the area with soap and water before applying a remedy.
  • Apply a slice of fresh garlic to the sting and rub it back and forth slowly.
  • Crush basil and apply a thin layer on the sting. You can do this with parsley, too.
  • Make a paste of honey and granulated sugar and apply it to the sting. Repeat as needed.
  • Place a thin slice of onion on the sting.
  • At bedtime, try placing a dollop of toothpaste on the sting. It will help get you through the night.
  • If you have a papaya lying around, the enzymes in a nice slice will help neutralize bee toxin.

  • Slice an aloe vera leaf and add the gel to the sting.  Repeat as needed.
Most of these methods require a little time to work, at least 15 minutes and as much as an hour. Try applying them and then covering the affected area. If the discomfort returns after a while, reapply your remedy of choice.

If you are stung and it's not a life threatening situation, consider it a gardener's rite of passage.

Tuesday

Roses in Literature

RoseThe next time you think your roses may not be worth the effort you expend on them, read some of these inspiring lines about the queen of flowers:


"Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers."
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (The Naval Treaty)


What is pink? A rose is pink
By the fountain’s brink.
-Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830–1894), British poet


"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
-William Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet)


"Marilla says that a large family was raised in that old house long ago, and that it was a real pretty place, with a lovely garden and roses climbing all over it. It was full of little children and laughter and songs; and now it is empty, and nothing ever wanders through it but the wind. How lonely and sorrowful it must feel! Perhaps they all come back on moonlit nights. . .the ghosts of the little children of long ago and the roses and the songs. . .and for a little while the old house can dream it is young and joyous again."
-Lucy Maud Montgomery (Anne Of Avonlea)


"At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled shows;
But like of each thing that in season grows."
-William Shakespeare (Love's Labour's Lost)


The Secret Garden
"Where, you tend a rose, my lad,
A thistle cannot grow."
-Frances Hodgson Burnett


About The Rose
The distilled water of roses... being put into iunketting dishes, cakes, sauces, and many other pleasant things, giueth a fine and delectable taste...

The conserue of Roses... is thus made: Take the leaues [petals] of Roses, the nails cut off, one pound, put them into a clean pan; then put thereto a pinte and a halfe of scalding water, stirring them together with a woodden slice, so let them stand to mascerate, close couered some two or three houres; then set them to the fire slowly to boyle, adding thereto three pounds of sugar in powder, letting them to samper together according to discretion, some houre or more; then keepe it for your vse.

The same made another way, but better by many degrees: take Roses at your pleasure, put them to boyle in faire water, hauing regard to the quantity; for if you haue many roses, you may take the more water; if fewer, the lesse water will serue: the which you shall boyle at the least three or foure houres, euen as you would boyle a piece of meat, vntill in the eating they be very tender, at which time the roses will lose their colour, that you would thinke your labour lost, and the thing spoyled. But proceed, for though the Roses haue lost their colour, the water hath gotten the tincture thereof; then shall you adde vnto one pound of Roses, foure pound of fine sugar in pure powder, and so according to the rest of the roses. Thus shall you let them boyle gently after the Sugar is put therto, continually stirring it with a woodden Spatula vntill it be cold, whereof one pound weight is worth six pound of the crude or raw conserue, as well for the vertues and goodnesse in taste, as also for the beautifull colour.

The making of the crude or raw conserue is very well knowne, as also Sugar roset, and diuers other pretty things made of roses and sugar, which are impertent vnto our historie, because I intend neither to make thereof an Apothecaries shop, nor a Sugar bakers storehouse, leauing the rest for our cunning confectioners."
Herball or General Historie of Plantes
-John Gerard (1633)
(pages 1259-1265)



Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.
Geography and Plays
-Gertrude Stein (1874–1946)


The Rose Family
The rose is a rose,
And was always a rose.
But the theory now goes
That the apple’s a rose,
-Robert Frost (1874–1963)


To the Rose upon the Rood of Time
Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days!
Come near me, while I sing the ancient ways:
-William Butler Yeats (1865–1939), Irish poet and playwright


Gather therefore the Rose, whilest yet is prime,
For soone comes age, that will her pride deflowre:
Gather the Rose of love, whilest yet is time,
Whilest loving thou mayst loved be with equall crime.’
The Faerie Queene (l. 16–18)
-Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599), British poet


The Rose of Battle
Rose of all Roses, Rose of all the World!
You, too, have come where the dim tides are hurled
Upon the wharves of sorrow, and heard ring
The bell that calls us on; the sweet far thing.
-William Butler Yeats (1865–1939), Irish poet and playwright


The Sick Rose
O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
-William Blake (1757–1827), Poet


Body’s Beauty. .
The rose and poppy are her flowers; for where
Is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent
And soft-shed kisses and soft sleep shall snare?
Lo! as that youth’s eyes burned at thine, so went
Thy spell through him, and left his straight neck bent
And round his heart one strangling golden hair.
-Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882), British poet


The Poems of Robert Herrick
Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day,
To-morrow will be dying
-Robert Herrick (1591–1674), British poet, clergyman


The Dancer
Rhododendron,
O wide rose,
open, quiver, pause
and close.
-Hilda Doolittle (1886–1961), U.S. poet


‘Tis the last rose of summer
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
’Tis the Last Rose of Summer, (l. 1–4)
-Thomas Moore (1779–1852), Irish poet

Herbs in Literature

Depending on what you enjoy reading, that book on your nightstand may include some interesting herb references. Many herbs have been the stuff of poetry and prose, to say nothing of those very entertaining old herbals. I've tried to collect a few references to herbs in literature for you to enjoy after you come in from the garden. Check out the following pages for some old and new favorites:

Rosemary

Lavender

Rue

Roses

Rue Quotes From Literature

Planted RueCozy up with these quotes about rue. I was going to restrict myself to quotes about the plant itself, but rue, as in regret, has some cunning literary references I had to include:

There’s rosemary and rue. These keep
Seeming and savor all the winter long.
Grace and remembrance be to you.
-William Shakespeare (Winter’s Tale, Act 4, Scene 4)


There's fennel for you, and columbines:
there's rue for you; and here's some for me:
we may call it herb-grace o' Sundays:
O you must wear your rue with a difference...
-William Shakespeare (Hamlet. Act 4, Scene 5)


What the eye does not see, the heart does not rue
-Mary Collyer (1716 – 1762) English novelist


If bread be what you seek O little mice, Go to some other shelf is my advice; But if upon my books you whet a tooth, Your revel you shall rue in bitter truth.
-Ariston


“With rue my heart is laden
For golden friends I had,
For many a rose-lipt maiden
And many a lightfoot lad.”
-A. E. Housman (Shropshire Lad, 1859-1936) English Scholar and Poet


But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
-Bible (Luke 11:42)


“Take away the cause, and the effect ceases; what the eye ne'er sees, the heart ne'er rues”
-Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) Spanish writer, author


“No doing without some ruing.”
-Sigrid Undset (1882-1949) Norwegian novelist and Nobel Prize winner

Here did she fall a tear, here in this place
I'll set a bank of rue, sour herb of grace.
-William Shakespeare (Richard II. Act 3, Scene 4)

Garden-Rue

Garden-rue is so well known by this name, and the name Herb of Grace, that I shall not need to write any farther description of it, but shall shew you the virtue of it, as follows.

Government and virtues: It is an herb of the Sun, and under Leo. It provokes urine and women's courses, being taken either in meat or drink. The seed thereof taken in wine, is an antidote against all dangerous medicines or deadly poisons. The leaves taken either by themselves, or with figs and walnuts, is called Mithridate's counter-poison against the plague, and causes all venomous things to become harmless; being often taken in meat and drink it abates venery. A decoction thereof with some dried dill leaves and flowers, eases all pains and torments, inwardly to be drank, and outwardly to be applied warm to the place grieved. The same being drank, helps the pains both of the chest and sides, as also coughs and hardness of breathing, the inflammations of the lungs, and the tormenting pains of the sciatica and the joints, being anointed, or laid to the places; as also the shaking fits of agues, to take a draught before the fit comes.

Being boiled or infused in oil, it is good to help the wind cholic, the hardness and windiness of the mother, and frees women from the strangling or suffocation thereof, if the share and the parts thereabouts be anointed therewith. It kills and drives forth the worms of the belly, if it be drank after it is boiled in wine to the half, with a little honey; it helps the gout or pains in the joints, hands, feet or knees, applied thereunto; and with figs it helps the dropsy, being bathed therewith.

Being bruised and put into the nostrils, it stays the bleeding thereof. It takes away wheals and pimples, if being bruised with a few myrtle leaves, it be made up with wax, and applied. It cures the morphew, and takes away all sorts of warts, if boiled in wine with some pepper and nitre, and the place rubbed therewith, and with almond and honey helps the dry scabs, or any tetter or ringworm. The juice thereof warmed in a pomegranate shell or rind, and dropped into the ears, helps the pains of them.

The juice of it and fennel, with a little honey, and the gall of a cock put thereunto, helps the dimness of the eye-sight. An ointment made of the juice thereof with oil of roses, ceruse, and a little vinegar, and anointed, cures St. Anthony's fire and all running sores in the head: and the stinking ulcers of the nose, or other parts. The antidote used by Mithridates, every morning fasting, to secure himself from any poison or infection, was this: Take twenty leaves or rue, a little salt, a couple of walnuts, and a couple of figs, beaten together into a mess, with twenty juniper berries, which is the quantity appointed for every day.

Another electuary is made thus: Take of nitre, pepper, and cummin seed, of each equal parts; of the leaves of Rue clean picked, as much in weight as all the other three weighed; beat them well together, and put as much honey as will make it up into an electuary (but you must first steep your cummin seed in vinegar twenty four hours, and then dry it, or rather roast it in a hot fire-shovel, or in an oven) and is a remedy for the pains or griefs in the chest or stomach, of the spleen, belly, or sides, by wind or stitches; of the liver by obstructions; of the reins and bladder by the stopping of urine; and helps also to extenuate fat corpulent bodies. What an infamy is cast upon the ashes of Mithridates, or Methridates (as the Augustines read his name) by unworthy people. They that deserve no good report themselves, love to give none to others, viz. That renowned King of Pontus fortified his body by poison against poison. (He cast out devils by Beelzebub, Prince of the devils.)

What a sot is he that knows not if he had accustomed his body to cold poisons, but poisons would have dispatched him? On the contrary, if not, corrosions would have done it. The whole world is at this present time beholden to him for his studies in physic, and he that uses the quantity but of an hazel-nut of that receipt every morning, to which his name is adjoined, shall to admiration preserve his body in health, if he do but consider that Rue is an herb of the Sun, and under Leo, and gather it and the rest accordingly.

Complete Herbal
-Nicholas Culpeper (1616 – 1654) English botanist, herbalist, and physician

Rue Quotes From Literature

Cozy up with these quotes about rue. I was going to restrict myself to quotes about the plant itself, but rue, as in regret, has some cunning literary references I had to include:


There’s rosemary and rue. These keep
Seeming and savor all the winter long.
Grace and remembrance be to you.
- William Shakespeare (Winter’s Tale, Act 4, Scene 4)


There's fennel for you, and columbines:
there's rue for you; and here's some for me:
we may call it herb-grace o' Sundays:
O you must wear your rue with a difference...
-William Shakespeare's (Hamlet. Act 4, Scene 5)


What the eye does not see, the heart does not rue
- Mary Collyer (1716 – 1762) English novelist


If bread be what you seek O little mice, Go to some other shelf is my advice; But if upon my books you whet a tooth, Your revel you shall rue in bitter truth.
-Ariston


“With rue my heart is laden
For golden friends I had,
For many a rose-lipt maiden
And many a lightfoot lad.”
-A. E. Housman (Shropshire Lad, 1859-1936) English Scholar and Poet


But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
- Bible (Luke 11:42)


“Take away the cause, and the effect ceases; what the eye ne'er sees, the heart ne'er rues”
- Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) Spanish writer, author


“No doing without some ruing.”
-Sigrid Undset (1882-1949) Norwegian novelist and Nobel Prize winner

Here did she fall a tear, here in this place
I'll set a bank of rue, sour herb of grace.
-William Shakespeare's (Richard II. Act 3, Scene 4)

Garden-Rue

Garden-rue is so well known by this name, and the name Herb of Grace, that I shall not need to write any farther description of it, but shall shew you the virtue of it, as follows.

Government and virtues: It is an herb of the Sun, and under Leo. It provokes urine and women's courses, being taken either in meat or drink. The seed thereof taken in wine, is an antidote against all dangerous medicines or deadly poisons. The leaves taken either by themselves, or with figs and walnuts, is called Mithridate's counter-poison against the plague, and causes all venomous things to become harmless; being often taken in meat and drink it abates venery. A decoction thereof with some dried dill leaves and flowers, eases all pains and torments, inwardly to be drank, and outwardly to be applied warm to the place grieved. The same being drank, helps the pains both of the chest and sides, as also coughs and hardness of breathing, the inflammations of the lungs, and the tormenting pains of the sciatica and the joints, being anointed, or laid to the places; as also the shaking fits of agues, to take a draught before the fit comes.

Being boiled or infused in oil, it is good to help the wind cholic, the hardness and windiness of the mother, and frees women from the strangling or suffocation thereof, if the share and the parts thereabouts be anointed therewith. It kills and drives forth the worms of the belly, if it be drank after it is boiled in wine to the half, with a little honey; it helps the gout or pains in the joints, hands, feet or knees, applied thereunto; and with figs it helps the dropsy, being bathed therewith.

Being bruised and put into the nostrils, it stays the bleeding thereof. It takes away wheals and pimples, if being bruised with a few myrtle leaves, it be made up with wax, and applied. It cures the morphew, and takes away all sorts of warts, if boiled in wine with some pepper and nitre, and the place rubbed therewith, and with almond and honey helps the dry scabs, or any tetter or ringworm. The juice thereof warmed in a pomegranate shell or rind, and dropped into the ears, helps the pains of them.

The juice of it and fennel, with a little honey, and the gall of a cock put thereunto, helps the dimness of the eye-sight. An ointment made of the juice thereof with oil of roses, ceruse, and a little vinegar, and anointed, cures St. Anthony's fire and all running sores in the head: and the stinking ulcers of the nose, or other parts. The antidote used by Mithridates, every morning fasting, to secure himself from any poison or infection, was this: Take twenty leaves or rue, a little salt, a couple of walnuts, and a couple of figs, beaten together into a mess, with twenty juniper berries, which is the quantity appointed for every day.

Another electuary is made thus: Take of nitre, pepper, and cummin seed, of each equal parts; of the leaves of Rue clean picked, as much in weight as all the other three weighed; beat them well together, and put as much honey as will make it up into an electuary (but you must first steep your cummin seed in vinegar twenty four hours, and then dry it, or rather roast it in a hot fire-shovel, or in an oven) and is a remedy for the pains or griefs in the chest or stomach, of the spleen, belly, or sides, by wind or stitches; of the liver by obstructions; of the reins and bladder by the stopping of urine; and helps also to extenuate fat corpulent bodies. What an infamy is cast upon the ashes of Mithridates, or Methridates (as the Augustines read his name) by unworthy people. They that deserve no good report themselves, love to give none to others, viz. That renowned King of Pontus fortified his body by poison against poison. (He cast out devils by Beelzebub, Prince of the devils.)

What a sot is he that knows not if he had accustomed his body to cold poisons, but poisons would have dispatched him? On the contrary, if not, corrosions would have done it. The whole world is at this present time beholden to him for his studies in physic, and he that uses the quantity but of an hazel-nut of that receipt every morning, to which his name is adjoined, shall to admiration preserve his body in health, if he do but consider that Rue is an herb of the Sun, and under Leo, and gather it and the rest accordingly.

Complete Herbal
-Nicholas Culpeper (1616 – 1654) English botanist, herbalist, and physician

Monday

Rosemary Quotes From Literature


Rosemary FlowersEnjoy some literary references to rosemary while you garden this weekend:

Of Rosemarie.
Tragus writeth, that Rosemarie is spice in the Germane Kitchins, and other cold countries... The floures made vp into plates with sugar after the manner of Sugar Roset and eaten, comfort the heart, and make it merry, quicken the spirits, and make them more liuely."

Herball or General Historie of Plantes
-John Gerard 1633 (Pages 1292-1294)

There’s rosemary and rue. These keep
Seeming and savor all the winter long.
Grace and remembrance be to you.
- William Shakespeare (Winter’s Tale, Act 4, Scene 4)

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray you, love,
remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.
-William Shakespeare (Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5)

To Mistress Isabel Pennell (l. 4–12)
My maiden Isabel,
Reflaring rosabel.
The fragrant camomel;
The ruddy rosary,
The sovereign rosemary,
The pretty strawberry;
The columbine, the nept,
The jelofer well set,
The proper violet
- John Skelton (1460?–1529) British poet.

"As for rosemary, I let it run all over my garden walls, not only because my bees love it but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance and to friendship, whence a sprig of it hath a dumb language."
- Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) British writer, statesman and philosopher

"Where Rosemary flourished, the woman ruled."
- Unknown

Miss Ainslie gathered a bit of rosemary, crushing it between her white fingers. "See," she said, "some of us are like that it takes a blow to find the sweetness in our souls."
Lavender and Old Lace
-Myrtle Reed (1874–1911) American Poet and Journalist

Rosemary

Our garden Rosemary is so well known, that I need not describe it.

Time : It flowers in April and May with us, sometimes again in August.

Government and virtues : The Sun claims privilege in it, and it is under the celestial Ram. It is an herb of as great use with us in these days as any whatsoever, not only for physical but civil purposes. The physical use of it (being my present task) is very much used both for inward and outward diseases, for by the warming and comforting heat thereof it helps all cold diseases both of the head, stomach, liver, and belly. The decoction thereof in wine, helps the cold distillations of rheum into the eyes, and all other cold diseases of the head and brain, as the giddiness or swimmings therein, drowsiness or dullness of the mind and senses like a stupidness, the dumb palsy, or loss of speech, the lethargy, and fallen- sickness, to be both drank, and the temples bathed therewith.

It helps the pains in the gums and teeth, by rheum falling into them, not by putrefaction, causing an evil smell from them, or a stinking breath. It helps a weak memory, and quickens the senses. It is very comfortable to the stomach in all the cold griefs thereof, helps both retention of meat, and digestion, the decoction or powder being taken in wine. It is a remedy for the windiness in the stomach, bowels, and spleen, and expels it powerfully. It helps those that are liver-grown, by opening the obstructions thereof. It helps dim eyes, and procures a clear sight, the flowers thereof being taken all the while it is flowering every morning fasting, with bread and salt. Both Dioscorides and Galen say, That if a decoction be made thereof with water, and they that have the yellow jaundice exercise their bodies directly after the taking thereof, it will certainly cure them. The flowers and conserve made of them are singularly good to comfort the heart, and to expel the contagion of the pestilence; to burn the herb in houses and chambers, corrects the air in them. Both the flowers and leaves are very profitable for women that are troubled with the whites, if they be daily taken.

The dried leaves shred small, and taken in a pipe, as tobacco is taken, helps those that have any cough, phthisic, or consumption, by warming and drying the thin distillations which cause those diseases. The leaves are very much used in bathings; and made into ointments or oil, are singularly good to help cold benumbed joints, sinews, or members. The chymical oil drawn from the leaves and flowers, is a sovereign help for all the diseases aforesaid, to touch the temples and nostrils with two or three drops for all the diseases of the head and brain spoken of before; as also to take one drop, two, or three, as the case requires, for the inward griefs. Yet must it be done with discretion, for it is very quick and piercing, and therefore but a little must be taken at a time.

There is also another oil made by insolation in this manner: Take what quantity you will of the flowers, and put them into a strong glass close stopped, tie a fine linen cloth over the mouth, and turn the mouth down into another strong glass, which being set in the sun, an oil will distil down into the lower glass, to be preserved as precious for divers uses, both inward and outward, as a sovereign balm to heal the disease beforementioned, to clear dim sights, and to take away spots, marks, and scars in the skin.
Complete Herbal
-Nicholas Culpeper (1616 – 1654) English botanist, herbalist, and physician

For more herb quotes, visit: Lavender in Literature

Saturday

Natural Bed Bug Control


Bed BugsThese herbal treatments for bed bugs can help you control your pest problem. I have a healthy respect for insects and all manner of creepy crawlies, but I have to draw the line at any bug that considers me a walking banquet. This includes mosquitoes, fleas, and bed bugs. Bed bugs are creating problems across the U.S these days. Areas where there are large numbers of sleeping people, like hotels, apartments, and dorm rooms are particularly affected.

Herbal Treatment for Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are hard to eradicate once they're established, and when you travel, you don't always know if you'll be staying in an infested location. Apparently the problem is so widespread that even hotels you'd think are immune to pest infestations are experiencing embarrassing bed bug activity.

Here are a few bed bug facts and tips. I don't like pesticides, especially around my family and pets, so these approaches are herbal or just common sense. They'll help you identify and treat a minor incursion in your home without using costly and potentially hazardous chemicals.

How to Identify Bed Bugs

Bed bugs can be hard to spot. They're small, brown and flat, and they come out to bite when you're sleeping. If you think you may have a problem, look in the seams in your mattress, on the headboard (don't forget to check the back) and along the bed frame. If you've been bitten by one, it will look like a small, red welt.

If you can't find an actual bug, they leave signs of their presence you can check for too. Bed bug droppings look like small brown spots, and their eggs and larvae look like white spots. They can appear on bedding, headboards, mattresses, walls, floors, and just about anywhere else, with the possible exception of the ceiling.

Detecting Bed Bugs

You don't necessarily need expensive exterminators to detect bedbugs in your home. If you haven't found any telltale signs but still think you have bed bugs, a DIY setup using dry ice will get the job done for under $20.00. You can find a tutorial at Wired.com: Bed Bug Detector.

Get Rid of Bed Bugs

If you want to try an herbal solution in your home, or are staying in a location where bed bugs might be present, there is a spray you can make that will discourage them. It will keep bed bugs away from both you and your bedding. I recommend using essential oils because they are very concentrated. Essential oils are created through distillation, like spirits, and even when they're diluted, they have a strong scent.

Herbal Bed Bug Spray Insecticide

This spray will act as a good deterrent. In higher concentrations, it might stain clothing and bedding, and could even cause headaches and nausea, so don't increase the essential oil concentrations unless you plan on being out of the room overnight and have stripped the bed. Oh, and the term essential oil is a misnomer. The liquid isn't oil based so don't worry about greasy residue.

Bed Bug Spray Recipe

1 Cup Water
10 drops lavender essential oil
10 drops rosemary essential oil
10 drops eucalyptus essential oil
3 drops essential oil of clove (optional)

Place in a fine mist spray bottle, and shake well before using.

I want to include some cautions here. Never work with essential oils unless you are wearing gloves. Undiluted essential oils can be dangerous if absorbed through the skin. Another possible problem is that essential oils, even diluted, can have an adverse effect on some cats, so keep kitty away.

Other Options for Controlling Bed Bugs

If you want to avoid bringing bed bugs home with you when you travel, try keeping sachets of herbs in your suitcase. The smell will keep them out of your belongings and help you avoid an infestation in your home. Tuck two sachets into your suitcase, one on either side. It's a good idea to place a couple in the pockets of your hanging garments, or in any folded clothing you plan on placing in hotel room drawers. Oh, and when you get home, be sure to keep your luggage in the garage or put it in the bathtub for a few days.  Bedbugs can't crawl out of the tub, and if you've brought any of the pests home, you'll be able to detect them against the enamel when you turn on the light (hopefully), and dispose of any you see.

The sachet recipes I have below should each fill seven to ten small muslin bags. I've included a link to muslin bags available Online, but you can probably find them at your local craft store or make them yourself.

Bed Bug Herb Sachet 1

1 Cup dried Eucalyptus leaves
½ Cup dried rosemary
½ Cup dried lavender buds
10 Large cloves

Bed Bug Herb Sachet 2

1 Cup loose-leaf black walnut tea
½ Cup dried eucalyptus leaves
½ Cup dried lavender buds
¼ Cup dried thyme
2 Bay leaves

Bed Bug Control Tips and Tricks

Bed bugs don't like heat, so you can stick your linen or clothes in the drier for twenty to twenty five minutes to kill the critters. You can do the same thing with your drapes. Another way to heat-treat your linens (drapes and other textiles and small items like overnight bags or handbags) is to place them outside in the sun in a black plastic bag. According to the EPA, the bag will have to hit a sustained 110 degrees F for three hours for this trick to work.

You can also treat your mattress by steam cleaning it with a small hand held steamer to kill any bed bugs, eggs or larvae that might be present. It will kill dust mites too. Throwing some lavender essential oil into the steamer water wouldn't hurt either. The scent will even help you get to sleep at night. Heck, after dealing with these little @!#%, you'll probably need a good night's sleep.

Bed bugs are tough. They are very invasive and can go long periods without eating. They are small and can hide almost anywhere. They find new feeding grounds by hiding in or on objects people bring into their homes regularly, like luggage, handbags, coats, or cardboard boxes. An herbal DIY solution might work if you have a few bugs, but if you have an established bed bug community in your home, there are professional eradication methods that use natural pesticides, like pyrethrin, you might want to try.

For more bed bug facts, visit my article: Control Bed Bugs Naturally

Reference

EPA. "Top 10 Bedbug Tips." Page updated 1/12/12. (4/6/12.)
http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/bed-bugs-faq-fs.html









Monday

Unusual Herb Garden Design

If you've had daydreams of creating your own decorative herb garden design layout but don't have the space or inclination for a decorative wheel or other more complex pattern, there may be an easy way to create a startling effect with less space and work.

Making a permaculture herb spiral will make great use of those bricks you have lying around, and the effects can be attractive, eye catching, and good for the soil. Get your starter herbs up off the ground, and make an elevated garden structure in an afternoon. Adding some height in the garden is always a good thing, and the herbs are easier to harvest this way too.

YouTube has a brief video that will get you started. I stumbled on it at Stumbleupon, which has a good garden section. If you're not a member (It's free), take a look the next time you're surfing: How To Build Soil and an Herb Spiral.

Just an off topic hint here: It's getting closer to the time when Japanese beetles will be sending out scouts and marking gardens for summer feasting. Take a look at my blog for some natural ways to handle this evil and destructive pest. I don't like pesticides or traps, and this method has worked for me for the last three: Getting Rid of Japanese Beetles

Happy gardening, and wear your garden gloves! Fewer and fewer of us can have our ravaged nails professionally done these days, so keep the dirt in the garden and not under your nails.

Sunday

Sweet Woodruff in the Garden

Sweet Woodruff PhotoSince this is the time to start preparing for bugs in the garden, I'll give you one of my favorite tips for keeping bugs away from my plants . . . sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum). This little perennial has a short habit, growing only to about six inches, and makes a great ground cover. It grows in whorls around a very slender central stem and produces tiny white flowers. I keep it around my roses and peonies as a vanguard against all manner of pests. I mulch dried woodruff leaves in fall too.

Woodruff is frost hardy and will come back year after year. Once established, it likes to take over a patch of ground, so be careful to keep it from crowding rose bushes. Luckily it's shallow rooted and easy to control.

It will thrive in full or dappled light, and although it likes rich, sandy soil and lots of moisture, it's hardy and can tolerate quite a bit of abuse.

Woodruff's bright green leaves look refreshing and optimistic, particularly on overcast days. It smells a little like a blend of hay and cinnamon. You'll like it. If you have the time, you can even make traditional May wine from this perky little herb.

I wrote an article with growing tips a while back. You can visit it at: Growing Sweet Woodruff.

If you would like to know more about May wine, visit my blog post: May Wine, May Punch.

Woodruff Facts:

Sweet woodruff can be planted in the shade around tree roots, which makes it a great plant to help fill in those shady bald spots in the garden. The less light and moisture it gets, the less it will spread.

It also makes a great deer repellent.

Woodruff has a much stronger fragrance when dried, so if you like it's scent, try using a few dried woodruff stems in your next potpourri.

The coumarin in woodruff can be toxic if ingested in high doses. Steer clear of adding it to anything but alcoholic beverages like May wine.