Sunday

Growing Moss on Garden Pots

Mossed PotI've already written about my love for repurposing objects like bowls, pots and pans as plant containers. One way to integrate these finds into the garden is to encourage a natural layer of moss to grow on them. This always works best where you have a shady spot to keep the pot once it's sporting a nice mossy finish.

Recipe for Adding Moss to Pots

1/2 cup of garden moss (This acts like a seed starter.)
1 container plain yogurt
12 oz. can of beer
2 tsp granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk

Moss Pots - Directions

Combine ingredients and use a blender to incorporate. You want a soupy texture.

Brush the mixture on with a soft bristle brush or sponge brush. Be generous.

I find that highly textured pots work best.

Keep your freshly "painted" pot moist. One good way is to place it in the shade and spritz it with a pump sprayer filled with water (or the garden hose) a couple of times a day until you get the desired effect. You can also do this with statuary or anything else you want to look like a long time garden survivor.

Saturday

Herbed Tilapia Recipe

Baked TilapiaThis is a fast and easy summer dish. If you'd prefer, you can cook it on the grill instead of in the oven; just coat the fish with a little olive oil and butter, and clean/oil the grill.

Baked Tilapia Ingredients

6 Tilapia fillets
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon red pepper
Juice of 1/2 lime
Salt
Black pepper
2 tablespoon fresh chopped chives

Fish Cold Sauce Ingredients

1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped lime thyme or fresh lime juice

Herbed Tilapia Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Season tilapia fillets on both sides with paprika, marjoram, red pepper, salt, and pepper.

Place the seasoned fillets in a single layer on a greased baking dish.

Sprinkle or spray lime juice over fillets.

Bake uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes or until fish flakes when prodded with a fork.

Cold Fish Sauce Directions

While the fish is baking, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic powder, lime thyme (or lime juice) and dill in a small bowl. Serve with prepared tilapia.

Plate fillets with wedges of lemon and sprinkle fresh chives over the top.

Serves 4

Weekend Thoughts


A few thoughts for this warm weekend.

How to Treat Mosquito Bites

Mosquitoes are coming out in force around my house. To help reduce the irritation of a mosquito bite, rub any of these household, garden or medicine cabinet substances on the bite: aloe vera, baking soda, a piece of sliced onion, vinegar, salt, or witch hazel. I've heard that toothpaste and bleach work too. Just use a little, and rub gently. The effectiveness of these remedies will vary from person to person, so if one method isn't getting the results you want, try another.

Rhubarb: Trifling, Tipsy, Fool
If you have a moment, head over to All Things Considered at NPR and check out their piece on rhubarb. They have some interesting background on a few common and not so common dessert terms, like tipsy, parson, trifle and fool. It almost sounds like a song title. There's a rhubarb, berry and cream dessert recipe that looks tasty too: A Dessert for Spring: Rhubarb, Berries and Cream

Growing a Plant Fort For the Kids
The folks at the San Francisco Chronicle have some great instructions on how to grow a sunflower fort for the kids at: How to Grow a Sunflower House

How to Cut Down on Weeds in Your Herb Garden
If you're having some trouble sleeping in the heat, turn your insomnia into fewer weeds by weeding your garden after dark. Turning the soil when the sun isn't shining cuts down on weed germination, so strap a pen light to your hoe and get to work.

Happy gardening.

Thursday

Lime Balm Tea Recipe

Lime Balm TeaLime Balm makes a light refreshing tea that will settle your stomach and help you relax. With its natural lime aroma, it's tasty both hot and cold. Although you can find dried lemon balm at your local health food outlet, you might have to get your garden implements out and grow a supply of lime balm yourself. Don't worry. It's easy to grow both indoors and out, and it can be used in tea either fresh or dried.

Lime Balm Tea Recipe

Steep one tablespoon of fresh chopped lime balm in a mug of boiling water for fifteen minutes. If you like it sweet, lime balm tea tastes wonderful with the addition of a teaspoon of lavender honey or lavender sugar.

To learn more about growing lime balm, visit my article: Growing Lime Balm

Wednesday

How to Grow Lime Balm

Lime balm (Melissa officinalis ''lime") is a perennial herb that shares many characteristics with its cousin lemon balm. It is as easy to grow but has a distinct limey fragrance.

Growing Lime Balm in the Garden

Lime balm is a half-hardy perennial that can add the aroma of lime to your dishes without the citrus. It likes dappled light and moist, fertile soil. Like its cousin, mint, lime balm can be invasive, so contain it with a border, or keep it in a pot. It grows to a height of about 18 inches and will cover anything in its path if you give it a spot it likes. It will return year after year without much encouragement and does well in zones five through nine. Keep it moist through the hot summer months, and give it a layer of insulating mulch in areas that experience triple digit highs.

Propagating Lime Balm

Easy to grow and propagate, lime balm can be started from root cuttings or seeds. Germinate seeds indoors eight weeks before you plan on putting them outside. Lime balm's seed casings are hard, so soak them in hot water for a day before planting and expect to wait a while before they germinate. A few weeks isn't too long.

Growing Lime Balm Indoors

Keep lime balm in a sunny location, and don't let it go dry. Use a quality prepared potting soil, and choose a small pot of five inches or less. Potted lime balm does better when kept crowded. If your plant starts to get leggy, snip it back and give it more sun.

Harvesting and Drying Lime Balm

Harvest throughout the summer by snipping or pinching. Lime balm grows back quickly and can tolerate heavy harvesting.

Dehydrators are good vehicles for drying any plant in the mint family, although you can also dry lime balm by tying it in loose bunches with a rubber band and hanging it upside down in a warm room. You can dry it in a warm oven too. Try a small batch first and check for scorching. The dried leaves should be stored whole in an airtight container away from the light.

Uses for Lime Balm

Lime balm can be used in cooking, potpourri and crafts. It's tasty in a fruit salad, as an ingredient in marinades, and as a seasoning for fish, chicken or pork.

Lime balm tea helps relieve tension, and the dried leaves can be used topically to treat bee stings.

Lime Balm - Possible Drug Interactions

There is research underway that suggests lemon and lime balm may interfere with thyroid and sedative treatments. If you think you may be affected, consult your doctor before using Melissa officinalis.

I like to use lime balm as a garnish for TexMex dishes. If I don't have a lime in the house, lime balm helps create that distinctive limey blending of ingredients, (red pepper, cumin, onion, garlic, and lime) even if I cheated and used lemon instead.

Add an unexpected fragrance to your herb garden with lime balm. It will reward you with distinctive fragrance from spring to fall.

For a tasty lime balm tea recipe, visit: Lime Balm Tea

Where to Find Lime Balm


Lime Balm can be hard to find, but I did locate an online source here: Richters - Lime Balm Purchase Page

Midweek Thoughts

For a wonderful photo of St. Johns Wort, visit Earth and Tree. Hedgewitch has a delightful blog and makes clay jewelry too. Her clay impressions of herb leaves are stunning little gems. I own one myself.

If you love to eat what you grow, head over to How Stuff Works.com and read their article about edible landscaping. If you've ever resented the amount of space your lawn takes up, this article is for you: What is Edible Landscaping?

While you're there, take a look at an article I wrote a while back about garden ornaments. It will give you some background on garden gnomes and pink flamingos while offering up the lighter side of garden décor: 10 Unexpected Garden Decorations

Herbal Wart Remedy

I wrote about this earlier in the week, but I think it bears repeating. Dandelion is a good wart remover. Just take the white liquid released from the root, stem, and leaves of a dandelion and place it on a pesky wart. Repeat four times a day until the wart dissolves.

Make Organic Herbal Shampoo

Making your own organic herbal shampoo is simple and inexpensive. Best of all, you can tailor it to meet your own needs and tastes.

Organic Herbal Shampoo Recipe

Two cups of distilled water
1 1/2 tsp. Soapwort root
*30 drops of essential oil
Decorative bottle

Directions for Organic Herbal Shampoo

Bring water to a boil
Add soapwort root, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and cool for an hour.
Add oil and stir thoroughly
Bottle and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

If you don't grow your own soapwort, you can find soapwort root (dried) online or at your neighborhood health food store.

*You can use a number of different essential oils, either alone or in combination to create a signature fragrance: lavender, rosemary, geranium, rose, and sandalwood are only a few.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluates personal care products, like shampoo, differently from food products. This means that personal care product manufacturers have much more latitude in their formulations.

To insure that the products you use are wholesome and safe for your family, consider visiting the Consumer Reports Green Choices page today. It will give you important information about the goods you're buying. Another useful reference source is Good Guide, where you can get product ratings for eco-friendliness and safe practices.

Tuesday

Make Lemon Furniture Polish

Smarten up your kitchen cabinets or wood furniture with baby oil. Just wipe it on, leave it for a few minutes, and then wipe off the residue. Make it part of a maintenance program by prepping your cabinets with a wood cleaning product like Murphy's Oil Soap first.

Because I'm a dedicated herber, I make my own polish using a cup of baby oil and lemon balm, lemon verbena, or lemon eucalyptus.

Lemon Furniture Polish Recipe

Spray Bottle
Jar with a tight fitting lid (two cup capacity)
Pan
Heat resistant bowl
Cheesecloth or mesh strainer
1-1/2 to 2 Cups lemon balm leaves
1-1/2 Cups Baby Oil


Directions for Making Lemon Furniture Polish

Heat baby oil in a pan till it starts to glimmer or bubble a little.

While the baby oil is heating, add lemon balm to the bowl.

Pour baby oil over the lemon balm and stir gently. Set aside.

Allow mixture to come to room temperature. Pour oil, leaves and all, into a jar.

Seal and place the jar in a warm spot to cure for two weeks to a month. Shake daily.

Strain mixture and pour into a bottle.

Pour a little oil on a soft cloth monthly and apply to your wood cabinets to keep them looking and smelling fresh and clean.

Your homemade brew will be less expensive than retail polishes and won't contain chemical additives. Although baby oil is a petroleum product, it is gentle on your wood. One of the advantages it has over an organic oil is that it will not go rancid, so your wood will always smell fresh and clean.




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Photo1 - LemonBalm1_Wiki.jpg By Datkins (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/07/Lemon_balm_2.JPG http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ALemon_balm_2.JPG

Photo2 - LemonBalm2_Wiki.jpg  By Datkins (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/36/Lemon_balm_%282%29.jpg http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ALemon_balm_(2).jpg


Photo3 - Courtesy of Morguefile.com

Sunday

The Summer Solstice and Other Sundry Sunday Fare

Sunrise SolsticeI hope you enjoyed this morning's Summer Solstice. It was early, so the possums probably beat you to it! Today will be the longest day and shortest night of the year. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, this is the Winter Solstice, an interesting factoid associated with living on a sphere.

If you enjoy camping, take a look at this humorous piece at the National Parks Traveler site about naked camping. It's fun Sunday reading material.

From perusing the Old Farmer's Almanac this week, I learned that day lilies are edible. You can eat the whole thing, apparently, but the tubers are particularly tasty. Just clean and chop them into salad as you would red radishes.

Did you know that white and black peppercorns are both from the same berry of the pepper plant (piper nigrum):
  • Black Pepper is picked when it's an immature green and sun dried.
  • White pepper is picked after it's had a chance to ripen.
If you accidentally cut an earthworm in half, both sections will NOT continue to grow. At best, only one side will survive.

Once you finish the Sunday paper, if you have a few hours and some ribbon to spare, why not try making a lavender wand? Lavender should be budding or in bloom in many areas. Lavender wands look and smell so nice and are always welcome gifts. Take a look at the step by step: How to Make a Lavender Wand

Saturday

Plant Your Own Saffron Spice

Photo of Saffron ThreadsGrowing your own saffron (Crocus Sativus) is easier than you think and can add some spicy and refined taste to your dishes. Pound for pound, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world.

Don't confuse it with Indian saffron, an inexpensive substitute, the red threads and distinctive yellow saffron flavoring you can extract from them is a subtle and unique flavor that you'll develop a taste for quickly . . . if you haven't already.

I wrote some growing instructions and a blog entry last season you might want to take a look at. Saffron comes from a variety of crocus plant. It isn't an early season crocus, but a mid to late summer variety.

In a few weeks, you should be getting some saffron crocus bulbs together. Once you have a few plants in your garden, they'll start to spread out nicely. Within three years, you'll have plenty of saffron for yourself and probably a little extra to give away.

Saffron Blog Entry (With Saffron Flower Photo)
Saffron Article

The photo of saffron threads above was taken by Ranier Zenz and is in the public domain. If you would like more information about it or the photographer, please visit: Saffron Threads

Friday

What is Distilled Water?

Distilled WaterDistilled water is water that has been evaporated and then cooled back to a liquid. During the process of transforming into a gas, chemicals and microorganisms are left behind and the final product is clean and pure. Distilled water typically has a neutral pH (7.0) because most solids in water are heavier than a water molecule and won't piggyback onto the vapor.

In herbal recipes, distilled water is called for because the final product will be less likely to harbor harmful bacteria. Sometimes you'll see me suggest that if a preparation will be used within a few days, you can use tap water, otherwise, use distilled water.

Can You Drink Distilled Water?

Distilled water is safe to drink, but it doesn't have the trace minerals that, say, a fish might need in order to live in it.

Where Can You Find Distilled Water?

You can find distilled water in the water isle of your local grocery store. It undergoes more processing, so it's more expensive than plain old bottled drinking water, but for many herbal preparations, a little goes a long way.

Hope this definition helps.

Thursday

How to Fry Zucchini Blossoms

Squash Blossom
For a taste of the subtle pleasures of a spring garden, try fried zucchini blossoms. You won't find these in the grocery store. They're a special reward for the vegetable gardener. So enjoy one of those unique payoffs for all your hard work.

Fried Zucchini Flower Recipe

6 Zucchini blossoms
1/2 C flour
Pinch Salt
Pinch Pepper
1/4 C Olive oil
2 Pats butter
1 Egg
1 Tbsp Water

Directions for Frying Zucchini Flowers

Wash flowers. Drain

Combine egg and water. Beat well.

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a separate bowl.

Heat oil and butter in a small skillet on medium heat.

Dip flowers in egg and then flour. Shake to remove excess flour.

Place in hot oil for one to two minutes. Turn and continue cooking for another minute. Flowers should be lightly browned on both sides.

Remove and drain. Eat immediately.

Squash Blossom Memories

When I was a kid, squash flowers were my mother's favorite spring treat. She'd pick the flowers in the evening, dip them in egg, dredge them in flour, and fry them up in olive oil cut with a little butter. They tasted delicate and really great. Like the best appetizers, there are never enough.

Squash flowers don't last long in the garden, or after they're picked, so give them a try soon.

If you want some more zucchini flower info, try NPR's (National Public Radio) piece on them from June 18th. You can find it here: Zucchini Flowers

While we're talking about eating your vegetables, why not chop a little mint into your steamed peas?

Tuesday

How To Make Rose Wine

Rose WineMaking your own rose wine can be a hoot. It takes a while, but like making beer, especially if you like to experiment with the recipe like I do, you never know quite what you're going to end up with.

The nice thing about rose and dandelion wines, as well as other seasonal wines and liqueurs, is that they distill a season. In winter, when you're shivering your way to the mailbox, you can think about the summer wine you finessed out of those long, sunny days. After you come in from the cold, it will warm you up in more ways than one.

If you have the time to spend, between pinching pennies and taking the kids to their recreational commitments, growing and processing your own foods can make for some very happy memories and a few good laughs, too. You may not be up to canning your own chow-chow, but a little wine is easy to brew and always goes down well. If it isn't a complete success, at least it will probably be drinkable, and there's always next year to try another batch.

Rose Petal Wine

*16 Cups Rose petals (rinsed thoroughly)
1 Gallon Water
3 Orange rinds, chopped
3 ½ Pounds Sugar
5 Cloves
5 Pepper corns
1 package yeast
2 Cups Orange juice

Combine petals, orange rinds and sugar in a large pot.

Boil water in a separate container and pour over petal mixture.

Bring to a simmer for 30 minutes.

Cool to room temperature.

Add prepared yeast (Follow directions for rehydrating yeast, which may recommend dissolving in warm, not hot, water.)

Add orange juice and spices.

Cover and set aside for three weeks to a month in a dark place to ferment. (This will get fragrant.)

Strain and decant into sterilized jars. Let wine season for three months or so before serving.

*If you want to accumulate 16 cups of rose petals, try harvesting petals a little at a time and freezing them until you have enough for a batch. This is a great summer project. You can have a batch ready to serve for Christmas and New Years.

Special Note: Never use roses that have been treated with pesticides.

This recipe uses no sulfites or special equipment.

Sunday

Grocery Store Vegetables and Herb Seed Sources

Produce Department PhotoI take a perverse pleasure in finding ways to recycle grocery store produce and grow it in my garden. You'd think I'd stop being so tickled and indulge my curiosity some other way than by sticking a little piece of root in a pot to see what happens. My nephew once started a sunflower from a seed he stuck in the office ficus on a dare. No one was more surprised than he was when it sprouted.

Here is my short list of produce department finds. Please fill in any that I've missed. Oh, if you take all of this seriously, I should warn you that seeds don't always produce plants exactly like the parent. There are a number of reasons for this, and it can be disappointing. These plant experiments are lighthearted, so don't expect too much.

Ginger
Actually, all of my ginger stock has come from the grocery store. Once you have a healthy plant growing, you can start harvesting roots from around the base.

Potatoes
Yes you can take those red and white potatoes and grow them in the garden. Do-it-yourself potato towers using wire make it easy to grow potatoes in a small space too.

Scallions
Find a bunch of scallions with a good portion of root still attached and plant them in a pot or in a sunny spot in the garden. I've kept a group of four onions potted on a sunny windowsill for months, snipping green tops as I needed them. This has saved me a few of last minute trips to the store.

Garlic
Buy a bulb and plant it out, pointy end up. This is a long-term project because garlic needs a season to really get going.

Shallots
Follow the same process as for garlic.

You can also buy vegetables, harvest the seeds, dry and use them next year. A good short list would be:

Seed Stock
Pumpkin
Cucumber
Tomato (The seeds have to ferment a little before drying.)
Squash (Other than pumpkin.)
Eggplant
Avocado (This is a tree and won't bear similar fruit, so some nice foliage is the best you'll be able to get. It's a fun project for kids though.
Jalapeno
Red pepper
Bell pepper

There are lots of others. I'm still experimenting.

Even if you don't try this for yourself, it may give you a new insight into those brightly colored produce bins the next time you go shopping. When you're a gardener, it's all material.

Thursday

Dandelion Salad Recipe

Dandelion Pasta SaladWhere dandelions are concerned, if you can't beat them, eat them.

Adding a few dandelion greens to your favorite pasta salad is a fast and easy way to give your salad some nutritional muscle.

Dandelion Salad Recipe

3 cups cooked shell pasta

2 Hard boiled eggs, chopped fine

1 cup Cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup young dandelion greens, steamed, cooled, and chopped

3 Scallions, chopped fine

6 Black olives, rough chopped

1 Tbsp Fresh parsley, chopped fine

3 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Tbsp. Vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Dandelion Salad Directions

Combine pasta, eggs, dandelion greens, scallions, olives and parsley. Toss to combine.

Add tomatoes and fold into mixture.

In a small bowl, combine oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add to pasta and stir gently to incorporate.

Take a look at these dandelion entries too:

Dandelion Tea Recipes
How to Make Dandelion Wine
Dandelion Jelly

Dandelion Tea Recipes

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is good for you, and even if you hate it in the yard, its bitter taste can be addictive. Remember, when you drank your first beer or glass of wine, you probably thought that was bitter too.

Dandelion Flower Tea Recipe

8 Dandelion flowers
12 oz. Boiling water
Honey or sugar to taste

Instructions for brewing Dandelion Tea

Pour boiling water over flowers and let steep for five minutes. Add honey or sugar.

Dandelion Root Tea Recipe

1 tbsp. *roasted dandelion root
1/2 tsp. *minced, fresh ginger
1 cardamom seed
12 oz. Water
Honey or sugar to taste

Combine all ingredients except honey and bring to a boil. Continue boiling for five to ten minutes. Strain, add honey, and serve.

*Roasting Dandelion Root
Dig up the dandelion roots. This can be challenging because they have a stubborn taproot. When they're out of the ground, rinse them outside with the hose until the water runs clear. This will probably require some rubbing, particularly if you have clay soil.

Chop roots into thumb size sections and soak them in a sink full of cold water, shaking occasionally. The roots will release any remaining dirt.

Remove roots to a cutting board and rough chop them.

Once the roots have been harvested, cleaned, and chopped, roast them on a cookie sheet in a 150 to 200 degree F oven for two to three hours. You can also dry them in a dehydrator then roast them at 300 degrees F for 10 minutes.

The most productive way to do this is to make a large batch and then use it throughout the season. Dandelion root is surprisingly tasty. To spice up the tea, add *cinnamon bark and a little grated nutmeg.

*Preserving Ginger
If you like the idea of a little ginger in your tea but can't keep it fresh in the fridge for long, try this: Cut fresh ginger root into inch thick pieces and place in a glass jar. Add enough sherry to cover them completely. Seal. The ginger will keep indefinitely this way and be available to use any time you want.

*Cinnamon Bark
An easy way to get small pieces of bark is to break up a cinnamon stick and partially grind it in a coffee grinder.

Some of the Health Benefits of Dandelion
  • A tea made with the dandelion root is a diuretic and can help lower blood pressure and reduce premenstrual symptoms.
  • Dandelion root contains two substances, inulin and levulin, that can help reduce blood sugar, and another, choline, that acts as a liver stimulant.
  • Dandelion is a good source of vitamins: C, K, B2, and A.
  • The white milk in dandelion can help get rid of warts. Just apply the milk directly to the wart and it will start to shrink. Keep applying dandelion juice until the wart dissolves. This will take several daily applications over the course of a few weeks, depending on how large the wart is.
For more dandelion info, head over to:

Dandelion Pasta Salad
How to Make Dandelion Wine
Dandelion Jelly

Wednesday

How to Make Dandelion Wine


I was delighted by an article I read on The New York Times website feed. It's entitled: The Joy of Less. If you have a second, take a look.

Many of my gardening adventures, and even the projects that result from my gardening, are a search for beauty I think, usually in simple things. There's effort involved:  It requires an alliance with nature, which can be uneasy at times. It's a celebration of the natural world too, though, which make it worth the trouble.

Today's project is dandelion wine. Even if you aren't a Ray Bradbury fan, the words probably stir up a dreamy summer landscape, the smell of fresh mown grass and the high blue sky swept by an easy breeze.

Dandelion wine is easy to make, and even though it might take a while, it's a sweet summer favorite.

Dandelion Wine Recipe

*10 to 12 Cups Dandelions (Flowers only)
1 C Honey
2 ½ Pounds Sugar
1 Orange rind, chopped
1 Lemon rind, chopped
Dandelions1 Gallon Water
2 Tbsp. fresh, chopped ginger
5 Cloves
1 Package yeast
1 Cup Orange juice
1/2 Cup Lemon juice

Dandelion Wine Instructions

Combine dandelion flowers, honey, sugar, orange rind, and lemon rind in a large pot.

Boil water in a separate container and pour over flower mixture.

Bring back to a simmer for 30 minutes.

Cool to room temperature.

Add prepared yeast (Follow manufacturer's directions for hydrating yeast before adding it.)

Add orange juice, lemon juice, and spices.

Cover in a non-reactive container (like ceramic, glass, or enamel) and set aside for a month in a dark place to ferment. (This will get fragrant.)

Strain and decant into sterilized jars. Seal. Let wine season for three months or so in a cool, dark place before serving.

Tips and Tricks

*If you want to accumulate 12 cups of dandelions, try harvesting them a little at a time and freezing them until you have enough. This is a great spring project. You can have a batch ready to serve for your Labor Day picnic.

Never use dandelions that have been treated with pesticides.

This recipe uses no sulfites or special equipment.

There's more dandelion fun in store:

Grow Your Own Culinary and Medicinal Dandelions
Dandelion Tea Recipes
Dandelion Jelly
Dandelion Pasta Salad



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Photo1 -  Dandelion2_Wiki.jpg   By Sberardi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo2 - Courtesy of Morguefile.com 

Drying Tea Leaves

Drying TeaHarvest young leaves in spring and process for different teas.

Black Tea - Taken from new growth in spring.

Bruise leaves by rubbing them between your palms. They should discolor to a reddish brown.

Spread them in a single layer on a tray and let them air dry from two to three days.

Apply heat by placing the partially dried leaves in a 250 Degree F oven for 20 minutes. The best approach for uniform drying is to place them on a cookie sheet in a single layer.

Place dried leaves in a container with a tight fitting lid. Keep away from light and moisture.

Green Tea - Taken from very young leaves and buds.

Steam leaves for 60 seconds. You can use a commercial steamer, or place a colander on a pot of boiling water.

*Apply heat by placing the partially dried leaves in a 250 Degree F oven for 20 minutes. The best approach for uniform drying is to place them on a cookie sheet in a single layer.

Place dried leaves in a container with a tight fitting lid. Keep away from light and moisture.

White Tea - Use buds only.

White tea is taken from unopened buds only. You can use the same procedures for drying as you would for green tea.

For more interesting tea facts, visit my articles:

Growing the Tea Plant

The Health Benefits of White Tea

Growing Tea Plant


How to Grow Tea Plant Tea has been cultivated in China for centuries (2009 estimates put it at around 5,000 years). Originally, the most common tea varieties were produced from the Camellia sinensis plant, a type of camellia.

Standard teas, not herbal infusions made from other types of herbs and plants, are processed using a number of steps to make the varieties you're used to like: green, black and oolong. Processing is one of the main determiners of a tea's flavor and medicinal properties. Green and white teas are taken from very young leaves, undergo less processing, and aren’t fermented. They are typically considered better for you and are more expensive.

Propagating Tea Plants

Seeds
Camellia sinensis, or tea plant, needs acidic soil and lots of water. It will grow outside in Zones 8 or higher. Sow seeds in spring when nighttime temperatures reach 55 degrees F or more. Soak seeds in water for a day or so before planting, and keep purchased seeds moist and viable in the refrigerator before planting out. When you start seeds, try placing them in small pots indoors in a sunny window with a combination of perlite and orchid mix. Mist them frequently. Seeds sprout in four to six weeks.

Seedlings
Plant seedlings four feet apart in a sunny to partially shaded spot in sandy soil with a pH of 5 to 6. Make sure the location you choose has protection from the wind and that the soil drains well. Tea camellias are slow starters and can take up to three years to begin producing when grown from seed.

Cuttings
You can also purchase cuttings or young plants online. The tea camellia can grow to 10 feet and live for well over 100 years, so make sure its final home has plenty of room to spread out.



Harvesting Tea from Homegrown Plants

Depending on your climate, tea plants will leaf out at least once a year, usually in spring. This new, young growth is what you'll want to harvest for tea.

A good rule of thumb is that if you can grow camellias in your climate, you can probably grow tea plants.

Growing Tea Plants Indoors

You can keep tea plants in pots and bring them indoors to overwinter in areas that experience a hard frost. Be sure to give them sandy soil and top with a layer of mulch or moss to retain moisture. Your camellia will need a cool indoor winter location that has good light. If you can't provide six hours of light a day, try a spot away from heat and invest in a grow light for your plant. Plants go dormant in winter and stop producing foliage.

In spring, gradually adapt your plant to living outside by leaving it outdoors for longer and longer periods. If you want to keep your plant indoors year round, you will have to give it good light and lots of humidity. Although this can be a tall order, there are success stories out there about tea camellias growing happily indoors in someone's sunny window for years.

In spring, make sure to harvest new growth to keep the plant small enough to stay in its pot. Although it will probably eventually outgrow its container, you can keep the plant small by harvesting young leaves when they appear.

I really love tea. For a little European flair, try buying heat-tempered glass teacups. They showcase your brew and give teatime a special touch.

*I have also dried green tea leaves in a dehydrator.

Proceed to my next post for tips on drying your tea: Drying Home Grown Tea Leaves


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Photo1 - This wonderful photo of a tea plant flower is courtesy of Linda De Volder. You can view Linda's other work at Flickr

Photo2 - TeaCamelia2_Wiki.jpg   By Pancrat (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/13/Camellia_sinensis_Bois_Cheri_.jpg

Tuesday

Make Lavender Oil

Lavender OilYou don't have to buy essential oil to get the fragrance and benefits of lavender oil in your bath, sachet, and even in your cooking. Use  lavender buds to make an olive oil infused mixture you can use for anything from a sleep aid (topically) to a moisturizer that will help reduce the appearance of stretch marks.

Lavender Oil Recipe

  • 1-1/2 to 2 Cups Lavender buds or flowers
  • 1-1/2 Cups Olive Oil
  • 7 Capsules Vitamin E (Pierced and drained, 400 IUs or adjust quantity)
  • Jar with a tight fitting lid (about a two cup capacity, sterilized)
  • Non-reactive pot (glass, ceramic or stainless steel)
  • Non-reactive bowl
  • Cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer
  • Coffee filter

Directions for Making Lavender Oil

Heat olive oil till it starts to bubble at the edge of the pot.

Add lavender and simmer for half an hour on low.

Cool to room temperature

Strain in batches through a large strainer and then through a coffee filter.

Pierce vitamin capsules and add vitamin E oil to the mixture.


Pour into a decorative, sterilized jar.

Refrigerate

The mixture will become cloudy when it's cold but clear up again as it reaches room temperature. It should last about six weeks in the refrigerator. You can also freeze a portion for later use.  Frozen lavender oil will stay fragrant for four to six months.

Uses For Lavender Oil

You can use the oil as a moisturizer, mild antibacterial, bath oil, or dry hair treatment. You'll smell great with a touch of the oil at your pulse points, and it will last longer than many water-based colognes.

If you have potpourri around the house, decorative herb wreaths, lavender wands or other decorative lavender crafts, you can refresh them with lavender fragrance by applying a drop or two of oil.

Special Notes on Using Lavender Oil:

Lavender Essential oil is distilled and very concentrated. This mixture is not an essential oil. It's less strong, but has a good fragrance and can be applied directly to the skin.

Don't use lavender that has been treated with pesticides.

Lavender can cause allergic reactions in some people. If you experience a rash, sore throat, or nausea, discontinue use. If you are having trouble breathing after using a lavender infused product or homemade concoction, seek medical help immediately.


Monday

Pepper Growing Tips and Tricks

Pepper AssortmentPeppers don't take up much space in the garden, but provide a good per-plant harvest and can be used in lots of different ways. You can also employ some creative preservation methods that will offer tantalizing options for using peppers in winter dishes.

The Old Farmer's Almanac has some good advice today for growing large bell peppers. This is also good advice for growing most garden peppers:

Pepper Growing Tips


Give peppers at least eight hours of light a day.

Peppers like rich soil that is high in phosphorous.

Make sure your peppers have good drainage.

Provide them with a soil pH between 6 and 8.

Pepper Varieties to Try

If you haven't put your bell peppers in the ground yet, look for Big Bertha and Goliath varieties for oversized peppers that will fill up a fajita skillet or hold lots of ground beef.

If you like a mix of peppers in the garden, give paprika peppers a try too. They dry well and taste wonderful. This fall you can dry and then grind them into your paprika powder using a simple coffee grinder.

For some adventure, try a habanero pepper plant (also known as a Scotch bonnet), if you can stand the heat. They're the orange peppers in the photo. If you pick them when they're green, they won't be quite so hot.

Sweet banana peppers make a nice change in color, texture, and flavor to the peppers you're probably used to. They are a great garnish or addition to your vegetable pizza.

Jalapeño peppers and red chili peppers freeze beautifully for garden goodness all winter long.

Smoke a few jalapenos to make your own chipotle chiles using an inexpensive smoker or Weber style grill.

If you want to save some of your summer bell pepper bounty for winter enjoyment, roast them on the barbecue, skin, and freeze them. They'll add depth and flavor to your chili, sloppy Joes, and packaged skillet meals.

Many peppers are good producers, giving you an extended harvest into the fall if you're spared a hard frost.

When you're preparing your late summer feast, don't forget those wonderful, colorful peppers. They make a beautiful display tumbling out of a wicker basket, and they'll show your friends and family how productive gardening can be.

Sunday

Iced Green Tea with Mint and Ginger

If you've ever limped through a hot, humid day lusting for a cool and really refreshing drink, this is the one. Green tea is full of antioxidants and ginger is a great restorative. Both mint and ginger are good for an unsettled stomach too. This is my tea of choice from the beginning of July through the end of August.

When you make it, be prepared to fight for what's left in the pitcher. It's that tasty.

Refreshing Iced Green Tea Recipe

*8 Green Tea Bags
1/4 Cup Thinly sliced fresh ginger (You can leave the skin on.)
20 Mint leaves, bruised or torn
8 Cups boiling water
Lemon slice

  • Combine tea bags, mint, and ginger in a non-reactive pot (ceramic or glass would be great).
  • Pour boiling water over herbs and tea. Let steep for ten minutes. Strain.
  • Allow the liquid to cool to room temperature.
  • Pour over crushed ice.
  • Serve with a slice of lemon.

*If you are using a quality loose green tea, start with three tablespoons. Save the grounds and reuse them to make two batches of iced green tea in a day. You can employ an infuser, add the tea to simple drawstring muslin bag, or make a pouch with string and a length of muslin or cheesecloth.

Herbed Chicken Saltimbocca

Sliced ProsciuttoOne great advantage to keeping sage in the garden is being able to use fresh, young sage leaves in saltimbocca, an Italian favorite. Although my recipe doesn't use veal, it's still delicious, with an earthy and herby flavor that will sing the praises of your garden without you saying a single word.

Herbed Chicken Saltimbocca Recipe

6 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (pounded to 1/2 inch thick)
6 Slices Prosciutto
6 Fresh, young, sage leaves
1/2 Cup Flour
1/2 Tsp. Pepper
1/2 Tsp. Salt
3 Tbsp. Olive oil
2 Tbsp. Butter
1/2 Cup White wine
1/2 Cup Chicken stock
2 Tsp. Lemon juice
2 Tsp. Minced Parsley
2 Tsp. Minced Chives

Heat olive oil in a large skillet.

While oil is heating, dredge chicken in flour, salt, and pepper mixture. Shake to remove excess.

*Place one sage leaf on each breast and top with a slice of prosciutto. Press lightly.

Saute chicken with prosciutto in skillet until lightly browned, about two to three minutes on each side. You may need to do this in two batches. Remove from skillet to drain. Set aside. (If you set the chicken prosciutto side down in the skillet first, the layer of ham will stick to the chicken and make turning the breasts easier.)

Remove all but a couple of teaspoons of oil from the skillet. Add white wine and chicken stock. Stir. Allow to simmer until reduced by about a third. Add lemon juice.

Add butter to the mixture in two batches, whisking briskly until the sauce thickens. Add parsley.

Remove chicken to a serving platter. Top with sauce. Add chives and place a sprig of parsley and a slice of lemon on the platter for garnish.

*To distribute the sage flavor across the entire breast, try chopping each leaf into about six pieces and sprinkling the pieces on each breast. This is really effective if the breasts are large.

If you've been looking for a recipe to show off the bounty of your herb garden, this is the one.

Photo of sliced prosciutto courtesy of RobertDiGiorgio under free GNU license.

Saturday

Herb Pots

I paid a visit to Junk Market Style this morning for a look at all of Janice Gurney's wonderful makeshift planters. I have to admit that I think just about anything can make a wonderful pot or decorative cachepot.

When I was a kid, we had plant pots on every windowsill, on our porches, crowding the sides of the stone steps leading up to the front door, and even sharing some of the steppingstones in the yard.

My mother pressed just about anything she could find into service too, including old glass pitchers, discarded pans, straw hats, and even old wooden drawers. She had a knack for bringing it all together with flair.

Eco-Friendly Planters That Give Found Objects a Stylish Second Life


Janice's photos reminded me of those sweet days when we'd visit the second-hand stores just to browse.

If you have a minute, take a look at her pics in: Just Plant It! , and while you're there, Jim Healey has photos of his Rusty Old Wheelbarrow Planter that are worth a look too. The addition of some dill, a little cilantro and a few chives would make them perfect.

Special Note for Planting Herb Pots

When choosing pots for herbs, make sure that you select vessels with drainage holes. Most herbs can tolerate a range of soil conditions, but they demand good drainage. To make sure that your plant doesn't get wet feet (that's root rot for the uninitiated), fill the bottom of the pot with small stones, sand, or even clay pot shards.

If you plan on using a decorative cachepot for display, have a regular old pot inside the cachepot, and elevate the interior pot with a row of marbles or stones so that it will drain well.

If you have a container that doesn't have drainage holes and you want to modify it, there are special tips you can get for Dremel-style drills that can make holes in ceramic. Learning how to use them make take a bit of practice though.

Quick Lavender Bed Bug Spray for You, Your Clothes and Bedding

There must be lots of people out there plagued with bed bugs. I certainly get my share of requests for information about getting rid of these pests naturally. One interesting trend I'm seeing is from people who just want to make sure that they're protected when they go to sleep at night. They're usually sleeping away from home and don't want to make a fuss. They just want to avoid getting bitten.

I'm not an advocate of spraying too much insecticide around. There's an easy herbal solution that will discourage bed bugs from biting if you're staying in a location where you can't treat the entire room or building, but you need to get a good night's sleep without making your skin a bug buffet.

Natural Lavender Bug Repellent


I like lavender as a treatment. It's safe when used in moderation and smells good to people, but bedbugs hate it. Pick up some lavender essential oil and cut it with water. Use the lavender water in the last rinse when you wash your clothes. You can also put it in your iron to steam lavender into your clothes. In a pinch, you can also use it to spritz directly onto bedding, your nightie, and the carpeting around the bed. (Be sure to pull the covers back and give sheets and blankets time to air-dry before you hop in for the night.)

Be careful to follow the manufacturer's directions for using lavender oil, and never touch the concentrated oil with your bare skin. In lieu of other instructions, try:

Quick Lavender Bedbug Spray

4 Drops of lavender essential oil
4 oz. Water

If you aren't planning on spraying the mixture right away, use distilled water and add one tablespoon of vodka to the mixture. Oh, and while you're at it, double the batch to use for multiple applications.


Other Tips to Help Repel Bed Bugs
  • You can add a few drops of lavender oil to your bath to make you skin less appealing to bedbugs. Eating lots of garlic will help too.
  • If you're staying in a hotel or dorm, make a few sachets of lavender buds and keep them under your pillow and in your luggage. Throw a little rosemary into the bags too.
  • Bedbugs don't like heat, so run your hair dryer over bedding, the headboard, and the carpeting near the bed before you go to sleep at night.
For more information about dealing with bedbugs, please take a look at my blog: Natural Bedbug 

Control

Product Link:
Radha Lavender Essential Oil - Big 4 Oz - 100% Pure & Natural Therapeutic Grade - PREMIUM QUALITY Oil From Bulgaria

Friday

Lavender Ice Tea Recipe

In spring, there's nothing better than a refreshing herbal ice tea in the afternoon. My favorite way to brew ice tea is with fresh herbs, but if you only have dried, that works too.
Lavender Ice Tea
2 Tbsp. Lavender flowers (1 tablespoon dry)
1 Tbsp. Lemon balm (1 teaspoon dry, or one lemon slice)
1 Tbsp. Mint (1 teaspoon dry, applemint is best, but spearmint works well too)
3 Tbsp. Honey
Directions for Lavender Ice Tea
Pour six cups of boiling water on herbs and steep for ten to fifteen minutes.
Cool to room temperature.
Add lemon slice after cooling if you're using it instead of lemon balm.
Add honey and stir.
Lavender TeaAdd crushed ice.
Special Note: If you like something more traditional, try adding a tablespoon of lavender flowers to your favorite tea blend, like English breakfast. To make a pot, add the lavender flowers to a tea infuser or muslin bag with your regular brew. Allow to steep for five minutes.
For information about the health benefits of lavender, visit the Lavender Summary created by Natural Standard with the help of the faculty of the Harvard Medical School. It will give you some insight into the scope of current research into the medicinal value of lavender.
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Photo: Trish Steel [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f5/Lavender%27s_Blue_Dilly_Dilly_-_geograph.org.uk_-_494966.jpg

Thursday

Why Does Catnip Affect Cats

So, why does your cat react to catnip?

The short answer is that no one knows exactly, although we do know that the nepetalactone in catnip can have a powerful reaction in the brains of cats that are susceptible.

Not all cats exhibit the characteristic euphoria we associate with catnip exposure, but the 70 to 80 percent that do are probably reacting to what their systems believe is a cat pheromone, and they're having a . . .well, romantic response to the slightly skunky aroma of catnip.

To learn more about the science, head over to Scientific America for a great article about: How Catnip Works its Magic on Cats

To learn more about growing and using catnip, take a look at:

Growing Catnip
Catnip and Termites
Make a Catnip Mouse

Catnip Tea Recipe



Catnip is known by a number of names, including catswort, catmint, and even field balm. It's a perennial in the mint family that's best known for its ability to drive cats wild, but before you use all your catnip on kitty, consider the medicinal uses of catnip that you might be able to take advantage of.

Catnip contains nepetalactone, a natural sedative that can help you relax and get to sleep at night. It's also a muscle-relaxer and antispasmodic that can be used to treat stomach cramps. It may even help lessen the symptoms of migrane.

The next time you're having trouble settling in for the night, or your stomach is bothering you, try a cup of catnip tea. I'm sure kitty won't mind sharing a little of his stash with you.

Catnip Tea Recipe

1 tsp. Catnip leaves (dried) - or 1 tablespoon fresh catnip
6 oz. Boiling water

Pour boiling water over catnip leaves and steep for five to seven minutes.

I usually add a pinch of dried lemon balm to my catnip tea. Lemon balm has a mild lemony flavor that's a nice compliment to catnip. A little honey is nice too.

For more catnip information, take a look at:

Growing Catnip
Catnip and Termites
Make a Catnip Mouse

Growing Catnip

If one of your cats loves catnip, you're probably hooked on this easy-to-grow perennial. Catnip (Nepeta cataria as well as other Nepeta species) is actually part of the mint family. It grows like a weed in some areas, and has an untidy habit, spreading quickly to take up any available space. Most catnip varieties grow to a height of about three to four feet, and plants can get top-heavy with large serrated leaves, toppling over in an untidy heap when it rains or when the wind blows.

Give catnip rich, well-drained soil. It tolerates most soil conditions (pH 6.1 to 7.8) but does like regular watering and partial to full sun. Catnip can have an aroma that's a cross between peppermint and skunk. It isn't to everyone's taste so keep plants away from your deck or patio.

Propagating Catnip


Start seeds indoors in spring. New plants can be small and delicate. Keep seedlings uniformly moist, and keep them away from the family cat. If cats in the garden are a problem, keep young plants under a protective mesh screen. Plant seedlings 12 to 15 inches apart in an area that's protected from the wind but still receives good airflow.

Catnip Diseases and Pests

Catnip is prone to mildew. Make sure to keep plants pruned and keep the center of the plant open so that the air can circulate freely. Catnip can also have problems with whitefly and spider mites.

Growing Catnip Indoors


If you have a window that receives at least six hours of sunlight a day, catnip can grow indoors for you year round. Just make sure to keep it moist at all times, and pinch off flowers to encourage leaf growth. Catnip also works well in an indoor hydroponic garden.

Although your plans for indoor catnip may center on the family cat, remember that the plant will be an aromatic addition to your plant collection. Catnip, as nice as it is, also smells like skunk to some people.

Harvesting Catnip

Harvest leaves when the plant reaches eight inches. You can take leaves throughout the summer and dry them in the oven or a dehydrator. Pinch back flowers as they appear to stimulate leaf growth. Never take more than half the plant in a single cutting. In fall, cut stems, tie small bunches with a rubber band, and hang them upside down to dry in a dark spot that gets plenty of air flow.

Harvesting Note: Wait to harvest catnip until late morning after the dew has evaporated.

Keep dried catnip in an airtight container in a cool, dark spot until you're ready to use it.

Cats aren't the only critters affected by catnip. There's evidence that catnip repels fleas and termites. For more information on how catnip oil may help in the fight against termites visit my post: Catnip and Termites

Wednesday

Get Rid of Japanese Beetles With a Homemade Repellent

Just a gentle reminder that you should be on the lookout for Japanese beetles in your garden around this time. Once you spot a couple, act quickly. These first visitors are scouts that can make all the difference in how many beetles will be snacking on your plants this summer. The picture says it all.

Advance scout beetles mark territories as good feeding grounds for others to follow. Once marked, your garden will be considered a Japanese beetle buffet. To avoid being on the menu, catch and kill these first beetles and use them to repel any others that happen your way.

I wrote an article about making an easy homemade Japanese beetle repellent last season. You can read it at: Control Japanese Beetles Naturally

This method really does work for me, and I've gotten some great feedback from others about it too. What started me on a quest for a homemade solution was an article I read at Consumer Reports that gave a poor rating to conventional Japanese beetle traps.

A note before you head over to my article and recipe: It's critical that you catch the first Japanese beetle scouts before they have a chance to spread the word about your tasty garden. It may sound silly, but it's true. This is one instance where timing is everything.

If you're too late to catch the early scouts this year, there's still hope. If you keep killing every beetle you see, you'll be reducing the population that will deposit grubs on your property for next year; so even if this year's roses look a bit "lacy", next year you'll have fewer beetles to worry about.

Other things you might consider:

Next year put down a nematode preparation. Nematodes are microscopic, beneficial worms that kill Japanese beetle grubs before they come out of the ground. Milky spore works in a similar way. Nematodes and milky spore are safe and will help get your garden off to a good start next spring. So even though this year may seem hopeless, next year is bound to be better.

Employ plants Japanese beetles avoid.  There are some plants these beetles steer clear of.  They include: members of the garlic and onion family, catnip, tansy, peppermint and rue.  All these herbs have strong, non-flowery fragrances.  You may want to experiment with them and possibly others as well.

In some studies, Japanese beetles were repelled  using essential oils, but the research is still ongoing.  Cedar oil was particularly effective. (That may mean that even adding a little cedar mulch around your roses could be beneficial.)

Learn more about Japanese Beetle control methods with my updated post. There's a lot to learn and consider: What You Need to Know to Get Rid of Japanese Beetles

Good luck,

Sara


Monday

Healthy Herb Pizza

Tomato Mushroom PizzaThe idea of a healthy pizza may seem like an oxymoron, but it doesn't have to be. Make your own pizza and create a pie that's better for you.

The New York Times has a timely, no pun intended, piece on pizza making that you should hang on your refrigerator this spring and summer. Pizza is a dish that can be easy to make and it also makes a great meal on the go.

For a healthier offering, try a thin crust. The New York Times recipe uses part whole-wheat flour and involves the usual bread making effort. For pizza night at my house, I press the bread maker into service, setting the machine for the dough only option. It does the work, and all I have to do is roll it out, load it, and bake it.

Some Delicious Pizza Topping Combinations

I play with different toppings, but try to keep them light on fat. Once you start adding fresh herbs for flavor, you don't need as much sauce and cheese. Keep a quality olive oil on hand, and use sea salt if you can; it adds flavor. I take commercially available sea salt and grind it in a coffee grinder. It comes out very fine, and the trace minerals do add something to veggies . . . in my opinion.
  • Basil, fresh tomatoes, and mozzarella
  • Portabella mushrooms, diced tomatoes, spinach, fresh garlic, and shallots
  • Goat cheese, button mushrooms, and mashed garbanzo beans
  • Minced salmon, Monterey jack cheese, black olives, chives, and dill
Try a better-for-you pizza by making it yourself. After a little practice, you'll be able to create a masterpiece in no time, and the bread maker will do most of the work.

For tips on dragging your bread maker out of the closet and actually using it, take a look at: Put Your Bread Maker to Good Use

To take a look at the New York Times article, visit: Healthier Pizzas

Special Note: That ground sea salt idea works well on popcorn too.

Catnip and Termites

Catnip PhotoYou may be keeping a patch of catnip (Nepeta cataria) in the garden for a feline friend, but watching intoxicated hijinks may not be the only human use for this perennial herb. Catnip, or catmint, has shown promise in repelling termites too.

A 2003 study conducted by the USDA-Forest Service found that catnip oil was effective in repelling and even killing termites. The oil they used was a commercially available catnip essential oil preparation.

The oil was applied to the soil near structures made of wood and did keep termites away. The preparation used for this particular test was not a good match. It was expensive and broke down in the environment too quickly. (Forest service guidelines specify that a treatment must be effective for more than five years to be considered.) The study concluded that the use of catnip oil to control termites needed more testing.

The forest service and others are looking for more eco-friendly termite treatments to take the place of dangerous chemical preparations. In recent years, chemical treatments for wood, (like CCA, a liquid fungicide and insecticide containing arsenic and used to treat wood for the building trade), have come under fire for posing risks to humans and the environment.

Termites and You

If you suspect termite activity, you should have your property evaluated by a professional, but a few termite plants around your home, near an unhappy old tree, or along your wooden fence might not be a bad idea.

Another thing you might want to keep an eye on are commercial products using catnip as a termite-busting ingredient. One commercial application uses catnip oil as a termite repellent in paint. If you know of any others, please let me know.

If you want more information about the USDA test conducted by Research Entomologist, Chris Peterson and others, visit: Termites Repelled by Catnip Oil

Special Note: If you're an enterprising reader considering making your own catnip oil, essential oil is made through distillation, like alcohol. You know, like with great grandpa's still.

Stay tuned for my next post, which will give you tips on how to grow your own catnip. Aside from discouraging termites, you can harvest a batch in fall, dry it, and make catnip mice for all your friends with cats. It's an inexpensive gift, but it's always appreciated. Home dried catnip seems more potent than the commercial stuff too.