Tag Archives: herb

Cutting Celery: A Cold-Tolerant, Neglected Herb

In November, when I was pulling out the blackened tomatoes and peppers, I noticed a spot of green to the right of the veggie bed. One of my favorite herbs was still going strong despite the frost.  My three cutting celery plants were green with beautiful, feathery leaves.

I use cutting celery in the kitchen quite frequently – unlike celery you buy in a store, cutting celery can add a spicy, pepper-like flavor to meals. Cutting celery (Apium graveolens var. secalinum) looks more like parsley than the stalk celery (Apium graveolens var. dulce) that one purchases in a grocery store. This small, bushy plant has short, hollow stems and plenty of parsley-like leaves. Cutting celery is a very old herb, more popular in European and Asian countries (sometimes it is called Chinese celery). It is not difficult to grow but probably difficult to find as a plant here in the Washington DC area. I start mine from seed under lights, several weeks before the last frost in the spring. I then plant them outside in May, in a very moist area. This particular area is a depression in the veggie bed where rain water collects making the soil moist enough to keep the celery plants happy but too wet for my other vegetables and herbs. Celery needs a constant supply of moisture and a few shots of nitrogen in the summer.

I cut the stems as needed, leaving the plant in the ground. After washing and chopping, I add leaves and stems together to stir fry dishes, soups, stews, and egg and potato dishes toward the end of the cooking period.  Cutting celery has a very strong flavor, more pungent and spicy than stalk celery, much like black pepper. Sometimes I add about a spoonful to a green salad to add that peppery flavor in small amounts. I also sauté chopped celery with diced green pepper and tomato to add to fish or chicken. The leaves can be used as a garnish, either in a drink like a straw or under the entrée, like a roast, on a platter.

A member of the carrot family, cutting celery is a biennial but in my zone 7 garden, I treat it as an annual. Although it is hardy, it sits in a very wet area that will freeze soon, which could kill the roots.  It is better for me to treat my plants as annuals and plan to start a few more from seed each year. If we had an unusually mild winter and my plants did survive, they would flower and set seed, which I could save to grow the following year.

 

In a Vase on Monday: Small Flowered Zinnias and a Surprise Herb

I like to grow different types of zinnias each summer, particularly old-fashioned species. This year I grew a yellow-flowered Peruviana (Zinnia peruviana) and multi-colored Persian Carpet (Zinnia haageana). Tucked in this arrangement is a yellow-flowered herb, can you guess what it is? Here is a clue: This herb grows as a tangled perennial in my zone 7 Virginia garden and is just now blooming in July. #inavaseonmonday

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Feverfew

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is an old herb once thought to treat fevers but actually is helpful in preventing migraine headaches. I first saw the plant blooming at a demonstration garden a few years ago and liked the small, daisy-like flowers, similar to chamomile. I sowed seed late last summer and transplanted the seedlings in the ground before frost. They weathered the mild winter in my zone 7 Virginia garden but remained small. When the temperature increased in early spring, the plants grew up very fast and started blooming as early as . The plants are several feet tall now in full sun, oblivious to our current dry spell. I do not use feverfew medicinally but as a summer flowering perennial. Because they are small white flowers, they are great by themselves in a vase or as a filler with other flowers.

I read that the plant has a strong and bitter smell but I don’t notice it. I have also read that feverfew has mosquito repelling qualities but there are still the same number of mosquitoes in my garden.  However, I have noticed that nothing goes near it, no deer and no rabbits.

My variety is Heirloom Double White Wonder from Renees Garden but there are other cultivars on the market such as Aureum, White Bonnet, Golden Ball, Crown White, and Ultra Double White. You may not find this in your local nursery as a plant; you may have to purchase seed but the seed germinates easily. Feverfew is known to be a short-lived perennial but it will be a summer-long success in my garden this year.

The 15th of the month is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day where garden bloggers post photos of plants that are blooming in their area across the country.

You Can Grow That: Hyssop for the Fourth of July

hyssopToday’s “You Can Grow That” falls on July 4. “You Can Grow That” is a collaborative effort by gardeners across the nation to encourage others to grow something by posting about a plant on the fourth day of the month. Because today is Independence Day, I chose to write about hyssop, a popular colonial herb. Hyssop, Hyssopus officinalis, was introduced to the Americas by John Winthrop, Jr., in 1631. It is documented that he brought hyssop seeds, along with other herb seeds, from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It is also documented that Quaker farmer and America’s first botanist, John Bartram, grew hyssop in Philadelphia. George Washington grew this herb at Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s records mention hyssop at Monticello. Bernard McMahon, a Philadelphia nurseryman, included hyssop in his list of kitchen herbs in his book, The American Gardener’s Calendar, published in 1806.

Traditionally, hyssop has been grown for medicinal and culinary qualities. Hyssop tea helps with chest congestion. As an antiseptic, hyssop has been used to heal wounds. The leaves have a menthol taste and can be used to flavor green or fruit salads, make tea, or used in preparing meat or game dishes. Flowers are used as a garnish or in salads. The leaves and flowers can be used fresh or dry (they dry well). Hyssop also is used in perfumes, liqueurs, and wines and as a strewing herb.hyssop

Today, hyssop is popular as a landscape edible and beneficial plant for pollinators. Hardy to zone 3, it is a perennial in my Virginia garden which is partly why it was so popular with the colonists. It comes back year after year and seems to be deer and pest resistant. I certainly have had no problems with mine. Hyssop has dark green, lanceolate leaves that are opposite to each other on the stem and each pair is at right angles to the one above, giving a whorled appearance. The plant is bushy if left to grow to its height of 2 to 3 feet but can be clipped to be a border plant. Mine rewards me with purple flowers from June through August but there are white flowered and pink flowered types as well. The flowers are small but many on a stem, which can be cut for flower arrangements.

Hyssop can be grown in full sun or morning sun to afternoon shade, in well-drained soil, with little or no fertilizer. It is easy to grow from seeds, cuttings, or division and usually the large nurseries will carry it in the herb section in the spring to early summer.

You Can Grow That: Chervil

chervilChervil is ephemeral grace. Its finely cut, green leaves emerge during cool spring months, dissipating quickly with summer’s heat. Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) is a very old European herb, one of the components of fines herbs of French cuisine. It is not as well known here in America but it is easy to grow for culinary use. A cousin of parsley, chervil’s leaves are similar but more finely cut and the overall height is smaller, about one foot tall and wide. If left to flower in the summer, the compound umbels display small white flowers, again, similar to parsley or carrot. Because chervil is a hardy annual, seeds should be sown every few weeks in early spring here in Virginia and then again in late summer for a fall crop. Chervil prefers moist soil and partial or afternoon shade.

Leaves can be harvested fresh and taste like a combination of parsley and anise (licorice). Wash and finely cut the leaves to add to egg dishes, fish, fruit salad, cream cheese, cream sauces, cheese dishes, and butter. Add to vegetables such as carrots, beans, corn, and peas during the last few minutes of cooking. It is best to add chervil at the end of hot dishes such as soups and stews because the lengthy heat will make it taste bitter.  The leaves can be dried as well, simply wash and lay flat on paper towels for a few weeks or hang upside down.

You can grow that is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage others to grow something. Click on the logo below to read more posts.

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You Can Grow That: Parsley

parsleyParsley is one of those easy to grow landscape edibles that adds beauty to your garden and flavor to your cooking. Here in Northern Virginia, parsley can stay green above ground all winter long (I took this photo in January 2016).

I always use parsley fresh, not dried, partly because I have several plants in my garden, year round. Since it is a biennial, I sow seeds every spring to ensure that I have plants. Mine are Italian Gigante from Renee’s Garden  which is a type of flat leaf or Italian parsley, best for culinary purposes. There is a curly leaf type but that is best used as a garnish. Parsley can be grown from seed or can be bought as a small plant from the local nurseries in the spring/summer. Sometimes, if a plant begins to flower before I am able to harvest the leaves, I let it flower and set seed so the seed can drop and germinate next year. I started growing parsley years ago and now have a string of plants just beneath the deck, in a place that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. Parsley likes organic matter, moisture, and morning sun or dappled sun. My plants are in the ground but they also can be grown in containers and window boxes.

To harvest, cut outer, older leaves at the base, leaving the core or inner, younger leaves.  Cut with scissors (don’t pull) and put in a large bowl of water for about 20 minutes (to wash the foliage and drown any bugs). Pat dry and cut the leaves and stems into small pieces with scissors or a knife.

I harvest leaves for my bean stews, roasted vegetables, pierogis, pasta, and salads. I have used leaves for garnish for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners and on plates of fruit.

Known for vitamin A, C, and K, parsley’s high level of chlorophyll also freshens your breath!

You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage others to grow something. Click on the logo to read more posts.

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You Can Grow That: Dill!

dill flowerDill is easy to grow from seed; I just throw a few seed in a large plastic container on my deck in late March. I don’t worry about frost or cold nights but I do make sure the top of the soil is moist until I see the leaves come through the soil and then I water a little less often. Here in Northern Virginia, we seem to have plenty of rain or snow in March so the seeds do not dry out. Now, when the garden soil is warmer, I will gently lift the seedlings out with a trowel and plant in the garden bed in full sun.

Dill is an annual, but it may re-seed in the garden. Dill foliage, also called dill weed, can be used fresh or dried. Although dill weed’s claim to fame is pickles, we tend to use fresh leaves in the summer for egg dishes, fish, tomato salads, cucumber salads, cooked carrots, fresh veggie dishes and even dill butter. In the winter, we use the dried dill for canned veggies, egg dishes, and tuna salad.  It is easy to dry the foliage, just wash and let dry flat on paper towels for a few weeks, then store in a glass jar.dill

Dill tends to flower quickly in the summer so it is best to sow seed several times to ensure a continuous supply of dill weed. By summer, I simply sow seed directly into the garden bed, making sure the seeds do not dry out.  The flowers are actually beneficial to the garden, they attract the good bugs. However, once the plants flower, they set seed and the plant itself starts to put energy into the seed and not the foliage. It is easy to save the seed because they are all in one structure called an umbel. When the seeds are brown, simply cut the stalk to the umbel into a large paper bag. Let dry for a few weeks, then put the umbel on a plate or in a large bowl and rub the seeds off. Store seeds in a glass jar and either use them in the kitchen or plant them next year. Seeds can be used in baking, breads, or crackers, but I have not tried this personally yet (that will be this winter’s project).

dill (2)

So much has been written about this old herb, one can easily search for information on the internet or in herb books. My favorite dill booklet is Dilly Bits, published by the Herb Society of America, copyright by the HSA, see the link below. It is a compilation of HSA members’ experiences with dill across the country. http://www.herbsociety.org/herbs/documents/DillyBits5-Final.pdf

You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage others to grow something. To read more posts, visit http://www.youcangrowthat.com/blogs/Youcangrowthat

Lemongrass: Cheap Find at Market

 

lemongrass a month later, rooted one in pot showing new green growth

lemongrass a month later, rooted one in pot showing new green growth

Last month, my hairdresser told me that I could buy lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) from the market and root it by sticking it in water. My hairdresser is Thai and when I was young I lived in Chiangmai and Bangkok for four years so we always talk about Asian cuisine, plants, and gardening. Like a dutiful daughter, I went to the local Asian market and bought two stalks of lemongrass for two dollars. They did not have any roots but looked healthy and thick. I put one in a cup of water and kept it indoors by the window. I planted the other stalk in a pot of soil and kept it on the deck. If it did not rain, I watered it. A month later, the one in the cup of water shows no roots but the one in the pot rooted so well I had to dig the plant out with a trowel to be able to take photos of the roots. So that I don’t lose the one that did not root in water, I immediately put it in a pot of soil on the deck, hoping it will still root a month later. I have read that the stalks do root in water but mine did not for whatever reason.

lemon grass after bought from store, no roots

lemon grass after bought from store, no roots

The moral of the story is: get a lemongrass plant for a dollar at the Asian market. Lemongrass can be grown in a pot or in the ground but it can get as large as three feet tall with a fountain like shape of narrow, sharp leaves. It is grown for the leaves, not flowers, and requires full sun, warmth, and a well drained soil. Because of its strong vertical lines, lemongrass makes an excellent container plant for the summer, surrounded by flowering annuals. But it is a tropical and should be brought indoors in October here in Virginia before the frosts kill it.

lemongrass a month later, left one was in soil, right one was in water

lemongrass a month later, left one was in soil, right one was in water

As the name suggest, the leaves have a lemon fragrance and are used extensively in Asian cuisine. Chopped fresh stalks can be added to sauces, curries, soups, stir fries, seafood, chicken, and pork dishes. Commercially, lemon grass is used for ice cream, candies, and baked goods. It is also used in perfumes, candles, and cosmetics. At home, lemongrass can be used in potpourris, in the bath, or as a foot soak. Fresh or dried chopped stalks are used in beverages and teas. The stalks dry easily so feel free to harvest and dry if you do not want to bring the plant indoors in the fall. As an herbal tea, it makes the best lemon flavor plus it is relaxing to drink in the evening. In fact, I have been drinking Chamomile Twist, an herbal tea from the Spice and Tea Exchange in Old Town, Alexandria, that has dried lemongrass bits in it. Later, when my plants are well established, I will harvest stalks to dry for my own herbal tea blends.