We would also like to give a grand thank you to Karen and Allan Six, two wonderful members of our little staff here who are leaving us to embark on a new adventure. Anyone who has visited our nursery knows Karen as our sales goddess. She's been a wonderful person to have out front for us, full of knowledge and always helpful. Allan has been our guy for mowing, weed-eating, and keeping the grounds looking spectacular. He's been number one help to Rolfe for these past five years. They will both be greatly missed and we wish them all the best!
Our luncheons and tours were awesome. We had some new groups along with some of the originals. We tried some new dishes and just had a great time. The first few weeks we had to eat inside due to the weather, but then it never got too hot later in summer so it was an okay trade off.
Midnight in the Garden Event was one of the highlights again this year. I think our 100 guests would agree that it was a magical night that they won't soon forget. This year's fire dancers were especially incredible.
With the nursery now closed and the tours and luncheons done for the season, we are now into our seed harvesting and herb harvesting time. (see below.) Our next event for the year is our Salmon Celebration in November. When we started the Salmon Celebration years ago, our intent was to have a group of experts come out and speak with people about the salmon in the Northwest and to showcase our recovery projects.It was a much bigger event and it was held outside, which was risky business weather-wise for Oregon! We have now made the event much smaller, keeping the focus the same, but having Rolfe lead the tour and talk about our recovery projects. Dinner is indoors and is a plated meal instead of a buffet.
It's not too late to make reservations for the Salmon Celebration! We are nearly booked for Saturday, November 12th , and have opened a second date on Sunday, November 13th. Call Janet to make your reservation at 541-487-8671.
Savoring the Harvest
The summer is truly upon us, and the herbs are reaching their peak. Now is a great time to set out on a harvesting adventure to ensure that you can enjoy their wonderful flavors year-round. Herbs like basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, marjoram, and mints maintain their flavor extremely well when dried and are very easy to dry and store.
Some herbs, such as cilantro and tarragon are worthwhile to use fresh. As the popularity of fresh herbs grows, they've become easier to find in stores year-round. Of course, they don't tastes quite as good as the ones that come straight from your own garden!
Harvest herbs for drying when they are at the peak of their leaf growth before they have set flowers. If they already are in bloom, snip off the flowers. Cut the stems to the desired length, avoiding lower leafs that may be starting to yellow.
There are two basic ways to proceed from here. The first method is to strip the leaves from the bottom two inches of each stem, rubber band several stems together and hang upside down in a low-humidity location. One nice aspect of this technique is that it takes very little space and it can be decorative. The downside is that too much humidity in your home can keep the center stems from drying. It's a good idea to keep the bunches fairly small to allow for air circulation. When you're ready to use your dried herbs, simply pinch the desired amount of leaves from the bunch and crunch them up. Or, you can strip the dried leaves from the stems when they are completely dry and store in an airtight, well labeled container.
The second drying method is to lay the herbs on a screen...it can be something made specifically for the task or you can get creative. I have some old window screens I found in my attic that I cleaned up to use. The idea is that you need air to circulate on all sides of the herbs, so mesh size isn't really crucial. You will need to prop up the screens. so that air can move below the drying herbs as well. With this technique, you don't need to bundle the herbs. You will want to keep them in a dry location and rotate them everyday to ensure even drying. Once you are certain they are completely dry, strip the leaves from the stems (if the stems are woody or for fine herbs like thyme you may choose to leave the stems on and just use a spice grinder to break them up). Store in an airtight, well labeled container.
Two years ago I had to throw out a whole bag of basil because I had too hastily declared it dry enough to store and it molded. It was awful! Basil is used almost as commonly as salt in my house! While lamenting my loss to a co-worker, she told me that she has been freezing her basil in resealable bags. I tried that last year and it worked amazingly! The leaves stayed mostly green and the flavor kept. This method is also very simple, and I like that you can just keep adding to the bag as the plants keep producing. All you do is gather and wash the leaves (no stems here) and spin in a lettuce spinner. Put in a Ziploc bag in the freezer. When ready to use, simply crush the leaves and enjoy!
Featured Herbs: The Lemon Collection
The smell of lemon is one of the most refreshing scents in my mind, second maybe to rosemary, which on most days is my ultimate favorite. Since becoming pregnant, scents have been making a bigger impact on me than ever before, and the clean smell of citrus is particularly appealing.
Luckily for me, lemon-scented herbs abound and can be found in all sorts of applications. Many types of lotions, soaps and cosmetics feature lemon herbs like Lemon Verbena and Lemon Grass. They are also found in all sorts of teas and beverages (see Infusion Profusion below.) Sometimes it's just nice to have them to walk by and enjoy. The strongest lemon herbs for rub and sniff enjoyment are Lemon Verbena, Lemon Balm, and Lemon Geraniums - we carry Mable Gray and Frensham Lemon, both of which smell just like lemon drops! Edible flowers of lemon marigold and lemon thyme make them a fun addition to salads and attractive edible garnishes.
Below is a list of our favorite lemon herbs and their many uses.
|Lemon Verbena - One of the strongest lemon scents! Use fresh or dried in teas, infusions, cakes and cookies. An attractive potted plant. Tender Perennial.
|Lemon Balm - One of the best for teas, dried or fresh. Abundant growth. Also for infusions, baking, and potpourris. Perennial.
Lemon Savory - This is one of our favorites to add to honey butters. A sweet lemon flavor that also goes well with chicken and fish dishes. It's also great added to fruit salads. Tender Perennial.
||Lemon Geranium - A great one to have along a well-used path or patio where it can be encouraged to release its wonderful fragrance. Add a few leaves to the bottom of a lemon cake and it will give it an extra lemon kick (and sometimes leaves behind a pretty leaf stamp.) Tender Perennial.
|Lemon Grass, East or West Indian - Both varieties are essential in lemon-infused teas. They're also important in many ethnic dishes (see July's Thyme Garden Newsletter). Tender Perennial.
Lemon Basil - I love the sweetness of lemon basils. They are refreshing added to fruit salads or added to green salads. They also make excellent herb-infused cooking oils. Add lemon basil to marinades for basil plus citrus. Annual.
|Lemon Hyssop - Produces a beautiful pink-purple flower that hummingbirds go crazy for. This one to me smells more like Tutti-Fruity, but I love it just the same. The leaves can be used in teas. A good rub and sniff lemon herb. Perennial.
|Lemon Marigold - Tight little bushes give rise to bright yellow mini-marigold flowers that taste just like a lemon rind! They make a terrific edible embellishment. Annual.
Lemon Thyme - There are many varieties of lemon thyme, and I love them all. They can be used in sweet dishes or savories; I especially like them in honey butter and sweet rolls. One of my favorites in Variegated Lemon Thyme, which is not only a beautiful little plant, it's also hardy and tastes delicious. Perennial.
You may have noticed that I've been writing a lot about using herbs in infusions. That's because infusions are simple ways to collect all the great flavor of an herb and use it in a liquid application where you wouldn't want to have the leaves or flowers to chew through.
So many herbs make excellent infusions once you learn the easy recipe to infusing, your imagination is really the only limit. At rig ht: Ja maica with Lemon Verbena Syrup, Lavender Lemonade and Sun Tea with Spearmint Infusion.
Mom (Janet) and I recently attended a workshop on essential oils. It made me think about all the healing we have probably inadvertently done for our luncheon groups over the years as we are essentially (no pun intended!) creating and serving concentrations of the herbs. It's a neat thought. As Dad (Rolfe) and I serve up Lavender Lemonade or Rooibos Tea with Spearmint Syrup, I have noticed that the excitement level grows around us . . .maybe it's not just the sugar?Try it for yourself and decide!
Herbal Simple Syrup Infusion
You will Need:
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups water
1 handful fresh herb leaves*
|In a large, heavy bottomed pot with a lid, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil.
|Gently rub fresh leaves between your hands to bruise and add them to the boiling sugar water. If using dried herbs, simply add them to the boiling sugar water.
|Stir the leaves gently for a few seconds.
|Cover and let steep for 20 minutes.
|Remove leaves with a slotted spoon or strain.
|Let infusion cool and then transfer to a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Your herb infused simple syrup will keep for a week in your refrigerator.
*If using dried herbs, you will need significantly less. Start with a tablespoon and check potency.
So what do you do with your infusion once you've got it? One of our signature drinks is our lavender lemonade. For this recipe, simply make fresh squeezed lemonade or lemonade from concentrate (if using concentrate add more water then suggested so that the lavender can shine through and it isn't too sweet.) Mix 8 parts lemonade to one part lavender infusion.
Another fun use for infusions is to make your own sodas. My friend Irene made me a homemade ginger ale this weekend by making a ginger infusion (she swapped brown sugar for the white stuff) and added fresh grated ginger to her hot water mix. The ginger infusion + ice+ seltzer water = pure taste bud bliss! Plus, making your own soda means you can make it organic and you can make it taste anyway you choose! Mom and I also made Lemon Geranium Sodas in the same way and added a slice of lemon. Very refreshing!
For an adult beverage, check out our blog for a recipe for Simple Mint Mojitos and get hooked on infusing!
~ Corsican Mint Available Now!
A wonderful scented, low-growing steppable ground cover for use between pavers and in lightly travelled areas - get it now as we always sell out!
~ Creeping and Mixed Creeping Thyme Available Now!
Both of our low growing thymes are great groundcovers for areas large or small where you would prefer a little something different. Our Creeping Thyme gets about an half inch tall, forming a nice tight mat with pretty white-mauve-pink flowers. Our Mixed Creeping Thyme is harvested from all of our low growing thymes in the garden and will give you varied leaf texture, bloom color, and bloom thyme - like an everchanging tapestry!
~ Taking Pre-Orders for Hops!
Order now to be sure that you have the best selection. Orders are shipped in spring when rhizomes are harvested.
It was brought to our attention by an astute Newsletter Reader that we passed on an often sited but incorrect bit of information. Bergamot (Monarda didyma) is a tea herb as we wrote about, but it is not the Bergamot that is used in Earl Grey tea.The Bergamot used in Earl Grey comes from Citrus bergamia, which is a type of orange. Thanks for enlightening us, dear reader, and showing once again how this newsletter can be a resource for the sharing of good information!