Monthly Archives: April 2013

Kitchen Herbs!

Hello, Springtime in Arkansas!
We’ve sure had a slow, colder than usual start, but alas, it finally FEELS like Springtime!
Having so much rain in the last two weeks has rapidly turned the landscape green, again! YaY! My kitchen herb collection is enjoying a great start this season! Yours? There are few interesting plants in my pots, I think!

My chives are huge, because they are usually good year ’round in this pot. They went dormant after our heavy Dec25 snow, but came back strong. I lift and divide them every 3 years or so, but I’ll also have plenty of seeds to share in a couple of months after they bloom.

The sage is about 3 years old now; it started as a teeny, tiny little sprout, purchased in a 2 or 3″ pot. It is quite a beauty, now at over 18″ in all directions! (For reference, these pots have about an 18″ diameter. They all receive morning to early afternoon sun, and are shaded by the house during late afternoon.)

Not having a greenhouse and adequate lighting indoors, I’ve grown my basil using Bonnie brand starter plants the last few years and have been really pleased with the results every year! Somehow,around here,each basil plant costs less than a package of fresh herbs at the grocery store. One “Sweet Basil” plant will yield the equivalent of a dozen+ grocery store purchases of packaged fresh basil for me. Furthermore, with things like basil and mint, you’ll find that in Arkansas, you have the option to grow many more varieties than you’re likely to find in grocery stores! Cooking for a family of 5, budget matters. Having been lucky enough to dine in a few fine places along life’s journey, quality and flavor matter, too. When I grow Bonnie herbs, my family gets to eat spectacular, fresh herbs while I save on my grocery expenses! There isn’t a downside for us. Our kids take turns watering them in the mornings, as needed, and we have a system where they take turns for who “gets to” pick basil, snip chives, etc.
They LOVE being involved caring for our edible plants.

New, (well, new to me) this year, I’m growing Bonnie’s CULANTRO. Interesting, yes? I didn’t misspell it. Its spelling is similar to cilantro, as is it’s flavor, but it sure doesn’t look anything like cilantro! You’re going to want to read what Bonnie says about this plant! I’m fascinated! In this house, we LOVE using cilantro in the summer, so having the option to grow a plant with a similar, but stronger, flavor sounds GREAT to us!

Bonnie provides QR codes on a plant marker with some of the plants they sell. I just use my free QR reading app on my smartphone, and then I’m instantly linked to Bonnie’s website! Bonnie’s QR links each deliver a wealth of information about the plant’s characteristics, how to care for the plant, and recipes using the plant! Even if you don’t find a QR code on your Bonnie plant, I suggest going to their site. I find that the range of information they share for the plants they sell is currently unparalleled.

For example, check out CULANTRO:
OVERVIEW of Culantro:
GROWING Culantro:
COOKING with Culantro:

Awesome, right? 🙂
Bonnie plants and the Bonnie website are AMAZING. If you skipped to this sentence without clicking on their links, you might want to re-think that decision. Go back. Click one or all three of those links.
You won’t be disappointed!
(But, please come back here to visit me again, sometime, too! Really!) 🙂

In this photo, you can see my Rosemary filled a bed quite nicely. They are planted in front of the house, beside a path leading to the front door. With even the slightest breeze, it is so refreshing to experience the Rosemary!

Further up the pathway, you’ll see some of the Wooley Lambs’ Ear that I propagated out of the pot last year. Let’s talk about it, shall we? We shall.

Woolly Lambs’ Ear is one of my absolute favorite plants that I’ve been dividing and sharing for over a decade. There is quite a bit of it spread around downtown, at Our Old Historic House Downtown, and neighboring homes. One of the neatest things about visiting historic areas, is admiring historic gardens. When we moved to our new house in 2010, of course we brought these pots, and since I’d already been keeping some of the Wooley Lambs’ Ear in a pot, I’ve just kept propagating and planting!

What is so special about this plant? I like this plant so much that I don’t hardly know where to start talking about it!

First, it is amazing in children’s gardens. The soft, fuzzy texture is fun to explore. It stands up to and rebounds from a reasonable amount of steppage. It grows into nice, tight border plantings that resist weeds. It attracts bumblebees and butterflies while in bloom. It is low maintenance, and as I’ve mentioned, it is really easy to lift, divide and multiply.

Guess what else?! Historically, the local folklore is that Wooley Lambs’ Ear have been used medicinally and for personal hygiene due to its antiseptic, soothing, and absorbent properties. I can totally imagine that laying their big, cool damp leaves across sunburned shoulders would potentially relieve some discomfort in the summer!

Can it get any better? Other Sources say it can. “Yes, Wooley Lambs’ Ear is edible!” other sources claim. Apparently, according to other sources, some people enjoy Lamb’s Ear fresh in salads, gently steamed as greens, and steeped into tea! Their advice says to pick fresh, young leaves for best flavor! Here is what they what they say about Wooley Lambs’ Ear:

“The whole plant (Stachys) is medicinal as an alterative, antibacterial, antipyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, febrifuge, hypotensive, stomachic, styptic, tonic, vermifuge and vulnerary. A cold water infusion of the freshly chopped or dried and powdered leaves makes a refreshing beverage, while a weak infusion of the plant can be used as a medicinal eye wash for sties and pinkeye. It is taken internally as a medicinal tea in the treatment of fevers, diarrhea, sore mouth and throat, internal bleeding, and weaknesses of the liver and heart.” Source: Wikipedia

“Lamb’s ear is loosely related to Betony (both are Stachys), and is sometimes called woolly betony. Besides the sopping up of blood and use as a [wound] dressing, lamb’s ear has also been used as a poultice and has analgesic properties. It was used either alone, or to help hold in other herbs like comfrey. It was often used in the aftermath of bee or wasp stings, and reduces the swelling from both. It was used for centuries as a “women’s comfort” for hemorrhoids, menstrual flow, birthing, for nervous tension, and as a skin aid. It’s easy to see that with the invention of Tylenol, gauze, feminine hygiene products, cotton packing, and make up removal pads, the knowledge and use of lamb’s ear for this purpose kind of went out the window. However, now you know you have a natural substitute if everything goes wrong and supplies are not available. Lamb’s ear has been used as a natural dye for wool. Boiling the leaves in hot water and then adding a mordant, brings out a fabulous, creamy, yellowish beige. Using the bracts (flower spike) instead of the leaves, a light mauve can be attained. The leaves traditionally have been used in cooking from the West Indies. A lovely tea can be made from the leaves as well, tasting a bit like chamomile. I also have a mole verde recipe that calls for small lamb’s ear leaves. When harvesting for food, only choose small, healthy leaves.” -Source: The Chippewa Herald

Lol. It is not a “baaa’ad” plant. Interesting.

Personally, I’m optimistic that we will all be able to continue a path of following MODERN medicine and modern science. I hope I also do my part to maintain and pass along the little known, Folklore trivia about this native plant for the sake of conversational interest and the possibility of cultivating, potential future opportunities for a neat plant, too!

NOTE: Please, do not use me (Amber) or this blog post as reference claiming Woolly Lambs’ Ear is edible or medicinal; I’m merely relaying that other online sources make such claims! I have not attempted to look for historical botanical information for this plant in actual textbooks, if it even exists, nor have I seen a detailed recipe posted by a recognized, reputable chef or commercial kitchen.

You may, however, quote me saying that I think it is a pretty interesting plant to handle and have in the landscape!

So, there it is. Wooley Lambs’ Ear grows in a pot beside all of my edible herbs, even though personally, my family and I don’t eat the Wooley Lambs’ Ear! I’ve never felt compelled to try it, primarily because the texture and scent haven’t struck me as being particularly appetizing. Our Woolly Lambs’ Ear uses one of the pots just because it always has; perhaps it always will? It was one of the first things I put into the pots 10+ years ago, and I enjoy it. It attracts A LOT of wild bees in the summer, which I think is pretty awesome, too.

I have a few other herbs started, more herbs planted in less photogenic pots, and am always looking for new, interesting (tried and true) edible additions that I haven’t added to my repertoire of care, yet.

What are YOUR favorite kitchen herbs to grow and serve at home?
Do you have suggestions for me to add to my garden?

Drop me a note in my comments section or join our WhatAmberLoves Facebook page!
We may actually start using the page this Spring!
Transformation is in the air!

Your Friend,
~Amber Hamilton Henson

(This is a personal blog. All of the opinions here are exclusively my own and were unsolicited. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of those products, businesses, or events that may be featured within posts, although my goal IS to be PR friendly toward such products, businesses, and events that I choose to promote, while simultaneously offering valuable, relevant data, facts, links, or other to my family, friends, and community that may encounter this post. I have not received compensation, product, or payment of any type for publishing this post. In the event that I am compensated after-the-fact, the post will be edited in this section to reflect such compensation. Any reader attempting to duplicate any recipe, activity, craft, or other created by me [Amber] or shown on this blog should be done at the reader’s own risk. Cool? Cool.)

This article is featured in HAT TRICK magazine, beginning on page 98. Click on magazine cover to be redirected: Hat Trick magazine


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