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Who is the cutest baby herb seedling in my herb garden?

Everyone loves an adorable baby, especially when that sweet little cutie is a baby herb seedling. Enjoy these pictures of all of the little babies growing in my kitchen window herb garden.

Keep reading, I’ll reveal my choice for cutest of the cute.

Genovese Basil

Basil babies have a soft, round look to them, like chubby little cheeks.

Oregano

A tiny little choir of oregano seedlings grew from itty-bitty black seeds.

Spinach

Nature is so funny. Would you believe these lanky green shoots turn into oval spinach leaves? Check out the little curly ends, awww.

Catnip

My catnip took so long to sprout, it’s still just emerging from its sleep. One miniature sproutling is just popping through.

Tomatillo

They’re not just any ordinary tomatillo. These baby herb seedlings are going to grow into purple tomatillos!

Parsley

Something about the leaves on a crowd of baby parsley reminds me of a flock of birds. Or at least, the way I draw them as V’s.

Bay leaves

Wee baby bay leaves…it should be a nursery rhyme. I love plants that start as tight buds. One day, they burst into an explosion of little leaves. I cheated a little with this one. It’s not a baby herb seedling, just baby leaf buds.

Ground cherries

You all know I’m partial to ground cherries. I created a salsa recipe featuring ground cherries instead of tomatoes, so unexpected. If I didn’t harvest these seeds myself from some ground cherries I picked up at this farm stand, I would not recognize this bowtie-shaped baby herb seedling.

Cilantro

So easily confused with baby parsley, cilantro leaves are more full and less spikey on the ends. They look like tiny little fans as they begin to form. Cilantro babies sprout in pairs; in other words, they’re twins!

Nasturtium

I confess. I have a favorite baby. It’s a nasturtium seedling. Every time I find one coming up in the garden, it makes me smile. Every. Time. Baby nasturtium leaves look like a little duck landed head first in the dirt with her feet up in the air. Too cute.

Newborn kale is pretty cute, too, but we’ll have to wait until I can do a feature on herb babies of the outdoor garden in May!

How about you? Do you have a favorite baby herb seedling? Leave a message in the comments.

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Forgotten herb: chicory

Wild chicory blue flowers wildflowers

Imagine it is April 24, 1862.

You live in New Orleans, Louisiana, and set out on a beautiful Thursday morning to go pick up a copy of the local newspaper.

If you are a lover of fine hot beverages, you were about to have a really disappointing day. In fact, the day’s headlines likely made you think, “Oh darlin, we may never taste coffee again.” (You have to read it with a Southern accent.)

Oh well, you knew this day would come. There were Union blockades of the shores all around the south. You heard the bombs and gunfire, but on that day in April, the boys in blue were more than near your shoreline. They had captured the city, and no more coffee was getting through those lines.

If you’re an optimist, your second thought would be, “I’m going to find an alternative.”

Allow me to reintroduce you to chicory.

Unlike some of the less-invasive forgotten herbs, you’ve probably been around chicory your whole life without really noticing it. Do these little blue flowers look familiar?

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Chicory is not native to the US. If you lived in Europe or with someone who did, you might already know all about using chicory in coffee. One of my French roommates absolutely craved it. It was in her blood as the French have a long history with chicory coffee, too. They also experienced a war-time blockade that pushed them toward the need for an alternative hot beverage.

To be fair, there are other varieties of chicory, most of which you might have know as different types of endive or Italian dandelions. Their roots can be roasted into coffee alternatives as well.

Even though Europeans introduced chicory seeds to the US during colonial times, the nation-wide spreading of the wildflower is a direct result of the American Civil War negatively affecting the availability of tea and coffee in the divided country.

Back in the day, the plant was widely cultivated in private gardens. When it was mature, the root was dug up, roasted and ground into a brewed hot drink, an alternative to coffee. It’s not really a thing of the past. Some Americans still prefer the flavor of coffee blended with roasted chicory root. Je te regard…I’m looking at you, Café du Monde.

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Chicory is not a wildflower at all. It’s an escaped prisoner. Much like my experience cultivating chives, chicory was just not well-behaved. It busted out of our ancestors’ garden centuries ago and now stretches its roots along highways and roadsides in pretty much every city in the US.

One more thing, that might just split the audience here…chicory is caffeine free.

Chicory wildflower blue flower blooms

I hope you enjoy these articles.

You can read about more forgotten herbs in the on-going series.

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Forgotten herb: calendula

Weird name. Amazing herb.

Close enough pronounciation “ca-len-juh-la” (how a “d” makes a “j” sound in English, I suppose it’s my Connecticut accent.)

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Calendula is the weirdest looking seed I plant in my garden. Really, it looks like something from an alien nation. It’s mildly spikey and curved, almost in an arrogant way. It grows easily and goes to seed easily, if you don’t harvest the blooms.

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Planting is easy. I just mix the seed lightly into turned soil with my hand, and it fills my cedar raised bed with bright yellow flowers.

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When your flowers are almost fully open, it is time to harvest. If it rained recently or the petals still have morning dew on them, take a photo but don’t start your harvest. It pays to wait until the sun dries off any dampness. The blooms snap off the stems easily. You can layer your plantings a bit and gather them by hand almost all season from summer to fall. Consider getting yourself an airy and convenient basket for harvest time.

I don’t eat my calendula with the exception of a little petal here and there. They have a bitter taste.

In terms of other uses, I am not sure why would you need to do this, but Dr. Weil notes that you can mix white rice and calendula flowers together to color the rice without adding flavor. Someday, I may suggest that to my kids as a fun and interesting STEM experiment.

My favorite use for calendula isn’t making a stunning bouquet, although you could. I like to infuse olive oil with a bunch of dried calendula flowers. Then, I can add the infusion add it to salves. Salves are just heavy, solid lotions that are intended to be soothing to the skin or to wounds.

Not one to waste something so precious, I like the idea of chopping up those oil-soaked petals and mixing them into homemade soaps. Do not compost them. You shouldn’t compost oil or oil-infused herbs. Your bin will stink.

How do you dry calendula flowers? It doesn’t take much effort.

Oh, I know the internet will tell you to separate out the blooms on an old screen in a dry, dark place between two elevated stands. But I’ll tell you that during our BIG reno last year, I put my calendula flowers on a paper towel on top of our refrigerator. How’d it go? Just fine. I must have left them up there for a month or two, and dutifully, they dried out. I will likely include some in a salt or sugar scrub for beauty’s sake.

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I should confess that my husband is 6’3″ tall. He could see the top of our old fridge and was not a fan of my messy flower drying station. Everyone else was oblivious.

About the scent, I am almost at a loss for words to describe it. Calendula is only lightly floral. It’s about 5% tangy, 5% medicinal, 60% fresh, 20% floral and 10% other. Mainly, I would describe calendula as a fresh scent. It’s not earthy. It’s more like the woods after a rain shower.

My calendula bed went above and beyond this year, producing three harvests. I only actually reseeded it once during the mid-summer season.  Calendula is so easy. It is one of the best students in my garden class. I feel like I ask calendula nicely to keep producing blooms, and it does its best to comply.

Calendula is such a happy flower. As you go about your day today, from time-to-time think back to this joyful bloom.

calendula

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Return to the Forgotten Herbs series.

Find out what borage is.

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42 (and a half) uses for extra herbs

When you garden, you quickly find out that your supply of herbs can overwhelm your needs. Herbs get too woody or too pungent quickly. It is best to harvest them when they are ready, even if you are not. Often, you will still have time left in the season to plant a second or third crop in their place. Of course, harvesting all of those herbs at once means you need some ideas about what to do with them. Leave your ideas in the comment section!

Sell them (or just offer them for free)

1. Farm stand

Eat them

2. Herb salad
3. Ice cream (mint or sweet basil)
4. Herbed butters
5. Throw them over anything you’re baking
6. Mix chopped herbs with ground meat for burgers
7. Salad dressing
8. Herb soups
9. Herb-infused oils
10. Herb-rolled frittata
11. Herbed cheeses
12. Herbed spreads
13. Chicken rubs
14. Pickling brine
15. Pesto blend
16. Pasta sauce
17. Salsas
18. Stir-fries
19. Marinades
20. Herbed breads

Drink them

21. Flavor homebrew beer or wine
22. Fancy cocktails
23. Whiskey on ice with herbs
24. Vodka infusions
25. Brew teas – fresh or dried

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Prep them

26. Hang them to dry
27. Freeze them in plastic bags
28. Freeze them into ice cubes
29. Keep parsley and cilantro fresh longer in the fridge with a paper towel
30. Keep basil fresh longer by coating it in olive oil
31. Grind them up to make a dry powder

Decorate

32. Garnish your other dishes
33. Flower arrangements
34. Table setting accents
35. Decorate gifts
36. Add pressed herbs to cards
37. Make shadow box displays

Handcrafted skincare

38. Make a gentle, exfoliating face scrub
39. Add them to homemade soaps
40. Herb-infused tinctures

When even the best intensions fail


41. Compost them
42. Let them go to seed – who says you have to pick your extra herbs? Let a few plants go to seed. THEN, you actually should make a decision.

42 1/2.  Choice #1: let them over-winter. Choosing option 1 means you will likely have a hundred baby plants to incorporate or weed next year. In the case of my parsley plant, I was happy to give its descendants one-third of this bed. Perfect!  In the case of my chives, I knew I should have picked every one of those mesmerizing white flowers last year, but instead, we have a blanket of pointy seedlings to pluck.

Choice #2: separate and save the seeds. For most herbs, you can hang the old, brown stalks upside down in a brown paper bag until they are very dry. Then you can shake them until the seeds collect in the bag. They must be stored dry in jars with lids or little baggies. Do yourself a favor and label them well. You can share extra seeds with your friends or coworkers. You can even offer them for sale at your farm stand.

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Have another idea on how to use extra herbs? Please leave a comment below.

borage napkin

Tired of the obvious? Check out some forgotten herbs.

Want to see some of the best other farm stands have to offer? View top choices at farmstand5.

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Forgotten herb: clary sage

A year one clary sage plant growing in my organic backyard garden

There can only be one reason we forgot about clary sage: modern pharmaceuticals.

close enough pronunciation “clare-E  sayjuh”

Clary sage was THE go-to herb for our female ancestors to reduce the monthly discomfort of menstruation cycles. Your great-grandmother probably looked forward to the relief of a cup of brewed clary sage tea as she busied around the house.

But, we still forgot an herb that half of our ancestors likely used on a monthly basis.

The scent is like a deeper, more woody lavender. In soaps, lotions and diffusers, clary sage smells great blended with lemon or black pepper.

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Don’t get me wrong. It is not a ladies-only herb.

You can use clary sage in recipes like its cousin, garden sage, the better-known complement to pork and risotto dishes. The famous herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper, wrote about using wild English clary to flavor beer and wine in 1653.

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I grew my clary sage from seed within a raised garden bed, which actually seems almost cruel. The plant stretches its stems like arms with big, leafy hands. As my clary sage grows, it seems to try to escape the confines of the bed.

It is a really beautiful plant. If you like big, broad leaves with interesting texture, you should consider growing this in your garden. The leaves have a soft kale-like appearance, and the stems are a rich, deep rose-purple. Clary sage can even join your regular landscaping. It is a biannual in most parts of the US and would be beautiful along a walkway or mixed in between grasses.

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Over the years, I developed an appreciation, maybe almost a preference for biannual plants. There is something special about a plant that only appears for two years and reinvents itself each time it greets the growing season.

In year one, you can expect your clary sage to feature stunning wide leaves. In year two, it will flower as long as it’s in a sunny location. If you let it go to seed, it will pretty much reward you with a life-time supply.

clary plant

Culpeper had some unusual ideas about clary seeds. Unlike him, I do not recommend putting them in your eyes. Given my past experiences, I think it would be much better to clip the towers of flowers and tuck them into a vase for a powerful floral and herbal display.

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Forgotten herb: Nasturtiums

Close-enough pronunciation: “Nah-stir-shums”

Spicy little things and tough too.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you have heard of this one. It probably puts you in the 1% of Americans who have, but it’s not completely erased from memory.

And now, some actual statistics. According to Google Trends (as of September 2018), you are most likely to have searched for nasturtiums if you live in…Alaska! Fascinating.

Nasturtiums are most popular in Alaska and Maine according to Google Trends
Nasturtiums receive the most searches in Alaska (source: trends.google.com September 2018)

It does require a little patience to grow nasturtiums. I don’t often see them at nurseries. They don’t transplant well, but it will save you time and money to grow nasturtiums yourself from seeds. I buy one cheap packet of seeds every Spring and place them all over my yard.

As long as you are patient with the little sprouts, nasturtiums grow well from seed, which might mean getting your hands dirty. But, if you are willing to plant them yourself, you will save a bundle over buying seedlings. You do need some patience. The seedlings are straggly for a little while.

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When they finally mature and start to bloom, the flowers are abundant. The colors are absolutely bright and brilliant. Keep scrolling for a stunning display of the wide variety of nasturtium colors you can find online.


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You can eat the flowers and the leaves. The flavor is spicy. They make beautiful butters and add a peppery bite to salads. The leaves and flowers can be brewed into tea. Peppery tea. I think I’d have fun mixing fresh nasturtium tea with complementary flavors, like lemon, orange and lavender.

One of the best characteristics is the sturdiness of the flowers. These blooms might look like tissue paper, but they are surprisingly long-lasting in an arrangement.

For the perfect impression and an affordable alternative to orchids, pick a bowl full of nasturtiums and place one bloom on each plate just before your guests arrive for brunch. You can use the leaves as garnish for hors d’oeuvres and platters.

My grandmother, Peg (born 1929), loved nasturtiums. Her sons could identify the plants on sight. Proof positive that we only started to forget this herb recently.

I was on vacation when she passed away in 2016. In my grief and the confusion to pack up and get home asap, I forgot to send flowers to the funeral home. I had a wonderful grandmother who adored her flower gardens, and I…forgot…to…send…flowers…to…her…funeral. Ouch.

It’s not that there weren’t any flowers there. My parents and relatives ordered beautiful, big arrangements with sashes on them: Mother, Grandmother, Aunt, Sister. But, when I arrived at the wake and realized there was nothing from me to her, I felt hollow.

The afternoon before her funeral, I was wandering through the garden in search of some peace and calm. It was mid-August. My nasturtium vines were covered in blooms. What a saving grace.

I picked about 20 flowers and honored Gram’s Irish heritage with a beautifully-simple, hand-gathered arrangement: one big lime-green hydrangea circled by orange and white nasturtium flowers.

Thanks to offcenterfarm.com for letting me take photos of her beautiful variegated nasturtiums for this article.

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As promised, here’s a display of some of the stunning colors in the nasturtium rainbow.

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View the whole forgotten herb series.

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Forgotten herbs: Borage

Borage flowers blue purple pink on white marble countertop forgotten herbs

Borage flowers on porridge oatmeal breakfastClose enough pronunciation: “Bore-uhge”

Other than my gardening hat, there is another obsession in my farm lifeblue flowers.

Borage will give you a blue-flower fix all summer long. It is a tall, impressive plant that is easy to grow. And, when it sets too many baby seedlings, it is easy to weed.

borage weeding.JPG

The seeds from the borage flowers can be pressed into an oil that is among the world’s best sources of Omega-6 (GLA) essential fatty acid. I love this luxury oil so much, I incorporate it into all of the soaps I make. You can buy a bar here:

Handmade soap

Borage was definitely an herb your ancestors knew well. It didn’t take me long to find a two-page description of different types of borage in a book published in 1636. Besides Latin, the author, John Gerard, gave the translation of the word borage in four other languages.

Borage is versatile. You can use the crunchy leaves to make salad, soup and decorative garnishes. Throw a few of the unique blue flowers on top of any saladpasta salad, fruit salad, veggie salad, borage-leaf salad. Borage bits are often recommended as an addition to cucumber salads. The leaves and flowers have a light cucumber flavor.

Few breakfasts are as precious as borage on porridge.

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I don’t want to mislead you. Not every flower will be blue. Some borage flowers are purple and pink. The same plant will usually give you 80% blue flowers and 20% a mix of pink and purple.

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The plant barely needs you. Any time between March and August, put the seeds in the ground. Water them if it doesn’t rain. Your borage should flourish.

If you start early enough in the season, the flowers will bloom and drop, reseeding themselves all summer without your help. In fact, your borage will likely continue to replant itself, and next Spring you’ll have more bright, green borage babies. Too many? They slip right out of the soil if you pull them. Or you can use a garden tool to destroy their sprout-like root system in seconds.

Since borage reseeds so effortlessly, it helps to start your very first planting in a spot where future generations can spread a bit and not annoy you.

I let the borage line one whole side of a cedar raised bed. They are tall plants—reaching a height of approximately 4′. It is best to locate borage near the north side of your garden. You don’t want the tall, leafy mature borage to block sunlight from shorter plants. The next Spring, I just drop a wooden plant marker next to the seedlings wherever they decide to pop-up.

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