December 2012
The Herb Farm

Let’s Cook Up Something Good!

That last four weeks of my year, from Thanksgiving Day until the Winter Solstice, are usually spent with my friends and family, socializing over fine meals. I see no reason to change that, but I think I’ll add something new to the traditions.

This year was an exceptionally trying year for my aging body and although I’m physically healthy now, my spirit is still healing.

Here on the farm, while I was hobbling and complaining, herbs were growing seemingly out of control. I wondered what to do with all of that stuff without wasting it (though it wouldn’t really be) to the composter.



Clockwise from top left, the garlic chives threw out another gazillion seed. The winter savory shrubs sprawled over the walk paths. Walking through the oregano path never smelled so good because the plants nearly covered all of the steppingstones.  They’re taking over the world!
 

 

Spearmint, more specifically Kentucky Colonel mint (Mentha cordifolia ‘Kentucky Colonel’), grew nearly 3-feet tall and spread beyond its designated boundaries. It smelled too good to just compost, so I threw it into a #3 washtub full of clean water while I dug and cut it back to a manageable patch.

Oregano (Origanum vulgare) had always been a slow-growing groundcover here. This year, however, it spread into some of the areas that used to be creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum). I guess I’ll need to get some more of that in the spring.

For some strange reason, the garden sage (Salvia officinalis) grew taller, wider, laid over and layered itself, and made new plants while last year’s seed germinated and went crazy!

I never thought I would ever have enough stevia (Stevia rebaudiana), but my plants grew to record heights and widths while seed germination and layering took place, as well.

A few years ago, I took cuttings from my winter savory (Satureja montana) and in an effort to use them as a short border shrub, planted them along one of the stone paths. This year, they grew to maximum heights (about 15-18 inches) and need to be trimmed back.

 


     Rosemary was dried and delivered in bundles.

There’s no telling how many crops of basil seeded on their own this season, but there were many and plenty to share. Italian big leaf, blue spice, spicy globe, Pistou, Thai, citrus, cinnamon …. There were so many varieties all mixed up I had to pinch and sniff before I harvested seed and collected leaves! There was more here than I could ever use in my personal pesto, but I just bought extra olive oil and Parmesan, and made more to share.

The rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Tuscan Blue’) was so big I could have made little dog topiaries out of them!

One of the most used culinary herbs here on the farm is one that always grows and spreads so much I have to dig a lot of it up each year. You can imagine how bad garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) would invade an unmaintained garden! I’m scared to see what it’s gonna look like next year! Anybody need some seed?

With all of that extra food I couldn’t eat and more than enough to share with friends and neighbors, I decided to offer it to local organizations who help people.

I washed all of the herbs and hung them to dry in the prep area, except for the basil. I used it fresh and made pesto cubes.

After all of the herbs were prepared and ready for storage, they were labeled and bagged. A couple of friends and I took them to the local fire department. Then we went over to the next county and delivered them to two missions that feed homeless neighbors.

 


From the left, mustard greens were volunteers from last spring’s seeds. There was a bumper crop this year! Texas tarragon is a great substitute for French tarragon, both aesthetically and as food.

We had a good time doing it and it gave my friends and me an opportunity to philosophize about some new "what ifs."

For example: How many people got extra good flavors in their food this holiday season because I got sick and ignored my gardens?

When I think about it that way, it was worth the scare. Mother Nature helped me out and did her job of protecting the species. It’s funny how that works sometimes. It was like I accidentally planted a row for the hungry. Next year, I’ll do it on purpose. Plus, I’ll add tomatoes and onions to the mix!

Remember the Winter Solstice is at 05:11 CST on December 21. It’s also the end of the Mayan Calendar. I hope to see y’all next year, but in case I don’t ….

Watch your salt and sugar, drink plenty of pure water, and breathe in and out!

Thanks for reading!

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As always, check with an expert, like your doctor, before using any herbal remedy.