• closeup of jerusalem artichoke flowers
    In the Herb Garden

    Perennial sunflowers you can eat

    Our last harvest of the year, Sunchoke (Helianthus tuberosus, also called Jerusalem artichoke). A species of sunflower native to eastern North America, Sunchokes were originally cultivated as a food source by Native Americans. Their tubers can be dug until the ground freezes and with proper storage can last through Winter. Europeans must’ve really taken to Sunchokes after trying them during the colonization of the east coast. They were shipped back home and are now more commonly eaten there than they are here in the states. Normally tan/brown-skinned, we grow a variety that was bred in France to have red skin with fewer bumps. “Tompinambour” is the French name for Sunchoke-…

  • In the Herb Garden

    Is there a Hoophouse under that Cucumber vine?

    Yes, wow! Bolivian Cucumber (‘Achocha’ or ‘Caihua’) grows like no cucumber I’ve ever seen. Planted on one side of the hoophouse, it grew across the top to the other side, then out both sides and over the top on the outside. We’d never heard of Bolivian Cucumber (native to Bolivia/Peru) until we were given a few seeds last year. We grew them this year for fun, just to check it out, having no idea what a beautiful monster it would grow up to be. So vigorous! Covered in flowers which attracted all kinds of insects, then loaded with little cucumbers. It slowed down during the heat of Summer luckily, or we’d…

  • In the Herb Garden

    Bee Balm harvest, Happy farmer!

    A life-changing event happened for me a few weeks ago. Herbalist Tony(a) Lemos (director of Blazing Star Herbal School) saw my photo of a Bee Balm plant I’d identified as having powdery mildew and told me I was mistaken. It wasn’t the disease powdery mildew but part of the natural leaf pattern and perfectly fine to use. It took me a little while to process this. Actually, my brain is still turning it over. For years I’ve been rushing to get what Bee Balm I could harvested before what I called “the funk” (whitish spotting) appeared on the leaves. Then, I’d chop the plant down. To think I’ve been wasting…

  • Herbs & Ingredients,  In the Herb Garden

    Calendula is not (only) for you

    It’s starting to make me uncomfortable, seeing herbs described and defined by what they can do for us. And if we think they’re especially useful, they’d better watch out- we’ll hunt and gather them to extinction. Plants were not put here for people, as the old story tells. They were living on this planet for eons before we came along and were keeping pretty busy without us. Calendula flowers, for example, provide nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies. Calendula roots form active partnerships with fungi, benefitting the soil. The fact that Calendula has so many health and beauty benefits for people doesn’t mean that we have more rights to it than any…

  • In the Herb Garden,  The Latest News

    Ready for Winter Downtime

    It is sad when garden time comes to a close. But we’re a bit tired after a long season and are looking forward to a little downtime. The Hadley garden has already had frost. All that’s left are some greens growing under fleece, as well as a few Scotch Bonnet and Habanero plants still ripening their peppers under plastic cover. It’s getting cold now, though. We’re almost done. The Northampton garden hasn’t had a frost yet. There are Calendula, Alyssum, and amazingly Nasturtium and Holy Basil flowering. Thank goodness! I’m still seeing honey bees. That’s Calendula pictured above. Her orange-yellow color is so bright, it shines in my November garden like…

  • In the Herb Garden,  The Latest News

    First Herb Harvest

    I might deny I said this come the rose blossom days of sun-filled June, but I love Spring the best. (Wait, I already have to take it back. The rushing in of summertime in the weeks around Summer Solstice is what I really love. Spring is just thrilling in a different way.) The garden is jumping up fast and we we were able to start cutting some herbs today. Chives are always the first to fully grow out, but our well-loved Sorrel isn’t far behind. We hope to be cutting Sorrel and Garlic Chives next week, so wish us some rain 🙂

  • In the Herb Garden,  Recipes & How-To's

    Can’t find Spring? Make it yourself

    If you have access to a forsythia bush, you can make your own Spring a little ahead of the calendar. Forsythia flowers will bloom early if you cut some stems and bring them inside. They’ve lasted over a week on my kitchen table and have been such a treat to have as we’ve just gotten another foot of snow! It’s really easy- Here’s how: Cut forsythia stems on a mild day when the temperature is above freezing and put them in a bucket of warm water. Once inside, cut another inch off the bottoms of the submerged stems. This second cut, performed underwater where air cannot get in, will promote water uptake. Keep them in…

  • In the Herb Garden,  Natural Skin Care

    Signs of Spring

    We have a big patch of green in the middle of the foot of snow in the backyard- a bumper crop of chickweed growing in our cold frame with the spinach I planted last Fall. Hawkeye still kindof thinks of chickweed as a nuisance, but for me, it’s a favorite! One of the first plants to appear in Spring, you can eat it like spinach and it’s a very helpful medicinal. Awesome in bodycare too, I love using soothing chickweed in oils and salves for irritated skin. Learn more about chickweed the way I first did, from herbalist Susun Weed: “Chickweed Is A Star“