Thursday, August 17, 2017

Sept/Oct '17 Essential Herbal Issue (#95)

Another great issue is on the way.  It should be hitting mailboxes any day now. Not a subscriber?  We can fix that.  Sign up on OUR WEBSITE
Be sure to check out the multi-year discount.
Here's the table of contents:
Field Notes from the Editor, Tina Sams
Bits and pieces of life on the hill, and what’s new with the magazine.
Give Beets a Chance, Rita Richardson
Lots of reasons to bring delicious beets into the kitchen, how to prepare them, and 3 recipes.
Echinacea, Tina Sams
I accidentally started a chapter on Echinacea for Healing Herbs, and it’s been hanging around in the files waiting for a chance to be in the magazine.
Seasonal Oil Change, Maryanne Schwartz
As temperature and humidity change, so will our requirements for skin soothing oils.
New Book Excerpt, The Herbalist’s Kitchen by Brittany Wood Nickerson
An excerpt from a gorgeous new cookbook/herbal. Look for a review on the blog soon.
List Article, Your Favorite Winter Medicinal Herbal Preparation?
We gathered answers together from the Yahoo! group, the facebook page, and email, to share our favorites. Be sure to look on page 30 for the next topic, and join in!
Helen De Conway Little Medal of Honor Winner, Tina Sams & Maryanne Schwartz
We honor and congratulate our friend (and frequent contributor) Sarah Liberta on winning this prestigious award.
Gardening with Kathy, Using Herbs in the Landscape, Kathy Musser
Tons of great ideas and fun, useful plants that you may not have considered before—or maybe just didn’t think about quite this way.
Flexible Quiche, Marci Tsohonis
With just the ingredients that you probably have in the kitchen, and some herbs from the garden, you can put a luscious quiche on the table for the family, or let guests think you worked all day on dinner.
Rosemary, Miranda Hoodenpyl
Beautiful, fragrant, delicious, and medicinal—rosemary can wear a lot of hats. Well studied and documented, bring this plant and the essential oil (or hydrosol) inside.
Self Heal, Sandy Michelsen
This unassuming, little, flowering lawn weed is an important medicinal. Good information, and how to make a self heal salve.
Pecan Date Surprises, Sarah Liberta
“Beneath the lightly crispy shell of this confection is a rich, gooey center of moist dates and pecans laced with citrus.”
Natural Calendula Soap, Marci Tsohonis
With dry winter months coming, this is the soap to make and have on hand. If you haven’t taken that plunge yet, do it now. Use this recipe. Calendula soap is made for winter.
The Value of Vitex, Kristine Brown
The how’s and why’s of vitex. Learn all about it, as well as how to make a vinegar, oil, and poultice!
The Shakespeare Garden, Jackie Johnson
The herb group maintaining the Green Bay Botanical Gardens went all in for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, using the herbs mentioned in his works.

Hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

August PDF sale

For the rest of the month, get your books and magazine back issues (pdf format only) at an amazing 40% discount!  Use the code AUGUST READS at checkout.

Book PDF's

Magazine PDFs

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Garden Seed Saving Guide

The Garden Seed Saving Guide - Third Edition
Easy Heirloom Seeds for the Home Gardener
by Jill Henderson

 The time is now, seasonally and agriculturally, to make the effort to properly save viable seeds.
Now personally, I've always been pretty lackadaisical about it.  Pick a few flower heads here, some dried beans from the vine there, and several pods from that plant over there.  It has generally been good enough.  As I've mentioned many times, I can't throw a rock without hitting a roadside stand selling wholesome produce in the summer.  However, I've known that there were better ways to keep seeds.

This book is a treasure chest of information.  She covers a lot of relatively dry subjects with an easy and engaging style.  What's a biennial?  Why do we care about the Latin names?  Why do we want to remove the gelatinous membrane from tomato seeds, and how?  How long do seeds last, and how can we prolong their viability.  What is genetic diversity within a species, and why is it important to preserve?
Most of these are things that I had managed to skirt (while still having enough success with sowing veggies and flowers), but knew that they were important. 
Beginners will return to these pages again and again, while those who have been gardening for decades will find plenty of new and interesting information too.

You'll be amazed at how much is covered.

ISBN 978-1-57067-346-7
$9.95 ~ 64 pages
Book Publishing Company -

Thursday, August 03, 2017

To vend, or not to vend...

There are a couple of books sitting here to review, so that's coming up in the next week, but in the meantime there's something we've been mulling over for the last year or so.  We've been hesitant to bring it up but just in case you visit a festival and don't see us there...

Vending at herb festivals has really changed over the years, and except for one or two that we love, it's probably over for us.  We've tried a lot of things, from the massive state farm show, to the Phila wholesale trade show, to all sizes of herb festivals and craft fairs, to the (defunct) local farmers market. We'd love to hear what others think about this in your area, especially if you've been at it for a decade or more.
Our first festival was about 25 years ago.
It was an evening and a day, with the evening being by invitation only.  $30 was our fee, and there were about a dozen vendors.  We were well fed at the reception, and there was May wine, too.  The next day, the director of the venue came around to be sure that we didn't need anything.  Did we have enough change?  For those of you who vend, we can only say that, yes, this really did happen.  We made about 25X our booth fee.  Of course now that fees are closer to $200 for a weekend show, that is not, nor will it ever be, the same for us.

Our next venture was the local renaissance festival.  There, we worked very hard for very little - but we had a lot of fun.  The fun kept us coming back, but around the third year we realized that the (then) owner found a way every year to snatch whatever we'd made, so we left.
 We continued vending at herb festivals and enjoying them.  We've always loved meeting the people we write for, or who love the soap.  As time went by, instead of one or two a year within easy driving distance, there were several each weekend during the spring.  There are only so many herbal enthusiasts, and they only have so many dollars (and hours).  Shows started changing their names from "herb fair" to "herb and garden fair" because not many tiny herb businesses can afford the kind of rent they're charging so it became necessary to broaden the field.  Just a fact.
 Our sales diminished, and then we hit an earning plateau.  Nothing we did or created made a difference.  Each year the shows became more and more expensive to sign up for, yet our sales remained the same.  Instead of 25X our booth fee, there are some shows where we started making only 2X.  We used to think that the exposure made it worthwhile, but 2 days away, leaving the work space in a shambles, and then taking a week to catch up and recover?  Considering all of the true costs, including paying for the products and materials, getting help, credit card fees (and on and on and on), it might just be a negative balance.  If it rains, the loss can be immense.

There are only a couple places that are fun, relaxed, and worth that.

 It often feels like the smaller the crowd, the better the sales.  Also, 12 vendors versus 150 is much better for the vendors.

And you can never tell.  We've traveled to herb conferences that were shockingly good, and then there was one that barely paid for the gas, let alone any hotels or food along the way.

So... part of it is that the partners in crime have either split for the coast or retired from shows, and a large part of it is that it just isn't fun anymore.  Is anyone making any money?  Certainly not like at one time, before everything was available at the touch of a computer key and people waited all year for that one, big herb festival.  It would be great to stop hauling around tables and boxes and displays.  We've had a blast, but maybe it's time to let them go.

Again, we'd love to read your thoughts and comments on this subject.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Incense for a Swap

I can't believe it's been almost a month since we blogged!  Last month at this time, Molly had decided to go across the country with her cousin to see what the west coast had to offer.  She took care of a big festival for us, finished off her daytime job, tearfully said goodbye to her internship (and beloved mentor Susanna) at The Rosemary House, and set about packing and saying goodbye to her friends.
 Maryanne and I took time out after finishing the Sept/Oct issue to attend the Sage Apothecarian Gathering in Syracuse NY last weekend.  There was a swap, and I signed up for it, deciding to make incense.  Thought I'd share it here, since I absolutely love it.  I should note that the sandalwood has been around here for at least a decade (or more) and we grew the white sage. 
Giant chunk of pinon with a little white sage, and tiny test cones.
Here's the recipe and instructions:
Pinon and White Sage incense tiles
5 parts Makko pwd
5 parts Yellow Sandalwood pwd (red Santal works great, or sub any wood powder)
1 part White Sage pwd
1 part Pinon resin
1/2 part Salt Petre
1/2 part Gum Tragacanth
water to moisten - I used White Sage hydrosol

blended powders, ready to mix with liquid
Combine all ingredients to form a paste, adding more water if it doesn't come together (like play dough) or more of one of the powders if it is too wet.

We rolled the dough out between 2 sheets of freezer paper and scored it, transferring it onto the screen to dry. One could also make cones.
Tiles cut and laid out on a screen to dry.  Turned after a day, and dried another 2.
To burn incense tiles, fill small fireproof dish with sand, gravel, or something similar. Stand the tile in the sand, and light.
Making incense is fun and relatively simple.  We have many of the harder to find ingredients on our site.  CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Debra's Icicle Pickles

(Fall) Memories of Country Pickles
Debra Sturdevant
From the Sept/Oct 16 issue of The Essential Herbal
Illustration also by Debra Sturdevant - The Country Artist
The seasons come, the seasons go. My family is long gone now but memories are well seated. I still live here on my beloved country hill where I spent my youth exploring fields and forests, catching fireflies in mom's Mason jars under the summer stars and sitting with Mom and Dad on the old country porch listening to stories I would carry on.  I still reside here on the hill and prepare for the long northern winter in the same manner my folks did. Dad was the gardener and my mother was the herbalist and  kitchen coordinator pairing their handed down skills to make this old house a home.
In September when I was back in school down in the valley I always wondered what my Mom was creating in her country kitchen as I watched the clock on the classroom wall waiting anxiously for the bus ride home. After what seemed like an eternity of travel on the old dusty roads and endless stops I would arrive at my own long driveway.
The fondest of all my Fall memories is the scent that greeted me emanating through the screen door of sweet and spicy Icicle pickles. I always tried to steal a chunk or two from the old black canner before she packed them  into a lined up army of steaming mason jars. I don't think any other garden harvest can compare to this sweet piece of heaven especially when old man winter arrives. Many folks like to hurry recipes in this hectic day and age but nothing can surpass the flavor rewarded from an old fashioned crock cured pickle that is removed daily to have spices and sugar added then heated sending the most lovely scent of cloves and spices throughout the house. Each Fall I bring a piece of my childhood back through the scent and taste of mom's wonderful pickles I now share with you...

Icicle Pickles
(crisp,spicy, and sweet)

About 24 pickling cucumbers (2gal)
Split, quartered, remove seeds if large.
1. Dissolve 1 pint canning salt in one gallon boiling water and pour over cukes in large enamel pan or crock. Cover and let stand three days
2. Drain and cover with fresh boiling water without salt let stand 24 hours
3. Drain and cover with fresh boiling water with alum the size of an egg. Let stand 24 hours
4. Drain
5. In separate pot mix:
    2 1/2 qts apple cider vinegar
    16 cups sugar
     2 tablespoons pickling spice
     1 teaspoon of whole cloves
     2 sticks of cinnamon
6. Bring liquid to a boil and pour over cucumbers and let stand 24 hours
7. Each of the next four days drain off the liquid, bring to a boil and pour over the pickles. On the fourth day can.
Mom added on the bottom of the yellowed recipe card in her own penciled handwriting "Yum!" and "Yum" they are.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Just Lemon Balm

Just Lemon Balm

Molly Sams
from Jul/Aug '16 Essential Herbal Magazine

When I first began studying herbalism seriously I fell in love with lemon balm.  Interning at TheRosemary House, one day Susanna was explaining to me the different uses and properties of general garden herbs.  When lemon balm came up in the conversation her eyes lit up.  It seemed like she was telling me this wonderful secret and I was thrilled to learn.

She explained that lemon balm never truly dies in the winter. The plant is always growing and if need be you can always dig it up out of the ground and smell that citrusy scent that lemon balm has. This plant has been used to combat symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) for its lemony scent and taste.  It has a light, almost sweet taste and it smells absolutely heavenly (especially on a cold winter day).  Susanna described it as almost divine intervention that this plant will always be there for you in the winter.  And from that sentence on I was hooked.

Unlike just about anyone else who has grown lemon balm, my mother and I found it difficult at first. Since we moved to the house on the hill she was completely unable to plant it and keep it alive through the summer.  After hearing about the benefits of winter however, I was determined to make it work.  I took a nice sized plant from Susanna’s gardens (after asking of course) and begin to baby it for a whole summer. Every day I would go out and water it, make sure the dirt was loose and moist, and search for any mean bugs who may need to be relocated to our fields. After a season of babying my lemon balm I let fall and winter take over. Outside it was a constant barrage of cold and I was honestly unsure if the lemon balm would return. On the first warm day I ran out to see if the plant had popped back.  It had - with beautiful deep green leaves and as fragrant as ever. Needless to say a happy dance took place right that moment.

For others lemon balm thrives incredibly well in whatever situation it is in. They like well-drained soil with plenty of room (trust me it’ll grow), but unless you want it taking over every nook and cranny in your garden you may want to keep it contained. Lemon balm is well loved by pollinators. It’s Latin name Melissa (officinalis) actually means bee in Greek.

 Lemon balm is wonderful for those who suffer from SAD but is also incredibly tasty in teas and baked goods. It is used mainly for anxiety, insomnia, and indigestion. Lemon balm is a carminative, diaphoretic, and may reduce a fever. This plant is wonderful to give to little ones and fussy adults when they are sick with a cold or fever. You can also drink a tea after a large meal to fight off the symptoms of indigestion. It may also help you drift off to sleep afterward.  Some find it helpful blended with St John’s wort for nerve issues. 

This plant also has calming affects topically for sores, small wounds and cuts, and even herpes breakouts. Many use a diluted oil or tea to wash the wounds and because it has antibacterial properties have reported faster and/or better healing.  It is not recommended for individuals using thyroid medication.

Many have used the wash for a gentle acne treatment. My favorite way to use lemon balm topically is to mix a drop of oil into witch hazel as a toner.
For those who love history and herbs you may want to try your hand at Carmelite water. Nobles originally used this water after the Middle Ages to increase vigor and maintain a youthful appearance.

The Essential Herbal Magazine’s Carmelite Water
 (For one teapot)

2 t lemon balm
½ t lemon peel
½ t grated nutmeg
1 t angelica root

Steep for three to five minutes and enjoy by itself or with honey.

Lemon balm is an absolutely wonderful little plant that is incredibly strong-willed and still has plenty to show us.


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