Herb of the Month – Dill Anethum graveolens
Dill is an aromatic and delicious herb used to flavor salads, seafood, pickles, and savory dishes. It is an annual with dainty feathery leaves that can be harvested all season long. The flower arrives on the main stem of the plant and forms a beautiful inflorescence. The flower heads turn into seeds soon after, and can be harvested and saved to plant for next year or used in cooking to add flavor. Dill flower heads and leaves are often used in pickling and give dill pickles their traditional flavor.
Medicinally, dill is used to aid in digestion, as an appetite suppressant, and to sweeten the breath. Dill oil kills bacteria and relieves flatulence.
“’Meeting House’ seeds is an old name that reflects the custom of chewing dill seeds during long church services to calm rumbling stomachs.” Herbs by Anna Kruger
I love growing dill in my garden, as it is easy to grow and looks so lacy and lovely. I like to trim it as it comes up in the spring to encourage bushier growth. Otherwise it grows straight and tall with fewer leaves alternating up the stem. I harvest and dry the leaves in my dehydrator. You can let some plants grow tall and flower if you would like to use the flower heads for pickling. I save some seeds every year just as a precaution. This is usually unnecessary as dill easily seeds itself around the garden if you leave a few flower heads and let them to go to seed.
Chives – Allium schoenoprasum
Chives are a very common herb found in most herb gardens. They are easy to grow and happily seed themselves around the garden. They grow in grass-like clusters about 10 inches high, have hollow stems, and prolific purple flowers that begin to bloom in late May and early June.
Chives are in the onion family. Their leaves have a mild onion flavor, and go beautifully in any savory dish, either raw or cooked. Used them to garnish soups, gravies, dips, and baked potatoes. Their beautiful spike-petaled flowers are also edible, and liven up and add color to salads.
Chives are easily chopped and dried in a dehydrator, or, even easier than that, chop and freeze them. They keep very well this way, and can be used all winter long to add a bit of fresh flavor to winter dishes.
Plants in the onion family are rich in minerals (iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium) and vitamins (A, C, thiamine, and niacin) and are a basic nourishing food for the body. In the Orient, they are used as a remedy for colds, flus, and chest congestion.
Herb of the month, Dandelion, Taraxicum officinal
A wild and beautiful perennial plant loved by the American Goldfinch (which just happens to be the exact same color yellow as the dandelion’s stunning flowers). I noticed this one day while watching the Gold Finches feeding in a field of dandelions, and the color resemblance was remarkable! Truth be told, the field of dandelions was actually my lawn that I had not yet got around to mowing!
Dandelion grows a basal rosette of leaves which are serrated or toothed. It produces several flower stems out of the middle of the rosette. There is a milky juice that comes out of the stems when you pick them. Dab this juice onto warts, hard pimples, or age spots and let its magic begin to work!
Taking pills to get the digestive benefit of bitter herbs and plants skips one of the most important steps in the process, as it doesn’t get you all of the great benefits that begin right in your mouth. Help your gut the right way by initiating the action of bitter herbs at the source of your digestive system. Stimulate those salivary glands with a mouthful of dandelion greens!
Make an herb infused vinegar using apple cider vinegar and dandelion flowers (just be sure to shake out any of the little black bugs that like to hang in the flower heads). Eat the tender young leaves fresh in salads and use your vinegar in the dressing!
Some consider this herb a weed or a nuisance plant. Dandelion’s deep and strong tap-root breaks up hard, compacted soil and brings up nutrients buried deep below the zone that most plant roots can penetrate. The nutrients are carried up to their leaves and eaten by you, or deposited right onto the top of the soil when the leaves die back in the fall. It is a very important plant to have in your garden (or lawn for that matter).
Use dandelion root in tea as a liver toner. Dig the roots in the spring or fall season, as this is when they hold the most energy and medicinal benefits.
I have a Dandelion that returns perennially in my garden that I have named Charlotte. She has provided me years of wonderful leaves to eat, flowers for making herbal vinegar, and has become a much anticipated garden friend. My challenge to you is to find your own special dandelion plant that you leave in your garden, and cherish year after year.
Historians say that most of the first documented writings where accounting notes. I say that is categorically incorrect. It was recipes. Mostly herbal remedies and some culinary recipes. The Chinese where writing down volumes of herbal remedies while the Europeans were still slow cooking beets over cow patties. There is a long history of secret and not-so-secret ancient texts concerning herbal remedies. Had the human race paid more attention to this, we’d all be living until we were a hundred and eighty three (that’s a real calculation).
Since the beginning of civilization, peoples have been waging war over spices and herbs, and spice trading routes. One could say civilization is based on the spice trade, (if you include salt ). What is the difference between an herb and a spice you may ask, well it all depends on the part of the plant. Generally, herbs are the leaf or flowering parts of a plant (either fresh or dried), spices are produced from other parts of the plant (usually dried), including but not limited to seeds, berries, bark, roots, and fruits.
The Spice trade is no joke. So, to sit in Nova Scotia prancing around like a couple of hippies selling and trading spice… like it’s not totally perilous… is simply imprudent at best. That’s why I like Sach-moe and Jim, they’re always looking for high adventure, and when high adventure is to be found, your man William Board is not far behind.
So I approched Jim and said “Don’t you think your being a bit flip about this whole spice trade thing? We gatta bring in some heavy hitters and quick.”
Jim asked ”What do you mean heavy hitters?”
“You know,“ I continued, ”some fellas that know how to handle themselves against rogue spice traders and clandestine ‘middle-of-the-night-sneak-attaches’ on unsuspecting herb gardens.”
Jim dismissed me as usual and asked ”Bill what year do you think this is?”
“Don’t get wise with me Jim. You ever run in to a gang of spice traders?”
“Well I’m not sure about the spice traders that your speaking of, but, yes I suppose I have” he says.
“OOOh you suppose do you” says I, “You don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself in to here, this is a serious business.”
“And I guess you’re here to protect me are you Bill?” Jim said sarcastically. “Listen Bill, just try and stay out of trouble. Go and cook up one of your weird meals in Mr. Sutton.”
Then ol’ Jim took off to harvest some golden rod… to sell to France. He claims they actually buy the stuff over there. Lucky for Jim and Sacha, ol’ William Board is at their service. I reckon I’ll have to call in some old buddies who know a thing or two more about this spice trading than team Billygoat. And you know what Jimmy, I think I will go cook something. I’m in the mood for Mexican food tonight and I’ve come up flush with some tomatillos. I think some Enchiladas Verde would go down real easy.
2 lbs. tomatillos
1 cup cilantro
2 cloves garlic
2 serrano chilies (or jalepeno peppers)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. cumin powder or 1/4 tsp. cayan
1 tsp salt
juice from 1 lime
2-3 chicken breasts (or the equvalent of pork or beef), boiled and shredded
stack of corn tortillas
grated cheddar and monteray Jack cheese (or “Mexican” cheese blend) to taste – about 3-4 cups
So, for the Sauce:
First you commandeer 2 pounds of tomatillos from Sacha’s garden. Shuck them and roast them quickly for 5 or 10 minutes at 375 F on a cookie sheet. Then puree them with a cup of cilantro, 2 cloves of garlic, and 2 serreno chilies (or jalapeno peppers).
Set that aside and fry up a coarsely chopped onion with a couple tablespoons of your favorite oil. At the point when your onion is translucent you could throw in a ½ teaspoon of cumin powder or a ¼ teaspoon of cayan.
Then add the tomatillo puree, a teaspoon of salt, the juice of one lime and cook it for a while. After it has reduced a bit, you can use this sauce to make your enchiladas.
For the Echilladas:
So, for space aliens intercepting this broad cast who have never had an enchilada before, all you do is take a tortilla (it’s better to use corn tortillas for this recipe), and warm it a bit in a pan to make it plyable. Take it out of the pan and put some grated cheese in the tortilla, (the kind you get at the store that says “Mexican” cheese is fine), top that cheese with some meat (use chicken, pork or beef), and now top that with some of the green sauce you just made.
Roll it up and delicately place it in a casserole dish (seam side down), repeat the process until; A. all your fixings are gone, or B. you run out of room in the casserole dish.
Finally, top your enchiladas with the remainder of the sauce. Cover with tin foil, and bake everything in the oven at 350 F until it is all bubbly and the cheese has melted (about 20 minutes or so). Let it rest for 5-10 minutes so that it sets up deliciously. Serve it with Spanish rice and refried beans, and garnish it with a healthy serving of sour cream. Oh, and don’t worry about Jim and Sach, I’ll take care of ’em.
Billy Board over and out
Yarrow, Achillea millefolium
Herb of the month: Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Yarrow is a perennial herb with fine feathery leaves that form a basal rosette. There are smaller leaves that grow up the stem, which holds a delightful white inflorescence (a cluster of little flowers which together look like one big flower). It blooms mid summer. The blossoms are great for drying; arts and crafts projects, or dried floral arrangements. I find they keep their shape and color very well and last for years.
Yarrow is also a very resilient herb that grows wild, even in the tough conditions of compacted, dry, and poor soils. I have even seen it growing in the grassy strips between street curbs and sidewalks in cities and towns.
In Mathew Woods book “The Book of Herbal Wisdom”, he states that he believes that yarrow’s medicinal value is increased when it is grown in poor sandy soil as opposed to rich garden soil. Medicinally, you can use the leaves, stem, and flowers. It is best to use the young leaves of spring’s first flush of growth, as they are full of nature’s healing powers. Also called nose-bleed, carpenter’s weed, and warriors weed, yarrow is well know for its ability to staunch the flow of blood from a wound.
Yarrow leaves are also a bitter tonic used to aid in digestion. They can be added to a fresh garden salad or mixed with other wild greens. Use a simple vinaigrette to add a splash of flavor. As a tea, yarrow is helpful as a fever remedy.