Could You Use A Little More Thyme?

Lovely plant and wonderful scent
 

Growing and Using Thyme

 
Kitchen Dictionary: thyme
 
Pronounced: TIME
 
This is one of those little plants that laughs in the face of a Texas summer and remains undaunted by a few freezes.  The creeping variety has been spreading between the rock stepping stones in my herb garden for months.  I have to harvest it or it will cover the stones.  It is fabulous!  With dark green foliage that is so petit it belies its strong flavor, it is a perfect choice for edging the bed or filling in between the stones.
 
a-border-of-lemon-thyme-in-bloom
Lemon thyme in bloom used as a border in the garden.
For me, it was surprising to see that Thyme is classified as a Southern European and Mediterranean ingredient.  I thought it was totally southern cooking.  When you think of decidedly southern dishes such as Chicken n’ Dumplins, Turkey & Dressing, Roast Chicken, Meatloaf, and so on, Thyme is a key player in creating the warm comforting tones of these dishes.  If I am boiling chicken for almost anything, I have Thyme in the pot, too.  Nothing beats the flavor of a lightly battered filet of Tilapia with Thyme mixed in the flour and cornmeal, I don’t care who you are- that is good right there!
 
Being that Thyme is a perennial, it is easiest to start with a seedling in the garden.  Soggy places are no good for Thyme as it likes will drained soil.  Lots of sun is a must, but a little afternoon shade in a Texan summer is greatly appreciated.  This is an extremely easy plant to grow. 
 
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
With Thyme being available in the garden year round, there is no reason not use fresh Thyme in all your cooking.  Just snip off what you need and chop it finely or tie the sprigs together with kitchen twine and remove before serving.  Thyme is a well-mannered herb and is not given to being over-powering in a dish.  To a roasted chicken, I will sprinkle about 2 teaspoons over the skin or add about 2 tablespoons to a pot of soup.  Your personal tastes really are the determining factor in how much to use.  Experience is the best teacher, so give it a try.
Thyme is perfect for filling gaps in a rock pathway
 
 
However; some days it may not be very convenient to get to the garden, so I like to keep dried herbs in the pantry. To dry Thyme, cut as much as you want from the plant- but never taking more than two thirds of the mother plant- and using a rubber band, secure the stems and hang in a dry place with good air circulation.  I have a little “clothes line” strung above my refrigerator where I clip bunches of herbs for drying.  Once dry, which will take about 2 weeks, remove the leaves from the stems and place the leaves in a air-tight container and store out of the sunlight.  Dried herbs keep for about 6 months and any extra you may have makes great gift ideas.
A “mini- clothesline” works great for drying small amounts of herbs 
 
 
Matches well with: beef, carrots, chicken, figs, fish, goat cheese, lamb, lentils, onions, peas, pork, potatoes, soups, tomatoes, venison 
 
So, get planting!  Everyone needs a little more “thyme” in their day!
 

Garlic & Texas

As we get out and about now selling our herbs a Farmer’s Markets and Garden Festivals, I am frequently asked if I have any garlic.  When I ask questions to clarify just what the customer is looking for, I am surprised that they are looking for seedlings so that they can grow their own Garlic.  How marvelous!  Just one problem…

If you want to grow garlic in Texas you need to plant is in September, the same with strawberries- but that is a whole other blog and soapbox.  Once planted in September, the bulbs will sprout and grow all winter long then in June or so, the tops will start to turn brown and it is time to harvest.  Yes, no matter where you live garlic takes that long to grow.  But, it is so worth it and it really is easy.

To get started, you will need something to plant- right?  Garlic can be purchased in the store as a bulb.  In that bulb are many cloves.  Each clove when planted will produce another bulb and the cycle just keeps going.  So, once you purchase your garlic you will not ever need to purchase more, just save some cloves from your harvest and you will be good to go.  You can plant the garlic from the grocer or you can order from a seed company.  If you order from a seed company you will know exactly what variety you are getting and in the supermarket you will have no idea.  I have planted plenty from the grocer and did just fine.

The looser the ground, the better for growing garlic.  However, I have grown in clay and done fine.  Just dig a little whole twice as deep as the clove is long and plant the clove pointy end up.  Then wait.  You can inter plant with something like lettuce that has a shallow root system to make use of the open soil and double your harvest from the same square footage.  For the best harvest, you will need to water- but no more than you would for any other crop.

You will know when to harvest by the fact that the stalks have bloomed and now are beginning to turn brown.  Use a pitch fork or something similar to loosen the soil.  Gently pull the garlic up.  Spread the stalks on a dry and flat surface and let the cure (dry out a bit and the outer “paper” will dry).  Garlic can by stored for the better part of the year easily meaning that if you plant enough you will never need to buy garlic again.

Happy Planting!

garlic bulbgarlic plantinggarlic young plantgarlic bloom

How To Make An Herbal Tea

Passion Flower makes a wonderful tea that can really calm the nerves.
Passion Flower makes a wonderful tea that can really calm the nerves.

When talking with folks about herbs I find that one of the big mysteries of growing herbs is how to get them from the garden to the table- especially in regards to medicinal herbs.

Well, the simplest way to use an herb to make you feel better is to make a simple tea.  The directions below will seem overly simple but that is the point- it is simple.

Tea using fresh herbs:

A tablespoon of selected herb

1-2 cups of boiling water

Place herb in heat-proof container and pour water over the herb.  Place a lid on the container and allow to steep for 10-15 minutes.  It is important to keep the container covered as the essential oil (where much of the herbal goodies are) will evaporate in the steam. Strain herb matter out.

Enjoy- that is it.  I like to sweeten mine with honey and add lemon.  The honey will also help with healing if you are ill.

Tea using dry herbs:

The same as above except the fresh herbs will be replaced with 1 tbsp of dried herbs.

If you are new to herbs, you probably think I am pulling your leg.  But it is that easy to use herbs.  Below is a blend of herbs I like for any winter illness that may be going on, this will make you feel much better.

Winter Illness Herbs

Dandelion Greens, Sage,  Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Catnip, and Rosemary- dry these herbs and process them in a food processor then use as above.  In regards to the amounts- there is no right or wrong.  I prefer the Lemon Balm and Peppermint to be in larger amounts due to the good flavor.  Rosemary should be used in moderation as a little goes a long way and the flavor can overpower the others.

How To Make An Herb Infused Oil

Filling a large jar with citronella to make an infused oil.
Filling a large jar with citronella to make an infused oil.

There are many reasons for making an infused oil and all are great.  Really, the infused oils fall into two categories- for culinary purposes or medicinal purposes- because of all the great benefits of herbs, any  oil used for culinary purposes gets to double as a medicinal oil.  Either way, infused oils are made the same way- and it is simple.

You will need:

1 qt jar- clean and DRY

Desired herb

desired oil- I like to use olive oil, it is good for you and easily available.

Place 1/3 cup of dried herb in the jar, add enough oil to the jar to fully cover the herb.  Check jar after a few hours to make sure the herb material has not soaked up the oil and left any of the herbs exposed.  If this has happened, add more oil to cover herbs.  Make certain that your jar and all utensils are dry as moisture will ruin your oil.

Cover the jar with a piece of cotton cloth, cheese cloth or an unbleached coffee filter and secure it with a rubber band.  Do not cap with a lid yet as the herbs may release gasses that can blow the lid off.  The results would be awful to clean up!  Let the oil infuse on a sunny window seal or the kitchen counter for at least 10 days.

After that time, strain out herb matter and discard to the compost pile.

The resulting oil can be stored in a glass bottle at room temperature for up to one year.

Citronella oil ready to steep.  Always label with name and date- leave nothing to chance!
Citronella oil ready to steep. Always label with name and date- leave nothing to chance!

Suggestions for medicinal oil-

  • Mullein for ear pain.- add a drop to the hurting ear.
  • Calendula will sooth and heal skin
  • Lemon Balm will help to sooth the nervous system.
  • Simply rub oil on skin and let your skin absorb the oil and use the herbal goodness.

Suggestion for Culinary Oil-

  • Lemon Pepper Oil- zest of one lemon, 2 tsp of multicolored peppercorns, 1 cup of olive oil
  • Garlic, Chili, and Oregano
  • Parsley and Cilantro
  • Basil and Garlic

There are so many combinations so explore and be creative!

Hyssop- An Ancient Herb With Benefits Today

A lovely herb for the body and the garden.
A lovely herb for the body and the garden.

“Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7

For centuries, herbs were used more for health and healing more so than for simply culinary purposes and hyssop is one of the oldest in recording.

Hyssop is one of those that has been known for its abilities to help clear excess mucous and phlegm.  Hyssop is also said to be a caminative- an a herb or preparation that either prevents formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract or facilitates the expulsion of said gas, thereby combating flatulence. With antiseptic properties, this is an herb that is also good for skin irritations , scrapes and bruises.  An excellent herb for combating the common cold.

Two good sites for herb information say this about Hyssop

Medicinal Action and Uses—Expectorant, diaphoretic, stimulant, pectoral, carminative. The healing virtues of the plant are due to a particular volatile oil, which is stimulative, carminative and sudorific. It admirably promotes expectoration, and in chronic catarrh its diaphoretic and stimulant properties combine to render it of especial value. It is usually given as a warm infusion, taken frequently and mixed with Horehound. Hyssop Tea is also a grateful drink, well adapted to improve the tone of a feeble stomach, being brewed with the green tops of the herb, which are sometimes boiled in soup to be given for asthma. In America, an infusion of the leaves is used externally for the relief of muscular rheumatism, and also for bruises and discoloured contusions, and the green herb, bruised and applied, will heal cuts promptly.  A Modern Herbal

Hyssop is used in herbal medicine to move excesses of fluids or phlegm. Since the expectorant qualities of the herb depend on its essential oil, always brew hyssop tea in a closed vessel and keep the bottle of hyssop tincture tightly closed. American folklore prescribes a bath of hyssop to help ease rheumatism. Japanese research published in 2003 in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology suggests that hyssop teas can help lower the sharp increase in blood sugars after eating which is common to people who have or who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.    Mountain Rose Herbs

There is also good information at www.livestrong.com

Not only does hyssop help the body, it is beautiful in the garden.  An evergreen perennial, bushy herb, growing 1 to 2 feet high, with square stem, linear leaves and flowers in whorls, six- to fifteen-flowered.  The blooms, depending on the variety of the plant, are going from August to October.   The colors of the herb vary in color some being blue, white or red.  Just as with all other herbs, butterflies and insects love the blooms.  Being an evergreen you will have green herb to work with all year long.

Your health, your responsibility-For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Could You Use A Little More “Thyme”?

Beautiful, lemon creeping Thyme

Thyme
Kitchen Dictionary: thyme
Pronounced: TIME
This is one of those little plants that laughs in the face of a Texas summer and remains undaunted by a few freezes.  The creeping variety has been spreading between the rock stepping stones in my herb garden for months.  I have to harvest it or it will cover the stones.  It is fabulous!  With dark green foliage that is so petit it belies its strong flavor, it is a perfect choice for edging the bed or filling in between the stones.
For me, it was surprising to see that Thyme is classified as a Southern European and Mediterranean ingredient.  I thought it was totally southern cooking.  When you think of decidedly southern dishes such as Chicken n’ Dumplins, Turkey & Dressing, Roast Chicken, Meatloaf, and so on, Thyme is a key player in creating the warm comforting tones of these dishes.  If I am boiling chicken for almost anything, I have Thyme in the pot, too.  Nothing beats the flavor of a lightly battered filet of Tilapia with Thyme mixed in the flour and cornmeal, I don’t care who you are- that is good right there!
Being that Thyme is a perennial, it is easiest to start with a seedling in the garden.  Soggy places are no good for Thyme as it likes will drained soil.  Lots of sun is a must, but a little afternoon shade in a Texan summer is greatly appreciated.  This is an extremely easy plant to grow.
With Thyme being available in the garden year round, there is no reason not use fresh Thyme in all your cooking.  Just snip off what you need and chop it finely or tie the sprigs together with kitchen twine and remove before serving.  Thyme is a well-mannered herb and is not given to being over-powering in a dish.  To a roasted chicken, I will sprinkle about 2 teaspoons over the skin or add about 2 tablespoons to a pot of soup.  Your personal tastes really are the determining factor in how much to use.  Experience is the best teacher, so give it a try.
 
However; some days it may not be very convenient to get to the garden, so I like to keep dried herbs in the pantry. To dry Thyme, cut as much as you want from the plant- but never taking more than two thirds of the mother plant- and using a rubber band, secure the stems and hang in a dry place with good air circulation.  I have a little “clothes line” strung above my refrigerator where I clip bunches of herbs for drying.  Once dry, which will take about 2 weeks, remove the leaves from the stems and place the leaves in a air-tight container and store out of the sunlight.  Dried herbs keep for about 6 months and any extra you may have makes great gift ideas.

A mini clothes line works great for drying herbs
Matches well with: beef, carrots, chicken, figs, fish, goat cheese, lamb, lentils, onions, peas, pork, potatoes, soups, tomatoes, venison
So, get planting!  Everyone needs a little more “thyme” in their day!

Could You Use A Little More "Thyme"?

Thyme
Lovely plant and wonderful scent
Kitchen Dictionary: thyme
Pronounced: TIME
This is one of those little plants that laughs in the face of a Texas summer and remains undaunted by a few freezes.  The creeping variety has been spreading between the rock stepping stones in my herb garden for months.  I have to harvest it or it will cover the stones.  It is fabulous!  With dark green foliage that is so petit it belies its strong flavor, it is a perfect choice for edging the bed or filling in between the stones.
For me, it was surprising to see that Thyme is classified as a Southern European and Mediterranean ingredient.  I thought it was totally southern cooking.  When you think of decidedly southern dishes such as Chicken n’ Dumplins, Turkey & Dressing, Roast Chicken, Meatloaf, and so on, Thyme is a key player in creating the warm comforting tones of these dishes.  If I am boiling chicken for almost anything, I have Thyme in the pot, too.  Nothing beats the flavor of a lightly battered filet of Tilapia with Thyme mixed in the flour and cornmeal, I don’t care who you are- that is good right there!
Being that Thyme is a perennial, it is easiest to start with a seedling in the garden.  Soggy places are no good for Thyme as it likes will drained soil.  Lots of sun is a must, but a little afternoon shade in a Texan summer is greatly appreciated.  This is an extremely easy plant to grow. 
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
With Thyme being available in the garden year round, there is no reason not use fresh Thyme in all your cooking.  Just snip off what you need and chop it finely or tie the sprigs together with kitchen twine and remove before serving.  Thyme is a well-mannered herb and is not given to being over-powering in a dish.  To a roasted chicken, I will sprinkle about 2 teaspoons over the skin or add about 2 tablespoons to a pot of soup.  Your personal tastes really are the determining factor in how much to use.  Experience is the best teacher, so give it a try.
Thyme is perfect for filling gaps in a rock pathway
However; some days it may not be very convenient to get to the garden, so I like to keep dried herbs in the pantry. To dry Thyme, cut as much as you want from the plant- but never taking more than two thirds of the mother plant- and using a rubber band, secure the stems and hang in a dry place with good air circulation.  I have a little “clothes line” strung above my refrigerator where I clip bunches of herbs for drying.  Once dry, which will take about 2 weeks, remove the leaves from the stems and place the leaves in a air-tight container and store out of the sunlight.  Dried herbs keep for about 6 months and any extra you may have makes great gift ideas.
A “mini- clothesline” works great for drying small amounts of herbs
Matches well with: beef, carrots, chicken, figs, fish, goat cheese, lamb, lentils, onions, peas, pork, potatoes, soups, tomatoes, venison 
So, get planting!  Everyone needs a little more “thyme” in their day!

Bunnies, Spinach, and Dandelion Greens

Well, Jenny (the rabbit) is better. She still has a runny nose, but she is no longer congested. As a precaution, we are feeding all the rabbits dandelions. We were going to use the tincture, but the thought of all the syringes we would have to fill was overwhelming. Then it occured to me that we could just feed them the fresh stuff and the bunnies would LOVE it. Sierra and I dug some this morning and the bunnies did love it.

I really need to get the tilling finished. It will be time to start planting certain seeds in two weeks. I weeded the spinach patch. This spinach was planted in the fall. It has been rooted up by piglets, burried under 6 inches of snow, and froze. I cannot believe how beautiful it is. I had given it up for dead. Sierra helped me and then we fed the organic greens (weeds) to the chickens.