Dear Santa, Please Bring Me Herb Toys

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Get that wish list ready for Santa. He may need a little help for the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday. My list is full of kitchen items. And, herbal objects dominate. Here are a few

Vertical herb wallVertical Herb Garden

Perhaps my most coveted item is an indoor herb garden to bring summer’s bounty to my frigid Northeast Ohio climate. My favorite is the vertical herb garden from Williams-Sonoma. It’s space efficient and aesthetically amazing. Certainly, at nearly $500, this is a fantasy for me.  But what a fantasy!

Herbal Wreath

Next up, an herbal wreath for my kitchen décor. It will look lovely and  though I’m not likely to cannibalize its beauty for actual cooking.

In my stocking I’d like to find many of the following. Most can be found at Williams-Sonoma, Sur la Table, Pampered Chef, and at other online and retail sources.

Xmas Herb infuserHerb Infuser

Forget that little packet of cheesecloth-wrapped herbs in your soups and sauces. This reusable infuser holds your bouquet garni. It can also be used to infuse mulling spices into hot cider or wine.

Xmas ice cube tray

Herb Ice Cube Maker

Freezing herbs, especially the tender ones like basil, is becoming so mainstream that herb-dedicated ice cube trays are found at Target and online. Chop your favorites and freeze them in water or broth to make them handy for soups, stews and sauces…

xmas zipperHerb Zipper

The herb stripper is quite easy. You don’t have to pick individual leaves from a stem or strip them with your fingernails.  You simply pull them through a hole in the handle and the leaves fall into the cup.  I uses this for herbs with smaller leaves such as thyme, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, lavendar and tarragon. Differently sized holes give the gadget versatility.

xmas scissorsHerb Scissors

Sure regular kitchen scissors snip herbs, but five-blade herb scissors are a wonder for basil, chives, cilantro, parsley and more.  Retailers suggest them for lettuce and mushrooms as well. I was skeptical of mushrooms, but they do a great job with shiitakes and other gourment ‘shrooms.  Make sure yours come with a cleaning tool. And, that you don’t lose it in that kitchen gadget drawer.

xmas keeperHerb Keepers

Several styles exist the marketplace. While I haven’t compared products, I’m considering a glass herbkeeper from Gourmet2day. I prefer glass over plastic.

Stay tuned for a gift list from The Herb Society. Or, review those items now.

Is there something we should put on our wish list? Put your suggestions in the comments.

Tap HSA Webinars for Giftmaking Ideas

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Handmade gifts bring heart to the holidays. Need more ideas? Take a look through HSA’s archive of webinars. These are accessible to members only. Learn more about other membership benefits.  

The following is a freebie for nonmembers and those unable to access the webinars. It was provided by Susan Belsinger and Tina Marie Wilcox in their October 2015 webinar.

Basic Bath Salts

Epsom salt is a good soaking aid for muscle fatigue and drawing out toxins. Milk powder makes the skin soft and silky; but it isn’t absolutely necessary. Once prepared, when you smell these–they may seem strong–but remember you will be using a small amount in a tubful of hot water, so they will dissipate. Put about 3 to 4 tablespoons into the tub towards the end of drawing your bath and stir with your hand. Relax and indulge yourself.

This recipe makes one eight-ounce jar and can be multiplied to make large quantities for gift-giving.

  • 1 cup Epsom salt
  • 8 to 10 drops essential oil
  • 2 tablespoons milk powder

Put the salt in a glass or non-reactive bowl and sprinkle the essential oil over it. Use a spoon or your hands to stir it. Add the milk powder and blend well. Pour the salt into a jar, cover with a lid and label with the ingredients and directions for using the bath salts.

Two blends that we like for bath salts are:

Well Body Bath Salts—for muscle fatigue and tension or cold and flu symptoms essential oils of eucalyptus, peppermint and rosemary

 Bliss Blend Bath Salts—good for relaxing and general blissing out; calming and sensual essential oils of lavender, cedarwood, clary sage, and chamomile

Watch the Herb Society website for upcoming webinars.

Feel free to share your gift-giving projects, and pictures if possible, with We’ll publish as possible.

 Watch this space for additional holiday gift-giving ideas.

7 Herbs that Make Thanksgiving Sing

By Kathy Stephenson, Contributing WriterTurkey picture

Soon it will be time to pick or purchase herbs for your Thanksgiving meal. Kathy Stephenson of the Salt Lake Tribune gathered information on the top herbs used for a traditional holiday feast.

When Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were singing about “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,” they could have been singing about Thanksgiving dinner, as those four herbs — along with dill, bay leaves and ginger — can make the roast turkey, gravy, stuffing and other holiday dishes really sing.

Here’s a bit more about these seven classic Thanksgiving herbs and how to best use them for the big meal on Thursday, Nov. 26.

Sage • This pungent herb with gray-green leaves is a must-have herb at Thanksgiving, said Meagan Scott, a chef instructor with Salt Lake Community College’s Culinary Arts program. “It’s my favorite herb and one I would not want to go without.” Scott said she uses sage, a natural complement to poultry, inside the cavity of the turkey and rubbed over the skin. She also adds fresh sage leaves to the bread for stuffing.

Cooking instructor Marguerite Henderson concurs. She uses sage (as well as parsley, rosemary and thyme) to create an herb butter that is rubbed under the skin and on top of the turkey before roasting. The herb also goes in the pot to make a flavorful turkey stock. One thing to remember about sage, especially when it’s fresh: It can have a strong flavor, so use a light hand or it will overpower a recipe.

Thyme • “I call this small, lowly herb the mother of all herbs,” said chef Claire Nelson, of the Chef’s Secret Garden and the food service director at Thomas Cuisine Management. The tiny leaves can be used fresh or dried in all types of foods. At Thanksgiving, a few sprigs will add flavor to vegetables, soups, stocks and stuffings, said Nelson. Thyme — along with parsley and bay leaves — is one of the main components of a bouquet garni, a fancy term for herbs that have been tied together (or bundled in cheesecloth) and used to flavor soups, stews and broth.

Parsley • There is no excuse not to stock up on inexpensive, readily available parsley. For cooking, chefs say to use flat-leaf or Italian parsley, which has a richer, stronger taste. But have some curly parsley on hand for garnishes.

For more about using herbs for Thanksgiving, see the rest of Kathy Stephenson’s ’s article “7 herbs to make a Thanksgiving meal sing” from the in The Salt Lake Tribune. Reprinted with permission.

Herbs Flavor Best Cocktails of 2015

Of course, herbs are indispensable in the kitchen. But, we often forget they inspire more than a mojito at the bar. Industry magazine Restaurant Hospitality has identified two herb-influenced cocktails among America’s best in 2015.  Thank you RH for permission to share these awards.

Cocktail 1The Seersucker Cocktail

Ferrel Douglas at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans created this rosemary-spiked martini.

“I was inspired by my grandfather, and this is a perfect cocktail for a southern gentleman (or woman) to sip as they sit on the front porch in a seersucker suit,” he says. “He also has a lot of rosemary growing in his yard, so the two are linked in my mind. And when the kitchen at Commander’s had some black cherry vinegar on hand, I knew I had to make a cocktail with it.”

Key Ingredients: Bourbon, Fee Brothers Cordial Syrup, Mandarine Napoleon, Black Cherry Vinegar, lemon, simple syrup, rosemary.

The Shrine BuilderCocktail 2

At  The Whistler in Chicago, creators — Billy Helmkamp, Rob Brenner, Eric Henry – use unusual herb-based ingredients to concoct a lively green beverage.

Key Ingredients: Green Chartreuse, verdita, falernum, lime juice.

Historically, chartreuse liquor has been a blend of alcohol aged with 130 herbs, plants and flowers. Verdita is  a blend of cilantro, mint, jalapenos, lime and pineapple juice. Falernum is a rum-based cordial from Barbados that includes lime, ginger, cloves and almonds.

Now that’s an herbal cocktail.

How do you incorporate herbs in your cocktails?

Plan Ahead for the Asheville Annual Meeting and Spring Herb Festival

Plan Ahead for the Asheville Annual Meeting and Spring Herb Festival

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

biltmore 2

Make time to visit the historic Biltmore.

This year’s Herb Society of America Annual Meeting April 29, 2016, is in one of the trendiest places in the United States – Asheville, North Carolina – during one of the most significant herb festivals in the country.

In its 27th year, the Spring Herb Festival is hosted by WNC Chapter of the NC Herb Association, April 29, April 30 and May 1, 2016. As noted on the festival website, “The Herb Association represents the great variety of herb growers, herbalists, and related herb businesses in North Carolina, as well as natural gardening and landscaping specialists and makers of herbal ointments, balms, soaps, teas, sauces, and medicines.”

If the past holds true, the sponsors expect about 35,000 herb lovers at the three-day event. These folks will have an opportunity to shop more than 50 herb-related vendors selling herb plants and products. These include herbs for cooking, gardening, and medicinal use; herbal soaps, lotions, tinctures, teas, and herbal baked goods, dried herbs & flowers, and herb-related crafts, gifts and books and more.

Dovetailing with the Herb Festival, The Herb Society of America’s Annual meeting will feature presentations by Charlie Williams, as Andre Michaux French botanist and explore who contributed to the unique botany of western North Carolina; herbalist and storyteller, Doug Elliott will share the useful plants of western North Carolina; George Briggs will bring the latest news from The North Carolina Arboretum and Joe-Ann McCoy of the North Carolina Arboretum will share her research working with the Cherokee to conduct nutritional analyses of their traditional food plants and medicines.

If that’s not enough, the city is buzzing with agricultural and artsy culture. Check out what the media, from Wall Street Journal to the New York Times, are saying about the city.

Stay tuned to this blog or Herb Society website for upcoming details. If you’re a member of The Herb Society, watch you inbox for HSA newsletters that will include the latest information.

To take advantage of the most significant opportunities, if you’re not already a member, join The Herb Society of America. Membership benefits include industry information, shopping discounts, and monthly member-only webinars, as well as reduced or free admission to arboreta and gardens throughout the United States.

Behind the Numbers: Karen Frandanisa

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Frandanisa_Karen_LightenedFace400x600Meet financial whiz, Karen Frandanisa. The Herb Society is one of her favorite clients. “I believe in The Herb Society mission, love the beautiful building and grounds at headquarters and have wonderful people to work with,” she says.

Her job includes accounts payable, payroll and payroll tax reporting; recording deposits; reconciling cash and investments, preparing quarterly and annual financial reports; and handling the annual tax return.

In that role she strives to provide relevant, accurate financial information to the board and members.

She received her BS/BA degree in accounting from John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. She worked in public accounting for seven years, before spending the past 20 years in the private sector.

While she’s not practicing a green thumb, her favorite herb is basil.

Karen lives in Mentor, Ohio, with her husband Joe and two children, Steven and Katelyn. In her spare time she says she enjoys doing “pretty much any outdoor activity.”

Handmade: Herb Garden Markers from Wooden Spoons

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Craft - Spoon markers (2)I’m on a creative tear. My dad calls it “the Wolfe family curse.”  We can’t stop making things.
For example, I still had Project #1 in the car … a tacky yellow bookshelf and buttercream chalk paint … when Project #2 took over.  And so, I bought barn red chalk paint and secondhand wooden spoons.Craft - Spoon markers (7)

Project #2 was inspired by a display at The Nest, a retailer of shabby chic in Chardon, Ohio. The owner had brushed  different colors of made-in-the-USA Dixie Belle chalk paint onto similar spoons to show customers their true colors.

Eureka! The barn red spoon would make a perfect plant marker. Simply paint the bowl red and print the plant’s name with a white paint marker. Then, coat for durability.

Inexpensive and  easy. Who could resist? Not me!

Craft - Spoon markers (10)I chose red for the contrast with green plants and the yellowish siding of my condo. I wanted something bold. You might want white or blue or …

Anyway, it didn’t take long before I crossed the Chardon Village Square buying old wooden spoons at White Barn secondhand store for 50 cents per. Then, I was scouring the county to upcycle more wooden spoons. I found them for 25 cents to $1. I also mail-ordered a dozen “made in China” spoons on for about $8.

While I had been testing the chalk paint for another project, I’d recommend buying cheaper craft paint or using outdoor paint. A simple fine-point, paint marker and well-practiced printing or cursive creates strong labels. You may want to test once on the back of a spoon to see if the paint pen bleeds or “splatters.” I was lucky with my first attempt.

Craft - Spoon markers (14)Next, I used a non-yellowing, indoor/outdoor spray paint to clear coat the spoons and protect the labels from the elements. I sprayed the backs first. Let them dry, then turned over to coat the front.

At last, they were ready. I tied some with a ribbon to gift for the holidays. Others await spring.