Five Spring Blog Posts to Revisit

Five Spring Blog Posts to Revisit

garden journal 2

This is my third spring developing blog posts. I avoid republishing a post unless it’s with new information. Nonetheless, I feel the following five posts have some valuable information for Spring 2018  … with its late start.  I hope you have fun rediscovering (or discovering) the content.

  1. Keep a Garden Journal … Determine the contents of your garden journal. Pick and choose from recommended sections.
  2. Build Better Soil: The Scoop on Poop … Some manure is better than others. Read about it.
  3. Save Those Dandelions for Wine … Dandelions aren’t pests. They’re ingredients. Learn more.
  4. What is Sustainable Seed and Why do We Care? … Organic seed is different. Find out how before you plant outdoors.
  5. Herb-Inspired Mother’s Day Gifts … Consider an HSA membership, a trip to a garden center.

Win Free Gardening Book in HSA Contest

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Rodale's organic gardening primerIf I’m ranking my favorite things, I must admit that herbs fall second. My first love is books. I love a new book’s promise of knowledge and adventure. And, free books are an absolute treat.

If you like herbs, gardens, books, the environment, you need Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening : A Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Healthy Garden, by Deborah L.  Martin. And you can have it for free by entering the HSA Blog CONTEST.

Tell us your favorite herb and why – by May 5, 2018 –to enter a contest to win my review copy of the book. Simply state the herb and why in the comment section below this post or send an email to All names will be put into a drawing. Winner will be notified in mid-May.

I’ll go first.  My favorite herb is thyme, specifically lemon thyme. It grows prolifically with little care. It blooms the sweetest little purple flowers. It smells delicious when I brush my hand across it. It retains its flavor in dried form. Just like lemon, it punches up the flavor of almost any dish that calls for thyme.

I can’t wait to hear what you like best and why.

HSA members and staff as well as non-members are all eligible.

Ramp-ing up for Spring

Ramp-ing up for Spring

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

rampsWhen the forest floor is warmed by the sun, before the trees leaf out, ramps make their way into the light. And folks in the know are ready to harvest the harbinger of the new foraging season. As long as I can remember my dad was one of those folks.

Ramps, for those who haven’t caught the fever, are wild onions that grow in the Eastern United States. In the raw, they taste like a strong onion with finishes of garlic. Cooked for short periods of time, they mellow. No matter, they’re easily addictive to the allium-o-phile.

At times, my dad ate so many of the bulbs that he’d sweat the aroma and mom would make him sleep on the couch. This isn’t unusual. The same thing will happen if you eat a lot of garlic.

Dad found them in fields near his work and took advantage of their abundance. He had to move fast because that abundance is short lived. In Northeast Ohio it starts around late March, early April and continues until nature says stop. That’s usually when new leaves shade the ground.

I found my first patch in the mid-2000s during an Easter egg hunt in Chardon. While my sons gathered pastel eggs filled with candy and cash, I gingerly pulled bulbs from the earth. Harvested correctly, the plant population proliferates. Harvested harshly, they won’t return.

Proud of my haul, I fried thin slices with diced potatoes. Disappointed, I got nothing.  Thus, I learned that ramps become bland when exposed to heat for too long.  For that reason I eat them raw or, perhaps, lightly grilled.

This year the weather is slowing their appearance in Northeast Ohio. I can hardly wait.

For more information read about ramps, HSA’s herb of the month for March.

Grow and Use Hops:  Herb of 2018

Grow and Use Hops: Herb of 2018

By Kathleen Gips, Western Reserve Unit, HSA

Hops copyHops is a perennial vine reaching a height of over 15 feet. The flowers are chartreuse green blooming in July, and the leaves are bright green and heart shaped, similar to grape leaves. A “hop” is a green cone around the female flower of the hop plant. Inside the hops are golden grains that form a sticky orange powder. This pollen gives beer its bitter flavor.

How to grow hops: This vine is easy to grow, hardy, a fast grower and useful in the landscape. Hops prefer rich soil and can grow in sun or partial shade.  It grows very quickly in the warm months and can cover a trellis in a season. Vines are cut to the ground with the first frost.

History of Hops: Hops have been used for centuries to flavor beer. The cultivation of hops and beer has been synonymous.  Hops has a long history of use for sleeplessness, nervousness and restlessness.

Uses of Hops: Hops has been used traditionally as a sleep aid. There is evidence that hops acts as a muscle relaxant as well as a strong antiseptic agent.


Bed Time Herbal Tea

These herbs — lemon balm, chamomile, catnip, lavender and hops — have been known throughout history to support sleep and to relax the central nervous system, soothe tension and relieve tight muscles.  Hibiscus and lemon peel add flavor and vitamin C.

  • 1/2 cup lemon balm
  • 1/2 cup chamomile (omit if you are allergic to ragweed)
  • 2 Tablespoon catnip
  • 1 Tablespoon hibiscus
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon organic lavender
  • 1 teaspoon hops

Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight jar away from heat and light. Use one teaspoon to a cup of boiling water. Cover and steep for 5 to 15 minutes. Strain out herbs, add honey and sip before bedtime.

IMG_1285Sleepy Time Rub

Use to rub on chest, under nose or on the soles of your feet to encourage a restful sleep.

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 Tablespoon dried hops flowers
  • 30 drops lavender essential oil

Heat coconut oil over low heat until melted. Stir in hops flowers. Steep for 15 minutes. Strain liquid coconut oil though sieve to remove hops. Mix in lavender essential oil. Allow to cool. Store in an airtight glass container.

Hops is IHA 2018 Herb of the Year

Hops is IHA 2018 Herb of the Year

By Kathleen Gips, Western Reserve Unit

Kathleen GipsIn 1995, when I was a member, the International Herb Association (IHA) designated Herb Education Week to be the week before Mother’s Day. For that week members were charged with educating the public about herbs and their varied uses. As leaders of herbal businesses we were to explore the designated herb of the year with products, written materials, seminars and workshops.

I loved researching the history, horticulture, culinary, craft and medicinal properties of all the chosen herbs. I treasured learning about my favorite herbs: lavender, scented geraniums, sage. I learned so much about some less common herbs like fennel, calendula and bergamot. Even mundane herbs such as lemon balm and mint gained new knowledge and respect. I became immersed in building my herbal expertise on each Herb of the Year.

Some years challenged my level of excitement more than others. When it was horseradish and elderberry, I thought these were unworthy of my passion. As I studied each, I learned how wrong I was. Every herb has magical properties, rich history and many uses. I was rewarded with even more knowledge in my special world of herbs.


This year when I learned hops was designated as the Herb of the Year for 2018, I thought, “Oh no! Not hops!” I’m not even a beer lover. But I thought I’d learn more about them this year.


My introduction to hops came when I invited Jim Long to be a guest speaker at my Chagrin Falls herb shop to discuss his new book, “Making Herbal Dream Pillows.” I ordered hops to make his sweet dreams pillows in our workshop.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the bag and the entire room smelled like stinky feet. Ewww!  But Jim explained the powerful relaxation properties of hops, despite the aroma. And, we made the pillows.


My next introduction to hops was a golden hops plant that Mark Langan from Mulberry Creek Herbs, Huron, Ohio, gave me to sell. Because my customers knew little about hops,

I had leftover plants that year.  So I put them near an iron arch at the entrance to our herb garden. The vine grew quickly and prolifically covering the entire arch in a single season.

It created a magnificent show of beautiful chartreuse leaves and stunning green pendant flowers. It attracted attention and everyone wanted to grow these beautiful golden hops.  Imagine my surprise when hops became my favorite landscape herb.

When we pulled the vines down after the first frost, I learned about the tenacious prickly tendrils and came away with scratches and a skin rash. I also learned about the very hardy nature of the hops plant as it came back each spring from nothingness. It spread its tendrils far and wide and even needed some restraint.


What a resilient, tenacious, and beautiful herb plant.  It is beautiful in the garden landscape, good for flavoring beer and offers calming medicinal properties.  I look forward to seeing them again this year.

Restful Sleep Pillow Herbal Mixture
Herbs under the pillow have long been used to produce restful sleep. Research shows that certain herbs and flowers help to relax the muscles and calm the mind This herbal blend combines hops and other herbs with the properties of relaxation. The addition of rosemary produces pleasant dreams and the pinch of thyme gives quiet dreams and may even enable one to see fairies in their dreams.
1/4 cup lavender
1/4 cup rose petals
1 tablespoon dried hops
1 teaspoon rosemary
Pinch of thyme
This mix makes 1/2 cup which is enough for one sleep pillow. Put mixture into a drawstring bag and tuck into your pillow case.

April Showers Bring May … Herbs

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

20180104_193922 (2)In a final section of Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening, author Deborah L. Martin offers a Seasonal Garden-Care Calendar as a loose guide to timing garden tasks. Checking in with such calendars keeps me on target. Despite the latest dusting of snow in Geneva, Ohio, Zone 6a, I’m ready to build my soil. Read on for other tasks herb growers should consider in April.

  1. Heavy spring rains may reveal erosion and drainage problems, especially on bare or newly planted beds. Watch for places where water runs off the soil surface and consider mulching or changing the surface grading to stop runoff and prevent erosion.
  2. Begin soil building activities.
  3. Mulch beds to avoid onerous weeding tasks.
  4. Dig, divide and replant perennials.
  5. If you don’t have a compost bin, consider building one.

Learn more about Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening book.

HSA Blogmaster Returns from Adventure

HSA Blogmaster Returns from Adventure

20180217_095834By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, Herb Society of America

It’s been a while, but I’m still here. Or actually I’m back. Thanks for your patience while I’ve been on a three-month RV adventure through the Southwest.

You see I live in Northeast Ohio – growing zone 6a. While my boyfriend isn’t a gardener, he prefers growing zones with more sunshine. So, when he retired on January 5, we took off for those climates on January 7. It was just 3 F, but our 40-foot Tiffin Phaeton made it down the snowy driveway and to I-90

Grand Canyon (43)During the past three months we’ve spent time in Tuscon, Phoenix, San Diego, Palm Springs, Big Sur, Sonoma County, Napa Valley, Grand Canyon and so many other places. Throughout the trip I’ve looked at varied soils and wondered what might grow in them.  I’ve had a Native American guide show me wild medicinal plants. I’ve admired rosemary and lavender in landscaping. I lucked into the date harvest and orange blossom seasons. Mostly I’ve just enjoyed all things garden-related.

Highway One -Carmel to Big Sur (106) - CopyWhile I didn’t find opportunities to research or write about herbs during the trip, I am developing travel stories for a local newspaper. If you’re interested you can find the first of them Tombstone Preserves 1880s Mining Town. I’m working on at least six more stories. You will find them published, eventually, at Paris Wolfe on Travel + Food.

Stay tuned to this Word Press Channel as more blog posts are coming your way.