Hearty and Herby Corn Chowder

By Gladys McKinneycorn chowder

During the fall when I have run myself down with all the pumpkin recipes, I look forward to this comfort food chowder. So often we forget the beauty of all the harvest vegetables when pumpkin time comes around, so I thought it fair to mention some other vegetables left behind in the rush-in of fall and all the autumn colors.

Parsley is the main herb in this chowder recipe. It is an herb that is packed with vitamin C, a vitamin that is important for our immune system and overall health.  So, at a time of year when the sun starts to set early and rise late, it is one of the handy herbs to help boost our immune system when we need it most.

This chowder is a long-time friend of late evenings with a good book. Enjoy!

Herbed Corn Chowdercorn chowder herbs

  • 1/4 cup of butter
  • 1/2 cup of onions
  • 1/4 cup of shallots
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1 quart of half and half cream
  • 3 cans of creamed corn
  • 1 can of sweet corn
  • 2 cups of cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of thyme
  • Smoked pepper, salt, paprika, hot pepper flakes to taste

Put butter, onions and shallots into a skillet (I use a cast iron pan). Cook this until the onions just start to caramelize and then add the flour. Fork-stir this until no lumps are in the pan and it is smooth. In a separate pan on the stove or in a bowl in the microwave, warm up the half and half and add this to the onion mixture and stir well until smooth. Add the cans of corn, stirring constantly; add the cheese next. As the mixture heats, add your parsley, thyme, smoked pepper, and salt to taste.

When done, put into soup bowls and top with a few hot pepper flakes and sprinkle with paprika. I serve this with a nice crusty bread or corn bread.


Gladys McKinney is treasurer of The Herb Society of America.  She lives in Villas, New Jersey. Gladys says that she enjoys this chowder at the shoreline of Cape May in the fall with her children.

Every Community Needs a Seed Library

by Bevin Cohen

seed catalog

Community seed sharing programs bring people together. So many times, as I’ve stood in front of a crowd at a seed library opening or other similar event, I’ve looked out among the faces and been amazed at the sheer diversity of people in the room: people of all ages, ethnicities, and gender. Seeds are truly a part of everyone’s story; without seeds we simply cannot survive. And with each passing year it seems that more and more people are realizing this and returning to the Earth, to the seeds that feed us all.

When people talk of saving seeds, inevitably they mention the importance of preserving genetic diversity. While genetic and historic preservation, adaptability, and self-reliance are all important aspects of the seed saving movement, it’s community building that is the foundation on which the entire movement stands.

As the movement toward increased food security and localized diet continues to grow, local control of our seed supply is a topic of significant relevance. One of the fastest growing facets of this movement is the seed library, a place where community members have access to a selection of seeds that they can “check-out” just like you would books from your public library. In fact, a number of these programs are actually housed within a local library. I always like to joke that if you want to see a librarian get excited just give them a new reason to use those old card catalogs! There is certainly something beautiful about those old drawers filled with packets of seeds eagerly awaiting a gardener to take them home and give them a grow!

To continue with the library book analogy, after a gardener checks out their seeds and takes them home, when the fall harvest is complete, participants are encouraged to bring their seeds back to the library to restock the supply. If properly executed, the seed library can become a closed circuit sustainable program offering its community a wide selection of regionally adapted, local seed. But it’s this part of the program that has proven to be the most challenging.  The general consensus among the directors of these programs is that getting community members to return seed at the end of the season is the most difficult challenge they face every year.

In my eyes one of the most beneficial aspects of a seed library is its ability to strengthen a community. When like-minded people gather together for a common cause, the friendships and relationships that develop have a value that’s far too great to measure. If a seed library’s sole accomplishment was to get people talking to their neighbors again, sharing seeds and recipes or even just their surplus zucchini, I would consider that a win. But what a seed library offers is also so much more.

Seed libraries are on the forefront of the local food movement, empowering communities with the tools and skills they need to regain the independence we must have in order to live happy and healthy lives. Every neighborhood deserves access to locally grown and adapted seed; every neighborhood should be home to a community seed library program.

 –an excerpt from the book ‘From Our Seeds & Their Keepers; a collection of stories”


Here is how you can start a seed saving library in your community.

Step 1: Consider contacting your local library and if they don’t already have a seed library in place, maybe it’s time for you to plant that seed.

Step 2: Many hands make light work. Connect with like-minded community members to form your seed library working group. Consider Master Gardeners, community gardens, your local herb society and other similar organizations.

Step 3: Time to gather your seeds! Many seed companies are willing to donate to community gardening programs. Reach out to them and make contact. The best time to solicit seed donations is in the winter when companies are hoping to clear out the previous year’s stock.

Step 4: Decide how your community seed library will organize and distribute your seeds. Will participants need to sign up and become members of your seed library? Or will your library be more of a “hands-off” give and take freestyle program? You’ll need to assess your community’s needs as well as your seed library’s resources to determine what the best fit is for your program.

Step 5: Budget for success! While you may be able to acquire your initial seed stock for free, there will be other small expenses you may incur during the setup phase, such as envelopes, labels etc. Plan accordingly!

Step 6: Have fun! Sharing seeds and stories is a fun and healthy way to support your community. Local seeds grow local food and healthy communities are happy communities! Together we can make the world a better place, one seed at a time.


Learn more about seed libraries and Bevin’s work at www.smallhousefarm.com

Bevin has published two books on the subject of seed saving:

From Our Seeds & Their Keeper; a collection of Stories, Small House Press, 2018

Saving Our Seeds: the Practice & Philosophy, Small House, Press 2019

Both titles are available via Amazon or directly from the author at www.smallhousefarm.com

 

 

 

Sage: The Herb of Thanksgiving

By Susan Belsinger

“Sage soothes both youth and age and brings the cook pleasing praise.”                                    Carolyn Dille & Susan Belsinger, Herbs in the Kitchen

The majority of recipes that we find for stuffing (cooked inside the turkey or other fowl) or dressing (generally cooked separately in a baking dish in the oven), use fresh or dried sage leaves for flavoring, whether the ingredients include sausage, oysters, mushrooms, nuts, dried fruit, traditional white breadcrumbs or cornbread. Besides its traditional uses with poultry, game, and liver, and in sausages, sage can add a rich and graceful note to vegetables, breads, and sweets.

Sage’s culinary use with rich dishes probably came from its reputation as a digestive. It was very highly held as a medicinal plant by the Greeks and Romans. Its principal use was as a calmative for the stomach and nerves. Regular use of sage tea was said to confer an even disposition to excitable natures and a healthy old age to everyone. Swiss peasants and American Indians used sage as a dentifrice, first chewing a few leaves, then brushing the gums with a twig.

Sage is much respected culinarily in England and Italy, where most country gardens have a sage bush, often fifteen years or older. The flavor from good sage stock does not deteriorate with age, however sage varies in flavor as much as some of the more delicate herbs, depending on the soil and weather conditions. Dalmatian sage from Yugoslavia is esteemed because the camphor odor is less pronounced than in sage grown in different climates. This aroma is also milder in the fresh leaf. The flavor of fresh sage has decidedly lemon rind tones over resin. The lemon flavor recedes and the camphor, and a pleasant muskiness similar to silage, comes forward when sage is dried.

Common sage (Salvia officinalis) seems to keep its aroma and flavor through cooking and drying. Dwarf sage ‘Nana’, white-flowered sage ‘Alba’, and purple-leaved sage ‘Purpurescens’ and the wide-leaved, German ‘Berggarten’ are all handsome varieties of common sage, with good flavor and aroma. The latter cultivar is very strong in flavor, so a smaller amount should be used in place of common sage.

Sage–it’s not just for turkey!

Tis the season for sage—so harvest and dry it—or bring it into the kitchen and get creative with your salvias! Here are just a few ways to use this cold-weather herb in warming winter dishes:

Turkey stuffing—I particularly like it baked in my cornbread, which I bake ahead and then crumble and let it dry out a bit.

Winter squash baked with sage, garlic, and drizzled with olive oil.

Oven-roasted root vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, parsnips, turnips, leeks, and onions) diced and baked in a hot oven with sage leaves and olive oil, perhaps sprinkled with some ancho chile powder or smoked paprika.

Pinto, black, red and white beans are much improved by the flavor of sage and it works well with green chiles.

Pasta e fagioli wouldn’t be the most delectable pasta and bean soup without sage.

Hearty stews, cassoulet and chili benefit from sage seasoning, not to mention its antioxidant properties.

Both risotto and pasta are wonderful when combined with winter squash, sage leaves, and toasted nuts.scones pumpkin cranberries

Try fresh sage leaves in your biscuits or pumpkin scones.

Combine sliced sweet potatoes, apple slices, and onions (or not) in the crockpot with sage leaves and drizzle with a little maple syrup and add a few knobs of butter. Serve when meltingly tender garnished with toasted pecans.

My favorite seasonal fruits—apples and pears—are delightful with sage from sage apple cake, pear, and cranberry crumble to applesauce.

Sage honey is great for sore throats and coughs—taken by the spoonful or added to a cup of hot tea—I have some infusing now in local honey.

Cultivating Sage

Sage graces the garden with its soft grey-green foliage providing a pleasing contrast to the bright hues of most other culinary herbs. It will grow to a bush about four feet in diameter, keeping a well-rounded shape with little pruning in mild climates. All of the sages should have a well-drained or gravelly soil and some added calcium where it is lacking in the soil. Sage needs full sun and will survive through cold winters if well mulched. It should be pruned in the early spring to encourage new growth.

A good practice to follow is mulching sage with an inch or two of sand. That, and the careful sanitation of removing weeds and dead leaves will usually suffice to spare the plants from the soil-borne wilt diseases to which they are susceptible.

Harvesting and Drying Sagesage drying

Like most herbs, sage should be dried in a warm dry place away from sun. Once the leaves are completely dried they should be stored whole in airtight containers. Sage should be crumbled, never ground, as needed for cooking; grinding completely destroys the delicate lemony perfume and leaves the harsher resinous flavors.


Susan is a culinary herbalist, food writer, educator, and photograph whose work has been published in numerous publications. She has authored a number of award-winning books. Her latest book, The Culinary Herbal: Growing & Preserving 97 Flavorful Herbs was co-authored with the late Dr. Arthur Tucker.

Susan is passionate about herbs and her work, sharing the joy of gardening and cooking through teaching & writing, and inspiring others to get in touch with their senses of smell & taste.

Chicory – Herb of the Month – More to it Than Meets the Eye

By Maryann Readal

It is truly astonishing how much is written about chicory, Cichorium intybus, a common roadsidSeptember2019 HOM Chicory (2)e herb that has naturalized to the point that we think of it as a native plant. Chicory is The Herb Society’s Herb of the Month for September. Check out the web page for additional interesting information and recipes using this roadside herbal plant.

Here are several interesting facts about chicory:

Although chicory contains no caffeine, it can be used as a coffcafe du mondeee substitute. It is also used as a flavor enhancer for coffee and is particularly popular in the coffees served in New Orleans. If you have visited New Orleans, you no doubt have had coffee and beignets at Café du Monde. Their robust coffee is flavored with ground and roasted chicory root. In the past, chicory has been used as a coffee substitute when wars have interrupted the coffee trade.

Chicory has been cultivated for thousands of years. Its name is thought to be derived from the Egyptian word “ctchorium,” where it was grown and irrigated by the flooding of the Nile. Many ancient herbalists and writers talked about chicory in their writings. In 16th and 17th century herbals, chicory was recommended for a number of ailments. Due to the sky-blue color of the flowers, Nicholas Culpepper recommended that chicory be used for “sore eyes that are inflamed.” Chicory is one of the bitter herbs of the Bible. Pliny the Elder, a Roman writer and naturalist described how Romans used the plant.

Among historical figures who have recognized the value of chicory was Charlemagne, who listed it among the 75 herbs to be grown in his garden. Thomas Jefferson planted it at Monticello in 1774 as a ground cover, fodder for his cattle, and for his dinner salad. He encouraged George Washington to grow it as well. Carl Linnaeus listed chicory in his theoretical floral clock because its blooms open reliability with the rising of the sun and close at noon.

Besides the clear blue color of chicory blooms, each petal of the flower is really its own flower, having pollen-bearing and pollen-receiving parts, making pollination very efficient and making a visit by bees especially efficient as well. Chicory seeds are a choice source of food for goldfinches.

Inulin, a low-calorie carbohydrate component of chicory, is valued as a support for a healthy digestive system. The food industry uses it as a sweetener and it adds fiber to foods. Chicory also contains a substance that is toxic to roundworms. For this reason, farmers mix it with hay for their livestock.

Chicory is a cool season plant. It prefers temperatures between 45 and 75 degrees. It is easy to grow from seed. It needs sun and the soil should be kept evenly moist. It is ready to harvest 85-100 days from planting. The young leaves are the most desirable for salads.

The next time you spot one of these clear blue chicory flowers growing along the roadside, be reminded that there is a lot more to them than meets the eye. And if you want to use some in an arrangement for your dinner table, remember that the flowers will close around noon.

For more information, visit The Herb Society’s Herb of the Month web page and read more about chicory here on this blog.


Herb Society of America Medical Disclaimer … It is the policy of The Herb Society of America not to advise or recommend herbs for medicinal or health use. This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any medical or health treatment.

Culinary Guru Shares “The Secret to Cooking with Lavender

By Jen Munson, HSA Education Chairlavender nancyLavender is as versatile in the kitchen as it is in the craft room and herbal medicine cabinet. However, use it incorrectly and you will overwhelm potential fans. To wow friends and family there are secrets you’ll want to employ before charging forward and sprinkling lavender on all your culinary creations.

On September 17th at 1pm eastern, join us in this lively, information-packed webinar. You will learn dozens of fun and creative, yet practical ways to use culinary lavender to boost flavor and fragrance while adding pizzazz to dishes. Enhanced with a wealth of eye-catching and informative images, lots of how-tos, and tips, guest speaker Nancy Baggett will cover the following:

  1. How types of lavender differ from one another, which kinds are best for culinary purposes and which should not be used in cooking
  2. Useful basic methods for taking advantage of lavender flavor and aroma
  3. A helpful discussion of “what lavender goes with”

Webinars are free to members of The Herb Society of America and non-members are charged a nominal fee of $5.00. Can’t make the date? Register anyway as recorded webinars are sent to all registrants.

Nancy Baggett is an award-winning author of nearly twenty cookbooks, most recently the The Art of Cooking with Lavender, which won a 2017 Independent Publisher “Books for Better Living” award and is sold in lavender growers’ shops all over the nation. Considered one of America’s top experts on cooking with lavender, Nancy frequently speaks and demonstrates on the topic. Her website devoted to lavender photos, recipes, and her lavender book are at: https://nancyslavenderplace.com For more biographical details and information on her other cookbooks visit: www.kitchenlane.com.

Start your lavender adventures with this recipe for Sweet Harvest Tea. Pour a cup and settle in to enjoy our September 17th webinar. Click here to register here for the webinar.

Sweet Harvest Tea

¼ cup loosely packed, fresh lemon balmlavender tea

¼ cup loosely packed, fresh peppermint leaves

1 tsp fresh or dried lavender blossoms

3” slice of orange peel (orange part only) 2 cups water

Place herbs and orange peel in a large teapot. In a small saucepan, heat water to almost boiling and pour over herbs in teapot. Cover teapot and let mixture steep for 10 minutes. Pour through a strainer to serve.

Source: Herbsociety.orglavender book

HSA Webinar– Incredible Edibles: Flowers in the Kitchen

HSA Webinar– Incredible Edibles: Flowers in the Kitchen

By Jen Munson, Education Chair, The Herb Society of America

Did you know many herb flowers are also edible? Experience for yourself the dimension that flowers can add to your meals. To start with, flowers of edible herbs are consumable. They offer the same flavor as the other parts of the plant but generally are a bit milder. Learn about herb and other tasty flowers that are safe to eat by signing up for HSA’s webinar, 1 p.m. Eastern, July 25, 2019, when Honorary President Susan Belsinger will wow attendees with Incredible Edibles: Flowers in the Kitchen. To sign up for this webinar click here. It’s the perfect time to surprise family and friends by throwing some edible flowers into your next summer dish.

matricaria-discoidea-846636_1920Webinars are free to members and $5 for non-members. As an added incentive join HSA on or before August 8th and your webinar registration will be applied to your membership. Can’t make the date? Register anyway as recorded webinars are sent to all registrants once available.

One of my favorite edible flowers is pineapple weed, Matricaria discoidea. This lesser-known plant surprises folks with its mild, pineapple aroma and taste. Pineapple weed, aka wild chamomile, is a native plant that can be found in compacted poor soil. The shortness of the plant makes it easily overlooked; however, once you realize that it emits a light pineapple scent and has an equally refreshing pineapple taste you will be on the hunt for it. It’s best used fresh in teas but the following recipe makes a nice alternative use.

Pineapple Weed / Zucchini Bread

2 eggs
1 cup mild vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup grated zucchini
¾ cup fresh ground pineapple weed
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease loaf pan.
2. In large mixing bowl, beat eggs until foamy.
3. Stir in oil, sugar, zucchini, pineapple weed, and vanilla.
4. In separate bowl mix dry ingredients.
5. Blend dry ingredients into pineapple weed mixture.
6. Pour into greased loaf pan, and bake 1 hour or until inserted knife is removed cleanly.

Dandelion – June Herb of the Month

Dandelion – June Herb of the Month

By Maryann Readal, HSA Secretary

dandelion-1.jpgDandelion, Taraxacum officinale, a common weed, is in fact a treasure trove of vitamins and minerals. We need to be harvesting dandelions instead of weeding them from our yards and gardens. I remember as a child being paid by the bushel for pulling dandelions from my parent’s lawn. I never thought about eating them, though. How things have changed!

Early in the growing season is the perfect time to harvest dandelion leaves for soup or salad. Leaves tossed with a tangy vinaigrette dressing with blue cheese and dates makes a delicious and nutritious salad. The leaves are full of vitamins A, C, D, and B complex as well as a long list of minerals including iron, zinc, manganese, potassium, and magnesium. Dandelion leaves are the richest source of beta carotene of any of the green vegetables.

The roots are chock full of the same vitamins and minerals. However, roots harvested in the fall are a bit sweeter. The dried and roasted roots can be used as a coffee or tea substitute.

Native Americans, Chinese, and Arabian peoples have used dandelion in their medicines for a long time. Western medicine is beginning to study it for medicinal applications, including testing its effectiveness against several drug-resistant cancers.

dandelion wishEveryone remembers blowing on the round, fluffy dandelion seed heads as a child. But do you know the legend behind this popular childhood activity? To discover the legend, you will have to go to The Herb Society of the Month’s Herb of the Month web page and read about dandelion. You will find some very interesting recipes using dandelion here as well. Now is the time to try them out.

For more delightful and informative articles about dandelion, read the dandelion posts on this HSA blog.

Ready for Dandelions

Save those Dandelions for Wine