Roselle Hibiscus– An Herb with Many Names

By Maryann Readal

With its bright red calyces, green leaves, and okra-like flowers, Hibiscus sabdariffa, alsoroselle known as red zinger, red sorrel, sour tea, Florida cranberry, and roselle, makes an unusual and striking accent plant in the garden. On a recent trip to Montreal, I was surprised to see red zinger hibiscus growing at the back of formal garden borders. I thought it was a plant that grew only in tropical and sub-tropical climates. Apparently, it does well in cooler climates as well. We don’t normally think of red zinger hibiscus as a landscape plant, but indeed it can be.

And of course, an interesting side note to this hibiscus is that the whole plant has many uses. The red calyces surrounding the seed can be removed and dried and used to make a refreshing hot or cold tea.  The fresh calyces can be chopped and used in fruit salads. They can also be cooked, and the resulting sauce is similar to cranberry sauce. If making jelly from the sauce, pectin does not need to be added as roselle calyces contain 3% pectin. Go The Herb Society’s Herb of the Month web page for recipes using roselle.  The leaves and tender shoots can be tossed in salads. In many countries the leaves are eaten as a vegetable and roselle seedsas a meat accompaniment.  The seeds can be pressed for oil, and the mash left over from processing can be fed to livestock. Chickens enjoy the seeds. The seeds can also be roasted and used as a coffee substitute. The fiber in the stems can be processed into rope or into rough cloth such as burlap. It is truly a plant with many uses.

roselle teaHibiscus tea has several health benefits including lowering blood pressure, which has been documented in clinical trials. It can be made into a drink that helps to cool the body, making it a very common beverage in hot, tropical climates. In Africa, India, and Mexico, the flowers, leaves, calyces and stems of the plant are used in native medicine. In some countries, the root is also used for medicine.

This plant is native to North Africa and Southeast Asia. It is thought that Africans brought the seeds to the New World. It has naturalized in the West Indies and Central America. It is interesting that USAID is now supporting rural farmers, mostly women, to grow this hibiscus in West Africa.

If you plan to grow Hibiscus sabdariffa in your garden, be prepared to give it plenty of sun, water, and a lot of room to grow. It can easily reach seven feet tall and six feet wide. Pruning it early in the spring will encourage branching. Roselle will not tolerate frost, making it an annual in all but tropical climates. It does not bloom until the days are short, usually in October. Some say that the calyces should not be harvested until 10 days after the okra-like blossoms drop off. Leaving the calyx on longer will result in a brown, woody seed pod.

Whatever you call it or whatever you use it for, roselle is an interesting herb to know about. I like this plant!


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.

Herbs from the Witch’s Garden

By Jen Munson, HSA Education Chair

webinar Jackson witch

2019Grab the latest issue of HSA’s The Herbarist and gather around the cauldron to learn about herbs from the witch’s garden with author and guest speaker, Andrea Jackson. Much of what we know about herbs and plants belongs to early witches who were called upon to know their plants and potions. Although witches were often associated with doing the devil’s work, there were many others who were “wise women” going about the business of bringing healing through plants, roots, and herbs, along with chanting, healing, and love potions.

Plan to join us on October 22nd at 1pm eastern as Andrea Jackson shares with us, “Herbs from the Witch’s Garden.” With the cool weather and shortened days leaving long shadows, it’s the perfect opportunity to learn what plants made witches fly and perhaps leave you inspired to create a spell of your own.

Webinars are free to members. 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.


webinar jacksonAndrea Jackson Bio: Andrea is a member of The Herb Society of America’s Western Pennsylvania Unit. Andrea started her herbal adventure over 30 years ago after attending an herb walk led by the Piccadilly Herb Club, of which she ultimately became a member. When she lived in Baltimore, she was a founding member of Partners in Thyme. She also belongs to the American Herbalists Guild and the American Botanical Council.

Herbs aside, Andrea is a registered nurse and a Master Gardener and lectures extensively to groups ranging from professional organizations to garden clubs.  She was featured on the local affiliate of ABC news in a segment on medicinal herbs.

Her particular interests are with the medicinal uses of herbs, herbal lore, and weeds, which she considers to be the first herbs.  When she is not spreading the herbal gospel, she is tucked away in her herb room formulating various concoctions.

Lemon Balm – A Very Lemony Herb

By William “Bill” Varney

Here are several reasons to grow lemon balm (Melissa officinalis),  the lemony herb in your garden:

  • It is an easy-to-grow, hardy perennial growing to 1 ½ – 3 feet highLemon balm flower
  • It has crafting, culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses
  • It likes full sun but will tolerate partial shade

From the earliest of times, lemon balm has been celebrated by poets and herbalists for its “uplifting” qualities. At one time, the whole dried plant – roots, leaves, and seed – was sewn into a piece of linen and worn under ladies’ dresses to promote “an agreeable disposition.”

Lemon balm is native to the Mediterranean. The genus name, Melissa, is derived from the Greek word meaning “honeybee.” This herb’s lemony fragrance attracts bees. Hives were rubbed with its leaves to bring in swarms. Housekeepers once used handfuls of fresh balm leaves to polish and scent their furniture.

Lemon balm thrives in cooler climates. It develops into a bushy plant with substantial roots and a stalk reaching 1 ½ to 3 feet high. Leaves are toothed, textured, and smell strongly of lemon. Yellow buds open into tiny white flowers by mid to end of summer.

lemon balmPlanting and Care – Easy to grow although seeds are slow to germinate. Start from cuttings, root division, or plants bought from a nursery. Plant as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring. It accepts partial shade to full sun exposure and prefers moist fertile soil with good drainage.

Once established, plants endure in the garden unless a determined effort is made to eliminate them. They reseed easily and spread wide, so provide plenty of space. In small gardens, try growing in containers to control the plants. The stalks die with the first frost and can be cut down to the ground. In cold winter regions, place a thick layer of mulch over the crown to protect the plant; each spring it will regrow from its roots.

Harvesting and Use – One of the sweetest scented of all herbs, which makes it a delightful ingredient for sachets and potpourris. Fresh-cut stems retain their fragrance well and lend a casual flair to floral arrangements. In the kitchen, lemon balm adds a light lemony flavor to soups and stews, fish, lamb, and chicken. Freshly chopped, use it sparingly with fruits or salads. It’s a favorite replacement for salt and an inexpensive lemon zest substitute.

Always add near the end of cooking because its volatile oils are dissipated by heat. Its flavor keeps well in baked goods because it is captured by the surrounding medium. Use as a fresh garnish in hot tea and lemonade or brew as a tea. A leaf or two improves a glass of white wine. Along with hyssop, it is an important ingredient in the liqueur Chartreuse.

Lemon balm is recognized as an aid to digestion and circulation. It is reported to help relieve feverish colds, headaches, and tension. Its oil is believed to be beneficial in dressing wounds, especially insect bites.

One of my favorite recipes for using it is Lemon Balm Bars.

Lemon Balm Bars

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar 1 cup of flour
  • 1/3 cup blanched almonds 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons lemon balm leaves, minced Grated zest of one lemon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/3 cup blanched almonds

Combine butter, ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup flour, and 1/3 cup almonds in food processor. Process until mixture forms a ball. Pat into a greased and floured 9 by 9 – inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Combine sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, minced lemon balm, and lemon zest in work bowl of food processor. Process until finely blended. Add eggs and lemon juice; blend thoroughly. Pour over crust. Grind remaining 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar and 1/3 cup almonds in the bowl of the food processor. Sprinkle over filling. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes at 350 degrees or until set.

Yields 9 large lemon balm bars

Varney, Bill. Herbs: Growing & Using the Plants of Romance. Tucson, Arizona, Ironwood Press, 1998.


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.

Growing Herbs in Small Places (Pots and Various Containers)

By William “Bill” Varney

A great advantage of herbs is that regardless of your limited space, almost all herbs can be successfully grown in containers and small spaces. In fact, potted herbs will make a garden where nothing else will.

Virgil the Roman poet said it best: “Admire a large estate, but work a small oncontainer, herbse.”

Tips:

  •  No place is too small for a garden of potted herbs, and there is always a place in any type of garden for decorative containers of herbs.
  • Any container from one gallon to forty is usable. However, it is advisable to plant only hardy perennials in your largest containers. If five-gallon containers are used for tender perennials or annuals, keep them near your front or back door, then when a freeze is predicted, moving them indoors is easier.
  • Be creative in choosing your containers: Horse troughs, iron kettles, old watering cans, cinder blocks, pallets, unusual old tins, the list is endless. Of course, the traditional clay pots, redwood, and cedar containers are the old mainstay. Other alternatives are hanging baskets and containers.
  • Requirements for any container include good drainage and a depth of at least six inches is essential, regardless if the container is plastic, clay, or unusual material. There must be room for a root system to draw sufficient moisture and food to keep the plant growing and healthy.
  • Grow plants together in a large container. A whiskey or wine barrel, for example. Strawberry pots are perfect for many smaller growing herbs, such as thyme, parley, marjoram, and chives.
  • A slightly richer soil is suggested for potted herbs, especially mint, parsley, chives, and chervil, than those in the garden.
  • Additionally, potted herbs should have four to five hours of sun. If placed in full sun, recognize that they will dry out very quickly during the summer.

If you live in a warmer part of the country, fall is a great timcontainerse to bring your herbs a little closer to your kitchen by planting them in pots. If you live in a colder climate, start making notes about planting some of your herbs in pots next spring.

 

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

Visit the WRHS Rose Garden

Visit the WRHS Rose Garden

“Love, which, in concert with Abstinence, established Faith, and which, along with Patience, builds up Chastity, is like the columns that sustain the four corners of a house. For it was that same Love which planted a glorious garden redolent with precious herbs and noble flowers–roses and lilies–which breathed forth a wondrous fragrance, that garden on which the true Solomon was accustomed to feast his eyes.” – Hildegard of Bingen

Untitled design (94)By Beth Schreibman-Gehring, Chairman of Education for The Western Reserve Herb Society unit of The Herb Society of America

My husband says I seem to wake up craving roses and sleep dreaming of them. Maybe it’s because the scent and flavor of the beautiful historic and fragrant roses in my gardens bring back so many of my best memories. They remind me of my father and the happy times that I spent with him in his rose gardens. Or maybe it’s because the magic spell of the roses helps my skin stay happy and smooth and my heart stay open and gentle.

The entire Western Reserve Herb Society (WRHS) herb garden at the Cleveland Botanical Garden is glorious, but Historic Rose Gardens are overwhelming. When they bloom, it is feast for all the senses. I spend about two weeks harvesting and drying rose petals from them to make wonderful products for WRHS Herb Fair which will be held at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens on October 12. 2019.

“The lesson I have thoroughly learnt, and wish to pass on to others, is to know the enduring happiness that the love of a garden gives.” — Gertrude Jekyll

Judy Kutina, Gwen Zeitz, Jane CavanaughThe Historic Rose Gardens of the Western Reserve Herb Society cannot ever be celebrated without mention of the three beloved Rosarians and Master gardeners who still lovingly tend the beautiful roses as they have for so many years. Judy Kutina, Gwen Zeitz and Jane Cavanaugh can still be found in the garden every week caring for this extraordinary and historically relevant collection of roses, with the help of WRHS Unit and current Rose garden chair Kathleen Hale, and other Western Reserve Herb Society gardeners.

“In 2012, the WRHS Historic Rose Garden became the proud recipient of the Certification of the Historic Rose Collection from the Herb Society of America. This rose garden was the first rose collection in the United States to receive this recognition. Starting with Blanche Harvey, who researched and planted some of the most cherished historic roses in the collection, Judy Kutina, Section Chair along with Jean Ingalls (Past Chair) and the members of their committee, (Jane Cavanaugh, Gwen Zeitz, Toni Becker, Debra Brink and Nancy Gustafson) documented the historic authenticity of each rose. A bronze plaque was placed in the historic rose collection on June 5th, 2012, commemorating this honor, placing the Collection in the elite company of the National herb Garden in Washington DC and the Chicago Botanical Garden.” — “50 seasons of growing- The Western Reserve Herb Society Herb Garden 1969- 2019″

IMG_9590Receiving this certification was a four-year project, meaning that all of the renovating, documentation identification and research began four years before the actual certification was granted.

Judy, Gwen and Jane and late member Jean Ingalls, were the four Western Reserve Herb Society members who were instrumental in ensuring that the garden met every classification needed for this special certification.

When it comes to the roses in the WRHS garden, we all have favorites. Mine is the beautiful and ancient Rosa gallica officinalis, more commonly known as Apothecary’s Rose, also known as the Red Rose of Lancaster.

The Apothecary’s Rose is just a joy, a rose older than the Renaissance and used for medicinal purposes during Medieval times. It is extraordinarily beautiful to see and smell when blooming. Its intense, deep pink-to-light red coloring and luscious old rose fragrance make it a must in any herbalist’s garden.

I have always found it easy to grow, which may be the source of its longevity and popularity. It only blooms once in a season, but it’s a generous rose. Mine bloomed in my northeast Ohio garden for more than a month. I return to it time and again to make rosewaters, jams and jellies.

Untitled design (97)It gives me a real thrill of connection to my medieval sisters to be able to use this ancient rose to infuse into my rose honey and other rose preparations. I find rose-infused honey to be ever so helpful when I have a sore or scratchy throat and although you can buy it, it is just so easy to make. Stirred into a cup of hot water, or simply taken by the spoonful, the anti-inflammatory properties of the rose petals and the antibacterial properties of the honey seem to relieve any irritation quickly.

Rose Petal Honey
6 cups fresh rose petals (4 cups dried)
2 cups honey, room temperature
1-quart glass jar with lid

Add petals to the jar until half full and firmly packed. Pour honey over rose petals and stir to remove air pockets. Cap the jar tightly. After several hours stir petals and honey. (I use chopsticks for this.) Add more rose petals and stir. Leave the jar in a warm place for about two weeks, stirring from time to time.

After two to four weeks, warm the jar in a pot of hot water (do not boil). Strain the warmed honey through a cheesecloth into a clean jar. Press the rose petals to remove all honey. Cap the jar and enjoy on toast, over yogurt, with ice cream and in cocktails.

I use rose water in my drinks consistently because I believe that it is so helpful for hydrating the skin from the inside out.

I also spray rose hydrosol (a fancy name for rosewater) on my skin every morning after my shower to moisturize my aging skin. I spent way too much time in the sun without sunscreen as a teenager and I have noticed that this daily spritzing with rosewater seems to have softened some of my wrinkles as well as tightens my pores.


I’d love to know some of your favorite uses for your favorite roses, so please feel free to share them with me in the comments.

May everything be coming up roses for you all summer long!