St. John’s Wort and Midsummer Celebrations

By Maryann Readal, HSA Secretary

Many years ago farmers called June 24th “Midsummer Day,” as it marked the halfway point between planting and harvesting. As such, it was a time to celebrate.

St. Johns wort plantMidsummer Day is also St. John’s Day and according to the Bible, the day John the Baptist was born. And it heralded the birth of Christ just six months later. For this reason, June 24th was an important day for early Christians. St. John’s Day and Midsummer Day occur near the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, which for its own reasons was celebrated since Greek and Roman times.

In pre-Christian times, turning points in the year were thought to be magical. The evening before Midsummer Day was especially so. It was thought that this was the time when magic was more powerful and the spirit world was close. It was the porter’s wife in Washington Irving’s Old Christmas who said that this was a time “when it is well known all kinds of ghosts, goblins, and fairies become visible and walk abroad.”

In Medieval times, it was common to celebrate Midsummer Eve with bonfires and to collect special herbs. These herbs included the perennial herb St. John’s wort, Hypericum perforatum. St. John’s wort was believed to have special protective powers. It could protect one against demons and witches. Carried in your pocket it would protect you from thunder. Smelling the leaves or drinking a potion made from the plant would cure you of madness. In Medieval times, it was hung over doors, windows and religious icons to keep witches and evil spirits away. One needed to have some on hand on Midsummer Eve.

St. Johns wort flowerSt. John’s wort was also considered a special plant on this day because its bright yellow flowers looked like the sun, which was a significant coincidence around the longest day of the year. Even the Greeks and Romans thought this to be important. The flowers have five petals and long stamens that look like the rays of the sun. The stamens are topped with little golden balls of pollen giving the appearance that each flower is a sunburst. Also, it is said that the flowers are heliotropic, following the sun from east to west as it crosses the sky, which was considered a supernatural phenomenon in olden days. Some even claim that squeezing the petal of the flower will produce a red juice, reminiscent of the blood of John the Baptist, although I have not found that to be true in the species growing in my garden.

Still today in European countries, St. John’s Eve is celebrated with bonfires and is marked with the gathering of the herbs of midsummer. Indeed in some Spanish villages, special bouquets called herbas de San Xoán are made up and sold for this day.

st. johns wort mixIn northern Spain’s Galicia, it is the custom for women to place St. John’s wort and other herbs in a bowl of water after sunset on St. John’s Eve. The bowl must be left outside all evening so that dew can collect, adding its special magic to the water. According to Lithuanian custom, the dew on Midsummer Day was said to make young girls beautiful and old people look younger. On St. John’s Day, women splash the scented infusion on their face and let it dry. It is said the infusion will stop all wrinkles. A very dear Spanish friend says that it won’t cure existing wrinkles but it will prevent future ones. Who knows if it works, but the women in the north of Spain, in Galicia ARE the most beautiful in the country – so says my friend’s husband!

Whether you are celebrating Midsummer Day, the Summer Solstice, or St. John’s Day, do enjoy the sun on this the longest day of the year. Enjoy the cheerful uplifting blooms and the history of St. John’s wort and remember that it could make you beautiful, too.

Thai Basil – Herb of the Month for May

Thai Basil – Herb of the Month for May

thai-basil-1.jpgDid you know that Thai basil, Ocimum basilicum, has purple stems? Or that it has a spicier taste than sweet basil? Like all basils, Thai basil thrives best when soil temperature reach about 70 degrees. Its thicker leaves tend to hold up well when used in cooking. As its name indicates, Thai basil is perfect for Southeast Asian stir fries and curries. It is a kitchen staple in Thailand.

The color and arrangement of the flowers on the stems makes it an attractive plant in the garden as well.

For more information and recipes using this beautiful, anise-licorice scented basil, go to The Herb Society of America’s Herb of the Month webpage.

Happy Herbal May Day/Beltane

Happy Herbal May Day/Beltane

By Beth Schreibman-Gehring, Chairman of Education for The Western Reserve Herb Society unit of The Herb Society of America

“Tra la, it’s May, it’s May, the lusty Month of May
That lovely month when everyone goes blissfully astray
Tra la, it’s here, it’s here, that shocking time of year
When tons of wicked little thoughts merrily appear.
Whence this fragrance wafting through the air?
What sweet feelings does its scent transmute?
Whence this perfume floating everywhere?
Don’t you know, it’s that dear forbidden fruit,


It’s May! It’s May!
The month of “yes you may,”
The time for ev’ry frivolous whim,
Proper or “im.”
It’s wild! It’s gay!
A blot in ev’ry way.
The birds and bees with all of their vast
Amorous past
Gaze at the human race aghast,
The lusty month of May. “
From Camelot ~ Lerner & Loewe

Beltane or the festival that we know today as May Day, was originally the day of the Celtic year that celebrated love and fertility, passion and life, in all of its forms. Beltane or Beltaine as the Irish speak of it, is a lusty, fiery feast full of surprises. None of us can ever know what the muses have in store on May 1st, but I can promise you that if you are open to their magic you will enjoy every minute of it.

Untitled design (76)It’s impossible to ignore all the trees that are blooming, and the flowers and wild potherbs appearing all over the fields and forests as if by magic. The honeybees have reappeared and are busy making love to the fragrant blossoms and with luck we will find our trees filled with ripe fruits come fall. We till our gardens and plant the seed that we’ve saved from last year’s harvest and we take long walks outside, grateful that the sun has finally come again and brought with it a deep rich warmth.

You needn’t go too far into your imagination to see that centuries ago, these simple things would have seemed deeply magical. Nature has a magic all her own and for the ancients, Beltane was a reminder to stop and pay attention to those thundering rhythms and perhaps create a few of their own. After all when the winter has been so barren and cold, you could hardly blame any soul for wanting to frolic a bit!

Sometimes, I think that it would serve us well to embrace the same simple wonder our ancestors did, an excitement that comes from enjoying a life of following the seasons simply and passionately. For me, springtime is marked by so many things that I look forward to, knowing that they will not pass through my life until the wheel comes full circle again. The beautiful fragrant violets, the precious lilacs, and viburnums…wild ramps with their deep oniony flavor and fiddlehead ferns. Fresh pea tendrils, daffodils, and the very first dandelion greens that I love to harvest for salads.

image1In a class by itself comes the freshest spring asparagus. I love to eat it raw from the garden, but I can’t think of anything more wonderful than a meal of steamed asparagus and a silky tarragon-laced béarnaise sauce. Living as locally as possible and respecting the seasons and the gifts that each one brings is not only a healthy way to eat, but a sustainable way to live.

The first thing I did when we bought our home in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, was put in an asparagus bed. An asparagus bed is one of nature’s most useful clocks. When my first thick shoots of asparagus come up, I know that spring is truly here. Several years ago all of my asparagus came up in March and I knew that we were in for a very interesting year.

For me one of the greatest joys of the merry month of May was always the flowers that would bloom in my parents’ gardens. They grew many beautiful flowers but none were more precious to me than the beautiful patch of lilies of the valley that grew behind the terrace in a secret place that only a few knew about. I’d wait and wait and then every year on the 1st of May I would run into the back and there they would be, pure little bells of white with strong green leaves just begging me to bury my face into their flowers and inhale their sweet green scent. I’d pick bunches of them to put in little vases all around the house. Then I’d make little bouquets of lilies, bluebells, and lilacs for all my teachers.

Untitled design (78)All these beautiful greens and flowers come but once a year in a fashion that is fleeting and beautiful. I think that if I could have them all year round it would be a disappointment, because the yearning for them is every bit as delightful. Besides, every season has its pleasures and treasures.

Crabapple trees and their fragrant blooms can only come in May, but their fruits are late August’s treasures. The old-fashioned roses in my gardens that bloom so abundantly will produce generous rosehips for my tea in September. To everything there is a season, and to every time a purpose. The joy that May Day brings is the abundant renewal of life and passion.

Be love and give love generously on this day. Gifts of flowers and bright May Baskets  are traditional gifts of love that are perfect. Hang a May Day basket on your neighbor’s door! Weave a colorful May Pole with your children! If it’s a beautiful evening spread blankets outside, light lots of candles or a firepit, have a picnic, and dare to fall asleep under the stars! Grab your beloveds and dance the night away!

image2Beltane eve was the night that we traditionally lit ritual fires in the freshly plowed fields with the intent to create life, celebrate our passion, and ensure the fertile harvest not only of our fields, but of our souls. Tonight is the night to light those ancient fires once again by spending time with those you love, walk in the fields and forests, smell all of the beautiful flowers, and just listen to the spring time peepers for a little while. Enjoy the mystery and magic of simply being alive. Remember that it’s the very things that we don’t really know that can bring us the most joy and above all remember to be glad…very glad to be alive. Life is juicy, fragrant, and sometimes bittersweet.

Life is also all about diving headfirst into all your passions. Do be careful though…Passions run high on the first day of May. That’s my only warning, but you’d be wise to heed it, not that you’ll really be able to control the outcome. Lots of adorable babies and extraordinary ideas are conceived on May Day!

Just remember that the muses of May will always have their way…….

What’s Your Language of Herbalism?

By Beth Schreibman-Gehring, Chairman of Education for The Western Reserve Herb Society unit of The Herb Society of America

Untitled design (66)What is the true language of herbalism? How do these beautiful plants that we love speak to us?  What does the herbalist actually do?

The herbs we love to grow and grow to love, speak to us in so many different ways. The practice of herbalism, through growing and harvesting brings the magic of these plants straight into our fingertips.

As herbalists we work with the plants that we love as individuals and in individual ways.  That means there’s no one right or wrong way to be an herbalist; there is only your way.

Untitled design (67)Many of us blend tinctures, tonics, and teas. Many of us receive the healing herbal support we crave by being in the garden, amending the soil, and nurturing our seedlings into vibrant plants that we use to cook meals with that infuse our dinner tables with love. I still believe in my heart of hearts, that the most important supplement that we can ever ingest Vitamin L – the very love we put into our herbs and into our cooking.

Some of us are writers and some of us are teachers. Some of us prefer to sit quietly in the garden and absorb the wisdom of the natural world.  We are photographers, painters, and poets. We bring our grandchildren into our gardens and tell them stories about how things grow and we teach them to garden, carrying on the traditions that keep our world lush, green, and alive.

Untitled design (68)We all bring value to the garden as herbalists. We all know different aspects of the same whole, and like the very plants themselves, we thrive with the sharing of the herbal experience. An herbalist isn’t just one who supports healing with herbs. An herbalist is one who speaks and expresses themselves in whichever unique voice that the herbs themselves joyously ask them to. 

I’ve always loved the way these amazing plants support us in health and in life.

The herbalist’s language, when spoken and applied correctly, harms none.

Those who are herbal practitioners have laws telling us what we can and cannot do; I believe in following them. It makes sense.

Lately I find myself turning to my roots of traditional folk and kitchen herbalism. I avoid buying my herbal supplements in capsules, I prefer to make my own tinctures, tonics, and teas from whole plants with their sweet-smelling souls energetically intact.

Untitled design (70)I no longer rely on exotic herbs from faraway lands, preferring to grow and harvest sustainably almost everything I use from my own forest and gardens.  Like local honey, it’s my personal belief that everything and anything you need to support your happiness and your health can be found growing very close to where you live. I want to interact with the plants and learn what I can from their quiet wisdom.

In my opinion, herbalism must be approached differently than medicine. We must practice safety always and take care to preserve cultural tradition. We don’t need to mimic a medical practice. The fact that isolated supplements are so readily available in bright little bottles, blatantly using the language of pharmaceuticals, has brought us perilously close to the latter.

I am saddened when beautiful plants are simply used as a commodity rather than a tool for connection, education. and empowerment. I want empirical evidence for their effectiveness, but that’s not because I’m prescribing them to anyone. It’s my desire to understand how they support health and how they can also harm. I want to educate my associates well and I want to protect this ancient, local,  and colorful tradition.

Untitled design (69)If you take a deep dive into the history of traditional herbalism you will be fascinated. My personal vision is to keep people empowered around their life and health, and to keep the conversation around herbal wellness safe and fun.

People ask me all of the time, “What’s the best way to learn about the qualities and properties of herbs?”  For me the answer is simple. Choose only one or two. Plant a few varieties. Spend a season with them and harvest them. If they die, learn what killed them. Read about them. Listen to them. Ask them questions.  Keep a journal, draw or paint them. Take pictures of them throughout their lifecycle. See what insects love them. Cook with them or make a tincture, a lotion or a tea. Make all three. After a summer of observing and learning from a lavender plant, you’ll really know quite a lot about lavender.

That’s my herbal love language. What’s yours?



Celebrate Cherry Blossom Season

Celebrate Cherry Blossom Season

Petals falling
unable to resist
the moonlight

Sakura, sakura
they fall in the dreams
of sleeping beauty”

-Yosa Buson

By Beth Schreibman-Gehring, Chairman of Education for The Western Reserve Herb Society Unit of The Herb Society of America

Cherry blossom (2)My childhood worldview was shaped by the foreign students that my parents sponsored through the Council on World Affairs from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.  Every four years I’d have a new “brother or sister,” although in truth none of them ever left us.

There was Santosh, the student from India, who brought us beautiful saris and sandals to wear. And, Riet, from Holland, who used to take me berry picking and foraging in the fields behind my parents’ home. There was Michael, from England, who is probably more responsible for my love of curry than anyone. There was Farhad, who came from Iran, and every year would bring me gifts of nougat, rose-covered almonds, rose oil, rose water, and absolutely beautiful, hand-painted, mother of pearl jewelry.

Cherry blossom (4)My earliest memories though are of Hisashi and Kazco who were married in my parents’ back yard in a beautiful Japanese tea ceremony. They talked to me about many things, but the things I remember most were their memories of the beautiful springtime celebrations of Hanami, the ancient cherry blossom viewing festival.

We didn’t have cherry trees, but my parents had glorious crabapple trees that circled all three acres of their property and I remember spreading out blankets and having magical fairy parties every spring under the fragrant and falling petals. I can’t wait to have grandchildren of my own to do this with. I’m already planning menus of fairy cakes, mochi, and sweetened jasmine tea.

Cherry blossom (3)n Japan celebrating the transient beauty of spring flowers in a ritual called Hanami is a beloved custom that happens for a glorious two-week period when the cherry blossoms burst into bloom. The word Hanami literally means “flower viewing,” although it is most commonly used to refer to the viewing of cherry blossoms.  I am told that the celebration of Hanami dates to the 8th century – although I guess the flower of choice then was the equally beautiful, and fleeting, plum blossom.

Traditionally, Hanami celebrations would include afternoon picnics under the blossoms and gaily strung lanterns with family and friends.  Fragrant green tea, sake, dumplings, pink rice, and delectable Japanese sweets would be served. This could, and often would even, continue into the evening.

Cherry blossom (1)This mysterious and romantic version of Hanami is called Yozakura which simply means “the night cherry blossom.” It seems that, after nightfall during blossom time, a different fragrance occurs. I think aroma is more pronounced at nightfall because the visual beauty is no longer distracting.

I appreciate the blossoms as part of my springtime cleansing, renewal, and awakening ritual each spring. When the blooms begin, my husband Jim and I go for long walks hand-in-hand, stealing kisses underneath blossom clusters. We spread blankets under the trees and drink in the sweet nighttime air, bathing in the warm, spring breezes and falling blossoms. Hanami is a magical celebration and is so very easy to celebrate. As the trees start blooming in your neighborhood take a walk and take the time to appreciate the beauty of the blooms.

Check out Western Reserve Herb Society’s 50th Anniversary Garden

Check out Western Reserve Herb Society’s 50th Anniversary Garden

By Beth Schreibman-Gehring, Chairman of Education, The Western Reserve Herb Society Unit of The Herb Society of America

“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.” — Gertrude Jekyll


Herb Society member Sara Fenderbosch leading a wreath-making workshop in the garden.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays from early April through late fall, members of Western Reserve Herb Society (Herb Society of America’s Northeast Ohio unit) work their sizeable organic herb garden at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. April work begins with cleaning beds to prepare for May planting. This year, 2019, marks 50 gardening seasons for the 77-year-old unit.

Nine individual sections are part of a working garden and almost every plant is useful. Plant materials become herb blends, potpourri, teas, wreaths, baked goods, jams and jellies and so much more to be sold at the annual Herb Fair, which helps fund the garden. The 74th Herb Fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, October 12, at the Cleveland Botanical Garden.


Beth Schreibman-Gehring in the rose garden. Photo by Lou Ann Rossi

Photos aren’t nearly enough to represent the spacious, educational garden. To celebrate 50 years of the official garden, WRHS members commissioned a 42-minute video.

Click here to watch the Western Reserve Herb Society Garden video

Members narrate the film introducing viewers to the plants, their delight, and uses. Garden visitors on Tuesdays and Thursday learn more when working members share secret stories and favorite plants. Volunteers offer tastes of culinary herbs, answer questions about herbal dyes, share recipes for herbal teas and intoxicate guests with the fragrance of the historic rose garden when in bloom.

Visitors are encouraged. As part of the Cleveland Botanical Garden, the herb garden is open every day except Monday. Members of other gardens and arboretums may have reciprocal admission privileges.

Show us your personal or organizational garden. Send pictures or videos to To improve your photos see  4 Tips for Great Herb Garden Photography



March 2019 Herb of Month: Licorice

By Maryann Readal, HSA Secretary

HOM LicoriceWhen I think of licorice, the black chewy candy from my childhood immediately comes to mind. However, there is much more to this herb than those early memories. To discover some unusual and fun facts about our April Herb of the Month – licorice, Glycyrrhiza glabra, go to The Herb Society of America’s Herb of the Month webpage. You will:

  • Learn about what part of the plant is used.
  • Find surprising uses for licorice.
  • Discover famous historical figures who have used it.
  • Wake up your culinary imagination and try one of the licorice recipes.

HSA business supporter, Mountain Rose Herbs carries licorice as a powder, root slices, and as an extract. Mountain Rose also carries the seeds.  If you are a member of The Herb Society of America, you are eligible for a discount on Mountain Rose products.

To become a member of The Society, click here.

Growing and Protecting At-Risk Herbs

Growing and Protecting At-Risk Herbs

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

blue cohosh

Blue Cohosh Caulophyllum thalictroides ¬ – Native American women used this plant to help with childbirth.

Unless you live an unplugged life you know about the difficulties facing bees, monarchs, and other beneficial creatures. These pollinators struggle because of habitat fragmentation and the impact of chemicals used in the environment.

The problem goes beyond pollinators. Habitat loss is affecting another delicate system, native medicinal herbs. To learn more attend Growing and Protecting At-Risk Medicinal Herbs, at the Herb Society of America’s Mad for Herbs in Mad City educational conference in Madison, Wisconsin. To learn more click here.

Beyond habitat fragmentation native herbs are suffering because of overharvesting and bioprospecting.  According to the World Conservation Union between 50,000 and 80,000 flowering plants are used medicinally and at least 15,000 of those face the threat of extinction. Closer to home the United Plant Savers lists 20 Northern American medicinal natives as at risk and places 23 more on their watch list.  These plants include slippery elm, American ginseng, yew, black cohosh, goldenseal, blue cohosh among others.


Bloodroot Sanguinaria Canadensis¬ – The fresh roots give off a reddish dye.

You can help. The obvious solution is to grow more natives, particularly at-risk species. Beyond adding them to your landscape you need to be certain to purchase nursery propagated natives and NOT wild-sourced plants. Make a point of asking the nursery staff before making your next purchase. Better still learn to propagate your own native plants and share the extras with friends.

Still further, when you require herb-based medicine, assess whether alternative plants will  ease your ailment. For example, Japanese barberry Berberis thunbergii is a potential alternative to goldenseal. Not only will you protect goldenseal but you’ll be removing the highly invasive Japanese barberry from our forests. And finally if you lack garden space you can still support the efforts by learning and joining organizations that support conservation like The Herb Society of America’s Greenbridges™ program or United Plant Savers among others.

lady slipper

Lady Slipper Cypripedium spp. – This was once widely used as a substitute for the European plant valerian for its sedative properties.

Herbs de Provence Essential to Ratatouille

HDP spilled

By Beth Schreibman-Gehring, Chairman of Education for The Western Reserve Herb Society unit of The Herb Society

My introduction to the classic French blend of Herbes de Provence was in the early seventies, when my long-haired and lovely, hippie sister came home from Chatham College having learned to make a sophisticated country French vegetable dish known as Ratatouille. I remember that day. She was standing over my mother’s stove and she looked like a kitchen goddess, surrounded by piles of diced vegetables, an exotic-looking bottle of extra virgin olive oil, a wooden spoon, sea salt and pepper grinders, and a ceramic jar that contained the most magical combination of herbs that I’d ever smelled.. I remember her recipe perfectly and it’s still a good one, actually the best I’ve ever made. Most make ratatouille by throwing all of the vegetables in a pot and cooking them all together slowly, but my sister’s ratatouille was different because she added the vegetables one at a time.

This way she produced a layering of flavor that cannot be accomplished by just impertinently throwing everything together and letting the whole thing quickly cook. It was one of those classic moments between sisters, where I just watched, listened, and absorbed what she was teaching. It took hours which I measured in tastes and laughter. It was the perfect way to pass on such a recipe.

I love to make this in the wintertime, because it turns my kitchen into the sunniest place in the house. The fragrance is remarkable and the flavor sublime. Layered into a tart shell and topped with fresh parmesan and mozzarella and a turn under the broiler you have a perfect supper when paired with a salad and a crusty loaf of bread. A few tablespoons of this on top of a grilled chicken breast or a piece of fresh tuna will transport you to the south of France.

Making a perfect Ratatouille is a lovely way to spend an afternoon. The secret is the slow cooking over the low flame and of course the Herbes de Provence (or as I love to refer to them as “the magic of the South of France in a bottle”).

HDP containerIt’s much fun to make Herbes de Provence but fortunately you can buy it at different places and still even find it in that fancy little French ceramic pot with the wooden spoon attached. Truthfully though … why buy it when it’s so easy to make.

The classic Herbes de Provence blend is a mixture of dried savory, fennel, basil, thyme, chervil, marjoram, and lavender flowers with a bit of dill. Or is it? I am told many variations exist depending upon whose Grandmère has passed the recipe along.  I love to dry my chive blossoms and add these to the blend as my personal touch.

I always have the classic herbs growing fresh in my gardens so I play with the combinations, somet

imes adding a little more dill or a bit of fresh rosemary, based on what I am cooking. Usually, I start with a ¼ teaspoonful of each and then add a little more of whatever is needed.  While I love to use this blend to flavor grilled fish or lamb, I find it most delicious blended into butter with a bit of garlic and tucked under the skin of a roasting chicken. Herbes de Provence are an integral part of my beef stew recipe and a perfect blend of seasonings to be whisked into a bit of homemade mayonnaise for a tuna, salmon, shrimp, or chicken salad. 

HDP freshI infuse my soup stocks with a bouquet garni of these fresh herbs. Just take the long stalks and tie them together with some kitchen string. Place them into the pot and remove when straining. This leaves behind fragrance and flavor into the soup without messy bits floating around. You can also infuse these herbs in olive oil to create wonderfully scented dressings or drizzles.

A little aside here:  If you use sweet almond oil and increase the lavender and add a few drops of lavender essential oil, it makes a massage oil that’s relaxing and divine for your skin.

Now, back to my sister’s magical recipe.

A great ratatouille takes time to make and lots of it. You must begin with a good cast iron pot, a wooden spoon (and a frilly apron!).  You’ll need lots of cubed eggplant, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, green, red and yellow peppers, and green and yellow zucchini, about 8 cups total. Make sure to have your first glass of chilled white wine handy and a lovely runny piece of brie and a toasted baguette…cliché maybe, perfect YES!

Liberally lace the pot with about 4 tablespoons of olive oil and bring up the heat. Add about 6 cloves of minced garlic and stir gently, allowing the garlic to softly infuse the oil but not burn. Add two cups of mixed bone broth or a vegan broth, your choice. Then add the onions, sip the wine and cook this gently for about 10 minutes. Add the eggplant, the juice of one fresh lemon, and a bit of sea salt. Allow the eggplant to cook until translucent (about 15 minutes). Next press the juice from tomatoes and add the flesh. Stir gently and allow the combination to blend for about 10 more minutes. Then, add mushrooms, stir and continue sautéing for another 5 minutes while enjoying wine and brie.

HDP ratatouilleAdd the peppers and follow the same instructions as before. The zucchini goes in last. You can add more olive oil if needed and by now you’ve begun to create a lovely vegetable stew. At this point, add one cup of good white wine, a large knob of grass-fed butter, two additional cloves of minced garlic, and more salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the ratatouille gently for about another 10 minutes, stirring continuously. Then add three  tablespoons of your favorite Herbes de Provence blend and let the ratatouille slowly simmer gently for about two and a half hours or until the wine has evaporated. Add a little more butter if necessary and then take about three handfuls of fresh basil leaves and stir them in. Let the ratatouille just sit peacefully for a few moments. Now take a piece of the baguette spread with the brie and about two tablespoons of the ratatouille. Breathe deeply, imagine that you’re sitting in the warm French sunshine.  Do you need anything more?

Herb of Month for March 2019: Lemon Thyme

By Maryann Readal, HSA Secretary

Lemon thyme, HOMThe Herb Society’s Herb of the Month for March 2019 — lemon thyme — has undergone DNA testing to determine whether it is a separate species or a hybrid species.  Interestingly, botanists in 1811 considered the lemon thyme they knew to be its own distinct species. Can you imagine that the classification of this understated herb could be the subject of so much study and concern?

But correct names for plants are important so that gardeners, researchers and history share a common language. And so, we are glad that botanists strive to name plants accurately.

Lemon thyme’s antibacterial properties have been used to treat colds and sore throats and other respiratory illnesses. It was also thought to strengthen the nervous system.

lemon thyme HOM 2019In the kitchen, it can be added to any savory and some sweet recipes that call for lemons. For maximum flavor, it should be picked in the morning before flowering when essential oils are abundant.

In the garden lemon thyme thrives with sun and good drainage. It is hardy to USDA Zone 6, and is evergreen in my Zone 8b garden in Texas.  The low-growing species makes a nice addition to a rock garden or between paving stones. However, it does not like to be trampled upon. There is also a bushy, upright variety of lemon thyme.

And to top it off, lemon thyme’s tiny little flowers are like honey to bees. Another plus is that it is deer resistant and a mosquito repellent. Get recipes and read more about lemon thyme from HSA’s Herb of the Month page.