Thursday, July 15, 2010


Lately, I have been posting a great deal of entries with quite a few pictures and very little information. Today, you are going to get a great deal of information and very few pictures.

I like to mix things up.

Harvest season has begun, and I am scrambling to keep up (notice I say "keep up" and not "stay on top of things"). First came the chive seed harvest, then the spinach seed harvest, then the valerian seeds, sage seeds, sorrel seeds, yellow dock seeds, black cumin pods, and now the great medicinal herb harvest has begun (did you see how it began to snowball?). Every day, I am picking vast quantities of calendula blossoms, comfrey leaves, mullein, marsh mallow (the leaves have the same medicinal qualities as the roots, just not as potent - but you need to harvest the leaves before the plant blooms), mint, horehound, wormwood, blue vervain, sweet woodruff, yarrow, etc. As my official harvest room has not been built yet (my antsy husband is still waiting for the local saw mill to finish milling his black walnut), I am confined to my outdoor potting bench and my indoor enclosed-porch-turned-mud-room (which, unfortunately for me, is the first thing that B&B guests see when they walk around the house to the front door! I have taken to posting an apologetic sign about the mess on the window of the Boutique/Mud Room/Temporary Harvest Room). For now, it's crowded and messy, but I manage. Most of my bundles of yellow dock tops have finished drying, so lately I have taken to spending the afternoons (when it's too hot to do anything else) in my shaded work area, cleaning the seeds and winnowing them. I have about a 1/4 cup cleaned and ready for grinding into flour right now, which represents a good day's work. Yes, I know what you are thinking: a full DAY of labor for one measly little quarter cup?!?!? Well, look at it this way: that is about the same amount of labor for cleaning amaranth, and much less work than quinoa (I know, I grow both). I have yellow dock growing in abundance (both cultivated and wild), and it seems a shame to waste it when all parts of the plant are useful (the leaves and seeds are edible, and the root is medicinal). Yellow Dock is related to buckwheat, and the seeds can be ground down into a flour that resembles buckwheat flour in taste. You only have to use a little bit at a time. I use it for our Maple-Ginger Waffles recipe when making guest breakfasts at our B&B.
I hate to see any edible plant go to waste.

This is the first year I have grown Moldavian Dragon's Head, and the minute I saw the beautiful blue flowers and smelled the heavenly lemon-scented leaves, it was true love. I had read that it made a good substitute for lemon balm, but to me it more closely resembles the sweet, lemon zest flavor of lemon verbena. I have used it to make a sun tea (which I then served with borage blossom ice cubes), and that was an enormous hit with everyone.

Speaking of borage, my plants are VERY happy. I am harvesting handfuls and handfuls of blossoms daily, which I then either freeze into ice cubes or candy for use in decorating guest breakfasts. Those are the two best ways to preserve the flowers. I love the subtle cucumber flavor that the flowers impart to water. VERY refreshing, and the perfect way to cool down and hydrate after being out in the hot sun! The leaves (along with rosemary) make a fabulous flavoring for red wine sangria.

Well, I managed to trick my Clary Sage into blooming this year! The plant is a biennial, which means that it normally blooms in its second year. However, by starting the seeds during the winter and setting the plants out in the very early spring, I tricked it into thinking that it was a two year-old plant. So, I get to enjoy Clary Sage flowers this summer! I only wish that trick had worked with my evening primroses...

On the vegetable side of life, we have been eating a few ripe tomatoes every day for the past week or so. The tomatoes haven't officially "come on line" yet, but they are beginning to approach that point. I planted roughly 150 tomato plants of about 7 different heirloom varieties this year, and those plants are absolutely loaded with green fruit. I have no doubts that I will be able to can my goal of 120 pounds of tomatoes this year off of my own plants.

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