Bridget

Archive for the ‘Herbs’ Category

More Garden Musings from Prospect Cottage.

In Bees, Folklore, Gardening, Herbs on May 10, 2011 at 11:13 am

Equisetum arvens, the bottlebrush like plant in pic, commonly known as Horsetail or Mare’s Tail, hated by many people as a pernicious weed does have many benefits. It is high in silica, which fixes calcium in the body, making it a good herbal remedy for osteoporosis. The plant also has strong diuretic properties. For the organic/natural gardener it is Horsetail’s fungicidal properties that make it a useful plant. It is particularly useful as a preventative for blight on Potatoes and Tomatoes. To make the preparation collect the whole plant, foliage and stems. For each oz pour on 2 pints of hot water and allow to stand for 24 hours. Strain and use undiluted. If you have dried Horsetail 2ozs makes 10 litres of spray.Most of the beds in the garden have now been planted up. This bed has a mix of Broccoli, Peas and Onions. The large plants at the end of the bed are Oreganos, the golden variety is slower growing than the green. The Bees love the flowers of Oregano. I was a bit premature planting out the Peas as they have been hammered by the wind and heavy rain, but they will come on.Lots of Silverweed about at the moment, a member of the Potentilla family, it likes the damp ground we have here. Geese are said to be partial to the leaves. Its traditional herbal use was as a treatment for bleeding and for cosmetic uses such as the removal of freckles.

Sycamore tree and other musings from Prospect Cottage.

In Bees, Gardening, Herbs, sustainable living on April 20, 2011 at 8:54 am

The Sycamore tree in our back field is almost in full leaf now. In a few weeks time the bees will be delighted when this tree flowers. I remember going into the garden last year and wondering where the hum was coming from. It was the Sycamore choc a bloc with ecstatic bees! Many people regard the Sycamore as a bit of a weed as it’s seed crops up everywhere, however they are easy to pull out and pot on or assign to the compost bin. I love this tree. I love how it’s “arms” spread out to shade part of the garden from the Summer heat. The goats love to sit in it’s shade and play around it when they are feeling frisky.

I was never happy with the shape of this Willow arch since we made it 2 years ago. A few weeks ago we undid it all, pruned it and retied it into a better shape. Much happier with it now!

Flowers on the Strawberries, these are wild ones I found when exploring the old walled garden at Kilronan. Maybe they are an old variety existing there since the heyday of that now sadly disused garden.

The Variagated Lemon Balm is growing strongly again, it is one of my favourite herbal teas. The Swiss physician Paracelsus believed Lemon Balm to be “the elixir of life.” He  believed the herb could completely revive a person, this view was endorsed by the London Dispensary in 1696:” Balm, given every morning, will renew youth, strenghten the brain and relieve languishing nature.”

In bloom @ Prospect Cottage.

In Bees, Gardening, Herbs, sustainable living on April 9, 2011 at 8:22 am

Blossom covered Plum.

The main soundtrack in the garden yesterday was the sound of bees buzzing busily hither and thither. The Plum above is covered in blossom again this year, and the bees are ecstatic. So much has come into blossom in the last week, they are spoilt for choice.

Victoria is the varietyof Plum and it has done well since it started fruiting 5 years ago. Last year we had to prop all the branches they were so laden with plums. I thought it might have a slack year this year but it seems not. The main point to remember with Plums is not to prune in Winter as this can lead to silver leaf which is a fungal disease.

Nasturtium seedlings.

Planted up loads of self-seeded Nasturtiums in the cardboard centres of loo rolls. We save these throughout the year, they make great plant pots, being biodegradable they can go into the earth without disturbing the roots of plants. They are great for peas and beans as they can have a longer root run.

Dicentra spectablis is in full flower now. Very early this year, I’m sure it did’nt flower until May last year. It only seems a few weeks ago I posted pics of it just emerged from the earth. Check out Daphne in the top right hand corner!

Lamium.

Lamium or Dead Nettle as it is more often called also seems to be flowering early. This is a great plant for a shady post and creeps along by throwing out runners, much like strawberries. It is easily propogated from cuttings. Dislikes dry soil.

Alchemilla.

Many people regard Alchemilla (Lady’s Mantle) as a weed, it is a prolific self-seeder. I love it, especially how it holds the raindrops in it’s leaf. The word alchemy comes from this plant, because of the healing dew that would collect overnight in the leaves. These dewdrops were used in many mystic potions. In herbal lore it was mainly used for “women’s problems.”

Garden progress at Prospect Cottage.

In Bees, Cooking, Gardening, Herbs, sustainable living on April 8, 2011 at 9:02 am

Yesterday was a glorious day, blue sky and too hot to work in the polytunnel by afternoon. I managed to spend the whole day in the garden. Strawberries (Elsanta) and lettuces were planted out in the big polytunnel.

Tomatoes were potted on, these are Mexican Midget, from seed savers in Co Clare. They form a long gangly plant with trusses spaced well apart. Fruits are the size of grapes but so delicious, lovely sweet flavour. They were still producing late in the season last year. We are also growing Moneymaker which gives a nice size Tomato. Many people say they don’t have a good flavour but grown organically I do not find that to be the case.

Sweet Cicely at back, Lady's Mantle and Sedum spectabile in front.

I love how certain plants that complement each other in the kitchen come into season together. Sweet Cicely and Rhubarb typify this. Rhubarb is known to have a lot of acidity and not suitable for people suffering from arthritis. However when Rhubarb is cooked with Sweet Cicely it reduces the acid considerably.Reduction of the acid means less sugar is needed so good for diabetics too. It also looks good, mine is in a flower border. White flowers are produced later in Spring, the bees love them.

Everything here is grown naturally, no boxes with skull and crossbones lurking in our shed! It works, plants want to grow, no mystery.

Meanwhile in New York 60 farmers,seed businesses and agricultural organisations have filed a lawsuit against Monsanto challenging the company’s patents on genitically modified seed. The plaintiffs are suing to prevent themselves being accused of patent infringement should their crops become contaminated by Monsanto’s seed. Monsanto has a history of this, with one Canadian farmer having to pay the company $28,000.

Herbs from hedge and garden.

In Cooking, Foraging., Gardening, Herbs, sustainable living on April 2, 2011 at 8:10 am

Gorse showing first flowers.

It is nice to see the Gorse in flower again, it’s lovely yellow flowers always calling the eye. Gorse (Ulex europaeus) also called Furze or Whin is a plant that was much used in the past. It used to be burned every few years to provide fertility for the soil. The new emerging shoots would be eaten with relish by animals. It also used to be dried and hung in the stable to supplement Winter fodder. It was dried and used as a fuel which was said to give great heat. The flowers yield a yellow dye and also make a very palatable wine. The bark can be used to make a dark green dye. An essence can be made from the flowers which is used for healing the land.

Coltsfoot.

Coltsfoot is plentiful at the moment, it seems to like road verges and the shelter of hedges. It’s best known as a remedy for coughs and asthmatic problems. However, there is a caution that overuse can cause liver damage. It is much used in herbal tobaccos.

French Tarragon.

In the garden all the herbs are now providing fresh pickings. Many gardening books say French Tarragon is a tender plant, however it survived -18 here this past Winter. French Tarragon, with it’s delicious aniseed flavour is great in herb butter and salad dressings. It is a good remedy for indigestion and is said to stimulate the appetite.

Chives.

Chives belong to the Allium species and have a mild onion flavour. We have loads of Chives in the fruit garden as they are a good companion plants particularly for Apples as they keep away aphids, apple scab and mildew. Planted near Peach trees they control leafcurl and are said to enhance the scent of Roses. In the kitchen they have a multitude of uses, salads, herb butters, soups or mixed with cream cheese to mention  just a few. The only limit to uses for culinary herbs is your imagination!

Use of Herbs being sanctioned by EU. Not at Prospect Cottage!

In Cooking, Foraging., Gardening, Herbs, sustainable living on March 29, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Lemon Verbena and Nasturtiums.

Herbs have been grown at my various gardens since I started gardening, both culinary and medicinal. For me the difference between herbs for cooking and herbs for treating ailments is not totally separate. For instance nasturtiums which we use for their spicy flavour also have antiseptic properties and contain vitamin C and iron. Lemon Verbena which makes the most delicious tea has mild sedative properties and is good for bronchial and digestion problems.

Feverfew, a traditional remedy for headaches.

On April 30tht the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive comes into force in all EU countries. This directive is set to remove access to the vast majority of herbal medicinal products. Herbalists will be restricted in what they can prescribe. Under the new rules, herbs, many of which have been in common use for thousands of years, will have to undergo the same testing procedures as pharmecutical drugs. As this costs between 80,ooo to 120,000 euros for each herb the outcome is already known, the road is clear for Big Pharma. The lobbyists have won the day, or have they?  I for one will increase my stock of herbs and the remedies I make with them.

St. John's Wort.

St.John’s Wort grows and spreads very easily. A tincture can be made from it which is known to be very effective for depression. Natural and without the side-effects of Prozac, but of course that does’nt create income streams for Big Pharma. Does’nt disempower people and turn them into addicts. The flowers and leaves covered with olive oil and left in a sunny spot for 4-6 weeks will turn a lovely red colour, that is good for burns, swellings and other skin traumas.

Pot Marigold.

Pot Marigold which self-seeds here each year is a visual delight sprinkled on a salad. It also has soothing, healing and antiseptic properties. Do empower yourself if not already doing so, grow some herbs, eat some herbs, make tinctures and ointments. It is an enjoyable process and liberates you from Big Pharma.