Friday, May 20, 2016

10 Reasons to have an Herb Garden

Instead of a full-out vegetable garden this year, I chose to focus on my raspberries and herb garden (plus taming my backyard which, besides some weeding, hasn't started). I love growing my own food. Particularly, I've found a passion for the gentle yet vivacious leaves we call herbs. So today I'm going to encourage you with 10 reasons to have an herb garden.

1. It's cheap frugal!
The other week I bought two containers of fresh basil from the grocery store. They each cost $4. That's $8 a week. $32 a month. Over $128 for my major basil-buying season (atleast 4 months).
Seeds and good quality dirt can cost me less than $10, meaning I saved over $100 this year if I cease buying and start growing. (And if you don't want to start from seed, you can still get several basil seedlings for $10).

2. It's right out the back door!
I don't always consider where the food I buy in the grocery store comes from but in this instance, I definitely know my food origins.

3. It's self-sustaining!
Growing, cultivating and preserving our own food is a way to remain independent. If the shit hits the fan, at least I have my herb garden.

On a second thought, you know how garlic keeps away vampires? Maybe sage keeps away zombies? One can hope!

4. Kids like herbs too!
My kids aren't major salad eaters. In fact, a year ago, my five year old went through a phase where she wouldn't touch them. But they will eat basil and tons of it straight from the plant. For them, it is the satisfaction of picking it and popping it right in their mouth.
Also, kids love to garden! Planting and sustaining their own herbs can be a great summertime activity/lesson in life.

5. It's healthy!
Major powerhouses of antioxidants. Herbs are superfoods! They are chockfull of vitamins and minerals. They are anti-inflammatory and full of powerful greenness (that's the scientific term, of course).
A local family shared with me how drinking my Blueberry Basil Smoothie every morning had helped the father with chronic pain. My recipe for Chamomile Cantaloupe Smoothie is another fruit + herb concoction.

6. It's convenient!
The ease of having to go nowhere to have your own bounty of fresh herbs is more than appealing. It's downright amazing. No extra trips to the store for the sage that recipe for the baked butternut squash needed. You can just walk out your back door (or front door or maybe you have a nice kitchen windowsill).

7. It's fairly easy!
Usually growing a small garden of kitchen herbs takes very little effort. Recipe for success looks something like:
Maybe it's their antibacterial properties or stronger taste but I've also found that bugs (the mean garden-plant snatching ones) aren't taken to herbs as they are to other plants.
Borrow some books from the local library about gardening if you are nervous. Here is a stash I found at mine last year:

Or here are some specifically herbal gardening books ( I love Rosemary Gladstar's books): 

8. It's yummy!
It's all about the tastebuds! The above recipe for success can go a long way for the delicious factor! Seriously, the taste of homegrown herbs (even dried in winter) is far better than storebought. They are fresher and will last longer (with better flavor).

9. It can make you an herbalist (or herbalista)!
I like the autonomous-ness of making my own herbal remedies - makes me feel like an old time apothecary. It can be as simple as a sage honey cough syrup or PMS-relief tea. If you are interested in herbal remedies, I suggest these books to start:


10. Because it's downright ___________ (fill in the blank)!
Let me help you - It's downright amazing!

Are you still reading this? Or are you out working on your herb garden?

I was racking my creative mommy brain, trying to come up with yet another reason (it'll probably come to me two weeks after I publish this post while I'm folding laundry or driving) because I said ten reasons and only having nine seems somehow incomplete. But let me ask you, do we really need another reason? If you have the means and the time, having an herb garden is going to benefit you and those around you!

It's tasty. It's fun. It's a lesson in life!

"Come forth in the light of things, let nature be your teacher."
      -William Wordsworth

And I was inspired to write my own little ditty...

An Ode to Herbs:
It's great in a salad.
It's great with a ballad.
It's great on noodles.
It's certainly frugal.
I love it with strawberries.
But some like it in Bloody Mary's.
Basil, Sage, Thyme
or Rosemary sublime...
Oh wonderful herb
How very superb!

And if you're in the market for trustworthy, quality dried herbs, hop on over to Mountain Rose Herbs and give them a gander.
Mountain Rose Herbs. A Herbs, Health & Harmony Com

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Easy 2 Ingredient Dandelion Honey (freezer) taffy

(Whoops! I accidentally posted this while I was writing  laying out thoughts on my phone so I apologize if you received a barely-written, random crazy person note about honey taffy in your inbox. Now here is the real thing.)

We love freezer taffy - essentially what we call honey poured on frozen food. One of my favorite treats in summer is a half cup of frozen blueberries over a scoop of coconut cream (just cream not ice cream) with a drizzle of honey. Something wonderful happens to the honey on contact with frozen foods - it hardens (solid matter - science can happen in the kitchen!). And this hardened honey becomes the texture of taffy.
And it is good.
For homeschool, we were learning about dandelions in our spring unit. We used this post from Proverbial Homemaker as a base/foundation for the study. If you're interested in a plant study, check out Little House Grand's plant unity study and borrow Dandelions: Stars in the Grass from your library. We watched a time lapse of a Dandelion on Youtube. And I made a word search all about Dandelions. My daughter really likes word searches (she is five and she randomly discovered them one day) and I've found that after we read our books about a subject, doing a word search together can be a fun way to review letters, material and start phonics. The Dandelion Word Search is here (and free) if you'd like to use this at home!
Because I'm all about herbal and Wild Edibles, I liked the idea of making something from our dandelions... but the ease of a project and the amounts of mess were (and are) big factors. So instead of baking cookies or making fried dandelion fritters (although I'd really like to try this), I thought "Why not use my honey taffy idea and make a nutritious candy?"
My daughter was all for it. She loves to help cook and the scavenging for dandelions added to the excitement! Here is my littlest scavenger frolicking through the fields:

And here is my daughter's hands plucking out all the flowers:

So before we finish, let's review some important notes. Please be safe scavenger/wise foragers! Don't pick food from the roadside. Don't pick where land is sprayed. And if you don't know, don't pick! You can check out more information about foraging in this book Wild Edibles.
For the recipe, all you need is non-sprayed dandelion flower heads and some local raw honey. Grease (we used coconut oil) your mold. Hold the bottom of the Dandelion head and pull all the flowers out (each yellow petal is actually a flower - one Dandelion head holds hundreds of flowers!). Stick these in your greased mold and then pour honey over them (you can use a chopstick to stir the flowers in each section). Freeze for at least two hours (we had a hard time waiting that long - it can be a lesson in self control)! Take out and devour enjoy right away!

And here is the Dandelion Word Search if you missed it earlier. We've found them to be a fun way to review letters, phonics, and learning material with our five year old!
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