Culinary Herbs

The Chef's Garden: A Modern Guide to Common and Unusual Vegetables--with Recipes.

By Paris Wolfe- Prospective Member WRHS



In mid-April, Milan, Ohio, farmer Lee Jones released The Chef's Garden: A Modern Guide to Common and Unusual Vegetables--with Recipes. The 640-page hefty hardback focuses on plant-based dining, unusual vegetable use and regenerative farming. AND it includes information about herbs and edible flowers.

If you don’t buy the book, at least borrow it from your library for the powerful prose and fabulous photos. It will give you a chef’s eye view on emerging vegetable and herb opportunities.

For example, you probably already knew that you could eat certain marigold (Tegetes tennifolia) flowers. But did you know you can eat the lacy leaves, too? The Chef’s Garden has dubbed these “Citrus lace” as they have citrusy fragrance and orange-soda-like flavors. 

And you’re probably familiar with the basil family – sweet green, dark opal, Thai, lemon, lime, cinnamon and more. But did you know you can eat the seeds? The book describes the flavor as floral, almost vanilla and suggests using gelled seeds as a garnish on sashimi or chilled desserts.

The herb information isn’t easily delineated in one section but woven throughout the book. The first reference starts in the Onions section, page 66 with chives – standard and garlic. The final reference is on page 609 with a recipe for Herb Kombucha. And the book has so much information and many recipes in between.

Consider recipes created by Chef Jamie Simpson, like poached peaches with basil syrup, basil oil and basil seed crackers or lavender-scented cauliflower soup.

The book’s grand finale is a section on edible flowers. Again, these aren’t just the obvious like dianthus and violas. They include vegetable and herb blooms as well, things like arugula flowers, fava blossoms and Oxalis.

It’s only recently that home chefs could order all the products sold by The Chef’s Garden. Before the pandemic limited restaurant dining, most of the herbs and vegetables were shipped to chefs at top national restaurants. When COVID changed the frequency of restaurant dining, the farm pivoted. They are now making specialty herbs and vegetables available to home cooks. The cookbook shows everyone how to get the most from this produce … even if they grow it themselves at home.

Complete with 100 recipes, Jones says, “The book is a place to inspire ways of using vegetables and reducing waste … a home cook, a chef, a farmer, a gardener can find some great tips … it’s really about inspiring people to consider the entire vegetable.”

Recipes are just part of the book’s value. It includes stories like how Chef Charlie Trotter inspired The Chef’s Garden’s explosion into microgreens. A sidebar offers basic information about fiddlehead ferns.  Another sidebar explains how to grow lemongrass. Information about nutrient content is woven through the entire narrative.

The cookbook is comprehensive and compelling. Written in Farmer Jones folksy voice it makes complex information delightful and easily accessible. This is the kind of cookbook culinary enthusiasts read for fun, not just for cooking. It belongs on the coffee table as much as the kitchen table.   

  The book – hardcover ($55)  and Kindle ($29.99) editions – is available on in mid-April.

Picture from the Chefs Garden

It's easy to make a delicious Herbal Jelly! Let the Herb Ladies show you how!

Western Reserve Herb Society Unit Chair Lynne Griffin shows us how to make a wonderful Lemon Basil Herbal jelly with the help of WRHS members Kathy Walker, Donna Payerle, and WRHS Vice Chair Kathy Shriver!

WRHS HERB JELLY ~ Our official recipe/approved 06/2017

2 Cups water 1 Cup of fresh herbs that have been newly harvested and washed (only one kind of herb is used for the flavor, i. e. Lemon Basil)

Bring the water to a boil in a stainless steel pot.

Remove from heat. Add all of the herbs to the liquid. Stir to moisten. Cover. Allow to steep 20 minutes. Strain out all of the herbs.

This makes the basic herb infusion for the flavor of the jelly. Add water to the herb infusion to equal 3 Cups total.

Sterilize all the jelly jars, lids and rings for this recipe by washing them in very warm soapy water, rinse them in clean hot water and then boil the clean jars, lids and rings in fresh water for 10 minutes.

Remove and keep warm until they are used.

2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice or 2 tablespoons of commercial vinegar depending on the herb selected

1 Package of commercial powdered pectin (1 3/4oz.)

4 Cups of pure cane granulated white sugar

¼ teaspoon butter (optional)

Mix the prepared herb infusion with the lemon juice or vinegar, pectin and butter (if using)in a large stainless steel pot. Mix well. Put over highest heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Mix in the sugar. Continue stirring, return to full rolling boil and boil hard for exactly one minute. Remove from heat. Stir gently and skim off foam with a metal spoon. Immediately pour into hot sterilized jars. Seal by placing sterilized new lids and caps onto each jar rim after it has been wiped clean with a new paper towel. Screw the metal ring on tightly. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes for both 8 oz. and 4 oz. jelly jars. If the lid doesn’t ‘POP’ the jelly has sealed. If the lid ‘POPS’ discard the jelly.

March 2021 Herb of the Month ~ Viola Tricolor


By Sherry Schmidt ~ Western Reserve Herb Society~ Herb Scents Editor




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 “Perhaps no flower (not excepting even the queenly rose) claims to be so universal a favorite, as the viola tricolor; none currently has been honored with so rich a variety of names, at once expressive of grace, delicacy and tenderness”.

Dix, Dorothea Lynde. The garland of flora. S. G. Goodrich and Co. and Carter and Hendee, 1829.

Viola tricolor is a tiny 3-colored member of the Violaceae family.  As a result of its popularity, both in society and in Romantic poetry, it has acquired many common names, including Wild Pansy, Johnny Jump-up, Heartsease, Heart's Ease, Heart's Delight, Tickle-my-fancy, Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me, Come-and-cuddle-me, Three faces in a hood, Love-in-idleness, or Pink of my john.

This little plant is an herbaceous annual, biennial, or short-lived perennial wildflower found in lichen-dominated or meadow-like rocky outcrops, dry and sloping meadows, banks, fields, gardens, wastelands, sand fields, as well as seaside beaches.  It was brought to North America from Europe.


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Viola tricolor blooms spring through summer.  After blooming, the fertile flowers are replaced by seed capsules producing up to 50 seeds in each capsule making it spread easily, though it is not particularly aggressive.  When mature, the capsule will divide into 3 parts and the seed will be ejected.  The plants are hermaphroditic and self-fertile, pollinated by bees.

A typical flower has violet or purple upper petals, white lateral petals and a yellow lower petal.  Several purple veins originate from the flower’s throat.  Its leaves have a variety of shapes.  The lower blades are cordate-ovate, or heart- to egg-shaped.  The middle and upper leaves are lanceolate or oblong-lanceolate (resembling a lance), rounded at the end and having parallel sides. 

The beautiful flowers of Viola tricolor have a mild pea flavor, which combines equally well with sweet or savory foods, such as grilled meats and steamed vegetables.  When newly opened, Viola flowers may be used to decorate salads.  Candied violets are the flowers preserved by a coating of egg white and crystallized sugar. Alternatively, hot syrup is poured over the fresh flower and stirred until the sugar recrystallizes and has dried.  Candied violets are still made commercially in Toulouse, France, where they are known as violettes de Toulouse. They are used for decorating cakes or trifles, or included in aromatic desserts.  The French are also known for their violet syrup.  Viola essence flavors the liqueurs Crème Yvette, Crème de Violette, and Parfait d'Amour.

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Viola tricolor has medicinal benefits.  It contains saponins (a naturally-occurring chemical compound), salicylates (a natural anti-inflammatory) and flavonoids (with powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties).  Herbal uses include the treatment of eczema and autoimmune diseases and as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic, expectorant, capillary tonic, laxative and diuretic.  Topical applications are for cradle cap, diaper rash, weeping sores, itchy skin, varicose ulcers and ringworm.

This viola has many additional uses.  It supports Fritillary butterfly larvae.  The flowers attract honeybees, bumblebees, long-tongued bees (Anaphora sp.), syrphid flies (Rhingia sp.), and butterflies.  Its flowers can be used to make yellow, green and blue-green dyes.  The leaves can be used in place of litmus paper to test acidity or alkalinity.  Viola tricolor is also the progenitor of the cultivated garden pansy.

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In the language of flowers, Viola is a symbol of innocence, modesty, and decency by the allusion of its little corolla, which seems to hesitate to leave its casket of leaves.

Rosemary vs. March - Successfully caring for your overwintered Rosemary Plants!

By Lynne Griffin, Vice Chairman WRHS




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If you are overwintering a Rosemary plant, March represents a critical period.  This herb has increased needs for both any fresh warm air available (above 40 degrees) and plenty of water.  Check the soil daily for moisture and add water as needed (this is not too much to ask as it is only temporary until frost is no longer imminent and your herb can be planted out in a garden location).  If the soil does dry out and your Rosemary begins to wilt, add a generous amount of water and check on it the next morning.  If it does not respond to watering and perk up, harvest as much of the Rosemary plant as possible before it dies and plan on purchasing a new one in the spring.

Rosemary plants can be set outdoors on warm spring days (temp. above 40 degrees in a protected, shady, calm site). It will need to be brought back inside overnight and anytime the temperature begins to drop.

Also, Rosemary is particularly susceptible to Powdery Mildew during the month of March. Powdery Mildew can be identified by the appearance of a powdery looking growth accumulating on it’s needles. This is due to the herb’s increased need for water and see saw periods of dryness and watering.  Again, checking the soil moisture daily with your fingertip can avoid this problem, but not always. Try to keep the soil evenly moist. Included is a recipe for Powdery Mildew that I have used successfully on Rosemary with this problem.

Anti-Powdery Mildew Recipe for Rosemary

1 Gallon water

2 Tablespoons Baking Soda

2 Tablespoons Salad Oil

Mix together and shake well.

Put into a spray bottle.

Shake well before each use.

Spray on affected areas weekly.

Sometimes you can do everything right, follow all instructions, utilize every tip and the Rosemary plant will die anyway. However, don’t give up yet, as there is a back up plan available!  Simply buy a new Rosemary plant from your favorite nursery and try again next year.

Experience is a great teacher!                      

All about Parsley! IHA's Herb of the Year!


By Paris Wolfe~ Education Committee- Western Reserve Herb Society

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For the past 26 years, the International Herb Association has chosen an Herb of the Year™. The ubiquitous and versatile biennial parsley ( Petroselinum crispum)  is the star of 2021.

Parsley – both flat and curly – is probably one of the Western world’s most popular herbs. And why not? It’s been cultivated in Europe for more than 2000 years. Or so they say. Greek mythology, which reaches as far back as 900 BC, associates parsley with Archemorous or the hero-God Ophletes.

The story vaguely goes something like this … where Archemorous blood was shed, the herb sprouted. At some point Persephone gathered his spirit in the form of parsley. Because Persephone helped guide souls to the underworld, she is often depicted with a bouquet of parsley. And that led to parsley use to decorate tombstones and memorials.

Legend says parsley must visit Persephone’s husband – Hades -- nine times before sprouting. Anyone who has tried to cultivate it from seed knows that sprouting takes so long that might be true.

Charles the Great (742 AD - 814 AD), the influential Roman emperor who brought together western and central Europe, is given some credit for the herb’s popularity as he grew it all over his property.

Two main groups of parsley are the original Italian aka flat and the new-ish French aka curly. Some folks (like my late mother-in-law) claim flat-leaf parsley is superior because of its stronger flavor. Other folks prefer the frilly leaves and lighter herbaceousness of the curly variety. Flat leave varieties have other benefits … they’re easier to cultivate and more weather tolerant.

This Herb of the Year is extremely versatile in the kitchen and blends well with other seasonings. It has fans, as both seasoning and garnish, around the globe. Parsley-forward preparations include persillade, tabbouleh, Italian salsa verde, gremolata and more.

Its useful properties include breath freshener, supposedly strong enough to fight garlic. It also has diuretic properties, but should not be consumed in large quantities, especially by pregnant women.

New herbies will find it among the easiest plants to grow in containers or soil, once sprouted. Actual sprouts require patience as they may take 4 to 6 weeks to appear. Once above ground, parsley plants will thrive in ordinary soil in almost any light.

Their first year the plants form a whirl of mostly prolific foliage. (Unless the critters get there first.) The second year, leaves are sparse and flower umbels appear. As the leaves are harvested for cooking, they are replaced by new growth.

Whatever your preference – flat or curly – celebrate parsley this year!

What to do with all of that delightful Mint!

 By Bobbi Henkel - WRHS Garden Chair

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Peppermint is one of the easiest to grow and most versatile of the common kitchen herbs.  It gives back to your effort with its lovely green appearance and pretty little tufts of terminal racemes of flower spikes.   But, the fragrance and the taste potential give its most sought after delights.

Ease of growing:   Mint grows in full or partial sun, and can easily be started in pots on your patio, or placed into soil directly in places where you wouldn’t care if it spreads like wildfire.

It attracts pollinators and grows in lousy clay soil like my Ohio backyard,  but even better in some cultivated lovely loamy humus.  Even Miracle Grow.  Don’t let it dry out.  It loves moisture and is a frost-hardy perennial in zones 3-12.   And, if you’re worried and want it to produce even longer, bring it into your garage or porch over the winter.  My pots stay outdoors in Northern Ohio Winters and are about 5 years old so far.

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Fresh cut for flower bouquets:  The leaves are a pretty deep green growing off square stems that hold their shape easily.   You can mix them into black eyed Susans  and you have a sensual treat because of the fragrance and the colors.   The blooms appear at the terminus of the stems in little tufts of white or light pink or lavender.

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To use Peppermint freshly picked:  Choose small tender bright green leaves and pick whole stems.  Wash it under cold water and pat it dry with a towel.

Add a sprig to garnish a glass of lemonade or iced tea

Add small leaves to fruit salads:  cantaloupe, watermelon, berries with a squirt of lemon over them all.  Chill and serve. Also? Why don't you mix up fresh Arnold Palmers:  1/2 lemonade with 1/2 cold tea and add 2 tablespoons of minced fresh peppermint.    Allow to stand for an hour then strain and serve over ice. This allows a subtle hint of mint.   Longer steeping yields stronger flavor.

Freeze finely chopped peppermint (2 tsps) into ice cube tray compartments.  Add water or lemonade to fill the cube compartments and freeze.  Use the cubes in beverages immediately or up to two months later if kept in plastic bags in the freezer.  You are ready for mojitos anytime  or you can add them to spice up steamed veggies:  baby carrots, new potatoes are the ones I do with a little butter and lemon or lime juice.

 Another of my favorite uses for chopped peppermint is to combine it with parsley, bulgur wheat and lemon juice to make your own tabbouleh salads

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Dried:   wash your fresh peppermint under cold water and pat it dry.  Then allow it to dry for a few days in a warm dry not at all humid place.  You can hang several stems upside down in paper bags for a few days until the leaves are crispy.

Add it to summer beverages and allow to sit overnight.  Strain, and serve over ice.  Dried mint is stronger than fresh so this makes a minty lemonade for those of us who love that menthol flavor in tea or ginger ale or lemonade. 

Slip a few leaves into your facial mask for a subtle pleasant minty lift that distracts you from thoughts of pandemics.

Steep dried mint into boiling water and add honey for a soothing mint tea great for sore throats.

Make the dried leaves into a “Mint Potpourri” and house them in little fabric pockets to ward off spiders and add fragrance to closets or drawers.

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Mint Jelly: This recipe from Simply Recipes is one of or favorites because it uses tart Granny Smith Apples as its base so it needs no added pectin! This delicious jelly will always add a little zip to your roast lamb, fish dishes, or chicken.

The  oils in mints are strongest when picked from mid summer leaves when the plants are receiving 14 hours of sunshine a day.   Pinch off blooms to retain tenderness in new leaves and bushier plants.   Older tougher leaves are stronger tasting and less pleasant, but still make great dried preparations for potpourri’s that are said to repel spiders.

Growing mints in your garden allows a fragrant green colony of plants that are pleasant to humans but not to deer, squirrels, mice, or ants.    If you don’t mind their love of life and desire to take over the adjacent spaces, they are terrific 2 to 3 foot high covers serving to hide in front of air conditioner boxes.   If you mind their spreading tendencies, sink pots into the soil that impede the roots from trespassing beyond the container limits.  I just create “peppermint pots” that offer free aromatherapy when I water them in the evening.

Sigh.   Bliss, bliss. 




We are still in the middle of our month of fundraising, and if you would care to support our “No Fair Herb Fair” with a tax exempt donation of any size it will always be greatly appreciated.
Through your donations, The Western Reserve Herb Society is preserving our legacy of expanding and sharing knowledge of these wonderful plants and their impact on our lives, our culture, and our environment.
To make a donation in honor of the “No Fair Herb Fair!” please go to
Thank you so much!



St. Hildegard of Bingen, the medieval herbalist! 

By Shanon Sterringer ~ WRHS Member

Ph.D., D.Min, MA Theology, MA Ministry, BA
Ordained Priest, GSC

It is hard to believe it has been almost a year since I had the privilege of presenting Hildegard the Medieval Herbalist at one of the monthly WRHS meetings.  Many of you are familiar with this amazing woman who practiced healing, not only through the use of foods and herbs, but precious gemstones.  Her work Physica serves as an encyclopedia for the use of many natural elements for holistic health and well-being.  She sees their healing properties existing through her theological understanding of viriditas (greening power) which she believed was the life-source that came from our Creator Source.  Viriditas animates and sustains all that is alive.


St. Hildegard of Bingen describes amethyst in her work, Physica in the following way: “Amethyst develops when the sun shows its circle, as though it was crowned, which it does when it prefigures some change in the vestment of the Lord, in the Church.  Amethyst grows as a gum, and so there are many of them.  It is hot and fiery and a bit airy, since the air is a bit cool when the sun shows its circle.” She goes on to describe how to use it medicinally.  For Hildegard, God’s providence permeates every particle of the created world and therefore everything in nature has an ordered purposed.  Human beings are a part of the divine order and therefore will find benefit in mind, body and spirit from the natural world.


One herb that is of particular interest to Hildegard, and Hildegard followers today, is fennel.  In her work she recorded almost two full pages on fennel including the following: “In whatever way it is eaten, it makes a person happy and brings a gentle heat and good perspiration, and make for good digestion… Eating fennel or its seeds every day diminishes bad phlegm and decaying matter, keeps bad breath in check and makes one’s eyes see clearly, by its good heat and beneficial powers.”  Fennel tea and seeds are often consumed today following meals to aid in the digestive process. 

This is a photo from the back of the Hildegard Haus in Fairport Harbor (where I live and pastor a community of faith).  Growing alongside of the church building is a beautiful crop of fennel.  Last year I worked in the dye garden and in the fall, I was invited to take a handful of fennel seeds from one of the plants.  This small handful of seeds produced an abundant crop here in Fairport Harbor. It is so beautiful, in part because it captures Hildegard’s charism and the spirit of the Western Reserve Herb Society.  While I have truly missed being at the WRHS garden this year, I feel gratitude each day as I walk out into the courtyard at the Hildegard Haus to visit the fennel plants. 


Another popular Hildegard themed treat is her recipe for “Cookies of Joy” or sometimes referred to as “Nerve Cookies” because they are meant to calm one’s nerves by bringing joy.  These cookies are often made from spelt flour (one of Hildegard’s preferred grains) and include her “Spices of Joy” mixture – cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.  In Physica, she wrote: “Take some nutmeg and an equal weight of cinnamon and a bit of cloves and pulverize them.  Then make small cakes with this and fine whole wheat flour (or spelt) and water.  Eat them often.  It will calm all bitterness of the heart and mind, open your heart and impaired senses, and make your mind cheerful.”  There are many recipes circulating for these cookies and when I have hosted retreats or events, many different versions often appear on the buffet table.  Some very unique, and all delicious!  A recipe is included at the end of this blog post, but I encourage you to play with it and make it your own!

Hildegard of Bingen died on September 17, 1179 and so her feast day is celebrated each year in her memory and honor.  We not only celebrate to remember who she was and what she did in 12th century Germany, but to be inspired to bring some of the charism of this remarkable woman, a German Benedictine Nun and Mystic, into our world today.  She has much to teach us about the created world, including the rich treasures of plants, trees, herbs, precious stones and foods.  Her wisdom reaches far beyond this blog post, but for now we can start by kicking back with a cup of fennel tea and a cookie of joy - actually in her book, Hildegard says to eat five or six of them each day!  


Above is a photo of me from our Hildegard “feast” we celebrated as the culmination of a 12-day international virtual pilgrimage with participants from all over the world.  We started in Fairport Harbor each day and then traveled to Germany and experienced the viriditas (greening power) of Hildegard’s homeland through her art, music, preaching and of course, her use of herbs, plants and precious stones. As you can see on the table in front of me, I celebrated with spelt, chestnuts, fennel tea and cookies of joy!  May this season of harvest be overflowing with viridity!

In her book, From Saint Hildegard’s Kitchen: Foods of Health, Foods of Joy,  Jany Fournier-Rosset includes the following recipe:

Cookies That Bring Joy

 12 Tbsps+1tsp butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup honey

4 egg yolks

2 ½ cups spelt flour

1 tsp salt

2 rounded tbsps “Spices of Joy”

Melt the butter under low heat, add the sugar, honey, and egg yolks, beating lightly.  Add the flour and salt, combine gently.  Refrigerate this cookie dough after mixing, for at least one hour.  Remove from refrigerator.  Roll out onto a floured surface, cut with a cookie cutter. Bake on a baking sheet at 400 F for 10-15 minutes until golden, watching closely.

Anise Hyssop-An Unsung Herbal Workhorse


By Kathy Shriver - WRHS Website Chairman


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When I joined the Western Reserve Herb Society in 2016, I was excited to work in its historic Herb Garden. We were able to choose a section that peaked our interest and since I am obsessed with flowers, so jumped at the opportunity to work in the Edible Flower Section.  There we grow several dozen varieties of flowering plants and herbs and the blossoms of all of these are edible.  I was drawn to almost all of them because the flowers were bright and beautiful and lent themselves to being a show stopping part of a salad, baked goods, drinks or could be beautiful and edible garnishes.  And then there was this one lonely anise hyssop plant in the corner that I never paid much attention to.  You see, I don’t much care for the taste of anise and I had no idea what a hyssop was.  But what I did notice week after week was what an amazing bee magnet this plant was. 

Fast forward to 2018.  I made a late-in-the-gardening- season trip to a local organic nursery to buy some herbs for my home garden.  The selection wasn’t as grand as it would be at the beginning of planting season so I wasn’t able to get everything I wanted, but I saw some anise hyssop there and thought to myself since this is the Herb of The Year TM for 2019, let me add a few of these….at least the bees love them.  I hadn’t done any research about them and planted the four plants entirely too close together, not realizing how tall and wide each one would grow.  By the end of summer, these 4 plants had grown into quite an impressive “hedge” of tall, purple blooms surrounded by pollinators of all kinds:  Bumblebees, honey bees, and butterflies buzzed constantly from flower spike to spike.  Brushing up against the foliage to harvest other herbs released a sweet smell of anise into the air.  I decided one day to taste some of the leaves and flowers.  I was amazed at how sweet the flowers were and that the anise flavor was not as strong as I thought it might be. 

In the very early spring of 2019, I noticed some purple foliage poking through the soil.  I couldn’t figure out what it could be.  It seemed to be in the very spots I planted the anise hyssop the previous year, but purple?  Lo and behold, as the spring progressed and the weather turned warmer, the purple foliage started becoming more lush and more green.  I recognized the telltale shape of the semi heart shaped/triangular leaves and realized this was in fact the anise hyssop coming back.  It is a hardly perennial to Zone 4 although it is considered “short lived” perennial i.e. dies after about 2-4 seasons.  However, it is a self-seeder and as I discovered, I had several volunteer plants sprouting up around my raised garden bed.  Unlike other mints, anise hyssop doesn’t spread like wildfire so it is easy to relocate unwanted volunteers and keep the wanted plants from crowding out others.  Just keep in mind, it can get up to 3 feet in width and up to 6 feet in height so it will do best in the back of a flower bed (too bad mine is planted front and center and hides my calendula) and should be given plenty of its own space.  Once again, as the growing season went on, my anise hyssop “hedge” took shape.  This year, it grew so tall, it actually fell over on itself.  But even then, the pollinators came, and came, and came some more.


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I realized, as many others who also grow anise hyssop find, that it is a very useful herb that is often overlooked.  For one thing, it’s not well-known.  Had it not been the Herb of The Year TM for 2019, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought.  My preferred nursery always carries it, but your average garden center won’t.  Even though anise hyssop is not considered GRAS (generally regarded as safe) like more well-known herbs such as basil, rosemary or even lavender, herb gardeners have been cooking with it for decades, but you won’t find it among the fresh herbs for sale even at the most high end grocery stores.  And don’t try to look for it amongst the dried herbs and spices or extracts.  Anise hyssop is not that anise i.e. anise or anise seed-the herb that imparts a licorice taste or what you’d find as anise extract in the baking aisle.  Nor is it star anise-the lovely star shaped spice that makes frequent appearances in recipes this time of year. Despite its name, anise hyssop doesn’t contain high amounts of the principal component of anise, a compound called anethole and in fact, there are those (myself included) who think anise hyssop smells more like French tarragon or fennel than anise.  Which is why many prefer to refer to anise hyssop by its botanical name of Agastache foeniculum, rather than its common name.

Agastache takes its name from the Greek words ‘agan’ meaning very much and ‘stachys’ meaning spike.  The Latin ‘foeniculum’ refers to the fennel-like smell and taste.  Like other members of the Agastache genus, A. foeniculum is part of the mint family and can be identified as such by its square stems and its oppositional leaves.  The flower heads or inflorescence are made up of hundreds of tiny pale purple-blue or white flowers that produce nectar all day long.  As a result, pollinators find this plant a wonderful food source.  In fact, it has also been nicknamed “Wonder Honey Plant” by beekeepers who are known to plant A. foeniculum close to their hives.  The inflorescence flowers for up to 80 days. 

Although A. foeniculum thrives in dry, rich and neutral soil, it can also be found growing in the random crack near where seeds may have fallen the season before.  It does best in full sun, but will tolerate part shade.  Though the original plant may only live 2-4 seasons, because A. foeniculum self-seeds, one is sure to have additional plants year after year.  The taproot that forms helps give the plant its drought resistance.  It is also fairly heat, deer, disease, and pest resistant making it a great herb for someone who has areas in their garden where nothing else seems to grow.  Besides making for a pretty flower garden or a great way to draw all kinds of pollinators to your yard, A. foeniculum can be used to compliment fresh cut flower arrangements, create beautiful dried floral arrangements or made into potpourri.  In the kitchen, both the leaves and flowers can be used to make teas, cordials or infuse honey or liquor.  They add flavor and color to salads, custards, ice cream, and baked goods.  The flavor also compliments savory dishes like pastas, fish and beef.

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Agastache foeniculum can also be used for natural beauty or spa products because of its astringent, anti-inflammatory, cleansing and soothing properties and made into fascial masks, skin sprays and salves, or bath soaks.

So if you have some space in your garden this spring to sew some seeds or are able to find some anise hyssop plants at a specialty nursery, please don’t pass up the opportunity to add what will become an “herbal workhorse” to your yard.

"the upside of house arrest by one wishes she was really an herb gardener but is just one who tries".  Episode 1

 By Bobbi Henkel - Western Reserve Herb Society Garden Co-Chair
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Before I retired, a friend gave me a book to write down one thing every day that I was grateful for.   She suggested that if I wrote down the things about work I hated and wouldn't miss, then when I was home and bored, I would look back and read them.   It is truly hard for me to imagine I will look back at this particular  House Arrest era and reminisce.   BUT......
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     1.   I can drink my morning coffee looking out at my back yard and deciding what I'm going to do based on the weather and how well I slept and I watch the birds.   I have 3 bird feeders.   Maybe the birds have always been there in numbers, but now I see them.   I have an X rated movie going on out there.  There are horny birds chasing each other with ridiculous speed and reckless abandon.  My holly bush has turned into a Bordello.  It's just shocking.    And, the bird feeder my kids bought me that is squirrel proof?  Hah.  And, it isn't deer proof either.
    2.   When I walk the dog, I pass neighbors who smile and wave more than ever before.  My dog just doesn't understand "social distancing."   She sees the same dogs she has sniffed and greeted before in that mortifying doglike way.  But now, their owners and they have to stand farther away.
She is so BUMMED out. She gets that really pathetic look on her face and ends up with a treat. But she really rallies when we get to the baby's house.
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    3.   We are visiting our son, daughter in law, and first grandson twice a week.  Temperatures first, and we don't go if anyone even thinks they don't feel good.  Didn't start until we'd all been in and away for 2 weeks.  But, that baby is keeping us going. 10 months old, he acts out when he doesn't get his way. He has brief tantrums for not being allowed to walk  down the steps, because the yogurt puffs in his bowl are gone,  because he doesn't want to nap,  because he has to lie down to get changed and other life shattering tragedies. And, he  can be instantly distracted by a good game of peek a boo with his favorite blanket.  Or singing "Wheels on the Bus".   We are entertaining him so his working from home parents can get some work done.  We are treated to someone else buying our groceries at the store when we haven't gotten something but "need" it.   Mostly, we just love seeing them and they give us joy.  And we experience vicarious relief through those tantrums.
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   4.   Back to the dog walks.  Three doors down, there lives a six-year old red headed girl. She and her family were out Christmas morning riding her brand new bike this year.  Just a full of Joy of Living kind of kid..  Well, a week into school closures this 4x6 foot rainbow appeared on her window with the words "Keep smiling."  This week, there was an arrow in one end of the horseshoe driveway and an arrow out on the other end.   And, balloons were on the mailbox.  And, we watched the first drive thru Birthday Party I've ever observed.   Treat bags picked up from the entrance.   BD presents left on a table.   Paused cars singing "happy birthday" to the beaming child on the front porch.   Lemonade from lemons.
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    5.   So, when your husband can't sneak out to the gym or to the library, he kind of has no excuse not to help Spring Clean.   So, we actually moved the bedroom furniture and vacuumed behind the dresser and under the Queen sized bed and the bureau.   I think I probably last did that before we painted that room and the painters wanted the furniture either out or pushed into the center of the room.   I'm not revealing when that painting occurred.   I'm also not revealing the size of the dust-bunnies we found under that bed.   I thought of competing with others who have the nerve to confess.   But, it's no contest.  YOU CAN'T TOUCH MINE.
 6.    But the contest I really do want to start is this one:   Who has the worst looking hair in this no beauty shop/barbershop/dog grooming era?   I've got my husband beat so far, but the dog is gaining on us both.  (My grandson might win but his is cute and hasn't ever had a haircut yet.) He probably thinks everyone looks like him.
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7.   So my herbs.  Oh yeah. I got cuttings from our Fragrance section last fall and tried to root them.  Well, I cut those Pelargonium below the nodes and stuck them in dirt, or put them in water.  I kept them damp and I changed the water.  Well, I changed the water up through the holidays and then, well maybe not so much.   Anyway, all the dirt clipping grew.  I have about 40.  Almost none of the water ones sprouted any roots.   There must be a trick, or maybe it was too cold out on the screened in porch, or maybe they were a different species. Or those holiday pauses in changing the water?    But, anyway the only problem is I didn't label which Pelargonium I was trimming or plugging in.    So, no worries:  I'll just look them up on line and identify them.   I downloaded PlantSnap and got answers for 4 out of 5 of what I think are different plants.   But I got at least 6 different FAMILIES of plants for the last pot.    I'm bringing that one in to our garden and letting the pro's tell me what I have.
Want me to send you pictures and you guess?

Playing with Dandelions!

By Beth Schreibman Gehring Chairman of Education- Western Reserve Herb Society

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I  have always felt such an affinity for Dandelions. Where many see lowly weeds, I see necklaces, good wishes and fresh salad greens! When I was a child playing in my fathers’  gardens, one of the happiest signs of spring were when those bright golden, pollen laden blooms would appear all over our yard as if by magic! I couldn’t wait to get outside and play with them! That lovely golden pollen always tickled my nose and made me sneeze, but I loved it anyway! We all know that the dandelion provides the first and last food for our beloved honeybees and for that reason alone they should be worshipped.

As a child, “Who put them there?”  was  always my question , because I knew that my father hadn’t planted them. They seemed so magical.   I loved them…so much abundance and so much joy to be found in those smiling yellow faces.  I could never understand why he’d get so upset at my favorite pastime, which was to blow the seeds everywhere that I could, flower after flower.  My friends and I made long necklaces and head dresses and pretended that we were fairy queens!  I cried every time the gardeners mowed them down.  By the time I was 10  I finally convinced my father to just  let them be. That spring the dandelions returned with a vengeance as if to say….” Ha…you thought we were gone but we’ve been here for the whole time just waiting!”.  I was beside myself with joy the first time that I saw them reappear.  Dandelions have an absolutely unabashed generosity about them! Pick only one and the next day three will magically appear it its place. I still don’t know how they do that and that’s why I absolutely love them!

Dandelion or  as the French call it Dent de Lion or pissenlit  (the English call it Piss in Bed!) is one powerhouse of a springtime tonic. I love to use the leaves in salad, their bitterness is delightful on the tongue when countered by a salty dressing of olive oil, onion, egg and a bit of crispy bacon. Dandelions are known to have strong diuretic qualities.  When eaten as part of a meal they are thought to be unsurpassed for their cleansing and laxative qualities. In Iran, a wonderful green dip made of braised Dandelion leaves, onions and pine nuts dressed with lemon juice , olive oil and lemon zest is delicious when eaten with fresh yogurt and warmed pita bread.  Dandelion leaves eaten regularly are a marvelous tonic for the digestion and I love to make a simple wine  of infused Dandelion leaves and flowers.


Dandelion infused wine is a delicious and very pretty aperitif. Making it is simple. Just take a bottle of really good Riesling or viognier.
Open it and decant it into a large glass jar filled with several cups of  freshly washed Dandelion flowers. I also add a cup of fresh Lemon Balm and Lemon Verbena leaves! Add a cup of raw honey, shake well and let the whole thing infuse in a cool place for about a week.  Strain and decant the wine into a pretty decanter and chill it for another day or two. Serve this lovely springtime digestif in little wine glasses before dinner with wheat crackers and a crock of fromage blanc to which you’ve added a bit of lemon rind and dressed with just a touch of honey and salt for the perfect springtime aperitif!

 This spring as the lively yellow flowers begin to grace your lawns please remember that Dandelions could be your new best friend! They are an acquired taste to be sure, but once you make their acquaintance you’ll never want to be without them!