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

Have you ever heard of Buzz Blossoms? You Will!

By Kathleen Hale ~ WRHS Unit Chair


There a tender member of the aster family that is showing up on social media and in a Galaxy Far, Far Away.  Spilanthes acmella goes by the common name Buzz Blossom, which is a big clue as to why it’s found appealing. While the leaves, both cooked and raw, have been used in northern Brazilian cuisine, it’s the blossoms that are now being used in fashionable and pricey cocktails. 

Why? Take a sip and your mouth goes numb. This appeals to some people. Spilanthes acmella goes by other evocative names: Electric Daisy, Toothache Plant, Tingflower and Buzz Buttons. The blossoms are attractive red and golden globes.  Their numbing nature has proven useful in numbing mouth pain.

An extract made from all parts of the plant is sold as “jambu juice”.  It makes you drool, which I suppose could also mean you can call it “mouth watering”.   If we choose to be nerdy, and I always do, we might designate jamba juice as a “sialogogue”, meaning that it stimulates the production of saliva.

But let’s get really nerdy.  As in, let’s stand in line for an hour or two in order to shell out $15.00 to the Disney Empire, Overlord to the Star Wars Cinematic Universe. 

Ladies and Gentlemen: allow me to introduce “The Fuzzy Tauntaun”. It is a signature alcoholic libation served at Oga’s Cantina. Oga’s is a “notorious watering hole” that has recently opened in Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Note that, because there are no actual conventional liquor bottles in Oga’s, so you have to order a signature alcohol libation if you want any adult beverage.

Now, I'm sure that I don’t need to remind you that a Tauntaun is actually a space lizard that resembles a bipedal llama, and lives on the ice planet of Hoth.

After the unexpected Rebel victory at Yavin, the heroic Luke Skywalker and his companions sought refuge in a secret base on Hoth, and found a way to harness and ride Tauntauns around its snowy waste.  They were not docile mounts, and we are advised by Han Solo that they smell bad both on the inside and the outside.

Presumably, after the Rebellion abandoned Hoth, their whereabouts having been discovered by the Empire, the Tauntauns went back to gamboling in the snow drifts.


But here we have their alcoholic avatar.  The Fuzzy Tauntaun is made of Cîroc Peach Vodka, Bols Peach Schnapps and Simply Orange®, topped with tangerine, pure cane sugar and…BUZZ FOAM.  The taste of the beverage itself is mostly peach.  But the foam does apparently deliver a tingle followed by a numbness. In the picture above, it's the vibrant yellow cocktail!

There is a smoothie chain called “Jamba”, which seems to show up in college towns. They carry preparations of ginger, wheatgrass, cayenne, turmeric and all those good things.  But not jambu juice.

You can purchase extract of Spilanthes acmella from various online sites, where it is marketed for all kinds of things, including repelling mosquitoes, acting as a human aphrodisiac and a snake bite remedy.

How Disney concocts the buzzy foam for big money cocktails is a secret and I know better than to mess around in the realm of Disney secrets. 

Or those of the Empire.

The Herb of The Year! Why do we study it?

 By Kathleen Gips ~ Ex- Officio Western Reserve Herb Society

Rubus or Brambles- The Herb of the Year 2020

The Herb of the Year ~ What is it all about? ~ Why do we study it?

In 1995 the International Herb Association (IHA) designated Herb Education Week to be the week before Mother’s Day every year. Soon after, they selected an herb for each year. The criteria were that an herb must fall into at least two of these three major categories: medicinal, culinary, or decorative.

At the time I was an active member in this marvelous organization dedicated to the retail and business world of herbs. Our members were charged with educating the public about herbs during Herb Education Week. So the public would become more aware of herbs and their varied uses, we were to explore, in depth, the herb of the year with products, written materials, seminars and workshops. What an excellent way for the educators to be educated. Focus on a specific herb and learn everything about it. How exciting! I loved researching the history, horticulture, culinary, craft and medicinal properties of all the chosen herbs. I treasured learning about my favorite herbs: lavender, scented geraniums, sage. I learned so much about some less common herbs like fennel, calendula and bergamot. Even mundane herbs such as lemon balm and mint gained new knowledge and respect.

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I became immersed in building my herbal expertise on each Herb of the Year. Some years challenged my level of excitement more than others. When it was horseradish and elderberry, I initially thought these were not herbs worthy of my passion. As I studied each of these herbs, I learned how wrong this first opinion was. Every herb has magical properties, rich history and many uses. I was rewarded with even more knowledge in my special world of herbs. In 2018 when I learned hops was designated as the Herb of the Year  , I thought, “Oh no! Not hops!”

Worse yet, I am not even a beer lover. My first introduction to hops came when I invited Jim Long to be a guest speaker at my herb shop to discuss his new book, “Making Herbal Dream Pillows". 

 I dutifully ordered hops for him, since they were an ingredient in his sweet dreams pillows that would be made in our workshop. Imagine my surprise when I opened the bag and the entire room smelled like stinky feet. Ewww! But then Jim explained the powerful relaxation properties of hops. So that is why my Dad fell asleep while drinking a beer and watching a football game. It was the hops!

My next introduction to hops was a golden hops plant that Mark Langdon from Mulberry Creek Herbs delivered to me to sell. Since my customers knew little about growing hops at the time, I was left with hops plants at the end of the selling season. So I planted them near an iron arch at the entrance to our herb garden. The vine grew quickly and prolifically covering the entire arch in a single season. What a magnificent show of beautiful chartreuse leaves and stunning green pendant flowers! It was a traffic stopper and attracted a lot of interest. Everyone wanted to grow these beautiful golden hops in their own garden. Imagine my surprise when it became my favorite landscape herb in the garden.

When we pulled the vines down after the first frost, I learned about the tenacious prickly tendrils of hops and came away with scratches and a skin rash. I learned about the very hardy nature of the hops plant as it came back each spring from nothingness. It spread its tendrils far and wide and even needed some restraint! What a resilient, tenacious, and beautiful herb plant. How useful it is in the garden landscape, the flavoring of beer and its calming medicinal properties. And there you have it!

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This is why the Herb of the Year is so important for those of us whose passion lies in the world of herbs. Our lives are enriched by studying the history, horticulture and uses of even the herbs that are not so well known to us!  We get to know these herbs by using them, observing them and even journaling about them and then suddenly a year has gone by and there is yet another new herb to get to know!

This year, our Herb of the Year is the absolutely delightful and sometimes completely frustrating Rubus, more affectionately known as Brambles, Raspberries, Blackberries or Brambleberries! This plant is definitely more familiar to me than Hops was, but nonetheless there is still so much more for me to learn!

The Herb of the Year fits very well into the mission of our Western Reserve Herb Society. Together we gather information about herbs and share that knowledge with the public.  So this year, we will all learn to be experts about  Brambles and we will  talk about them with anyone and everyone who will listen.

Join your fellow members as we stroll through  the Bramble patch in 2020, learning and teaching together.

The Rambling Beauty of Brambles!


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


This year, the Rubus genus is not only HSA’s January’s herb of the month, but it is the International Herb Associations herb of the year for 2020! The Rubus is a very large and diverse species and is part of the Rose family. Blackberries, raspberries, loganberries and boysenberries are all part of this delicious and festive group! The most common name for this boisterous genus is Brambles or Brambleberries, a name that always makes me smile having grown up with Jill Barklams delightful Brambly Hedge series! Somehow, the most fun always seem to happen under a canopy of rosehips and brambleberries!

I once read a wonderful story about Bramble bushes. It was in the mid 90’s in one of those wonderful new agey books (or as my son calls them “That weird hippy stuff  YOU read mother!) and the premise was that the all members of the genus Rubus have a collective consciousness that extends through an underground network all around the world. If I’m going to be honest with you, I loved the idea of that and I found it incredibly easy to believe. At the time that I read that book, I was still living on our farm in Burton Ohio where blackberries and black raspberries were flourishing around every corner. They drove my husband crazy because if you’ve ever had a bramble bush as a best friend, then you know just how prolific they really are. Every year before they’d flower, Jim would go into the thorny vines with his gloves and his clippers and every year he’d find more and more of them.

 Fortunately, when they began to flower, he’d have to leave them alone as the blooms are a major source of sweet nectar for the honeybees. He’s quite allergic to those bees, so if he missed a few the berries got their chance! Berry bushes are a bit like willow trees and If you drop just one clipping in a wet area, within weeks it will have taken root and begun to spread. I love to imagine that they are all entwining their tendrils in the earth underfoot and that they are all connected all around the world just like my little book said.

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By the time that we moved 21 years later, there were black raspberries and blackberries everywhere and to my absolute delight they’d become completely uncontrollable.  They didn’t all ripen at the same times and they were all amazing. We had our favorite patches but Alex and his best friend Jessica swore by the ones that grew down by our pond.  They didn’t start out down there , they came from some of the first clippings that my husband tossed over the fence as far away from the garden as he could find!

 When they were little, Alex and his friends Tyler and Jessica used to spend hours eating their way around the brambles.  They’d come running up with handfuls of the warm juicy berries for me and I loved them so much for the taste of course but more for the pleasure of knowing that these children that I adored were having an early experience of sustainability.  We’d share them and then they’d go running off for more.  I’d send them home covered in purple juice but thankfully their mothers forgave me! Alex is 32 now,  but he loves to reminisce about his childhood growing up on the farm and all of his favorite stories usually have something to do with those blackberries which I understand because they were so completely sweet and delicious!

 Tequila marries well with black raspberries, mint and a bit of sugar and surprisingly so does bourbon.  Black Raspberries and Meyer lemon juice mixed with  sugar, filtered water and cracked ice make a delicious and refreshing lemonade that is absolutely delicious and lovely to look at too! Fresh blackberries with arugula, fresh spearmint, ripe pear,  basil and burrata cheese is another favorite combination of mine. Served with a bit of seasoned rice vinegar  and olive oil, there really is no lovelier summer salad. Then there is fresh raspberry jam, a condiment in a class by itself. Whether you serve it with buttered toast, a savory white cheddar  or baked with a chicken breast or pork tenderloin, it’s always one of the most useful jams I make every summer.

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My first experience of the black raspberry as a medicinal tonic came when I was a child and I developed a serious tummy ache one day after eating too many pieces of very greasy pepperoni pizza. Instead of  going for the antacid in the cupboard, my mother vey wisely took out the bottle of  homemade black raspberry cordial that she kept in her medicine cabinet and poured  a nice bit of it into a cup of hot water. She gave it to me to sip and it has been my favorite stomach tonic ever since. Raspberry leaves and their fruit contain vast amounts of natural and easily assimilated vitamin C, B, A, E, Calcium and iron.  A cup of raspberry tea made with the a bit of mint , raspberry fruit, dried nettles and alfalfa and raspberry leaves really helped to ease my morning sickness. 

It’s been 17 years now since we sold our farm and I miss those black raspberries every summer.  We have created a lovely home in Cleveland Heights, with a huge front porch and gardens that wrap around the whole lot. I’ve planted an orchard now with lots of native fruits and herb beds, but until 4 years ago, it didn’t have any brambles! I have to admit that I finally planted some without asking my husbands permission.  Poor Jim! Well.. poor Jim until the first crop of enormous , juicy berries came in. After the first handful he was delighted, and although they still get wildly out of control and have ended up far from the places I have planted them, he is enjoying them very much. They were a great present for Alex that first summer when he came home from New York to find them fruiting wildly. It’s not often that you get to relive the past, but he went running out to the back yard when he saw them and stuffed himself until he couldn’t eat any more.  I hadn’t told him I’d planted them, I was keeping them a surprise. At this point, they’ve taken over my yard and my neighbors, but her children love them and I get to watch the cycle all over again. The brambly hedge is one of those wonderful plants that is capable of providing such amazing amounts of great joy.

Just keep your pruning shears sharpened.  

Hopelessly in Love with Lovage!~ (and a wonderful Poultry Seasoning Recipe!)



By Mary Lynn Fruit ~ WRHS Program Committee



 I am hopelessly in love with lovage.  My affair with this wonderful plant began a few years ago when we  introduced it into the Culinary Section of the Western Reserve Herb Society Herb Garden.  Indeed, it was love at first "smell".

Lovage ( Levisticum officinale)  is native to western Asia and southern Europe and is believed to have hitched a ride with the Pilgrim Fathers to North America.  It has been used since Roman times and is very popular here in the United States.  It has many uses, both traditional and modern.  At one time, its leaves were laid in shoes to revive the wandering traveler, and at inns it was served as a cordial which was flavored with tansy and yarrow.  Today, a modern form is made by steeping fresh lovage seed in brandy and sweetening it with sugar.

Lovage is strongly aromatic, which is very similar to celery; however, it is more pungent and hints of anise, lemon and yeast.  The parts used are the leaves, stems, roots and seeds.  (The stems of lovage are hollow and make wonderful natural and eco-friendly straws!)  It is very easy to grow by division or seed, doing equally well in the shade or sun.  Its deep roots need moist, fertile and well drained soil.  It is a perennial in zones 3-9; it dies down in winter, but is extremely hardy and returns each spring.  It is one of the first up in the spring growing up to 15 inches tall by the time the dandelions make an appearance, and can grow to be six to seven feet tall!  It makes a wonderful background border to any garden.  Like other early plants, it is loaded with vitamins - particularly vitamin B and C.

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Lovage has many culinary uses.  It can be used like celery or parsley in many dishes, however, keep in mind that it is much stronger than these and a little goes a long way.  Its delightful taste diminishes somewhat in cooking, so you will want to wait until that last bit of cooking to add it.  Leaves, stems (chopped) and roots work well in casseroles, soups and stews.  Young leaves make a good simple soup on their own or combined with potato or carrots and are used in seafood chowders.  In addition, the leaves are good in salads; older leaves add a wonderful taste to bean or potato dishes and are good in stuffing. Try Lovage-flavored potato and rutabaga gratin, potato cakes with lovage, cheddar and baked vegetable dishes.  Whole or ground Lovage seeds can be used in pickles, sauces, marinades, crackers and all sorts of breads.

If you have never met this divine plant, I urge you to come to our Herb Garden in the Spring and visit our Culinary Section.  We will be delighted to introduce you!  If you come to our Herb Fair in October (the second Saturday in October every year at the Cleveland Botanical Garden) we have packages of dried Lovage for sale. I promise you - once you have tried Lovage, you will be hooked!


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Here is a recipe created by Kathleen Gips for the best poultry seasoning that you'll ever try , just in time for Thanksgiving!

This is a traditional herbal blend to use to season turkey, duck, chicken, game, stuffing and gravy.


Mix together:

1/4 cup sage

3 Tablespoons thyme

3 Tablespoons marjoram

1 Tablespoon lovage

1 Tablespoon celery leaf

3 Tablespoons parsley

2 Tablespoons granulated onion

1 Tablespoon powdered rosemary

1 teaspoon granulated orange peel

 Use 1 tsp. for every 4 servings For full flavor crush herb leaves before using.

Herb Rub Recipe:
Mix 1/4 cup olive oil with 1 tablespoon of poultry seasoning. Stir to blend. Rub on outside of bird and under skin.

No salt or preservatives added.




WRHS Medical Disclaimer: In accordance with FDA and other government entity rules: the information and products you may learn about in regard to Herbal Wellness as a result of your association with WRHS are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. You, and you alone, are legally responsible for any and all decisions you make regarding the health of yourself, your family, children and your friends, clients and even your pets. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have learned as a result of your association with WRHS. Reliance on any information provided by The Western Reserve Herb Society, and members teaching or writing for WRHS or guests speaking at the invitation of WRHS, is used solely at your own risk.

Random Acts of Planting! ~ Sunflowers!

By Donna J. Payerle - Membership Chairman Western Reserve Herb Society


It is Autumn in Ohio and this morning while I’m filling the bird feeders, I wonder what will happen next Spring.   Last year I fed the cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, chipmunks, and squirrels birdseed with majority mix of black sunflower seeds.   The squirrels busied themselves defending their portion of sunflower seeds while dashing about my flower beds burying seeds.  What I didn’t understand until Spring was that they were busy planting sunflower  seeds.


This Spring I found about a dozen groups of emerging sunflower plants.   A few needed to be removed, but I kept nine of them to see what would happen.   Well lots did happen as they grew from 7 inches to 4 feet tall.   The sunflowers attracted goldfinches, humming birds, bumblebees, honey bees, wasps, and rather large ants.   Oddly enough I never saw a squirrel eating the  sunflowers as the goldfinches emptied them quickly.   I have three late blooming September sunflowers and their heads are bending close to the ground, so maybe the squirrels will eat those as the goldfinches have headed south.   If not, I will cutoff the sunflower heads and place them by the bird feeder, the squirrels will know what to do. 

Seeds are gathered and planted by squirrels of various shapes and sizes throughout the world from tropical rainforests to semiarid deserts, avoiding only the high polar regions and the driest of deserts.   Mankind started cultivating sunflowers about 2600 BC in Mesoamerica.   The North America sunflower was brought to Europe in the mid 17th Century.    Its popularity grew quickly and now it is a cherished flower on both continents.    


The sunflower brings joy as its round face follows the sun on sunny days.  It’s leaves are broad, coarsely toothed, rough and mostly alternate down the stem.  There are two types of flowers on a sunflower head.  There are the outer flowers, which resemble petals, called ray flowers.  Each petal is fused asymmetrical surrounding the center of the head called disk flowers in various shades of yellow, red and orange.  The disk flowers mature into seeds.   The disk flowers are arranged spirally, producing a pattern of interconnecting spirals where the number of left spirals and the number of right spirals are successive arranged.   The pattern produces the most efficient packing of seeds mathematically possible within the flower head.

Sunflowers are amazing for many reasons.  The fruit of the striped white and black seeds are a rich source of vitamins of the B group and E.  Cooking oils is made from sunflower seeds.   The sunflower is very hardy and will grow in just about any soil.  Sunflowers are able to absorb heavy metals and toxins from the ground and it is often planted in heavily polluted areas.   These plants were used to reduce nuclear pollution after Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disasters. 


So I’m grateful to the squirrels in my backyard who planted seeds last Autumn and brought joy to my front yard and herb garden.    I so look forward to finding out what was planted for next Spring. 

Western Reserve Herb Society Medical Disclaimer: In accordance with FDA and other government entity rules: the information and products you may learn about in regard to Herbal Wellness as a result of your association with WRHS are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. You, and you alone, are legally responsible for any and all decisions you make regarding the health of yourself, your family, children and your friends, clients and even your pets. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have learned as a result of your association with WRHS. Reliance on any information provided by The Western Reserve Herb Society, and members teaching or writing for WRHS or guests speaking at the invitation of WRHS, is used solely at your own risk.

Pictures are the property of  Donna J. Payerle

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Lattes!

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


The weather is getting chillier and in my home that always means adding more cinnamon, cardamom and ginger to just about EVERYTHING.   

Several years ago at the beginning of the pumpkin spiced everything craze, a good friend of mine posted a recipe for homemade pumpkin spice latte's. 

Although it was fairly intriguing, the recipe had a bit too much white sugar in it for my liking. That being said, my husband loves Starbucks Pumpkin Latte's and looks forward to their emergence all year, so I was determined to take a stab at creating one that might be a little bit healthier.  I worked on this recipe for a while and judging from his truly satisfied expression I succeeded!

So it goes, happy husband, happy life, happy life, happy wife! He gets his favorite drink and I have a healthier, less jittery husband! This recipes serves two generously! I’ve promised this recipe to our Ways and Means Chairman, Kathy Shriver for a while now, but it suddenly occurred to me with the holidays rushing in that all of us could use a delicious and creamy break every now and then.


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Trust me when I say that this is even more luscious and pleasurable on a chilly autumn night with a warming jigger of single malt stirred into it, a crackling fire and a piece of warmed pumpkin, apple or pecan pie! You can also make this with strongly brewed black tea if you don’t drink coffee. I’ve also included a recipe for my favorite pumpkin pie spice. If you’ve never made your own before, treat yourself as it’s so much fresher than anything you can buy. I’ve even had fun hand grinding most of the spices for it in a mortar and pestle.  You’ll need a hand grater for the nutmeg, but goodness, it’s so worth it, providing an experience in autumnal bliss all of its own! 


 2 cups milk (dairy or non-dairy)

1/2 cup of heavy cream (or Barista quality Almond Milk)

2 tablespoons pumpkin puree, or more to taste 

1 to 4 tablespoons maple syrup, depending upon how sweet you like your lattes’

1 teaspoon of organic salted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 to 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice, plus more for serving (recipe below or use what you have!)

1to 1-1/2  cups strong hot coffee- Viennese with Cinnamon is what I brew. 

Freshly Whipped cream for serving


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Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice


3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

2 ½ teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 ½ teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon of Star Anise


Blend together and store in a covered jar.


Instructions: Brew the coffee/tea.  In a saucepan whisk in

the other ingredients and heat until boiling, stirring gently.

Pour the heated milk, pumpkin and spice mixture into a Vitamix or blender along with the coffee.

Blend until smooth and pour into mugs.

Top with a dollop of whipped cream, a sprinkle of spice and enjoy!


For the evening, how about a stirring in a wee dram of single malt, bourbon or maybe even a bit of Drambuie?


Herbs — Out of the Past and Into the Future

By Kathleen Gips - ex officio Western Reserve Herb Society



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This year I have had the pleasure of speaking about herbs to two gatherings in north-east Ohio and Central Indiana. At both places, I was struck by the fact that hundreds of people are eagerly interested in learning about herbs. WRHS members already love herbs and are always eager to learn more about them. But what is the general public looking for?


In my travels I noted that their questions were different from the past. Instead of asking how to make pesto, they were asking how to sleep better at night using hops.


Let’s follow the path of herbs from the seventies to the present to see how engrained herbs become in our society and why their questions have changed.


In the 70’s

The 70’s were a reawakening in the uses of herbs to flavor foods. My own passion for herbs began in early 1972. My local garden centers were filled with geraniums and petunias. I was lucky to find a parsley or mint plant to purchase. I ordered my first herb plants from a Merry Gardens catalog, a peppermint leaf scented geranium and a bay plant. I was so enchanted with these “exotic herbs” that they kindled my passion to learn more.

Not many were versed on using herbs and there was little in print to use as reference. I found a 1972 Sunset book “How to Grow Herbs,” and I was off on the herbal journey of a lifetime. I read the book many times and made every product it suggested: potpourri, herb teas, butters, jellies, vinegars, salts. To go beyond the culinary uses of herbs, reading the works of Adelma Simmons introduced me to herbal celebrations and theme gardens. I soon realized that most people at the time knew little more than to use parsley as a garnish and mint in iced tea. A mention of lovage or santolina drew blank stares.


In the 80’s

The popularity of herbs heightened in the 80’s. People couldn’t get enough of hand made herb products. Herb Fairs were prevalent and many people attended these outings to buy their herb vinegars and jellies. Some of the more creative vendors introduced them to new uses and products like lotions and soaps. Herb plants were always for sale and many people bought them to start their own first herb gardens.

Emilie Tolley and Martha Stewart taught us how to garden, cook and decorate with herbs. Interest in the business of herbs increased and many herb shops opened. Books about herbs flooded the market. Was this the top of the interest curve?

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In the 90’s

Herb groups formed, specialty shops taught classes about herbs, and small companies like Burt’s Bees began to produce herbal products that entered the mainstream. People became interested in using herbal scents to fragrance their homes. Scented candles and potpourri were everywhere. Fairy gardens and fairy festivals expanded the uses of herbs to children.


In the 2000’s

Herbs exploded into the mainstream. The word “herb” became synonymous with “good for you.” Herbal shampoos, lavender scented Tide, and baby shampoos with chamomile became popular. Herbal products moved into Walmart, groceries, and drug stores.

Herbs were increasingly associated with improving health. Herbs were used to make our bodies healthier and our lives enriched through aromatherapy and skin care. Herbs fit well into the public interest in living more natural lifestyles and natural home cleaning preparations.

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2010 to Present

There is even more interest in natural herbal approaches to health and well being. Herbal teas flood the market to promote sleep, reduce stress, ease digestion, and boost immunity. Essential oils are frequently mentioned on websites and social media. Questions have become more sophisticated. People want to know which herbs they should grow in an herbal tea garden. How do I make a tincture? What herbs can I use for …?


We have come a long way. The Herb of the Year has moved from familiar herbs like lavender to more unusual ones like hops. My 1972 first book on herbs was 80 pages long and today we have a 300 page book on hops alone.


Our Mission

In the past we were ready to teach how to make a rose scented potpourri, a lavender sachet, Herbs de Provence and pesto.

As herbalists and herbal enthusiasts are we ready today to answer the new questions for the future?

In order to continue to be leaders in educating about herbs for “use and delight, meat and medicine”, the need to continue to educate ourselves is apparent. Let’s be on the wave of to-morrow and continue looking towards the future of herbs!

Herbal Self Pampering to help Soothe the Savage Flu!

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

It’s that time of year! I saw a funny meme yesterday that said, "Welcome to Fall..the time of the year when you need a sweater in the morning and are sweltering by the afternoon!"

It's so true! Autumn with all of it's changing weather has begun in earnest and all of the merriment and accompanying stresses of the holiday season are about to begin. As a way of winding down from all of the highs and lows of the season, so many of us seem to get sick on the 2nd of January! I’ve said for years that I truly believe that sometimes, catching a bug is our bodies way of trying to get us to relax for a bit!

Periods of hibernation, or seasonal contemplation as I’ve taken to calling them are a must for keeping our bodies resilient in this world with all of its external interruptions and stressors. I'm hoping that this article will help all of you think about ways that you can take care of yourself right now, so that by January, you're relaxed and feeling better than ever!'

Over the years I’ve learned to use my trusted herbal allies for supporting my immunity when I feel as if I could be perilously close to getting sick and when the flu or a cold actually hits me, I use many different herbs to help minimize my symptoms and overall discomfort.

Let's begin with the easiest and the best! My favorite tried and true recipe for Autumn pampering, once the heat has turned on? Earl Grey tea with honey, lemon, orange slices, several cloves, a slice of fresh ginger, a pinch of cayenne,  a cinnamon stick and a small tot of Bushmills Irish whiskey, more commonly known as a hot toddy! Just one steaming mug of this brew and I'm relaxed and ready to face whatever stresses the day might bring! If you don't drink alcohol, simply leave it out. The cayenne isn't a traditional part of the remedy, but it's so helpful for warming and calming a dry cough that I like to include it. 

My mother taught me many years ago that the single most important thing that you can do when you are ill or trying to stave off an illness, is to pamper yourself completely. She would always bring our breakfast on a bed tray, served on a pretty cup, bowl and plate and always with a bud vase with flowers. I got strep throat frequently as a child so breakfast was usually something soft, like a bowl of her wonderful chicken, rice and mushroom soup with thyme, cream and an egg beaten into it. She also used to make me an old-fashioned milk pudding that she called Junket which I loved, that she flavored with sherry, cinnamon and nutmeg. It always helped.

I still have a bed tray for myself and one in my Airbnb. I have many guests who come to stay that are recovering from surgery or other illnesses.  They have told me that being able to just relax and have their meals in bed without concern really helps to support their healing process.   If you can’t find a bed tray, you can use an old carving board or tray and it will work just as well! 

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The other thing my mother was absolutely insistent about was that if I was sick, it was especially the time for just a bit of lip gloss, some facial moisturizer, a touch of perfume and particularly lovely pajamas. She’d brush my hair out until it was shiny, touch up my lips and face (a big help because then your skin will resist chapping!) and put just a drop or two of one of her lovely perfumes on my wrists and neck. She’d take me into the library, seat me right by the window and wrap me up in a blanket with a hot cup of lavender, sage and lemon balm tea and hand me a book.  When I looked in the mirror I hardly ever looked as bad as I was feeling and you know what? I always started to feel better.  Simply taking the time for a bit of self-care is absolutely a necessity for supporting the healing process.

Although my mother used her lovely Shalimar bath oil for our convalescence, over the years I’ve learned to take my  baths with a tablespoon of sweet almond oil mixed with 3 drops each of essential oils of lavender (supportive and relaxing), rose oil (supports the reduction of inflammation) and sweet birch (to promote sweating). This really seems to always help with congestion, aches and fevers. Please remember to never use essential oils in your baths without a carrier oil. Even in the smallest dosages, essential oils are strong and they need the emollient qualities of an oil like almond or olive to serve as a soothing delivery system for your skin. 

Last winter I caught the flu and I've never been quite as sick as I was for that month. The newest strains of influenza are really dangerous, turning into pneumonia or ending with a cough that can last for over a month. Even with a flu shot, people are experiencing severe and longer periods of illness, that are unprecedented.

Once I realized that I didn’t have a simple head cold, I took myself to the urgent care center so I knew what I was dealing with. It was determined that I had the dreaded Influenza A. The doctor could prescribe nothing for it, and simply sent me home with the instructions to just stay in bed and drink lots of hot liquids and to call him if it got worse. I spent several days in bed and took care of myself using all of the herbal remedies that I knew would help support the healing process. 

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What did I do? I immediately went into my freezer for homemade bone broth and into my  herb and spice cupboard for my favorite wellness support!

Herb and spice filled chicken broths are well known to promote the movement of nasal congestion and thought to have anti- inflammatory and anti-viral properties. I always begin to feel better with every bowl I eat, proving once again the old adage..."Let your food be your medicine!”

For an immune-boosting soup I take cues from the Legend of the Four Thieves. In this story, aromatherapy, herbal and alchemical worlds collide and take on mythical proportions. The legend takes place when the bubonic plague hit Europe and killed large percentages of the population.

Supposedly four thieves from Marseilles were robbing plague-ridden corpses without getting sick. They are thought to have been perfumers with access to and knowledge of essential oils, herbs and spices.

At their trial the King offered the thieves leniency in return for the formula that protected them from the plague.  Their immunity boosting list included lavender, sage, cinnamon, turmeric, garlic, eucalyptus, rosemary, thyme, onion, mustard seed, cloves, oregano and lemon.

While the legend has never been confirmed, all of the herbs and spices (except eucalyptus) read like a delicious and immune-boosting chicken soup recipe to me; so into the stock pot they go. If I’m lucky enough to have fresh stinging nettles that’s a mineral rich bonus. I've learned to be prepared and this year during nettle season, I harvested plenty to go into the freezer. 

To serve this soup,  I will often top each bowl with whole basil leaves, hard boiled eggs, a slice or two of chicken, a dash of Himalayan salt and a squeeze of fresh lime. I can’t help but feel better with every bowl I eat. The same bone broth laced with nettles, onions,  leeks, garlic, egg noodles and coconut milk is a very soothing sip for a sore throat!

Legions of Jewish and Asian grandmothers absolutely knew what they were doing!

Another application of the Four Thieves legend is to make a simple spray. I make it with white wine vinegar and  essential oils -- lemon, lavender, cinnamon, clove, rosemary, sage, oregano, white thyme and eucalyptus. My formula is three cups of vinegar and 20 drops of each oil.  To use it I shake well and spray  countertops, cellphones and other surfaces. 

These same oils can also be diffused in an essential oil diffuser. Likewise, mixed into a body cream or lotion, eucalyptus oil, lemon, sage and lavender oils (no more than three drops of each oil!) make a soothing, aroma-therapeutic chest rub.

I hope we’ll never need these recipes to protect from anything as serious as the bubonic plague and I hope that none of you catch any of the awful bugs that are beginning to go around.  However, if you do, please treat yourself to some soothing herbal self-care and pampering.  I promise that you’ll feel better and if you can sooth yourself into feeling just little bit better, it always seems like the body will reach deeply into its own healing reservoirs and do the rest of the work for you. 

Somewhere as I’m typing, I hear my mother’s sweet laughter and the smell of her oniony, velvety chicken soup is suddenly wafting through my senses. It’s amazing how potent the memory is.  She would be pleased to know that I still own a bed tray and that I always use her lovely sick bed dishes with the raised purple violets.


Yes mama…you always did know best. 

Thank you.


Medicinal Disclaimer and About the Western Reserve Herb Society

In accordance with FDA and other government entity rules: the information and products you may learn about in regards to Herbal Wellness as a result of your association with WRHS are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.  You, and you alone, are legally responsible for any and all decisions you make regarding the health of yourself, your family and your friends and even your pets. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have learned as a result of your association with WRHS. Reliance on any information provided by The Western Reserve Herb Society, members teaching or writing for WRHS or guests speaking at the invitation of WRHS , is used solely at your own risk. 



Immunity Supporting and Spicy Fire Cider!


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

I don't know how cold it is where you live but here in Northeast Ohio,  it's going to be getting very chilly, very soon! In November when the temperatures begin to dip into the lower digits and the impending holiday madness is looming, I can really begin to feel rundown, almost like I just want to hibernate for a while. That's when I know that it's time to make a batch of immune enhancing fire cider!

Fire cider was made popular many decades ago by Rosemary Gladstar who is one of our most knowledgeable and traditional American herbalists. It  is a well-known and well-loved immune support and balance remedy full of warming herbs, roots, vegetables and spices. Everything used in it is dedicated to warming the blood, promoting immunity and better circulation while helping to stimulate the digestion and the lymph system.

Every herbalist seems to make theirs just a little bit differently so fire cider never tastes the same from one batch to the next. I like mine very spicy and heavy on the garlic and horseradish. I add beets for color and also as a blood purifier. Warning! Just a little of this goes a long way and if you've got blocked sinuses, this is your perfect food! Always remember that these herbs and spices are strong and can sometimes  cause contraindications with medicines you may be taking . Always check with your Doctor or Pharmacist first.

 I hope that you'll have so much fun making your own batch of fire cider this year. Herbal remedies like these have always been passed down from generation to generation; almost every herbal culture has some form of this wellness remedy.

 Unlike most of my tinctures that  usually call for alcohol or glycerin,  fire cider is vinegar based so it's really a fermented food , not just an herbal medicine. The apple cider vinegar base is so good for your digestion and it helps you to create an alkaline environment in your body,  which is necessary to support the immune system’s ability  to function in tip- top shape.


For each mason jar of Fire Cider you will need:

1/3  cup of chopped onion

2 tablespoons of chopped fresh horseradish root

1 tablespoon of chopped Jalapeno

2 tablespoons of chopped red beet

2 tablespoons of chopped ginger

2 tablespoons of chopped garlic

1 cinnamon stick

1 stem of fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon each of Turmeric and Mustard Seed

1 slice of lemon

Layer all of these in a mason jar and cover with several tablespoons of a dry red wine (full of antioxidants) and raw apple cider vinegar. Close the jars and shake until the ingredients are well blended and let them settle. this year I used my Cuisinart to chop the vegetables and I noticed that within two hours everything had settled in the jar and I needed to add more apple cider vinegar, an outcome that I really liked. Note that you want everything steeping under  the liquid to prevent spoilage. Next let them steep for a week or two in a cool dark place, then when you are ready, strain and decant the fire cider into a larger jar. Add several tablespoons of raw honey and stir. Then strain the fire cider into small dark glass bottles or a larger bottle if you like and refrigerate. When you're feeling rundown, you can take a teaspoon of it but prepare yourself. The heat produces such a wonderful energy, not a burning, but a warmth that spreads all the way down to your toes! 

I also like to use my fire cider to cook with. You can make slaw with it or thicken it with even more honey and use it as a glaze for a delicious pork tenderloin or chicken stir-fry. How about mixing it with a bit of walnut oil for a perfect salad dressing. Because of the earthy balancing nature of the ingredients used, I like to mix my fire cider with nut oils, not olive because I think that the blend tastes richer. Last but not least although I know that it sounds a bit blasphemous,  fire cider is absolutely delicious mixed into tomato juice and makes a perfect Bloody Mary! Any way you use it, you'll be very glad that you've taken the time to make a batch the next time that you're feeling just a wee bit chilled and under the weather.  

Western Reserve Herb Society Medicinal Disclaimer: In accordance with FDA and other government entity rules: the information and products you may learn about in regard to Herbal Wellness as a result of your association with WRHS are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.  You, and you alone, are legally responsible for any and all decisions you make regarding the health of yourself, your family and your friends and even your pets. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have learned as a result of your association with WRHS. Reliance on any information provided by The Western Reserve Herb Society, members teaching or writing for WRHS or guests speaking at the invitation of WRHS , is used solely at your own risk.