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July 2014

Milady's Pantry & Stillroom - Claires Herbs: Crabapples

Jul 25, 2014
Crabapple- The Apple in the Ogham Tree Alphabet is the symbol of Love, Beauty, Generosity , Faithfulness and Fertility. It is also the Tree of 2 choices. Interesting to find Claire and Jamie sitting beneath one!

“Mounted once more in front of him, my own horse led by the rein, I tried to thank him for his help.

“No trouble, lass,” he said, dismissing my thanks.

“But it was a risk to you,” I said, persisting. “I didn’t realize you’d be in danger when I asked you.”

“Ah,” he said, noncommittally. And a moment later, with a hint of amusement, “Ye wouldna expect me to be less bold than a wee Sassenach lassie, now would ye?”

He urged the horses into a trot as the shadows of dusk gathered by the roadside. We did not speak much on the rest of the journey home. And when we reached the castle, he left me at the gate with no more than a softly mocking, “Good’ e’en, Mistress Sassenach.” But I felt as though a friendship had been begun that ran a bit deeper than shared gossip under the apple trees.”

Excerpt From: Diana Gabaldon. “Outlander.”  


  Tiny  and tart, most don't realize that the humble  yet beautiful crabapple is a serious powerhouse of nutrition. I grew up with a yard full of lovely crabapple trees so they are near and dear to my heart. Many a day was spent engaging in wars with crabapples used as the primary source of defense. Such is the imagination of children restless during their summer holiday!

When you aren't using them as weapons they can be pickled and served with cold meats and fowl and juiced with regular apples to provide a bit of wildness to your favorite juice recipe especially if you pick them after the first frost which increases their sweetness.  They have a very large amount of pectin and can easily be used in combination with other fruits to help the setting process for jams and jellies. A poultice of pounded crabapple  (Use a mortar and pestle for this!) can be used to treat small and inflamed flesh wounds. I like to dry them , chop them up and put them in tea with other sweet herbs like anise hyssop, stevia, spices like cinnamon and clove and  of course a good dollop of honey.  Be careful not to eat too many though...Like most apples they have a laxative quality which is very effective!


Below is a wonderful 10th Century  Anglo Saxon Charm. It's an amazing piece of history and I wanted to share it.


A page from a Saxon 10th Century Herbal

The Anglo Saxon 9 Wort Charm from the Lacnunga - a 10th Century Herbal

"Remember, Mugwort, what you made known,


What you arranged at the Great proclamation.


You were called Una, the oldest of herbs,


you have power against three and against thirty,


you have power against poison and against contagion,


you have power against the loathsome foe roving through the land. (Plague?)


And you, Waybread (Plantago?), mother of herbs,


Open to the east, mighty inside.


over you chariots creaked, over you queens rode,


over you brides cried out, over you bulls snorted.


You withstood all of them, you dashed against them.


May you likewise withstand poison and infection


and the loathsome foe roving through the land.


'Stune'(corn salad?) is the name of this herb, it grew on a stone,


it stands up against poison, it dashes against pain,


Nettle it is called, it drives out the hostile one, it casts out poison.


This is the herb that fought against the snake,


it has power against poison, it has power against infection,


it has power against the loathsome foe roving through the land.


Put to flight now, Venom-loather,(betony? or Nightshade?) the greater poisons,


though you are the lesser,


you the mightier, conquer the lesser poisons, until he is cured of both.


Remember, chamomile, what you made known,


what you accomplished at Alorford,


that never a man should lose his life from infection


after Chamomile was prepared for his food.


This is the herb that is called 'Wergulu'.(Crabapple?)


A seal sent it across the sea-right,


a vexation to poison, a help to others.


it stands against pain, it dashes against poison,


it has power against three and against thirty,


against the hand of a fiend and against mighty devices,


against the spell of mean creatures.


There the Apple accomplished it against poison


that she the loathsome serpent would never dwell in the house.


Chervil (or thyme) and Fennel, two very mighty one.


They were created by the wise Lord,


holy in heaven as He hung;


He set and sent them to the seven worlds,


to the wretched and the fortunate, as a help to all.


These nine have power against nine poisons.


A worm came crawling, it killed nothing.


For Woden took nine glory-twigs,


he smote the the adder that it flew apart into nine parts.


Now there nine herbs have power against nine evil spirits,


against nine poisons and against nine infections:


Against the red poison, against the foul poison.


against the yellow poison, against the green poison,


against the black poison, against the blue poison,


against the brown poison, against the crimson poison.


Against worm-blister, against water-blister,


against thorn-blister, against thistle-blister,


against ice-blister, against poison-blister.


Against harmfulness of the air, against harmfulness of the ground,


against harmfulness of the sea.


If any poison comes flying from the east,


or any from the north, or any from the south,


or any from the west among the people.


Christ (Woden?) stood over diseases of every kind.


I alone know a running stream,


and the nine adders beware of it.


May all the weeds spring up from their roots,


the seas slip apart, all salt water,


when I blow this poison from you."

From the Penn State Medieval Garden Page








Perfume Illuminated: A Very Special Outlander Inspired Perfume Collaboration!


“I had not seen Hugh Munro again, but I had wakened in darkness the night before to find Jamie gone from the blanket beside me. I tried to stay awake, waiting for him to return, but fell asleep as the moon began to sink. In the morning, he was sound asleep beside me, and on my blanket rested a small parcel, done up in a sheet of thin paper, fastened with the tail-feather of a woodpecker thrust through the sheet. Unfolding it carefully, I found a large chunk of rough amber. One face of the chunk had been smoothed off and polished, and in this window could be seen the delicate dark form of a tiny dragonfly, suspended in eternal flight.

I smoothed out the wrapping. A message was incised on the grimy white surface, written in small and surprisingly elegant lettering.

“What does it say?” I asked Jamie, squinting at the odd letters and marks. “I think it’s in Gaelic.”

He raised up on one elbow squinting at the paper.

“Not Gaelic. Latin. Munro was a schoolmaster once, before the Turks took him. It’s a bit from Catullus,” he said. 

“…da mi basia mille, diende centum,
dein mille altera, dein secunda centum…

A faint blush pinkened his earlobes as he translated:

Then let amorous kisses dwell
On our lips, begin and tell
A Thousand and a Hundred score
A Hundred, and a Thousand more.”

Excerpt From: Diana Gabaldon. “Outlander.” 


Dragonfly in Amber, Origins unknown

Have you ever read any of the Outlander series and come away with your head filled with the scent of romantic 18th century Scotland? You're about to find out what that time and place actually smells like! I am spinning like a top because on occasion, the stars line up and the moon lands in just the right place and an opportunity arises that is more thrilling than even I could possibly have believed , but first I want to introduce my friend Roxana Villa, Botanical Perfumer extraordinaire  who is one of my scented soulmates. She lives high in the hills over Los Angeles with her husband Greg Spalenka who creates some of the most wonderful visually beautiful art that I've ever seen.

Roxana Villa and Greg Spalenka

Roxana spends her days tending her honeybee hives, tincturing organic and exotic essences from faraway lands (and some nearby valleys!) and dreaming up the most ethereal accords to blend into her perfumes that I've ever smelled. She has a laugh like Titania and I do know her to be one of the Fey folk, because absolutely no one can capture the beauty and mystery of a simple flower like Roxana. The first time I met her, I came to her house and was greeted by a lovely woman proffering a cobalt goblet. "Have you ever tasted a jasmine hydrosol?" she asked. Indeed I never had and was immediately taken in by the loveliest scent that I'd ever experienced.  It was a rare  Sambac Jasmine hydrosol, misted over spring water. It was absolutely narcotic and Roxana has had me under her spell ever since. My husband sipped it as well and was rendered speechless. He still babbles on about that from time to time.....

So this morning, I posted an article about Roxana on my Outlander Love Affair Facebook page and shortly after that we had a conversation catching up after a long while because we've both been busy, me with the writing of my book and her with the opening of her gorgeous new Apothecary and teaching space in Agoura Hills , California.  In the middle of just chatting about things, I discovered that Roxana and her husband will be at the San Diego Comic Con promoting the release of his new book.

That's when the world started spinning and I had a creative brainstorm!

I typed faster than normal ... Me- "Hey, do you want to collaborate on an Outlander themed perfume?"....Roxana- "An Outlander inspired perfume? Sounds like fun, let's do it!...We should tincture and infuse a material that comes from Scotland that is relevant to the story!"  Me- "The books are amazing. I'll come up with a list. One of the most important parts of the story is a beautiful piece of amber...horse hair and leather are definitely important and so our notes from Guerlains original L' heure bleu !"  Roxana- "  "You know how I love Amber perfumes!"    

Huzzah and off we go! Whenever we get a chance to work together it's a wonderful experience for us both!


Q, currently my very favorite of Roxana's perfumes, her homage to the majestic California Oak.

So there you have it....The beginning of one of the most decadent and romantic perfume collaborations that the world will have ever seen! We'll be documenting the process every now and then on this blog and on Roxana's gorgeous Illuminated Perfume Journal. The best part? No animals will be harmed in the process. I like to think that a modern day Claire and Jamie would like that!

 Of course there will be giveaways on My Outlander Love Affair and Milady's Pantry and Stillroom!  I can't wait to begin!

For those of you at Comic Con in San Diego this weekend, you'll be able to meet Roxana and her wonderful husband. As soon as I have their booth number, I'll let you know!

If you're lucky enough to get to meet her, give her a hug for me! 

My Outlander Love Affair - Circling back through the Stones...

“I suppose I worry you’ll grow bored wi’ it here—in time.”
I paused before answering, though it wasn’t something I hadn’t thought about.
“In time,” I said carefully. “Jamie—I’ve seen a lot of things in my life, and been in a lot of places. Where I came from—there were things there that I miss sometimes. I’d like to ride a London omnibus again, or pick up a telephone and talk to someone far away. I’d like to turn a tap, and have hot water, not carry it from the well and heat it in a cauldron.

I’d like all that—but I don’t need it. As for a grand life, I didn’t want it when I had it. Nice clothes are all very well, but if gossip and scheming and worry and silly parties and tiny rules of etiquette go with them … no. I’d as soon live in my shift and say what I like.”
He laughed at that, and I squeezed his arm once more.

“As for the work … there’s work for me here.”

I glanced down into the basket of herbs and medicines on my arm. “I can be useful."  

Excerpt From: Diana Gabaldon. “Dragonfly in Amber.”  

Italian Village Oven- Origin of Photograph unknown

Here I sit, in a lovely coffee store connected to the entire world by the push of my wifi button. I live in the 21st century and I have every bit of technology that I need. I'm a woman who was the President of a prominent gift business for over 30 years, so I do know my way around the world of commerce.  I have clean water. I have plenty of food. I have a bed that moves up and down at the press of a button. I have powerful computers that have connected me to dozens of readers all over the globe and I have a deep and treasured relatedness with people that I will never meet in person but know very well. I wouldn't give that up for anything and yet.... 



 Lately I spend my days in my herb gardens and I've spent decades learning to harvest, tincture herbs and promote healing with plants and other earth energies.  My favorite way of seeing the world is on horseback or on foot. I've spent my life so far with a man who is more moved by love of me, our son and our family than he is by anything else except for his guitars, piano and the Celtic music that he loves.  I had a dream when we met, of winding his body in a beautiful silk cloth and anointing it with precious oils from many many centuries ago. It was a joyful dream and not at all sad. Shortly after that I had another dream, of standing on a craggy stone balcony in another lifetime with him and seeing the Beltane fires burning joyfully in the hay fields. That dream has never left me and that was when I knew for certain that I'd met the man who is my soulmate, the twin ray for all of my life. He moves through this crazy new world with the ease of a sage but he also knows how to milk a cow and "Strip the Willow". He owns a kilt and he is perfect for me. I love that even blindfolded I'd know him by his touch and his scent.....

 I dream of a world where we are so connected to the earth and each other again and I'm finally beginning to see it appearing, even among all of the madness. There are farmers markets on every corner where we gather together to buy our fresh foods for the coming week. I can't walk into a bar without being offered the latest craft beer or mead, in fact I've even begun to make my own beer and cheese again because everything is available for me to do so. We knit and sew and weave our own textiles. We're keeping chickens and bees. We make candles, soaps and perfumes. Urban backyard gardens have sprung up everywhere and so have community gardens. Every city that I've been to recently has it's own delightful distillery. What's next? Hopefully a comeback of the community bread  and stew oven? And why not? One fabulous by-product of the last 11 years of the recession is that many of us are cooking again. Homecooking is a delightful pastime, not something to be disparaged. My phone and more often lately my email is pinging constantly with questions about herbalism, Reiki and natural healing. It seems that we are clammering for something real, older knowledge that is tried and true. The old ways may be slower, but they work and there is no prescription that can heal better for most than the food that you put on your fork and the water that you pour into your glass.  

I sometimes read the news and I worry, will we save ourselves in time? Will we be able to survive our descent into the madness that the industrial revolution ushered in over a century ago?

I think that as long as there is music to dance to and love to be made, there is hope.  



 Funny thing is, even when surrounded by all of this technology I still hear the rhythms of the Bodhrans  and the voice of the fiddle singing to me of the  old ways that are calling me home. Perhaps, I too can be useful....


For more from Outlander Love Affair and Milady's Pantry & Stillroom please click here!

Milady's Garden , Stillroom and Kitchen : Claires Herbs - Rosemary




I have no idea who to attribute this to but isn't it pretty!


Take the flowers thereof and make powder thereof and binde it to thy right arme in a linnen cloath and it shale make theee light and merrie.
'Take the flowers and put them in thy chest among thy clothes or among thy Bookes and Mothes shall not destroy them.
'Boyle the leaves in white wine and washe thy face therewith and thy browes, and thou shalt have a faire face.
'Also put the leaves under thy bedde and thou shalt be delivered of all evill dreames.
'Take the leaves and put them into wine and it shall keep the wine from all sourness and evill savours, and if thou wilt sell thy wine thou shalt have goode speede.
'Also if thou be feeble boyle the leaves in cleane water and washe thyself and thou shalt wax shiny.
'Also if thou have lost appetite of eating boyle well these leaves in cleane water and when the water is colde put thereunto as much of white wine and then make sops, eat them thereof wel and thou shalt restore thy appetite againe.
'If thy legges be blowen with gowte, boyle the leaves in water and binde them in a linnen cloath and winde it about thy legges and it shall do thee much good.
'If thou have a cough drink the water of the leaves boyld in white wine and ye shall be whole.
'Take the Timber thereof and burn it to coales and make powder thereof and rubbe thy teeth thereof and it shall keep thy teeth from all evils. Smell it oft and it shall keep thee youngly.
'Also if a man have lost his smellyng of the ayre that he may not draw his breath, make a fire of the wood, and bake his bread therewith, eate it and it shall keepe him well.
'Make thee a box of the wood of rosemary and smell to it and it shall preserve thy youth."

          From the Bankes' herbal

I have always had a very passionate love affair with the Rosemarinus Officianalis, the oft romanticized herb of love and remembrance! I love to grow it and I usually am enjoying several different varieties at a time in my garden.  Each type is just a little bit different, some have pink  or white flowers and some have blue, some are the shrub type and some are trailing. Some have long stems and some are shorter.  All of them have a bit of the wonderful piney astringency that is the hallmark of the fragrant Rosemary plant. Many of them do wonderfully in containers and I have always found them very easy to grow in my northern and western gardens.   Honeybees adore them and if you’ve never had Rosemary honey please try to find some right away. You’ll be very glad that you did! Stirred into a bit of white wine, it's literally a sip of ambrosia!

In Southern California where I’m fortunate enough to spend quite alot of my time the Rosemary is lush and beautiful all year round. You find it growing everywhere, cultivated in lovely gardens but just as often growing wild on a beautiful hillside. I once went into an open house here in Del Mar because of the incredible fragrance that was wafting out at me from me from the street. Although the house wasn’t appealing to me at all, the patio was absolutely gorgeous. I spent a good half hour sitting outside next to the largest, healthiest hedge of Rosemary that I’ve ever seen, that was made even more delightful because it was covered with little blue flowers and industriously buzzing honeybees!

Rosemary infusing in olive oil.Origins  of photograph unknown. 

For years people have asked me what I use on my long hair to keep it healthy even through constant rounds of salon highlights .  My secret is truly simple, freshly harvested Rosemary needles that I’ve infused in a bottle of warm olive oil. I add a few drops of essential oils of Rosemary and lavender and several times a week I use a natural bristle brush to distribute a dime sized amount of the fragrant oil through my hair starting at the scalp and finishing at the ends.  Its smells wonderful and is surprisingly not greasy. When I wash it out, my hair is left with the delicious fragrance of the oils and feels soft and very supple.  That same homemade oil mixed with a few drops of birch oil and diluted to a much weaker strength makes a wonderful massage oil and when rubbed gently onto the stomach is a very effective antispasmodic, beautifully fragrant and much safer than any over the counter stomach remedy that you can buy!


This same Rosemary oil without the essential oil of Birch but with the addition of a drop or two (No more!) of essential oil of White Thyme is what I put into my bath when I’m feeling  just a bit under the weather.  A steaming mug of lemon water with a bit of cayenne pepper added and sweetened with local raw honey  is the final part of the treatment. Just lie back in the delicious warm water and sip. When you get out, snuggle into your softest pajamas and crawl into bed regardless of the time. When you wake up I promise that you’ll feel better, refreshed from the deep sleep that an herbal bath  and a bit of nurturing can bring!

Herbes de Provence- Origins of this picture are unknown

In my home I use fresh Rosemary in my kitchen at least 3 or four times a week ,  loving the fragrance that it imparts to  most everything that I prepare! Handfuls of fresh rosemary, meyer lemon and onion stuffed into a chicken before roasting make the pan juices absolutely delectable.  A bit of dried Rosemary mixed with a bit of olive oil, chopped shallot and sea salt turns the simple roasted potato into a dish that is almost otherwordly . Several long branches of Rosemary can be tied together with kitchen string and turned into a “scentuous” basting brush that you can use when barbecuing. Simply dip the leafy ends into any marinade or olive oil blend that you are using and baste the meat that you are grilling. The heat will release the oils in the Rosemary and leave the meat fragrant and sweet! Gamier meats like lamb , pork or rabbit can be made less pungent by marinating them in a mixture of fresh rosemary, olive oil and any sort of fruit infused vinegar for several hours.  Blend a mixture of chopped fresh rosemary and lightly salted butter for a wonderful steak butter to top  a lovely grilled bistecca!  Rosemary branches that have been soaked in water will create a delicious smoke when tossed atop applewood chips and used as an aromatic to flavor fresh fish or any other meat that you’re cooking on the grill. 

Quite often dried Rosemary is one of the herbs used in combination to create the remarkable Herbes de Provence, a mixture that usually will include thyme, fennel, lavender flowers, oregano, basil , savory and chervil. Herbes de Provence is wonderful when baked into a loaf of whole grain bread or mashed with just a touch of truffled salt into a  fresh fromage blanc  and stuffed into a chicken breast that you’ve baked with a bit of  fresh spinach and tomato.  Delicious!

Here’s the easiest recipe I know for a garlic spread that is just wonderful!  All you need is about 30 cloves of peeled garlic and a Cuisinart . Put the cloves into the bowl and add a bit  (just a bit!) of sea salt, the fresh herbs of your choice,  or a good Herbes de Provence mixture. Turn it on and on the pulse settings blend the mixture until smooth adding a thin stream of  flax seed oil.  The mixture should be creamy and smooth when you are done and you can use this for many things. It makes a delicious dip for raw , steamed or grilled veggies and its an excellent  and healthy substitute for a traditional pesto sauce if you add a bit of vegan parmesan and some walnuts! It’s a perfect spread for garlic bread or any type of Crostini!  One of my favorite uses for it is rubbed underneath the skin of a chicken or all over a standing rib before roasting.  Trust me, there is no better aroma for perking up your spirits on a really cold day! Just add a wilted spinach salad with a warm bacon dressing and a butternut squash roasted with cinamon, cream and maple syrup and a horn of rich ale and you're all set!


      For more of My Outlander Love Affair and Milady's Pantry & Stillroom please click here!





A very special giveaway from Outlander Love Affair & Milady's Pantry! Enter to win this gorgeous L' Heure Bleue scented porcelain pomander!

A very special giveaway ! Lheure Bleue scented porcelain pomander!
This beautiful porcelain pomander filled with my personal blend of L'heure Bleue scented potpourri can be yours!

So as luck would have it the other day I found myself wandering through a lovely vintage store after enjoying a lovely afternoon tea with my friend Kathleen! There were lots of lovely pieces and many that caught my eye, but I really hadn't intended to purchase anything. I'm a sucker for pomanders though of all shapes and sizes and I tend to have a 6th sense for spotting them!

This beauty was sitting in a corner all by itself and I couldn't resist bringing it home. I opened and filled it with my personal blend of herbs, spices and petals (including Lavender, Rose, Calendula and Pink Szechuan Peppercorn!) that has been scented with Claires favorite, Guerlains L'Heure Bleue perfume! I took one sniff and decided that I wanted to be generous with it...This pomander is absolutely beautiful and it could be yours! Slip it onto a hanger in your closet or into your lingerie drawer and its wonderful scent will diffuse itself , making you feel happy and romantic everytime you notice it! 

Picture of Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall from the new Starz Series "Outlander" , based on the wonderfully romantic time travel novels based in 18th century Scotland by Diana Gabaldon 

If you want to enter this drawing, please go to my page Outlander Love Affair & Milady's Pantry on Facebook. Then go to the event page titled " Enter to win the L'heure bleue Scented Porcelain Pomander" and join the event (it will either say Join or Going) . I will choose the winner by random drawing next sunday , July the 20th at 11:59 pm. 

Good Luck!

Milady's Garden, Stillroom and Kitchen: Bloom where you're planted!



“I leaned back on my elbows and basked in the warming spring sun. There was a curious peace in this day, a sense of things working quietly in their proper courses, nothing minding the upsets and turmoils of human concerns. Perhaps it was the peace that one always finds outdoors, far enough away from buildings and clatter. Maybe it was the result of gardening, that quiet sense of pleasure in touching growing things, the satisfaction of helping them thrive.”

Excerpt From: Diana Gabaldon. “Outlander.”  


The moment I knew that I was doing it right....I let all of my plants go to seed and the next spring had to postpone planting because the Mourning Doves were born in my empty pots!

One of my readers remarked this morning when she was looking at one of the pictures of the gardens that I tend that "wow they are very pretty.....wish I had a garden. Sadly my plants on my Balcony are looking rather sad. " I wanted to reach through the screen and hug her. I was reminded of my own balcony gardens and what is what like learning to garden with no real soil, but looking down at tons of concrete. I wanted to tell her how proud I was of her for even  attempting to garden from several stories above ground. Maybe that sounds silly, but you'd be surprised how many people never even try.

My biggest mission in life and my laser focused vision for the world is that everyone has a garden of some sort and that  at some point in my life I will not drive past a single unused plot of land. It's easy to have a garden in the country, but when you can get one growing in the city I think that it's even better. You're growing a miracle and because others can see it, you'll inspire a miracle!  

Wherever you find yourself living, I truly believe that one of the most important things that you can do to enhance your life and preserve your health is to grow some of your own food. The spring after we sold our farm,  we moved into a third floor apartment. To say that I missed the dirt was something of an understatement, so I came up with the idea of turning our balcony into a mini urban farm. I was shocked at how much food I was able to grow in containers on that very small balcony and when I say small, I mean small. It was literally 7 feet long and four feet deep and fortunately it was about 9 feet high!

This was one small part of my container garden, 2 square feet of it to be precise! You are looking at spicy mesclun greens that I'd been cutting since mid april, basil and Italian flat leafed parsley, fresh marjoram and lots of edible violas and pansies! My favorite salad then was a composition of all of these things, on top of which I'd set a poached egg that had been basted in herb butter with lots of fresh chives, some prosciutto that was frizzled in the same butter, and a yummy wedge of perfectly ripened Brie with a toasted crouton or two! Sometimes I added a few spears of freshly steamed asparagus. Then I'd make a simple garlicky vinaigrette and enjoy it with a glass of champagne......Such amazing living out of about 5 dollars worth of plants!

I worked hard that year and the results were gorgeous. I remember being so proud when I discovered that the management office was driving prospective renters past to point it out. That first year I grew a bumper crop of tomatoes and fresh herbs, lettuces , carrots, strawberries and even sunflowers. I used the railings and the walls and I hung baskets from hooks that I drilled into the ceiling. As a result I had plenty of herbs for cooking, tincturing, turning into healing vinegars, fresh teas and I was able to have a green salad anytime I wanted. I replanted the lettuce in the fall, enjoyed it for a month or so and then added kale to the pots. I learned to make fresh goat cheese and I promise you that there is nothing like enjoying a fresh salad laced with strawberries and goat cheese and dressed with an herbal vinegar that you've grown and made with your own two hands. I even had sweet woodruff for my father's special May Wine recipe.

Come late fall that same year I let everything go to seed and as a result I had the most glorious birds all winter long. I was even more delighted to wake up one day to find a pair of Mourning Doves making a nest in one of my pots. We had the joy of watching their eggs hatch and the babies learn to to fly.



I was so excited.....These are everbearing strawberries that I' planted in two of my windowboxes that year. After wondering if they would ever flower, several weeks  later they rewarded me with loads of pretty white blooms. This week they are setting tons of fruit! The trick is patience I guess.....My intuition told me to just leave them alone and let them get established underground, sort of like raspberries do. Fruiting bushes like these do their work under the soil first and then usually at the point when you are about to toss them, suddenly explode with life! Fairly quickly  I had to go get berry netting as the robins were definitely keeping their watch!


That garden for me was my first real experience of blooming wherever you find yourself planted. My husband thought I was crazy until he began to taste it all. Our son loved it and still really enjoys helping me in the garden now that we've moved to a house with plenty of good growing space. I continued to utilize my balcony for containers of all shapes and sizes for many years and as a result of that personal experiment, I became inspired to help others learn to grow a bit of their food, as much as they can. Even if you don't have any more room for a simple pot of tomatoes, I promise you that that because you've grown them that they will be the best you've ever tasted. When you take responsibility for growing some of your own food, you begin to nurture yourself (and those lucky enough to get to eat it!) in the most intimate way possible.


If you make the choice to plant heirloom seeds then you've taken your food choices away from big ag , Monsanto and Dow Chemical AND you're also helping preserve our dangerously dwindling honeybee population, the honeybees being the proverbial "Canary in the Coal Mine" of our perilous dependency upon herbicides and pesticides. When growing season is done, save your seeds to replant next spring and you're doing your part to preserve  heirloom food choices for everyone!  Seed Savers Exchange is a non profit organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds and  they will help answer any questions that you may have! Are you ready to bloom where you're planted? Please don't heistate to contact me with any questions that you might have...I've always got time for a quick cup of tea and a conversation!

Milady's Pantry & Stillroom : Claire's Herbs - Folk Herbalism


Herbsjpg-297ffa5ad818a03d (1)
Basket from WRHS gardens/ photo origins unknown


Just recently I received this wonderful question on my Outlander Love Affair page  from one of my readers. 

"Hi! I have become interested in homeopathy since reading the Outlander series. I was wondering if you recommended books for starters? I am wondering what herbs should be staples in my garden, when the best times to harvest and store and their best uses? Any advice would be most appreciated! Thank you!"

 In response to this question I've decided to put together a simple series that all who are just learning can benefit from. An herb garden can be planted for many reasons and many who've read the Outlander series become completely inspired by Claire and decide to plant one so that they can  create their own healing tinctures, infusions and tonics. The first thing that I need to say is that all students of herbalism need to remember that these plants are powerful medicines, even the ones used simply for culinary reasons. You need to be careful with them and treat them with the respect that they deserve.

Poke collage
From left to right: Pokeweed, Comfrey, greater Celandine

It's also important to remember that many herbs placed in the hands of a experienced herbalist are safe, but only because they know exactly what to do with them. Please ask questions first! For example Pokeweed, a gorgeous plant with large aubergine colored berries is quite poisonous at larger doses, but if prepared and used correctly can treat rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions of the bones, joints and intestines. Comfrey , an absolutely wonderful plant has been suggested to cause liver damage when used extensively and in the wrong way. At the same time, poultices of comfrey and infusions of comfrey are used by herbalists to promote healing of fractures, muscle and joint pain, earning it the name of boneset. I use comfrey all of the time but in the way that I've been trained to do so. By the way...If for no other reason ,you should cultivate comfrey for your compost pile. It's one of the finest natural fertilizers that we have! Greater Celandine is another plant that I used when my husband got hit in the liver directly while sparring during Karate. He had shoting pains in his side and he became jaundiced. The doctors weren't sure what to do so we brought him home and began doses of Celandine tincture and olive oil and warmed castor oil packs that I applied to his side. WIthin two days his color had returned to normal. Celandine is a wonderful herb but you must be careful. In high dosages it can damage the liver instead of heal it. 


Here's a list of some herbs to start a beginners garden with and all of these are culinary as well as medicinal. The purely medicinal herbs shouldn't be used personally until you've got some real experience under your belt and besides, there's more than enough simple and safe herbs to use to promote healing for almost any malady that you find yourself dealing with. Start with these, grow them and learn to use them well. 

Savory Herbs




Oregano/ Marjoram



Summer/ Winter Savory




Sweet Herbs

Anise Hyssop



The Lemon’s 

(Thyme, Balm & Verbena)

The Mint’s ( including catmint!)


Scented Geraniums

Traditional herbalism  (Folk herbalism) has been around for centuries.  All of the supplements  for sale in plastic bottles are a fairly recent phenomenon and readily available to us in a way the equivalent of a steak or chicken breast purchased wrapped in plastic is, which is to say conveniently. They are effective and I don't mean to suggest otherwise, but they are so removed from their source that their true subtle magic is almost impossible to discern. For that reason when I am asked to teach someone about the healing herbs, the first thing that I recommend is that they choose 3 or 4 at the most per season to become fully acquainted with. Be patient and you will be  rewarded for that effort in many ways.

For the sake of this discussion lets say that  you will have chosen 4 of my favorite herbs to plant in your garden this year, Lavender, any of the Mints (except pennyroyal which can be very dangerous if used incorrectly), Anise Hyssop and Sage. All of these can be planted in containers if you don't have a patch of land and they'll flourish that way.  Their uses are very simple to learn and apply.

Herb collage 3
From Top Left to right- Lavender, Mint, Anise Hyssop, Sage

Lavender can be used in teas and sleep pillows for relaxation and to help calm a frightful headache or a childs nightmares. Mints are wonderful for the digestion and a principle component of "Tummy Teas". They are also fabulous energizers and great allies to use when trying to break a coffee or nocotine addiction. Catnip (or catmint) is a fabulously relaxing mint and great for the stomach as well!  Anise Hyssop can be made into a poultice to treat burns and other wounds and it has an almost narcotic energy that relaxes you without sedating you. Infusions of garden Sages make exceptional mouthwashes and gargles for icky sore throats and I always grab a leaf or two of fresh sage to chew on when I feel myself to be a bit off of the mark. Blend these four together and infuse into a pot of hot water and you'll have a marvelous tea that's relaxing and restorative at the same time!

All herbs like different soils and some want wetter feet than others,  so you'll have to  really get intimate with them! Watch and listen.  I've got 4 different typeas of lavender right now and each wants something a little bit different in the way of sun and nourishment! Read about them, study them, draw them ,watch them, feed them and taste them ...that's how you'll get to know them and getting to know them is the key to using them. I've just scratched the tip of the iceberg! Keep a gardening journal and  notice what is happening to your plants day to day. Draw any bugs that you find on them, draw any specks or spots or flowers. That's how you'll learn what you need to know about them. 


Here are some simple harvesting rules for you:


Harvest Herbs after the morning dew has dried but before the hot afternoon sun 

(approximately 11:00 am)


Harvest before the plant flowers or after flowering when new growth appears


Wash every herb that you plan to eat in cool water until no dirt remains


Most herbs can be dried for later use


Most leafy herbs need to be stripped off their stems before using


Store dried herbs in glass containers away from heat and sunlight. Do not store them in plastic.


Freeze all herbs that you plan to store for at least three days, then thaw , strip and dry. This insures that you'll have no creepy, crawly visitors


Label and date all dried product. Don’t hesitate to toss aging herbs as they can become flavorless! If you can't bear to toss them, use them in potpourri


Generally do not mulch them as they don't need it. When feeding, less is more. Remember that you're going to eat the end result. Please stay away from any chemical based fertilizers  and herbicides.  Fish emulsion, chicken poop and a container full of ladybugs and several praying mantis cases are all you'll need!


Here are some great books to start your journey with, I've got hundreds in my library but these will get you well started!

Herb books



Next post we'll talk about my personal favorites....The wild allies! ( Some people call them weeds!)




I am not a registered nutritionist , dietician or personal trainer. I am a Board Certified Holistic Health  practitioner. Any advice that is given is based upon my own personal observations, opinions or experiences I've had in life and the training that I've accrued.  

 Many don't realize this but the herbalism is not regulated nor licensed by any governing body in the US. There are no real legal title designations for American herbalism. To maintain personal standards and relay the degree of learning obtained, herbalists in America typically use the title their school or teacher gave them . Use your own instincts to determine the level of expertise posessed by any practitioner that you consider using to help you enhance your health and well being. I am of the opinion myself that this places the onus on us to be teachers who will help you in your quest for wellness and that if we do our job right you'll be able to understand and utilize these plants, foods and extracts yourself for your overall wellbeing.