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Urban Garden Harvest ~ Early June

It is early June and here are some of the delicious vegetables coming out of our urban garden. Our first harvest included Cherry Belle Radishes, lettuce, spinach and all kinds of herbs including dill, cilantro, parsley, lemon balm, bergamot, lemon verbena, marjoram, thyme, oregano, holy basil, and rosemary.

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The kids enjoyed harvesting the radishes, big and small. They are excited about growing their own food. Planting, watering, harvesting and taking care of a garden are a good life skill that may just come in handy.  When we started our Urban Garden in the Front Yard, we wanted it to be a full contact sport.

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Different kinds of lettuce and spinach are in full force. I love running out the front door and chopping fresh veggies and herbs for a nice salad to go with dinner or as a big part of dinner. The lettuce and spinach regrow relatively quickly so we are able to enjoy a lovely salad everyday. There is something wonderful about eating produce cut minutes before it is consumed.

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Below is a sample of the salads we have been making over the last few weeks.

Radishes, spinach, lettuce and dwarf kale. Fresh dill, holy basil, lemon verbena, cilantro and parsley make it into the salad, too.

I keep the vinaigrette simple, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil, 1 table spoon of Balsamic Vinegar, 1 tablespoon of real Maple Syrup.

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Strawberries are almost ready. They will make a fantastic addition to salads. That is, if they don’t get eaten up first.

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Nasturtium flowers are edible and add a lovely decoration and taste to any salad. Here is our fist flower.

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~Grow~Share~Thrive~

 

All photographs are original by Jane Grueber.

 

 

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Healing Herbs ~ Lemon Verbena

This is one of my favorite herbs in the garden. Although it is trickier to grow in colder climates, this herb is well worth a try if only for its spellbinding lemon-scent.

Lemon verbena grew originally in Chile and was first brought to Europe in the 18th century by the Spanish for its perfume.

I use the leaves of this herb in all sorts of culinary creations during the summer time. Dried leaves, when picked while green, keep their color and scent and can be stored in a damp-proof container over winter.

In cooler climates, lemon verbena needs to be brought indoors or into a greenhouse over winter.

Amazing Benefits Of Lemon Verbena from OrganicFacts.net

Some of the most fascinating health benefits of lemon verbena include its ability to help with weight loss goals, protect your muscles, reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, calm the stomach, reduce fevers, soothe nerves, and clear up congestion.

Lemon Verbena

Although lemon verbena is native to South America, it has largely become a globally accessible plant and herb due to its powerful medicinal effects and qualities as a food additive. Scientifically known as Aloysia citrodora, another common name besides lemon verbena is lemon beebrush. The plant itself is a perennial shrub that has a powerful lemony scent that intensifies when the leaves and flowers are touched or bruised. The shrub can stand 2-3 meters high and has small purple and white flowers. Its initial widespread use was as a food and flavoring additive, particularly adding leaves to poultry and fish dishes, as well as salads, dressings, jams, and various beverages. However, the traditional uses of lemon verbena as a medicinal herb have come back into fashion, especially since modern research has revealed a wealth of unique components that make this plant very important for human health.

The essential oil of lemon verbena, when extracted, contains a high concentration of powerful antioxidant compounds, including verbascoside, nerol, geraniol, and citral. The most common use of lemon verbena outside of herbal pill supplementation is as an herbal tea. The leaves can be dried and then steeped for a powerful boost to many of your organ systems and metabolic processes. Now, let’s take a closer look at some of these impressive health benefits of lemon verbena.

Culinary Uses

Fresh leaves are used to flavor oil and vinegar, drinks, confectionery, cakes and stuffing. Try adding a teaspoon of chopped, fresh leaves to vanilla ice cream for a delicious dessert. I love this surprisingly refreshing combination of ice cream and lemon verbena. The fragrant, slightly sweet scent just takes dessert to the next level.

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Having a get together? Or just looking for an easy, refreshing summer treat? Try making Paletas (ice pops) using chopped lemon verbena, cucumber, mint, lime juice, lemon balm, bergamot and maple syrup. On occasion, I have turned these ice pops into Mojito Paletas. A refreshing take on ice pops that adults can’t seem to get enough of.

Fresh from the Garden Paleta Recipe

Makes about 6 ice pops

Blender & Ice pop molds, wooden sticks (optional)

4 1/2 oz cucumber, cut into chunks  125 g

1 1/4 cups of water  300 ml

3 to 5 tablespoons of real maple syrup (base the amount on your preference – I find 5 tablespoons too sweet so I’ve settled on 3 tablespoons)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice 15 ml

1 to 2 tablespoon finely chopped lemon verbena, lemon balm, bergamot, and/or mint (the combination of these herbs gives off a wonderful, soothing aroma and a subtle, sweet taste in the finished paletas.

BTW – This recipe works just fine with just cucumber and mint.

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From left to right: Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Mojito Mint and Bergamot

How To

  1. In a blender, combine cucumber, water, real maple syrup and lime juice; blend until smooth.
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 2. Strain through a sieve to obtain a clear juice. Stir finely chopped herbs into juice.
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3. If you like, add slivers of cucumber to the ice pop molds. Pour ice into the molds, dividing evenly. Freeze for 8 hours, until firm, inserting wooden sticks when partially frozen.
4. Run mold under a stream of hot water to remove ice pops.
5. I also pour this juice into ice-cube trays and add it to water for a refreshing summer drink.

 

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Lemon Verbena Tea

Use fresh or dried leaves to make a refreshing, soothing tea at night. Apparently, it can also soothe bronchial and nasal congestion and ease indigestion. However, long-term use can cause stomach irritation so use in moderation.

  • 1/2 cup of fresh mint leaves (not the stems, they’re bitter), rinsed, lightly packed (about 20 leaves)
  • 1/4 cup of Bergamot leaves (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of fresh lemon verbena leaves, rinsed, lightly packed (about 10-15 leaves)
  • 2 cups of water

Place the mint and verbena leaves in a teapot and pour the hot water over the leaves. Let sit for 3-5 minutes. Strain into tea cups.

""FYI

As I write about the different herbs in our garden, my hope is that I commit some of this information to memory or, at least, create a reference for beginning herb enthusiasts.

The information written here is collated from a number of sources (listed below) and is intended for reference and information purposes only (including my own because my mind is like a sieve). Consult a physician before taking or using herbs to treat any condition. 

 Resources

3. McVicar, Jekka. (2010). Grow Herbs: An inspiring guide to growing and using herbs. Dorling Kindersley Limited, London.
4. McVicar, Jekka. (2006). Jekka’s Complete Herb Book. Silverdale Books, Leicester.
5. Laforet, Marie. (2016). The Best Homemade Vegan Cheese & Ice Cream Recipes. Robert Rose Publishing, Toronto.

 

All photographs are originals by Jane Grueber except ‘Tea Time‘ which appears courtesy of Pexels.com

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Healing Herbs ~ Hyssop for the Garden

“Treat the earth well.
It was not given to you by your parents,
it was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors,
we borrow it from our Children.”

Ancient Native Proverb

 

As I write about the different herbs in our garden, my hope is that I commit some of this information to memory or, at least, create a reference for beginning herb enthusiasts.

The information written here is collated from a number of sources (listed below) and is intended for reference and information purposes only. Consult a physician before taking or using herbs to treat any condition. 

Hyssop

This herb has a long and interesting history as well as a reputation for being a ‘protector’. Found in the Mediterranean, it has been cultivated in gardens for over 600 years. It’s antibiotic properties and astringent properties may have been the reason why lepers were bathed in hyssop and why the Persians used distilled hyssop water as a body lotion to give a fine color to their skin. Hippocrates recommended hyssop for chest complaints. The Romans even used hyssop because they believed it helped protect them against plagues. It’s popularity as a powerful essential oil, medicinal plant and aromatic herb and is even mentioned in the Bible.

Native Americans found many uses for this plant. They included it in their medicine bundles and burned it as incense for protection. Its uplifting fragrance was also used to treat depression.

Hyssop, or hyssopus officinalis, is a herbaceous plant of the genus Hyssopus, and it’s native to Southern Europe, the Middle East and the region surrounding the Caspian Sea. Its name comes from the Hebrew word adobe or ezob, which literally means “holy herb.”

Anise Hyssop (different from hyssopus officinalis) is a blessing to any gardener. The foliage of Anise Hyssop actually smells like licorice with complex notes of lemon, pine, sage, black pepper and camphor. There is no floral scent. Leaves and flowers are edible and may be baked in breads or added to salads. It is a feast for the senses and well deserving of its place in the wild garden.  Deer avoid eating this plant but rabbits love it. Hummingbirds also find it attractive and goldfinches eat its seeds.

The findings of this chemical breakdown revealed that hyssop possesses valuable high-antioxidant properties for culinary and medicinal use, especially because it serves as an antioxidant.

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Today, hyssop is used for digestive and intestinal problems, including liver and gallbladder conditions, intestinal pain, and loss of appetite. It’s also used for respiratory problems in various ways, such as eliminating coughs, helping to prevent the common cold and respiratory infections, soothing sore throats, and as one of the natural remedies for asthma.

The Hyssop Plant and Components

Hyssop is a woody shrub with dark-green leaves, and the flowers are fragrant and colorful; in the summer months, the plant produces blue, pink and white flowers.

The stalks are cut twice a year, at the end of spring and beginning of fall. Once they are cut, they’re dried, which takes approximately six days. When it dry, the leaves and flowers are chopped finely, and the mixture can be stored for up to 18 months. The plant can also be used to make an essential oil, extract and capsule.

Hyssop is part of the mint family, so it has a minty taste that can be intense when added to foods. It’s best to use the herb in smaller quantities when adding it to salads, broths or soups.

8 Hyssop Benefits by Dr. Josh Axe

1. Heals Respiratory Conditions

Hyssop is antispasmodic, meaning it relieves spasms in the respiratory system and soothes coughs. It loosens phlegm that has been deposited in the respiratory tracts. This property helps heal infections from the common cold, and it helps treat respiratory conditions.

Hyssop can also work as a remedy for sore throats and lung inflammation, making it a great tool for people who use their voices throughout the day, like teachers, singers and lecturers. The best way to soothe the throat and respiratory system is to drink hyssop tea or add a few drops of oil to your throat and chest.

2. Fights Parasites

Hyssop has the ability to fight parasites, which are organisms that feed off the nutrients of other organisms. Some examples of parasites include tapeworm, fleas, hookworms and flukes.

3. Fights Infections

Hyssop prevents infections from developing in wounds and cuts. Because of its antiseptic properties, when it’s applied to an opening of the skin, it fights infection and kills bacteria. Hyssop also helps in healing deep cuts, scars, insect bites and even can be one of the great home remedies for acne. Hyssop has antibiotic properties from the plant’s volatile oils. While the antibiotic properties are generally strong, they show the best results on shallow wounds and fungus infections.

4. Increases Circulation

An increase in blood flow or circulation in the body benefits the heart and the body’s muscles and arteries. Hyssop improves and promotes circulation because of its anti-rheumatic properties. By increasing circulation, hyssop can work as a natural remedy for gout, rheumatism, arthritis and swelling. Your heart rate lowers when your blood circulates properly, and then your heart muscles relax and your blood pressure flows evenly throughout the body, affecting every organ.

So many people are looking for natural arthritis cures because it can be a crippling condition. Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, occurs when cartilage between joints wears down, causing inflammation and pain. By increasing circulation, hyssop oil and tea inhibit swelling and inflammation, allowing the blood to flow through the body and relieve the pressure that builds up because of clogged arteries.

Because of its ability to improve circulation, hyssop oil is also a home remedy and treatment for hemorrhoids, which are experienced by 75 percent of Americans at some point in their lives. Hemorrhoids are caused by an increase in pressure on the veins of the anus and rectum. The pressure on the veins causes swelling, pain and bleeding.

5. Relieves Muscle Pain and Spasms

Almost everybody has likely experienced discomfort in his or her muscles at some point. Because almost every part of the body has muscle tissue, this type of pain can be felt practically anywhere.

In addition, hyssop oil helps the body rid itself of excessive salts, fluids, sodium and other toxic substances through urine. As a natural diuretic, hyssop oil reduces inflammation, swelling and rheumatic pain.

6. Supports Healthy Immune Response

Hyssop improves circulation and digestion, while it kills bacteria and parasites — all of these benefits boost the immune system to work properly. By decreasing inflammation and allowing blood to run through our organs, hyssop oil maintains the function of the entire body.

7. Helps Digestion

Hyssop oil is a stimulant, so it increases the production of secretions, like bile, digestive enzymes and acid. These gastric juices are necessary in order to break down food as it makes its way to the stomach. We have digestive juices that contain enzymes in order to speed up the chemical reactions in the body and break down food into nutrients.

By facilitating digestion, hyssop oil helps with the decomposition of complex proteins, carbohydrates and nutrients. Because the digestive system interacts with all other body systems, including the nervous, endocrine and immune systems, the role that hyssop plays as a stimulant is very beneficial. Hyssop oil can also be helpful with releasing gas and indigestion.

8. Promotes Skin Health

Hyssop oil has the power to diminish the look of scars and work as a natural treatment for acne, pox, boils, stretch marks or wounds. It also promotes cellular regeneration, and the growth of new skin makes old marks fade away. Because hyssop oil is antiseptic, it can kill bacteria on the skin and fight infections. Applying a few drops of this beneficial oil to your skin keeps you looking younger and healthier.


Growing Hyssop 

Hyssop does best with well-drained soil and full sun, and when it becomes too big, it needs to be clipped. The plant attracts butterflies, hoverflies and bees, which encourages pollination naturally. It also makes an excellent companion plant to cabbage to keep away cabbage whiteflies.

If you plan to pick or cut the leaves for drying, do it on a sunny day to ensure that you get the highest concentration of active ingredients. Let the leaves air-dry in a sunny place with plenty of air and circulation; it takes about six days before they’re completely dry. For storage, keep the dried herbs in an airtight container.

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Make Your Own Essential Oil

Before drying the plant, you can make your own essential oil. Cut the leaves and flowers of a mature hyssop plant early in the morning. Rinse them and let them dry completely, then chop them up into fine pieces. When you crush the chopped pieces, the oil begins to come out of the herb slowly. All you need is a few drops mixed with a carrier oil to take advantage of hyssop’s wound-healing and vaporizing capabilities.

  • For aromatherapy, diffuse or inhale 3–5 drops of hyssop oil.

Hyssop Tea Recipe

To make your own hyssop tea, start by boiling two cups of water. Add two tablespoons of fresh hyssop leaves to the water and let it steep for 30 minutes.  It is also recommended that you brew the hyssop tea in a closed container. This prevents the beneficial essences of the tea from escaping. After preparing the tea, you can enjoy hyssop tea two or three times per day.


Possible Side Effects and Precautions 

Hyssop is considered safe for most people in the amounts commonly found in foods and in medicinal amounts. It’s not safe to use hyssop during pregnancy because it might cause the uterus to contract or start menstruation, and these effects could lead to a miscarriage. It’s not known whether hyssop is safe to use during breastfeeding, so avoid using it or speak to your doctor first. Do not give hyssop to children; convulsions were reported in a child who took 2–3 drops of hyssop oil over several days.

If you have a history of seizures, do not use hyssop because it may trigger seizures or make them worse. When using hyssop oil, do not exceed 30 drops a day because it’s a convulsant and may increase your risk of having a seizure. Hyssop is also known to increase blood pressure, which can be beneficial to people with low blood pressure, but problematic for people who are trying to lower their levels.

Resources

  1. McVicar, Jekka. (2010). Grow Herbs: An inspiring guide to growing and using herbs. Dorling Kindersley Limited, London.
  2. McVicar, Jekka. (2006). Jekka’s Complete Herb Book. Silverdale Books, Leicester.
  3. Website: Wise Woman Herbal Ezine: Nourish Yourself…Anise Hyssop: A Perennial Native by Thea Summer Deer
  4. Website: Dr. Josh Axe

Featured photograph of Hyssop by Jane Grueber

Other photographs courtesy of Pexels.com