Good Reasons to Grow Aromatic Herbs

One of the aspects of herbs that many people, including me, enjoy is their aroma. Working in the garden with herbs, weeding and pruning, we are surrounded by their fragrance. 

The aromatic aspects of herbs isn’t simply pleasing, however, it’s also beneficial. The graphic below gives an overview of some of the many reasons to appreciate aromatic herbs. 
The Healing Power of Scents

 

What Do I Do With Rose Hips?

February 2014

Ripe Rose Hips
Ripe Rose Hips

My friend Karen Ribble, Hair Braider extrordinaire and long time friend asked me about Rose Hips last month, so I decided to write this month’s newsletter to answer some of her questions and to refresh my own memory about how to harvest, use and store them. Since it’s February, the month of Romance due to Valentine’s Day, I thought this aspect of roses would be very appropriate. 

Roses have been used for flavoring, ceremonies and health for centuries. Evidence of the use of roses dates back to 2000 BCE in Crete where drawings of roses appear on the walls of the Palace of Knossos.

fresco at Palace of Knossos, Crete
You can see the roses in the upper right of the picture.

 

From that period forward to today, roses are evident in many cultures, including ancient Rome, Persia, India and China, to name just a few. Here is a short article on some of the ancient history of the Rose.

In America, fossil evidence of the rose has been dated to some 40 million years ago. It was then that a rose left its imprint on a slate deposit at Florissant, Colorado. Fossilized remains from 35 million years ago have also been found in Montana and Oregon. Here is further information on the Rose in Amercia from Texas A&M Horticulture.

Now that we have determined Roses are a fabulous flower, some originating in the United States, wtih myriad uses, let’s concentrate on Rose Hips, the seed pods of the Rose. Oh, you didn’t realize Roses produce seed? Of course they do. Just like any flower. It’s just that mostly Roses are grown from cuttings or, now, tissue culture, that we rarely think of growing Roses from seed.

Not all Rose Hips are created equal. If you notice the pods or hips on various rose types, some are very large while others are much smaller. The large hips are the ones prized for collecting for tea and other uses. Many people think the rose that produces the best hips is the common wild rose, also known as the Dog Rose.

rosa rugosa with hips
Photo courtesy of Maine Organic Farmer and Gardeners Association

 

 

Other roses produce hips, of course, some larger or smaller, some tastier than others. As always with collecting plant parts from the wild or your own garden, make sure they have not been sprayed or treated with an insecticide or pesticide.

Rose hips are traditionally collected in the fall, after they turn red. They’ll be sweeter after a frost, but it is not necessary to wait for a frost to collect them. Many people who grow roses never see the hips or seed pods because they dead head the flowers when they fade. To produce the hips, the flowers must be left on the plant to wither and die on their own so they produce the seed pod.

immature rose hips
Immature Rose Hips- you can see where the flower was on the end of the hip. Don’t they look like little green apples? Well, Roses are related to apples, so it’s no accident!

 

immature rose hips

Ripening Rose Hips

Photos courtesy of CharmaineZoe

Ripe Rose Hips. You can see the seeds inside.

ripe rose hips with seeds
Photo courtesy of Mother Earth Living

Now that we’ve established what Rose Hips are and where and when to collect them, what the heck do you do with them? Are all parts of the Hip edible? Well… not really. The seeds generally have lots of little hairs around them that are irritating to the mouth and can cause internal itching if quite a few are ingested.

Most people rid the seeds of the hairs by first drying the hips. Then, pulse them in a blender or food processor- or if you don’t have one, you’ll have to pound them a bit. The idea is to break up the dried hips into pieces about the size of coarse sea salt. Then, place the broken pieces of the hips in a strainer and shake it. You’ll see dust and the little hairs fall out. That’s it! There may be a few hairs left, but that won’t hurt you. Just keep shaking and stirring the dried hips in and around the strainer to get out as much of the dust and other parts that will fall through the strainer as possible. Then, you can store the hips in an air-tight container for later use.

Recipes using Rose Hips

Continue reading “What Do I Do With Rose Hips?”

Herbal Vinegar

To make herbal vinegar is very simple. Take a clean jar…..I like to use either a quart or pint canning jar because the mouth is wide enough to easily add the herbs. Fill the jar with the herbs of your choice. For a pint jar, about 2 cups of fresh herbs is enough. For a quart jar, 3 – 4 cups will work.

Then fill the jar with the vinegar of your choice. Wine or champagne vinegar is great, although costly when making a lot of vinegars. Next best is rice vinegar. You can usually find it in large containers (such as 1 gallon) at an Asian grocery. The cost is quite a bit lower than purchasing the vinegar in small quantities. As a last resort, you may use regular white vinegar…….the kind used for canning. It’ll give your vinegar a sharper flavor. But, it’s better than no herbal vinegar at all!!!

Harvest your herbs in the late morning after the early dew has dried, but before the heat of the day really sets in. The volatile oils are at their peak at this time. If you live where it’s dusty and the herbs need to be washed, swish them in a container of water briefly, then let them dry before making the herb vinegar. If it’s practical, wash the plants off the day before you plan to harvest them. Then, you don’t have to wash them the day you are making the vinegar.

Let the infusion steep for about 2 weeks. Then, pour off the vinegar, straining particles out if necessary. Now you can fill decorative bottles or any bottle of your choice with the flavored vinegar, adding a sprig or two of fresh herbs for looks.

Flavored vinegar should be stored in a dark place or at least out of direct sunlight. Experiment with some of the combinations below, or make up your own. Think of flavors that sound like they’d taste good together. Most of all, do it and have fun.

Herbal Vinegar Ideas

Continue reading “Herbal Vinegar”

Recipes Using Herb Vinegar

There are myriad ways to use Herbal Vinegar. It is easy to make a vinaigrette salad dressing using your herb flavored vinegar, use it to give soups and gravies a unique flavor, sprinkle it on grilled or steamed vegetables. The possibilities are limitless.

Herbal Honey Salad Dressing

1/2 Cup Olive oil
3 Tablespoons honey
3 Tablespoons herbal vinegar
2 Teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 Teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 Teaspoon paprika
1/4 Teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients and whirl in blender or shake vigorously in a jar.

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Basic Vinaigrette Recipe with Herb Vinegar

Yield: ¾ Cup

1/4 c. herb vinegar                                                                                                                                     1/2 c. good olive oil                                                                                                                                    1/2 teaspoon mustard (Dijon-style or prepared)                                                                                   salt and pepper to taste                                                                                                                               1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half

Blend all ingredients, except the garlic, thoroughly with a whisk or fork. Rub the salad bowl with the freshly cut halves of the garlic clove. Add washed and dried assorted crispy greens.

Pour the whisked-up dressing over the greens and serve promptly.

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Potato Salad

6 medium potatoes                                                                                                                                    1/4 cup Texas Tarragon vinegar (also called Mexican Mint Marigold vinegar)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped up

Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender (about 20 minutes). Drain the potatoes, cool until you are able to handle them, then peel the potatoes and cut into cubes. Pour the Texas Tarragon vinegar over potatoes then add onion and black pepper. Let sit 30 minutes then add remaining ingredients and refrigerate.

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Cucumber Salad 

2 Medium cucumbers
1 Tablespoon salt
1/2 Cup Cilantro herbal vinegar
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 Cup sliced sweet red pepper
1 small onion, sliced

Wash cucumbers and slice thinly. Place cucumber slices in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Let stand 2 hours, then drain off any liquid that has formed. Add red pepper and onion to cucumber slices. Combine Cilantro vinegar and sugar and pour over the vegetables. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.