Costmary, the Garden Story

Hey there,

What the heck is Costmary?  Please be seated, I will be there in a moment.

So we’re back into Summer, here in Southern Ontario. In a big way! Holy smokes.  It’s like early August here this week – hot and humid.  My hair is so not happy.  Good thing I planted those cool weather seeds in my veggie gardens at the end of August >sigh< – they are struggling with the heat.  It was a good thing I didn’t bring in all my potted plants.  The Rosemary is picking up a bit in the hot sun.

Before this “faux” Summer, our nights were dropping to just above freezing…Apparently, Mother Nature is having a tough time making up her mind.  It’s like she’s going into her closet in the morning and wailing “I have nothing to wear” and BAM! She put on her “big pants” and…mixed bag. Everyone here is a little confused.

Nice to see all the city people up here in the country this past weekend for the Uxbridge Studio Tour wearing their fine Fall apparel…complete with sweaters and boots. 🙂  They did look a little warm…Me?  I rejoice still in my sandals, even though I do love the Fall.

I am starting to gather the greenies to dry for Winter use.  My garlic has dried and is still waiting in the barn for me to brush it off and trim the tops to store.  I won’t have quite enough for the entire year until next harvest is ready, but I have a fair amount.  I do use a lot of it.  So good for you!  YUM – I put it in everything.  I also like to roast some and store it in oil in the fridge.  That’s nice to use in cooking.

I’m drying sage, thyme, tarragon to use for cooking.  I bring in my Rosemary and use that fresh all Winter. The basil was used to make pesto with the garlic scapes.  I like to put a scoop of that in rice when it’s cooking.  Gives a nice flavour.  Also great on pizza or cheese and crackers. Mmmmmm

I’ve been making vinegars for salad dressing and oils for cooking and bathing.  There are many things you can use in oils.  Also a good way to use up stems at the end of the season.  Many carry good flavour.  I’m freezing parsley and Lemon Balm in ice cube trays.

Then there are the tea herbs: Lemon Verbena, the Scented Geraniums, of which I have quite a few varieties, Anise Hyssop, Mints, Lavender, Herb Robert and this year I’m going to dry some Costmary.  There it is.

← Ever heard of Costmary?

A lovely old-fashioned plant.  Does not grow wild here, or at least, is not native, but one small plant grows very large in just one season.  Very tough and hardy. It’s the leaves that you use – it is just now producing very small yellow button-type flowers, but they are fairly insignificant.  The scent of the leaves smells like Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum – you remember that, right?

Costmary is also called by other names:  Alecost, because it used to be used to flavour beer, Sweet Mary, which was used as a symbolic name for motherhood and used in a tea to ease the pain of childbirth, and my favourite, Bible Leaf, because…ready? It was used as a bookmark in bibles and was sniffed to keep one awake during particularly long sermons…not going there.  But very amusing, don’t you think?  To this day, many an old family bible will sport a dried leaf hidden within it’s pages.  Love it.  Whatever it’s name, it has a delicate lovely scent and taste in tea.

Story time:

You’ll recall that my Garden Club holds a plant auction every May.  In case you forgot, or you’re new (welcome!), read.  Anyhoo, the plants in the plant auction, for the most part, come from the kind donation of the members.  One of my donations this year was a chunk of Costmary, potted and labeled with a small explanation on the label about the Bible Leaf name.  I thought that was fun.  Some people just scrawl across the pot in purple crayon, or worse, don’t label at all…  Surprise!  You’re the proud owner of Goutweed…YIKES!

Back to the story:

The Auctioneer did not know what it was, and there – you know there’s always one – was the landscaper guy in the audience, who apparently knows everything about everything plant (ho hum – yaaaawwwwnnnn), piped up and said:

Oh yah, that’s a real old one – no one grows that anymore…

Ummm, ok, I thought it would be neat to have some of those plants that no one does grow anymore.  You know, unique much?  Mr. cookie cutter gardener…

No, I didn’t pull out my pointy hat. </:  I sat on my hands and bit my tongue…and waited.  Then the bidding started – others thought it might be neat to have it in their gardens too.  So my donation did, in fact, bring a little money to the auction.  In the words of Steve Martin:

“Well, excuuuuuuse me!”

Mr. Know Everything just fell short of calling me a weirdo.  Not directly, because he didn’t know who brought it in.  Maybe I am a weirdo – but he doesn’t get to call me that.  You don’t get to call me that until you actually know me.  And then, ok, yes, I’m weird.  Maybe I’ll invite him over to see some of the other stuff I grow – and make him some tea…Bwahahahahaaaa

Ahem – back to our regular programming.

That’s my plant story for today.  Hope you liked it. 🙂  One more thing:

If a woman says
First of all” during an argument,
RUN
She has prepared research, data and charts and will destroy you.
-Anonymous

or maybe that’s just me….

The night sky!  Where are we tonight?  Ah, the Moon is in Virgo – and so is Venus!  Very feminine.  Feeling quite at home at the moment.  There you go – there’s where the take it personally, properly labelled, plant story came from…haha.  It’s all about work and detail.  She is in her fourth quarter – the New Moon is tomorrow night. Time to draw back and think about the last Moon cycle as she starts anew.

Today’s colour is white.

I’ll leave you now to tend your own garden – I’m guessing most of you have one or that you have some interest in plants…or maybe you just like to read me blathering on!  Perhaps a sniff of Costmary is in order.

Until next time,

-Debra

 

Greenies in the Snow

cedar-in-snow

Hey there,

AAARRRGGGGG!  The meadow is covered in a blanket of freezing rain/snow as I sit here glowering out the window.  My greenies have been flash frozen.  So not happy about that…I have been out there, bringing them in (thank goodness!).  Greenies have been dried and stored, they’ve been made into oils, tinctures and vinegars – I’ve got my mint honey and my sage honey – just in case of a sore throat, my floral bath oils are ready by the tub.  If you think my house is full of jars, welllll, you’d be correct.  Check, check and check!

So, not worried about that, but who’s ready for Winter yet when early last week it was warm enough to still be wearing my sandals.  Sandal love was discussed here.

Geez, Mother Nature, couldn’t you wait until the pumpkins are put away before you start this business?  I know I’m not alone here…I have spoken with friends who have been caught not getting all their fair weather stuff put away!  Who wants to put away the lawn furniture when you can still use it on a 23 degree C day here in Southern Ontario – this was the case, just early last week, as discussed above.  Double ugh.

Now today, the tree rats are knocking on the door looking for the bird seed (sunflower seeds are preferred, thank you)…That is going to take a trip to the barn to find the feeders.  An adventure in itself.

I was out at an early morning meeting this morning, and I don’t do early morning meetings any more since this,  Leaving in the dark, in the snow.  Ew.  Looking out the window during the meeting at the blizzard; I get outside afterwards to find poor Pearl (my VW bug rag top) covered in snow…I haven’t even taken out her wind screen from behind the seats yet (wishful thinking for one last day, whizzing around with the top down – hers not mine) and now I’m searching for the snow brush.  Sorry Pearl, but it’s time to trade your shiny summer shoes in for your winter boots – heavy treads.  Triple ugh.  Reality bites.

OK, enough whining already…

Choose to put your party dress on
(even if it’s made of wool)

img_1284

Did someone say shoes? Ooooo  Look at these babies!  Yup, they’re all mine.  It doesn’t help my game, mind you, but they’re pretty, aren’t they? 🙂 I’m having a lot of fun on my Tuesday night bowling excursions with my friends. No more sliding my feet into the unknown with the rentals from the bowling alley. Ew. I’m a bit of a Princess that way…

I don’t have the time, nor the crayons
to explain myself to you

There, now I feel better – happy thoughts – kittens and flowers (NO, NO KITTENS).

Perhaps I should go back to discussing greenies…now that the snow has started (@!%&*%#!!! – OK, last mention), but before the ground freezes, it’s a good time to harvest roots.  Yay!  There’s something positive.

burdock-flower

One of my favourite roots to harvest, although it’s a toughy to dig up, is Burdock.

Here she is flowering.  This is a second year plant – when it dries, the flowers are those ball-like sticky burs that attach themselves to you and your dog (and Ralph), alike.  Ralph hates getting these things brushed out of his fuzzy tail.

You would harvest the burs, or the seeds, of this plant and not the root.

 

The first year plant is the one you would harvest for the root. That makes it a little easier, as the root doesn’t go as deep, but it’s still a toughy with a long taproot.  The first year plant doesn’t send up the flowering stock that dries into burs; that’s how you tell the difference.

burdock-leaves

This is what the greenie looks like in her first year.  The leaves can get very large; some might mistake it for Rhubarb.

The root can been eaten cooked like a (root) veggie, in fact, it is sold in many Asian markets as “Gobo” – same plant.

The root can also be dried and cut into chunks to be used in tea or dried and powdered to be added to smoothies, etc.

It smells and tastes very earthy.  I don’t find it unpleasant, but it has a very distinctive smell.  Some may not like it – I’m guessing those with a sweet tooth may not like the taste.  Add some honey to your tea!

What’s so great about Burdock?  Well, it is the first greenie I think of as a blood purifier – one of the top and so easy to find.

Very good to use as a Fall cleanse to flush out your system (ahem) and tone your organs, specifically liver and kidneys.  And when your blood is happy and healthy, so is the rest of you!  Also good for helping to regulate your blood sugar.  The fresh leaves, in the Summer, can be used directly on the skin for skin irritations.  Good to know if you’re out for a hike – it grows everywhere.

Nice to get a little herby action in on a day like today.  Still looking very sad out my window…or maybe that’s just my reflection.  Sigh.

Anyhoo, where is the Moon tonight?  Ah, we are under a Libra Moon in her fourth quarter, that would explain the shoes and the pretty above.

Today’s colour is crimson.  Are you a “red” person?  The primary colour that’s full of energy and passion, primitive and powerful.  The colour of the base Chakra that feeds the self-preservation instinct. Strong of will. Survival. Courage.  The colour of blood, but love and romance too. Red people can also be stubborn. Red is the colour of anger and frustration – “seeing red”. Am I hitting home with anyone out there? 🙂

Speaking of frustration, it’s still snowing out there.  Maybe I’ll take a soak in the tub with one of my floral oils.  Could be rose oil, but the roses were pink and not red, a softer, lighter version of the Rosa Rugosa kind.  That and my book should do the trick, after all, we only have six months to wait…this is me, hunkering down.

Until next time,

-Debra

‘Shrooms under the Harvest Moon

 

harvestmoon

Hey there,

Taking time out of this incredibly busy season, because I promised, once a week, to keep you informed on all things (well, maybe not all things) going on, under and around the blue roof.  We are now officially into my favourite time of year.  Yay!

So many things going on – the weather is gorgeous, the plants need harvesting – time to dry, make teas, tinctures, oils, vinegars and other stuff to carry me through the dark months ahead.  Lots of fairs, club stuff, art, tours, it’s movie season…I could go on…it’s a wonder I’m even home to get all the things done that need to be done. (What’s a little dust between friends?)  Lovin’ it 🙂

What am I up to this week – besides all the stuff above? (who needs sleep – kidding)

Mushrooms – my latest obsession. 🙂  Certainly never a dull moment here…Mushrooms, not classified as a plant, but a fungi – in a class of their own.  Fungi isn’t usually part of polite society conversation…sounds gross.  What do you think of when you hear the word FUNGI?  Ew – thought so.  Me? Memories of science lab and the horrors of high school.  Double ew.  High school is a period of my life I choose to tuck away in a dark corner in the ol’ memory bank.  Taken out, dusted off and examined, every once in a while, when appropriate, on an as-needed basis – then dismissed and tucked back away. It was necessary – and the law. Previous life.  Nothing to see here.  Move along. Not sharing. Double ew.  Are you getting that I didn’t like high school? 🙂 The good news? I did enjoy all the education post high school.

“Life is hard – It’s harder if you’re stupid”
-John Wayne

Getting back to mushrooms…No, I’m not talking about the psychedelic ‘shrooms from high school (hey man, wanna buy some…) – although they are still out there – hiding amongst the greenies!  I’m talking about the edibles – all those tasty morsels, just waiting to be plucked and cooked for your dining pleasure.

This is something that you seriously need to be educated in before foraging.  I am learning the ropes myself – you have to be very sure about what you consume in this world of fungi.  

Eating the wrong thing could be fatal.

So I am only sticking to what I am absolutely sure of in the very common varieties.

mushroom-lactarius-deliciosus

Why bother at all?  They are very nutritious! Besides selenium, potassium, B vitamins, Vitamin D, among others (including copper – which is difficult to find in food).  The many varieties also have distinctive tastes, ranging from fruity to anise spice to the earthy taste we associate with mushroom anything. They are a good meat substitute for vegetarians. Aaannnd – it’s cool to dig around amongst the greenies looking for them.  I know I’m weird.

Look at these beauties!  Delicious Lactarius is the name – hard to miss the lovely colour when you start looking down for them!  Be careful where you step.  I happen to live amongst and close to some of the best places to find them – including my own back yard!  It’s a very interesting world, learning all about them. Part of the education is which variety grows when.  Foraging for them in Spring or in Fall.  We’ve all heard of Morels in the Spring – just the tip of the iceberg, my friends.

Looking at the colour of the ‘shrooms above and talking about the harvest leads me to our Full Moon this month, the Harvest Moon, in Pisces.  Pisces is ruled by Neptune – the planet of altered states of reality, dreams, meditation.  Emotional and glamorous, sparkly and mesmerizing.  We are in the second quarter, opposite the Sun.  Kinda like the altered state I seem to be in these days, with so much going on!

The Harvest Moon isn’t until tomorrow night, although the Moon is in Pisces tonight, as well, but I’m posting today because I know I won’t get to it tomorrow.  Ahem: altered state.  Even though I am a homebody at heart (my Cancer ascendant) – I am a social butterfly these days! 🙂 Busy, busy, busy.

Back to the Harvest Moon – the obvious name for it as this time of year signals all things harvest.  Time to start saving, making and storing all of our plant friends before the nights start to turn towards the “f” word. FROST.  Gotcha!  (Frost makes me sad, because I have to start wearing socks again.)

But why is the Harvest Moon so large and orange? The Moon is lower on the horizon in Fall and closer to the Earth – we are coming up to the Fall Equinox next week (we will talk more about that then).  It has to do with dust and particles in the air; the atmosphere of the Earth and the way our eyes see light being reflected through that atmosphere; more dust particles scatter the light. Maybe because it’s harvest time and all the dust and particles are being scattered by farmers and their harvesting?  Perhaps.  That’s my take.  Or, you could choose to think that Hallowe’en is around the corner and all things pumpkin…can you say pumpkin spice?  Mmmmm

Tomorrow’s colour, for our Harvest Moon, is coral – very fitting.  Today it’s red – also fitting.

I’ll leave you to get on with your own harvest – even if you’re just clipping a few culinary herbs to dry for winter use and enjoyment.  It sure beats the store-bought stuff that sits on a shelf for who knows how long! A big thank you to Mother Nature as we bring in the harvest.

Until next time,

-Debra