Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tidbits from Phyllis Shaudys on using herbs

Recently I was cleaning off my desk and found I had pulled out my copy of Phyllis Shaudys' The Pleasure of Herbs: A Month-by-Month Guide to Growing, Using and Enjoying Herbs (Storey Communications, 1986).  This was the first book I had on herbs when I started growing and using them.  It was recommended by my friend Elizabeth and I still refer to it on a regular basis.  I now have two copies, this one, and a hardback reprint from Barnes and Noble from 1997.  That means that I can truly use this as a resource and carry it out to the garden, haul it around to lectures and bring it with me to farmer’s market and other shows I do.  It is beginning to look well loved as you can see.

Phyl (as she called herself) recommended actively marking your herb books so you could easily find things you wanted again in future.  However, she suggested you mark the books with a marker or a highlighter.  I cannot do that!  It is probably the historian in me, or maybe the museum curator I was for more than 20 years, but marking a book in any permanent way is beyond my sensibilities.  Instead I fill them with slips of paper marking the pages.  Occasionally I also write in them in pencil. 

The great off shoot of marking a page this way is the rediscovery of what I was thinking when I marked it the first time.  Was it the recipe, the clever wording, or the gardening suggestion which can all be found on the same page?  I realize quickly that this method gives me a fun way to reinvestigate my books.  I open to a marked page and try to remember what I was thinking on the day I slipped in the marker.  In the process I usually find something I overlooked the first time or some tidbit I am now curious about which I may not have been at the time.

I am willing to admit that perhaps there are too many slips in some books, and in a desire to remove some from Phyl’s book I started going from marker to marker so that I could collect the ideas in my computer or in a notebook and take the slips out to save the binding.  I spent several hours on a cloudy rainy March Saturday doing just that, but I am not sure I saved the book much wear and tear.  The top photo is the slips when I started; at the bottom is when I finished.  Oh well!  A well-written herb book is full of discoveries!

Here are a few things I discovered (or rediscovered as the case may be) as I went through Phyl’s book looking at my previously placed book marks.

  1. If you love silver, have you though of a Silver Garden?  Plant gray santolina, dittany of Crete, eucalyptus, horehound, lamb’s ear, lavender, mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) and other artemisias like Silver King, Silver Queen, Silver mound and wormwood.  Come fall you can weave these silver plants into amazing seasonal wreaths.

Quick Caraway Cheese Bread
4 cups flour
½ cup sugar
2 Tbls. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
½ cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated Cheddar Cheese
2/3 cup crumbled bacon
2 tsp. caraway seeds

Grease bottom and sides of two of a 9x5x3” loaf pans.  Place all ingredients, except bacon, cheese and caraway in a large mixing bowl.  Beat on medium speed ½ minutes scraping sides and bottom constantly.  Stir in remaining ingredients, divide batter into prepared pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes.  Cool in pans for 10 minutes, remove from pans and cool thoroughly.  Makes two loaves and freezes well.

  • 2.   Closet bouquets of moth repellant herbs make interesting and timely gifts for the coming season.  Dried branches of rue, tansy, wormwood, southernwood, mint, lavender, rosemary, pennyroyal and thyme can be used alone or in any combination.  Best if wrapped lightly in cheesecloth (so dried leaves don’t mess up the closet floor) and tied with colorful loops of ribbon for hanging.

  • 3.   The enjoyment of lavender and roses extends far beyond their beauty and fragrance in the gardens; as fresh arrangements in potpourri and for years to come in sweet sachets, bags and pillows.

  • 4.   Treat yourself and others to fresh or dried “Mixed Cooking Herbs” equal parts of thyme, savory, and parsley with smaller amounts of marjoram and / or lemon thyme.  This can be used for everything!  Try it instead of salt on meats, fish, vegetables, eggs.  Add chives or onions or lemon juice or peel if desired.

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