Saturday, June 29, 2013

Rosemary Chicken Salad Pitas - Weekend Recipe

This is a light and simple dish to take on your next picnic.  Get out enjoy the weather!

Rosemary Chicken Salad Pitas
Serves 6

3 cups chopped roasted skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 3/4 lb.)
    + I marinade them in Backyard Patch Italian Dressing before roasting in the oven
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped smoked almonds
1/4 cup plain fat-free yogurt
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

3  whole-grain pita bread, sliced in half

Combine first 9 ingredients, stirring well. Spread about 1/2 to 2/3 cup of chicken inside each pita.  For an extra special treat, add bean sprouts, romain leaves, sliced tomato, or sliced grapes to the pita.  

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Enjoying an Outdoor Picnic - Menu & Recipes

There’s nothing like the thrill of packing up a scrumptious meal in a picnic basket and gathering together your friends and family to enjoy an outdoor picnic on a bright and sunny summer day. That is my favorite way to spend my birthday.  We pack a picnic into our bicycle saddle bags and off we go. 
courtesy of Ravinia Festival
Another favorite activity for my hubby and I in the summer is to go hear the symphony play, either the Chicago Symphony at the Ravinia Festival and Outdoor Theater or Elmhurst Symphony on their annual Fourth of July concert on the grounds of Elmhurst College.  We also like to hear the Wheaton Municipal Band play in the band shell at Memorial Park in Wheaton on Thursday nights.

courtesy of Wheaton Municipal Band
Any of these musical events can include a picnic.  So when I was sorting recipes I pulled together this collection of picnic recipes so you can take your dinner along to any outdoor event.  All you need is a basket and a blanket with these quick to prepare herbal dishes.
Chive Dip with raw vegetables

Caraway Coleslaw
Garlic Chive Pasta Salad

Chicken Salad with a Stuffing Twist on a wheat or herb flavored bread or focaccia
Egg Salad with Salad Burnet in Pitas

Lemon Basil Fruit Salad
Rosemary Shortbread

Chive Dip
This dip is a wonderful accompaniment to fresh raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower and radishes.
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup fresh chives or garlic chives - snipped with scissors
1 tablespoon fresh sage - minced
2 cloves garlic - minced
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
½ teaspoon granulated onion

In a medium sized mixing bowl mix add all ingredients and mix well. Let chill for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator before using to allow all the flavors to meld together.
Caraway Coleslaw
2 cups green cabbage - shredded
1 cup red cabbage - shredded
1 cup carrots - peeled and shredded
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon tarragon or thyme herbal vinegar or wine vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
Use a food processor to shred the cabbage and carrots then add them to a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl mix together the remaining ingredients until all the sugar is dissolved to make the dressing. Pour the dressing over the shredded vegetables and mix together. Store the coleslaw in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Makes 4 cups of coleslaw.
Garlic Chive Pasta Salad
2 cups dried bow tie pasta
1 cup tomatoes - chopped
1 cup yellow or green bell peppers - seeded and chopped
1/2 cup green onions – sliced
½ cup diced, peeled zucchini
1/2 cup black olives - sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh garlic chives - snipped with scissors
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram, chopped
fresh grated parmesan cheese – optional

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, drain, cover with cold water and drain again. Place the prepared pasta into a large bowl. Stir in the tomatoes, peppers, onions, olives, mushrooms, oil, vinegar, garlic chives and marjoram. Let chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese prior to serving if desired.
Chicken Salad with a Stuffing Twist
The stuffing twist comes from the use of sage and thyme two herbs that are normally used in stuffing.  This is another terrific sandwich spread to serve on top of the whole wheat herb bread or a seasoned focaccia.

2 split chicken breasts, cooked and diced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup finely diced celery
2 teaspoons fresh sage - chopped fine
1 teaspoon fresh thyme or lemon thyme – chopped fine
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves - chopped fine
salt & pepper – optional

Drain the liquid from the can of chicken breast. Flake with a fork and add to a medium size bowl. Add the mayonnaise, celery hearts, sage and tarragon and mix well. Add salt and pepper if desired.
Egg Salad with Salad Burnet
To make a hearty sandwich to serve at your picnic serve this egg salad on fresh slices of whole wheat herb bread.  For an easier to manage picnic sandwich used a pita to hold the salad.  The cucumber flavor of the salad burnet will lend a unique flavor to this perfect dish.  If you like it a bit more robust, add a Tablespoon of herb flavored mustard, like tarragon.
12 eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh salad burnet - chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
courtesy of Ravinia Festival
Place the eggs in a large pan, fill the pan with water and place it on the stove on high heat. When the water comes to a boil turn the heat down to medium and cook the eggs for an additional 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove, drain the water and run cold water over the eggs until they have cooled down. Remove the shells from the eggs and chop them up then place them in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Serve this salad with assorted breads and crackers if desired.
Lemon Basil Fruit Salad
2 cups fresh raspberries or blackberries
2 cups fresh strawberries - hulled and sliced
2 oranges peeled and deveined and the sections left whole
One (20 ounce) can pineapple chunks - drained
2 tablespoons white grape juice
¼ cup fresh lemon basil – minced or sliced in ribbons
Place all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix well. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Rosemary Shortbread
Walnuts and pecan can be used instead of pistachios if you don’t have them.  This is a perfect make-ahead item for the picnic as shortbread will keep for a week or two.

1 cup unsalted butter - room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped pistachios (optional)
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves - minced fine
additional confectioners sugar for garnish
In a large bowl cream the sugar into the softened butter using a large mixing spoon. Add the flour 3/4 cup at a time. Add the vanilla extract, pistachios and rosemary and mix until well blended. Place the dough in a greased rectangular cake pan (9” x 13”) and press down the dough until it is about ¾ of an inch thick.  Prick the top with a fork in a pattern of squares or rectangles to make it easier to break later.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 17 to 20 minutes until light brown.  Cool completely before breaking into pieces and storing in an air-tight container.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Herb of the Week - Clary Sage

My husband and I were going through some photos and I was amused at how many I had of Clary Sage.  Turns out this attractive plant, of all my medicinal plants, was one my husband loved to see grow.  As a result we have many photos. 

So in honor of all the pictures I chose
                                  Clary Sage as the herb of the week.

Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) is a biennial, meaning it blooms every other year. The name clary comes from the latin clarus meaning clear.  A decoction of the seed is mucilaginous and was traditionally used as an eye wash (to clear the eyes.)  In the 16th century the seed was infused with elder flowers and the liquid was added to Rhine wine which turned them to muscatel making the wine more potent.

To Grow

The seeds of Clary Sage must be scarified in order to germinate.  It is a great herb to winter sow.  But if you don't have the time, freeze the seeds for 3 to 5 days in a zip lock bag before planting.  They need total darkness to germinate so sow the seed at least 1/2 inch deep in dark soil.  If you want to direct sow, do so once the soil has reached 55 to 60 degrees.

This plant thrives only in full sun and a well-drained sandy soil.  It struggled the first year I grew it because my soil was too dense, but once I worked in sand it was very happy.  Do not use any fertilizer high in nitrogen, so a simple compost feeding will do if needed.  And allow the soil to dry out between waterings.  Space the plants 9 to 12 inches apart.  My clary sage is blooming now, but it is not as happy as it could be because of the constant rain we seem to be having.

This is a zone 6 and higher plant, but I have been able to keep it through winters here in zone 5 with these winter preparations.  Cut the tops after the first fall frost.  It must be protected from harsh winter conditions, so a layer of hay or evergreens placed over it once the ground has frozen will protect it from harsh drying winds.

To Use

Clary Sage tastes much like garden sage with a pungent fragrance holding a hint of camphor.  Unlike garden sage, however, it can easily over power foods and become bitter if used in large amounts.  The large leaves  (as big as 2 inches across and 6 to 9 inches long) grow off a central stalk that bends with the weight of the flowers. It grows to a height of 3 feet with a width of 1 foot. The flowers are lilac or pale blue, pink or white, in whorls on top of the stems. The leaves are broad oval or heart-shaped, in pairs, covered with fine silver-white hairs. It blooms from June to July.

For culinary purposes you can use the fresh and dried leaves in the same ways as garden sage.  It is a great addition to breads and stuffing.  The flowers are edible and can be used as garnish.  A strong fragrance resembling a balsom makes it a great addition to sachets or potpourris.  The essential oil is also used as a fixative in perfumes and as a scent for lotions and detergents.

Clary sometimes replaced hops in beer to produce an enhanced state of intoxication and exhilaration, although this reportedly was often followed by a severe headache. It was considered a 12th century aphrodisiac.

An astringent the steeped leaves can be gargled, douched and poured over skin wounds. An infusion of the leaves dried or fresh makes a stimulating bath additive.  Taken internally it is combined with other herbs for kidney problems. The clary seeds form a thick mucilage when soaked for a few minutes and placed in the eye, helps to removed, small irritating particles. A tea of the leaves is also used as an eyewash. Clary can be used to reduce muscle spasms. It is used today mainly to treat digestive problems such as gas and indigestion. It is also regarded as a tonic, calming herb that helps relieve premenstrual problems. Because of its estrogen-stimulating action, clary sage is most effective when levels of this hormone are low. The plant can therefore be a valuable remedy for complaints associated with menopause, particularly hot flashes.

The professionally extracted essential oil of Clary Sage is used in many medicinal situations, especially those to improve circulation and respiration, as well as relieve the effects of grief.  According to Susun Weed, "this is the essential oil chosen for treating nervousness, weakness, fear, paranoia, and depression. Clary feeds the soul and helps one get through rough times. It is recommended when pressures and stress come from outside." Wonderful for people in mid-life crisis, Clary also encourages vivid dreams or at least enhances dream recall.

NOTE: rather than update or change this post we decided to answer several questions and provide a few new recipes for Clary sage with a new Mini Herb of the week post.

Sources: WebMD; Susun Weed (articles and books); Rodale's Encyclopedia of Herbs; The Encyclopedia of Herbs: A Comprehensive Reference to Herbs of Flavor and Fragrance by Thomas DiBaggio and Arthur O Tucker as well as 20 years of personal experience with the plant

Clary Sage Pork Roast

2 1/2 to 3 pound pork roast or tenderloin
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried clary sage
1 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 fresh leaves of basil
1 apple, cored and cut into quarters
Salt and pepper

Place roast in crock-pot.  Cover just to top with water.  Add thyme, sage, rosemary, bay leaf, basil and apple.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and cook on medium for 5 to 6 hours.  (Add potatoes to your crock pot with roast in the last 2 hours for delicious boiled potatoes!)

Susun Weed's Clary Love Potion
Equal parts of dried lavender, bachelor’s buttons and clary sage
a pinch of valerian
 a sassafras leaf

Blend together and place in a small sachet and wear inside the clothing to attract a man.

Anti-Sorrow Aromotherpy Blend
4 oz sweet almond oil
10 drops marjoram essential oil
5 drops clary sage essential oil
5 drops rosemary essential oil
1 drop lemon balm essential oil

Combine ingredients the ingredients and shake well.  Place the oil on an evaporator and use on a cotton ball.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Tips for Making Marinades

      Marinades are particularly well suited to beef and game, but can be used to liven up the mild flavor of chicken and all its relatives.  Marinades are created using a blend of oil, vinegar and seasonings that is then used as a soak for the item before it is cooked.  The ratio is generally 2/3 cup oil to 1/4 cup vinegar (or lemon juice) and herbs to taste; usually around 2 tablespoons of dry herbs, more if you are using fresh.
       The high acid content of a marinade (from vinegar) helps tenderize meat as well as impart wonderful flavors.  You can use an herbal vinegar to craft your marinades for an even more special depth of flavor.  See our post on herbal vinegar making for more details.
mustard marinade (see recipe below)

            Always prepare your marinade in a shallow non-reactive dish or pan just large enough to hold the meat comfortably.  Be sure to turn the meat so the flavor will permeate all surfaces evenly.  Very thin cuts of meat can be marinated an hour or so at room temperature, but roasts and larger cuts should stand longer, even up to two days in the refrigerator.  Just remember to turn the meat every few hours and let it return to room temperature before cooking.

Marinade on vegetables does not need as much acid as meats and can be made with just oil.  With vegetables, one can soak them in the marinade or brush it on during grilling.

Herb flavor groups for using in marinades:
  • Citrus zest: grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange zest
  • Robust Herbs:  basil, cilantro, rosemary, or sage
  • Sweet or Floral Herbs: lavender, lemon balm, lemon verbena, rose, dill or mint
  • Savory Herbs: marjoram, oregano, parsley, savory, tarragon, thyme; or whole bay leaf
  • Herb seeds: whole caraway, celery, coriander, cumin, fennel, poppy, or sesame
I have a whole list of blends for marinades that I created for the Backyard Patch because I love the quick easy way you can toss any meat, cheap cuts and all, into a marinade and craft a quick easy dinner.  In fact all of my salad dressings can double as a marinade as well!

Here are a few Marinade recipes you can craft on your own to enjoy:

Wine Marinade for Beef
1 glove garlic
10 peppercorns
8 whole allspice
1 tsp. salt
1 cup red wine
3 pounds rump roast, cubed

In a deep bowl, combine clove garlic, crushed peppercorns, allspice, salt, and wine. Stir to dissolve salt. Add beef cubes, pressing cubes down into marinade to immerse as much as possible. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Herbed Marinade for Vegetables

¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup water
2 Tablespoons honey
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 teaspoons fresh chopped herb mix
      (rosemary, thyme, basil and oregano OR chives, dill, lemon thyme and lemon basil)

Combine ingredients together in a glass jar with a tight lid and shake to combine.  Pour the mixture over cubed vegetables in a non-reactive container and refrigerate for 2 hours.  This recipe is enough for 2 pounds of vegetables.

Mustard Marinade for Chicken

1/3 c. lemon vinegar (made with any combo of Lemon herbs)
¼ c. Dijon mustard
2 T. vegetable oil
2-3 tsp. dried basil
1 clove garlic, crushed

Whisk items together in small bowl.  Use as a marinade for chicken, pork, or seafood.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Happy Birthday Beulah - Weekend Recipe for Fruit Salad Dressing

This weekend we are celebrate the 90th Birthday of my Mother-in-Law - Beulah.

My Mother-in-Law is a great woman.  She is still on her own, and loves to chat via email and quilt. She is the one who sews my Microwave Potato Bags!

Although she was born before the invention of the computer she has embraced it.  I get email from her every day!

Everyone in the family was tasked with bringing a dish to feed the army of relatives and friends coming to celebrate this grand accomplishment.  My husband and I were asked to bring Fruit Salad.  Which is an inside joke I will not get into.....

We have great fruit markets here in Chicagoland, so we pulled together a combination of traditional fruits, seasonal fruits and exotic fruits like Kiwi and Dragon fruit to make a large container of salad - well maybe two or three containers. (You see where the joke might come from?)

This time I wanted to serve a dressing with the fruit medley, but rather than dress the salad in advance we are serving the dressing on the side in  containers.  I am waffling between a ketchup-like squirt bottle to serve and a dish with a pretty spoon.

I thought for the recipe of the weekend I would share the dressing recipes I will be serving.

Savory Fruit Dressing
1/3 cup orange juice
4 teaspoon canola oil
4 teaspoons brown mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar (or sugar substitute)
1 1/2 teaspoons snipped fresh mint (or ¼ tsp. dried)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a lidded jar and shape well to combine.  Chill until ready to serve. Drizzle over salad once placed in salad bowl just before serving.

Yogurt Fruit Dressing
16 ounces of orange flavored Yogurt
1 Tablespoon Backyard Patch Poppy Seed Dressing Mix (or 1 tsp poppy seeds)

Stir together the yogurt and poppy seeds. / Dressing Mix.  Allow 1 hour to meld, then pour over fruits salad.

Blueberry Vinaigrette
1 cup blueberries
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds (you can also used anise seed – not star anise)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Put all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.  Chill until ready to serve. Pour over fruit or greens and fruit salad.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Blog Hop - Herbal Picnicking

This is a post that is part of a special Blog Hop!

Those who follow the Blog Hop all the way to its conclusion will collect letters.  You gather all the letters and you can cash them in for a set of electronic recipe cards. (The info you need is at the bottom.)

I’ve never done one of these before so this should be fun!

The theme for all the blogs in the hop is FOOD!

That was an easy one for me…

Today I thought I would share a perfect Herbal Tea Picnic.  It consists of three salads and an Herbal Tea.  You can make everything in advance and chill overnight in the refrigerator, then load into you cooler and have a grand time outside in your favorite herb garden.

These are all crafted from the savory flavor family, so the blends are not sweet and have a hint of mustard in each recipe.  I am still experimenting with the items I picked up while visiting the National Mustard Museum – check out my post!

Carrot Salad with Fennel

2 Tbls. fennel leaves, chopped
3 Cups grated carrots
2 Tbls. olive oil
1 Tbls. lemon juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard

Mix together the fennel and carrots.  Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice and mustard together, pour over the carrots and toss well.  Cover and chill for at least an hour before serving.  Stirring occasionally.

Chilled Italian Herb Vegetables with Herbs

2 lbs. new potatoes, cut into chunks
½ tsp. salt
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbls. red wine vinegar
1 small clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp. dry mustard
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. basil, crumbled
1 tsp. oregano, crumbled
1/8 tsp. rosemary
dash ground red pepper
1 cup fresh or frozen cut green beans
1 cup chopped red pepper
¼ cup scallions

2 Tbls. capers
1 Tbls. chopped parsley

Cook potatoes with ½ tsp salt in water to cover, 12 minutes or until tender, but still firm, drain.  Mix oil, vinegar, and garlic with mustard, black pepper, ground red pepper and herbs.  In a large bowl, toss cooked potatoes, beans, red pepper and scallion.  Add dressing, toss to coat.  Cover.  Chill for 2 hours.  Serve topped with capers and parsley.

Summer Spiral Salad  

1 12-oz. bag tri-colored spiral pasta, cooked
2 cups cucumber, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
¼ cup green pepper, chopped
¼ cup green onion, chopped
1 can crab meat, flaked
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup dressing made with Backyard Patch Italian Dressing
1 Tbls yellow or grainy mustard
1 tsp. dill weed

Combine pasta, cucumber, tomato, green pepper, green onion and crab meat in a large bowl.  Combine Mayonnaise, Italian Dressing, mustard and dill and whisk together in a small bowl.  Mix dressing mixture into pasta and chill for 30 minutes before serving.

Lemon grass
Harvest Iced Tea

1 quart boiling water
2 Tbls. raspberry leaves, dried
2 Tbls lemongrass, chopped
1 Tbls. hibiscus flowers, crumbled

Pour boiling water over herbs.  Steep for 20 minutes.  Strain into ½ gallon container.  Fill with cold water.  Serve with ice and an herb leaf for garnish.

My letter for the Blog Hop is E
Link to the next blog:  Lilac Lane --

If you want to start this Blog hop from the beginning: go here: Supporting Artist Blog Hop

Monday, June 17, 2013

What is an Herbal Meat Rub?

What really makes a rub a rub is how it is applied. I suppose that you could say sprinkling salt and pepper over a steak was like adding a rub, but this really isn't what we mean when we talk about rubs, particularly a traditional barbecue rub. A rub should coat the surface of the meat. You should work a rub evenly into the meat to get the flavor inside as much as possible.     

Rubs come in two varieties, wet rubs and dry rubs. A dry rub is made of herbs and spices and can be either sprinkled over meat or actually rubbed in. A wet rub contains a liquid ingredient, usually oil and is coated over the surface of the meat. Beyond this, practically anything goes.

What you want in your rub is really a matter of personal taste. You want a good rub to add flavor and color but you don't want it to overpower the flavor of the meats you are rubbing.   
 Most dry rubs contain such things as paprika, chili powder, granulated garlic, cayenne, etc. To get these dry ingredients to stay on requires the natural moisture of the meat.  You want to enhance the flavor of the meat without overpowering it, so a good rub will be a mixing of strong spices with mild, complimentary ones to create an even distribution. If you're going for a hot spice combination, chose a blend with chili powder, cayenne or paprika. It will give the meat a good color and add the level of heat you want without making the meat too hot to eat.
The advantage of a wet rub (or paste) is that it sticks to the meat better. This is particularly important if you are cooking poultry with the skin on or some other smooth surfaced meats or meats that tend to be naturally dry. The other advantage of a wet rub is that it can help keep meat from drying out. This is especially true when using an oil based rub. The oil acts as a moisture barrier, keeping the natural juices inside the meat. Oils in rubs can also keep meats from sticking to the grill. Remember that a wet rub should have the consistency of a paste, thick.

Lemon peel and tarragon were used in oilive oil
As I said, a rub should be worked into meats completely. If you are applying a rub to poultry try and get it in under the skin. Skin blocks flavors so putting a rub on the surface of skin won't do much for the meat. If is also good to apply your rub well before you plan to grill or smoke. A good hour will be enough in most cases, but large roasts, whole poultry, or briskets should be rubbed down the night before or at least several hours before hand. This allows the seasonings to mingle with the natural juices of the meat and sink in. Dusting a pork chop with a rub seconds before it hits the grill will result in a well flavored set of burners and a good supply of smoke from burning spices. It won't add a lot of flavor to the chops.

4 Spice Meat Rub from the Backyard Patch used on a pork tenderloin

I have a whole list of meat rubs for all marinades and rubs that I created for the Backyard Patch because I love the quick easy way you can rub a plain meat in herbs and spices and conjure tastes of far away yet still have a meal in my own back yard. I put together a special set of 5 grilling mixes that has free shipping too!

If you want to try your hand at making your own rubs, check out this guest post I did over at the Supporting Artists Blog.  You can find several rub recipes to get your started.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Manly Horseradish Spread - Weekend Recipe

Happy Father's Day Weekend!  Here is a recipe to make my dad proud. As a bagel spread for a brunch or as a sandwich spread for roast beef this is a unique combination of horseradish and beets that makes a great condiment.  You do have to make this and serve it immediately.  Leftovers will only keep for 3 days.

8 ounces package cream cheese, softened
1 Tbls. tarragon vinegar
¼ cup canned or cooked beets, mashed
½ tsp. ground black pepper
2 Tbls. prepared horseradish

In a mixing bowl, whip cream cheese and vinegar with handheld mixer about 1 minute or until creamy.  Gently fold in beets, pepper and horseradish and stir until combined.  Spoon mixture into a serving bowl and serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Artemisia - Herb of the Week

This week I was out moving / relocated plants in the herb garden (in-between terrible rain storms) and spent much time with all of my Artemisias.  They are a drought loving plant so last year was a good year for them and they are the largest and hardiest of my returning plants in 2013. 
So since my fingers are covered with the powerful and unique scent of
Artemisia I chose them all as the herb of the week.
The genus Artemisia (which includes over 400 plants) may also be named after an ancient botanist. Artemisia was the wife and sister of the Greek/Persian King Mausolus from the name of whose tomb we get the word mausoleum. Artemisia, who ruled for three years after the king's death, was a botanist and medical researcher, and died in 350 B.C.   However, the prevailing belief is that the plant is named for the goddess Artemis, the genus is dominated by subshrubs, many evergreen or nearly evergreen. As plants with a long history of use as medicinals to treat a variety of complaints, they have always been represented in herb gar­dens. Gardeners value them for their beautifully cut foliage in the sterling to gray range, versatility of forms from ground-hugging to tall shrubs, and their dependabil­ity. Bitter properties, present to some degree in all artemisias, are due to the chemical thujone, which gives them their characteristic bracing aroma and medic­inal value as a treatment for intestinal worms. Some have an important place in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and many are choice for crafts (especially wreaths).
Silver king bundles to make a wreath
Artemisia belongs to the daisy family Asteraceae. It comprises hardy herbs and shrubs known for their volatile oils. They grow in temperate climates of the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere, usually in dry or semi-dry habitats. The fern-like leaves of many species are covered with white hairs. Common names used for several species include mugwort, sagebrush, sagewort, and wormwood, while a few species have unique names, notably Tarragon (A. dracunculus) and Southernwood (A. abrotanum). Most species have strong aromas and bitter tastes compounds in the leaf that exist as an adaptation to discourage plant eaters. The small flowers are wind-pollinated.
artemisia schimiditania

When purchasing artemisias, do be aware that taxonomic confu­sion abounds among artemisias: species are shifted around, plants are sold under names that have no botanical standing and plants with the same names may bear little resemblance to one another (while plants with different names appear very much alike!).
The aromatic leaves of many species of Artemisia are medicinal, and some are used for flavoring. Most species have an extremely bitter taste. Artemisia oils had inhibitory effects on the growth of bacteria, yeasts and dermatophytes.
Artemisinin (from Sweet wormwood, Artemisia annua) is the active ingredient in the anti-malarial combination therapy Coartem produced by Novartis and the World Health Organization. A few species are grown as ornamental plants, the fine-textured ones used for clipped bordering. All grow best in free-draining sandy soil, unfertilized, and in full sun.
The broken pieces cut from the top of the plant are used in Asia to prepare a wide range of herbal medications. Herbal teas and tinctures made from the artemisia are well known to practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine - or TCM. Chinese traditional medical doctors usually supply artemisia and call this herb as well as all the products made from by the name - yen chen hao. Artemisia based herbal products can be obtained from shops that sell traditional Chinese medicine.  There are many who feel artemisia is not an herb to take internally.  I never have.

Artemisia’s also have a literary history.  The bitterness of the plant led to its use by wet-nurses for weaning infants from the breast and was referred to by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet (Act I, Scene 3.)  Shakespeare also refers to the herb as "Dian's bud" (Diana being the Roman incarnation of Artemis) in Midsummer Night's Dream, as the antidote to the love potion concocted from the flower "Love in Idleness" (the pansy) that Oberon and Puck use to enchant the lovers:
Oberon: ...
Be as thou wast wont to be:
See as thou wast wont to see:
Dian's bud o'er Cupid's flower
Hath such force and blessed power.
MND 4.1.70-73

A Few of the Genus
Artemisia  dracunculus (Tarragon) is the most widely know of this family.  It is a culinary herb particularly important in French Cuisine. I posted an entire blog on this culinary Artemisia back in February 2012
Artemisia absinthium (Absinth Wormwood) was used to repel fleas and moths, and in brewing (wormwood beer, wormwood wine). The aperitif vermouth (derived from the German word Wermut, "wormwood") is a wine flavored with aromatic herbs, but originally with wormwood. The highly potent spirits absinthe and Malört also contain wormwood. Polish vodka Zoladkowa Gorzka is flavoured with wormwood. Wormwood has been used medicinally as well.
Artemisia arborescens (Tree Wormwood, or Sheeba in Arabic) is a very bitter herb indigenous to the Middle East that is used in tea, usually with mint. In small quantities (in tea) its believed to have medicinal properties, pacifying various kinds of digestion turmoils. In larger doses it may have some hallucinogenic properties. In Israel Artemisia is sometimes referred to by the name "Shiva", the Queen of Sheba.
Artemesia stelleriana is known as 'Dusty Miller'.
Artemisia capillaris is the plant known as both Artemisia and Wormwood in traditional Asian herbal literature. This plant is a bushy perennial shrub that can reach 2 to 4 feet high - from 60 to 120 centimeters. This is the plant found in the wild in the forest of East Asia, and a native to the island of Taiwan, the Japanese islands and the northern parts  the People’s Republic of China.

Artemisia ludoviciana
Artemisia ludoviciana 'Silver King' is native to the western United States although I grew it quite well beginning with my first herb garden here in Illinois. It is commonly called white sage because of the appearance of its foliage: lance-shaped leaves (to 4” long) are silver-white, pubescent and somewhat sage-like in appearance. 'Silver King' is a compact cultivar that features leaves and stems that are somewhat more slender than the species. It is a generally upright perennial that is grown for its attractive foliage that adds texture and contrast to gardens.  Not only is it nice in the garden, but I used it dried to create wreath bases and to make tree shaped table decorations that I covered with holiday ornaments at Christmas time.
Artemisia schmiditiana (Mugwort)
Artemisia schmiditiana is the most common found in herb gardens in Illinois.  This is the species known most commonly as Silver Mound, Mugwort, and Wormwood. This cultivar is best known for its bug repelling qualities.  Some have taken dried Wormwood, placed it inside a coffee filter to form a sort of "pod" and then placed them under furniture and such as a natural way of repelling fleas from their home.
Artemisia annua (Sweet Annie flowering)
Artemisia annua (Sweet Annie) has fern-like leaf, bright yellow flowers, and a slightly more sweet  camphor-like scent. Its height averages about 3 to 4 feet on a single stem, with alternating branches, and alternating leaves.  As a result this is a perfect plant for making aromatic wreaths.
To Grow

Artemisia is very easy to grow, it manages to grow very well in slightly alkaline loamy soil or in well drained soils - the plant grows well in places exposed to good sunlight throughout the day. It is hardy from zone 3 to 10.  Artemisia is quite tolerant to drought and low moisture conditions. In fact, plants grown in poor and dry soils are actually longer lived, much hardier and have more of the prized aromatic quality. When grown in temperate places like Britain, this species will probably not be as hardy in all parts of the country as temperature varies quite a lot along the length of the British Isles - however, artemisia can easily tolerate temperatures that are as low as -5° C. Another notable feature of all the plants included in this genus is their resistance to the honey fungus - a common fungus that affects many plants. At the same time, plants in this genus are rarely troubled by deer and other browsing animals.

Artemisia is usually propagated using the seeds. These seeds are sown on the soil surface in late winter and sometime in the early summer when they are grown in a greenhouse. When the seeds germinate and seedlings become large enough to handle, they are pricked and sorted out into individual pots and then plant out in the summer months. Plants are also grown from cuttings of the half ripe wood; these are placed in a frame sometime in July or August. They are then divided in the spring or autumn.

I use Sweet Annie crumbles on rugs throughout my house. Let them sit a day or two on the carpet if you can, then vacuum up. It leaves a great fresh smell that is freshening and takes away musty smells and pet odors as well as being a flea repellent.  The Backyard Patch has two different moth repellent sachets each with a different combination of Artemisa.

Herbal Moth Repellent
 This blend is both naturally antiseptic and antimicrobial.

¼ cup dried thyme
¼ cup whole cloves
¼ cup wormwood
¼ cup sweet annie

Combine the herbs in a small bowl.  Place a tablespoon of the mixture in a small cloth bag or tea ball.  To use, tuck into drawers or hang in your closet.

Moth Chaser Potpourri (adapted from a recipe by Kathleen Kips)

4 C. dried moth repellant herbs: tansy, santolina, southernwood, wormwood, and thyme any combination.
1/2 C. dried lavender foliage
1/2 C. bay leaves, crushed
1/4 C. mixed spices slightly crushed
1/2 C. cedar chips
1/4 C. cut orris root or cellulose fiber
15 to 20 drops cinnamon essential oil
25 to 30 drops lavender oil
25 to 30 drops lemon grass essential oil
15 to 20 drops patchouli essential oil
(Note: combine oils before adding to orris root or cellulose fiber.)

Blend all ingredients together. Store in airtight container for about two weeks to allow  fragrances to blend. Tie in cloth squares, put in small muslin bags or tie in old hankies. Tuck in trunks and drawers, hang from hangers and put in closet corners. Put in suitcases, lockers and trunks. Put under car seat. Refresh with a few drops of oil once yearly or crush spices to release more scent. 
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