Welcome to Hill Country Herbalist

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Edible Garden in the Hill Country

There's a very special connection between gardener and garden. The garden becomes an extension of you and with each passing day, it is exciting to see it transform. Growing medicinal herbs and edible plants is so rewarding. I like going in the garden and harvesting leaves for teas, tinctures, or for product making. I especially love having visitors tour the garden and encouraging them to pick and eat straight out of the garden - it's such a treat!

Pictured above is my first strawberry of the year. It is a perfectly formed deep red berry. Seeing this strawberry grow in the garden is pure delight. Strawberries are in the Rosacea, or rose family. Recently, I read freeze dried strawberries are being used to slow down the growth of pre-cancerous lesions in the esophagus (Ohio State University). Apparently, preliminary research is suggesting a daily dosage of about 2 ounces of freeze dried strawberries helped 29 out of 36 people with precancerous lesions. It seems like a great break through considering strawberries are thought to have anti-cancer, cardiovascular, and anti-inflammatory benefits.

The benefits of this plant are not only in the berry, but the leaves as well. The leaves can be used in product making as well as made into tea. The strawberry leaf infusion is high in vitamin C, calcium and trace minerals. I love plants that can offer edible rewards as well as lend medicinal benefits through their leaves; it's a win/win! I use the leaves once they are completely dried in teas, facial scrubs and lotions. For tea infusions, it is important to use the teas once completely dried. Compounds in the leaves change during the drying process and if ingested in this stage can be toxic and lead to nausea. Dried leaves (as well as just picked leaves) are safe and healthy to consume....just not anywhere in between.

This is a picture of my pepper garden just now taking hold. I have bell peppers as well as jalapeno peppers in this garden along with some herbs, of course! The herbs in this particular garden include Echinacea, chives and garlic. I'm looking forward to harvesting peppers and chives from this garden. Last year, I used a pepper almost every day in my meal preparations - it's amazing how many different ways you can utilize a jalapeno in your cooking routine.

This lovely plant is an eye dazzling scarlet charlotte swiss chard. The red stalks of this dark green leafy vegetable are striking and eye pleasing in the garden as well as on the plate. Chard is high in vitamins K, A, & C as well as high in magnesium, potassium and iron. You can harvest the leaves of this plant and sauté them with shallots, garlic and olive oil with a quick squirt of lemon to finish it off - nutritive goodness straight from the garden.

Isn't this onion blossom amazing? The stalk on this blossom is about three feet high! I've been watching this blossom develop for the last couple of months and it finally appears to be opening.
Isn't it spectacular? I'm allowing the blossom to unfurl and live its life until it fades and dries before I pull up this spectacular bulb. As you can see, there's a tasty onion waiting for me!

That's all for now from the hill country garden. My next post will feature a very special herb, Gotu Kola. I'm growing this lovely specimen in pot to study its habits. I'll also be introducing you to my beautiful yarrow plant I have in the garden. It is an herb to meet!

Until next time....keep your hands dirty and your food clean!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

This Week in the Texas Hill Country Garden: Verbena!

Verbena, or Glandularia, is a beautiful Texas native perennial. Each spring, the dark green leaves emerge while most Texas wildflowers lay sleeping and dormant. As spring continues, just around mid March and early April the dark green foliage almost disappears as the incredible eye popping bluish lavender flowers take center stage.
Many insects begin their Spring journey on and around these plants. As I stood among this stand of Verbena, it didn't take me long to see several species of butterflies and bees. I also noted many ladybugs. This was a delight since these insects are my all time favorites and heroes in the garden.

Verbena is a perennial and has a long term position in the Texas landscapes. Foliage emerges in February and blooms March - Fall. It hibernates over the winter and returns year after year. It is excellent in rock gardens and fields. I'm allowing a couple to grown in my raised vegetable beds for visual and insect appeal.
To some, Verbena is a weed - a wild thing that grows without a care in your lawn and garden. To me, it's heaven. Seeing one of these natives make my garden their home is an honor. I love looking outside at the beautiful field of flowers.

Enjoy these pictures - but, better yet...head outdoors and take note of the natives growing in your area. I'm off to garden - I have many seeds to sow today. Oh! I'm also happy to say I'm completing an order today for my handmade herbal lotions and serums. Cheers!