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I got to be The Answer Lady when a friend drafted me to man the question booth at an Herbal Fair. His comment was "Kathryn has wasted more time on herbs than anyone--maybe she'll do it." And I did, for several years. In so doing, I discovered that most herb lovers needed help with the same questions. My first book, Herbs Southern Style, was written to address this need. Many speeches, seminars and gardenclub talks later, I realized that much more detail was needed than I had provided. HERBS: The Answer Lady Tells All was the result.
The front and back covers show me at my real Answer Booth. Between the covers are the answers to all the questions you may have had about herbs from seed to soup. The first half of the book gives the fundamentals of sound herb growing practices. How do you build appropriate soil? What is enough drainage and how do you arrange it? How should seeds be handled? How much sun is full sun? All of this and more is laid out in clear terms. The second part of the book is divided into chapters by herbs. Specifics of growing each are included along with some history. Recipes for cooking and safe traditional remedies are featured along with ways to use the herb for fragrance, crafts or decoration. All herb lovers will enjoy this book but those who garden in hot climates will be especially grateful for the notes directed at their specific challenges.
If you'd like to have the book sent as a gift, wrapping and a gift tag will be included free of charge. Just e-mail the specifics of your request.
APRIL 12--spring is finally here & tales of turmeric
It was a LOOOONG hard winter so I am amazed to see that very few trees and plants were lost. I did lose pineapple sage and a few other things that are marginal in our winters every year but overall, most things have done fine. Unfortunately, I had a rough winter myself, involving a strained ligament. Part of the treatment involved non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These do their work well but can have all sorts of side effects and I got some. I remembered that turmeric has a long fold history as an anti-inflammatory so I did some research and decided to give it a try instead of the drugs. For me, it worked great! A one person test is far from scientific but it was a good experience and spring finds me doing much better. If you'd like to do some research yourself, here are some websites with good information:
1: medical info from an MD including clinical trials
2: growing turmeric--we can do this here
3: folk medicine and cooking
The above are not links. You'll need to copy and paste them into your browser.
Last year's plant selections were such a success that I am, for the most part, repeating them this year. I did try one thing that I have not done before. As winter approached I took cuttings of my tomatoes and wintered them over. The standard advice is NOT to do this as it could carry disease from year to year. But those plants looked so great that I decided to risk it. I'll keep you posted as the plants develop. And something has occurred that really surprises me: my green beans self-sowed and came up in MARCH! Naturally I expected a frost to carry them off any day but it did not happen. These were just lovely beans and they are open-pollinated so I am hoping that they actually survive and produce.
NOVEMBER 5--frost alert and a recipe
Tonight we are expecting our first frost so the time has come to get the last goodies out of the garden. I have a few green tomatoes which will go to my friend Julie to make fried green tomatoes. I'm hoping to deliver them in person and induce her to show me how it is done. The peppers, of which there are OOODLES will be used in "Gary's Beans" the recipe for which is given below. In spite of the long hot summer, this has been one of my best years ever for producing tomatoes and peppers. I do think the new garden spot and deep mulch deserve some credit and am also convinced that the varietal selections were super.
Dried beans, particularly black eyed peas, are traditional fare in the south. Most people season them with a little fat meat. This has never been my favorite so I cooked them a bit differently with olive oil and herbs until the day I tasted my friend Gary's beans at a potluck. WOW! They were SOOO superior to any beans I had ever tasted. He was kind enough to share his recipe which is very flexible and therefore perfect for cooking from the garden.
These can be made with blackeyed peas, crowder peas, pinto beans or navy beans. Probably any beans will do. Gary usually begins with pre-cooked canned beans. I usually begin with dried beans. I personally think that blacked peas are best in this recipe but they are all fine. Besides beans, you need vegetable oil, salt, onions, sweet green and or red peppers and a few hot ones if you like hot, Italian seasoning and garlic. If you have fresh herbs & garlic, sautee them first in the oil along with the chopped peppers and onions. If using dried beans, pre-soak them overnight. Now dump everything in a cooking pot with enough water to cook them for a long time and do so. Time is an essential ingredient here that allows the flavors to marry. When buying expensive pepper, 2 will do for a pot made with 1 lb of dried beans. But when there are plenty in the garden, more peppers are better. I put 11 with the 2 lbs. of dried beans that I am cooking right now. All of the amounts are flexible. Seasoning is to taste. I like peppers, I like onions and I like beans but I would never have imagined the delectability [is that a word?] of all of 3 together. Besides being tasty, this is an extremely economical and virtuous dish so enjoy!
OCTOBER 17--variety report and a chili recipe
Well, it was a HOT summer. I'm so glad to have chosen the varieties that I did. Can you believe that the Sunmaster tomatoes are STILL producing? The plants look awful by now but I have several more tomatoes to harvest. I think Sunmaster has earned my loyalty from now on. Both kinds of peppers have done very well[see January's post for varietal details]. The good news is that both are still producing tasty peppers. The bad news is that I have lost the tags and don't know which is which. The varieties are similar but distinct from one another and both very tasty so I can recommend them both. They did not begin producing until quite late in the season. Hard to know if this was due to heat or is just normal for these varieties. The purple beans were prolific but also late. Unfortunately, they got ready to harvest just as we left town on vacation so we ate very few. However they were good looking most of the summer and did survive the heat so I will enjoy planting them again. Cucuzzi was lush and enormous. It made lots of vine for the amount of squash that we got and died in August but I'd call it a success. And all of the new herbs of the year succeeded, too.
Since we are still harvesting a lot of peppers, I have been using them in lots of recipes. I read one somewhere for pumpkin chili and created my own vegetarian version. You really don't taste the pumpkin but it adds wonderful texture and, of course, the vitamins of a yellow vegetable. I used my peppers but I think any sweet variety would do.
PUMPKIN AND PEPPER CHILI:
pre-cook 2 lbs. kidney dry beans salting to taste. The pressure cooker is a good way to get this done fast.
sautee 4-8 chopped peppers and 2 chopped onions until tender.
Put the beans, onions and peppers in a pot along with a 15 oz. can of pumpkin, a large can of crushed tomatoes, and 1/2c. bulgur wheat. A can of corn is an optional addition that adds flavor color and texture. Add enough water to allow the bulgur to cook and everything to blend but keep the mixture thick. Season to taste with garlic, cumin, and chili powder.
|JULY 22--tomato and mozzarella pasta salad We are harvesting tomatoes every day. I am constantly thankful that I chose Sunmaster tomatoes because they perform faithfully in the heat and are very disease resistant. With all these tomatoes, I'm in constant search of ways to serve them fresh. I saw this on a menu somewhere and thought it looked worthy of a try. Very easy instructions: prepare 1 package of your favorite pasta, drain it, toss it with 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and garlic powder to taste. Allow it to cool. Then stir in as many diced tomatoes as you have and 8 oz. grated mozzarella cheese. To make this high protein, lowfat and low sodium use Barilla plus pasta, salt substitute, and non-fat mozzarella. We used these items and it was great. My husband ground fresh pepper on his and loved it that way. I can see some possible variations. For example, if you prefer you could substitute mayonnaise or miracle whip for olive oil and you could add other diced vegetables if available. Something green would add pleasantly to the look of the salad.|
|JULY 17--garden salsa With tomatoes in full production it seemed like a good time to try homemade salsa. Here is my very flexible recipe: 4 tomatoes diced. 1 onion minced. Salt or salt substitute, garlic powder and herbs to taste. There is one little secret that it took me years to learn: tomatoes have to be drained. There is too much natural juice in them for a good salsa texture. Just sit them in a colander while the rest of the preparations are being made. Press them down slightly to encourage drainage if you want the salsa less liquid. I can't stand to waste all that fresh tomato juice so I catch it and drink it but if left in the salsa it is just too soupy. The traditional herb would, of course, be cilantro but in GA we can't produce cilantro in any quantity in mid-July. Therefore, I decided to try my zaatar marjoram which is doing just fine. This is one of the experimental varieties in my garden this year. I also added epazote which does fine every year. And the salsa was terrific. You may recall Zaatar from the description of the seeds I selected in January. I'm pleased with its performance and will keep it in my garden in the future. If you'd like to read more about it, here are some interesting resources. wikipedia article parks seed|
JULY 14--more uses for Cucuzzi if you have it
Oh my goodness! I did an internet search for more Cucuzzi squash recipes and hit the jackpot. There are recipes for relish, stew salad cake and cream pie made with this vegetable! Here's the link so you can see for yourselves. The author of these recipes spells the plant "cucuzza" but from her description, it is the same one. You do have to watch out because there is another squash/gourd of a different shape that sometimes gets called by the same names. It is also edible but may or may not taste and grow the same. I'll have to look into that further.
Cucuzza recipes by Kim D
JULY 13--garden pasta recipe Here is an easy way to incorporate whatever the garden is producing plentifully in today's dinner: Prepare a package of angel hair pasta. I prefer Barilla Plus because it is very high protein but, unlike many "healthier" pastas, it tastes great and has a wonderful texture. while the pasta is cooking, chop up the veggies. They can be as coarse or fine as you like except for tomatoes which do best in chunks of at least 1" square. Drain the pasta. While it is still in the colander, return the original pot to the heat and add 1/4 cup olive oil. [more can be tasty if more oil is OK with you]. Toss the vegetables in the hot pot, starting with the firmest and progressing to the softest. For example, if you have beans, peppers and tomatoes, add them in that order. Sautee the vegetables until just hot and a bit tenderized. Put the pasta back in the pot with the vegetables. Add garlic powder, fresh herbs or Italian seasoning and salt to taste and toss everything with a pair of wooden spoons so that the oil, vegetables and seasonings are completely distributed. Serve in pasta bowls and top each serving with a bit of feta or parmesan cheese. Nonfat feta is available for those who are careful about cholesterol. Enjoy! The leftovers reheat very nicely.