Edible Landscaping with Rosalind Creasy

This is Ros at a mutual friend's house, with another of her books.

Rosalind (Ros) Creasy is a world-class photographer and talented gardener. As far back as 1970 Ros was pioneering the methods of edible landscaping and her work since has revolutionized the way many homeowners think about their landscape.

"Author, photographer, landscape designer and environmentalist, Creasy has widely influenced the course of domestic gardening over the past 30 years. She kept the then barely flickering flame burning in her best-selling 1982 book, "Edible Landscaping." Newly reissued and substantially reworked, the book introduced a new style of vegetable gardening while rejecting the prevailing model of the garden as a male-dominated holdover from the farm, with discrete crops in rows," (read the complete story): The Washington Post, Nov. 25, 2010.

Pansies are a multi-purpose food, available almost the year around. (Better than lawn grass any day!)

That first book, back in 1982, has been a best seller and has influenced several generations of new gardeners. Her mantra of, "Don't mow it. Eat it" has encouraged countless homeowners to rip out their useless green lawns and replace them with things like lettuce, blueberries, apple trees, arugula and carrots.

Her new book, which is a complete make-over of that earlier stand-by, came out in November. It's already sold out and bookstores are awaiting more shipments from the publisher, not a surprise given the huge numbers of new gardeners.

Not only are tulips, "edible" they also have different flavors and great taste.

Ros is an award winning landscaper, too, so she has an eye for making a landscape spectacular, and at the same time filling it, not with useless azaleas and Japanese yews, but with plants that not only compliment the home, but provide food, as well. (I always call this method, making plants pay the rent for the space they take up in my landscape. It's not enough for a plant, in my opinion, to do nothing more than "be." Just because it's green, like those useless junipers landscapers tend to call, "foundation plantings," isn't justification to take up space in my yard. Ros has been preaching this for 40 years!

A tiny corner of Madalene Hill's garden at Festival Hill, near Round Top, TX.

The book is outstanding, better than the first (although lots of us couldn't see how she could possibly improve on what she wrote all those years ago). In reading through it, I found photos of some of my friends' gardens, including Madalene Hill's garden at Festival Hill, outside Roundtop, TX, which I wrote about some months back. Edible Landscaping, at 400 pages, could well be the only gardening book you would ever need. It will inspire you, encourage you, but most of all it will be the inspiration of future generations of new gardeners to look beyond the lawn and see food in their landscape.

 Congratulations, Ros, on a book that will be the bible of gardeners and homeowners for decades to come!

To see more about Rosalind Creasy's books, calendars and projects, visit her website:  http://www.rosalindcreasy.com/

Happy gardening!


Meet Frieda, One of Our Customers

I want to introduce you to one of our customers. We never share our customer information, we never sell, give, share or even give peeks at who our customers are, that is an important part of our customer service. I don't like it when a company sells my name and contact information, and so we have always been mindful of the trust our customers place in us. But this one time I'm going to make an exception and give you details about one of our customers. This is Freida, a retired circus elephant.

Frieda, in her retirement home at the Elephant Sanctuary.
Calling Frieda "retired" sounds so sweet, doesn't it? In reality, Frieda was rescued. One of the problems circus elephants suffer from, is having to stand for long periods of time between shows, often in wet, unhealthy conditions, without normal exercise. Over time many elephants develop foot problems, including nail fungus and a condition similar to athlete's foot in humans. If not treated, or conditions aren't changed, the nail fungus causes very serious deterioration of the toe-bones of the foot. The deterioration, as you can well imagine, causes pain and can become infected to the point the elephant can no longer walk.

When we go to the circus, or even to a zoo, most of us don't think about what happens to the elephants when they are no longer useful as a tourist attraction. When they reach old age and are no longer useful to the owner, they are often neglected, starved, abused. Elephants live a long time. In the wild, or in perfect conditions, elephants live between 60 and 70 years. But like humans, if their living conditions aren't good, they die much younger. For example, European studies have shown that elephants kept in zoos die at 17 to 19 years of age, although zoos claim to be doing a better job of caring for elephants since that study was conducted. (In contrast, elephants used in the timber industry in places like Burma/Myanmar lived to a median age of 41 years. Frieda is 44 years of age, pretty old for a circus elephant.

Frieda has nail fungus and foot problems, which is how she came to be our customer. Since my formula Nail Fungus Soak worked well on horse hoof problems and dog foot issues for some of our customers (it's meant for people's feet but we love hearing additional sucessful ways people have used it), we were delighted when the caretakers at the Elephant Sanctuary found us on the web and asked if my formula might be helpful for Frieda. She's using Nail Fungus Soak on a daily basis and we have great hope it will help Frieda.

Frieda is one of 14 residents at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, the nation's largest natural habitat refuge for retired circus and zoo elephants. For more information about this nonprofit organization, please visit elephants.com.

Please note, this is not one of those tourist places where you can go and stare at the elephants or pet them. This is a refuge for elephants to live out their last days in dignity and peace. You can't stop for a visit because they don't accept visitors. It's run by very dedicated caretakers whose goal it is to give the rescued circus elephants a respectful, stress-free retirement. No tourists throwing beer cans, no little children screaming, no chewing gum offered as food. Just loving care by people who love the elephants. Their motto is: A natural refuge where sick, old and needy elephants can once again walk the earth in peace and dignity.

One of the elephants in Tennessee snow.

The Elephant Sanctuary depends on donations (and profits from sales of calendars, t-shirts and other items featuring their elderly elephants). You can also "buy a brick" that will pave one of the building projects. If you like elephants, or always imagined having one in your garden (don't! They eat between 300-600 pounds of food per day), you can visit their website and see all the retired residents and you can make a donation to a very worthy cause, as well. A donation is a good gift for the person who has everything, too! You can even sponsor a particular elephant if you would like. And this is fun, you can go to their Ele-cam to view what the elephants are doing right now!

I'm glad the only elephant I have in my garden is one that's only l5 inches tall and spits water into my fishpond, but I'm even more happy there is a place where abused, neglected or otherwise overlooked elephants can go to have a peaceful retirement.

Happy gardening and all the best for the Season!


Frankincense and Myrrh

The Bible tells the story of 3 Wisemen, or Magi, coming from "afar" bringing gifts of gold, frankincense & myrrh to the baby Jesus. We know what gold is today, $1389.76 per ounce and back then, just as rare and valuable. But how many people know what the frankincense and myrrh are, or why they were, "precious," or even desirable?

Both frankincense and myrrh are tree resins, meaning the sap of trees. Frankincense (Boswellia sacra), and myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) are both trees native to the Arabian Peninsula. Today, most of the internationally-traded myrrh and frankincense are produced in the southern Arabian Peninsula (Oman, Yemen) and in northeast Africa (Somalia). The resin is obtained by making deliberate incisions with an axe into the bark of the tree. The milky liquid that exudes hardens on exposure to air into droplets or "tears," which are then easily detached by the collector about two weeks later.

The Magi, carrying myrrh, frankincense, and gold, came from the East, meaning, Arabia. The frankincense trade route by camel caravans, reached Jerusalem and Egypt from the Dhofar region of what is today Oman, through Yemen, turning north, following the Red Sea coast. Both resins have been recorded in use at least 7,000 years ago, in religious practices as well as medicinal uses. (You will find frankincense and myrrh still in use today as incense in Catholic and Episcopal churches).

Myrrh tears

Research in India has demonstrated that frankincense may have some positive effects in treating arthritis. Additionally, Dr Suhail, who is originally from Iraq, has teamed up with medical scientists from the University of Oklahoma in research into potential cancer treatments using this resin. Frankincense is used in mouthwashes, as a topical for arthritis, for throat and gum conditions as well as in anti-wrinkle creams and lotions.
Up close, frankincense tears look almost like jewels.
But why were these resins so valuable in the time of the baby Jesus? For one, both have antiseptic properties. It was expensive, mostly because of shipping costs and how labor-intensive it is to harvest. Long treks across the desert by donkey and camel caravan made it rare and precious. Only royalty and the wealthy could afford to use these resins for incense. Remember, this was back before underarm deodorant, before Glade could clear a room of bad odors. A room full of a smelly peasants for a religious ceremony brought about the need for incense in religious ceremonies. (Incense, as you may recall, has long been believed to carry prayers upward to God). Bundle all of those uses together and frankincense and myrrh were the perfect gift for the baby Jesus!
Frankincense & Myrrh Kit in Keepsake Treasure Chest
And we have the real thing here, for a unique gift from our shop. I put together a Frankincense & Myrrh Kit, which comes with 2 easy-light charcoal diskettes, an incense tile, a little packet of frankincense and myrrh in a little gold-colored bag, along with instructions, and it comes packaged in a wooden keepsake treasure chest. It's $14.95, plus shipping. Find it in our Gifts section of our website. Order on-line or calls us during normal business hours (from the Contact Us link on our website). You can smell the very same fragrance and incense carried across the desert, 2,000 years ago! How cool is that?


Making Homemade Crackers

I have an attitude about gardening and it's summed up in, Why garden if you can't eat what you grow?
How that plays out for me, is expecting plants to justify their space in my garden. To be green and put up a flower now and then, may or may not pay the rent on that space. With an iris, the enchanting fragrance evens the debt for space. A Japanese yew, however, does nothing be exist in its green-ness and it's only in the deadest of winter when I crave something, anything green, that it barely squeaks by.

But caraway, dill, poppies and cumin, those pay the rent on their space twice. Once with flowers or herb leaves, and second by their seed. It's the seed, this time of year that I appreciate most, in making homemade seed crackers. And the hot peppers I've been drying, also earn their keep in my Cheddar Jalapeno crackers (any hottish pepper will work for this). Here are the steps for the Cheddar Jalapeno crackers, from my book, Making Homemade Crackers Using Herbs ($5.95 plus postage, from LongCreekHerbs.com).

1/2 cup, or about 3 ounces cheddar cheese cubes
1/2 large, fresh jalapeno, seeded (or use 1 Tbsp. crushed cayenne or similar)
1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
4 (about) Tbsp. cold water

Step 1, put everything into the food processor and pulse blend
Step 2, roll out the dough, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Step 3, roll out the dough very thin on floured surface.
Step 4, use a knife or pizza cutter and cut the dough into cracker sizes.
Step 5, prick the crackers with a fork. Bake on an ungreased baking sheet until crisp, 10-12 minutes.
Step 6, cool crackers on baking rack. When cooled, store in air-tight bag (they also freeze well).

Jalapeno Cheese Crackers, ready to eat. They won't last long, these are good!

Jalapeno Cheese Crackers and Herb Seed Crackers.

 Want my books for stocking stuffers or gifts? Homemade Crackers goes well with some of my other books, Easy Dips Using Herbs and The Best Dressed Salad. You can find them here at LongCreekHerbs.com.

Happy gardening (and cracker making).


Cold Season Herbs & Spices

This would look refreshing in summer.

Would you think of a glass of cold mint tea in the winter? Or cook up a batch of steaming hot chicken soup in the heat of summer? Both would sound unappetizing, our mind and stomach would recoil.

In winter our stomachs and minds find satisfaction in the warming flavors of plants that warm the soul. Chicken soup, for example, isn’t just chicken boiled in water. Instead, what makes chicken soup appealing, are the seasonings. Sage, thyme, onion, a dash of garlic, some turmeric for color, those are the flavors that give the cold weather soup it’s flavor. Have a cold or the flu? The old home remedy, was, and is, hot chicken soup. Not boiled chicken in water, but the savory seasonings. And why those particular ones? The answer lies in what those herbs do for the body.

Sage, thyme, rosemary, black pepper, turmeric - those are herbs that warm the body and soothe throat tissues. Those herbs inhaled in steam, whether it be chicken soup or water, loosen a stuffy nose and give the body a sense of well-being.
Purple and variegated Sages; they all warm the body.

Seasonings have evolved in every food culture on earth to match the need of people in that season. People who live nearest the Equator anywhere on earth, eat hot peppers in summer simply because hot chilies cause the body to sweat, and thus, to cool.
Black peppercorns are the mature pepper, with the most heat and flavor.

In India, every school child knows the importance of always having 3 black peppercorns in their pocket. At the first sign of a scratchy throat or cold, simply chewing one or more of the peppercorns soothes the throat and warms the body. Everyone carries black peppercorns in winter. What do we do in the West? We simply add black pepper to our chicken soup, even without knowing the spice is warming.

Dried ginger is also a warming winter seasoning. Indian cooks add it to broth, seasoning blends (like the winter garam masala, however it’s not used in the summer blend). Nutmeg generates heat, yet the outer shell, known as mace, is cooling and used primarily in summer
Cinnamon is a warming spice. In South American cultures, it was combined with chocolate and sometimes cayenne.

Ground cinnamon is a warming spice, as is black cardamon. Bay leaf is another warming spice that is only used in the winter in India, and in the U.S., we use it primarily in soups and stews in winter, as well.

Why are these herbs and spices in our meals in winter? Why did that first mythical cook at Plymouth Rock, sitting in front of her fireplace decide to cook up a pumpkin with cinnamon, ginger, allspice and cloves? Or why did the turkey at Christmas, with all the stuffing and gravy, evolve to require sage, rosemary, thyme, turmeric and black pepper? Simply because those herbs and spices warm the body in winter, combining perfectly with the foods of the winter season. Our bodies don’t crave cooling flavors in winter, they find solace in the plants that warm us inside.

Whether you’re a cook in South or North America, South or North India, China or Bhutan, the seasonings you choose for the season relate to how those herbs and spices make your body feel. Chicken soup in the cold of winter, iced mint tea with lemon in summer, those are the things our bodies crave, and more important, what our bodies tell us we need.

A look at the ingredients in chai tea, the traditional winter spice blend in India, gives clues to what warms the body. (Chai is available from us here at Long Creek Herbs if you’d like to order it, or call us at 417-779-5450). You’ll find it contains the following warming spices: cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, cardamom, black pepper and black tea. A cut of hot chai warms not only the hands when you hold the cup, but the body and the soul.

"Bread feeds the body, indeed, but flowers feed also the soul."... from The Koran


Warming Winter Herbs

Oregano with frost

Ever wonder why some herbs are popular in summer while others only cross our thinking in winter? Why are sage and hyssop used mostly in winter?
Hyssop, taken early morning before the frost melted.

When I visited India a few years back, I learned that Indian cooking pays more attention to seasonal herbs and spices than we do here in the U.S. My hosts showed me various seasoning mixes, some created specifically for summer, their properties causing the body to cool, while the winter mixtures were meant to warm the body. My friends explained that if you used a summer garam masala in winter, for example, you would be chilly and uncomfortable.
Rosemary (this variety is 'Barbecue').

The traditional winter herbs we think of around the holidays, such as sage, rosemary, thyme and hyssop, are herbs that warm the body. They're typically European herbs, coming from places that are cold in winter, places where winter foods historically included fat roasted goose, pork, bacon, ham.


Those fatty foods were perfect for adding calories to the diet, building body fat to help keep the body warm in a cold climate. With those heavy foods, herbs were added to counteract the animal fats. With roast goose, for example, hyssop was the traditional herb to help tone down the taste of the greasy taste.
Garden sage

Sage has long been used as a sore throat gargle in winter. It's a warming, pleasantly bitter tea, sweetened with honey, that is amazing refreshing after being outdoors for a long walk.

Lemon Thyme

Thyme, another winter herb, is evergreen in my climate (Zone 6-b). Even with a hard freeze and frost, this incredible herb keeps right on growing. You likely know it as one of the ingredients in poultry seasoning and its warming flavor is most welcome in stuffing or dressing served with holiday turkey. But did you know thyme is an excellent gargle for sore gums or little cuts in the mouth? If you read the ingredients on the Listerine bottle, you'll see thymol, or oil of thyme, as the primary active ingredient.

Rosemary is also considered a warming herb. While you may use rosemary in summer on occasion, it comes into its own in winter as another ingredient in some poultry and pork seasonings.

Mixed together, these herbs will warm the body and add flavor to winter meals. Here's a recipe to make your own poultry seasoning from my book, Great Herb Mixes. (Cutting corners before Thanksgiving, I looked in the grocery store for a container of poultry seasoning. I was disappointed to find a little jar of McCormick poultry seasoning, less than 2 tablespoons full, for $2.59; I choose to make my own!) My book has 4 poultry seasoning recipes (plus another 96 of other kinds). Here's the recipe. Herbs are dried.

2 Tablespoons each: Sage, Parsley, Celery leaf and Marjoram.
1 Tablespoon Summer Savory
1 Tablespoon Thyme

Mix together and grind to a powder in a food processor. Store in airtight container. Use 2-3 teaspoons for a chicken added in the last half hour of cooking time.

Stay warm!


Bhut Jalokia, Ghost Pepper, Lots of Heat

The pepper just looks mean, even fresh like this one. The heat is inside, however, not on the outside.

You may remember I've been writing about Bhut Jalokia peppers each year for the past 3 or 4 years. Back when the seed was nearly impossible to get, I was one of the few people growing the plant. If you did a Google search for the words bhut jalokia, you would find my blog at the top of the searches. Now there are lots of posts about this famous pepper. Even Bonnie's Plants, a nation-wide plant distributor, offered the ghost pepper in selected markets.

So why such a strange name, and what's so special about this pepper? It came originally from Sri Lanka or Bangladesh, sources differ. The farmers there claimed it to be the world's hottest pepper. The University of New Mexico, which is a world-class bunch of pepperheads and experts, decided to challenge the Sri Lankans and conducted several seasons of pepper-heat trials with the pepper. Guess what? Those fire-eating Sri Lankans were right. The Univ. of Mexico certified the ghost pepper is the world's hottest! (Unfortunately they claimed they had "discovered" the pepper and got it listed in the Guiness Book of World's Records under their name). The stinkers.
The ghost peppers grow on a plant that reaches about 48 inches high, and almost as wide.

The word, "bhut" a Hindi word, simply means hornet, while "jalokia" is simply Hindi for pepper. So whether you call this pepper a Bhut Jaloakia (hornet pepper), or a Naga Jalokia (ghost pepper), they are one and the same (ghost refers to the fact you think you will die from the pain, leaving just a ghost).  To give an idea of the heat of a bhut jalokia, a jalapeno is rated at around 8,000-10,000 SHUs (Scoville Heat Units, the international measure of pepper heat). A Habanero or Scotsh Bonnet weighs in at 50,000 to 80,000 SHUs. (The former World's Hottest Pepper, the Red Savina Habanero, which rates at 577,000 SHU). The Bhut or Naga Jalokia comes in at (drum roll please)... 1,001,304 SHU. Exponentially hotter than a Habanero.

The Indian Government this year announced it is using the ghost pepper in new smoke grenades in their arsenal of weapons to combat terrorists. The pepper powder, combined with the smoke, produces non-harmful means of stopping any angry crowd it its tracks. Read the story here on NPR.

Just before frost I harvested all of my hot peppers. I grew 18 varieties, plus the Bhut Jalokia and the Naga Jalokia (to see if they were different, they aren't). Because of our drought, no rain from July 4 to September 5, with hot winds that knocked the blossoms with little fruit set, our crop of chilies was pretty poor. I gathered about a half bushel or so, a quarter of what the crop should have been from that many plants. I've been getting them ready for the dehydrator (meaning, I cut the stem end off and make a slit in the pepper, to shorten the time needed in the food dehydrator).

One of my favorite peppers this year is the Shishito, seen above, third from the left. They have little heat, but when flash-fried in a very hot, dry skillet for about 60 seconds, then salted, make an outstanding snack. The edges are roasted, while the primary part of the pepper are still crisp. I found these in the Farmer's Market in Santa Fe last year and was so impressed, had to grow them. The pepper on the lower bottom, right, is a sweet bell pepper called, "Yummy Orange" which mixes well with the hot peppers for a combination of flavors.
The peppers, stem ends cut off, go into the food dehydrator. It takes about 3 days to dry them to total crispness. I've filled the dehydrator several times, then filling gallon plastic bags with the dried peppers.
So just what do I do with my dried peppers? I put them all into the food processor (wearing a mask and goggles because even the dust is painful) and processing them into small flakes. Those will become my winter pepper seasoning, and gifts for some of my pepperhead friends.

Here's an outstanding hot pepper sauce recipe that my friend Eric Jeltes, birdman from the St. Louis Zoo shared with me and he said I could share it with you. This isn't especially hot, but really good flavor and we like it on everything. Thank you for sharing this, Eric!
 Eric's Hot Sauce

1 medium onion chopped
3 carrots chopped
5 cloves of garlic chopped
2 - 4 habeneros chopped
Juice of one fresh lime
One shot, about 2 Tablespoons, of white wine vinigar
2 tablespoons light vegetable oil
1 cup water
Salt to taste

-Heat a skillet to med/high and add veggie oil, onions and garlic and sautee until onions are translucent.
-Add water and carrots and heat until boiling. Cover, turn down the heat, and simmer 20 minutes until carrots are tender.
-Put everything in a blender and blend until smooth. For a thinner sauce add more water.
-Store in the refrigerator.


USA Today Chooses Reed Spring PIzza

You can't have pizza without a garden being part of the process. Our long time garden friends, Paul Lear and Flavie Mirat, who have Reeds Spring Pizza Co, in Reeds Spring, Missouri, received a great honor this week. (I've been crowing about their outstanding pizza for 2 years, brag, brag...) USA Today, this past weekend, chose ONE outstanding pizza place from each state and published 51 of the most outstanding pizzas in America. Reeds Spring Pizza has been chosen as THE BEST PIZZA IN MISSOURI. Congratulations Flavie and Paul. It's a well deserved honor.
Reed Spring Pizza Co. made the front page, bottom, of USA TODAY.
Pictured above in the article on the front page of the newspaper, although you can't see it clearly, is their famous Galline Pizza, my fav. The ingredients are: basil pesto, their special house blend tomato sauce, grilled chicken, bacon, sliced tomatoes, cashews, shredded Parmesan and topped with herbs. Yummmm!
That's their pizza again at the beginning of the article.
The article and survey is for 51 of the greatest pizzas in America. Fifty states, plus the District of Columbia. That's a lot of competition.

You can look it up online to see what pizza place is the best in your state!
In case it's hard to read (or you've forgotten you can click on any of my photos to enlarge them), here's what it says:
When the Highway 13 bypass opened in 2003, hordes of travelers on their way to nearby Branson virtually abandoned the Mayberry-like village of Reeds Spring, which has since become a mecca of art and good food, including the best pizza in Missouri. Reeds Spring Pizza Co. features a house-blend tomato sauce, olive oil and the owner's special herbs. One unusual topping: cashews. The Seven Cheese Pizza includes mozzarella, cheddar, feta, shredded Parmesan, Swiss, provolone and blue cheese. 22065 Main St.; 417-272-3507; reedsspringpizzaco.com
• Recommended by Gary Figgins, editor, Show-Me Missouri magazine

To see their menu...click this link.
Join them on FaceBook, simply type in Reed Spring Pizza in the search box and become a fan!
What's so special about Reed Spring pizzas? An outstanding, homemade crust, a house blend sauce and fresh ingredients.

There you have it, gardeners who hit the front page with their good food. I'll leave you with a couple of my favorite quotes:

Life Is Too Short,
Break The Rules, Forgive Quickly,
Kiss Slowly, Love Truly,
Laugh Uncontrollably,
And Never Regret Anything That Made You Smile.
Life May Not Be The Party We Hoped For,
But While We're Here, We Should Dance.... (anonymous)
A bee, sucking up nectar from a basil flower.

And this one of mine:

It doesn’t cost anything to love others. 
Do it freely, 
Love is never wasted, 
Even when it appears it might be.