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