Herbal gatherings of a morning - St. John's Wort with its yellow flowers, horehound (in the tall enamel pot), and dill - lay on my kitchen table ready for drying.
Dictionary.com defines an "herbarium" as...
1. a collectionofdriedplantssystematicallyarranged.
2. a roomorbuildinginwhich suchacollectioniskept.
Presently, this is a very good description of my kitchen! I'm now gathering herbs from the Cottage's gardens for cooking, making herbal tea blends, and for medicinal use. Some will be available in my on-line etsy shop as soon as the new Season's crop is dried and ready for sale. These new offerings will replace those currently for sale in the next couple of weeks.
Early in the morning before the day grows hot is a good time to gather herbs, such as this feathery and flavorful dill.
I gather dill before it sets its seed heads to be dried for dill weed. Later, after it sets seeds, I'll gather those for use in pickling and flavoring salads, soups, and stews.
Bundles of dill hang from the kitchen ceiling to dry. At this time of year my ceiling serves as a huge drying rack for herbs and flowers.
The aerial parts - upper leaves, stems, and flowers - are what's useful on this tall herb...Motherwort (leonurus cardiaca).
After gathering, the herbs are quickly rinsed of dust and insects and placed on clean towels to drain.
Horehound, at its most potent when just beginning to flower, is drained after rinsing. Kitchen twine will be used to bundle and hang some herbs. Others will be chopped and dried on trays in the drying rack located on the laundry porch.
This rack on the enclosed laundry porch is used to dry trays of herbs. In early Spring it's used to start seeds for the Kitchen Garden. Lights suspended under the shelves are lowered to aid the growth of seedlings.
St. John's Wort has been rinsed, drained, and chopped. It's ready for drying.
The herbs will take about a week to dry after which they'll be packaged until needed.
Motherwort (leonurus cardiaca) is used (by me) to make a tincture which controls my heart arrhythmia. It also has a mild "gladdening" effect on one's psyche.
St. John's Wort, when tinctured in vodka or brandy - I use a eye dropper-full three times daily in juice, wine, tea - eases mild to moderate depression. Soaked in olive oil, the yellow flowers color the oil red. This oil may be rubbed onto sore and aching muscles, sprains or strains, to relieve pain and promote healing.
Horehound may be used as a tea (with honey and lemon) to treat coughs and bronchial problems. And, it can be made into old-fashioned horehound candy to soothe a sore throat and calm a cough.
The first word that comes to mind when asked how to peel really fresh boiled eggs is..."Impossible"...
Well, not quite so fast! While really fresh eggs are, or can be, difficult to peel, they are not entirely impossible...some of the time!
No problem if you buy "fresh" eggs from the supermarket! These eggs can be up to five weeks old and when boiled are very easy to peel. The older an egg is the easier it is to peel after boiling.
However, if you have your own hens - as I do - you'll know what a really fresh egg actually is. And, they don't peel easily. No way!
I've boiled up a dozen really fresh eggs to make pickled eggs - a good thing to do when you find yourself with too many eggs and no one to give or sell them to!
So, if I'm planning any recipes that require boiled eggs I'll need to set aside eggs for that purpose that are one to two (preferably) weeks old.
I always use my older eggs for boiling. For any other application, the fresher the egg, the better!
But, what about those times when I have no choice but to boil my really fresh eggs?
I've researched on-line for methods of making super-fresh eggs that have been boiled easier to peel. And, the results are mostly dismal. So...I've come up with a solution - via trial and error - that works "most" of the time. Nothing I've tried ever works 100% of the time.
I've read that boiling fresh eggs with copious amounts of salt is the answer. Maybe...with semi-fresh eggs. Not with really freshly laid eggs!
I've heard that leaving fresh eggs that have been boiled out on the counter several hours prior to peeling will render them easier to peel. Sort of...
Really, really, I mean "really" fresh eggs are HARD TO PEEL, if not impossible. I'm talking eggs so fresh - within a day of having been laid!
Try to peel one of these babies and you'll end up with divotted white and mostly yolk! Most of the white part still adhering to the discarded shells. Taste great but look...not so appetizing.
So, here's my own system developed out of need, necessity, invention, and desperation!
DO NOT boil any eggs less than four days old! Just don't. You'll be agitated, disappointed, frustrated, irritated, and just plain grouchy! And you'll end up with yolks scantily clad in a bit of pitted white.
If you MUST boil eggs that are less than a week old, this system I've developed will work. I'll also share a steaming technique that I recently tried that works, well, rather well!
Place the eggs in a sauce pot. Fill the pan to cover the eggs by an inch. Bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, set the timer for 10 minutes - this lower boiling time will prevent that gray, unappetizing ring around the yolk. After ten minutes, turn off the heat, allowing the eggs to sit for about 15 minutes.
Lift a relatively hot egg from the pan. Use a slotted spoon to spare your fingers!
Give the egg a quick rinse in really cold tap water, or dip it into cold, cold water. The transition from hot to cold seems to cause the egg to contract - a bit - from the shell and membrane. Then peel. Carefully.
If the white starts to come away with the shell. Peel in the other direction. I've discovered that eggs often peel better in one direction than another.
The only salvation with eggs that peel badly is to use them chopped for potato salad, deviled for egg sandwiches, or any application where crumbled, boiled egg is needed, such as on seafood salads or to garnish cooked asparagus, etc.
To peel a boiled egg, crack it gently against a hard surface over its entirety. Gently begin peeling at its base. Really fresh eggs won't have an air pocket, or depression at their base. The older an egg is the more of an air pocket it develops.
A good method I recently tried is to steam eggs for 20 minutes - not any longer or you'll have that gray ring around the yolk of oxidized protein.
Steaming really fresh eggs in a vegetable steamer basket has been, thus far, the most successful method for peeling really fresh eggs.
Fill a large sauce pot with enough water to just come to the bottom of a vegetable steamer. Cover and bring to a boil until steaming.
Lay the eggs in the steamer basket side by side only one layer deep. Cover the pot and reduce heat to medium or medium-low to maintain enough heat to continue steaming. Set a timer for 20 minutes.
steaming, turn off the heat and allow them to sit covered for about 15
minutes. They'll still be hot. Grasp one of the eggs - still hot, hot,
hot - with a slotted spoon and give it a quick rinse under cold tap water so you can handle it.
Crack it gently all over and peel. Repeat with the remaining eggs.
With my last batch of eggs I had an 80% success rate in peeling them. Not bad!
Farmer Chet's corn in the field across the road is six- to eight-inches tall.
In long-season areas I recently visited, on my trip to California, corn is already tasseling. In my short-season zone, corn is only a few inches high.
This year I'm experimenting with a small patch of corn, an heirloom called Bloody Butcher. My corn is about six-inches tall.
This corn should be interesting as the kernels are red. Not so much meant to be eaten fresh, this variety is for making cornmeal and parching. It's also used decoratively, as well.
I've planted only a small patch in my raised bed to experiment with. Inter-planted with the corn are three seeds gifted to me of an heirloom squash called, Mormon Winter Pumpkin - another experiment.
The winter squash are about three-inches tall and the plan is that - because the corn is still short - the squash will receive plenty of sunshine.
By the time the squash begin to make vines, the corn will be taller but the vines will have wandered outward away from the corn and be getting plenty of sunshine.
The corn will also shade the roots of the squash so they don't dry out as quickly between waterings. At least this is the plan!
While some folks - in California and the Southwest - are already enjoying juicy, ripe tomatoes from their gardens, mine are still in a state of becoming...
This Rutger's "no-peel" tomato plant is not quite as tall as my cat Junie.
My tomatoes, though not very big now, will soon burst into growth and become big, heavy, ropey vines laden with plump, juicy fruits.
Here's a tomato growing secret...see the red picnic plate - now a bit faded from the sun - beneath the tomato in the above photo?
Well, using either red, plastic mulch or simple red picnic plates will accelerate the growth of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants by up to 60%. You'll also get bigger and more abundant crops!
Commercial growers know this secret and pave their fields with red plastic mulch. I think it works for strawberries, too!
In the same large raised bed as my experimental corn - 6-1/2 feet by 21-feet - are also planted, carrots, beets, leeks, onions, fennel, basil, collards, scarlet runner beans, eggplants and sweet peppers...and a row of dwarf sunflowers.
Nothing is very big yet, but I'm enjoying eating the onions and collards right now!
This is how my garden - or at least part of it - grows!
Last January I had a tree trimming service remove several large limbs and deadwood from some of my big elm trees. I requested the wood be left for my woodstove and that the smaller shredded limbs be left behind, too.
All the rest of the Winter and into Spring - until now - two sizable piles of shredded limbs sat outside the Kitchen Garden fence. Waiting...
Gradually. Slowly. Methodically. Daily. I move several wheelbarrows full of the shredded limb-bark into the Kitchen Garden to refresh the paths. It's a journey of a few feet and back again. Again and again.
Roll the wheelbarrow to one of the piles. Use the garden fork to fill the wheelbarrow full. Then, wheel it to the far end of the Kitchen Garden.
Dump the contents.
Rake the shredded bark smooth onto the paths.
Return for more, gradually working my way through the garden until all the paths are covered.
I'm almost finished with the Kitchen Garden paths.
There are other spots around the Cottage where I'll distribute some, too. Under the front elm where I like to sit within the bower of its shade and overhanging limbs. In the Orchard Garden between the raised beds there. In the dog kennel. I'll cover the paths around the Peace Garden, too.
Then the piles of shredded limbs will be gone. And I'll be done with that chore.
Layered with shredded bark my Kitchen Garden paths sprout fewer weeds and make for a clean surface to walk on even in the muddiest Seasons.
From here to there and back again. Forking. Filling. Wheeling. Dumping. Raking. Returning.
Four to five wheelbarrows full each day. Then other duties call my attention and effort away. Weeding. Trimming. Planting. Watering. Sitting and enjoying my gardens. Watching the Chicken Girls roam, scratch, peck, and dust bathe.
The piles don't seem to be getting smaller...
Little by little, bit by bit, are some jobs accomplished in fullness and completion.
Last Summer I sat beneath the shade of these shredded limbs. Now, they pave the garden pathways beneath my feet.