Slice of Life 26 of 31

Herbs!

For my last Gardening Tuesday post I’m going to write about the herbs I currently keep in my garden and what I do with them.  There are all kinds of herbs out there – all of them have healing properties!  Isn’t that amazing?!  I believe plants have the cure to many diseases, and for thousands of years humankind used herbs to heal themselves.  Due to the amount of time humankind has spent looking at herbs and other plants to heal us there are old folklores attached to some plants, and I find the histories of each plant that I come across fascinating.

Disclaimer:

The folklore and medicinal uses I list are cross referenced from a variety of texts on the subject – before considering ingesting any herb for health read all you can about it, ask a herablist in your area and always follow the directions for dosage.

In my garden I have the following herbs:

Oregano (hot and spicy)

Mostly used in my chili after I’ve dried it, as the fresh herb is very hot and spicy.  I dry the leaves whole and only crush when I add to the chili or an Italian sauce I’m making.

Folklore: Oregano is a plant of joy – you plant this near the grave of someone you love as it banishes sadness and brings peace and joy.

Basil – Greek, Purple, and Sweet

I cook with basil – always fresh and bake it into the dish, or the sauce.  Mostly used when I prepare Italian dishes, but add it to salads too.

Folklore: Basil has so much history throughout the world there is a whole bunch of folklore ranging from a herb of love to a protection herb.

Peppermint – mint family

Grown mostly for its smell in my garden, but also I make a peppermint oil for baths and feet.  This peppermint is too strong to cook with, but have added sprigs to drinks.

Folklore: Companion plant – plant near other plants as a bug repellent.  Not just for fresh breath, peppermint when chewed fresh is meant to relieve toothache!

Catnip

Grown for my cat who likes to eat it fresh off the plant, but I dry the surplus and make cat toys filled with the dried herb. I also give surplus catnip to a friend.

Folklore: Seeing plant – used by cats, but can heal as a prepared tea for humans as a sleep aid, and contains vitamins C and E.

Parsley

I mostly use parsley fresh on potatoes, salads, and for other garnishing.  I use it when I make my stock from the bones of a chicken or turkey, and my mum also uses my parsley to make a parsley cream sauce for fish dishes and pies.

Folklore: Plant of rebirth, known to help with many ailments from rheumatism to kidney problems.  Like peppermint, parsley is a great companion plant and can ward away bugs from beloved tomato plants!

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Slice of Life 19 of 31

Tomatoes

I first started growing tomatoes three years ago when I came back to Florida from an extended stay in New Mexico. By mistake I planted 6 baby tomato plants in one big pot and they turned into a ginormous tomato plant! I named him Tommy and we ate his fruit for many months. As he was my first tomato plant I tried to keep him alive after his yield had turned, so I nurtured him for an entire year.

Eventually I had to say goodbye to Tommy, and stopped growing tomatoes in the hot season – as tomatoes grow in temperatures ranging from 70-80 F degrees. If it’s too cold or too hot tomato plants will not produce fruit. They are also annuals in the fact that their fruit is gross after a year – but technically a tomato plant will live for many years, which means really they’re perennials.

This year, as mentioned last week, I bought my tomato plants from the high school where I work. This weekend I planted the remaining tomatoes in a huge pot with a gigantic tomato cage that looks like a radio tower! The two plants looked lost in such a huge pot, so on Monday I bought two more tomato plants from school and planted them in the big pot too. Now I have 6 tomato plants growing for this year and I can’t wait to eat their sweet fruit!

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Slice of Life 12 of 31

Gardening with Pomegranates!

The high school where I teach had a plant sale this weekend, as we are very close by to endless fields and groves of countryside our school has agriculture classes. Students get to raise farm animals and grow plants from seed, and some of these plants were in the plant sale. I bought four tomato plants for .50c each and have repotted them today after the rain ended.

I also stumbled across a pomegranate bush that I fell in love with and purchased. I love pomegranates, especially their juice. I remember my mum giving me a sewing pin to pick the jellied seeds out of their shell one by one. Pomegranates are from the Middle East, so they do best in hot, dry climes, but Florida has several pomegranate orchards and they produce fantastic crops. Check out this farm in Florida specializing in pomegranates: Green Sea Farms. I’m going to plant mine in a beautiful terra-cotta pot and place it in the sun.

Slice of Life 5 of 31

In The Garden I Play with Eostre

As spring is around the corner I need to start preparing my garden for the late spring and summer months.  I have fresh and home dried herbs all year round, but in the spring and summer I plant organic lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers (peppers were a bit of a bust last year though).  The lettuce is a great hit and everyone raves that it’s the best tasting lettuce they’ve had!  I just use all organic seed, soil, and feed – I get great results from loose-leaf lettuces like Black Seeded Simpson, and a Mesclun Blend.  I use Botanical Interests seeds because they are organic and produce great crops.

I began gardening in 2003, and have looked after plants every day since.  Some are still with me from 2003, and some have passed on.  For my first four years of gardening I only grew herbs, and a couple of succulents, but when I moved to California in 2007 I planted junipers, jasmines, and bougainvillea.  Back here and now in Florida I grow a little food, and have a herb garden that I use all year long.  I dry oregano and use it all the time, as well as catnip for my cat.  I use basil fresh as well as parsley.  The parsley I currently have is 6 years old!  It still tastes great too!

My most beloved plants I watch over are the jade I’ve cultivated.  I have one that is 10 years old, which I took cuttings from. Currently I have two jades, they are beautiful and love each other very much.  Did you know that plants can recognize their kin?   The daddy jade plant I own had started to grow ill and yellow, as I had moved two houses down from my folks and left him there.  He missed me I guess, so I moved him to my house next to his baby, and after a few weeks he began to grow well again and is now producing thick, green foliage.

There’s something about Springtime that makes me feel alive, the smell of blossom in the air, the warm winds, and longer days picks me up and dusts me off. Spring means more gardening and spending hours upon hours in meditative trances as I focus so intently upon the plant in front of me. Springtime calls for birds to fall in love and they tell the whole world about it, so that the air is thick with their loving birdsong bright and happy. Spring means reading in the gloaming until the light grows dark, noticing the shadows elongate in swathes upon the lawn. O Spring! I’m glad you’re here again.

Below are photos of my lettuce growing in wooden beds that I made also!  And my beloved Jade.

My lettuceJade