Archive for December, 2011
Tuesday, December 27th, 2011
-Order Gardening Catalogs! What great inspiration for those winter months!
-Plant your vegetable and annual plantings for spring.
-Inspect houseplants for insects. Rinse plants in utility tubs or the shower to remove insects and dust – your plants will love you for it! Don’t over water, and use warm water to water indoor plants.
-Plant Amaryllis and Paperwhite bulbs for winter flowers.
-Check stored summer bulbs for any rotting.
-Feed the birds and make sure they have water.
-Check tree trunks and base of plants for critter damages.
-Check newly planted plants for frost heaving.
-Water newly planted evergreens if a dry month.
-Put your cut Christmas tree on the patio for the winter and hand suet cakes and bird food on it like ornaments.
-Clean and sharpen tools. Have the mower serviced / mower blade sharpened.
-Try vermicomposting indoors.
-Schedule an appointment with a Natorp’s Landscape Designer to make plans for spring 2012 landscape makeover.
-Listen to Natorp’s own Ron Wilson “In the Garden” every Saturday from 6-9am on 55KRC The Talk Station, and 10-noon on 610 WTVN (Columbus / Central Ohio), and watch for his gardening segments on Local 12 News (mornings).
TELL ME SOMETHING GOOD- If you’re like me, I just love reading trivia, old sayings, proverbs, ‘words or wisdom’ – you know, the kind of stuff that makes you stop and think for a minute or two! And, there’s no time better than at the end of the year, or heading into the New Year! So, here are a few goodies you can ‘ponder’ over: -End the year square with every man and woman. –R. Thomas / There’s no limit to the amount of good people can do if they don’t care who gets the credit. / A green Christmas brings a white Easter – snow on Christmas night means a good hop crop – if it rains much during the 12 days after Christmas, it will be a wet year to come – so far as the sun shines on Christmas Day, so far will the snow fly in May. –Old Farmer’s Almanac / Never insult an alligator until you’ve crossed the river. / If you lose the power to laugh, you lose the power to think. / You can’t steal second base and keep one foot on first. / What happens to you on the inside becomes reality on the outside. / God is in the details, so pay attention to the details. / Be happy while you’re living, for you’re dead a long time. / First one downstairs gets to pick the cartoons. / Never take a sleeping pill and laxative at the same time. / The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese. / If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well. -Martin Luther King, Jr. / Eat only what is proper food, drink only that which does you good. Spend only what you can afford, lend only what will be restored. Then will you have no cause to say, “I was a fool on yesterday.”
The Careful Builder I saw them tearing a building down- a gang of men, in my hometown. With a heave, and a ho, and a ‘yes, yes!’ yell, they swung a beam, and a sidewall fell. I said to the foreman, “Are these men skilled? Like the ones you’d use if you had to build?” He laughed and said, “Oh, no! Indeed! The most common labor’s all I need. Because I can destroy, in a day or two, what it takes a builder ten years to do.” And I thought to myself, as I went my way, which of these roles am I willing to play? Am I the one, who’s tearing down, as I carelessly make my way around? Or am I the one who builds with care, so my family and my community is just a little better, because I was there? -Author Unknown
[Epiphany - January 6th is the traditional end of the Christmas holiday and is the date on which the tree and decorations are taken down. To do so earlier was thought to bring bad luck for the rest of the year.]
Tuesday, December 27th, 2011
Garden Questions of the Week
“Bought a ‘Silver English Holly’ for Christmas decorations and plan to plant it after the holidays. Any suggestions where to plant it?” -They can get some size so allow the room, but please read the label and check the hardiness listed. Most of those are Zone 7 (6) and further south, and not very hardy here. You may be better growing it in a container; outside in the summer / indoors for the winter.
“We just finished re-landscaping an area and now doing the final mulching. Should I apply a pre emergent herbicide now as I mulch the area?” -I wouldn’t. The only weed seeds that may germinate between now and spring would be winter annuals. I’d wait until spring and then apply the pre emergent (when soil and air temps become 55 degrees ‘plus’ consistently). Consider corn gluten meal for a more ‘natural’ pre emergent.
“I used Dracaena and Cordyline spikes in my annual planters outdoors. Can I do anything to keep those over the winter – I hate to pitch them out?” -Yes! Both make great indoor plants! Pull the annuals out and keep your spikes in a bright lit area indoors and grow over the winter as a foliage plant. (Usually easy ones for indoors.) Then next spring, take it back outdoors and replant the annuals around it for your summer planter. Or, make a combination planter for indoors, using other foliage plants. Looks nice over the winter – then move the new foliage planter outdoors for the summer and enjoy on the patio or deck – bring back indoors for the winter.
“Did I hear you say use warm water for watering indoors plants?” -You did! Recent studies are now showing cold water can actually reduce root and plant growth on indoor plants causing plant decline, where watering with luke-warm to very warm water, will actually stimulate root growth and result in a healthier plant – assuming you don’t over water your plants!
“My amaryllis has finished flowering; now what?” -Once the flower is finished, cut the flower stalk off just above the foliage, which will now start to grow like crazy. Then, grow your amaryllis indoors like a houseplant over the winter. Next summer you can move it outdoors if you’d like. Feed it regularly with a water soluble fertilizer. Then, late August, stop watering the plant, remove the yellowed foliage, store the bulb pot and all in a cool dark area indoors for 6-8 weeks, then bring it out and start the process all over again for holiday and winter flowers.
Tuesday, December 27th, 2011
Problems in the Garden
No problems, but we would like to again, thank Mr. Joe Boggs, aka Buggy Joe, for all his help during the year with input for this section of our newsletter. Between Joe and all the great folks at the OSU Extension Service, we can stay better informed about what’s happening in the bug and disease world, whether or not it’s something we need to be concerned about, and if so, what to do about it. I did ask Joe if he had anything for our final newsletter and here’s his response: “I’ve already gotten a few questions asking if the cold weather will kill insect pests. In my usual highly informative approach, my answer has been, “yes, and no.” The “yes” is for insect pests that are living near the edge of their low temperature threshold. It’s exactly like the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones. Unfortunately, entomologists haven’t created an “insect hardiness zones” map, but we do know some insects such as bagworms can be affected by low winter temperatures. That’s why we see fewer numbers the further north we travel in Ohio. However, since bagworm eggs can easily survive the low temperatures we’ve experienced thus far, the weather hasn’t yet helped us out for next season. The same is probably true for the other “edge” insect pests. The “no” is for insects that actually benefit from low temperatures because they are genetically programmed to survive them. Japanese beetle grubs are a good example. They feed heavily in the fall and accumulate fat for the winter … I can relate! Since they are cold-blooded, their metabolism is linked to temperature. The colder it gets in the winter, the less fat they burn. On the other hand, the warmer it gets, the more fat they burn. Since they don’t feed during the winter, warm temperatures can cause a serious problem for them – they can eventually run out of fat reserves and starve to death. This is why we see fewer numbers of Japanese beetles the further south we drive.” As usual, Joe is never at a loss for final quotes! So thank you OSU Extension, and special thanks to you, Joe Boggs, wherever you are, pupating for the winter.
-Read ‘The Buggy Joe Boggs Blog’ at www.ronwilsononline.com, including his video on the Asian Longhorn Beetle.
Tuesday, December 27th, 2011
From the Garden to the Kitchen
Yardboy, the last holiday of the year is coming up fast. Here’s the perfect do-ahead recipe for a New Year’s Day gathering. What I love about this pork tenderloin is that it is a great dish for brunch or for dinner. I want to wish you and all of our readers a happy, healthy New Year. I count you among my many blessings. As we go into “winter mode” here at Natorp’s and resume our newsletter sometime in late February, know that I’ll be testing and developing more recipes and, of course, more “potions” for all of you in 2012!
PEPPERED BACON WRAPPED PORK TENDERLOIN
(Friend Carolyn Grieme served us this delicious stuffed tenderloin during the holidays and I immediately had to have the recipe. (Originally from the Kentucky Monthly Magazine.) Here’s my adaptation.)
4 tablespoons butter or olive oil
3/4 pound mushrooms sliced (I use mixed wild mushrooms)
1 generous cup onion, chopped fine
Couple pinches thyme
1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted
Two tenderloins, about 1 pound each, trimmed
Salt and pepper to taste (start with a teaspoon of each)
Peppered bacon, thick sliced, about 8-10 slices
1/3 to 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, dark or light
Preheat oven to 450.
Melt butter and add mushrooms, onions and thyme and sauté until tender. Stir in nuts and set aside.
Butterfly pork by cutting a slit into the middle about 2/3 of the way down. It will open like a book. Then pound it out to even thickness and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Spread mushroom mixture evenly on one side, leaving a bit of a border.
Roll up and wrap 4-5 bacon slices around tenderloin and secure with wooden picks if you have them. If you like, you can get the pork ready to this stage the morning of your party.
Let sit out about 30 minutes prior to baking. (Now if you forget, that’s OK – just remember that it will take longer to bake).
Place, seam side down, in roasting pan. Rub evenly with brown sugar and bake uncovered at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 400 and bake about 15 more minutes, or until meat thermometer registers 150 -160.
-Rita Nader Heikenfeld, CCP, CMH
And a very special ‘Thank You’ to our very special friend Rita Heikenfeld for sharing all of her great cooking and herbal knowledge and information for this segment. You’re the best, “Riat”! (Yes, I spell her name “Riat”!)
Tuesday, December 13th, 2011
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all thru the yard, the branches were bare – the ground frozen hard. The ‘Knock Out’ roses were dormant, the others mulched all around, and the evergreens had been sprayed with ‘WiltStop’ to keep them winter safe and sound.
The perennials were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of ‘Espoma’s Garden Food’ danced in their heads. The newly planted shrubs had been soaked by the hose
To settle their roots for a long winter’s doze.
When out on the drive there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, knocking over my herb planted ‘Earthbox’ as I threw up the sash.
I looked across the lawn where the new fallen snow, had covered the turf type tall fescues growing below. When what to my wondering eyes should appear? But a gardening truck in my driveway, filled with great gardening gear!
Saint Nick was the driver, the jolly old elf, and he winked as he said, “I’m a gardener myself. I’ve brought garden tools, a moisture meter, a ‘Ross Root Feeder’, too, a compost bin, garden gloves and pruners just for you!
An ‘Adjust O Rake’, a shovel, and ‘TLC’ grass seed to sow, herb seeds for our friend Rita and all natural bug sprays for ole Buggy Joe. Here’s ‘Bonide’s Weed Beater Ultra’ and ‘Tree and Shrub Insect Control’, some ‘Plant Tone’, some ‘Miracle Gro’, and ‘MoleScram’ to repel that mole.
Here’s ‘DeerScram’ and ‘Liquid Fence’ to keep those hungry deer at bay, some sulfur, soaps and oils, and ‘Espoma’ fertilizers for gardening the ‘all natural way’. ‘Fertilome’s Crabgrass Preventer plus Lawn Food’ to feed the lawn and stop those pesky weed seeds, and here’s a really cool garden stool to help save your knees!
To make your gardening easy, ‘Sucker Stopper’ and ‘Over the Top’, ‘Roundup’, ‘Preen’, ‘Corn Gluten Meal’ – man these products really rock! Here’s ‘Pine Soil Conditioner’, ‘Milorganite’ and composted manure, a green Christmas year-round, these garden gifts will ensure!”
Then Jolly Saint Nick, having emptied the load, started his truck and took to the road. And I heard him exclaim through the motor’s loud hum, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a Green Thumb!” -Author Unknown (Natorp revised 2011)
Tuesday, December 13th, 2011
Garden Questions of the Week
“I just received 10 mixed Arbor Day trees in the mail! What should I do at this stage?” -I would pot them up in 1 gallon pots, water in well, place them in an unheated garage or shed for the winter (to keep them dormant), water once a month, and then bring them back outside in March as the weather begins to warm. Personally, I like to grow those seedlings in a container for a year or so to establish a nice root system, and get some size to the plant before planting in the ground. But that’s up to you. If you want to plant in spring, go right ahead. Just protect them from critters and getting stepped on.
“When can I spray my evergreens with ‘WiltStop’ for winter protection?” -You’re good to go at this stage. Read the label for restrictions not only for temperatures, but for plants as well. Spraying as late in the season as you can for some evergreens is suggested. And yes, it can turn your Blue Spruce green, so do not use on Blue Spruce!
“Can you give me some tips on taking care of my holiday plants like the Christmas Cactus and Poinsettia?” Sure can! Here are tips for many of the plants grown for the holiday season:
Cyclamens – Blossoms of the cyclamen twist and turn like butterfly wings, and are supported by the silvery marbled coloring of the cyclamen foliage. You’ll find cyclamen blossoms in many colors, ranging from lavender, rose, maroon, red and white. When growing cyclamen, place them in a well lit area, away from drafts of heat and cold, keep that soil evenly moist, and be sure to keep them in cooler temperatures (65 degrees) so they’ll keep flowering all winter long.
Norfolk Island Pine – Actually a native of Norfolk Island which is near Australia in the South Pacific, in its native habitat, grows as high as 200 feet! But, when grown in a container – indoors, stay smaller and really make a nice houseplant that can easily be decorated for the holiday season. Norfolk Island pines need bright light, but nothing direct – love the cooler temperatures – and enjoy even watering, so water it well, let it get close to dry (not totally dry), and water again. Otherwise, this tropical plant is one of the easiest plants to grow indoors. Don’t use ornaments or lights that may be too heavy for the stems. But otherwise, this cool looking easy to grow indoor pine should be around for you to decorate for many holidays to come.
African Violets – Another easy one to grow and get to flower -place them in a bright window with no direct sunlight – cool temps – and water when the soil dries out, keeping the water off the foliage. Feed monthly and these beauties will flower off and all year long.
Rosemary – a very popular herb, Rosemary is available at Christmas typically shaped like small Christmas trees. The keys for growing rosemary indoors – very sunny bright location, good air flow, and let it get close to dry before watering.
Poinsettia – the traditional indoor plant for the holiday season. Place it in a well lit area, with the temps between 60 and 70 degrees, and away from hot or cold drafts. Keep the soil evenly moist – not soggy wet – evenly moist. Water thoroughly when the soil surface feels dry. Always take it out of the decorative sleeve when watering, and never let water sit in the sleeve on in the saucer below. No need to feed them now, but feel free to feed monthly after the holiday season. (Research conducted at The Ohio State University has proven the old theory about poinsettias being deathly poisonous to humans is false. And although the same has been suggested for most home pets, if you’re uncomfortable with it, place your poinsettias out of your pet’s reach.)
And one of the most popular holiday flowers next to the poinsettia – the Christmas Cactus. Although it’s not a true cactus, these easy to care for plants can really put on a consistent show holiday after holiday. Available in many colors, Christmas Cactus loves a bright location indoors (no direct sun please), loves well drained soils, yet needs watering on a regular basis – so water when the top half of the soil feels dry. Again, cooler temperatures indoors will help these flowers last longer thru the holiday season. If you’ve had trouble getting your Christmas Cactus to flower each year, remember two things – shorter days (so limit their daylight hours to 10) and cool night-time temperatures (50 – 55 degrees) in the fall – those two factors will help set the flower buds for the holiday season. And if yours hasn’t set buds yet, it’s not too late to try.
Tuesday, December 13th, 2011
Problems in the Garden
Critter Damages: As we start to look towards the winter season, critters start to look at our landscape plants as a source of food. So here are a couple tips to help prevent winter critter damages: -Keep the mulch around trees and shrubs pulled away from the base of the plant. It’s better for the plant, and doesn’t allow a place for field mice and voles to hide while chewing on the bark. -Use trunk protectors; make sure the trunk protectors touch the soil and then extend up 30-36 inches or to the bottom branches. This will help protect from chewing on the bark, as well as buck deer rubbing on the trunks. -Use physical barriers to keep critters away. Chicken wire works great, but even a barrier of nylon bird netting can help deter rabbits and deer from munching on your prized plants.
-And of course, give the critter repellents a try. There are many on the market today; I’ve been using and recommending DeerScram, RabbitScram, Liquid Fence, and Repels All for years. And all guarantee results. I think the key to using repellents is to make sure they’re used at recommended rates, re-applied as needed, and mix it up. Use one for a while, and then use another – that way the critters don’t get used to one particular repellent. And don’t forget Milorganite; all natural fertilizer for a nice slow feeding, yet works great at repelling deer. -There’s even a mouse repellent called Mouse Magic. Helps repel mice from small sheds, stored vehicles and boats, and is getting great reviews from those using it. Repelling mice; who would have thought? -One last note: physical barriers are pretty much sure cures. Repellents work, and many are guaranteed to work – but when critters are starving, sometimes they will go thru the repellent to eat and stay alive.
Buggy Joe releases video about Asian Longhorn beetle! See and listen to BJB as he discusses the ALB on video! Very informative! Visit www.ronwilsononline.com. To learn even more about the EAB and the ALB, also visit www.beetlebusters.info.
Tuesday, December 13th, 2011
From the Garden to the Kitchen
Yardboy, all those herbs that were growing so abundantly just a month ago, are now drying in bunches. What a fragrant aroma from the mixture! I like to make herb blends for gifts from the garden, and here’s my favorite salt free blend. All of these herbs and spices are available at the grocery, as well.
Rita’s Salt Free Herb Blend (Adapted from a version a reader sent a while back, it’s a good one for those of you who like a little bit less exotic blend, one that you’re familiar with, like Mrs. Dash’s.)
Mix together (remember the herbs used are dried, not fresh). Feel free to double or triple this recipe. This keeps in a covered container, away from heat and light, for up to a year.
-1/4 cup garlic powder -1/4 cup onion powder
-1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ea: – Basil, Oregano, Thyme, Savory, Ground Mace, Sage
-1 tablespoon oregano or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon marjoram
-1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried lemon zest (Just zest a lemon, let the zest dry and you’re good to go) -Black pepper to taste: start with 2 teaspoons ZESTY BLEND: Add ground cayenne pepper: go to taste on this, starting with 1/2 teaspoon and go from there.
Maple Chipotle Grill/Roasting Sauce (This is my most requested grill sauce. Better than anything you can buy. Go to taste on ingredients, adding more after the sauce has cooked about 30 minutes – delicious on pork, chicken, and beef brisket.)
1 1/2 cups catsup 1 can 8 oz. tomato sauce 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup 1/2 cup red wine vinegar 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons Soy sauce Juice of one lemon 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger paste
1/2 teaspoon (or more for heat) chipotles in adobo sauce – measure after mashing to paste 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 1 teaspoon ea: garlic powder and onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ea: black pepper, dry mustard, dry oregano, basil 1/4 teaspoon allspice
Whisk together in large pot catsup, tomato sauce, brown sugar, maple syrup, wine vinegar, Worcestershire, Tamari, lemon and lime juices. Stir in ginger and chipotles. Add Dijon mustard and remaining herbs and spices. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes or more, stirring occasionally, to blend flavors and reduce sauce somewhat. Makes 1 quart. Stores in refrigerator up to 1 month.
Raspberry Vinegar (Use fresh or frozen raspberries here. Again, feel free to double or triple the recipe. Vinegar will be done in a week to 10 days. Raspberries are full of antioxidants and vinegar is naturally healthy for you.)
2 cups white wine vinegar, brought to a simmer – don’t let boil
1 generous cup washed and drained fresh raspberries or frozen raspberries, thawed (keep any juice from thawed berries and pour into wine vinegar with the berries).
Pour raspberries in quart glass jar. Pour vinegar over. Seal. I use a two piece Mason jar lid set. Any glass jar and lid will do, as long as the inside of the lid isn’t metal where it can corrode from the vinegar. If you do have to use a metal lid, put plastic wrap or parchment on top of the jar before putting lid on, and this will protect it. Store in cool, dark place and check after a week. The aroma coming from the vinegar should smell like raspberries, and the vinegar will have turned a beautiful red. Strain. Store in pantry. Keeps up to a year.
Raspberry Vinaigrette (Use a blender to mix, but whisking by hand is OK, too. Great on salad made with Bibb lettuce, dried cranberries, crumbled Gorgonzola and pine nuts.)
1/2 cup raspberry vinegar Sugar, honey, Splenda, or Stevia to taste: start with 3 tablespoons and go from there. If using Stevia, you’ll need a lot less. 3-4 tablespoons minced fresh onion 1 cup Canola or grapeseed oil 1 tablespoon poppy seeds (opt.)
Salt and pepper to taste
Vodka with Essence of Lavender and Rosemary (Use a high quality vodka)
4 cups vodka 1 – 3” sprig of rosemary 2 – 3” sprigs of lavender
Place herbs in glass jar and ‘smoosh’ down with a spoon to release oils. Pour vodka over. Seal and let infuse for up to one week. Taste after 2 days and every day after. When it tastes good to you, that’s when it’s time to strain out the herbs.
Maryanne Stauback’s Potato Pancakes, Perkin’s Style for Hanukkah (Maryanne, one of our readers, developed this recipe with her dad and I’ve adapted it only slightly. A family favorite for those celebrating Hanukkah. Reheat leftovers in the oven or microwave.)
3 large eggs, separated 3 pounds red potatoes, unpeeled 1 pound onions or less, to taste 1-3/4 cups flour 3 teaspoons salt or less to taste 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk 3 tablespoons Canola
Whip egg whites and set aside. In food processor with grating blade, grate potatoes and onions. Pour into bowl. Using the chopping blade, blend egg yolks, milk and oil. Add potatoes and onions and pulse until chopped coarsely. Sift dry ingredients (I just used a whisk) and add to egg mixture. Pulse until blended. Batter should be slightly lumpy. Pour into bowl and fold in whipped eggs. Heat griddle and add oil. Fry like pancakes over medium heat. Keep warm in oven until ready to serve. (Makes 9-12 servings.)
BIBLE SOUP IN A JAR – A gift from the hands is a gift from the heart! Can you guess which items in the jar are mentioned in the Bible? (Hint: Lentils, onions, garlic, thyme, cumin, chicken, and barley). If you want to make this soup vegetarian, use vegetable bouillon granules and vegetable broth. Soy sausage can be subbed for the smoked sausage. Layer these in the jar as indicated below:
2 cups lentils (brown or a combo of brown, red or green)
Dried vegetable flakes from Knorr-Swiss vegetable soup & dip mix***
1 tablespoon dried onion flakes or minced dried onions
1 tablespoon chicken bouillon granules
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1-1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 cup quick cooking barley flakes
1/4 cup plain sun dried tomatoes, diced (measure after dicing – I like to put these in a baggie since they’re somewhat moist)
** Place vegetable soup mix in a sieve, shaking to allow the powdered bouillon/flavoring to be removed.
Layer lentils, vegetable flakes, onion flakes, bouillon granules, oregano, garlic powder, thyme, and cumin in a food storage jar with lid. (Or you can mix the oregano, garlic, thyme and cumin together and make one layer). For gift tag: In large pot, place contents of jar, 12 cups chicken broth, 1 pound favorite smoked sausage, sliced, and 1 can, 14.5 oz, stewed tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, or until lentils are tender. If necessary, add more broth or water, 1/2 cup at a time to reach desired consistency. Garnish with Parmesan or favorite cheese. (Serves 8-10) Gilding the Lily: Stir in a few handfuls of fresh spinach after soup has cooked.
VICTORIAN MANGER HERBS – Herbs were an integral part of life during the Victorian era. During the Christmas season, herbs were used in holiday foods and to scent the holiday atmosphere. They were displayed in manger scenes, which was a popular decoration of that time. In the manger, special herbs were part of the legend surrounding the Christmas story. These herbs were called “manger herbs) – the herbs that Mary used to make Jesus’ bed in the cattle manger. In Victorian households, this little story was told every Christmas, and I think the legend is a meaningful one to pass on.
-Lady’s Bedstraw: Mary used this to line the manger and lull Jesus to sleep. Lady’s bedstraw has a honey like scent when crushed, and is very calming. Lady’s bedstraw is a ground cover and has beautiful bright green leaves and small bunches of golden flowers. Legend has it that the flowers were originally white but turned golden for the tiny king. Lady’s bedstraw can be dried and stuffed into small muslin pillows, called sleep pillows.
-Chamomile: We know this as a calming herbal tea. Mary put it in the manger to keep the Christ child calm. Apple scented chamomile was a very popular herb during Victorian times. People dried the flowers and brewed them into a tisane, a tea to calm the nerves and reduce headaches. I do the same today.
-Lavender: Mary laid the swaddling clothes of Jesus on a Lavender bush to dry. Jesus’ clothes had a beautiful fresh scent and the lavender flowers took up that scent. Lavender was used to freshen linens just like we do today, and bedding and sick rooms. It also was used to deter moths and no Victorian home could do without lavender.
-Rosemary: This herb relates to the story of the Holy Family’s hurried flight from Herod. It’s said that rosemary kept silent as they journeyed through the Egyptian countryside while the other bushes crackled and snapped as they passed through them. Mary hung her cloak on a rosemary bush and the formerly white flowers turned blue in her honor. In Victorian homes rosemary was used for cooking like we do today and also in small bouquets to signify remembrances. I like to put rosemary sprigs in my Christmas cards.
-Thyme: Mary put this in the manger to guard against disease. Thyme is like a medicine chest in a plant – it’s very antiseptic and was used for teas during Victorian times. I still make a thyme and sage tea for a sore throat and also put thyme in most of my soups, including the Bible soup in a jar recipe I’m sharing today.
-Rita Nader Heikenfeld, CCP, CMH
["I once read where in Norway, on Christmas Eve, after dinner and opening of all the presents, all of the brooms in the house were hidden. The Norwegians believed that witches and mischievous spirits would come out on Christmas Eve and steal all their brooms for riding. So after reading that, I now put all of our brooms away so Rita doesn't go flying around with her friends on Christmas Eve." -Frank Heikenfeld]