Founded in 1978 and published four times a year, Herb Quarterly brings readers the joy of herbs with each new season. Each issue introduces readers to new herbs and fascinating herbal lore; provides tips on hard to grow varieties; brings you the latest information on medicinal herbs and herbal remedies; showcases gardens from around the world; and tempts the palate with seasonal menus and tantalizing recipes built around herbs and edible flowers.
Editor-in-Chief: Abigail O'Connell
Senior Editor: Vicky Uhland
Art Director/Design: Susan Pinkerton
Health Editor: Maria Noel Groves
Beauty Editor: Janice Cox
Contributing Editors: KP Khalsa, CD-N, AHG
Single Copy Sales Director: Milton Cuevas
Internet Marketing Director: Analiza Ash
Illustrators Duane Bibby
Founder, CEO & Publisher W. Wayne Lin
Vice President Chris Slaughter
Outdoor Entertaining with Herbs
Peach, Tarragon, & Honey Ricotta Tartine
Grilled Shrimp Chimichurri
Italian Herb Chicken & Summer
Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Feta, Mint,
& Pine Nuts
Lamb & Olive Herb “Jam” Burgers
Tomato Feta Relish
Cantaloupe Basil Agua Fresca
A sunny day, a balmy night—summer is the season for enjoying good company al fresco, whether it’s in the garden, at the beach, or even at a nearby park. Easy to prepare, make-ahead recipes help simplify the work for relaxed entertaining, while elegantly presented plates and platters set the scene. So fire up the grill, sift through summer’s bounty, and prepare vibrant and tasty dishes that celebrate the best vegetables, fruits, and herbs of the season.
Grilled Shrimp Chimichurri
After you try chimichurri sauce for the first time, you may never want to fire up your grill without a bowl of this sauce nearby. Argentina’s favorite condiment for grilled beef boasts herbaceous flavors that partner well with grilled seafood, chicken, or vegetables. (Additional options: use fresh oregano leaves instead of cilantro; add 1⁄4 cup chopped green onions; add 2 tablespoons of lime juice.)
2 cups packed Italian parsley leaves
1⁄2 cup packed cilantro leaves
1⁄2 cup red wine vinegar
6 garlic cloves
1⁄2-1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 1⁄2 tsp Kosher salt
1⁄2 tsp freshly ground black
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (use half olive oil and half vegetable oil if the former is strong)
24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tail on
Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon
2 Tbls extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until roughly chopped, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Slowly add in oil until well combined, again scraping the sides of the bowl. Let stand at room temperature. Makes 2 cups of chimichurri sauce.
Next, skewer shrimp, four to a skewer. (Note: Using two skewers instead of one makes it easier to turn the shrimp when grilling.) Mix lemon and olive oil in a small bowl and brush over the skewers; season with salt and pepper.
Prepare grill for cooking. Cook the skewers for 11⁄2-2 minutes on each side until just pink and cooked through. Serve skewers immediately, drizzling them with sauce and serving remaining sauce on the side. Makes 6 servings.
Myth, Magic, & Medicine In America’s Wildflowers
From Echinacea to blue vervain, the flowers that grow across the country have a story to tell.
It’s difficult for us in 21st century Western culture, separated as most of us have become from direct participation in the lives of wild plants and their relation to Earth cycles, to imagine that plants can communicate with each other and with humans. But as humans evolved over the centuries, they observed plants’ mysterious ability to metamorphose from apparent lifelessness in winter to rebirth in spring, bear flowers and fruit in summer, and decline once again in fall, and developed stories to explain some of these “healing” powers.
Botanists and anthropologists have reported on their explorations of indigenous peoples from many parts of the world, including the Americas, and the plants they use for healing. When they pose the question, “How do you know which plants are safe and useful,” native peoples commonly respond, “The plants tell us.” Herbalist Stephen Buhner argues in his book Sacred Plant Medicine that it’s not by trial and error, as most people have come to believe, that our human ancestors learned to use plants for food and medicine, but rather by direct communication with the plants themselves. (An Inuit elder is reported to have told a western scientist researching plants of the far North, “You people come here and you study and measure the plants, you examine the soil, you write it all down, but you don’t know how to wake the plants up. But we do!”)
Of course, wildflowers pop up everywhere across the country, many of which we use with frequency. But what do their histories tell us to those willing to listen? Like most things in life, there’s always more to learn. Here we explore a few perennial (and annual!) favorites.
Also known as purple coneflower, Echinacea has become one of the most often-used plant medicines in the United States today. A perennial plant growing wild in Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, and Nebraska, it can be cultivated in most of the rest of the country.
It grows from 1-3 feet with daisy-like flowers that bloom in shades of pink, purple, and magenta in mid summer, remaining in bloom until hard frost in mid-October. I tincture roots in October for my own use, though one can easily find Echinacea available commercially as capsules or tincture.
In Herbal Renaissance Steven Foster comments, “To my mind Echinacea is probably the most interesting American medicinal plant from a historical and modern perspective.” We know of nine species of Echinacea with a wide range of biodiversity. Foster describes the varying characteristics of all nine species, but generally they have stiff hairs on the stems, lance-shaped leaves, and a cone-shaped flower head with radiating ray florets in a variety of colors. Echinacea in cultivation includes the common species E. angustifolia, E. purpurea, and E. Pallidae.
As the use of Echinacea grows in popularity throughout the world, however, Foster expresses concern that manufacturers continue to harvest the plant from the wild. Stephen Buhner comments that the extreme popularity of Echinacea has resulted in wholesale environmental degradation in some areas, as large companies use backhoes to dig up miles of prairie to get at the plant.
Medicinal marvel: Foster relates information from ethnologist Melvin Gilmore’s study of Indian groups in the Missouri River region, where the Plains Indians used E. angustifolia universally as an antidote for snake and insect bites, stings, and as a remedy for more ailments than any other plant. The Kiowa Indians chewed the root slowly, swallowing the juice for sore throats. The Sioux valued the root as a remedy for rabies, mumps, measles, rheumatism, arthritis, bad colds, smallpox, mouth sores, and many other ailments. Some native tribes even used Echinacea to treat cancer. Today, Foster says, “especially in Europe where nearly 300 Echinacea phytomedicine products are available, preparations are used to support and stimulate the immune system, particularly for diseases of the throat, nose, and larynx.”
It also treats skin wounds and inflammations, abscesses, and herpes simplex as a topical medication. Echinacea research shows that it can support resistance to herpes and influenza virus, Staphlyococcus and Streptococcus bacteria. It serves to enhance the action of the immune system, increasing the number and response time of white blood cells and their ability to digest bacteria.
We primarily use the roots, but the fresh seed heads are also very effective and should be prepared fresh.
Growing Herb Microgreens
You don’t need to give up taste just because the garden is closed. These herbs grow quickly and easily, allowing you to enjoy fresh culinary creations all year long.
Offering a wide variety of flavors and textures, microgreens can provide quick access to fresh, healthy greens—especially in the cold winter months. These culinary treats are grown only to the seedling stage—that is, the point where a single set of true leaves emerges from the stem. Many people associate microgreens with salad leaves—broccoli, kale, mustard, radish, arugula, and collards, to name a few—but quite a few herbs also do well. What’s more, you can grow herb microgreens indoors year round (and outdoors in warm weather), with minimal effort, space, and supplies. There’s nothing more rewarding than a freshly grown bunch of herbs every few weeks to add flavor to your favorite dishes!
Starting Your Plants
While some herb species take a long time to germinate and taste best when grown to maturity, others like basil, fenugreek, and dill are quick to initiate growth and ready to harvest in two weeks or less.
Start with seeds. Seed quality is the most important consideration when growing microgreens. Make sure to purchase from a reputable and organic source that does not treat seeds with pesticides or heat.
Herb seeds may carry a higher price than regular salad leaves, and you may have more difficulty obtaining large quantities, so research your options and think outside the box. For example, you can find bulk packages of fenugreek seed (often used “as is” in cooking) in natural markets and grocery stores, and they cost less than the small packets in the seed catalogues. Basil is another crop that’s usually easy to procure in larger-sized packages.
The best value for your dollar lies in sourcing common herbs that don’t have seed difficult to store. More seed companies now sell bulk seed specifically for the microgreen-growing market and the selection of varieties is steadily broadening.
Choose your container. Herb microgreens can grow in nearly any type of container, but the best ones are lightweight, portable, and easy to clean. Anything from domed seedling propagators and shallow clay pots to recycled yogurt containers will work, as long as they provide good drainage. If the weather is agreeable, you can also plant your herb microgreens in containers on your patio or directly into garden soil or raised beds outdoors in a warm, sunny location.
Select your soil. If you plan to grow your herb microgreens in soil, be sure to use a high quality, sterilized potting soil mix. Soil-less seed starting mixes are also popular, or you can try other media such as pumice, perlite, horticultural sand, coir, or peat moss. Some growers find soil-less mixes easier to work with because they don’t promote soil-borne issues such as damping off, and they’re much “cleaner” to work with, especially when it comes time to harvest. The advantage of soil, however, is that it holds nutrients that soil-less mixes do not, and seeds can’t get “lost” between the pore spaces in media such as perlite or peat moss.
Some store-bought, seedstarting mixes and potting soil will have a small amount of added fertilizer, and this should be enough to sustain your microgreens through to harvest, as the seeds themselves will produce enough energy to get the plants to the cotyledon stage, when the first leaf or leaves emerge. (These are not the true leaves.) Otherwise, a light application of diluted liquid kelp may prove beneficial once the seedlings have sported cotyledons.
You don’t have to worry too much about soil or water pH if you plan on growing microgreens indoors in potting soil. Levels of pH may pose more of a problem if you sow seeds outdoors and your garden soil proves to be either on the alkaline or acidic side. Most herbs prefer a neutral pH.
Sow your stock. There’s no need to use a lot of planting media when growing herb microgreens. A level depth of three inches is sufficient, unless your plants root deeply. Sow seeds densely and evenly over the surface of the pre-moistened (not soaking wet) planting media. Gently press each seed into the planting media to ensure contact between them. Don’t pile seeds on top of each other. You can sow more thickly than you would if you were seeding a row in your garden, but remember that if you plant them too close to each other, they’ll have a greater chance of becoming spindly and unhealthy due to lack of air circulation. Leave the seeds uncovered or sprinkle over with a very thin layer of horticultural sand or potting soil—just enough to cover. Don’t bury the seeds deeply or you’ll force the plants to expend all of their energy sending shoots up through the soil.
If you’re using a domed propagator, simply slide the plastic lid into place; otherwise, you can cover your containers with plastic wrap or a plastic shower cap. Place the seeded containers in a warm location out of direct sunlight. If the room has a draft or cold winter temperatures have chilled the air, employ a heat mat to keep your tiny herb greens happy and healthy. (Just be sure to follow all of the safety instructions that come with the unit.) Once the microgreens have germinated, you can remove the plastic covers and place the containers on a sunny windowsill or beneath a grow light.
Maintain a regular watering schedule with your herb microgreens, but be careful not to overwater or allow the plants to dry out too much between waterings. Rot and mold can occur if plants are too wet; drought can kill them off.
Although it’s one of the rainiest summers in recorded history of English weather, it’s a warm sunny day here in Glastonbury—a good omen for travelers to this sacred place. My daughter and I arrive in great excitement, knowing this is home to the story of King Arthur and Avalon. We begin by climbing the legendary Glastonbury Tor. When we reach the top, we marvel at the flowing and verdant countryside below. On our way down the winding path, we thread around suspicious-eyed grazing cattle who seem unfazed by the steep incline. A short walk, and we arrive at a veritable herb-lover’s paradise—the Chalice Well Gardens.
While magic and mystery abound in the world of herbs, it’s hard to match the experience of visiting these gardens. In fact, pilgrims from all over the world come here, looking for tranquility, spirituality, and peace. The multifaceted landscape boasts many hidden grottos and screened alcoves, but two mystical attractions seem to garner the most awe. The first is the well that the garden is named for. Although ancient holy wells abound in Britain, the Chalice Well is one of the oldest and most continuously used. It has never run dry and the pure, copper-colored water gushes out at 25,000 gallons a day. The other attraction: Perhaps the most famous hawthorn tree in the world—the Holy Thorn.
The Chalice Well
Walking through the entrance of the garden, we first encounter the graceful Seven Bowls Flow Form and Vesica Pool. A cascade of water streams through the bowl-shaped rock vessels and trickles down into a vesica piscis—two circular pools that intersect. We later learn that the rusty color of the water is called “chalybeate,” the term for mineral spring waters that contain salts of iron. Not surprisingly, this has led to folkloric beliefs. One Christian legend holds that the red color represents the rusty iron nails used at the Crucifixion; another purports that the color symbolizes Christ’s blood.
As we walk the paths, luxuriant foxgloves, hollyhocks, and other English flowers tower beside us. We pass many other devotees, mostly in solemn groups meditating in alcoves, standing in circles, or doing walking meditations. We too feel a spiritual presence in the garden, albeit a little more light-heartedly. At the Lion’s Head garden, we drink from a fountain of healing waters as it gushes through a lion’s mouth, hoping to cure the colds we caught on the plane. In the Healing Pool, we stand in the icy-cold water and then dangle our feet over the side as long as we can stand it. We then come upon a grotto called The Sanctuary, fragrant with white flowers and graced with a stonewall set featuring niches where candles and icons nestle. There, we light candles and silently say a few words. Then, in a lush cranny hung with green plants, ferns, and mosses, we come upon the actual wellhead and source of the spring. Struck by the sacred atmosphere and the beauty of the intricately carved wellhead cover, we are humbled by the thought of the thousands of pilgrims who have come here to “take the waters.”
Hawthorn Legends and Lore
After asking for directions at the Chalice Well gift shop, we head over to one of the main reasons for our visit: the Glastonbury Thorn. I’ve always been fascinated by the legend surrounding this tree. According to tradition, Joseph of Arimathea visited Glastonbury with the Holy Grail. Resting after his long trip, he thrust his walking staff into the ground and it miraculously sprouted, growing into a hawthorn tree. Dubbed “the holy thorn,” it blooms twice a year—once around Christmas and once in May. For centuries, the British monarch has received a flowering branch from this tree every Christmas, and the tradition continues today.
The first Glastonbury Thorn was cut down during the English Civil War by fanatical soldiers who saw it as a relic of superstitious beliefs. Fortunately, cuttings had already been taken and propagated. The tree we see today comes from one of these cuttings. As I gaze upon this offspring of the Holy Thorn, grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime experience, I’m reminded of all the other trees, plants, and herbs that humankind has venerated throughout the ages.
Long before Christianity, people revered the hawthorn. The Greeks and Romans saw it as a symbol of marriage and fertility. Greek brides were decorated with its blossoms and Romans used the wood as a torch for newlyweds going into their nuptial chambers.
Many of the old May Day festivities in France and England associated with pagan rites looked to hawthorn blossoms as a symbol of love and betrothal. Some believe the original Maypole came from hawthorn wood. The Celtic world considered the hawthorn a favorite trysting place for fairies. One dared not pluck even a leaf from trees found in lonely places for fear of the fairies’ reprisals.
In Europe, numerous regions held the belief that hawthorns symbolized hope, the season of spring, and protection from evil. One springtime custom involved plaiting crowns of hawthorn and leaving them for fairies or angels who came by night. These otherworldly beings would don the crowns while they danced around the bushes by moonlight. They would then confer favors and blessings upon the wreath’s maker.
Growing hawthorn bushes around the house, carrying a branch, or wearing a sprig of the flowers was considered strong medicine against evil forces. However, bringing the flowers into the house brought bad luck—a belief perhaps spurred by the flowers’ notoriously unpleasant smell.
After Christianity was established, new legends sprang up. Christ’s crown of thorns, for instance, was purportedly constructed from hawthorn, making the tree so holy no evil could strike it. Folklore from Brittany relates a legend of hawthorn and the bird we know as robin red breast: As Christ carried his cross, a small bird came to his aid, plucking out a thorn from the crown that pressed into his brow in an attempt to relieve his pain. In the process, it stained its breast with Christ’s blood.
Down the Garden Path
Garden spot: In the Northern Territory, Aborigine guides lead visitors through a collection
of traditional trees, shrubs, herbs, and flowers native to the Australian outback.
Half a world away: Ayers Rock Resort is ringed by the vast, open spaces of the Red
Centre—the Aboriginal term for the Australian outback. Native trees, shrubs, herbs,
and flowers thrive in the rusty-colored sand throughout the resort, and Aborigine guides
offer free daily tours of the flora that their ancestors have relied on for centuries to provide food and medicine.
Desert tough: Red Centre plants must tolerate temperatures as high as 115°F, and may only get
rainfall twice a year. Consequently, they’ve developed unique coping mechanisms. Desert oaks—
which are not actually oaks, but rather members of the Australian genus Casuarina—start their lives
as spindly, vertical trees that only spread their branches after their taproot reaches the aquifer deep
below the red surface. The hibiscus-like Sturt’s desert rose only flowers after a rainstorm, and an
Australian variety of lemongrass clusters under rocks so it can collect rain runoff.
Traditional treasures: During the tour, resort guides explain the traditional uses of Red Centre plants that Aborigine people have passed down through the generations. The yellow, spiky flowers of the desert
honey grevillea contain honey water, and the sweet, flaky crust on river red gum leaves is
often rolled into balls and eaten like lollipops. The witchetty bush shelters grubs that provide
protein for traditional Aboriginals, while seeds from the grey cassia shrub and mulga tree are
ground to make flour.
Medicinal marvels: The Australian outback contains more than 100 types of native eucalyptus
species, and their antiseptic properties ward off everything from mosquitos to cavities. Of particular interest is the desert bloodwood tree’s red resin, which can be made into an ointment or tea to treat wounds and irritated eyes.