Sunday, July 25, 2010

Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardeners News Column Archives

While doing some research today, I came across the following website with lots of great gardening articles written by the Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardeners. Be sure to check out News Column Archives.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer Herbs

Here is the latest July 2010 Newletter from Cindy at The Herb Cottage

Summer Herbs

In our hot, humid South, it's sometimes difficult to stay focused on the garden during the hottest summer days that we're experiencing now. The sun is searing, the temperatures rise to the mid-nineties by early afternoon and the gardener decides to call it quits and go inside for the rest of the day. Just because the weather is very hot does not mean we don't garden during the summer... we do. We go out in the early morning and the evenings to enjoy the tranquility and scents of the herb beds, pull weeds, water and, as I did recently, recover a bed from some terribly overgrown parsley.

This Summer brings a wealth of growth from our herbs. We've been graced with summer rain and the herb plants are showing the results of inches of rain. Last year we were in a terrible drought by this time of year and even the hardiest herbs were showing stress. This year the Mint and Lemon Balm are thick and full, the Sweet, Lemon and Lime Basil are shrubby and full of flavor and the Rosemary has new growth on the tips of most of the branches.

I know those of you who don't live in the South have had your share of weather trials this summer and I hope your herb gardens are giving your much pleasure in spite of inclement weather episodes.

So, what's looking best this summer in your garden? Here, the Oregano is outstanding. I've already harvested flowers for hydrosols and I still could cut back more foliage to make the plant a little more compact. I plan to make more Herbal Vinegars, too, and Oregano is a staple in many of the blends I like. As I mentioned, the Rosemary is growing vigorously. It's another one I like for Herbal Vinegar and hydrosols as well.

Of course, Basil loves our hot, humid weather so long as it gets enough water. In between rain storms I water the Basil to keep it looking good. I have yet to make Pesto this year, but hope to get to it before too long. I also like to use the citrus basil in Herbal Vinegar for marinades on fish and chicken. The red and purple Basil, varieties like Osmin Purple, Purple Ruffles or Red Rubin, make Herbal Vinegars of a rich cranberry color with a flavor to match. Perfect for a housewarming or holiday gift.

Those of us in a climate where Bay Laurel grows know how well it does with very little water in the heat of summer. Bay is somewhat winter hardy. It took two mornings of 18ºF last Winter without damage. If you've never used fresh Bay in your cooking, you are missing out, in my opinion. Fresh Bay leaves add a deeper, richer bay flavor than the dried ones. Bay is also a pretty plant for holiday decorating, as it is evergreen, dark green in color and fragrant.

Some herbs that play out in our intense summer heat are Dill, Cilantro and sometimes, even Thyme. Here, Dill and Cilantro are definitely cool season herbs and die out after forming seed in the late spring. Thyme needs excellent drainage to survive our spring and summer rainstorms when we get inches of rain at a time. My English, Creeping, one Lemon Thyme and Lavender Thyme plants all died. The one bigger Lemon Thyme that is planted in a shadier spot, in raised bed, is doing pretty well. Also I have a Lavender Thyme in a hanging pot that is doing very well, so long as I remember to water it.

Parsley will do fine during the hot summer months if planted where it gets some afternoon shade. Of course, Parsley, being a biennial, does best in the summer if it's in its first year of growth. In its second year, it'll put on a flower stalk and start to go to seed more quickly in the heat. If you do allow parsley to seed out, and let some fall, you won't have to replant parsley. It'll come up for you when the soil temperature is a little cooler.

In general, herbs just laugh at summertime heat and keep on growing with a minimum of water and fuss. I hope yours are doing so, and that you're enjoying the summer, your herbs and all the wonderful things you can do with them.

Lemon Eucalyptus after the main trunk has been cut. Lots of new lush growth.


Like cars in amusement parks, our direction is often determined through collisions. -Yahia Lababidi, author (b. 1973)

Until Next Time,
Good Growing to You,
Cindy Meredith, proprietor
The Herb Cottage
442 CR 233
Hallettsville, TX 77964
phone & fax: 979-562-2153

Sunday, July 11, 2010

July 14, 2010 Meeting


WHAT: Rockport Herb & Rose Study Group

WHEN: Second Wednesday of every month, next meeting July 14, 2010 at 10:00 a.m.

WHERE: ACISD Maintenance Department (Formerly Rockport Elementary), 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport, Texas

WHY: To educate those interested in herbs.

The Herb Society of America is a very influencial organization. Come hear how it came to be. Everyone is invited to our next herb & rose study grooup to participate in this program.

Our herb study group was founded in March 2003 and meets the second Wednesday of every month at the ACISD Maintenance Department (Formerly Rockport Elementary), 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport, Texas at 10:00 a.m. to discuss all aspects of using and growing herbs including the historical uses of the herbs and tips for successful propagation and cultivation. We are open to the public. Some members of the group are available as speakers to other audiences.

The Rockport Herb & Rose Study Group, founded in March 2003, is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to increasing public knowledge and awareness about herbs.

Check out

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Lots of people grow pampas grass and other ornamental grasses for landscaping, but I like lemongrass the best because it looks good, smells good, is easy to grow and is a wonderful culinary herb which I use extensively in my kitchen.

It is widely cultivated in the tropics and subtropics. There are two different species, i.e. West Indian Lemongrass Cymbopogon citratus, which is native to southern India and Ceylon, and East Indian Lemongrass C. flexuosus, also known as Cochin or Malabar grass, which is native to India. In India it is believed that growing a row of lemongrass plants will repel tigers.

West Indian Lemongrass C. citratus
Family: Poaceae (Gramineae) (Grass)
Tender perennial
Zones: 8 - 10
Height: 3’ to 5’
Width: 3’

East Indian Lemongrass C. flexuosus
Family: Poaceae (Gramineae) (Grass)
Tender perennial
Zones: 9 - 11
Height: 2’ to 3’
Width: 2’ to 3’

Both species are frost tender perennials that can withstand temperatures down to 10° to 20° with very heavy mulching. They can be grown in the ground or in containers. In the Deep South, it can be overwintered outside by cutting back the top and mulching the remaining crown heavily. I don’t cut mine back, but just leave them in the ground with at least 3” of mulch. Because the East Indian Lemongrass is smaller, it makes for a very good container plant. Lemongrass likes moist, well-drained soil and prefers full sun, but it can take some dapple sunlight. The blades are blue-green throughout the summer, with the leaves turning a rusty red in fall. They say flowering is rare, but I know that all of mine flower every fall. And the blades are sharp, so be careful to always rub upward and not downward. Propagation is by root or plant division.

Lemongrass is used not only as a culinary herb, but also as an aromatherapy herb, in perfumes and cosmetics, and as a medicinal herb, since it is considered a carminative and also used as an insect repellent. In addition, it has been used to reduce a fever by inducing sweating, alleviate cold symptoms and headaches, calm upset stomachs, and relieve spasms. It inhibits the growth of fungi and bacteria and is used externally to treat ringworm, lice, athlete’s foot, and scabies.

Lemongrass has a very unusual lemon flavor which tastes lemony, but not the least bit acidic. It makes for a wonderful tea, hot or iced, being high in Vitamin C and adds lemon flavoring to the dishes of many Asian cuisines. Harvest the stem right down to ground and chop like a scallion. It is easy to mince lemongrass in a food processor or minichopper.

The leaves can be put into marinades, broths and stocks. The part of the plant that is used most often is the lower, almost white section of the stem. Depending on the recipe, you can cut the white part into 2” to 3” stems, thinly slice crosswise, finely chop, pound or mince. Tie together a bunch of lemongrass stems and leaves with butcher's string, and drop it into a slow-cooking dish and remove just before serving. Whenever using the larger pieces, be sure to discard them before serving because they are fibrous, sharp and tough. It is also very good minced and added to rice, making a nice dish of lemongrass rice or fried rice. It can be used in stir fries, rice, sauces, curries, poultry, fish, seafood, soups, and tea. It can be frozen for later use. Cut some stalks down at ground level, and then soak in water and use as skewers on the grill cooking bite size pieces of chicken, shrimp and your favorite vegetables.

1 whole chicken
1 1/4 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
6-8 lemongrass leaves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon corn flour

Place the chicken on a saucer in a saucepan. Add the water, sprinkle salt and pepper over and heap the lemongrass onto the breast. Cover and bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours, basting occasionally with the liquid. To eat hot, remove chicken and keep warm. Strain the liquid into a small saucepan and stir in a tablespoon corn flour blended to a smooth paste with a little milk. Stir until thickened and pour over the chicken. To eat the chicken cold, put it into a deep bowl and pour the strained liquid over it. Cool, and then chill overnight. The liquid will have jelled and there will be a layer of fat which should be removed.

10 stalks lemongrass
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup coconut milk (stir before measuring)

Peel the tough outer layers from the lemongrass and discard them. Cut the remainder into 1cm lengths. In a saucepan over high heat, combine lemongrass, sugar, salt and 2 ½ cups water. Stir until liquid comes to the boil. Reduce heat, simmer, stirring occasionally, until light golden, about 20 minutes. Pour through a fine strainer, pressing on the solids to extract moisture. Discard solids. Place the bowl in a larger bowl of ice water and stir syrup until cool, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Whisk in the coconut milk. If mixture is lumpy, pour through a fine strainer. Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze. Or freeze in a suitable dish until just firm, 2-4 hours. Scoop into bowls, or scrape with a large form to form a slushy ice. Serve immediately.

2 stalks lemongrass
2 green or red chills, finely chopped
1 large tomato, coarsely diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped coriander
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Combine all ingredients and let sit at room temperature for about one hour, then refrigerate. Use within one day.

Photo by Linda Turner Collins
Lemongrass in bloom & Duchess de Brabant Rose