Thursday, March 14, 2013

March 2013 Newletter

Hello Herbies!

I know everyone has been busy, but you did miss a really great program about Mandrake.  Cindy did a great job, and it was enjoyed by all that were there. Cindy has ordered Mandrake seeds, so maybe we can try growing some soon. It is a very pretty plant, . . .just don't uproot it or else! 

Photo from Wikipedia.

Mandrake is the common name for members of the plant genus Mandragora, particularly the species Mandragora officinarum, belonging to the nightshades family (Solanaceae).

Also, I had a list of recipes for dog biscuits that some of you asked for, so if you want the recipes, let me know and I'll forward them to you!

Hope to see everyone for our April 10, 2013 program which will be presented by me on Piperaceae (pepper family). There are a whole lot more than just black pepper Piper nigrum!  

After some discussion, we took a vote and decided that since so many of us travel in the summer and have family and guests visiting, that we are not going to have programs in June or July! 

Also for those Herbies that just love herbs, The 18th Annual Herbal Forum Festival Hill, Round Top, Texas will be held Friday and Saturday March 22 and 23, 2013.
They have workshops scheduled for Friday and a wonderful array of presenters scheduled for Saturday and a Plant Sale and other shopping choices, i.e. Shopping Galore!
Plant Sale sponsored by The Herb Society of America -Pioneer Unit
“Thyme Well Spent” Gift Shop Herbal Forum Book Store
“Thyme Well Spent” in the Garden

And if you haven't been to Festival Hill, you really need to go. It is a wonderful experience and the gardens are out of this world!  Check out website:
L'Ella is a member of the Aransas Pass Woman's Club and announced that they are having their 9th Annual Style Show & Luncheon next month. Here is the information and website:   Sounds like a fun event.

9th Annual Style Show & luncheon
Basic Information:
Your tax deductible* donations go toward local graduate senior scholarships and local charities. Last year we were able to give several additional scholarships based on the generosity of our sponsors. Our silent drawing items and theme baskets vary and grow each year as we try to find something to interest everyone. Our ladies put a lot of effort into this event and it gets better each year. We hope that you will join us and have a great time!

Friends Working Together...To Build A Brighter Future

The Woman's Club of Aransas Pass

Tickets purchased online can be picked up at Will Call table on day of event.
Date: April 13, 2013

Time: 11:00 am (Doors will open at 10:30)

Theme: Hawaii

We are starting to get our Annual Style Show planned out. Tickets are available online and soon we will have more information and flyers available. We would like to thank everyone for their continued support of our event.

*See your tax professional for more information.
Purchase tickets or sponsor our style show below. A convenience fee has been added to the online prices. Thank you for your support!

If you are around, don't forget the Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardeners Spring Plant Sale March 23, 2013 from 9 to 1 at website:

Saturday, March 23, SPRING PLANT SALE, 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m., Coastal Oaks Garden at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension-Aransas County, 892 Airport Road, Rockport. Click Plant Sale List Spring 2013 for the list of plants for sale. Click Plant Sale Pictures Spring 2013 for pictures and additional information.

Don't forget to read our Rockport Herbies Blog  with lots of good information about herbs, gardening and cooking!

Hope to see everyone next month!

Linda a/k/a Herbie

Male Gulf Frittilary on Blue Passion Flower Vine, photo by Linda T. Collins

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The 18th Annual Herbal Forum Festival Hill, Round Top, Texas


Herbal Forum 

Featured Presentations by:
Gayle Engels
Linda Franzo
Chrissy Moore
Tom LeRoy
Matt Warnock Turner
Garden Buffet Luncheon
featuring a variety of flavorful herbs.
The Blessing of the Garden
with Words and Music
Shopping Galore!
Plant Sale sponsored by The Herb Society of America -Pioneer Unit
“Thyme Well Spent” Gift Shop Herbal Forum Book Store
“Thyme Well Spent” in the Garden
For questions regarding the 18th Annual Herbal Forum, please contact Henry Flowers at henryf@festivalhill or leave a message at (979) 249-3129.


From website: located in Round Top, Texas


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mandrake: March 13, 2013 Program

    Photo by:

March 13, 2013 Program by Cindy Meredith located at the ACISD Maintenance Department Formerly Rockport Elementary, 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport, Texas at 10:00 a.m.

Come hear all about mandrake.  Remember Harry Potter?

Mandrake: An herb filled with lore, history, health and is even said to attract money!! Come learn more about one of mankind’s oldest useful herbs.

Photo by:

See you next week! 

Dear Herbie - Woe is me


Legislation Would Help Bring Native Plants Back to Texas

Woe is me, they probably won’t grow at my house either!
I have said to a number of people that I should try some invasive plants and they might grow. Well, now I know it isn’t true. While we were in Pt. Aransas at the birding center a couple of months ago I picked some berries from the dreaded Brazilian Pepper trees (bushes) that grow by the portapotty across from the entrance. I planted them in several spots including one where I could really keep an eye on them. They have not budged; have not sprouted; when found they look exactly as they did when I planted them. What have I done wrong?

I can’t even grow invasives.
PS should I try a tallow tree?
I'm joking, I'm joking.

But I really have a problem with my salt water, the leaf cutter ants, and gophers. Gophers have eaten a fig tree, three large vetiver grass mounds, an orchid tree and numerous other plants. We planted a lot of larger plants in chicken wire cages but eventually that rusts and the gophers have their way with my plants.  My husband is planting palm trees now and we will see how they like them.


OK Herbie here! 

Hey Ruth and all of your Herbies out there! Ruth is pretty funny!  Here she is trying to grow the invasive:

Brazilian pepper-tree
Schinus terebinthifolius
It is in the family Anacardiaceae which contains poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and Schinus terebinthifolius, or Brazilian pepper-tree. People sensitive to poison ivy, oak or sumac may also be allergic to Brazilian pepper tree because it also has the potential to cause dermatitis to those with sensitive skin. Some people have also expressed respiratory problems associated with the bloom period of pepper tree.

I can tell you that I think that the Brazilian pepper-tree is very pretty!  However, it needs nothing special to get it to grow down here in south Texas.  I had one, quite by mistake, in the ground for about five years.  Oh my, the seeds were spread by the birds, and it grew everywhere and still is growing everywhere even though I cut it down about three years ago.  The birds love those red pepper seeds and spread them any where they fly.  It is a very pretty, good smelling large bush that is native to Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.  It grows very, very well in Texas and Florida, but the problem, like most natives, is that it forms dense thickets, shading out native grasses, shrubs, and taking over native pine forests. Considered one of the greatest threats to native biodiversity for its dramatic affect on both plant and animal communities.

An interesting note is that the red-pink seeds are used as a culinary pepper. If you check the ingredients in some of the mixed whole peppercorn jars, you will see that Schinus terebinthifolius is one of the ingredients! 

The following information about the Schinus terebinthifolius berry is from website:

Pink peppercorns have an intensely sweet and aromatic flavor similar to juniper , though much stronger. Pink peppercorns usually show up in the mixed peppercorn blends. Too much pink pepper can irritate the intestines because of the cardinal it contains. Pink peppercorns flavor a variety of dishes. It is mostly recommended for fish or poultry, but goes well with other rich foods. Pink pepper flavors delicate sauces to accompany such varied ingredients as lobster, veal scallops, and pork.

So regardless of how pretty they might be, don't try to grow them because they will take over, . . .UNLESS YOU ARE RUTH AND TRYING TO GROW THEM!  Oh my, too funny Miss Ruth!


Monday, March 4, 2013

Good Sense Organic Gardening for Texas and Beyond by Judy Barrett

I got a email from Judy Barrett, author of What Can I Do With My Herbs? and more good books!  She also posts monthly articles on Homegrown  Her latest article is "Good Sense Organic Gardening for Texas and Beyond"!  Be sure to check out her great article at website:

Spring is finally here, so I'm sure we are all going to be busy soon!  Enjoy!

Great Gardening,
Linda a/k/a/ Herbie

Saturday, March 2, 2013


Well here it is, March 2, 2013, and it's COLD outside. I have already pruned back my roses and was so looking forward to playing in the dirt today! However, it is too windy and cold for me, so here I am at my desk looking outside and longing for some warm weather!
Looking at my backyard on Copano Bay, Aransas County, Texas! 

When I have extra time, I like to do research on the Internet and review some of the articles that I have written about herbs. So I ran across this article about herbal vinegars that I found informative and want to share it with all of you Herbies out there. Enjoy!!
Don't you just love those herbal vinegars that you find at specialty stores and grocery stores?  They are very pretty and tasty too, but what about the price of those herbal vinegars?  I believe that the cost is too high for most of us.   So why pay a high price for herbal vinegars when you can make your own which are less expensive and fresher? 
Some notes to follow when making herbal vinegars are as follows:
  • Use a good quality vinegar such as white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar or champagne vinegar.  Also you might want to try rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar (not apple cider flavored distilled vinegar).
  • Rinse and dry all fresh herbs thoroughly.  If you don’t dry the herbs completely, you will soon find a nasty fungus growing on your herbs.
  • Make sure everything you use has been sterilized and dried completely, i.e. bottles, screw-band lids, caps, corks, bowls, utensils, etc.  Use wood, glass, porcelain and plastic utensils and containers and do not use metallic utensils or containers.
  • Wash containers thoroughly, then sterilize by immersing the jars in a pan of hot water and simmering for 10 minutes. Once the jars are sterilized, remove from the simmering water and invert on a paper towel to dry. Fill while the jars are still warm.
  • Bruise the fresh herbs with a wooden spoon or utensil rather than cutting them. 
  • Fresh herbs can be blanched which helps extract their color and flavor and removes bitterness.
  • Crush or crack spices with a mortar and pestle. 
  • If using fruits, be sure to wash with hot soapy water to remove the wax coating.  Rinse well.  Use a citrus stripper or vegetable peeler to make citrus peel, avoiding the bitter white part of the skin. 
  • Vegetables, such as garlic, cloves and  jalapeño peppers, can also be used to add zest to vinegars. Thread these on thin bamboo skewers for easy insertion and removal.
  • Choose a proper sized bottle for holding the vinegar along with the herbs.  Make sure that the herbs are totally submerged in the liquid and that very little, if any, air remains in the bottle.  Store your vinegar in a cool, dark place.
  • Herbal vinegars generally take about two to three weeks to become flavorful and are ready to be strained and used.   Use a medium-sized tea strainer that is lined with cheesecloth or paper coffee filters to strain.  If you are going to give it as a gift, strain it into a pretty sterilized bottle and cork it.  You can tie some raffia around it with dried herbs attached, or you can get a pretty tea or kitchen towel and wrap the bottle in the towel and tie it up with raffia, string, ribbon, or whatever suits your fancy.
  • Date your bottle to ensure freshness.  You can use a fine point Sharpie and write the date on the bottom of the bottle.  You can even write the name of your vinegar on the bottle using a Sharpie.  Most herbal vinegars have a shelf life of two to four months.  And I recommend keeping herbal vinegars in the refrigerator to ensure freshness. 
Some suggestions for herbal vinegars are:
  • HERBS: basil, cilantro, rosemary, chives, ginger, chervil, parsley, tarragon, mints, oregano, thyme, marjoram, dill, fennel, pineapple sage, sweet bay, (can use dried or fresh), etc.
  • PEPPERS: jalapeño, serrano, habanero, pequin (can use dried peppers or fresh), etc.
  • SPICES: black pepper, white pepper, pink pepper, cinnamon, mustard seeds, allspice, nutmeg, dill seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cloves, anise, poppy seeds, cumin seeds, celery seeds, etc.
  • FRUIT:
    • Berries: red raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, strawberry, juniper berry, etc.
    • Citrus: lemon, lime, orange, etc.
    • Pineapple, peaches, apples, mangoes, etc.
Some favorite herbal vinegar combinations are as follows:
  • Rosemary in everything
  • Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
  • Tarragon and Garlic
  • Dill, Garlic and Chili Peppers
  • Basil, Garlic and Chili Peppers
  • Opal Basil or Purple Basil with white wine vinegar which turns pink
  • Pineapple Sage blossoms with white wine vinegar turns it reddish
  • Pineapple Sage, Ginger, Cranberries, and Garlic
  • Pineapple Sage, Spearmint, and Lemon Thyme
  • Lemon Thyme and Sage
  • Pineapple and Cilantro
  • Chili pepper and Cilantro
  • Chili pepper and Chives
  • Blueberry and Basil
  • Orange Rosemary

  • 5-6 strawberries
  • One 1-inch slice ginger root peeled and chopped coarsely
  • Two ½-inch x 3-inch strips lemon peel zest
  • Two ½-inch x 3-inch strips lime peel zest
  • Two ½-inch x 3-inch strips tangerine peel zest
  • 1 cup white wine or champagne vinegar
Put first five cleaned and dried ingredients into a sterilized glass container and add vinegar.  Seal tightly and place container in a cool, dark place for one to two weeks.  Strain and pour into a sterilized glass container.  Store in the refrigerator and use within two months.


  • 2 tbs. fresh chervil
  • 2 tbs. fresh parsley
  • 2tbs. fresh tarragon
  • 1 tbs. fresh chives
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 chive with flower blossom attached
Bruise first four cleaned and dried ingredients with a wooden utensil.  Place bruised herbs into a sterilized glass container and add vinegar.  Seal tightly and place container in a cool, dark place for two weeks.  Strain and pour into a sterilized glass container with the chive with flower blossom.  Store in the refrigerator and use within four months.


  • 2 cups fresh strawberries
  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
Clean strawberries, remove stems and halve; set 1/4 cup aside. Place remaining strawberries in a large bowl. Pour vinegar over strawberries; cover and set aside for 1 hour. Transfer vinegar and strawberries to a large sauce pot. Add sugar, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Strain strawberry mixture, pressing out as much liquid as possible. Pour vinegar into a clean and sterilized quart jar. Add reserved strawberries. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator and use within two months.

Lots of people will not make either garlic oil or garlic vinegar for health safety reasons.  So the following information is for those of you that might consider making one or both of them.  If you do, follow the warnings!  You probably should make just enough for a meal or two and store in the refrigerator and use within a few days.  I use mine within a day or two as a precaution. 

NOTE about using garlic in vinegars and oils:
  • OIL: Garlic, vegetable or herb in oil mixtures may support the growth of Clostridium botulinum bacteria. As a result the Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning that leftovers should be frozen, refrigerated no longer than a day or two, otherwise discard leftovers.  For safety reasons, they should be made fresh.
  • VINEGAR: Because vinegar is high in acid, it does not support the growth of Clostridium botulinum bacteria.  However, some vinegars, wine and rice, may support the growth of Escherichia coli bacteria because they contain a protein that provides an excellent medium for bacterial growth if not stored properly.  It is suggested that if making garlic vinegar, make only small batches and keep it refrigerated for no longer than three weeks. 

2 cloves garlic
1 cup white or red wine vinegar
*Optional rosemary or oregano
Mince garlic and place in a sterilized glass container.  Add vinegar.  Seal tightly with a nonmetallic seal.  Place in refrigerator for one week.  Strain into a sterilized glass container with a sprig of rosemary and/or oregano.  Make sure it is sealed tightly with a nonmetallic seal and placed in the refrigerator and use within three weeks.
All photos courtesy of:
The following websites have more information about herbal vinegars:

P.S. I didn't give any information about using herbal vinegars for your hair, but if you are interested, do a search for lots of good information! 

March 20, 2013

I was one the Internet today and found the following article:
Christmas gifts from the herb garden
By Michael Bettler, Lucia's Garden

Be sure to check it out for a great article for making herbal vinegars!  Thanks Texas Gardener and Michael.