In Basket: January 2011

Dear Herb Companion,

AS SOMEONE RECENTLY diagnosed with gluten intolerance, I would love to see more gluten-free recipes. Thanks for asking!

–Erica Lake, Murray, Utah

AFTER READING “SWEETEN Your Holidays without Refined Sugar” in your November 2010 issue, I was hoping that you would have suggestions for stevia.

–Joan Mathre, St. Petersburg, Florida

Stevia is an intense sweetener–about 300 times sweeter than regular sugar–whereas the article concentrates on sweeteners that behave more like sugar. I covered stevia in 2006. The article is called  “Naturally Sweet,” and it’s available on If purchasing stevia, look for a product with at least 80 percent of the component known as “rebaudioside A,” which leaves less of the bitter aftertaste that some people find objectionable. Also note that baked goods containing stevia don’t turn golden brown, and stevia doesn’t work well in yeast breads, as it won’t allow the yeast to rise. But it’s fine for many sweets. –Author Gina Mohammed

I LIVE IN NORTHERN Michigan where we have cold winters and long, cool falls and springs. What culinary herbs are good to grow in my area? I love to cook with fresh herbs and I miss them when they’re gone.

–Mary LeDoux, Iron River, Michigan

Good indoor herbs are basil, mint, sage, thyme, dill, lavender and chives. Because the sky is often very overcast, do use grow lights. –Donna Frawley, Frawley’s Fine Herbary

YOUR SEPTEMBER 2010 article, “Bite-Sized Botany,” has me wanting to grow those mints. Can I grow more than one kind or flavor of herb in one container? Or will the scents blend and cancel each other out or one overpower another?

–Deb Nelson, New England

Generally, you can plant as many herbs in one pot as you can cram in there, but separate mints to prevent cross-pollination that may dilute their scents. Mints are usually regarded for their scented leaves, and scents can change, dilute or cross in future generations. Your perception of scent is another matter; the scents will mingle delightfully. Be sure to harvest regularly to prevent flowering and to yield even more scented leaves. –Author Kathleen Halloran

I LOVED “HERBAL Vinegars for Skin and Hair” in the November 2010 issue! I just have a few questions. Do the herbs need to be crushed or chopped or can they be placed whole in the solution? Also, the egg purifying facial mask made a lot. Can it be stored in the fridge, and if so, for how long? I am a new subscriber and I really have been enjoying the issues. Thanks so much for these great recipes. They will make fantastic Christmas gifts for moms and sisters-in-law!

–Jessica Thomas, Via e-mail

Fresh or dried herbs can be placed whole in the solution. In fact, this makes them easier to remove when straining. For storage, stash leftover mask in the fridge, covered. It should keep for a few weeks. –Author Janice Cox

CYNTHIA, I ENJOY READING your blog series “Growing Herbs in Texas.” One day I hope to catch up with you at one of your markets. I’m not too far away from you. I think I enjoy you most because lots of what is going on in your garden is also going on in mine at the same time. Happy gardening!

–Pammy Waller, Texas