In Basket: March 2010

Dear Herb Companion,

I am looking for chocolate basil. Do you know of it?

–Robin Brann, Litchfield, Maine

Check out Jim Long’s response in his “Down to Earth” column. –Eds.

Your Favorite Seed Catalogs

In our January 2010 article “Herbie’s Favorite Seed Catalogs” we asked for your additional favorites:

I’ve been buying Bountiful Gardens ( seeds for about three years and love everything about them. The catalogs are unusually informative about seed needs, and the seed packets are generous. They offer organic veggie and herb seeds, plus ancient wheat, wildflower, tree and shrub seeds. 

–Reba Johnson, Redwood Valley, California

Companion Plants ( has a lot of rare herbs and every plant I’ve ever received from them has been wonderful!

–Heather Brown, Butler, Pennsylvania

Horizon Herbs ( specializes in medicinal herbs and carries high-quality, organic seeds and starts, including hard-to-find varieties.

–Beth Baugh, Philomath, Oregon

Talk Back: Dill in the Home

In the January 2010 issue, we asked how readers use dill in their homes. –Eds.

Sometimes I pat dry fish fillets, rub them with butter and dill, and sprinkle them with white pepper and a bit of salt. Then, I place them in a glass baking dish with some lemon juice and bake until done. You may need to cover during baking to keep the fish moist. I also use dill in tartar sauce to taste; in fresh vegetable salads, such as tomato, cucumber and onion; in green beans; or as a substitute for lemon.

–R. Lyons, Enid, Oklahoma

Seed Removal Strategies

I grow milk thistle for its health benefits. I just don’t know the most-efficient (and least-painful) method for extracting the seeds from the heads. The way I do it now is tedious and painful.

–Brenda Butler, Weems, Virginia

Cut the tops, leaving stems long enough to stick six inches out of a large paper bag. Do this once the seeds are ripe (or black) and the seed heads are dry. Then bang the bag with the milk thistle heads against a hard surface so that the seeds fall into the bag. Or you can spread the dry seed heads out on a tarp and beat them with a stick.

Now spread the seeds and chaff out on a clean, dry surface, such as a sheet of plastic, and gently fan the seeds and chaff with a piece of cardboard so that the seeds group together and the chaff blows away.

The key here is to recognize the difference between the seeds and the extraneous chaff. –Steven Foster

Passionflower Tea Time

For years, I have been brewing tea in my coffeemaker, using dried leaves from my mulberry trees and hibiscus bushes. In the January 2010 article “6 Herbs for Insomnia” you mention using passionflower. I have four Passiflora edulis passion fruit vines (three yellow and one purple) and was wondering if I can use the leaves, the fruit or the flowers as a sleep aid.

–David Schlein, ort St. Lucie, Florida

Only P. incarnata can be used as a sleep aid. Unfortunately, P. edulis or P. caerulea are not effective for this purpose and are not used medicinally. –Art Tucker, Ph.D.

Garden by Trial

The January 2010 issue that features our gardens in Lori Hall Steele’s article, “Discover a Beautiful, Working Garden,” is outstanding. It literally brought a tear to our eyes. The garden we created in the wilds of northern Michigan was a life accomplishment and you have paid it a wonderful tribute. I hope other gardeners will be inspired by our trial-and-error gardening.

–Suzanne Dalton, Dearborn Heights, Michigan

Love for Herbal Spa

I was preparing to leave on a business trip to Southern California when your January 2010 issue arrived. Intrigued by the Kris Wetherbee clip, “Unwind by the Pacific Ocean,” I called to check on the location of Casa Laguna in comparison to my business appointment. Not only was it close, but less expensive than the hotel my travel agent had booked. I was able to enjoy a wonderful interlude and can only say that the service and location were everything I hoped for and more. 

Even better, I scheduled an aromatherapy massage and it, too, was everything Kris said it was. Here’s to acting on these impulses and thank you for the article.

–Rhonda Reeves, Kansas City, Missouri

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