In Basket: March 2011

Dear Herb Companion,

THE ARTICLE “SAGE” in your September 2010 issue included a wonderful photo of many beautiful sage varieties. However, I would like to identify the lavender plant shown blooming high and full over in the back. Can you please help?

–Lillian Campbell, Williamsburg, Virginia

That lovely plant is Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia). It is a hardy, cold-tolerant perennial plant that blooms in summer and fall. It’s considered easy to grow and attracts butterflies to the garden. –Eds.

MY FIANCÉ AND I were flipping through the November 2010 issue of The Herb Companion and we really enjoyed your article “Perfect Pairings: Marrying Herbs and Salts.” Before reading this article, we wouldn’t have given artisan salt a second thought, but the historical lead grabbed us from the beginning, and then for the first time, you made us think about salt as being something that might be better if bought locally. Meats, vegetables and herbs, sure, but we’d never really considered salt. Well done, we thoroughly enjoyed it.

–Caleb Regan, Lawrence, Kansas

Thanks, Caleb! Full disclosure: Caleb is our colleague at our sister publication, Grit magazine. –Eds.

I HAVE BEEN SUBSCRIBING to your magazine for awhile now and just love it. I find it to be very informative. In my search for lavender tea information, I happened upon your e-newsletter, and what a great find! Immediately, I signed up for it. Thank you for all of the great information you pass on to us readers. My husband and son bought me a potting shed for Mother’s Day last year, so needless to say, your magazine has come in handy.

–Lu Sutphin, Via e-mail

We’re so glad that you enjoy our weekly e-newsletter. To sign up,–Eds.

GLUTEN-FREE RECIPES are very welcome. I was delighted to see your recipe for Gluten-Free Ginger Molasses Muffins in your November 2010 article “Sweeten Your Holidays Without Refined Sugar.” I’m looking forward to more.

–Solange Décarie, Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague, Quebec, Canada

I JUST READ your November 2010 article “Make Your Own Easy, Natural Dog Food.” Dog nutritionists advise that we should not feed our dogs broccoli, garlic, onions or yeast because it can upset them and large amounts can cause serious harm. Yet each time I read a dog recipe in The Herb Companion, it contains one or more of these items. Are these recipes checked by qualified veterinarians?

–Blanche Duffy, Saugerities, New York

Some dog authorities do caution against giving garlic to your dog; it is not true that all authorities feel that way. The recipe for Healthy Powder, which contains yeast, comes directly from one of our country’s most respective holistic veterinarians, Dr. Richard Pitcairn. As for the health benefits of broccoli and onions, I would encourage you to read as widely as possible when making food for your dog or cat. There are plenty of reputable authors who suggest including broccoli in a dog’s diet, while there may be those who do not. Ultimately, the call is up to you. –Author Lynn Alley

I RECENTLY READ the blog “Companion Planting” on your website. I’ve grown rosemary and basil together with no ill effects–what’s supposed to happen when they are together? What is the scientific basis?

–Joe & Sharyn McQuaid, Melfa, Virginia

Rosemary may die of overwatering if planted too close to basil, or basil may die of drought. Although both are Mediterranean herbs, rosemary prefers a drier climate while basil requires frequent watering. To read more about companion planting, turn to Page 13. –Eds.

I PLANTED SAGE in a plastic tray on my balcony. It grew well for a short time, then the leaves turned white and died. Can you help me?

–Winston Reed, San Diego, California

It sounds like your sage may be suffering from powdery mildew. Turn to Page 62 to learn more.–Eds.

THANK YOU FOR your Spiced Pumpkin Seeds recipe online. Is it good to eat the tough shell surrounding the pumpkin seed, or are you required to remove it before eating that delectable morsel inside? If so, how does the flavor on the outside of the seed get to the nugget of goodness on the inside?

–Marilyn Waggoner, Via e-mail

It seems to be a matter of personal preference: the hulls are edible, but many people shell them because they don’t like the texture. Also, because it’s difficult to husk the seeds when they are uncooked, the only way to get the spices on the inner nut would be to toss it in the spice mixture after it has been baked or boiled and shelled. Alternatively, some people shell the seeds with their teeth, which probably means they get the taste of the spices anyway. There are also species of pumpkins that have hull-less seeds, but the flesh of the pumpkin itself is often less tasty, and the seeds can go bad in as little as two days. –Eds.

Talk Back: Kick Up Your Cuisine with Horseradish

On, we asked how readers enjoy using the 2011 Herb of the Year in their homes. –Eds.

Besides loving horseradish for the wonderful kick it gives to a Bloody Mary, there are so many great medicinal uses! I stumbled upon one of my favorite uses when I was pregnant. I had gotten the flu and needed some immune and sinus support. I found this recipe in an eclectic herbal text, and it saved me: 1 thumb-sized piece of fresh horseradish and ginger, 1 hot pepper and 4 cloves fresh garlic. Put into a blender. Add enough apple cider vinegar to cover. Puree and strain. Add honey to taste. Take 1 to 3 teaspoons per day. I swear it will keep away the plague! (But beware, because it will also keep away your spouse!)

–Jaclyn Chasse, Bedford, New Hampshire

In my house we use horseradish as a condiment, as an ingredient in many cooked dishes and as one of the main ingredients in the herbal cough syrup I make every winter for family and friends.
My husband and I grew up using horseradish as a condiment for many ethnic meals. I can remember my father grating a big root on the back porch and then mixing it with vinegar and sugar. Just a whiff of it cleared the sinuses.

–Tanya Trzeciak, Middleborough, Massachusetts

Tell Us What You Think

In our next issue, we will tell you how to plant a medicine garden. What staple medicinal herbs do you like to keep in your herb garden? Please e-mail with “In Basket” in the subject line.

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