In Basket: September 2010

Dear Herb Companion,

FIVE MINUTES BEFORE this picture was taken, Kyra said, “Mommy, I got up before anyone else!” She loves the pretty, colorful pictures of all the herbs. She said to tell you her favorite herbs are lamb’s ear (because she likes that it is soft to feel), mint (she loves to pick leaves when she’s out playing and eat them), and catnip because Mommy sprays her to keep “skeeters” off of her.

–Paula & Kyra (future herbalist) Woody, McLeansville, North Carolina

I HAVE RECENTLY been introduced to The Herb Companion. What a wonderfully informative and colorful magazine. In your March 2009 issue, you have a great article, “The Humble Cabbage.” There was no mention of a cabbage tree. I was recently at a community seed fair in my hometown in British Columbia and there were cabbage trees for sale. Have you ever heard of this plant?

–Norma Bomske, Campbell River, Canada

I have heard of and seen the cabbage tree. This amazing plant is in the Cordyline family instead of the cabbage family so the green, edible leaves don’t resemble cabbage in appearance, which is probably why it wasn’t included in the article. –Kris Wetherbee

MY SAFE LEAVES are getting yellowish. Please help!

–Mario Dell’Oro, Milan, Italy

This could be due to any number of things. You could have poor soil; your sage may have been over-watered; recently sprayed weed killer may have even drifted onto its leaves. Determine which sage variety you are growing and compare its required growing conditions to yours. (To discover more sage varieties, see Page 32.) –Eds.

I WAS READING your April 2009 article about growing lavender. I live up in the mountains in Colorado and just cleared a long embankment abutting my house. It will be too costly to buy plants so I was thinking about planting lavender from seed.  Which type of lavender should I plant from seed? Which provider should I order from? 

–Stephanie, via e-mail

Lavender can be grown from seed, but it can be tricky at first. Stick with it, though, because drought-, heat- and wind-tolerant lavender is perfect for your area. Good drainage is key; gravel mulch can also be beneficial to retain heat. Local providers usually carry varieties well suited to area growing conditions. Paulino Gardens in Denver recommends growing English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) in the mountains; it is hardy and will overwinter well. –Eds

JEREMY RANKIN FROM Wisconsin wrote in to ask about the reference to sheep sorrel as a common name for Oxalis stricta in our July 2010 article “Native Plants for your Table.” Jeremy is correct that sheep sorrel is also a common name (as is red sorrel) for Rumex acetosella. But sheep sorrel and wood sorrel, among others, are accepted common names for O. stricta, according to various sources. –Eds.