In Basket: September 2011

Dear Herb Companion,

I WANTED TO let you know that my family and I plan to trek up to the Mother Earth News Fair early tomorrow a.m. and stay overnight to get the full enjoyment. I love your magazine.

–Jen Ristine, Portland, Oregon

Thanks! We had fun at the Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup, Washington. Come see us again in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania (September 24 to 25). –Eds.

THE FIRST PAGE of your July 2011 article “3 Toxic Twins” looks like the buds on a mature garlic plant, but it was not identified. Is it a garlic bud and is it poisonous? I love The Herb Companion; it is the only magazine that I continue to keep.  

–Marilyn McEwen, Oregon

That photo is garlic (Allium sativum). It is not poisonous, but it can easily be mistaken for the toxic daffodil (Narcissus spp.). –Eds.

NIGELLA SATIVA, COMMONLY known for centuries throughout many Eastern cultures as “The Black Seed,” “Habbah Sauda” or “Kalonji,” is widely believed to be a cure-all. The seeds, which resemble onion seeds, are used widely throughout the East for almost every imaginable illness–and as a food ingredient and a preservative. 

Nigella sativa is an all-purpose cure-all as well as an excellent organic mosquito repellent–in short, I ended up replacing the entire contents of my herbal and medicinal cabinets just with preparations of this black seed and honey (along with the occasional uses of olive oil) and these sufficed!

It seems nobody here in the West, especially in the United States, knows about this plant’s truly miraculous effects. I’ve not read a single thing about it in any Western magazine or professional herbal medicine book. I hope somebody will read this and do some scientific research into this herb. 

–Aafia Siddiqui, Ph.D., Fort Worth, Texas

Scientists are in the process of studying N. sativa. For more about this herb, visit –Eds.

IN YOUR JULY 2011 article “Jams in a Jiffy,” you have recipes for jams and jellies that require apple juice concentrate. However, you do not mention anywhere how to make the apple juice concentrate.

–Donna Watkins, Palo Verde, California

You can find apple juice concentrate at your local grocery store. –Eds.

I UNDERSTAND THAT these recipes are not for traditional canning, but I do a lot of canning and would like to know if these recipes are safe to can. Thanks!

–Diana Britt, Pasadena, California

These recipes weren’t created with the proper pH balance for canning, so we can’t recommend it. –Eds.

IN YOUR MAY 2011 article “Old Remedies for New People,” you suggest adding 3 to 5 drops of essential oils to a colicky baby’s warm bath. Please note that unless mixed into the water, essential oils tend to float on the surface and can be irritating to the skin. To prevent, mix the essential oils with powdered milk and water to make a paste before mixing into the water. Test by putting your arm in the water (past your wrist).

–Denise N. Koroslev, Martinez, California

I HAVE A MATURE rosemary bush, which was planted in my backyard 15 years ago. The plant has thrived over the years. But recently I noticed that portions of the bush were turning brown and leaves were falling off its branches. This had never happened before. Watering and weather conditions have not changed. I have noticed a couple of rabbits in my yard and in my rosemary bush. Do rabbits have an appetite for this plant or could their wastes be the cause of my rosemary bush dying?

–Ed, Via email

It’s hard to give a very useful diagnosis without knowing where you live, the size of your plant and whether you regularly prune your rosemary plant. Here are our best guesses without more information:

1. If the plant is big–a 15-year-old rosemary plant would likely be near shoulder-height if you are living somewhere like Georgia northward to central Arkansas–and untrimmed, it might be winter damage from either wind or ice that has broken some of the limbs down low in the plant. Effects from such damage often take a couple of months to show, which would account for the browning that is only now occurring.

2. However, if your 15-year-old rosemary is pruned regularly and is knee-high, we guess dog damage is the culprit. Dogs, for some reason, enjoy urinating on rosemary plants and their urine turns the spots brown in just a couple of weeks. Worse, the offending dog(s) return to the same spot to mark their territory. Left unchecked, the plant will be killed.  

As for rabbits, no, they aren’t harmful to rosemary plants. They don’t eat them and droppings wouldn’t be harmful. –Eds.

I WANT TO share that I am moving back to Guatemala City in Central America, where I am originally from. I had a very small herb farm there with a variety of 40 different organic herbs a while back and was successful with it. I am now looking into building a new garden and farm. I would very much appreciate feedback on herbs that could be useful to you in the future. Thank you.

–Barbara Brose, Lake Worth, Florida

Readers: Email with “Future Herbs” in the subject line to suggest herbs for Barbara. –Eds.

IN THE JULY issue, I read about which herbs attract pollinators. Last week I went out to pick some lavender. I had to laugh when a bee started knocking into my head, trying to keep me away from picking MY lavender. I made sure to leave some for his hive and him.

–Nicole Danzy, Kershaw, South Carolina


IN OUR JULY 2011 issue, we ran a penfriend call-out from 72-year-old Dale Duncan, who was interested in corresponding with herb growers. Lots of our readers happily responded. –Eds.

Phone Connections

A READER RECENTLY called our offices about the July 2011 article “Jams in a Jiffy.” She wanted to know how to extend the shelf life of these jams, in order to give them as gifts. Here’s the author’s response. –Eds.

These jiffy jams must be stored in the refrigerator and eaten within one to two weeks. But because they can be whipped up in 30 minutes, it’s easy to make a double- or triple-batch. That way, you’ll have one batch for yourself and the rest to immediately give away. –Letitia L. Star

Facebook Fodder

What’s your favorite summertime use of herbs?

DEBBIE KOTCHEY: “Plain old mint” in my iced tea, herb tea sandwiches, pineapple sage butter and basil ice cream.

NICOLE DANZY: I like adding fresh, whole basil leaves on an egg or tuna salad sandwich instead of lettuce.

RICK JARVIS: Basil and parsley pesto. I freeze it in ice cube trays, store it in freezer bags and use it all year.

HITCHHIKING TO HEAVEN: Jam! Peach with pineapple sage, blackberry mint mojito, strawberry basil black pepper …

Tell Us What You Think

In our next issue, we will focus on herbs that can be planted in the fall. Which are your favorite fall herbs to plant? Please email with “In Basket” in the subject line. 

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