Friday, June 27, 2014

Gardening as Therapy - submitted by Garden Glamour's First Contributing Writer

Therapy Garden at Merwick: photo courtesy Design for Generations, LLC

Gardening as Therapy 
Written and contributed by Garden Glamour reader -- and writer, Emma Noble.
Emma first wrote to me in May asking to write a guest blog post after her research led her to Garden Glamour.  Emma explained she is a business and finance writer and that after working for several medium-sized businesses, motherhood saw her switch to freelance writing on those topics – as well as her interests in transportation and conservation.
Lucky for us.
I think Emma’s piece on Gardening as Therapy is engaging, informative and peppered with helpful tips on creating healthy, sustainable, beneficial gardens.  Hope you agree.  Looking forward to your feedback for Emma and me. 
Gardening as Therapy
That gardening is good for you seems an intuitive truth, and one embraced at Garden Glamour
What can be more restful and invigorating than picking fresh corn from your beautiful yet productive 'three sisters' bed, or reaching only so far as your window box for a handful of herbs to pep up a salad or make a cup of tea. Add to this the physical element of gardening, as well as the joy of being outdoors and appreciating the world around us, and you have a satisfying combination. 
The health benefits of gardening are well recognized, and include long-term health improvements through moderate exercise and increased levels of vitamin D from being outdoors.
Gardening is an inherently social activity - garden lovers like nothing more than swapping tips with others, debating the weather and the likely successes of new plants. The sense of community - real or virtual through web forums and discussion groups, can contribute significantly to mental well-being and happiness.
Add to this the benefit of growing your own vegetables and fruit, should you choose to, and the local, fresh and organic crops that can be produced in even the smallest of areas are an added bonus to physical health.
Gardening is an endeavor requiring long term commitment and therefore it lends itself to lifestyle changes over years and decades rather than the short bursts of activity associated with attending a gym - meaning you end with gradual changes made in a sustainable way towards better mental and physical well being.
What is therapeutic horticulture?
In addition to the everyday benefits of gardening as a relaxing and energizing hobby, there lies the branch (excuse the pun) of therapeutic horticulture.  

According to the American Horticulture Therapy Association, treatment with horticulture therapy has existed in one form or another since the 19th century, although its use broadened following the end of World War II, when it moved away from the realm of treating mental health issues exclusively and was used to support returning war veterans. This form of therapy is now used in a variety of community, rehabilitative and vocational settings, and can help in both physical rehabilitation and in supporting the cognitive development of individuals struggling with memory loss, problems with socialization or other issues.   
Healing Gardens at Kimball Medical Center: photo courtesy of Design for Generations, LLC.
This therapy is also used in social and charitable organizations across the world, helping those who are isolated through physical or mental disability or social exclusion.
What makes a garden therapeutic?
Here at Garden Glamour, we are all for beautiful, relaxing, well designed outdoor spaces. A therapeutic garden is a specifically designed space, and will depend on the purposes and visitors for whom it is intended. Gardens may be designed with access, rehabilitation or healing in mind, and include a focus on sensory planting, for color, fragrance and to attract life into the garden. Therapy can be as simple as individuals spending time outdoors and appreciating the beauty of nature, building strength for rehabilitation through the gentle exercise of gardening, or specific talking therapies carried out in the outdoor environment to improve comfort and make participants feel more at ease with the conversation. Although many therapeutic gardens are specifically designed, such spaces do not in fact depend on elaborate garden design or architecture, but can be created more simply to suit the individual needs of gardeners and their families.
How to get started?
If you're a complete beginner, a great place to start is through reading for inspiration, either online resources or print texts that will help with step by step details and design ideas.
Further ideas and advice can be found through talking to fellow gardeners - friends and neighbors will know what will flourish depending on your local weather and soil conditions, and can be a great source of inspiration and ideas. 
Local gardening supply stores such as Mecox, can also help when planning your garden, both with necessary products, including specialist planting and design ideas, and words of wisdom. Alternatively you can contact local Master Gardeners, state cooperative extensions, Garden Clubs, or the American Horticultural Society
And of course, don't forget to look through the Garden Glamour archive for ideas too.

Further ideas and advice can be found through talking to fellow gardeners - friends and neighbors will know what will flourish depending on your local weather and soil conditions, and can be a great source of inspiration and ideas. Alternatively try the wealth of internet resources for ideas and planning tools.
Kudos, Emma!  
Many thanks.  Looking forward to your next Guest Blog post.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Best Father's Day Gift: "Alive & Cooking" Cookbook - Healthy & Delicious Homegrown Recipes made with Local Ingredients & Love

“It was with love for my father that I became obsessed with cooking and recipes,” wrote Alive & Cooking cookbook co-author Maryann De Leo.

It’s an era of unlimited gift possibilities For Dad, (close to 80 million hits via a Google Search for Father’s Day Gift Guides and what to buy for Dad)
There’s tech toys, manly BBQ equipment, and surfer dude shorts…
Tie jokes are a perennial Father’s Day gift cliché.

Why it’s portrayed as anything of a challenge to choose a gift to celebrate a Father – every child’s hero  - is a complete mystery.
In fact, knowing that Dads will buy something on their own if they really want it – the best Father’s Day gift is an obvious one: your time and love.

And what better way to share some quality time than cooking for Dad?

Shared shopping, meal prep, cooking, enjoying some great local wine or craft beer all through to the dining and sit down meal, is a surefire way to bring together food, drink, and fun. 
And kindle homegrown memories for a lifetime and generations to come.

Don’t know what to cook?
The answer lies in a cookbook.

This book is the perfect Father’s Day gift to be used as a lifestyle guide to good, healthy living AND as a cookbook brimming with family heritage recipes. 
Pick any of the hundreds of food and drink recipes to make together on Father’s Day.
And every day. 

Curated recipes from the authors’ family are so named for the mother, aunt, uncle, son or daughter who passed down or created the recipes.
These monogrammed recipes are charming and delicious: e.g. Helen’s Grilled Salmon, Junia’s Beef Stroganoff.
Who wouldn’t love Grandma Violet Terranova’s Fried Chicken? 
Violet claims she invented “Shake and Bake!” 
Then there’s Amanda’s Mexican Salad recipe and Gibbons’ Guajillo Chili, co-author Addison’s son  - who developed this recipe while in law school.

All the recipes make the Alive & Cooking cookbook feel like a sophisticated and informed version of a traditional church or community cookbook.

Written with deep-felt love as an homage to the authors’ fathers and family, the book fairly percolates not only with valuable, expert nutrition information (why cinnamon is key, or how detox cleaning is good, and did you know plums support the liver because they are rich in Vitamin A, iron, copper, zinc and fiber and can lower cholesterol, and plants "are masters at cleaning certain toxins from the air" and boost happier, more positive attitude) but also offers delicious, good-for-you recipes and practical, hands on tips.
One can’t help feeling you’re listening to a grandmother or friend describing the recipes -- as in, “Do not frost until cake is cold”), as well as the family food stories that will inspire and reward the reader for a lifetime.

I challenge anyone to not get a tad weepy -- and cooking motivated - reading the chapter “The Manicotti Lesson” that, not surprisingly, reads like a screenplay - and is all about making artful, family food connections. 
The Manicotti chapter boasts opera, the Beatles, Mother Dorothea singing, and her family’s culinary stories and cooking lessons on making manicotti with three cheeses inside shells.

How pretty that pasta comes in so many nature-inspired shapes, no?!

If for no other reason, buy Alive & Cooking for Dotty’s Manicotti.
It is a classic example of what makes this cookbook extraordinary. 
The recipe is a detailed, tour de force family heritage recipe the Food Network would promote like crazy.  
The food memoir head notes alone are fascinating short story. 

But wait, there’s Dotty’s Potatoes and Green Beans.
And Dotty’s Stuffed Artichokes. 
And more.
Clearly, there needs to be a Dotty Cookbook, I think you will agree.

For anyone who fails to see how the rather prickly, pointed artichoke could possibly be anything more than still art, (not to put too fine a point on it but art IS part of this edible beauty’s moniker.) there is Dotty’s easy to make, delicious artichoke recipe.

Dotty’s Stuffed Artichoke recipe will change your palate.

4 large artichokes
2 c. Italian bread crumbs
1/3 c. tablespoons Locatelli cheese, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ c. fresh parsley, washed well, dried, and chopped
1 8-oz. can plum tomatoes

1.     Cut off any brown parts from artichokes
2.     Wash artichokes and dry well
3.     Trim artichokes so that they sit flat in pot
4.     Mix breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic, parsley, and enough tomato to moisten the stuffing so that holds together.
5.     Gently separate and pull apart artichoke.  (Don’t break off the leaves. The artichoke will be whole when it’s cooking.)
6.     Stuff each artichoke leaf with approximately 1 T. stuffing
7.     Site artichokes in the pot with a little water and a little tomato to steam
8.     Steam approximately 45 minutes

Variations: Use any grated cheese, Maryann’s family likes Locatelli.  She writes: (My parents had an ongoing debate about whether Locatelli was a region, a brand name, or a type of cheese. I don't remember if there was a winner.
Note: The tomatoes make the stuffing moist and hold it together. 
Serving size: 4 servings.

This cookbook is a food “hat trick”  (sorry, Ranger fans) that combines food stories and health and nutrition recommendations, along with recipes and tips.

For example, the Recipe chapter launches with this wise admonishment: “One of the most important instructions for preparing food is to taste it as you are cooking.  Adjust salt, pepper, spices, herbs, liquids, and ingredients as needed.”

Cooks and bakers note: Be fearless. Be bold.  

And break some rules. Recipes and menus are not tied to the clock.

De Leo writes: “Lunch can be the main meal of the day.  Often at mid-day my father had the best appetite and he could eat a big meal.”

In an excerpt from the Alive & Cooking cookbook. De Leo offers a love note / head note for this sweet recipe that clearly delighted her father who was then battling emphysema.

Recipe for Brie And Chocolate Sandwich

To make this easier for my (Maryann’s) Dad to eat, I cut it with scissors into small pieces. When I went to see if he liked it, there were hints of chocolate at the corners of his mouth and the plate was empty

2 slices bread, whole grain, baguette or sourdough
Sliced Brie cheese (enough to cover a piece of bread
2 T. bittersweet chocolate chips
1.     Toast bread lightly in a pan (No butter is necessary)
2.     Place slices of Brie on one side of the bread.
3.     Sprinkle chocolate chips on top.
4.     Place the other bread slice on top, and place the sandwich in a pan.
5.     Grill, pressing down and cooking until brown on both sides.

Serving size: 1

What makes this a special Father’s Day gift is the spirit of fatherly adoration and love that fills the book. 
In the Acknowledgements, De Leo sets the table for the reader: "Inspiration has come from my father many times… This cookbook, too, was inspired by my father. I wrote it for him and to him and I know he’d be happy to have me share what I learned with many others.”

Cooking is empowering.

With subtle authority, the book seamlessly and joyfully makes the connections to cooking, nutrition, health, food and family, especially to our revered elders: parents and caregivers.

The two authors are passionate about those connections and the forces that circle out to family, community, and beyond. 
Maryann is an Academy Award–winning filmmaker for The Chernobyl Heart.
Her latest film was nominated for a Golden Bear at the Berlinale in Berlin, Germany. She is a teacher at the School of Visual Arts, a UN representative for the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom, and a home cook.

Nancy Gibbons Addison is the author of How to Be a Healthy Vegetarian
A Board–Certified health practitioner with the American Association of Drugless Practitioner, certified by eCornell University in plant-based nutrition and is certified for Basic Intensive n Health-Supportive Cooking at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Health in NYC, among many other accreditations.
The authors’ personal stories and narratives are love stories – for their fathers – for their family, and their love of food

“It was the love for my father that I became obsessed with cooking and recipes,” wrote Maryann.
She describes how she and her family changed his recipes and the quality of food and her father’s health problems disappeared.  He was able to regain ten pounds; his doctor calling him “miracle man.”

The book describes how the authors came by their passion for delicious, healthy food, fueled by homegrown ingredients. 
Not surprisingly, Maryann’s father, Dominic tended a garden.  Her mother, Dorothea, tended the heart of the home – the kitchen.  
Who needs anything else to build a happy, healthy home?

“Highest quality food is the best”, notes Addison.
Grandmother De Leo passed this on to future generations long before it became trendy with today’s locavore chefs:  “Cook with the best quality ingredients you can find; that is what makes the best dish.”

So, take Dad to shop ingredients at a local farmers market. 
Karen Seiger’s Markets Of New York Father's Day Picks recommends fabulous, curated markets and maker finds.

I was so very honored to have been asked by my talented cousin Maryann to write the Foreword for Alive & Cooking: An Easy Guide to Health for You and Your Parents. 

Here is the tribute to the book’s mission to feed our bodies, our souls, and our families.
Rereading the Foreward for this Father's Day tribute, I am happy that it captures the essence of this important book.

Food is love.
Embraced by the earth, caressed by the sun, and kissed by the rain, nature respectfully shares her passions with us. 

Food is art  
The art of food fuels our imagination and creativity.  We create homes, traditions, culinary triumphs and comfort through our interpretation of food’s ingredients, preparation and presentation.  There is the saying, “The eyes eat first” with the food beguiling our sense of sight – flirting with us before seducing our other senses of smell, touch and ultimately, taste. What other art form takes hold of us so? Food is powerful. But it is also markedly tender, nurturing and sincere.

Food is a metaphor.
It is a tool, a weapon, a constant garden where love is growing, waiting to be shared. To be served, given away with abandon.

Food is a journey. 
It takes us to distant countries and far-away places. It takes us across time and generations.  Food penetrates our hearts. And our memories.  It is a passport to other cultures; a portal to our own unique past.

This book is transporting. 
It reveals -- or rips back the cover on the extraordinary connection to our families; our selves. 
You could say the food stories and nutritious recipes are lessons. 
Reading them, it’s almost as if our lives depended on it. 
It does.
The food chronicles here reveal an intimacy that can only be found in family heritage cuisines that are deeply and genuinely experienced: over generations, over the dinner table, over a lifetime of cheers’, salutes’, and amen’s. Our happiest, fondest memories are over celebrations of food and family. Big holidays and achievements. Romantic interludes. And quiet, tender, heartbreaking, private tributes.

My series’ of Homegrown books and writings explores the connection of master chefs to their inspired growers: the vegetable, duck and honey farmers, oyster growers and fishermen.  My talented, sensitive artist cousin, Maryann – and her co-author Nancy -  have taken this concept of eating inspired local food to the next level. Naturally.   While the concept of the book was sparked out of heartbreak and loss, let there be no doubt the book is one of enduring hope and love.

What could be more intimate and inspired than preparing nutritious, delicious food for family?  Time spent talking and working in the kitchen. Meals shared. Traditions and heritage passed on in the glow of serving home cooked meals with full plates and brimming glasses.

The recipes here are natural, healthy, organic and prepared with sustainable ingredients. of course. 
You will be inspired to cook them because each of the family recipes – our family – have been tested by time – and love.  And in the end, they are truly the best ingredients.  

Enjoy.  Cheers to family – and food!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Poisons to Potions: Herbs Have power to flavor Culinary & Cocktail Recipes and How to Grow Herbs

Hippocrates wrote: "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Words to live a healthy life by.

This Herbal News post is from my recent Homegrown Garden Tea Party – How to Grow a Summer Herb Garden talk for the United Way of Greater Mercer County.
Photo courtesy: Angela Scibilia UWGMC

I realized a lot of foodies and gardeners are keen to learn how to grow and use herbs.
Photo courtesy: Angela Scibilia UWGMC

Besides adding taste and flavor nuance to culinary dishes that span the spectrum from peasant country heritage to haute cuisine recipes, herbs are the magic in cooking, fairy tale love potions and sinister herbal poisons – referred to as the “Silent Weapon” during the Middle Ages. 

Throughout history every culture has traditions and tales to tell about how its herbs are used to heal, to clean, and how they play a starring role in religious ceremonies. 

The Greeks traced their discovery of poisonous plants to Hecate, the Goddess of Sorcery.
Ahh, love that girl power!
The Greeks believe Hecate’s whipped up her first potion using Aconite, the very pretty flower known as Monk’s Hood. 

Shakespeare was fond of using arsenic as a character plot. 
Bella Donna or deadly nightshade got its name because women would use eye drops made from the plant to dilate their pupils – believed to be a sign of beauty.
Ah, and people think Botox is extreme...
But then Marc Anthony’s troops were supposedly poisoned with bella donna by Scotland’s King Duncan.

The real curiosity is why do herbs hold our fascination for more than 5,000 years and yet are so little understood.
In English, even the pronunciation is different on either side of the pond.
Yanks say “erb” with the “H” silent, and the Brits give the “H” a fiull-on breathy sound – just like the man’s name.

In many ways I think herbs are misunderstood because they are ubiquitous  -- so that we take them for granted, perhaps.

Today, more than 30 percent of modern drugs come from botanicals. 
The World Health Organization estimates 8% of the Asian and African world use herbal medicine as primary health care, including the Ayurveda system and its pursuit of living in tune with nature.

Medicine men, shamans, witches, healers and herbalists (and even the big pharmaceuticals) all employ plants for their natural antioxidants, anti-aging, disease-preventing and alleviating powers.

Lore and Legend

Vervain or Verbena, referred to as the “Holy Herb” is associated with the divine or supernatural and is believed to have been used to staunch Jesus’ wounds from the Cross.

Basil is worshiped as a goddess by Hindus. 

Rastafarians consider cannabis to be a holy plant.

Because Mistletoe bears fruit at the time of Winter Solstice it was used in Druid Britain as symbol of immortality. In Celtic mythology, it is considered a remedy for barrenness and an antidote to poison.

Native American Medicine Men and woman – embraced the intimate connection with plants and medicine believing that plants were given to them by the creator to heal people.  To induce spiritual experiences they used four “Sacred Herbs:”
Sweet Grass  (purifies and cleans)

Growing Herbs

Herbs are flowering plants with leaves, seeds or flowers used for flavoring food, in medicine, in perfume.

Herbs play well with other plants – they’re versatile and are great partners for fruits, vegetables and ornamentals.
I once designed an extended edible garden where each plot in the bed was color coded and filled with a mixture of that color but different textures and shapes. 
It is gorgeous.

Have fun with the partnerings: a Pizza Garden is a mix of basil, oregano and tomato.  

Bear in mind there are very many cultivars of herbs. There is not just one fennel, for example; rather you can enjoy the herb Foeniculum vulgare. Fennel Purpureum with its bronze purple leaves, or Foeniculum dulce, Florence fennel for its anise-flavored bulbs.

Grow a diverse crop of herbs – and vegetables.

Overall, herbs can be grown from seed, cuttings, or as starter plants.

The seed catalogs that brighten a winter’s day are the “Look Book” of the garden-scene: botanical art, colorful cultivars and species, organic and hybrid, exotic and heirloom – theirs is a special language and an intoxicating presence that you can get lost in a dreamy haze of garden delight.

I recommend planting after Mother’s Day in temperate zones of 6 through 9 ish. 

We start our seeds indoors under the light in late winter/early spring and they are good to go by this time as well.

Grow a mix of annual and perennial herbs.

Purchase your plants and seeds from a grower you know and trust.  Often the big box stores import the plants where growing conditions may not be optimum and they travel great distances in tight spaces where they can pick up diseases. 

The tomato blight we experienced in the not too distant past was a result of bad circumstances. 
Food thought leader and James Beard award-winning chef, Dan Barber wrote a New York Times Op Ed piece about this issue. 

He wrote, (in part),  “Large retailers like Home Depot, Kmart, Lowe’s and Wal-Mart bought starter plants from industrial breeding operations in the South and distributed them throughout the Northeast. (Fungal spores, which can travel up to 40 miles, may also have been dispersed in transit.) Once those infected starter plants arrived at the stores, they were purchased and planted, transferring their pathogens like tiny Trojan horses into backyard and community gardens.”

Support your local growers.  

Planting Herbs

If not planting in the ground, herbs are ideal grown in containers. 
Plant near where you will use them – adjacent to the kitchen and grill.

If not using classic container pots, think creatively.  
Anything can be used as a pot – shoes, dishes or cups, urns, toys, and sports equipment!
I'm demonstrating how to pot up an herb garden in my hanging Garden Pendants   
Pot up containers with an eye to the overall look of color, texture and size utilizing this easy to remember method:

  • Thriller: tall or statement plants
  • Filler: bushier filling plants
  • Spiller: vines or hanging plants
    The United Way offered a variety of herb to sell, Jacks Nursery, Pennington 

Wash out all pots & containers from last year.
Sterilize the pots and pruning equipment.  A 10% bleach solution is most often recommended.
I prefer to use white vinegar.

If the containers don’t already have drainage hole in the bottom - place broken clay pieces from spent pots or use stones.  The idea is to allow the water to drain away from the plant to prevent root rot.

Herbs are so versatile, in fact, that they inspire a category or style of healthy, beneficial method of gardening referred to as Companion Planting.
Growing certain herbs with or near other herbs, vegetables, or flowers offers a way to increase yield naturally, reduce the need for chemical applications for pest control and encourage healthy, beneficial growing. 

A Mother Earth Living post I researched subsequent to the United Way Herb Talk summarizes the Companion Planting quite well.  
The only recommendations I can take issue with from my own experience is my sage and rue are quite simpatico – as is the rosemary and basil. 
Love that writer Lauren Holt notes how basil benefits flavor of tomatoes, oregano, peppers and even asparagus.   
See, there is more to the idea of that Pizza Garden than just happy gardening haiku.

Gotta love the benefit of growing chamomile – it’s a wonder team player that helps pretty much every other plant – and us.  And well, it is pretty all by itself.


There are many self-watering planters available with a built in water reservoir.
If not using an irrigation system to water the containers, you can purchase the glass globes with long stem that when filled with water will drip drain into the potting material to nourish the plant.
Photo courtesy: Angela Scibilia UWGMC
If this is too fancy and takes a bite out of your purse, you can drill holes in PVC pipes and insert water bottles to act the same way.

Remember to water the roots, not the leaves.

Best to water mid-morning or early evening.

Don’t over water.
Occasional misting is good.


Herbs are carefree and if planted in the ground don’t need fertilizer.
You might need occasional fertilizer if container planting.

Deadhead the flowering part of the plant to encourage growth. 
Especially so when growing basil.
Pinch out to produce compact, bush plants and maximize crop yields.  If the plant sets seeds it will tend to stop flowering.

Keep the plants clean; take out spent or damaged leaves.
Good horticulture hygiene practice cuts down the risks of pests and diseases – especially for young plants.

Evergreen herbs, including rosemary, chamomile, and sage should be trimmed regularly throughout the growing season.

Some herbs need support for their trellising. 
Tuteurs, wooden framework, a fence, obelisk, drying rack, or a statue are all good choices that also add whimsy and charm to the garden while serving a function.
Trellising allows the plant to wind or grow up and also aids in air circulation.

In the garden bed or container, plants benefit from mulch: it helps retain moisture and mitigate weeds.

Get creative here too. 
Mulch can be sea shells, stones, cocoa shells, pebbles, beach or tumbled glass, marbles, pine cones or white pine needles – especially for the acid loving plants like blueberries. 

Be sure to label your herb plants. 
Too often we forget what it is that was planted and then hesitate to use them.

You can use the markers that come with the plant – or get creative and make plant markers writing the common or botanical nomenclature on store-bought beauties, popsicle sticks,
or stones.

Spoons and forks work so well, too. After all, you are going to eat these beauties!

Harvest herbs when you need to add them to your recipes.  Many harvest the herbs in the morning when the aromatic oil in the herbs is at its peak.
Herbs – like other plants - grow best when nurtured with sun, water, and love.

Culinary Uses & Cocktail Recipes

Herbs are used in most every recipe. 
Dried herbs are more potent that fresh – up to three times more punch -- so use accordingly.

Remember to eat the herbs’ flowers. 

To name just a few you will enjoy eating: Nasturtiums, Arugula, Agastache – Cornflowers, Clove Pinks, Daylily, (their buds and petals are like water chestnuts).

Edible flowers look gorgeous on the plate, in a salad or when crystalized, on pastries and baked treats.

Pot marigolds are like saffron and can be used to color rice, butters, cakes, or sprinkled in salads)
Primrose, and scented leaved pelargoniums and sunflowers are glamorous eat-treats, too.

Think of using herbs to infuse honey and salt.

Lavender flowers work in ice cream or vinegars or crystalize them and violas and pansies, violets, begonias, Johnny-jump-ups, rose petals, lilac, borage, pea, pinks, scented geraniums for cakes, cupcakes and puddings.

Crystalized Flower How-To
Use a recipe of beaten egg whites, a few drops of water or vodka to coat the just-picked flowers and paint the blossoms, following by a sprinkling of fine sugar and dry on a wire rack or paper towels.
Store the crystalized petals you don’t use (really?!) in a tin till next time.  They’ll keep for almost a year.

Flavor Companions

Don’t know what herbs go with what dishes?

Onions, Garlic, Chives – Allium family members are terrific in salads, soups, sauces, egg dishes, eat the leaves and bulbs

Dill – feathery anise flavored leaves in fish dishes and as garnish

French Tarragon – Anise flavored herb for egg, fish, and chicken dishes or salads.

Lemon Grass – work great in Southeast Asian and meat & fish dishes

Cilantro – The foliage is a good citrusy flavor in Mexican and Thai dishes and added flavor to make guacamole sing

When grilling, check out my Examiner Grilling column post column to learn that herbs cut down on harmful carcinogens and how to add to marinades or used in shish kabobs.

Herbal Inspired Cocktails & Drinks

Here are some fun and tasty drink suggestions that will expand your herbal imbibing:

Borage – use the pretty blue flowers and freeze into ice cubes.
The plant’s cucumber tasting leaves are a great garnish for drinks (or in salads.)

Chamomile – the daisy looking flowers are superb for tea (and as a hair conditioner!)

In fact, any kind of herb can be used as a tea, including Thyme and Sage, which are helpful to heal a sore throat.
Lemon Grass leaves are used in Tisane or tea.
Every kind of mint: pineapple, chocolate or orange are joyfully refreshing used in iced teas and as a garnish.

Shaken or stirred, Shiso Martinis use fresh lime and the mint-like shiso leaf for a bracing alternative to the standard martini. 

According to Jessica Wohlers, Brooklyn’s top-tier mixologist, “Herbs are great to infuse in wine, sherry and syrups. 
“Syrups are the best way because it’s easy and you just add a bit to a glass of wine, champagne or Presecco, a spirit or even beer,” Wohlers explained.

A veteran of bleeding edge cocktail emporiums including the Clover Club and
the Flatiron Lounge where the secret to success, according to NY Magazine, is owner-partner Julie Reiner’s cheflike approach to the cocktail craft.

Wohlers has been a featured mixologist in a recent NY Post for her culinary cocktail prowess.
The willowy and talented Wohlers embraces the stand-up taste and intriguing flavor options herbs afford a creative cocktail maker.
Two of Wohlers’ favorite herb-inspired cocktail recipes are:

Gardener’s Sangria
The drink uses rosemary-infused red wine, Oloroso sherry, homemade citrus syrup, Angostura and Regans’ Orange Bitters No. 6 ( )

Mix all the ingredients together, pour over ice and garnish.

You have to love Regan describe his early attempts at creating his and Mardee’s Weekend Alchemist attempts when creating Regans’ Orange Bitters No.6.

 “Strolling around a store that supplies witches, warlocks, and gremlins with the potions and what-not I found everything I needed to make Baker’s formula, and I added some gentian, cinchona and quassia to the mix for good measure…” 

Wohlers goes on to describe another good herbal drink on her current cocktail menu:

Red Sky at Night
The colorful cocktail (Naturally she’d highlight a dramatic, color-imbued sassy drink – Wohlers is also a fine art painter and stylist) uses hibiscus flower infused white rum, pear liqueur, lemon juice, Demerara syrup (a simple syrup made with demerara or turbinado sugar that gives it an almost caramel flavor found in happy tropical drinks) and Angostura bitters, shaken and served up.

Use herbs including thyme or lavender to infuse drinks as varied as lemonade, champagne or spritzers.
Love Lillet? Who doesn’t?  It’s so refreshing for summer, too. ( )  
Replace the orange slice with basil a sprig of cucumber or cinnamon, tonic, and basil

Not inclined to liquor? There’s an abundance of online recipes to harvest including this one:

Herbal Soda             
1/2 cups sugar
3/4 ounce fresh herbs, such as basil, lemon verbena, mint,
tarragon, or thyme
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Sparkling water or club soda, ice for serving