Exploring Vanilla in the Rainforest and in the Kitchen: Part II

The Herb Society of America Blog

By Susan Belsinger

(Adapted from her article, “Exploring Rainforest Spices at Villa Vanilla,” featured in the 2019 issue of The Herbarist, the annual journal of The Herb Society of America.)

“Plain vanilla is very much like that little black cocktail dress—always welcome, simply chic, so quietly dramatic.”

                —Lisa Yockelson, from Baking by Flavor

Vanilla in the Kitchen

P1110888Although I am a chocolate lover, I have always adored the fragrance of vanilla. More than once as a child, I tasted vanilla extract straight from the bottle—knowing full well that I wouldn’t like it—I just could not resist, because it always smelled so good.   

Back in my early adult years—and the beginning of my lifetime association with natural foods, herbs, and spices—I used vanilla beyond the kitchen. I found the aroma alluring, so why not use it like perfume? I…

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DIY Recipe of the Month: Herbal Spring Tincture • The Organic Alcohol Company

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Organic Alcohol Company (OAC) was founded in 2001 to provide high-proof Organic Alcohol with herbalists in mind. Our founder, an herbalist himself, saw the need to provide an alternative to other conventional ethanols on the market. Focusing on high quality and healthful medicines is still something our whole team values. We regularly purchase products from our local herbalist customers, not only support their work, but to support the use of herbal medicines and remedies.

Many of us at OAC have taken to experimenting with OAC alcohol to make various herbal concoctions ourselves. As a novice, I am learning new information all the time. I only recently found out that traditional tinctures may be only called a tincture when alcohol is used as the solvent, or menstruum (another word for solvent).

Each time I learn something new I am more excited to dive deeper into herbal education, and glean knowledge from…

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Christmas Herbs of Trinidad, Part II

The Herb Society of America Blog

By Amy Forsberg

Trinidad_tobago-esLast week we looked at some of the beverages important to a Trinidad Christmas. Now let’s talk about some of the foods and the special ingredients needed to make them.

So what is on the menu in Trinidad for Christmas? Here is what Ann told me. “Dinner is ham, of course, pastelles, baked chicken, fried rice, pelau, callaloo, macaroni pie…and everybody makes homemade bread. And, of course, sorrel drink and ponché de crème. And you have to have black cake, of course….Everything is homemade, nobody buys anything.” 

Pastelles are the West Indian version of tamales and reflect the Mexican/Aztec heritage in the Caribbean. Making pastelles can be labor intensive, and according to Ann, many families make the work fun by turning it pastelles on leafinto a party and making large quantities assembly-line style. This is part of what makes them such a Christmas treat. Every island has their own…

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Christmas Herbs of Trinidad, Part I

The Herb Society of America Blog

By Amy Forsberg

Trinidad_tobago-esI was visiting my mother just a few weeks before Christmas in 2017. She had recently moved to a wonderful small family-run assisted living home. The owner, Ann Abdul, asked me if I’d like to taste some “sorrel drink” she had made for the holiday season. I had no idea what that was. It looked Christmassy–a brilliant ruby red. I took a sip, and the most delicious taste filled my mouth. It was a rich, complex, and unfamiliar burst of flavors. But it tasted like Christmas, too—it was sweet, and I thought I could detect cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla. But it also tasted a bit like lemonade with a pronounced citrusy tartness. I loved it, and I had to know more! 

Ann and her family are from Trinidad, and over the next two years, I learned so much from her about Trinidad cuisine and culture. The island…

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Ode to the Oak: Acorn Harvesting, Preparation, Acorn Breads, and More!

The Druid's Garden

Honoring the oak

With the cooler temperatures of September and October, the abundance of the Oaks come forth.  In my area, we have abundant oaks of a variety of species: white oak, chestnut oak, eastern red oak, swamp oak, and much more.  Each of these oaks, every 2-3 years, produces an amazing crop of nuts that simply drop at your feet. Acorn was once a staple food crop of many different peoples around the world–and in some places, it still is.  Here in North America, acorns and chestnuts were primary food sources for native American people. Cultures subsided–and thrived–on annual acorn harvests and the bread, cakes, grits, and other foods that can be made with processed acorns.  I really enjoy processing acorns and using them as ritual foods for both the fall equinox and Samhain.

Thus, in this post, we’ll explore the magic of the acorn, how to process acorns…

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DIY Recipe of the Month: Spiced Pear Liquor • The Organic Alcohol Company

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

October’s recipe is extra exciting to share, not only because we are showcasing our newly available Craft-Grade Pear Spirits, but because fall flavors like Clove and Cinnamon and ripe Pear happen to be an all-time, cozy-inducing favorite. We now have our Certified Organic Craft-Grade Pear in house, and it was hard to choose what recipe to make with this fragrant, juicy, and delicious spirit.

Our Spiced Pear Liquor is a perfect addition to give you all the Autumn feels. As the evenings get darker a little earlier, you can brighten them up with this seasonal warming spiced liquor. It’s a great addition to your baking recipes or to make delicious cocktails. A favorite libation of mine is adding a dash of this flavorful liquor to a dry apple cider and poured over ice.

You can experiment with different spice blends and quantities to make it perfectly yours. As with all…

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A Day In the Garden – Urban Moonshine

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

GO INTO THE GARDEN EVERY DAY, NO MATTER WHAT.

That’s the promise I made at the start of the season. It will be a daily ritual, a practice to keep me in tune with the growth and health of the garden, and a sure way not to miss a bit of garden gossip. Like a bustling city full of honking horns, buses whizzing by, and street conversations half-heard, there is endless activity to observe. Cucumber beetles rapidly working to destroy the cucumber crop. Birds ravishing the cherry tree singing loudly to their friends to join in on the feast. Earthworms patiently turning the soil underfoot. Never a dull moment, but you need to go to the garden every day to keep up.

That has been my biggest lesson gardening this year. If you’re not there to enjoy the first ripe strawberries, the squirrels will be happy to take on that…

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Amazing Anise Hyssop

The Herb Society of America Blog

By Susan Belsinger

Agastache foeniculum

——————–Agastache foeniculum——————-

While commonly called anise hyssop, the odor is more similar to French tarragon, though sweeter, with a hint of basil. The foliage and flowers taste similar to the aroma—sweet, with the licorice of tarragon and basil—and just a bit floral.

All of the thirty or so Agastache species are good for honey production and make great ornamental perennials. The flowering plants go well with the silver-leaved species of mountain mint (Pycnanthemum), which flower about the same time in the July garden and also provide good bee forage. The young, broad, dark green leaves of A. foeniculum, tinged purple in cool weather, are attractive with spring bulbs such as yellow daffodils.

Agastache species do not have GRAS status, even though the leaves of many species have been used for centuries as a substitute for French tarragon, infused in syrups…

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Cooking with Monarda

The Herb Society of America Blog

By Susan Belsinger

(Blogmaster’s note: With Monarda currently in its full glory here in zone 7, we’re posting this recipe so you can take advantage of its unique flavors while it’s still in bloom. Serve these tasty treats at your next summer celebration!)

—————————–Monarda didyma—————————-

Monarda (commonly called bee balm or bergamot) is a native American herb named after a Spanish physician and botanist, N. Monardez, of Seville. Its unusual and ornamental flowers possess a distinctly architectural character with their rather bristly, shaggy-headed colorful appearance. All species attract bees and are good honey plants. Right now, my stands of the various bee balms are abuzz with activity from dawn until dusk. The twelve species of Monarda, all native to North America, offer a wide assortment of flavors and fragrances—from lemon to thyme to pungent oregano to tealike and rose—produced on annual or perennial plants. So sniff and…

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It’s A Lavender Season! Lavender Association of Colorado

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

The cultivar of the Month

Lavender coloradoJune 2020 Cultivar of the Month
Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote Pink’

Hidcote Pink is another versatile lavender grown in Colorado.  It is an excellent culinary variety.  It produces an exceptionally sweet oil that several growers use in conjunction with other lavender essential oils to make unique blends.  Planted with purple lavenders, the pink flowers make the purple flowers “pop” in the landscape.
Hidcote Pink is not really good for crafting as in drying it loses its pink color and dries to a brown.
Hidcote Pink plants are 30-40″ tall.  Stems are in the 6-10″ range.  Spacing the plants 36″ apart should allow them to remain separate over the years.
Hidcote Pink was developed by Major Lawrence Johnston in Gloucester, England, and became available around 1958.  It is hardy in zones 5-9.  It blooms once in the spring.

lavender dilution

Dilution The Key To Using Essential Oils Safely

We…

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