|More than 14 million households in the United States grow herbs—in vegetable and perennial gardens, in containers, or on windowsills. And with good reason! In addition to their obvious role in cooking, herbs are also attractive and add color, interesting textures and forms, and rich or subtle fragrances to the home and garden.
Uses for Herbs
The most popular use for herbs is in cooking, and nearly every recipe can be enhanced with the addition of appropriate herbs. Can you imagine tomato sauce without oregano? Thanksgiving stuffing without sage?
Herbs have many other uses as well. Many types make wonderful teas, either individually or combined in blends. Chamomile makes a soothing tea for unwinding after a hard day. Bee balm (Monarda) makes a tangy tea with citrus overtones. And in addition to being tasty, mint teas aid in digestion.
Of course, many gardeners grow herbs simply because they are attractive and durable plants. Bee balm not only makes a tasty tea, but is also a reliable perennial with lovely red, pink, or white flowers. And chamomile’s daisy-like blooms brighten up any sunny border.
Where to Plant
Plant herbs where you can get to them easily for frequent harvesting, especially if you plan to use them in cooking. Consider planting a special kitchen garden near the house so you can readily harvest herbs, greens, and other frequently used crops. You can also grow herbs in containers or even window boxes.
Most herbs prefer full sun—at least 6 hours per day. Herbs that will tolerate some light shade include chives, cilantro, dill, and mint. Remember that if you plant perennial herbs in the vegetable garden, you should keep them in a separate section so you’ll be sure to avoid them during spring and fall tilling.
In general, herbs prefer a moderately rich soil. An overly rich soil (or excessive fertilizing) can lead to vigorous growth. However, many people find that the flavor of over-fertilized herbs is bland, probably due to reduced essential oil content.
Caring for Herb Plants
Most herbs will thrive with about 1 inch of water a week, similar to other vegetable plants. Herbs in raised beds and containers will dry out more quickly than those planted directly in the garden and may need more frequent watering. Keep garden beds weeded, especially early in the season, as plants are getting established. If you have fertile soil, you won’t need to add much fertilizer to herbs grown in the garden. For those in containers, you’ll need to add a dilute, complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 to keep the leaves green and plants growing strong.
Harvest herbs by cutting back a shoot to just above a leaf. This will both provide you with a harvest and encourage nice, bushy growth on the remaining plant. In general, an herb’s flavor is most pronounced when it is harvested just before the plant begins to flower and in the morning, when the essential oils are most concentrated.
- Heavily harvested herb plants can look untidy. Consider interplanting herb beds with annual flowers to camouflage the trimmed plants.
- Herbs can provide important habitat for beneficial insects. Dill and fennel are two herbs beneficial insects particularly like.
- Perennial mints, including spearmint, applemint, and peppermint, are very vigorous and can become invasive. Rather than planting them directly in the garden, grow the plants in containers, then sink the containers into the garden. This will contain the roots and limit spreading.
- Perennial herbs that are not hardy in your region can be overwintered indoors, then brought back outdoors in the spring.
|Mushroom are a curious ingredient. Who would have thought that an edible fungus could present itself in such a variety of colors, flavors, and textures? The world of mushrooms is vast, yet most of us have only tried a variety or two! While white button mushrooms (center in photo above) are delicious, they are only one mushroom in a boundless world of flavors to explore.
Portobellos are a common favorite— they’re juicy and meaty, often used as vegetarian substitution in recipes. Portobellos are actually a the mature version of white button mushrooms we’re all familiar with! Surprisingly, crimini mushrooms (AKA ‘baby bellas)’ are also the same variety, harvested between the white button and portobello stages. Enjoy the caps of portobellos grilled as a delicious burger alternative, sliced and marinated in teriyaki sauce as a side of their own, or featured in a pasta.
Shiitake mushrooms have deep brown caps and tough, fibrous stems that add depth to broths and stocks. The flavor of the cap is rich and woodsy, and can hold its own against other strong flavors, such as the garlic and ginger in this Easy Miso Mushroom Ramen soup. These mushrooms were traditionally used for their medicinal properties, and are now cultivated for medicinal and culinary use. Start your day with this Garlic Shiitake Breakfast Toast or spend an evening enjoying the flavors of these Shiitake & Oyster Mushroom Dumplings with Chili Garlic Sauce. Yum!
Maitake, also known as Hen of the Wood, are delicate mushrooms that grow in feathery clusters on the base of oak trees. They are packed with a bold, peppery flavor, and an airy texture that is sure to please. Enjoy maitake simply sauteed or as a decadent addition to Beef Stroganoff.
Oh, Oyster mushrooms! The most sweet and gentle fungus of them all. This mushroom is wild-harvested and cultivated for it’s fan-like caps and sweet, ambrosial flavor. Oyster mushrooms can be enjoyed in stir-fry and soup, and make a wonderful centerpiece in this Wild Mushroom Tart.
|King trumpet mushrooms are actually the same variety as Oyster mushrooms! The two differ greatly in both flavor and texture. King Trumpets are incredibly flavorful and satisfyingly meaty, just be sure to cook them slowly so they remain juicy and tender. Teriyaki King Trumpets are a fool-proof way to introduce a someone to a new mushroom variety, or throw them on the grill for an incredible umami appetizer.
|Why should we be concerned about hearing? After all, hearing just happens, and there’s nothing we can do to change that— right? Wrong! Hearing is a very important sense of ours that we need to care for. Many research projects over the past couple of years have found that untreated hearing loss is associated with an increase in depression, feelings of isolation, cognitive decline (including Alzheimer’s disease), significantly lower earning potential, and more. To reduce the effects of a hearing loss we need to do a few fairly simple activities.
First, protect your hearing from damaging noise. Every time you use equipment that is as loud as or louder than a lawn mower or vacuum cleaner you run the risk of damaging your hearing. One thing you can do is wear earplugs or muffs when around the noises you can’t avoid. (Inexpensive foam earplugs can be purchased at many hardware stores or drugstores. Custom made earplugs can be obtained at an audiology clinic.) Another way to control damaging noise is to move away from it. The further you move away, the more you decrease the loudness. The third thing you can do to control damaging sounds it to turn the volume down.
Second, as this is an article for our Co-op, you may have heard the saying, “You are what you eat!” Yes, the foods rich in minerals and vitamins are very important to our hearing also— particularly the inner ear. The inner ear is a fluid filled “space in our head” with delicate hair cells that change sound vibrations to electrical energy which our brain can interpret. Foods rich in potassium, folic acid, magnesium, and zinc help to maintain a healthy fluid balance within our body and inner ear. They also help maintain cell growth and heal wounds that very likely affect our inner ears. We should be eating whole foods like: potatoes, spinach, lima beans, tomatoes, raisins, apricots, bananas, melons, oranges, yogurt and low-fat milk to maintain a good potassium level. Foods rich in folic acid include: fortified breakfast cereal, liver, spinach, broccoli and asparagus.
Finally, as you may expect, a good way to maintain healthy hearing is to get plenty of exercise. Maintaining a good healthy blood flow throughout the body, including your ears, is very helpful in maintaining overall health. Make sure you’ve had a checkup with your physician to be certain you can handle the exercise. Don’t overdo it as that isn’t good for you either. If you choose an exercise class, make sure the motivational music is at an acceptable level which is not too loud. If it is, ask the trainer to turn it down to protect your (and everyone else’s) hearing.
How well do you hear? We often don’t realize we have lost some of our hearing until others complain that we ask them too often to repeat what they are saying or maybe the TV is too loud. If in doubt, a baseline hearing evaluation by an audiologist is a good idea. It is also recommended that a baseline evaluation is performed once we reach the age of 45 or 50. Take care of your hearing so you can experience a better, longer life. If you have questions about this article, concerns about your hearing, or wish to have a baseline evaluation contact Dr. John Voss at Hearing Associates (218.723.7880) or visit www.hearbettertoday.com.
In his own words…
“I am the Lead Brewer at Bent Paddle Brewing Company and have been with the company since October 2013. I’m spearheading the infusion beer program at BPBC and can be spotted frequently wandering the spice and herb aisle for inspiration. Come check out the infusion tent at Festiversary on Saturday, May 14th to see some of the concepts I’ve developed! Try out Hopmosa, inspired by exotic tangerines and mandarins at WFC, infused with Bent Hop. Or, Hibiscus Paddle Break Blonde, conceived by a stroll through the spice and tea aisles. I’m also working with the Whole Foods Co-op on a monthly Co-op Infusion night in the taproom starting in June. Look for new exciting flavors to come!
When I’m not brewing I enjoy running (training for Grandma’s Marathon), hiking, traveling, dabbling in electronics and circuit boards, and playing music (guitar, violin, singing, songwriting). ”
What does Peter love most about Whole Foods Co-op?
“One of the first things I did upon arrival to Duluth was become an Owner at WFC. The fresh and local ingredients are an important part of my daily life. I’ve been vegan for 10 years so the produce aisle and frozen foods section are my go-to sections for perusal. I love trying out new (to me) and seasonal ingredients for use at home, and loading up on fruit for post run smoothies.
Becoming an Owner at WFC was my entry point into feeling like a real part of the Duluth community. The staff has always been so helpful and friendly! I find myself equally drawn to the chats I have with staff as I am to their products on shelves. “
|Interested in being highlighted as a WFC Owner? Contact Allison Heitmiller, Education & Outreach Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.