Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day!

Remembering the brave men and women that have served this country with the ultimate sacrifice so that we may continue to enjoy the freedom of being an American. We are grateful for their dedication to this magnificent country, for their heroism and valor, for their bravery and devotion, for their youthful innocence. Remembering and honoring those who have fought in wars past, and remembering and thanking those who are fighting in wars present. We are humbled by your service to our country so that we may all live free.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Baltimore Herb Festival

Spent most of the day packing boxes, loading the van, and getting ready to hit the road bright and early Saturday morning
as we head south with the family in tow to the Baltimore Herb Festival in Leakin Park for this one day only show. It's the place to be for all things herbal. Look for David, Susanna, Nancy and the kids at The Rosemary House booth (shown here from years past). See you there! Susanna has a presentation entitled All About Dill - Herb of the Year 2010 at noon in the Chapel.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tea Cubes

With June looming on the horizon, it's time to celebrate National Iced Tea Month. When entertaining friends, why not be prepared with a batch of frozen iced tea cubes. It's an extra little something to surprise your guests as they sit and enjoy a refreshing glass of iced tea. You can simply make a batch of iced tea and freeze some in an ice cube tray, or if you want to enhance the flavor of your glass of tea, prepare this simple blend of tea and lemon juice. As the ice cubes melt in your glass of tea, rather than dilute the tea, they will impart a delicate lemony flavor.
Iced Tea Cubes
3 c. boiling water
3 Tbsp. loose tea, or 9 teabags
3 tsp. granulated sugar
1/4 c. lemon juice

Pour boiling water over tea. Allow to steep for 5 minutes. Strain tea. Add sugar and lemon juice. Pour into 2 ice cube trays and freeze.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cold Brew Iced Tea

With National Iced Tea Month (June) just around the corner, it's time to start brewing some cold tea! The cold brew method is perfect for the hot summer months. Steep your tea overnight without having to heat up the kitchen with boiling water. It produces a lighter tea, but certainly enjoyable. I've pulled together a fun combination of tea and herbs for tomorrow's iced tea treat. I tossed 2 heaping tablespoons of Palm Court (a nice hearty black tea from Harney & Sons), added 3 - 6" cuttings of fresh lemon verbena and 6 leaves (lightly crushed) of stevia (a natural sweetener from Paraguay) and 4 cups of water to a quart measuring cup. This mixture is put into the fridge and allowed to steep for 8 hours, or overnight.
We'll strain it in the morning, and then enjoy a slightly sweetened lemony iced tea for the day, garnished with a sprig of lemon verbena. Can't wait! Do you have a favorite combination of tea and herbs that you enjoy this time of year?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Food Artistry

This little doily covered dessert plate featuring Raspberry Mousse in a White Chocolate Cup and a Mint Frosted Brownie is brought to life with a simple dusting of confectioner's sugar. What a difference! Don't you agree?
Here's another example of a simple garnish used to enhance a miniature dessert for the tea tray. The top half of the photo shows a small round chocolate cake. A bit of sweetened whipped cream was piped on the top, and then chocolate shavings were added to the top of the cake. Served in individual foil cups, this little dessert was enjoyed by all.

Friday, May 21, 2010

All about Comfrey

Comfrey is a Comfort

The following is an article written in 1972 by my mother Bertha Reppert (1919-1999). Founder of The Rosemary House, herb educator and prolific writer, she loved to share her knowledge and enthusiasm of these wonderful plants!

I’ve mentioned comfrey (Symphytum officinale) time and time again so I think it’s time for a few words about this favorite, second only to Rosemary in my heart. No garden, herb or otherwise, should be without comfrey. It’s amazing!

One of the first herbs to appear in the Spring, the bright green spears of the comfrey erupt before anything else in the garden. These first early greens are crisp and succulent. Pick them to toss in your salads or cook like spinach*. It’s delicious!

Hardy beyond belief, comfrey survives the sub-zero temperatures of Siberia, so our climate is no cause for worry on this account. There are many herbs known to succumb to the rigors of our winters but not comfrey. It’s indomitable!

Best grown from root cuttings every little piece of the roots that go many feet down into the earth will sprout. Dig them, cut into two inch pieces and lay them on moist soil, lightly covered, to achieve dozens of comfrey plants where before you had one. Plant them in full sun. It’s prolific!

The leaves are the main crop, reaching four or five feet in a few weeks when they are no longer tender eating. At this point cut them back to within four inches of the ground, all the way back. Dry the leaves to tea, poultice or add the fresh leaves to your compost pile. On mature plant yields four to five bushels of rich fluffy compost each year. It’s organic!

Rich in minerals, nitrogen and iron, comfrey packs a real wallop whether you eat it*, drink it or compost it to feed other plants, enriching their lives. Keep it harvested to use. It’s miraculous!

Being “official” comfrey has been and still is used medicinally. It’s ancient name of “knitbone” gives a clue as to one of its special uses but it is also employed as a poultice for open wounds, a soothing ointment for poison ivy, a healer for damaged lungs and ‘tis said is effective for ulcers inside or out. It’s incredible!

Fodder for animals is vastly enriched by adding comfrey leaves it is fed to goats, sheep, horses, chickens, rabbits, cows as well as many domestic animals who enjoy the nutritious greenery. Keeping farm animals healthy, frisky and productive is a farmer’s main concern and there’s plenty of room to grow comfrey on a farm. It’s invaluable!

We like to drink* our our comfrey as the easiest method of utilizing the most leaves the fastest and best way. A not unpalatable hot drink, we enjoy it best as a ‘green drink”. Six large comfrey leaves tossed into the blender with a can of pineapple grapefruit juice are quickly whirred into a delicious start for the day. Strain it before serving. It’s healthy!

*Since this article was written, science has shown us that Comfrey is high in pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Even the scientists can’t spell that and just abbreviate it as PA’s. PA’s are known to be harsh on the liver. The PA’s concentrations measure about ten times higher in the root then in the leaf. Additionally the PA’s measure highest in the oft called Russian Comfrey ( Symphytum asperium and cultivers), NOT in the Symphytum officinale. So while I was raised on the kool aid colored “green drink” and drank many a pitcher full, my children have not had the pleasure as it is not recommended as a daily beverage any more. However, if I had a broken bone, strain, sprain or bruise, I would certainly use it externally as a poultice and I would probably drink lots and lots of comfrey, (for no more than four weeks) while taking milk thistle to support my liver function.

I grew up in the herb gardens behind The Rosemary House, quietly absorbing herbal facts and lore as my mother answered endless questions from customers. One year as I was packing to go away for church camp, I packed my swim suit, tee shirts, shorts, etc with several large comfrey leaves on top. My mother came in to make sure I had packed undies and my toothbrush, saw the leaves and asked what they were for. I replied “for my boo-boos”. She often wondered what those camp counselors thought. It’s delightful!

Original article by Bertha Reppert
Postscripts by daughter Susanna Reppert, Mechanicsburg, PA
A fun place for Rosemary, Comfrey and all things herbal.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Saints in my Garden -Saint Francis

We have several Saint Francis of Assisi statues in our garden. My favorite is in our peace garden. Of all the Saints associated with the outdoors it seems that Saint Francis is the most well known. Born Francis Bernadone in 1181 he died a short 45 years later. The son of a wealthy merchant, he grew up in luxury. Francis was a wild and talented lad, his high spirited companionship much in demand. A youthful escapade landed him in prison. Following his release, he had a long bout with an illness during which he underwent a spiritual transformation and then zealously began a life of poverty and prayer. By 1209 a few disciples joined him living in poverty and worship. They also lived in the beauties of nature, as well as on its fruits. Sleeping in caves, sharing food with birds and animals, while calling them his "brothers", loving the sun but also the cruel elements such as bitter sleet or deep snow which were loved by him as a part of the great world of God. In 1212 the Sisters of the Poor was established with Clare of Assisi at its head and in 1221, Francis now as head of the Franciscans stepped down as the direction of his order passed into other hands. Below is another style of Saint Francis statuary. He is most often depicted with birds or in this case as a small bird feeder. Sometimes he is shown with a wolf as well.
Saint Fiacre (below) is often considered the Patron Saint of gardeners. He is usually depicted with a spade or shovel. We featured a blog post with the story of Saint Fiacre a couple of years ago.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Planting a Strawberry Pot (with Herbs of course!)

Strawberry pots are fun containers to use to create your own kitchen garden. It makes it easy to have 6 or more herbs just outside the kitchen door so you can have a few snips of fresh herbs for every meal. One of the tricks to planting a Strawberry pot is to have a watering tube down the center of the pot. You can make a watering tube with a PVC pipe with holes drilled in the sides. We made our own watering tube with old pantyhose stockings and Styrofoam packing peanuts. Note: you need to use Styrofoam peanuts and not the corn starch packing material. If you aren't sure which are which soak them in water for an hour. The corn starch packing material will dissolve.
After creating your watering tube, select some herbs for your container. Smaller varieties such as dwarf sage, windowsill chives, miniature basil, any type of thyme plants will do very well. A larger plant of upright Rosemary will do nicely in the large center opening or you could plant the creeping Rosemary in the side pocket. Don't forget parsley and summer savory or cucumber flavored burnet. Scoop in some organic soil on the bottom layer and position your watering tube going up the center. Work in your plants from the bottom up while continuing to fill soil around the watering tube.
In a short time you have a lovely container garden of culinary herbs. Cedar was our soil scooper and photo ham.
Perfect for apartment gardening also.
Another fun class at The Rosemary House. Visit our website for our complete calendar of events.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Edible Flowers

Many of the flowers in our garden are edible flowers and used by the tea room. Peonies are edible although it is a mouth full of flowers! Sometimes Sweet Remembrances will use a peony blossom in with a lettuce salad for fun and color and mild, slightly bitter flavor. Many of the summer annuals are edible. These are double impatiens (above) don't they look like sweet little rosebuds? And these are single impatiens (below). Impatiens like to be planted in a shady area. Petunias are fun to fill with dips or spreads -- who needs crackers?
The tangerine gem marigold (below) gives a lovely citrus flavor and the flowers are a nice size to use as a garnish on tea sandwiches. Gently remove the petals from the blossom, and toss with egg salad for a delicate floral enhancement to your sandwich.
All marigolds are edible, but we caution our guests that they taste exactly like they smell.
Dianthus, another favorite to use as an edible flower, comes in a wide variety of colors from red, purple, pink, fuchsia, white and more.
And of course all the herb blossoms are edible and quite flavorful. Not one is allowed to go to waste!
Chive blossoms are perfect to snip into a salad and sageis lovely too. But Rosemary, lavendar, savory, thyme, garlic chives and more are all used.
This is just a taste of some of the edible flowers, there are many others: roses, pansies, lilacs, day lilies, to name a few. Of course, they must all be pesticide free and bug free!

Friday, May 14, 2010


caught cat-nipping.

They found the early spring shoots of a catnip plant, and they enjoyed this special treat.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Prairie Tales!

Remember the Ft. Seward wagon train adventure? Several of us, well 11 of us, headed to North Dakota in July of 2008 and lived the pioneer life, dressed in typical clothing, camped out, helped with the chuck wagon, the biffy, and other daily routines, clip clopped along the prairie on horseback or bounced along in the back of a wagon while the heartier developed blisters from walking the trail, but all in all, we had a true experience of a lifetime. We shared our stories and pictures on this blog when we returned, after we recovered from the adventure.

Periodically, pictures of this unique vacation will pop-up on my computer. Last month when our eldest sister was here visiting, one of the wagon train pictures appeared on the screen, and my sister simply stated, 'you know, the best thing about that wagon train are the pictures.' I had to chuckle! It certainly is one participants point of view.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Making a Bentwood Trellis

So last week at our Bentwood Trellis class we turned this pile of Willow Clippings from our teapot tree into these lovely trellises:
and this oneand another oneThe instructions are from Making Bentwood Trellises, Arbors, Gates and Fences by our friend Jim Long, published by Storey Books of MA. This book details each instructional step in making a trellis and also discusses the pros and cons of the wood choices. There are also detailed instructions for other garden features such as a variety of arbors, fence panels and gates.

Here are the basic instructions for a 4 - 5 foot high trellis:
1. 2 upright pieces - For a 4 - 5 foot trellis you need 2 pieces 7 - 8 feet long about the size of a broom handle at the larger (bottom) end tapering to the size of your little finger at the top end.
2. 4 cross pieces - They need to be the width of your trellis about 4 - 6 feet long slightly smaller around than the 2 uprights.
3. 2 - 3 flexible pieces like hot dog sticks - These are the decorative pieces.
Any bendable wood will work: Ash, Aspen, Hickory, Maple, Sumac, Redbud or any type of Willow, cut no more than 24 hours in advance. Avoid using Vines: Grapevine, honeysuckle, etc.
Other supplies include a hammer, pliers, and hand pruners. You might like to have sturdy cloth
gloves also. Wire and Nails and brads are also needed.
Here are the basic steps: Begin by laying out the side uprights parallel to each other about 24 inches apart. Attach the lower cross piece about 16 inches up from the bottom. Nail the crosspiece in place. Attach the upper cross piece about 36 to 40 inches from the lower cross piece. Nail in place at both joints. With pliers and wire: secure the four nailed joints. Next is the difficult step. Bending the uprights into an arch, bend and wire the arch securely into position. Attach a center upright if you are making a larger trellis. Attach additional cross pieces. Begin trimming and decorating with lattice pieces and more.
Note: If you wish to make a larger trellis (7-8 feet) you will need 12-14 foot uprights and also 8 foot center upright in addition to items number 2 and 3 listed above. It is suggested that you learn the techniques by making the 4-5 high patio trellis. This size trellis is also easier to transport home.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Mother's Day Delight!

Our Mother's Day Afternoon Tea Menu featured:
Strawberries atop Peppered Goat Cheese with Crackers
Sandwiches included Bacon & Egg Salad on Whole Wheat Triangles, Herbed Cucumber Rounds, Basil and Goat Cheese with Sundried Tomato Hearts, Herbed Biscuits with Ham Salad, and Rosemary Chicken Salad in Pastry Cups.

The following course featured Traditional English Cream Scones and Chocolate Chip Scones accompanied with true Devon Cream, Lemon Curd, and Strawberry Preserves along side Fresh Orange Slices and Strawberry Halves topped with Cinnamon flavored Mascarpone Cheese.

Petite Desserts included a Frosted Peppermint Meltaway Cookie, Miniature Tiramisu, and Raspberry Mousse in a White Chocolate Cup.

Sit Down, Relax, Prepare yourself a cup of tea, and Enjoy this virtual tea party! Celebrate!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Happy Aunt's Day!

Since yesterday was Mother's Day, I believe I will proclaim today Aunt's Day! It works for me! My darling niece Angelica (age 10) wrote the following composition for a school assignment. Aunt's Day is the perfect day to share it.
If I gave a gift to my Aunt Nancy, I would get her a round, orange, medium sized, fancy teacup because she owns a tea shop and she loves tea stuff. If I got her a tea cup it would feel hard and round. If I got her a tea cup it would be a good choice because you can sip tea out of it and she loves calming down and black tea. I love giving people gifts and I love it when I give a gift to my Aunt. I love picking gifts out for my Aunt because she's really nice so a teacup would be a good choice.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

This little bouquet of double buttercups
was cheerfully presented to me by Cedar, age 7, because he knows I like flowers. The presentation was,
to say the least, clever and quite unique.
Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is also blooming at this time of year. A very invasive weed it is on the noxious weed list in many states because it crowds out native species and has no natural predators (deer rarely eat it) to help keep it controlled. In the same family as Mustard, it is an edible weed with a mild garlic flavor to it. It spreads by seed so clipping it off and not allowing it to flower and then seed is a decent way to control it. Add it to your salads or your compost bin.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mustard Fields

This is the time of year when the fields take on a golden hue and not from the leaves on the trees which are all very green. The yellow in the fields is from Mustard (Brassica or Sinapis). Mustard is in the same family as cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli and is one of the oldest condiments used. Mustard grows most everywhere from North Africa, Middle East, to Argentina, United Kingdom and the US. Canada is the leader of mustard growing production.

The yellow flowered plants spread readily by seed. All of the plant is edible, flowers, leaves and the seed. The condiment is made by mixing the seed with water, vinegar and spices. 700 million pounds of mustard is consumed world wide! The leaves from the mustard is what was used to produce mustard gas.