Posts Tagged With: Kino herb

Cozy Chamomile

 

chamomile 3489847_1280Jacqueline Soule this week to discuss a pretty, plus pretty useful, herb to plant in your winter garden.  And, if you plant seedlings now, you should be able to harvest some within a month!  As cooler weather comes along, it is nice to curl up with a cup of chamomile tea – and here is how to have your own.

The herb known to most Americans as chamomile comes from two different species of plants. German chamomile comes from an annual plant (Matricaria rectita), while Roman chamomile comes from perennial plant (Chamaemelum nobile). They both have many of the same plant compounds in them, and work much the same way, the difference is in how you grow them. The French “chamomile” is a related plant (Achillea millefolium) but with different compounds and actions. In English, that last one is known as yarrow.

European people have used chamomile, in one form or another, to treat just about every sort of affliction, from hemorrhoids to hay fever, sleeplessness to sores, and tummy aches to tooth aches. In almost every case chamomile is used as a tea (infusion) to either drink or bathe tissues. For tooth ache folks used chamomile wrapped in muslin and placed on the afflicted tooth. Peter Rabbit’s mom gave him a cup of chamomile tea after his adventures, to soothe his stomach and calm his nerves.

 

herb_tea_JAS_001The flavinoid apigenin found in chamomile tea is thought to be responsible for its anti-inflammatory ability. Apogenin combined with another phytochemical called bisabolol are thought to work in concert to calm gastrointestinal spasms. Apogenin has been proven to bind to the same brain receptor sites that the drug Valium binds to, and are believed to exert a calming influence in much the same manner.

With recent scientific investigation, a number of uses have been validated. Chamomile is recommended by Commission E for the treatment of gastrointestinal tract inflammation, gastrointestinal spasm, irritations of the mucous membrane, skin injury or irritation, as a gargle or mouthwash to alleviate oral or pharyngeal inflammation, and to treat anxiety disorders. (Peter Rabbit’s mom was right on track!)

German chamomile can be grown very easily in the cooler months of winter, while the Roman chamomile is best planted in spring. Both need six to eight hours of sunlight per day. Like many herbs, they do best in well drained soil. Thus if you have caliche soils , consider growing them in pots with a cactus soil mix. The German chamomile will die in the heat, so replant some next year.

chamomile 774818_1280Harvest chamomile flowers and dry before use. This allows some of the more bitter tasting compounds to evaporate. The active ingredients are predominately in the oils and are not lost by drying.

Chamomile is green to grow in our area, even though it uses more water than native plants. It does reduce your carbon footprint by reducing the need to import chamomile. It can also help reduce your reliance on manufactured drugs. Headache? Take a cup of chamomile tea and lay down for a half hour rest. Far better for the environment than aspirin. Just remember that moderation is key in this and all herbs.

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Note: the information in this article is for your reference, and is not intended to be used as a substitute for qualified medical attention.

JAS avatarIf you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tumacacori, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).
Text is copyright © 2015, Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site.

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Categories: Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, medicinal plant | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

All That Bountiful Basil

by Jacqueline A. Soule.

Last month I wrote about basil  in these pages.  In my Gardening With Soule Blog I wrote about how to grow basil in the desert.  Now let’s look at more basil uses, and some plant care in our heat not discussed previously.

 

Hot Plants. 

If you bought your basil plants at a big box store, chances are it is not an ideal variety of basil to grow here.  In the image below, the plant shows signs of both excessive light and heat stress with yellowing leaves and some sunburned and browned leaves.  Basil harvested from such a stressed plant will taste bitter, not really worth the water it takes to keep the plant alive.  If you did end up with a large leaved basil, consider growing it on a covered patio or under shade cloth.

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Some varieties of basil, like this large leaf cultivar, do not appreciate hot sun and high temps.

Basil Blooms.

If you want basil seeds, let your basil bloom.  Otherwise, you should remove and spikes of blooms – ideally before they get too big and use up the energy the plant could use making more luscious leaves instead of flowers.

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These spikes of basil blooms were pinched off the plant.

Remove the spikes of blooms by pinching them off.  Yes, you can use pruners or scissors or a knife, but scientific evidence shows that good old fashioned fingers are the best tool for the job.  Why?  Because when we cut, we cut through plant cells, but when we pinch, the plant ruptures between cell walls.  The plant heals more quickly when the damage is between the cells instead of right through the middle of them.

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The best tool for removing basil blooms is your own hand.

 

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The plant heals more rapidly when hand pinched, even though a tidy-minded person might not like the ragged look to the pinch site.

Harvesting Basil.

You can harvest basil leaves any time you need some.  If you are careful about it, your plant will just keep making more leaves, especially if you harvest just above a node of young leaves.

 

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Yes you should pinch your harvest – just like you pinch blossoms. The scissors are in the picture to indicate where to cut – just above a node of young leaves.

 

Using Your Basil.

Tons of ways to use basil, but I am fond of one I just learned – basil spreadable pseudo-cheese.  (I have to come up with a better name!)

You will need: a clean bandanna, a quart of plain Greek yogurt, a bowl, a colander, time, and some basil.

Put the colander into the bowl and line the colander with the clean bandanna.  Dump the yogurt into the bandanna and let this sit in the ‘fridge overnight.  The whey will drip out of the yogurt.  (You can leave it for 24 hours if you want.) From a quart of yogurt, I got almost a cup of whey.

This un-wheyed yogurt becomes thick and spreadable, almost like cream-cheese, and it does not stick to the bandanna!  It is not as creamy as cream cheese, but if you add flavorful herbs like basil, it is entirely tasty!

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Chop your basil finely for this dish.

 

Dump your yogurt-cheese out of the bandanna.  Harvest some basil, chop it up, mix it into your yogurt, and let it sit for at least four hours to help the basil flavor to merge into the cheese.

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Let your basil flavor infuse into the cheese for at least 4 hours. Longer is just fine.

Using the Whey.  

Since I got a cup of whey, I did not want to throw it away.  I tried a sip – not my cup of tea!  Since it is an animal product it shouldn’t go into the compost heap either.  I put it into a smoothy with sweet fruit and with a dollop of honey it was fine.

 

About Jacqueline Soule

JAS avatarJacqueline’s latest book “Fruit and Vegetable Gardening in the Southwest” (Cool Springs Press, 2014) is available at Tohono Chul Park and the Tucson Botanical Gardens. It is divided into warm season and cool season growing so you can easily select other plants to grow this summer.

All text and all photos (except where noted) are copyright © 2015 by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos may not be used.

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Gardening, herbs, Kino herb | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lizard Tail Plants

yerba mansaIMG_6196 (4)

Yerba mansa is a member of a tiny plant family. Our Sonoran Desert has many such unique plants in it.

Jacqueline Soule here to tell you of a very unusual plant blooming in my garden right now – a member of the very unique Lizard Tail Family, the Saururaceae. This distinct plant family has only seven species in it, grouped into four genera. I am writing today about Anemopsis californica, also called yerba mansa.

yerba mansaIMG_6196 (1)

What looks like a single flower is technically a cluster of tiny flowers.

Medicinal.

Yerba mansa is used as a medicinal herb, but it also makes a pretty pond plant. All parts of the plant have a distinct spicy fragrance, a blend of ginger, eucalyptus, a touch of juniper and a dash of pepper. The roots are especially fragrant, reminiscent of a cross between camphor and eucalyptus with a hint of pepper. One of the active compounds in yerba mansa is methyleugenol, an anti-spasmodic, similar in chemical structure to compounds found in other medicinal herbs.

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Even when they are newly emerged, the leaves bear a tracery of the red pigments they feature in fall.

Yerba mansa is versatile; it can be taken orally as a tea, tincture, infusion or dried in capsule form. It can be used externally for soaking inflamed or infected areas. It can be ground and used as a dusting powder. In New Mexico the leaves are used to make a poultice to relieve muscle swelling and inflammation. Spanish settlers in California used the plant as a liniment for skin troubles and as a tea for disorders of the blood.

Planting and Care.

While it is a pretty garden plant, yerba mansa would not appear in xeriscape books. It requires consistently moist soil and will not tolerate drying out between waterings. But by definition a xeriscape should include some oasis, and this is often a water garden.

yerba mansa IMG_6205 (3)

Yerba mansa features large leathery leaves when it gets ample water.

Yerba mansa is valuable in the water garden. Koi and other fish do not browse it like they do many other plants, thus it can readily spread and help clean the water. It also appears to help keep fish from getting bacterial infections such as Pseudomonas fluorescens (causing fin rot and fish dropsy) and fungal infections such as Saprolegnia.

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Great for the water garden, yerba mansa’s antibacterial properties can help keep your fish healthy.

Cooler autumn weather can bring blotches of maroon to the leaves and stems. If the temperatures are cool but not freezing, the entire plant may turn color. If the temperature falls below 20 F, the leaves die. Not to worry, the plant readily comes back from the roots. The plant is considered hardy to USDA Zone 5.

yerba mansa IMG_6212 (2)

Yerba mansa will send out runners seeking to colonize new territory. It will not take root where there is not ample water – like in the desert outside the water garden!

In our area the plant is gaining popularity and can now be found in a number of nurseries that carry water garden plants.

Harvesting and Use.

Roots for medicinal purposes should be collected in the fall preferably after the first freeze. After the first freeze the plant will begin to store the useful chemicals in its root system. Harvest the thick fleshy roots under the main part of the plant, not the thin roots on the runners.

yerba mansa IMG_6212 (5)

The smaller white roots are the ones harvested and dried for their medicinal properties.

Wash roots to remove clay and silt, then set them to wilt for several hours before cutting them into small pieces (roughly 1/4 inch square). Continue to dry the chopped roots until firm and dry.

About Jacqueline Soule

If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio and more. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).

All text and all photos (except where noted) are copyright © 2015 by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos may not be used.

Categories: Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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