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Aaand again with the decade between my posts. There are no words. I simply get distracted by everything else around me, and it doesn’t help that I typically sink into a mild winter funk of tired sluggishness. The early darkness does it, or something. This happens even when the winter is mild as ours has been so far. We’ve only had one ‘snow storm’ of a few inches so far, and the snow only lasted two days before melting. It’s a far cry from some of the winters of my childhood.

A trespassing thief stole my trail camera already, making my Thanksgiving-time quite grumpy-like. Regular season deer hunting has come and gone. I shot a nice doe on opening day that would’ve given me fodder for a few posts if I had thought about it at the time. I used some of her for jerky, made hot Italian sausage, and doubled the family recipe for korv as well. This is on top of the number of roasts I saved (and the butchery that came before all that).  Oh well. Maybe next time. For now,  the upcoming holiday season gave me a different idea for a quick, easy, and money-saving thing to share with you all.

Here at SVF, we grew our own Christmas trees for many years out of a patch of conifers my dad planted some decades ago. I love the smell of their boughs. The fresh, bold scent seems to lift my spirits, and their green color defies the weather even when everything else is grey. However, things have changed and grown up since I was younger, and now the trees are all too big for that purpose (maybe we could use just one branch? :P). Due to changes in our family, though, we rarely ever have a Christmas tree anymore anyway.

Even so, I don’t have to miss out on the experience. It’s easy to make a homemade wreath out of conifer boughs and it doesn’t require cutting down or even really injuring a tree. They take up very little space and can be put in ‘extra’ areas like the backs of doors or corners of walls – perfect for someone with little floor space. It also saves the expense of buying, for those who enjoy wreaths.

All you need:

  • – Cutting tools (I use a hunting knife and any pair of scissors. Pruning snips are great too)
  • – String/twine (I like a natural fiber brown twine as it blends in better and is completely biodegradable after, but you can use anything you have laying around)
  • – Pine, spruce, or fir tree with branches low enough to be reached safely

You may want to wear gloves if you don’t like your hands getting any sap on them. However, I find that it isn’t that big of an issue, and fresh sap doesn’t seem to be as gooey as old sap anyway. I’ve never had a problem.

You do not NEED a ‘form’ for making a wreath under any circumstances. It’s a mistake to think you do. However, if you’re really struggling with it, you can do something as simple as bend an old wire clothes hanger into a circle, and that will generally suffice as a guide.

firgroup

The best type of tree to use is up to you. You can use any conifer, but I chose my balsam firs. You may want to decide based on what you have access to. Make sure to ask the landowner if you want to go on private property! You can also often find discarded trimmings at tree farms or nurseries/stores that sell large quantities of ‘live’ Christmas trees. Just ask someone working there. The worst you get is a no.

Firs have needles that are flat/two-sided and generally single on the branches. They also tend to have ‘softer’ needles that don’t stab your feet as much when they fall off and end up on your floor. Pines generally have needles in bunches of 2-5 that tend to be longer and more ‘feathery’. They are soft, but tend to be more sparse looking and harder to make a pretty wreath out of. Spruces have 4-sided/’square’ needles (in cross-section), and though they tend to be good-looking, they are very pointy when dry and underfoot. These facts add to the reason I chose my firs.

Select some branches and trim them from the tree. You’ll want to use the ends of branches if the tree is large, as they bend more easily and have more needles. It helps if you can select ones that are naturally a bit curved, but it isn’t a necessity. Once you have some branches, arrange them to form a framework, and tie them together. If you need to, pick them up and gently but firmly bend them, working them with your hands. They will take on more of a shape you need with some coaxing. You can also partially break them if necessary, damaging the inner pith but leaving the bark intact so it stays together.

After I have my beginning ‘circle’, I trim off my twine ends, and remove any really too-long or dangly offshoots and put them into another pile. It’s good to leave some on the base branches, though – use the twine to tie them down a bit so they’re not all straggly and so they conform to your base circular shape. Keep tidying up your twine ends as you go, clipping them close so they don’t stick out.

I’m left with thinner trimmings like this. It’s never enough, though, so I go back to the tree and select some more small offshoots of the branches. You’ll need a nice little pile. I prefer to make my wreath right next to the tree, so I can take more as I go if I need to, but if you want to make it inside or at another location, clip extra so you don’t run out. It’s better to have too much than not enough.

Lay them along the shape of your rough wreath and eyeball them. See how they look, and arrange them so they’re pleasing to the eye. You can do this however you prefer. If you like them all pointing in one direction, do it. Prefer them to go opposite ways and meet at the top or bottom? Do it. Prefer a jumbly arrangement? Whatever you like is fine! Tie them down with the twine. You can make effort to hide the twine if you want, burying it under the needles, but as you add branches, you’ll find that it becomes hidden on its own. Some don’t even need to be tied down, either. Just ‘thread’ them in between the other limbs and branches, and they’ll stay down on their own.

After some tucking, I got this, but it wasn’t quite full enough for me, so I trimmed a few more limb ends…

After I got this, I thought it wasn’t too bad! It was giving off a lovely scent, too.

I set it on my stoop and walked over to my Norway spruces, which drop long, thin cones. I easily found a few good, clean samples, and tucked them into the wreath as a decoration. I used no glue or anything, just careful placement. You can do this with any kind of cones, leaves, grasses, or any other decoration you’d like to add. For stubborn things like really big pine cones, bury the bottoms in the pine foliage and use twine to tie them on. If it still won’t stay in place for some reason, you CAN hot glue it in there, but I’ve never found it necessary.

And there you have it… a decent looking wreath, and it didn’t cost me anything, because all I used was stuff I already had or that was growing around me. Just loop it over a hanger you might already have, or just tie a circle of twine on top and hang it from any old nail in the wall like I do. 🙂

This was a quick one, too. If you spend even more time with it, you can orient the branches just perfectly to how you like it, and get one that looks even more fabulous to you.

Happy holidays!

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Whether off to college or going on vacation, leaving plants alone can mean death for the poor creatures. This can be complicated when there are many plants involved—or even an entire garden. Despite having a plant sitter, I have lost many plants this way and have since devise d a better plan to help the sitter succeed.

Casualties: Thyme almost died while I was away last.

Casualties: Thyme almost died while I was away last.

There are a pot load of factors to what sort of care is needed for the plants:

  • The number of plants.
  • Whether they’re indoors or outdoors.
  • If they’re growing in pots or plants in the ground.
  • The time of year and location.

I find summer to be the most difficult and stressful time for outdoor plants. While a week away from home may not sound long, during the summer heat, plants may need watering every day. Despite this, I am always tinkering and evolving the systemleft for the plant sitter.

Find that Special Somebody

Surprisingly, the most difficult challenge may be finding the right person to house sit the plants. This person must be somebody who is not only willing, but also enjoys caring for plants. Previous plant care knowledge is always beneficial. A close neighbor, friend or relative is often the best bet if caring for a garden or jungle of house plants! If only a few plants are involved, it may be easier for the caretaker to watch them in their own home.

Clearly label all plants!

Clearly label all plants!

Keep it Simple

Do whatever you can to make care as simple as possible. Using neat handwriting, clearly label all plants, the bigger the tag, the better—large popsicle sticks work great! Some people only see “plants with green leaves,” so leave labeled photographs of the plants—I’ve even emailed this last minute to the sitter. Make a list of all plants and their locations, don’t want one passed over! Include detailed care instructions that include a watering schedule; note any plants that have special or differing requirements. Make all care accessories easily accessible—nobody wants to hunt for a watering can. Will anything need fertilizing? To avoid overwhelming the caretaker, try to do this beforehand or use fertilizer stakes.

Watering can in an easy-to-find location

Watering can in an easy-to-find location

Outside Care

Outside plant care can be fairly basic during the cooler months, but may be complicated by the heat of summer as the ground and potted plants will dry out quickly with a lack of rain. Because of this, plants may need to be watered daily. Optionally, self-watering pots can help alleviate some of the work while mulching can help the soil retain moisture longer. Large vegetable gardens may even be mulched with grass clippings. While watering cans work great for a small amount of plants, choose a garden hose for a large number of plants–sprinklers, soaker hoses and sprinkler hoses work great for large areas.

Special care: this orchid is in a dormant period and must not be

Special care: this orchid is in a dormant period and must not be watered

Prioritize

Chances are, the designated plant sitter may be overwhelmed and unprepared for what some may call a jungle. It is important to make sure they know which plants are most important and irreplaceable or difficult to replace. This way, they can focus their attention on these plants, increasing their chances of survival. The plant sitter is only as good as the plant owner, at least while you’re out of town anyway, so proper cooperation is required.

With autumn in our midst, many gardeners are focused on their fall gardens of leafy greens and roots. However, now is a wonderful time to create a winter garden of indoor herbs or tomatoes. Adding a little living green to a home during the chilliest of months can be simple.

One of the best ways to get indoor herbs started is to root a cutting—this way you don’t have to play the waiting game for a seed to sprout and develop into a mature plant. Cuttings may be rooted in water, moist soil, or even a damp paper towel wrapped in plastic. Rooting hormone will help speed the process along. Basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, mints and tomatoes have all been known to root and not let go!

Choose a Cutting

When choosing a stem to cut,  it is important to avoid new, immature growth. I prefer to use a woody or developed softwood side shoot. Take cuttings early morning before a warm sun has sapped their stored energy.

It is also a good idea to take several cuttings per chance one doesn’t develop roots.

Remove Leaves

Remove any leaves and side shoots 2”-4” from the bottom to prevent rot.

Dip cutting end into rooting hormone.

Rooting mediums:

  • Soil – make sure the soil mixture is light and retains moisture.
  • Water – root cuttings in a jar of water. Don’t forget to change the water every couple days.
  • Paper towel – dampen a paper towel and wrap around the base of the cutting, then wrap plastic around the paper towel.

Developing Roots

Until they begin to develop roots, cuttings need to remain moist and must not be allowed to dry out. Use a plastic bottle or plastic bag (like a miniature greenhouse) to help retain moisture. Stick the cuttings in a sunny location such as an east or south facing window. Do not fertilize until roots have developed.

Tug Tug Tug

Check weekly for root development. If using soil, gently tug on the cutting—any resistance means it has begun to develop roots. Generally it will take anywhere from 2-6 weeks for roots to develop. If rooting in a glass of water or a damp paper towel, wait until roots are at least 2” before replanting in soil.

I apologize for the lack of posts on my part. The end of summer always brings a whole host of things that demand my time, some more important than others, but all squabbling for and yanking at my attentions until I give in. For example, one of my roosters has become a little crotchety, so as I collect my daily bounty of eggs, I’m always eyeballed and occasionally bodyslammed by him, and I end up debating his fate. He’s on ‘probation’ as of now – while he’s a beautiful bird, I don’t want him to go after a customer or something.

This past weekend was the peak of the harvest moon. It’s said that this bright full moon was once used by farmers to continue work into the night during the intense harvest period. My own is almost complete here, having mostly ended a few weeks ago. Haying season has been finished for some time, with plenty of bales put away to supply bedding for the chickens for the winter. I dug all my potatoes, beets, and turnips, and they’re now in damp straw-filled bushel baskets in the old stone basement. Only hardy things like brussels sprouts and carrots remain outside, and I’ll deal with them soon (except for the kale, which will be left there – and will probably survive – all winter).

It was a good season, though. After admirable performances on their part, I let the tomatoes go, their vines thin-foliaged and dying, fruit quality suffering from months of early blight and the associated exposure/sunscald. Probably more than a bushel went ‘to waste’, with some of these being fed to my chickens as feed, but it wouldn’t have been worth the trouble to take care of them and cut around their damage when I already have on the order of 6 or more full cases of homemade tomato products to use this winter. You choose your battles.

Just three 40-foot rows of bush beans produced over 300 pounds of beans before I let them go to seed as well, blowing my past years out of the water. I have no more freezer space for them, and lost what remained of my desire to spend the hours required to pick them to sell. I put a 14″ wide head of broccoli in the freezer – the biggest I’ve ever seen, beating my old record by 3″. I also picked the largest watermelon I’ve ever grown here, a 20-pound-plus Jubilee, and have enjoyed (or sold) several other melons in the 15-pound range. Our climate isn’t usually as suited for production of these, but the hot summer this year seems to have helped them, even as it hindered crops like the lettuce (there was still plenty, but it was the sorriest, sparsest looking row of it that I’ve ever grown).

The harvest and transition to fall also brings a number of festivals and other celebrations that conveniently fill the gap between fair season and ‘winter hibernation’. Some are craft shows, others are historical celebrations or giant farmer’s markets, or some may even be a mash-up of all of these. One such amalgamation is one I go to every year – the Busti Apple Festival. Born from the Pioneer Festival that used to be held here, it always happens on the last Sunday of September, rain or shine. This year it happened on Sept. 30th, and though the forecast called for rain, we managed to escape without a drop.

An early 1900s shot of the Mill.

The Apple Fest is held near the old Busti Gristmill. This historic mill, built in the late 1830s, was in neglected disrepair for many years. However, funding from the Apple Fest is used by the Busti Historical Society to restore it while still maintaining period accuracy. Windows and floors all needed replacement – it was basically a start with the bones and building back. They have also purchased some of the buildings around it. This year there were some breakthroughs, with some old equipment being demonstrated, and the once-empty mill channel over the creek being filled with hewn beams and hardware in preparation for a possible return to action in the future.

There are many tents of crafters with things to sell, and there’s always a good selection of fresh produce and other farm products. There are also demonstrations of log hewing, candle-making, spinning, a one-room schoolhouse, antique tractors, traditional music, and more. While I think most people go to this festival for the fair food and other ‘stuff to buy’, and I do like buying certain things myself (ex. maple and honey products, stone-ground flour, cheese), I go primarily to see what’s going on with the ‘old stuff’, and I do enjoy seeing some others who do take an interest in it.

A row of crafters’ tents lines the road, shut down for the day for the festival (Post-Journal photo, article linked).

A particular new thing of note to me this year was a blacksmith that was working on pieces on-site. His operation is called Evergreen Forge, based in Scandia, Pennsylvania – within a half-hour’s drive from my home. He had a number of pieces for sale, most decorative in nature, but a single knife stood out to me from all the offerings on display. It was a fixed-blade damascus hunter. Better yet, it was handmade, and one of a kind by nature. The price tag was intimidating, but it was beautiful, and I kept coming back to it, finally giving in and paying the asked-for sum, which I knew it was worth.

Maybe this knife will one day test a whitetail’s hide, or maybe it will serve me in any number of capacities from a garden vegetable-lopper or a forest mushroom-slicer. Maybe it will not. It’s a hard decision to make after you’ve bought (for a fraction of the price) and used many generic, mass-produced blades for your entire life. I almost always have a knife on hand, though – they’re like an extension of myself, an extra digit I don’t possess on my own – and it’s a new thing to own one this gorgeous that is still so strongly made and could serve well longer than my lifetime if cared for. Given all of what I’ve just said above, it seems almost like a waste and perhaps a denial of its own purpose to simply allow it to sit on display forever.

I could always give it a run with some squirrels. Though some would find the idea of eating them odd or even disgusting, they’re my favorite game animal. They’re abundant this year, probably helped along by the past mild winter. The feast of thickly dropping hickory and beech nuts almost makes up for the fact that spring frosts ruined all the wild apples and other fruit.

Hickory nuts (and some extra heads from my sunflower landrace) spread out to dry.

Cool rains have come, and nippy nights are bringing on the fall colors, along with a host of curious mushrooms and fungi that I delight in foraging for. No great finds so far, just a few blewits and a tiny Lion’s Mane, but there’s time yet. With one season over, and a new one started, it’s time for fall foraging and hunting. Hopefully my downtime will increase as the days shorten, allowing for the inevitable posts that will follow these subjects…

Is this butt a sign of things to come???

Growing up, buttermilk was the weird, thick milk beloved by my dad whom would trick me into taking drinks. Despite my father’s love for it, it’s something I would never normally keep in my fridge—until now. Too often, a recipe has required buttermilk and (unfortunately) a stick of butter in a glass of milk does not make a suitable substitute. Buttermilk comes in two forms—traditional and cultured. Traditional buttermilk is the liquid left after butter making and can be very pricey. Luckily, cultured buttermilk is incredibly cheap and simple to make.

You will need (could this be any simpler?):

  • Jar with lid
  • Milk
  • Cultured buttermilk

Let’s Get Started

Pour some buttermilk into an empty jar—I’m never specific with measurements, but a 1:3 ratio is safe to follow. I like to use mason jars because the lid won’t “pop” when pressed if the mixture is culturing correctly.

Fill the rest of the jar up with milk.

Shake, shake, shake.

Put the lid on the jar and shake to evenly distribute the buttermilk bacteria throughout the milk.

The waiting game.

Let the mixture sit on the counter for approximately 24 hours. After a day, the mixture will be cultured and should stick to the side of the jar. Take a whiff, it should smell slightly sour.

Cultured buttermilk sticks to the side of the jar.

Make some up ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator for the next time you have a hankerin’ for some fried chicken or buttermilk pancakes.

Buttermilk Pancakes – Delicious!

Interested in making traditional buttermilk? Try reading Alli Cobra’s Butter-making for the Adventurous.

Last time, I offered a post detailing a few of the uses for zucchini that I utilize in handling my small farm’s huge overabundance of them. Those ideas were good, but a lot of people might already have their own bread recipes… Today I bring you a quick post describing a few more ways to use the little green fruits, one of which is a real shocker (especially with how good it is)! After all, I just picked 15 more zucchini the other day…

All of these ideas can also be used with other summer squashes.

Feeeeaaarrr the enormous head-eating zucchini plants!

– Zucchini and Tomatoes –

This is also a ‘lazy day’ recipe for me. You start with a tomato base. You can use them stewed, diced, as paste, or any other way really – that part is based on your preference. Since I also grow and can lots of my own tomatoes, this is never an issue, but you can definitely just use store bought too. I usually prefer a base with less chunks, so I’d use diced or paste, or if I wanted to use whole/halved or stewed, I’d let it cook a little before adding the other ingredients.

What I do is warm up the tomato ingredient in a medium to large pot. Once I have it good and hot, I’ll add chunked, sliced, or cubed zucchini pieces. It’s best to use mostly small to medium zucchini for this. You want to add enough zucchini that the tomato ingredient will flavor them all, but not drown them. That is, you want your zucchini well ‘sauced’ but you don’t really want a soup here. The shape and size of the zucchini pieces you add is again based on your preference. I prefer good sized chunks, as I like firmness and they don’t get as easily cooked down and ‘floppy’ as the slices, but that’s all up to you as you might prefer them that way! Optional ingredients to also add at this stage are things like onion pieces, mushroom chunks or slices, or other vegetables (I usually just add the mushrooms and several dashes of my favorite spices and herbs).

Let simmer for a while until zucchini is tender. Feel free to sample as you go. 😉

Once zucchini is done, remove from heat, dish into bowls, and cover with a generous helping of mozzarella (or other cheese if you don’t have mozzarella/cheese substitute if vegan). Enjoy!

In this same vein, do not be afraid to experiment with zucchini. Its mild flavor and easily manipulated texture lends it well to all kinds of variations on casseroles and savory pies.

They’re still spawning!

– Zucchini Soup Base –

This is one of my new favorite ways to use zucchini, as you can barely tell it’s there unless you really hunt… and that’s saying something, since in my last pot I added 5 whole fruits! It’s also pretty easy, in my opinion.

Start by making stock/broth. Take your pot and add a good amount of water (very scientific and accurate, I know). What size of pot you use depends on how much you want to make. I make a giant pot and we eat off of it for several days, but you can simply scale down and make a small pot – it just won’t use as many zucchini at once.

To make your starter broth, you can boil some meat and remove it to re-add later, using the cooking liquid. You can boil up some herbs and vegetables, spice/salt as desired, and make a nice veggie broth. You can do something as simple as adding enough bouillon cubes to the water to flavor it. Doesn’t matter – just make a little broth however you see fit.

Cut tops and tails off of zucchini and chunk or slice. If using really giant zucchini, they should be skinned and seeded first. Add to the broth and simmer until zucchini is soft. You can also add some skinned tomatoes at this stage if you like, since tomatoes go with zucchini so well, but it’s optional. I added 8 to my last batch.

Once zucchini and optional tomatoes are falling apart somewhat, blend up the mixture well with an immersion blender stuck right into the pot (don’t stick the motor piece under the water, and make sure to go a little easy on it so it doesn’t get too hot). You can also use a regular blender, pour the batch through a food mill, etc. but those are all messier and take more work (I love my immersion blender). Once blended, the zucchini will practically disappear and become what is basically a thickener in the broth. The only sign they’re there afterward are a few green flecks that sort of look like pieces of parsley or basil or something.

After this step, you can add other veggies, meat, or any other ingredient you wish to have in a soup. I added generous piles of chunked potatoes, carrots, green beans, corn, and celery. Cook until those ingredients are done/tender, salt/spice to taste, and you have your soup!

How to defeat it??!?!?

– Zucchini Cobbler –

This was a recipe I stumbled upon one year in zucchini-desperation. I had so many and I was so sick of them that they were all just going to end up in my compost. They weren’t selling and I couldn’t even give them away fast enough.

Then I read about this. It’s not salty. It doesn’t have tomatoes. It was a completely different take on zucchini than any other recipe I had ever seen before. The best part is… it tastes and feels almost exactly like apple cobbler. A lot of people will be fooled if you don’t tell them it has zucchini in it. A few extra picky eaters might be able to sense that something isn’t quite right, but no one I have ever fed this recipe to has disliked it. Now, it is admittedly not very healthy, but man is it good, and very unusual.

The best part is, it uses quite a lot of zucchini, and you can put big zucchini in it too – somewhat big ones even work BETTER than little ones for this, because they come out more apple-like!

However, the preparation is a bit more labor-intensive than the above ideas.

Zucchini Cobbler

8 c. peeled, chopped zucchini (A little further detail about this ingredient – you want to skin the squash first, then slice in half lengthwise, or in quarters if a bigger zucchini. Scoop out seeds and center pulp. Then with the skinless ‘shells’ that are left, slice width-wise into pieces that should look pretty similar to thin, crescent shaped slices of apple)

2/3 c. lemon juice

1 c. sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

4 c. flour

2 c. sugar

1 1/2 c. butter, chilled

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

  • – In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook and stir zucchini with the lemon juice until zucchini starts to get tender. Stir in 1 c. sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and the nutmeg, cooking a minute more. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • – Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 10×15 inch baking dish. In a large bowl, combine the flour and 2 c. sugar. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture starts to look like coarse crumbs. Add 1/2 c. of this mixture into the zucchini mixture you made before. Press half of what’s left into the bottom of your baking pan. Spread the whole pot of zucchini mixture over this, then sprinkle the rest of the butter mixture on top of that. Dash with the last tsp. of cinnamon.
  • – Bake 35-40 min. or until the top is golden. Serve warm or cold.

A few of my added notes on this recipe:

  • – I overdo it with the spices when I’m cooking the zucchini mixture. I always add extra cinnamon as well as a dash of cloves. It’s up to you if you do this. I am a giant spice lover.
  • – I use a 9×13 pan because I don’t have a 10×15. There are no changes. It seems to work fine, it just fills it up allll the way.
  • – I have “accidentally” used really soft or even fully melted butter for this recipe before. It works almost as good, it just makes a gooier topping instead of a crumby one, so you just have to be a little more creative with spreading it out/pressing it into the pan. It bakes and crisps up just fine, though.
  • – I do not dash with cinnamon after – the cinnamon overkill I do in the earlier step takes care of all my cinnamony needs.
  • – Adding some oats to the topping mixture in place of some flour, or sprinkling oats on top before baking, is sometimes a nice touch.
  • – I almost always leave it in closer to an hour. Just keep an eye on it and see when it’s done to your visual satisfaction.

Allegedly, you can also use zucchini to make a remarkably apple-like pie, using a similar preparation/ingredients as is employed in this cobbler. I have never tried it, though.

When this is a ‘bad day’ for you, you know your squashes are going crazy!

My plants are now infected with powdery mildew, and they’re winding down a little with production as compared to the beginning of their season. However, the disease will not kill them – they’re all still setting new blossoms, and will until the first frost, so there will still be plenty of zucchini madness to come!

Highly aromatic, lemongrass grows in thick, cascading clumps that make an attractive indoor or outdoor plant. This plant isn’t just a beauty; it also has medicinal properties and can be made into a delicate tea. In addition to being healthy, this herb will also impart a citrus flavor into any cuisine. If you’ve been interested in experimenting with it, growing lemongrass couldn’t be easier.

Getting Started

Purchase lemongrass stalks that are fresh and still green; avoid stalks that are turning brown and drying out. The ones I purchased were beginning to yellow, but still rooted. Each stalk will multiply to create several new stalks by the end of the season. Fresh lemongrass may be difficult to find in some regions, so I suggest looking in specialty shops—I found mine in an international food market.

Watching Grass Take Root

I prefer to make a fresh slice on the end of the lemongrass to help it take in water until the new roots form. Now simply plop them into a jar of water, making sure the bottom bulb section is covered. After 2-4 weeks, roots and new growth should begin to appear.

Watching Grass Grow

Once 1-2” of roots develop, the lemongrass may be planted into soil. If unable to plant right away, don’t worry–lemongrass is patient. It was still chilly outside when the roots developed on mine, so I left mine in water until the roots were approximately 5-6” in length and the weather had warmed.

Choose a well-draining container to plant the stalks in. When planting, ensure that soil covers the root base. To prevent a risk of rot, do not bury into the soil any deeper than where the highest root nodule is. Water thoroughly. The stalks may feel loose at first, but will soon grow new roots to anchor them securely into the soil.

Lemongrass is not frost-hardy and must be brought inside if temperatures dip below 45°F/7°C.

Health benefits

According to The Herb Bible: A Complete Guide to Growing and Using Herbs (Harding, 2006), lemongrass has many medicinal benefits such as:

  • Lower fever, especially malarial
  • Treating stress-related symptoms
  • Aromatherapy
  • Aids digestion
  • Essential oil relieves muscle aches and pains, injuries, and poor circulation
  • Insect repellent

Making tea

Lemongrass tea is a delicate, citrus flavored tea. It can be made by either steeping the top leaves or the stalk of the plant. The top leaves make for a lighter citrus flavored tea. Simply cut up the leaves and steep as normal—approximately 5 minutes.

When using the stalk, peel off the outer leaves—these are bitter. It is necessary to bruise the stalk by either bending it several times or crushing it under the blade of a chef’s knife. Cut the stalk into pieces. Add to boiling water and steep until preferred strength is reached—approximately 5-10 minutes.

Cookery

Lemongrass is one of those mystery herbs you typically see sold as dried, brown stalks in a little glass bottle at the grocery store. Well-known in Thai cuisine and common in Southeast Asian dishes, lemongrass can be added to soups and curries or made into a tea. It pairs well with coconut milk and will provide a delicate and acidic lemon flavor to balance and compliment a dish.

Lime and Lemongrass Cooler

Servings: 4

  • 2 limes, peeled and each cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 small lemongrass stem, coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tbps. Sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 crushed ice cubes
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 slices of lime
  • Soda water, to top off

Place lime pieces, lemongrass, and crushed ice cubes in a food processor.

Add the water and sweetened condensed milk, process for a few seconds, but not until completely smooth. Strain the mixture into glasses. Add a slice of lime to each glass and top off to taste with soda water. Serve at once.

Enjoy!

After removing, the outer leaves of lemongrass make great cat toys!