Category Archives: Herbs

Who Would Purposely Plant Stinging Nettle?

Stining Nettle

Stinging Nettle Leaves

Well, lets see….I would! Of course I haven’t always had a love for this plant of nature.  When I was a child I had many experiences of floating or running up and down the irrigation ditches, only to unknowingly brush up against the nasty leaves of nettle and quickly break out into a stinging rash, earning its name. Little did I know of its healing properties when handled with loving care!

Stinging Nettle has been used for many a years for allergy relief, soothing headaches, treating asthma and high blood pressure, dissolve kidney stones, expel toxins from the body, relieve skin inflammations (ironic), anemia and even coughing.  And not to mention all the minerals and protein it packs.

Nettle leaves can be used many ways to get all those benefits, but my favorite is just to make a simple brew of tea.  1/2 cup of leaves steeped in 2 cups of water for 5 minutes, adding a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and touch honey.   Don’t worry!  Once the plant has been simmered the stinging hairs will no longer have an affect.

Take the bite out of harvesting by wearing gloves.  Pick the top, most tender leaves with scissors.  Cutting leaves can be done in the spring or fall.

I started my nettle plant easily from seed, but cuttings can be done as well, but in the fall before winter die back.  My upright nettle plant stands in the very back of the barn, where there is very little worry about anyone coming in contact with its needle-like stinging hairs.  Give it plenty of room.  This guy, if allowed can reach 6′ easily with a spread of 4-6′.  I do keep mine under control to a height of 3′.  Perhaps it’s from cutting it back all the time, drying the leaves for later winter use.

Nettle grown in the wild here in Southern Utah often times is accompanied by mullein growing nearby.  Ahh, I wish I knew that as a kid!  Know your plants and if you happen to tangle with nettle, look around quickly for mullein leaves.  The mullein leaves rubbed on affected area will ease the sting almost instantly!

Stinging Nettle Seed

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Herbs for Goats

12 hour old baby Nubian Goat

12 hour old baby Nubian Goat

As as a child or young married adult I never dreamed I would have a backyard that was a home for Nubian goats.  After acquiring chickens, rabbits and ducks, I thought why not expand and get a few milk does.  They are not only a total joy to watch from my kitchen window, but they were great for my kids, a healthier choice of dairy products and quit frankly a great little companion.   After raising goats for over 20 years there are a few things I would not be without for my dear little hairy friends.  While it is essential for goats to have great food and roughage in their diet such as twigs, branches and bark that they would naturally get in the wild (ours get  multiple tree clippings from the orchard) I have always felt it is important to have a few herbs on hand.  Some for general health and some for those unexpected emergencies.

Top on the list would have to be ‘Slippery Elm’.  Slippery Elm has been used for centuries to treat a wide variety of ailments for animals and even humans.  It coats the goats fragile digestive tract and acts as a dual purpose herb treating both diarrhea and constipation.  Most goats will eat it willingly, but others may need a little help from a friend!  2 tsp is the average dose for adults and 1 tsp for kids (that would be goat kids!).  Sprinkle over their daily ration or you can dilute it with water and use a syringe to dispense to the back of the goats tongue until she has swallowed the entire dose. Tip: Once you have diluted the slippery elm it will set up quickly, so mix just before dispensing.

Garlic would be also be a must have for my goats.  Garlic is a natural wormer, not to mention all of its health benefits.  Pure garlic powder is fine, but fresh garlic is the best.  It’s so much more potent and beneficial than a dry form.  Feed them the peels and all.  You will notice that at times goats will gobble the cloves up and other times they turn their noses up!  They know what they need.  I toss a clove in their grain at milking time (once a day), this way the ‘garlic’ taste won’t come out in the milk because it have 12 hours to mellow before the next milking.  It has been used for clearing up blood in the milk, by cleansing the blood stream, treating fevers, increasing fertility, it’s an antibacterial, anti-fungal and is excellent for diseases of the nose, throat and intestine. Crushed garlic disinfects sores and wounds along with parasitical infections when used externally as a poultice.  Garlic is almost like a heal-all.

Raspberry leaves, the mother herb.  Goats love raspberry leaves!  I grow a big row of raspberries right near the barn just for my goats (plus a little nibble of fresh berries for us).  Raspberry leaves should be fed to female goats just before, during and right after pregnancy while increasing the amount (up to two handfuls) of leaves the second half of pregnancy.  Raspberry leaves are important to the female reproduction organs.  They are cleansing and improve the conditions during pregnancy, ensure healthy birthing and the ex-spell of afterbirth.  During birth, and to bring down delayed afterbirth, make a strong brew of two handfuls of leaves to one pint water, with two spoonfuls of honey.  Give a cupful of the brew frequently.  I have never seen a goat pass up raspberry leaves, but be sure they are disease free!

Marshmallow Root is not near as important as the other three herbs above, but it is useful for increasing milk production.  1 Tablespoon mixed in the girls grain at milking time can increase your production by 10%.

Olive Leaf is another great herb to have on hand because of its antiviral and antibacterial properties.

Wood Sage is useful to treat mastitis.  Two handfuls of raw wood sage feed daily to treat.  Massaging the udder will also help.

Comfrey (known at knitbone) was a mainstay for one of my goats years ago.  Every time after birthing,  she would develop a lame leg.  She always had four kids.  We feed her fresh comfrey leaves.  Once she started to walk with ease she would no longer eat the comfrey.  Comfrey Root is stronger and keeps well through the winter months while the comfrey plant goes dormant.  Another good herb to grow and have on hand!

An ounce of prevention…..Grow an herb garden

Some goats are just stubborn…Ha, a goat stubborn, who ever heard of such a thing?  Getting them to eat certain herbs can just seem impossible, but when goats are raised up eating a variety of herbs while they are young they have a tendency to enjoy them as adults.  Hum, kinda like humans!  I have always tossed herbs that have been trimmed from the herb beds such as thyme,

comfrey, marjoram, sage, germander and even lavender.  Goats are very intelligent creatures.  When left out in the fields they will find herbs or plants that their bodies needs and graze.  When I toss herbs into their pin, it is interesting to watch each of them devour certain herbs at times and then totally leave that same herb alone the next.

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Lovin’ Lovage

Young Lovage Plant just started in the greenhouse

Yes Lovage is a plant.  Grown for centuries, but not very well-known that long!  Lovage has always reminded me of celery.  The smell, taste,  even they way it looks.    When used infused in soups it will give them a creamy taste, adding a nice rich flavor.   My favorite is to add it to our morning carrot juice or even tomato-based drinks.  The Leaves, stems and all.  Using the small inner leaves for salads will get you hooked!  Lovage seeds can be used to garnish food.  The seeds are great as a bread/roll topper instead of poppy-seed or caraway.

I grow lovage in my greenhouse so I can have something fresh all winter.  I have grown it outside, but our winters a cold enough to stop the growth or even cause die back, but it is hardy so it will generally return come warmer days.  A cold frame works well to grow lovage in during the cold months.  Lovage is a perennial that enjoys relief from the afternoon sun so it won’t get sunscald. One clump can spread 3 feet and launch towers of flower stalks, so give it some space.  When planting lovage will appreciate a little prep to the soil.  Add a shovel full of compost and a handful of kelp meal to the planting hole and mix with the existing earth.

When starting lovage from seed, use fresh seed.  Seed that is less than two years old.  Use a soil-less soil mix.  Fill the pots with the moist potting mix up to 1″ from the top of the pot.  Place two or three seeds into each pot and cover with 1/4-inch of soil.  If you’re not growing in a greenhouse you can cover the pot with plastic wrap and give it some bottom heat.  Once the seeds germinate in about 12 days, (it can take up to three weeks) remove the plastic and give the little plants sunlight for at least 8 hours a day or supplement with a grow light.  Once it is about 4-5 inches tall it can be transplanted to its permanent spot.

Most insects steer clear of lovage, but leaf miners can be a problem at times.  They tunnel through the leaves and that makes it hard to spray.  If the problem gets to bad, you can just simply cut back away the leaves and they will grow again.

Heat Matt , Kelp Meal

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Cilantro….Not Just for Salsa

Cilantro flowering

Mysterious Cilantro…or is it coriander?  Both!  Cilantro and coriander come from the same plant.  When the plant is cultivated for its pungent, aromatic leaves, it is called cilantro.  When is allowed to go to seed and cultivated for its citrus-flavored seeds, it is called coriander.  Two great spices all rolled up into one plant!

Cilantro is an annual grown during the cooler times of the year.  Once temperatures start to steadily stay warm the plant will start to bolt.  In our case here in Southern Utah that can be anywhere from the end of March to the end of May.  I like to plant cilantro seed in September (zone 8) and use a light row cover through the coldest months of winter to keep it from getting ‘freezer burn’ and it will continue to grow.  This way we will have fresh cilantro all winter long.  I usually get a second planting in come mid-January.  This way when the fall sowing has become tired out, the next session is ready to go.  You can shade your cilantro to help keep it from bolting as early with some row cover, but it will bolt when it wants to bolt!

Plant your seed 1/2 inch deep in well composted soil.  It will take 7-10 days to germinate at temperatures of 50-75 degrees.  I prefer planting from seed more than I do from a plant.  Plants will always bolt faster!  Plus you get a lot more bang for your buck with direct seed sowing.   Plant in full sun to part shade.  Cilantro is such a great crop, because it rarely has any pest or disease problems.  I don’t recommend that you fertilize much other then adding some compost, rock phosphate and greensand at the time of sowing the seed.  If you give cilantro too much nitrogen, it will reduce the pungent flavor.  You can sow seeds every two weeks during the spring to have an extended harvest.  If you live in a cool area, your season will last through the summer.  Lucky!  We are just to hot here to have fresh cilantro out in the garden when the tomatoes are ripe!  Keep cutting back and using the plant through the growing season.  By doing this it will also slow the bolting a bit.  Once your plant starts to send up seed stocks it’s time to keep an eye on it so you can collect seeds for coriander spice or replanting.  After the plant goes to seed and the seeds turn yellowish-brown, bunch the seed heads together, place upside down in a paper bag, then allow seeds to ripen until they drop into the bag.  Coriander seeds will stay viable for about 5 years.

Use cilantro leaves fresh in salads, salsa, marinades, stir-fries, rice, pasta, or vinegar and with fish and shellfish.  Add leaves to guacamole or to Chinese soups and Asian chicken dishes.  Try growing cilantro for micro greens.  Use coriander seed to flavor confections, bread, cakes biscuits and mexican dishes.  Don’t forget to garnish!

Here is a high-five for cilantro!   1 fistful of organic cilantro (of course you wouldn’t use anything else….Right?) a day for 10 days straight will flush your body of serious heavy metals that can accumulate in your body these days.  There is a compound in cilantro that mercury (and other heavy metals) binds to and then gets released through the urine as a natural chelation technique. The body will not function properly with heavy metals and cilantro is cheap, easy, safe and could be available right in your garden.  Another great reason to grow cilantro!  Okay.. Not enough to get you growing it?  Think about this;  Cilantro will also help promote healthy liver function, lower blood sugar, ward off urinary tract infections, aid digestion and it’s an anti-inflammatory plus so many other benefits.  Well you get the picture!  Cilantro is not just for salsa!

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