Brandies Delivers Wisdom with Wit to Herb Society
By Vicki Jackson
Photo by Vicki Jackson
Last week, on September 21st, the kickoff meeting for the Florida Herb Society 2010/11 season featured noted author and gardener, Monica Brandies. Speaking about the "Art of Growing Herbs", she felt it important to distinguish between the use of "herb" and "herbaceous." While the latter refers to plants having no (persistent) woody parts, the former includes a broad range of plants than can be used for culinary, medicinal, or cosmetic purposes and more.
As a Florida resident of twenty-three years she has discovered, "Although herbs are easy to grow, they grow differently here than up north. And, a lot of people don't know how many herbs they have." Some of the most popular herbs don't thrive in, or even survive, our summers. "Autumn is the time to start-or start over", with plants like parsley, mint, sage, sorrel, and lavender, as well as annuals such as dill, arugula, and nasturtiums. They needn't all be planted in the same area.
The acclaimed gardener suggested the use of edible flowers to add flavor and color to salads and such, like the peppery nasturtiums (of which, all parts are edible). Or, add some color with roses: after you've enjoyed them in a vase of water, "use the fallen petals in your salad." She offered a caveat here, "Use only unsprayed plants." Leaves and trimmings from your herbs can be accumulated in a bag for future potpourri, if they're not destined for your compost pile.
Brandies passed around a stalk of pinecone ginger, and urged the crowd to gently squeeze the bulbous top to release a liquid that smells good, feels good, and is good for the skin. She recalled regularly squeezing one such plant in her yard from the 4th of July to New Years' Day. Especially after a rain, such a plant might be cut and brought indoors, turned upside down, and the generous amount of liquid saved in a jar to use as shampoo or hair conditioner.
Some herbs contribute fragrance, while others have a beauty all their own. Herbs could be included in a bouquet. One of the speaker's favorites, Jewels of Opar, features tiny bright beads of flowers on long slender shoots. Brandies called this her "leaf-a-day" plant, having heard from more than one source about the benefits of consuming one of the iron-rich leaves daily. Following that plan, she reported that both she and her husband have since felt less stiff, and have escaped colds and flu through the winter. Although the plant reseeds readily, she doesn't consider it an invasive pest. She said, "Anything edible, I can eat faster than they can grow".
The author went on to name various herbs and their beneficial properties, and claimed, "The more of these you can eat, the better you're gonna be. It's a great way to live." She suggested that people should "take a few cuttings and share them with a friend. Then, when yours dies, you can get some (cuttings)." Of such, she noted, "Some things you can start in water; some things you can start in the ground; and, some things you can't start at all." For more information, she invited all to visit her website at www.gardenflorida.com.
Following a question and answer period, cuttings and plants were available from Brandies' garden. In addition, the Society offered a limited variety of organically grown plants, while other vendors had seeds, books, and locally produced honey for sale.
Florida Herb Society meetings are held on the third Tuesday of the month at the Clearwater Garden Club, corner of Ft. Harrison and Seminole St. Refreshments showcasing the herb of the month begin at 6:30 p.m. Lemony herbs will be featured next month, with the scheduled speaker, local folk herbalist, Willow LaMonte.
For further information, recipes and more, visit www.floridaherbsociety.org.
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