Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Doomsday Vault Opens

In the far northern reaches of the Norwegian arctic in an area called Svalbard the world is entrusting the preservation of stock seeds of its major food crops. If you’ve ever wondered how the world might recover from an Armageddon type of catastrophe this is part of it. Hopefully we will not suffer the effects of nuclear war, political turmoil or climatic upheaval, but if we do there will be over 6.5 million different cultivars of crops properly stored that can be retrieved from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. In today’s move towards genetically engineered crops there may also come a time when genetic diversity decreases to the point where these stored seeds can be a mainstay.

The vault officially opened today with stockpiling of a variety of grains and legumes weighing in at 11 tons and representing 92 different crops. Stockpiling will continue for several years with crop seed being supplied by plant breeding facilities most located at universities. It is impressive to see world governments coming together to work on such a project.

The vault is maintained by the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT). The GCDT was established through a partnership between the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research as an independent organization to ensure conservation and availability of crop diversity. Genetic diversity is an important scientific concept especially when it comes to crops. Diversity ensures that there are a diversity of crops adapted to a variety of growing conditions. I only hope that the vault also contains a variety of herbs because in the case of “doomsday” these will be of utmost importance. But we should also all make sure that we are saving seeds from crops such as herbs that are of importance to us as well. If doomsday does come our lives will depend upon herbal medicines. You can read more about the vault here:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

An Herb Magazine

This time of year gardeners like me can get pretty anxious waiting for spring to arrive. Here in the Rocky Mountain state spring can be very elusive; one day its warm the next day we could get 3 feet of snow. Besides perusing seed catalogues I suggest you download a sample copy of The Essential Herbal magazine. This is not one of those glossy, fluff filled magazines written by writers who like herbs, rather it is written by herb enthusiasts who like to write. You can be assured that the articles are written by herbies for other herbies and that the suggestions are tried and true not something pulled out of a hat. I count the editor, Tina Sams as a friend and she is someone overflowing with good ideas. This magazine sample is sure to keep you busy until planting time with good ideas, recipes and even a crossword puzzle. Heck, if you like it you can even order a subscription to it to keep you with ideas all year round. And if you're lucky, you might even read an article I wrote.
You can download your free sample here:

On another note, Tina has collected a group of us herb enthusiasts to blog on a common blog. You can check it out at http://merryblogsters.blogspot.com/.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Valentine's Day Sugar Herb Hearts

Need a Last Minute Gift for your Valentine? I had heard about sugar hearts being sold at tea houses and wanted to try it myself. What I found is that it is an elegant way to use herbs for flavor. For the first hearts I made I added ground rose hips in an attempt to give the hearts a pink color. That didn’t work so I added cinnamon and clove as well. They are more brown than pink, but very yummy. I also made lavender hearts, viola hearts and rose petal hearts. The rose petal are my favorite, but next time I might cut down on the amount of red rose petals to give a more pastel color. Here is how to make them:

1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon dried herbs

Put these together in a blender for several seconds. Remove and put in a shallow bowl. Add a scant 1 tablespoon of water and mix well. It should not be wet but rather just damp. That dampness will hold the sugar together. Note that the color will darken slightly with water. Press the dampened sugar into molds and let set overnight. I used plastic tray of heart molds intended for candy making. Turn the molds upside down and tap the hearts out. Use hearts as a decorative way to serve sugar with your tea or give them as candy treats which is what my family will get for Valentine’s Day.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Herb Society Tea Party

I can’t think of a better way to spend a blustery Sunday in February than with fellow herbies at our annual Herb Society of AmericaRocky Mountain Unit)tea party. This year’s theme was Mardis Gras.The pot luck dishes included gumbo, pecan pie bars, spicy spinach balls and of course King Cake with a tiny plastic baby hidden in inside for someone to find. My contribution was Vegetarian Jambalaya (see recipe below). A commemorative herb tea was designed to mark the occasion.
This year’s tea was held at the Denver Botanical Gardens as it often is. Attendees came dressed for the occasion wearing purple, blue and green and dawning feathered masks. In addition to the feathered masks a demonstration on fresh facial masks was given by Tonja Reichley of MoonDance Botanicals and we all went home with a sample of chocolate rose face mask to try in the privacy of our home! Our Herb Society group meets once a month at theDenver Botanical Gardens for a business meeting and an herbal presentation. I believe our next presentation will be on chocolate (one of my favorite herbs)! Do stop by.
1 chopped onion
3 cloves minced garlic
2 ribs chopped celery
1 chopped green bell pepper
1 chopped red bell pepper
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cups brown rice
6 cups vegetable broth
Cook for 15 minutes
2 sliced zuchinnis
1 large can chopped tomatoes
2 cups sliced vegetarian sausages (Morning Star links)
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper (more to taste)
3 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sage
1 tsp dried marjoram
Cook 20 more minutes or until rice is done. Eat up and enjoy!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

I struck gold when I checked the laying boxes in the chicken coop this week and found several eggs! Our flock of seven birds hasn’t given us eggs for a few months. Although chickens will typically slow down during the winter months due to decreasing daylight, ours have never completely stopped in previous years. For some reason they just haven’t seemed too happy after moving to our farm this year. Perhaps it’s the raptors flying overhead or the coyotes that come out at night, I don’t know. But hopefully they are out of their slump and we have gotten 8 eggs in the past 3 days. We have a variety of types of chickens, some laying brown eggs and some laying bluish green eggs. Some we bought as baby chicks and some we bought as adult layers. We don’t have any white egg layers so I will probably buy some at Easter so that we can color them.

Chickens are an interesting and entertaining lot and a small backyard flock is certainly something to consider. We first got chickens 7 years ago when we lived in the suburbs. After that several of my neighbors got them because they realized how fun they were and how good fresh eggs taste. Chicken manure is a good fertilizer for the garden and is high in nitrogen. Eggs are a good source of protein and a good gift for friends and neighbors just for being there. Chickens don’t like to be alone so if you get chickens get 2 or 3. You can set up a small run for them next to your garage. Do protect them though as they are prey to many animals including raccoons, foxes, coyotes, hawks, even neighborhood dogs.

There is a documentary I saw on TV once called “The Natural History of the Chicken”. This is a funny and serious look at the joy of chickens. Part of the movie focuses on a hen that wanted badly to be a mother. If you have chickens you will love this movie, if you don’t, it will make you want them.

Today is my brother’s birthday; Happy Birthday Corey!


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