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Appalachian Cooking and Life

 

   People ask my husband and I all the time, "where are you from?" Although we don't hear our accents anymore, obviously we still have them, Mike more than me for some reason. In this Home and Away we will tell you a little about ourselves.

 

   We grew up at the beginning of the Appalachian Mountains, south of Portsmouth, Ohio in a small country farming community called Franklin Furnace, where families were close and friends were even closer. Mike was one of 13 and I was the baby of the family with 2 older sisters. Life on the beautiful Ohio River was quiet and easy. You know the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child", well that's how it was for us.

   Mothers in our community back then raised all of us. Mike recalls many moms in the evenings standing outside chatting and comparing notes on what the kids were doing. If one got in trouble most likely there were several more involved. They were like the FBI and always found out exactly what the truth was. When it was time for supper, whoever you were playing with at the time also came in to eat, usually beans and cornbread, poke greens or freshly picked dandelion greens like the ones you see in your yard today. We didn't eat the yellow flowers then, but have recently learned that they can be eaten as well. Ramps were another hidden jewel back then that you would hunt just like morel mushrooms. They have a taste similar to green onions or chives. Absolutely nothing went to waste, if you had beans left over you made bean cakes the next day by adding a little onion and flour, patted out into cakes and fried in bacon grease. Leftover cornbread was put in a glass with milk, like cereal. Mike still loves it to today.

   Blackberry picking back then was a big event. Every family had their own special place to pick as they were plentiful along the river. If you happened to venture over into another field, you got told loudly to just keep on moving. It is so hard to believe now that we would pick buckets of blackberries that would then be cleaned and turned into jam, jelly or pies for the winter months. Of course most families also had grape arbors that we kids would invade when we could get away with it. These too were picked and cleaned for jelly and some even for wine.

   My sister Patty would tell me stories such as our grandma would always bake her an August birthday cake and decorate it with flowers out of her garden like petunias, marigolds and other blooming flowers. Today it is well known that many varieties of flowers are edible. I had a January birthday so my cake was just plain icing! 

   Cast iron skillets were the kitchen implements of choice. They never, ever went into the dishwater. When you were done cooking you cleaned them out and re-oiled them for the next use. If you happened to burn something in one, it was a two-week process of scraping out the old and deep cleaning and re-oiling. It was a process. We still have one we use for our cornbread and nothing tastes better than a steak in butter with herbs fried in a black iron skillet.

   My Dad was an Associated Press Photographer that worked out of WSAZ T.V. in Huntington, W.Va. and The Goodyear Atomic Energy Plant in Piketon, Ohio. He also took all of the school pictures for years in Scioto County. He was a large man and quick to get to the story. He was first to get the Marshall University plane crash (We Are Marshall), The Silver Bridge that fell across the Ohio River full of Christmas shoppers, and the F5 Tornado that devastated Wheelersburg, Ohio. I think that is where I got my love for the media and a story. Now that you know a little about us, we hope you will continue to read and enjoy our stories in My Miami County and This Local Life Magazine.

 

Fried Corn

  • 12 ears fresh corn, shucked

  • 4 cups water, room temperature

  • 2 Tbsp self rising flour

  • 1 Tbsp. sugar

  • 2 1/2 tsp. salt or to taste

  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

  • 3 Tbsp. bacon drippings

  • 2 Tbsp. salted butter

To begin, completely rinse and cut the kernels from the cobs of corn and add to a large bowl. Then add to water.

Next stir flour, sugar, salt and pepper into corn and water mixture. Make sure it is completely dissolved into the water.

In a cast iron skillet, add bacon drippings and butter and heat over medium high heat. Once the butter has completely melted, pour corn mixture into the hot skillet and continuously stir.

Turn the heat down to medium. Cook approximately 12-15 minutes or until most of the water has evaporated and it has all thickened looking like creamed corn, then serve.

By Dana Hyland-Horner
Photographs by Mike Horner

Cornbread

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 1/4 cups milk

  • 3/4 cups melted shortening

  • 1 1/2 cups cornmeal

  • 3/4 cups flour

  • 1 tsp. salt

  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Beat eggs, add milk and shortening. Sift remaining ingredients together, add to egg mixture, and beat well. Pour into a greased iron skillet and bake in a hot oven until the bread shrinks from the side of the skillet, about 20 minutes.

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Fried Corn

  • 12 ears fresh corn, shucked

  • 4 cups water, room temperature

  • 2 Tbsp self rising flour

  • 1 Tbsp. sugar

  • 2 1/2 tsp. salt or to taste

  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

  • 3 Tbsp. bacon drippings

  • 2 Tbsp. salted butter

To begin, completely rinse and cut the kernels from the cobs of corn and add to a large bowl. Then add to water.

Next stir flour, sugar, salt and pepper into corn and water mixture. Make sure it is completely dissolved into the water.

In a cast iron skillet, add bacon drippings and butter and heat over medium high heat. Once the butter has completely melted, pour corn mixture into the hot skillet and continuously stir.

Turn the heat down to medium. Cook approximately 12-15 minutes or until most of the water has evaporated and it has all thickened looking like creamed corn, then serve.

Cucumbers and Onions

  • 2 large cucumbers

  • 1 large onion, sliced

  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 2 Tbsp. sugar

  • 1 tsp. sea salt

  • 1 tsp. black pepper

Slice cucumbers and onion into half moon slices and put into a bowl.

In a Mason jar or small bowl whisk together the vinegar, water, sugar, salt and pepper.

Pour mixture over the cucumbers and onions and toss lightly. Keep in the refrigerator until it’s time to serve.

I usually triple this recipe as it goes quickly in my family.

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Edible Flowers

  • Honeysuckle

  • Lavender

  • Violets

  • Roses

  • daisies

  • Lilac

  • Sunflowers

  • Marigolds

  • Squash Blossoms

  • Clover

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Lavender, sunflower and clover

Canning and Freezing

 

   It seems like we just planted our garden yesterday! Where has the time gone? It's time to get out the tried and true recipes that we have used for years, wash those jars, buy new lids and get our fruits and vegetables put up for the winter.

 

   There is nothing better than Bread and Butter pickles or Freezer Slaw in the winter months (see recipes below). My husband, Mike, always makes homemade salsa that goes quickly when the family hears it's finished. Canned goods also make great gifts. Just get a basket and fill it with jars of pickles, fruit jam and jellies, crackers and a couple of cute kitchen towels.

 

   When I was a young girl, I remember my family making a large camp-style fire outside and sitting for hours shucking corn and breaking beans to can and freeze. I still today love to sit and break beans and think of all the fun conversations I would have with my family as we got ready to take care of our garden produce.

 

   There are several ways you can preserve your fruits and vegetables, but Mike and I prefer to use the "hot bath" method , then after we pull the jars out of the boiling water, we listen for the lids to "ping," let them cool, then put them in the pantry.

 

   For the freezer, we put up corn and freezer slaw. We have already put up rhubarb-strawberry jam, rhubarb compote, and bags of cubed rhubarb for breads and pies. Peaches are now ready and will be made into jelly and pies. Then it will be time for a nap!

 

   My favorite jar to use in canning is the Mason jar, which was patented in 1858 by John Landis Mason. The jar's mouth has a screw thread on its outer perimeter to accept  a metal ring or band for a much tighter seal. The blue Mason jars were produced until 1937 using sand from around Lake Michigan. It was that sand that gave the glass a blue hue. Today, they seem to be quite the collectors item, when you can find them.

By Dana Hyland-Horner
Photographs by Mike Horner

 
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   Our small Victory garden will provide us with all that we need to get us through the winter months. Not long ago someone asked me why I call it our Victory garden. My "Mamaw" told me that during the world wars the public was encouraged to grow gardens of planted vegetables to ensure a good food supply for civilians and troops when they came home from war. That has always stuck in my head and now we do it to honor those from the past. A Victory garden can be a very large garden or as small as a window box garden. The National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. has a re-created World War II -era garden featuring vegetable and flower species available for gardeners through the 1940's.

 

   With this being said, we cannot forget the farmers of all of our communities that go out every day to provide us with local produce fresh from their gardens. They are facing many struggles like climate change, soil erosion, changing tastes of consumers and trying to stay resilient against global economic factors. When you see a farm tractor or combine trying to get to their fields, give them all the road room they need to get there. Remember they are doing this for us.

 

Bread and Butter Pickles

  • 4 quarts cucumbers, sliced thin

  • 3 medium onions, sliced thin

  • 2 green peppers , chopped

  • 1/2 cup salt

  • ice cubes

SYRUP

  • 3 cups vinegar

  • 5 cups sugar

  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric

  • 1/2 tsp. celery seed

  • 2Tbsp. mustard seed

Combine cucumbers, onions,peppers, and salt. Cover with ice cubes and let stand for 3 hours. Drain well.

Combine all syrup ingredients in a large pan. Add pickle mixture. Bring to a boil. Place in jars and seal.

Hot Bath until boiling around jars. Set out to cool.

Freezer Slaw

  • 1 large head cabbage, shredded

  • 1 large green pepper

  • 3/4 cup chopped onion

  • 2 carrots, shredded

  • 2 cups boiling water

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar

  • 1 cup water

  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar

  • 2 tsp. celery seed

Combine cabbage, green pepper, onion, and carrots in

a large boil. Mix boiling water and salt together in a bowl

and pour over cabbage ,mixture. Set aside for salt to

draw out extra water, about an hour. Drain well. 

Mix sugar,1 cup water, cider vinegar and celery seed in

a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook and stir until sugar is

dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool

completely.

Pour cooled sugar-vinegar mixture over drained cabbage mixture in a large bowl and toss until slaw is well mixed. Spoon slaw into resealable plastic bags and freeze.

When ready to use, thaw in the refrigerator.

 

Until next time.

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Peace and Tranquility at The Quarry Farm in Putnam County

CONSERVATION: prevention of wasteful use of a resource

  On a recent "Away" adventure, my husband, Mike, and I decided to visit a very well known nature preserve and conservation farm in Putnam County, Ohio. The Quarry Farm, which has spurred my interest for several years, is maintained by Steve and Anne Coburn-Griffis and family.

   In the late 19th and early 20th century several small quarries along Riley Creek near Bluffton were in operation and used for flagstone and lime burning. The business operated in the floodplain southeast of the mouth of Cranberry Run where it enters Riley Creek. The quarrying operation hit multiple springs, which forced the business to relocate upstream. Everett Seitz and his family lived in a house on the upland north of the flooded quarry pit. After a fire in the 1940s claimed Everett's house his brother, Carl, bought 50 acres that encompassed the old quarry and two homesteads. The waters of the old quarry and Cranberry Run became popular fishing spots. In the early 1970s, Gerald and Laura (Seitz) Coburn bought the Quarry Farm (as the Seitz family had so named it) and began restoring the stream's riparian corridor, floodplain and woodland and maintained it as a retreat and nature preserve. Today, family members and friends continue to operate The Quarry Farm.

By Dana Hyland-Horner
Photographs by Mike Horner

 
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   Several distinct habitats at the farm have flourished and provide homes for native mammals, reptiles, amphibians and plants, as well as native and migratory birds and insects. There are so many things to look at that you would need a full day to take it all in. I loved the pollinator garden with all of the plants that bring bees, butterflies, and dragonflies to that area, and there were many. Another attraction for me and my husband was the old log cabin (c. 1853) on the property that you could go in and be taken back to how folks lived in that time. It was brought up piece-by-piece from West Virginia in 1996. They call it "The Red Fox Cabin," and it is used for educational workshops and school tours.

   The farm is also known for its animal rescue/sanctuary for abused and neglected animals. They provide a peaceful place for birds and mammals as they heal. We got to meet several of these animals, such as goats, pigs, chickens, turkeys, donkeys, a fox named Quinn, and an albino red rat snake by the name of Tyree (also known as a corn snake). Tyree and I came eye-to-eye. He stuck out his tongue and I stood very still and just smiled! I am a country girl from southern Ohio that when you saw a snake down by the Ohio River, you ran for a hoe! I have become more calm in my older years about this issue. I'll just smile and educate myself.

 

   We have raised rabbits, goats and chickens, so going to this farm was very peaceful for me, and my husband. It's a beautiful place with around 3 miles of hiking paths that lead to a creek and marsh. While we were there we were introduced to Deb Weston, an expert birder who works for the farm doing bird hikes and bird counts. She said the farm has around 137 species of birds, with the most rare find being the yellow-billed cuckoo. I was excited to talk to her and look at her beautiful pictures she has taken of the many birds. I have several bird feeders and houses in my back yard and love watching them. Our newest bird house Mike put up a few days ago is for attracting bluebirds. We are hoping for the best.

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   A topic of interest to me is bees and what is happening to them. They are on a slow decline across the world. Bee populations are declining due to habitat loss, pollution, and the use of pesticides, among other factors. The Quarry Farm has hives where you can watch the bees in the process of making honey. You can help bees out at home by placing 1 tablespoon of water with 1 tablespoon of sugar until they are dissolved. Place in a shallow dish near your garden or on your outside table so that the bees can get a drink as they sometimes fly miles and miles to get to a hive.

   The Quarry Farm is located at 14321 Road 7L in Pandora, Ohio. The farm is closed to hunting and is currently open by appointment or during public events. If you would like to receive their newsletter, send them an email at thequarryfarm@gmail.com. This is a one-tank gas trip you will enjoy and if you have small children, this farm is the place to visit.

FUN BEE FACTS:

1. Bees beat their wings 11,400 times in one minute, that is why they are so loud.

2. Only female bees can sting. Male bees don't have stingers.

3. Bees communicate through a series of dance moves.

4. A hive of bees will fly over 55,000 miles to make 1 pound of honey.

5. 1 bee has 5 eyes!

 

Honey Cornbread Recipe

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 3 teaspoons baking powder

  • 2 large eggs, room temperature

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

  • 1/4 cup canola oil

  • 1/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, beat the eggs. Add cream, oil and honey; beat well. Stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened. Pour into a greased 9-inch baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm.

 

Peanut Butter Honey Fudge Recipe

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk such as hemp milk or unflavored coconut milk 

  • 1 cup natural creamy peanut butter

  • 3 tablespoons raw organic honey

  • 11/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Brush an 8X8 baking pan with a little olive oil. Put sugar and milk in a small pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring often and turn the heat off. Slowly add the peanut butter and honey and stir well. Add vanilla extract and stir until the ingredients are mixed. Pour the mixture into the baking pan and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight for a harder texture.

 

Closer to Home: The new wildlife observation area is now open to visitors at Troy's Monarch Butterfly Habitat, north of Treasure Island Park. This is a wonderful addition for birdwatchers and butterfly enthusiasts as they have feeders and plants to draw in several species. A gazebo as well as a birdfeeder station have been built so visitors can enjoy both birds and butterflies in their own habitats along the Great Miami River.

 

Until next time...

 

Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar: A Pair Made in Heaven

   Growing up in southern Ohio our families used many methods of oils for baking and frying. One I remember the most was that big can of lard. Great for frying chicken, pork chops, and even putting a dab on a burn when needed. The most important form of grease was and still is bacon drippings. Oh yes!  Every household had a can, tin, or Ball jar in the refrigerator with that liquid gold. You didn't waste a drop of it, ever!

   After frying bacon, you carefully poured it into your container to then use it to flavor most anything from green beans, fried potatoes, eggs, biscuits and the list goes on and on. My personal favorite was and still is, wilted lettuce. If you have never had it, it is worth a try, you will not be disappointed. 

   My husband and I have one of those containers in our refrigerator, a small tin container marked GREASE on it. When we moved from Wheelersburg, Ohio to Troy, that container rode in the front of our truck with us, so we would not spill a drop. Mike uses bacon grease to flavor his cornbread, collard greens  and many other food items. But, isn't it funny how things change in a blink of an eye?

 

   A few weeks ago we attended a class at the Troy Library hosted by a local store called The Olive Oasis (7 N. Main St. in Troy) and we were mind-blown! The store owner, Chelsea Demmitt, who has owned the store since 2018, put on a remarkable demonstration on olive oils and balsamic vinegars.

 

   I believe in today's world we are all trying to be a little more healthy and conscious of what we are putting in our bodies. Olive oil has so many health benefits, including those for heart disease, blood pressure, and diabetes. The Mediterranean Diet has been a large success due to the fact that it uses EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil). It lowers inflammation, protects "bad" LDL cholesterol from oxidation and improves the lining of your blood vessels which could prevent blood clotting. This was all we needed to hear to make a change in our oil selections. 

By Dana Hyland-Horner
Photographs by Mike Horner

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 The quality of their olive oil is determined by the freshness of the fruit which in the fall comes from mills in Chile, Australia and Argentina and in the spring the oils come from Italy, Spain, Greece and California. They are committed to have the oils freshly pressed and shipped to the store. Chelsea said, " You want to consume it as fresh as possible to preserve the taste, aroma and health benefits."

 

   Their balsamic vinegars mixed with the oils produce wonderful dressing for salads, meat, fruit and vegetables. You can go to the store and sample all of the oils and vinegars and I promise you, you will be mind-blown, too! They are simply delicious. We got to sample a fruit salad that she made using a pairing of Coconut White Balsamic+Persian Lime oil. It was light and made you wonder what that taste was. I had to go back and get a second cup of it. Shoot, I really wanted to take the whole bowl home with me!

Here are just a few of the pairings they have put together:

  • Traditional Balsamic + Tuscan Herb Oil

  • Raspberry Balsamic + Garlic Oil

  • Dark Chocolate Balsamic + Blood Orange Oil

  • Mango White Balsamic + Persian Lime Oil

  • Elderberry Balsamic + Lime Oil

  • Plum White Balsamic + Ginger and Black Garlic Oil

  • Traditional Balsamic + Olive Wood Smoked Oil

  • The list is just to long to put them in this article, go in the store and try them all out with a small piece of crusty bread provided by Bakehouse Bread Company.

Creative ways to use their products:

  • Cook scrambled eggs in various infused oils (Garlic would be my choice)

  • Make salad dressings by combining and Olive oil and Balsamic Vinegar

  • Dip crusty bread in Herb-Infused Oils

  • Cut up potatoes, toss in your favorite Oil and bake

  • Add fruity Balsamics or Olive Oils to plain Yogurt

  • Use the Espresso or Chocolate Vinegar over baked Asparagus or Brussel Sprouts

   Now back to the black grease tin in our refrigerator, it will always be there, but now it has company, a tall bottle of healthy olive oil.

 

How to make Wilted Lettuce
 

Wilted Lettuce

- 5 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

- 1/4 cup bacon grease drippings (put the rest in your container)

- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

- 2 teaspoons sugar

- 2 green onion tops, sliced

- 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper

- 6-8 cups torn lettuce pieces or mixed greens

- 1 hard boiled egg, sliced

- Heat the dressing and pour over the lettuce

Serve with a pot of beans and cornbread....and wish you had more!

 

Until next time...

The Miracle of Tea 

   My love of tea came at a very young age, when I would walk to my grandparents house (an orchard away) and invite myself for supper. My Mamaw, as we called her, would have fried pork chops, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans and the most delicious drink—iced tea!

   We would eat, clean up the dishes and take our iced tea to the front porch and sit in her swing and talk about life. I was 5 years old. It is the tea that I will always remember.

 

   In my adult life I have always had iced tea with every meal, and when I or my children got sick, it was always hot tea with honey that made us feel a little bit better. They are grown adults now and still have that love for sweet tea. I am now up to making two large pitchers when they come over, and there is never any left when they leave.

   Recently, on an "Away" adventure, my husband and I went to Charleston, South Carolina where there is a large tea plantation owned by the Bigelow family. We were able to tour the fields and factory where the tea was harvested and processed. This plantation is the only one in the United States that has the right conditions and soil to make a viable tea.

   We learned that the first cutting of the tea bushes make the best flavored tea. The tea bushes in Charleston are called Camellia Sinensis. Most of the teas that we in the U.S. consume are normally from Asian countries.

By Dana Hyland-Horner

 
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   Tea shops and gardens became popular in the 1800's. On Saturdays and Sundays ladies would gather in each others' gardens and have high tea. Today, it is still popular to take a break in the afternoon for a spot of tea in England, Ireland and Scotland.

"Made in America"
 

   America was the first country in history to come up with the tea bag; it was discovered by accident when a merchant decided rather than wrapping loose tea in foil to instead send it in gauze bags. Folks liked it so well that it became a staple in homes. America's second contribution to the tea world came at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904, where the temperature was well over 100 degrees and vendors were not selling their famous tea. After careful thought they decided to put ice in the cups and it became a big hit. Today, 4700 years after the Chinese "invented" it, tea is the world's most popular beverage, after water.
 

The Golden Leaf Tea & Herb Company 
 

   The good news is that you don't have to go very far to get a good cup of tea in Miami County. One such place is The Golden Leaf Tea & Herb Company at 128 E. Main St. in downtown Tipp City. Owner Jayne Lewis can tell you everything you need to know about this wonderful beverage. She offers many blends and flavors of loose teas. She says black tea seems to be the most popular, followed by green tea. Her tea is all organic with no chemicals.

 

   Just the smell when you walk in makes you want a cup right then! Lewis uses local honey to sweeten her tea when purchased. During COVID, she offered DoorDash to get her special blends to folks that weren't feeling well. Again, there's nothing like a hot cup of tea when you are sick.

   The Golden Leaf Tea & Herb Company carries many items that you will need to make a good cup of tea, including several types of tea infusers, organic bags, and tea bag holders.

 

   My husband and I also had a good cup of tea at the Scottish Thistle in Piqua and Winans in Sidney where I had a Chai tea latte.

 

   Tea parties are now the new cocktail hour of years past. All you have to do is set out a couple of teapots of different blends, add a spread of snacks, such as tea sandwiches made of cream cheese with chives and garlic powder spread on a rye bread with a slice of cucumber, then just welcome the relaxing and reconnection of good family and friends. 

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How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Tea Using Loose Tea:

Step1: Use fresh, cold water. Bring to a rolling boil

Step 2: Measure1 teaspoon of tea per cup

Step3: Pour boiling water over the tea (Never put the tea into the hot water)

Step 4: Brew to desired strength. Approximately 2-6 minutes.

 

Herbal Tea is easy to make: put a handful of fresh herbs (about 1/4 cup) per cup of tea into a pot. Pour boiling water over the herbs, cover, and let steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Strain and drink. I have found that mint and chamomile are the most popular of teas made from herbs.

   I enjoy drinking my hot tea out of a pretty porcelain cup and saucer. They say there is a difference of how the tea tastes when you use a cup that is thick-rimmed. I'm not sure of this as mine never lasts that long! 

   

   After visiting the Tea Plantation, my new favorite tea is Raspberry, hot or cold. There is nothing better than sitting outside in the shade with a cold glass of fresh tea listening to Jimmy Buffett singing, "Life is just a tire swing"

 

   Until next time....

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By Dana Hyland-Horner

Spice Up Your Recipes with Your Own Herb Garden 
  Planting season is fast-approaching, which means it’s time to get seeds out and plans in place for harvesting and preparing them.

   My husband and I have a small victory garden with several tomato plants, cucumbers and a few hot pepper plants, but the garden we use most is our herb garden.

   We started it years ago in southern Ohio and have enjoyed our garden here in Troy. I have always used herbs and spices in cooking, but when you can go outside and pick fresh, it just changes the taste of the dish you’re making. It’s also a great food source for bees and butterflies.

   Gardeners have used herbs for centuries for various reasons from dying wool and fabric to making soap, ointments and potpourri. In our garden we have planted parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, chives and garlic chives. This year we are expanding our garden and planting lemon balm and peppermint, which needs a larger space, as they can take over an herb garden fast!

   There are really no rules on how to plant an herb garden. It can be a window box filled with vining herbs (such as the various thymes) or patio pots filled with certain cooking themes like pizza herbs. This might include basil, oregano, and chives. Throw them together with some pepperoni, sauce and cheese on a flatbread and you have a great meal.

   Sage is one of my favorites to grow and dry for our Thanksgiving dressing. I just bunch a picking of sage together and hang it upside down in a shady spot for about 3 weeks. They dry easily and can be crumbled up and put in spice jars for further use, such as around a baked chicken or in a vegetable soup.

   Another idea for harvesting some of your herbs is by using an ice tray. Fill the tray with butter and chopped herbs like chives, basil and rosemary, then freeze. When your steak comes off the grill, pop one of the cubes on top. You can thank me later, it’s delicious.

    I’m sure most of you have used the popular herb lavender, which means “to wash” in Latin. It can be found in shampoos, creams, jellies and potpourri. We have ours planted on both sides of our front walk and when it’s at its peak it is beautiful and smells divine. I recently learned that you can get a second flowering in the fall, which is when I pick, dry and give lavender as gifts.

   Another interesting fact that I have learned is that cilantro is the herb that produces coriander the spice.

 

   The Troy-Miami County Public Library (and other libraries in the region) has introduced a Seed Library this year in which they have taken an old card library cabinet and filled it with different seeds that you can check out just like a book and get your garden started. They also offer vegetable and flower seeds.     

   To get started with your herb garden, you will need well drained soil, raised beds or containers work great. You’ll also need a sunny location (at least 6 hours). Some herbs like a little afternoon shade. Most herbs do not require high levels of fertility. This is one area you can play around with and place herbs far enough apart to allow space to grow.  Here are a few of our favorite recipes using the herbs we grow, dry and freeze.

   My favorite thing to do in my herb garden is on a stressful day is run my hands over the plants to release their wonderful scents.

   Happy gardening all!

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Herb Butter Spread

2 sticks of butter, softened

1tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon chives

1 tablespoon rosemary

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

Place on a piece of plastic wrap and roll into a log. Twist ends and seal tight.

Freeze for at least an hour before use.

Slice into rounds and enjoy on steaks, chicken, pork chops or as a spread for French bread .
 

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Basil Pesto

 

2 cups fresh basil leaves

½ fresh parsley

½ cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup walnuts

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a blender or food processor, puree the basil, parsley, oil, garlic, salt and pepper

Add the nuts and cheese and process briefly until the pesto reaches the desired consistency.

Serve this over noodles of your choice.

Seasoned Salt

4 tablespoons parsley, dried and finely crushed

3 tablespoons sage, dried and crushed

2 tablespoons rosemary, dried and crushed

1 tablespoon thyme, dried and crushed

1 cup salt

 

Mix the Herbs and salt thoroughly and store in a large-holed shaker.
 

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As Medicine
Herbs can be good for what ails you too. When you have a cold, this herbal tea is very comforting.

1 part echinacea root

1 part peppermint leaves

1 part yarrow leaves

1 part lemon balm leaves

Put the echinacea in 1 quart of water and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Add the rest of the herbs, stir well, cover, and steep 15 to 20 minutes. Strain and add honey and lemon if desire. Dill, which I just planted seeds for and are coming up quick seems to be the gem in the herb garden as you can plant them in your flower garden and vegetable garden also. It’s a host to the black swallowtail butterfly, so your are helping the butterfly population grow as well.

Dana Hyland-Horner, a resident of Troy, will be sharing her love of cooking, gardening and adventures in Miami County and other interesting places with her Home & Away feature on My Miami County.