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Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth With the Natural Sweetener You Can Grow

Stevia is well known today as a nonnutritive sweetener, a sugar substitute. You can buy powdered stevia products to add sweetness to foods and drinks without adding calories. These products contain rebaudioside A, an extract made from stevia leaves. A more natural way to sweeten foods without calories is to use the whole leaves of stevia. 

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These 3 Super Herbs Can Reduce Blood Pressure and More

Nearly half of all Americans have high blood pressure (also called hypertension), a preventable condition that is the number one risk factor for heart disease.  Sadly, millions of people with this condition go undiagnosed.  The good news is, numerous lifestyle changes can help prevent, manage, and even eliminate high blood pressure. Additionally, nature has provided relief for this condition as well. Let’s take a closer look at some easy-to-grow herbs that can be used to regulate blood pressure.

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9 Cash Crops that Can Help You Meet Your Financial Goals Sooner (even if you live in the city)

Gardening is a fantastic hobby and a way to provide fresh food for your family. Did you know that that it can also be lucrative? What if I told you that you could accelerate your savings by growing some popular cash crops? There are even some great options for people who have limited space in which to grow plants. Now that I have your attention let’s take a look at how your garden can keep you in the green (if you know what I  mean).

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Avoid Salmonella Sickness: Grow Your Own Herbs

Consumers need to be on their toes now more than ever as the bacteria outbreaks and food recalls show no sign of slowing down. If you have recently purchased parsley or Herbes de Provence from World Market, Walmart, or any other grocer in the United States, it may be part of the latest food recall. A customer tested as ample of High Quality Organics’ parsley, and salmonella was possibly discovered.

On October 12, Sauer Brands Inc. announced a voluntary recall due to the possible salmonella contamination. This announcement came after the herb supplier had certified that the raw materials it provided Sauer had tested negative for salmonella.

Once the company became aware of the potential contamination, they recalled any parsley products made with questionable raw material. Other Spice Hunter products that were manufacturers on the same two days that the salmonella-tainted parsley was produced. The company’s press release stated that  this was done “ out of an abundance of caution regarding potential cross-contamination.”

Recalled products

The 29 recalled products include particular lots of organic parsley, Saigon cinnamon, ground cloves, sesame seeds, Herbes De Provence, pumpkin pie spice blend, seafood seasoning blend, coriander, garlic, green hatch chile, Mexican seasoning, black pepper (ground and whole peppercorns), paprika, Szechwan seasoning, Chinese ginger, white pepper, garlic, everything bagel seasoning, chives, Italian seasoning, cilantro, whole fennel seeds, dill, arrowroot, and red cayenne pepper.

The products were manufactured for sale online (at spicehunter.com) and in retail. They were distributed for sale across 31 states: Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. 

The recalled product names have specific item numbers and UPC codes. They include:

  • Cost Plus World Market Herbes De Provence in a 0.6-ounce package with the item number of 533310-06 and the UPC 2533 3107.
  • Cost Plus World Market Organic Parsley in a 0.3-ounce package with the item number of 533325-06 and the UPC 2533 3251.
  • Great Value Herbes De Provence Organic in a 0.6-ounce package with the item number of GV5451-24 and the UPC 0 78742 15451 0.
  • Great Value Organic Parsley Flakes in a 0.3-ounce package with the item number of GV5460-24 and the UPC 0 78742 15460 2.
  • O Organics Herbes De Provence Organic in a 0.65-ounce package with the item number of 14200102-24 and the UPC 0 79893 41131 6.
  • O Organics Parsley Organic in a 0.3-ounce package with the item number of 14200099-05 and the UPC 0 79893 41109 5.
  • Full Circle Parsley Organic in a 0.3-ounce package with the item number of 32831-06 and the UPC 0 36800 32813 0.

Don’t mess with salmonella

Although there have been no reports of illness connected to this latest recall, it is essential to be cautious as salmonella infections can become quite serious.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC), salmonella infections cause symptoms such as diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and headache. Symptoms begin anywhere from six hours to six days after infection and can last up to seven days. Severe cases may even require antibiotics or hospitalization. Most people recover just fine without treatment and with proper rest and plenty of hydration. If you have a high fever, persistent diarrhea, bloody stools, persistent vomiting, you need to call your doctor.

Stay safe, grow your spices

One of the best ways to stay safe from tainted food, including herbs and spices, is to grow your own. Growing herbs for spices is much easier than you might think, even if you don’t have much space. You can even grow your favorite herbs in a sunny kitchen window.

Growing herbs in a sunny windowsill is gaining popularity

Small space kitchen gardening or countertop gardening is a popular movement right now, with more and more people stuck at home and living in apartments, condos, and the like.  The good news is that many herbs are quite happy to grow in small containers, and they will reward you with a bountiful harvest with just a minimal amount of attention. Not only that, but you can’t beat the way beautiful greenery looks in your window on a cold winter day. Rest assured that whether you lack space, direct sunlight, or live in a frigid and unforgiving climate, you can still grow plenty of fresh food, including herbs.

Tips for growing herbs in containers

Here are a few tips for growing healthy and delicious herbs.

  • Select heirloom varieties of your favorite herbs. Choose herbs that you love to use and cook with frequently. When possible, use heirloom varieties that taste better than hybrid types.
  • Choose a container with good drainage. Most herbs are very unhappy with “wet feet.” Because of this, it is critical to pot your herb plants in a container that has excellent drainage. 
  • Choose a sunny location. Light is key to success when you grow any plant—position herb pots directly beneath a sunny window to maximize sunlight’s effectiveness. One of the great things about growing in containers is that you can move pots around as the seasons and light conditions change. Keep pots rotated so that plants don’t become leggy. If you don’t have any sunny windows, consider a grow light bulb. These are inexpensive and will help your herbs grow strong and healthy without sunlight.
  • Water and feed accordingly. Knowing what your plants require for food and water is essential to their health. Keep in mind that most plants die because of excessive attention, not a lack of attention. 
  • Harvest correctly. Wait patiently for your plants to mature before you harvest for the first time. Never harvest more than one-third of the plant at one time and wait for that third to grow back before harvesting. Remove any flowers that appear as they will get in the way of the flavor.
  • Prune. Picking herbs is like pruning, but your particular herb may require more. Do a little research and assess the best way to keep your herb plant shapely. Always use clean and sharp pruning scissors – never rip or tear your plant to keep it pruned.

The best way to turn your garden herbs into spices is to place fresh herbs on a cookie sheet and dry them in the oven for 2-4 hours at 180 degrees F or less. Check them regularly to see if they crumble easily. Use a grinder to make a fine powder and store them in an airtight container. Mix and match your favorite dried herbs to create unique culinary blends.

Happy growing!

Susan Patterson, Master Gardener, and Author

16 Ways to Use Lavender in the Garden, Kitchen, and Bedroom

What if I told you that you could grow your very own 100% natural sleep and anxiety aide in your garden? Lavender, a well respected culinary and landscaping herb, is also recognized as an insomnia remedy and a tension and stress buster.  Its versatility makes it a must in any garden.

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8 Ways to Create Your Go-to Outdoor Relax Room

Picture yourself in a relaxing oasis with the calming sounds of running water, birds singing, and a breeze blowing in the treetops. The only thing better than relaxing indoors on a beautiful sunny day is to do all that outside, surrounded by nature. But first, you must make your outdoor area look and feel inviting, relaxing and pleasant not just for you but also for your guests and anyone who might want to join you.

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6 Easy to Grow Therapeutic Herbs (and why you should grow them)

Growing herbs is a rewarding experience that can also be quite practical. Herbs have a long history of both culinary and medicinal use. Loading your garden up with a few powerhouse herbs like the ones below offers not only great beauty but also a treasure trove of therapeutic benefits.

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5 Ways to Create a Beautiful Edible Garden

There has long been an incorrect assumption in the garden community that ornamental plants are the only ones that can look good, while vegetables and fruits are strictly for practical purposes. Essentially the opposite of a mullet, gardens are viewed as “party in the front, business in the back”. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a large front yard for flowers and ornamental purposes and a spacious backyard that can be reserved for edible crops, however. And some people feel like they have to choose one or the other…practicaltiy or beauty. Thankfully, recent breakthroughs have turned this misconception on its head, and a new practice is rising in popularity…edible landscaping.

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The One Herb Everyone Should Grow Now

During these uncertain times, fear and anxiety for the future are commonplace. If you’re struggling to relax and find that you can’t unwind, it may be time to plant a lovely, aromatic patch of chamomile in your herb garden to help ease your worries. Here’s why we love this useful herb and how you can grow some today. 

Roman vs. German chamomile

There are two types of chamomile, so it is important to understand exactly what you are planting. German chamomile produces long, flimsy stems and tons of delicate white flowers that look very similar to daisies. This is the variety that is most frequently used for tea and tinctures since it produces an abundance of blooms. Roman chamomile is usually used as a fast-spreading groundcover to fill in holes in your garden and provide a nice, fragrant element.

Both varieties are technically annuals but will reseed and spread with vigor, allowing them to come back every year, so keep that in mind before you choose a planting spot. German chamomile will add a beautiful pop of white to any kitchen herb garden, and it is a great plant to have on hand. For the rest of this article, we will be referring to the German Chamomile variety as it is the best herb for various kitchen and beauty uses.

Why you should grow it

Chamomile isn’t just a fragrant, attractive addition to your herb garden. It can be used for a wide variety of tinctures and tonics that can help ease insomnia, reduce anxiety, and help even help reduce inflammation and menstrual pain. 

During these stressful times, chamomile may be just the herb you need to help relieve some of that pent of fear and anxiety. Plus, if you are experiencing digestive issues due to excess stress or an altered diet, chamomile could help alleviate stomach discomfort, gas, and bloating. 

If you have a little extra time on your hands due to lockdown or decreased work hours, why not consider making some DIY healthy and beauty products with this soothing herb. Chamomile is often included in many personal care products due to its anti-inflammatory, skin-soothing properties. Combine it with oatmeal for ultimate nourishment and exfoliation. 

How to grow

Start seeds indoors under a grow light about six to eight weeks before your last expected frost date. This will give the seedlings time to grow and will help give them a good start for transplanting into your garden. Lightly tamp down the seeds into your growing medium and mist with water to avoid disturbing the seeds.  

Once all danger of frost has passed, transplant seedlings to the garden, leaving a space of about eight to twelve inches between plants. Water thoroughly when planting, making sure that your soil is well-draining and has been amended with organic compost. Like many other herbs, chamomile thrives when left to its own devices. Water frequently until the seedlings put down roots and then only occasionally to let the roots dry out slightly between waterings. In just a few weeks, you should see your first blooms developing on the spindly, green stems. 

Since chamomile is so hardy, it doesn’t require any fertilizer and will grow strong and tall with very minimal care. Plus, it doesn’t attract many pests or diseases, which makes it a wonderful “leave it and forget it” herb.

Harvest 

Once the flower petals begin to curl downward, cut off the flowers and lay them on a mesh surface to dry. Chamomile leaves tend to be bitter and unappealing, so once your cut off the flowers, trim the stalks to about six inches above the ground. Leave the spent stalks on the ground as they will decompose quickly and add essential nutrients back into the soil.

Though you can use fresh flowers for tea, drying this useful herb will let it last longer, and you won’t need as many flowers since the flavor will be more concentrated. Keep the flowers spread out for about a week in a cool, dry place and store in a glass jar or airtight bag for use in the kitchen.

Making tea

One of the best ways to reap all of the amazing benefits of chamomile is to brew a nice, aromatic cup of relaxing tea. Measure out about two tablespoons of dried flowers for every eight-ounce cup of tea you wish to make. Boil water and pour it over the flowers, letting it steep for about five minutes. Then strain through a fine, tea sieve. Feel free to add any of your favorite herbs, such as mint, to mix up the flavor a little bit. You can also use local raw, honey, for sweetener, lemon for a bit of zing, or a little creamer for a wonderful nighttime drink. 

-Susan Patterson

Top Garden Trends in 2020: Are You Ready do Dig In?

Years ago, gardening was reserved for those who had expensive pieces of land where they could create long rows for growing food. Today, however, there is a skyrocketing interest among urbanites to grow their food, herbs, and flowers. The good news is that gardening in 2020 has taken a whole new twist making it possible for more and more people to experience the joy and rewards of small space gardening. Even better, gardens are all about marrying the use of space with what is good for wildlife and the earth as a whole. It is indeed a great time to garden. Let’s explore some of the hottest garden trends for 2020.

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7 Ways to Preserve Food: Modern and Old

When you think of food preservation, the first thing that probably comes to mind is canning. What you might not know is that there are numerous ways, some old, some new, to store your fresh garden harvest and other foods through the winter and beyond. Knowing which preservation methods work best for certain foods will help ensure the best and freshest flavor.

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