How to Plant, Eat and Sing About an Herb Garden
By Cynthia Jordan, Master Gardener
“Are you going to Scarborough fair — parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme…”
— From Simon and Garfunkel's 1966 hit, traced back to a Celtic ballad dated to 1650
I cannot think of herbs without humming that song. In my pre-gardening days and before I made the connection between herbs and food seasoning, these were the only four herbs I could name. Actually, I didn't know enough to call them 'herbs.' They were 'good-smelling plants.' These four and many others are now an important part of many home gardens. In songs, in soups, or in medicine cabinets, herbs are a common denominator in cultures all over the world.
Archeological research points to medicinal as the original widespread use of herbs. Evidence of medicinal herbs has been found in a 60,000 year old Iraqi burial site. Ancient Egyptians and the Chinese record the use of medicinal herbs back to 3500 B.C. and 2700 B.C. respectively. Of the 58,000,000 Google hits for 'herbs.' the majority focused on medicinal or spiritual uses. Today, over 5 billion people use some form of herb for culinary, medicinal and/or sacred purposes.
Best Herbs for Monterey Bay Gardens For insight into the current popularity of herbs, I went to the resident seedling experts at the Saturday Aptos Farmers Market at Cabrillo College: Sarah Machado of Upstarts and Pamela Mason of Cole Canyon Farm.
Upstarts Organic Seedlings produces and distributes heirloom and hybrid vegetable and herb seedlings. They have been certified organic with CCOF since 1990. Owner Sarah Machado is a farmer with her finger on the pulse of the marketing aspect of her business. In addition to the individual shoppers at the Aptos Farmers Market, Upstarts provides bedding stock for the retail nursery trade in the San Francisco, Napa and Monterey Bay areas.
Sarah is very tuned into cooking and shopping trends. "I am always learning more facts from my customers about herbs such as Holy basil, Shiso, White Sage, Vietnamese Cilantro. I will take notes for recipes and the different ways my customers use them." Sarah says that input from her customers will often lead to a new herb being grown by Upstarts. An example is green columnar Basil. It is a cross with a strong, vigorous upright habit that is propagated by cuttings. The three top selling herbs at Upstarts are basil (Italian Large Leaf, aka Sweet Basil, and Genovese), Parsley Gigante (a large leaf Italian), and English and French Thyme.
Pamela Mason shared that the three top selling herbs at Cole Canyon are African Blue Basil (great when cooked, a strong pollinator attractant, wonderful aroma); English Thyme (potent, as useful as salt and pepper in many foods, tidy in the garden); Kentucky Colonel Mint/Spearmint (great with fruit salads and mixed greens, a terrific mojito mint). Lemon Verbena is a close fourth. Pamela stresses that in the current drought conditions, “Mediterranean herbs — rosemary, thyme, oregano, lavender, marjoram, bay, sage – do well with little water and, in fact, have more intense flavors if they are kept dry.”
Tips for Growing Herbs from Master Gardeners Advice from The internet abounds with articles on planting and using herbs. But nothing takes the place of hands-on, been-there-done-that, dirt-under-my-nails-and-basil-in-my-teeth experience. For this I went to the University of CA Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program graduates.
Some basics when preparing, planting and tending herbs:
- Site — do not underestimate the amount of sun that most herbs require. Six to eight hours. More if you can. Grow near the kitchen so you are motivated to harvest and use constantly. A sunny window and the right pot will get you a season's supply of several herbs.
- Soil — must be well-draining, with lots of organic compost mixed with native soil is good. Go for a neutral pH level of 6.5 to 7.
- Select healthy plants — if plants are wilted, have very little foliage or foliage is off-color, you are starting your herb garden at a disadvantage. Make sure there are no bugs or bites on the leaves.
- Know the growing habits of each herb — some will take over the pot or bed and you are left with one herb.
- Water — little is needed for many herbs. However, do not plant a drought-loving herb with one that requires more water. Water in the morning.
- Fertilize — use a compost "tea" once a week. Use organic compost as your fertilizer and topping. You will be continuously harvesting from some of the same plants. Make sure the next wave of foliage gets its share of fertilizer.
- Absolutely do NOT use chemicals of any kind — you are going to put herbs in your food and bees are going to go mad pollinating from your plants. Do not put chemicals in your body or the bee's.
More words of wisdom from herb-loving Master Gardeners:
Al Derrick: "I grew herbs in a raised bed that I built, filling it with good top soil and a variety of herbs. I solved a snail problem by lining the inside edge of the box with copper foil. As the breakfast cook in our house, I enjoy using sweet Marjorum (Origanum majorana) in my omelets. I think the most useful book on herbs is Park's Success With Herbs."
Randa Solick: "It's not very hot here, on the Monterey side of the Bay. When I can get it to grow, I use fresh basil, chives and sometimes mint. Herbal tea is my focus. I grow ju hua, Chinese Chrysanthemum, dandelion as an additive to teas, and lemon balm. I grow a lot of comfrey, dry it and crumble it for many uses."
Tammy Tahara: "I grow herbs on a sunny deck since I don't have a good yard for a garden. I grow basil, rosemary, bay (I have a small tree), oregano, dill, thyme, coriander, and sage. They are very rewarding to grow and I use them all in cooking. In my experience, the herbs guaranteed to grow are bay, basil, oregano, and rosemary."
Robin Sanders: "I have been growing herbs for 30 plus years. I have some in pots and some in the ground. The herbs I use the most in cooking are oregano, basil, thyme, and parsley. A guaranteed success to grow is mint."
Farmers Markets Open For Season
The Carmel Farmers Market at The Barnyard Shopping Village opens Tuesday, May 7, and is open from 9 a.m. -1 p.m. New this year at the Carmel Farmers Market — sharpening services will be available every week by Craig Chadwick of Restoration Edge.
The Del Monte Farmers Market next to Whole Foods at the Del Monte Shopping Center opens Sunday, May 12 and is open from 8 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Free tote bags will be available on opening days to shoppers while supplies last.
Both markets offer lots of free parking and easy access.
By Kirsten Fairchilds
For the past few months, a heated environmental battle has taken place in the European Union.
Even though Europe is a continent and an ocean away, the subject of this battle has had an impact that has stretched far and wide, affecting even the Monterey Bay area.
The battle is over bees.
More specifically, intense disagreements abound as to what has been causing bees to die off in staggering numbers, a condition referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder [CCD] that first began to surface back in 2005, as well as what individual governments and the European Commission should do about it.
"CCD is having a profoundly detrimental impact on the bee population all over the world and is believed to be the result of several situations," said Cynthia Jordan, certified as a master gardener through the University of California Cooperative Extension. "It may result from tracheal mites and unusually warm winters — January 2012 was the fourth warmest January in history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA].
"But it also may be caused by pesticides, specifically a class called neonicotinoids, developed in the 1980s," Jordan continued. "The European Commission has been pushing for a ban on neonicotinoids, but the chemical companies are fighting it."
Neonicotinoids, cited in a March 28 New York Times article by Michael Wines on the impact of CCD in the U.S. as a "nicotine-derived pesticide that European regulators implicate in bee deaths," are considered systemic pesticides.
"Older pesticides could kill bees and other beneficial insects," Wines wrote. "But while they quickly degraded — often in a matter of days — neonicotinoids persist for weeks and even months. Beekeepers worry that bees carry a summer's worth of contaminated pollen to hives, where ensuing generations dine on a steady dose of pesticide…"
In March, the European Commission proposed a ban on neonicotinoids, but European Union members failed to reach an agreement. According to a Reuters article published in The Guardian, also on March 28, the commission is threatening to force one through unless member states agree to a compromise.
In Wines' article, he wrote that a coalition of U.S. beekeepers and environmental and consumer groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency in January with a charge that it had exceeded its authority by conditionally approving some neonicotinoids. He added that the agency has begun an accelerated review looking into the matter.
"Annual bee losses of 5 percent to 10 percent were the norm for beekeepers," Wines wrote. "But after colony collapse disorder surfaced around 2005, the losses approached one-third of all bees, despite beekeepers' best efforts to ensure their health."
For Lynne Bottazzo of Amen Bee Products in San Martin, a Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Markets [MBCFM] vendor since 1989, CCD has, and continues, to hit home.
"The situation is tragic," said Bottazzo, who continues to find empty boxes. "It is not a single beekeeper's problem, but all beekeepers are a part of this horrible situation.
"Do you eat?" Bottazzo asked. "Well, then you are also involved."
Jordan, who has led the MBCFM series "Can You Dig It?" for the past five years, echoed Bottazzo's sentiments.
"If you eat, you should care about this problem," Jordan said. "Water, soil, sun and bee pollination are key to food production. Without bees — or even a reduction in bees — not only would harvest numbers be down, but some produce requiring pollination would not even be available.
"Whatever kills bees kills other beneficials we must have in our food production," she continued. "Bees are a litmus test of the health and safety of our planet."
Jordan suggested that home gardeners can take steps to help the situation locally by planting bee-friendly plants, a number of which are available at the MBCFM.
"There are numerous types of bees, and there are certain plants that attract different bees," she said. "Some of the more common plants loved by bees that grow well on the Monterey Bay are asters, marigolds, clematis, dahlias, fruit trees, maple and magnolia trees as well as herbs such as rosemary, sage and thyme, to name a few.
"Please also stop using pesticides and chemical fertilizers," Jordan continued. "Bees, birds and beneficial insects suffer when home gardeners use these products. There is no need to use them. Use organic fertilizers or, better still, organic compost — the ultimate gift for your plants and their bee friends. Ultimately, what does it matter if your garden is not perfect if it means the destruction of the very insect that feeds you — bees?"
For more information, please visit www.thedailygreen.com, the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources website and the USDA Agricultural Research Service website.
See also: Europe Bans Pesticides Thought Harmful to Bees, The New York Times, April 29, 2013
By Kirsten Fairchilds
The Schoch family grew up drinking raw milk. Dairy farmers for three generations, the Schochs drank milk from their own cows, raised on 100 acres in Salinas.
The family established Schoch Family Farmstead in 1944. Since 2010, the business has been selling raw dairy cheese at the Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Markets [MBCFM].
In late March, Schoch Family Farmstead — Schoch is pronounced as “shock” — began selling raw milk at both the Aptos and MPC markets. By mid-April, they plan to have raw cream on hand, followed by a summertime debut of raw yogurt.
“A lot of people were asking us when they would be able to buy raw milk,” said John Schoch, whose father Ernest and uncle Adolph came to the Salinas Valley from Switzerland in the 1920s and eventually founded Schoch Family Farmstead. “We’ve been wanting to diversify and get into raw milk. We had the dairy, so we had the product already.”
Ty Schoch, John’s son, explained that while the family has always sold its milk to a co-op, it didn’t begin selling dairy products directly to the public until three years ago when it began renting a facility where it could make raw cheese.
After hearing repeated requests over the years for adding raw milk to their product line, the Schochs decided to make the leap and come up with the funds necessary to meet the startup costs.
“We’re licensed by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to sell raw milk and we have to have a CDFA- and FDA-inspected facility,” Ty said. “In addition to licensing the facility, the CDFA and FDA regularly sample and test our milk.
“Everything is now onsite — it’s bottled onsite,” he continued. “I can bring to market a little over 100 bottles. That’s just over 50 gallons.”
Schoch Family Farmstead sells its milk for $7 per half-gallon bottle with a $2 bottle deposit.
“We don’t use pesticides, herbicides, artificial fertilizers or hormones,” Ty said. “If a cow who is sick or ill gets treated with antibiotics, that milk gets dumped. It does not go into the food supply.”
Ty said there hasn’t been much need for educating MBCFM customers as to the benefits of raw milk, but he’s happy to provide information and answer any questions.
“Milk is a fairly fragile product,” Ty said. “Every time, it’s pumped, chilled, heated, homogenized, transported — the integrity of the milk is ruined. Raw milk is healthier. When you drink raw milk, you’ll get much better flavor with better mouthfeel, plus the benefits of the natural enzymes, lactic-acid-producing bacteria and CLAs — conjugated linoleic acid — which are all destroyed in the pasteurization process.
“Most of the people that want to buy raw milk are already educated about it — they just didn’t have a place to find it,” Ty continued. “Raw milk is hard to find. There are only three dairies in the state of California licensed to sell raw milk directly to the public, and we’re one of them. Our customers are really excited.”
It's that time of year again, and Good Times wants you to tell them about your favorite places and things in their annual survey!
This is your chance to vote for the very best that Santa Cruz County has to offer, from dining to entertainment to shopping and...the Aptos Farmers Market!
Deadline to vote is Sunday, March 10, 2013.
By Kirsten Fairchilds
Judy Nagamine loves her dog.
A border collie-Australian shepherd mix named Eva, the dog is a beloved member of the Nagamine family, according to its owner.
However, as much as Nagamine loves spending time with Eva, she does not bring the dog with her to work on Saturday mornings at the Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Markets [MBCFM] in Aptos.
Instead, Eva stays home. And so should all pets, no matter if they are dogs, cats, birds or other animals.
With the exception of service animals, animals are not allowed at farmers markets in the state of California. Additionally, Cabrillo College, the site of the Aptos Market, does not allow pets on campus.
"When dogs come into a stand, they sniff," said Nagamine of A. Nagamine Nursery, Inc., located in Corralitos. "It's not appropriate for dogs to sniff the produce. They put their nose on it one time, and of course, we have to throw it out. Of course, we can't sell it.
"The owner can't watch their pet every second," she continued. "I know they're not bad dogs, but just from the whole food safety standpoint, animals just really shouldn't be inside where the food is sold."
MBCFM staff has signs posted prohibiting pets around the perimeter of the market, yet incidents of dogs marking tables and buckets with their scent as well as biting both vendors and customers have been reported.
In regards to service animals, the revised Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA] published by the U.S. Department of Justice states: "Beginning on March 15, 2011, only dogs are recognized as service animals under titles II and III of the ADA."
The revised ADA requirements go on to state: "Establishments that sell or prepare food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises."
And also: "In addition to the provisions about service dogs, the Department's revised ADA regulations have a new, separate provision about miniature horses that have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities."
Vendors have also reported incidents of pet birds landing on boxes of nuts and greens.
For those who arrive with a pet bird on their shoulder, Section 114371 of the California Retail Food Code states: "Certified farmers' markets shall meet all of the following requirements: (d) No live animals, birds, or fowl shall be kept or allowed within 20 feet of any area where food is stored or held for sale. This subdivision does not apply to guide dogs, signal dogs, or service dogs when used in the manner specified in Section 54.1 of the Civil Code."
MBCFM executive director Catherine Barr said that she has noticed more and more visitors to the Aptos market arriving with their pets in tow, requiring her staff to intervene and inform them that pets are prohibited.
"While service animals are definitely welcomed, we ask our customers to leave their pets at home," said Barr, who owns a golden retriever named Oski and Tweed, a chocolate lab. "As a dog lover and owner myself, I know my pets would be more comfortable at home.
"There is a time and a place to bring your animal — the farmers market is not one of them because having animals around food violates county health codes," she continued. "There are also so many families with small children in attendance — I've seen dogs bite children as well as aggressive dogs go after each other.
"We want everyone to have an enjoyable time at the farmers market, and not worry about their safety, so please keep your pets at home."
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