WHAT ARE HERBS?

Herbs are one of the fascinating plant species on the planet. Humans have grown herbs for millennia and eaten herbs from the very beginning of time. They have added to our lives in several different ways. The humble little plants have been utilized in the following areas: flavoring food, medicinal remedies, fragrances, dyes, landscaping, pest control, and industrial uses. In recent years growing herbs has experienced a giant leap in popularity. One major factor is that they provide an attractive method of entry into the gardening fraternity because they are so easy to grow.

There are many plants that are included in the herb family. This causes a little bit of a challenge in defining members of the family. The strict botanist school definition of an herb is that it is a plant that does not form woody tissue. Ergo the name herbaceous to describe such a plant. Practical herb gardeners are a little more liberal in their definition of herbs and include plants with flowers, leaves, roots, stems, or fruits that provide any of the manifestations ascribed to herb plants. These qualities include ornamental, aromatic, medicinal, culinary, and household uses. Many plants with woody stems are included in the definition of herbs. Cultivated types (cultivators) such as thyme, lavender, and rosemary along with vines, trees, and shrubs are in there. Many cultivators are included in the legion of herb plants on the market today.

Under the right conditions, herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow. They can do well in a wide range of growing conditions and soils, but the key factor is drainage. Herb plants do not like “wet feet,” and they must be planted in well-drained soil, or they will not live. Richer soils will cause   the plants to grow larger stems and roots rather than the oils which produce the desired flavors and aromas. When planning an herb garden, consider the native origins of the herbs to be included in the garden. Herbs originally from the Mediterranean Sea area will vary in their requirements from East Asia.

Annual Herbs

Annuals herbs are plants which go through their whole life cycle from seed to flower, and again to seed in one growing season.  Once this happens, the plant dies.  If you collect seeds, you can replant in the same year (e.g., spring and fall), or save and replant the following year. Common annual herbs are:

  1. Basil
  2. Cilantro
  3. Chervil
  4. Summer Savory

Biennials Herbs

Biennials are plants which require two years to complete their life cycle.  The top of the herb may die, but the herb will overwinter with proper protection in most areas, here are a few:

  1. Dill (this herb is a biennial but is normally grown as an annual.
  2. Parsley (often grown as an annual)
  3. Sage (hardy for longer in zones 5-8)
  4. Stevia

Perennials Herbs

Perennials herbs, if well cared for, can last for years in the correct climate conditions.  This makes them an excellent investment in both time and money. Of course, you may end up with more of them than you could possibly eat, which is the case with all the large rosemary bushes in my landscape. We use what we want, and the rest look good and attract pollinators.

In cooler climates, the plant to may die back in the winter  and will return in the following spring; assuming cold temperature do not exceed their tolerances.  Perennials herbs will continue growing through the winter if you live in some of the more temperate zones. Some common perennial herbs are:

  1. Bay leaves
  2. Chives
  3. Fennel
  4. Lavender
  5. Marjoram
  6. Mint
  7. Oregano
  8. Rosemary
  9. Tarragon
  10. Thyme
  11. Winter Savory

Related References

GROWING SUNFLOWERS

Sunflowers seem to have the ability to lift the spirits, creating a feeling of inner happiness. If you’d like to welcome this vivacious summer flower into your garden this year, then this home gardener’s guide on how to grow sunflowers can show you how.

In this home gardeners guide on growing sunflowers you will learn:

  • The meaning of sunflowers
  • Sunflower origins and history
  • Best ways to grow sunflowers
  • Sunflower pests and diseases
  • How to harvest and store your sunflower seeds

Sunflowers have long been a children’s favorite, the sheer size that some varieties can grow to make them fun and exciting. They are perfect for a little bit of friendly competition to see who can grow the tallest flower. They are also great for creating a striking floral arrangement or to add height to the back of a flower border, where they are best grown in groups. Other than their beauty, sunflowers also provide nutritious seeds that you can eat or feed to birds and other animals.

The large yellow flower heads of sunflowers with their bright yellow petals, which so much resemble the sun, are fittingly called “rays.” There are lots of varieties to choose from, varying in size from small to giant, and all are fairly easy to grow even for a novice gardener.

Why Sunflowers Follow the Sun, their Meaning and History

Not only are sunflowers very beautiful, but they are also fascinating. There is some confusion about whether or not sunflowers follow the sun and the reason for this may be because they only display their sun following behavior for part of their life and not when they are blooming.

Why Sunflowers Follow the Sun

Young sunflower heads follow the sun across the sky. This phenomenon is known as “heliotropism.”

Sunflowers contain auxins, which are growth hormones sensitive to sunlight. Auxins don’t like sunlight and naturally migrate to the shadiest parts of the plant. As the sun moves, the auxins are continually driven around the stem causing it to grow a little in each area that they settle. This causes the head of the sunflower to move, making it appear to follow the sun.

As the flower heads develop and bloom, they become fixed facing east, but the heliotropism still makes the flower heads rise up to face the sun as it rises, which also helps to maximize photosynthesis. Facing east helps the flower to warm up quickly and attract more pollinating insects.

When the sunflower matures, and seeds start to develop, the plants no longer display heliotropism and finally droop down due to the weight of the seed.

Meaning

Sunflowers are a flower of happiness. They symbolize loyalty, devotion, honor, integrity, sincerity, and longevity. It is thought much of this meaning comes from the sunflower’s namesake, the sun. The sun shines down energy in the form of heat and light, while sunflowers provide us with energy by lifting our spirits, and from their nourishing seeds and oils.

An ancient Greek myth about Apollo and the woman who loved him named Clytie, tells of Apollo spurning Clytie and turning her into a sunflower. Despite this, she continued to love him which is why sunflowers are symbols of adoration and loyalty in many parts of the world.

In China, sunflowers symbolize long life and good fortune, due to their imposing size and vibrant color they also symbolize vanity.

In the Native American culture, sunflowers mean harvest and bounty, because they provide food in the form of seeds & also color pigments

History

Today sunflowers are prized for their beauty, seeds, and oils, which can be used for beauty and food products. But these large yellow flowers have been the focus of many a famous artist, probably the most famous being Vincent Van Gogh, but Paul Gauguin and Gustav Klimt have also featured this beautiful plant in their paintings.

The name “Sunflower” or correct Latin name “Helianthus” comes from the Greek words “Helios” which means sun and “Anthos” which means flower.

Sunflowers have been purposefully grown from around 3,000BC, which has been discovered from sunflower seeds being found at archeological sites. In the United States, sunflowers were cultivated by Native Americans in the Mississippi river valley for their seeds, oil, and fiber and also as a medicine.

When Europeans started to settle in the United States, they prized the sunflowers they found there and sent seeds back to Europe. Sunflowers became popular as an ornamental plant in many English cottage gardens as can be seen in the paintings from Van Gogh’s and his counterparts.

Sunflowers also gained great popularity in Russia, because their oil could be eaten without breaking their strict religious dietary laws. Russian growers in the 20th Century started to breed selectively to maximize the plants’ oil content and make it more disease resistant.

By the 1960s specially selected sunflower cultivars were being grown commercially in the United States on an industrial scale, mostly to produce vegetable oil.

Sunflowers remain a popular commercial crop in many parts of the world, as the oil has many uses, from cooking and cosmetics to biofuel.

How to Grow Sunflowers

Sunflowers are a hardy plant and will grow even in relatively poor soils. They can tolerate a soil pH of between 6.0 and 7.5 quite happily and are drought resistant due to their ancestry growing on the vast American prairies. They do not however like waterlogged soil, so if you are in a heavy clay area you may have to do some soil modification to prevent this problem.

Varieties

There are a vast number of sunflower varieties for you to choose from. Sunflowers don’t just come in yellow either, there are also other color options available to try too. Here are a few varieties to illustrate this:

Tall Sunflowers

  • Skyscraper – A very large sunflower with petals of around 14 inches in length. It can grow to 12 feet in height and has a large seed head.
  • American Giant – really lives up to its name featuring a large seed head and growing to heights of around 15 feet it can also span up to a foot in width!
  • Russian Mammoth – Is an easy to grow specimen with large seed head, which is popular at county fairs because of its height of 12 feet.

Dwarf Sunflowers

Dwarf sunflowers are generally more popular for garden ornamental displays of for flower arrangements. They grow to a maximum height of three feet and look great in bunches.

  • Little Becka – This sunflower could also be classed in our next category of colored sunflowers, but it is also a dwarf variety growing to only one or two feet in height. It has deep orange petals with yellow tips and will add a vibrant splash of color to any garden or arrangement.
  • Sundance Kid – Was one of the first sunflower varieties to be domesticated. It is unusual as it has multi-layered petals with a small seed head. It stands at about one to two feet in height.
  • Sunny Smile – Is a perfect miniature of one of the larger sunflower varieties, with a large seed head for its size it can grow from 12 to 15 inches in height. It has particularly stout stalks and can take abuse from pets and children in the garden.

Colored Sunflowers

Hybridizing sunflowers has created some amazing colored varieties, perfect for adding a splash of color to your flower arrangements or garden borders.

  • Earthwalker – features a golden halo around its large seed head, which turns to deep reds.
  • Terracotta– has colors perfect for fall, ranging from burnt orange, golds and deep yellow.
  • Ms. Mars – has beautiful red and purple hues that graduate to subtle yellow at the tips.

Sowing Seeds

The best way to grow sunflowers is by planting the seeds directly into the soil where they are to be grown. The seeds can be sown as soon as any danger of frost has passed in the spring, or you can start them indoors in individual pots. The small peat pots are useful for this purpose as they biodegrade. Ideally, the outdoor soil temperature should be between 55- and 60-degrees Fahrenheit before planting.

To plant the seeds outdoors:

  • Make a shallow trench in the soil of about 1 ½ to 2 inches in depth. If you are going to be growing several rows, then the rows should be around 2 to 3 feet apart to allow the plants to gain maximum light as they grow.
  • Place a seed approximately every 6 inches if you are growing the larger headed seed varieties. For smaller varieties, used for flower arranging or decorative planting, space them closer together a minimum of 2 inches apart.
  • Place the soil back over the seeds and water gently so you don’t wash them away. The soil should be kept lightly damp, not wet, you can test this by digging your finger down alongside the seed trench to make sure the soil is damp and not dry or wet.
  • The seedling sprouts should appear between 7 and 10 days after sowing.
  • Once the seedlings have acquired their second set of leaves, they should be thinned out to 2 feet for larger headed plants and 1 foot for smaller ones.
  • Depending on growing conditions and seed variety, the plants will mature in 80 to 120 days.
  • If you wish to prolong your sunflower season, sow a new row of seeds every two to three weeks until the first frosts in the autumn. By doing this you can enjoy beautiful flowers throughout the summer months.

If you want to start your seeds off indoors, fill your peat pots or seed trays with multi-purpose compost and sow an individual seed into each one. Keep moist, not wet. When your seeds have germinated allow the seedlings to grow their second set of leaves then transfer them into larger pots. Keep them in a warm sunny place and when they reach 12 inches you can plant them in the garden or put them into large ornamental pots to place on a patio or deck. Make sure that the pot you select will be big enough to allow the root ball to grow sufficiently, or you will stunt the growth of your sunflowers.

Plant Care

Unless your soil is of particularly poor quality, your sunflowers shouldn’t require fertilizing. If you do want to give them a boost, it is best to add a slow release granular fertilizer to the soil. Over-fertilizing can cause a delay in blooming.

The root ball will spread quite widely, which helps make the plant stable and fairly drought tolerant. Because sunflowers hate having their roots in waterlogged soil, it is best to water deeply every two to three days, giving the soil time to drain in between.

If you have particularly heavy clay soil, you may need to add soil amendments in the form of organic matter. Clay soil is generally nutrient-rich, so fertilizer shouldn’t be necessary. Another option is to create raised beds where you can use compost and grass trimmings to create a light, nutrient-rich soil.

Adding a layer of mulch to about 2 to 3 inches in depth around your sunflowers will help discourage weeds and helps retain moisture lost through evaporation. This can be useful in warmer areas or in sandy soils where the soil becomes dry quickly.

Sunflower do not generally require staking, but if you live in an area that is prone to wind, then it can be advisable as a precaution, particularly if you are growing very tall varieties with large seed heads.

If you are growing sunflowers for their height, there is no need to pinch them out. If however, you are growing them to use in floral arrangements, pinching out will stunt the growth of the plant and cause it to produce a lot more blooms, which can be beneficial. Pinching out is the process of removing the growing tip of the plant when it reaches about 8 to 10 inches in height, you can do it by pinching the tip with your thumb and forefinger.

As your sunflowers start producing seeds, the local wildlife will take full advantage. That is unless you take precautions to prevent this. If you enjoy watching the birds and squirrels feast on the bounty provided by your sunflowers that’s fine, but if you want to use the seeds for yourself you will need to cut the heads off when they droop and allow them to dry before removing the seeds.

Deer can be a big problem as they are rather partial to the tasty young leaves on a sunflower. You can use chicken wire supported by sturdy 6-foot bamboo stakes to deter them.

Harvesting A Mature, Dry, Sunflower
Harvesting A Mature, Dry, Sunflower

Harvesting

As the sunflowers heads droop and no longer turn upward to face the sun and the underside of the flower head turns from green to brown, they will be ready to harvest.

Remove the seed head leaving a foot of stem still attached. Hang them somewhere warm and dry and ensure they have plenty of ventilation. Hanging them helps prevent rodents from reaching them. Allow them to dry out for several weeks and when they are completely dry you will be able to easily remove the seeds by rubbing two sunflower heads together, you can also use your fingers or a kitchen fork. Spread the seeds out on a tray and allow them to dry for a few more days before storing them in airtight containers. Glass mason jars are perfect for this purpose. Keep them in a cool dark place to retain the oils and flavor of the seeds.

Be aware that all parts of the sunflower give off growth inhibiting substances that can affect other plants. For this reason, keep them away from pole beans or potatoes.

Chipmunk Eating Sunflower
Chipmunk Eating Sunflower

Pests and Disease

Sunflowers are quite hardy, but they can sometimes become infected by fungal disease including rust and mildew.

Mildew – The oldest leaves are generally the first to become infected. The mildew appears on the underside of the leaves causing them to turn mottled and pale before withering and eventually dying. Warm humid days combined with cool damp nights are the favorite conditions for mildew. It spreads its spores in soil, wind, and rain and can also contaminate garden tools.

Rust – This disease causes yellow or white spots that gradually turn dark brown or black. The spots appear on the tops of the leaves. It can spread to the entire plant and can be contracted from weeds, including shepherd’s purse, wild mustard, lamb’s quarters and pigweed.

To get rid of these diseases keep a careful eye out as catching them early is preferable. Treat by spraying with a garden fungicide and follow the directions given on the label. It is best to burn badly affected plants to stop the disease from spreading to healthy ones. Ensure you disinfect your garden tools, this can be done by dipping them in a mixture of 4 parts water to 1-part household bleach. Ensure you don’t cross contaminate plants with your hands or garden gloves, keep them clean.

Sunflower Moth – This small grey moth will lay its eggs on the developing sunflower blossoms. The caterpillars are a yellow-green color with 5 brown stripes across their backs. They will feed within the flower head and this destroys the seeds. Remove any caterpillars you find and squash them before disposing of them. If the plant has become infected, you can dust it with a product that contains Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) this is a bacterium that kills the caterpillars. Bt is destroyed by sunlight and rain so it can be necessary to treat the plants several times. Follow the directions given on the label.

Conclusion

Growing sunflowers can be great fun and these beautiful happy blooms give pleasure not only when they are flowering but also afterward with their seeds and oil.

Sunflowers can be grown to give height in a garden border, or to create a colorful focal point. They are good for using in floral displays and with the colored varieties, you can now find even more sunflowers to fit your color scheme.

The main reason for sunflower growing around the world is for their seeds, oils and plant fibers which have great commercial value.

Whatever your reason is for growing sunflowers I hope that you enjoy it and have great success in your endeavors.

Growing Epazote

I want to thank you for buying this book, ‘Growing Epazote – A Home Gardener’s Guide’ and I hope you will find it informative and useful.

Gardening is a pleasurable and enjoyable hobby. It is also one of those hobbies that require a lot of patience. However, the results are exquisite. It is one of the rare hobbies in which you need to deal with real living things and take care of them. Gardeners love their plants and consider them to be their friends.

Nowadays many gardeners, old and new, are looking out for certain plants and shrubs that were once considered to be weeds. While these plants held special places in various cultures, due to commercialization, their invasive nature and lack of information regarding them had deemed them as weeds. However, most of these plants and shrubs are not only beautiful, but they have various beneficial properties as well. Such a plant, which is often considered to be a weed, is epazote.

Epazote is an ancient plant that holds a significant place in Latin American culture. Nowadays, more and more people want to grow epazote thanks to its pungent but exciting flavor and its anti-flatulence properties. If you are one of these people, this book will help you grow epazote in no time. 

Epazote is quite easy to grow which is why even new and amateur gardeners won’t have any problems growing it. Read on to find out how to introduce this delicious herb into your garden right away!

I hope you will use the information provided in this book to make your home and garden greener and your food tastier.

Epazote – Understanding The Herb

Before moving on to growth and care tips regarding epazote, it is first necessary to understand the plant itself. This chapter will briefly explain the various properties, qualities and certain warnings regarding growing, using and consuming epazote.

Epazote is a commonly grown herb crop in the Yuma area. However, the percentage of growers who grow this crop is quite small. Not many people are aware of Epazote ‘s popularity and importance. Epazote is a leafy vegetable that is often used as an herb for its pungent flavor. It is either used raw or is often cooked along with various other ingredients. It is extremely pungent and resinous. It tastes a bit like fennel, anise or tarragon. However, the taste is much stronger. The fragrance is strong too and it is difficult to describe, as it does not match any other scent.

Epazote sounds like rather an exotic name. However, it is still better than various other names that this herb has. Some people call it goosefoot, pigweed, skunkweed or wormseed. These names are not random, as epazote comes from the Aztec words ‘epatl’ and ‘tzol.’ These two words taken together roughly translate to smelly animal. Other, far better names include Mexican. People rarely refer to it as Chenopodium ambrosioides either. As mentioned earlier, epazote holds a dear and special place in the Central American and Latin American culture. It is commonly used in Guatemalan and Central American cuisines.

As mentioned in the section above, epazote is extremely strong and pungent which is why people often consider it to be an acquired taste. Some people complain of it being too bitter with slight hints of lemon. Certain people tend to replace epazote with Mexican oregano, which is often found to be more palatable for fussy eaters. However, no herb or ingredient can replace epazote and its pungent but appetizing taste.

Different parts of the epazote have different flavors. However, only the leaves of the plant are fit for human consumption. Other parts can prove to be toxic and must be avoided. Young leaves of the plant are richer yet milder in flavor as compared to the older leaves. The flavor becomes more and more intense with age.

Epazote is suitable for tropical as well as sub-tropical climatic conditions. If grown properly it can grow over 3 feet. It is often discarded as a weed in places like Mexico and the USA. It is invasive and a rapid grower and it is possible that you may already have some in your garden, or a local park, though if you plan to consume epazote, it is recommended to plant a new one only for consumption. Do not use leaves from your park or any other public place.

Commercially Available Packets Of Herbs
Commercially Available Packets Of Herbs

Where to Find Epazote

While the main concern of this book is to help you grow epazote, it is always better to try some out before choosing to grow it. Epazote is commonly available in many Hispanic and Latin Markets. It is available in dry as well as fresh forms. If fresh epazote is not available, dry epazote can be used and is every bit as tasty. Dry epazote is available on various e-commerce sites.

Epazote in Mason Jar Filled With Water
Epazote in Mason Jar Filled With Water

Storing Epazote

Epazote is a hardy plant and thus storing it is easy. However, as it is an herb, it is perishable, and thus care must be taken to keep Epazote fresh. Whether you grow epazote or whether you buy fresh Epazote from the market, always take care of the leaves to make them last longer. You should store the fresh stems in a tumbler of fresh water. If you do not want to keep it out in the open, you can keep it wrapped in some moist paper towels and then keep them in the refrigerator. One stem of fresh epazote is about one teaspoon of dried epazote.  

Squash/Pumpkin Blossom Quesadillas
Squash/Pumpkin Blossom Quesadillas

Uses

Epazote has various uses, and thus many people want to grow it nowadays.

Traditionally, epazote has been used to flavor beans and for the carminative properties of epazote. It is often used to flavor other Mexican dishes, such as squash flower quesadillas, as well. For instance, epazote can be used to season soups, quesadillas, eggs, and potatoes, mole de olla and enchiladas.

You will be surprised to know that epazote has been used for thousands of years. The ancient Aztecs used it to flavor their cooking and for its various medicinal benefits.

Epazote can be used to treat hookworms, roundworms, amebic dysentery, small tapeworms, excess mucus, and asthma as well.

Externally, it can be used to treat insect bites and athlete’s foot. It also has insecticidal properties and can be used against mosquitoes and insect larvae.

Epazote is a strong laxative and has various laxative properties. With the help of these properties, it can stop the functioning of parasites and can halt their advancement in the intestines. It has been used as an essential oil since the nineteenth century in diluted and concentrated forms. In the 20th century, pharmaceutical companies started isolating and using it too.

People also use fresh epazote leaves to create wall hangings, floral decorations, etc. You can create wreaths, dried floral decorations, etc. Always be careful while using and handling dried leaves and seeds of epazote as they may irritate the skin. The seeds are known to cause various reactions including dermatitis etc. to people who are sensitive to spicy foods and spices.

Problems

Epazote, while delicious, is a risky condiment just like cinnamon. The risk can be minimized if you know how to use it. Some people believe that epazote’s taste is addictive. However, it is recommended to avoid epazote in large quantities. Only add a couple of leaves to your food to bring out its flavors. If you want to add dried leaves, then add according to the recipe. If you are not sure how to use epazote, you may need to talk to your Latin American friends.

Now you must be wondering where to find epazote, or you must be excited about growing it in your garden. Find out more about how to grow epazote in your garden, home or even in water in the following chapters.

Epazote In Raised Bed With Cilantro In The Background
Epazote In Raised Bed With Cilantro In The Background

Growing Epazote

Epazote is delicious as well as a beautiful plant that can make your garden look fresh and green and your foods are tastier. If you love the taste of epazote, it is best to grow it in your garden to ensure a steady supply.

Growing your epazote is simple. Epazote has large serrated leaves, and it also gives out flowers with tiny green balls. It is recommended to consume only the leaves of the plant. The plant is an annual, and its leaves can be used as an insecticide as well. If you crush the leaves and spread it on paths, it can make ants go away. Dry epazote can be used to get rid of ants as well. While only leaves are fit for human consumption, some people also like to add thin stems of leaves to their food. If you do decide to use the stems, pulverize them and let them cook for a long time.

All about Growing Epazote

Epazote grows well in all seasons if you live in a tropical or sub-tropical region. However, if you live in any other region then it is best to plant epazote in spring after the ‘dangerous’ frosts are long gone. Epazote needs slightly high temperature throughout the day. The temperature should reach at least 50 degrees. Any less and the growth will not be satisfactory. Always grow epazote in well-drained soil and full sunlight.

Seed Sowing Depth

Epazote seeds are small and thus should not be sown too deep. It is recommended to sow them at the surface of the soil. If you live in a windy zone, sow them at 1/16-inch depth. Always keep the soil warm and moist as it helps germination. As said in the last section, the temperature should be around 50 degrees. Epazote grows quickly and can be invasive and it is therefore recommended to allow the area some growing space. If you are not comfortable with the plant taking over your garden, only plant it in containers. This way you will be able to keep it under control.

When to Sow

For subtropical and tropical regions, you can sow epazote seeds throughout the year. For people who live in moderate zones, seeds can be sown in mid-spring when the temperatures are moderately high. Seeds germinate and grow in about 2-4 weeks. Some plants may even grow fully and be ready for harvest in a month or two. If you sow seeds over a stretched period, you will be able to ensure a long harvest. Sow the seeds throughout the spring.

As epazote is native to tropical regions, it grows the best in zones 2-7. It may even grow up to 2 to 4 feet. If you live in colder regions, it is recommended to grow it in containers so that you can bring it in if the temperature drops out of the blue.

Do not plant seeds in loamy soil. Always sow them where the roots will not be submerged in water for long. Sun is crucial for good flavor.

Seedlings Herbs In Starter Pots
Seedlings Herbs In Starter Pots

Sowing Indoors/Outdoors

Epazote grows the best outside, as it requires high temperature and direct sunlight. However, it can also be grown indoors in soil as well as water.

If you want to sow epazote indoors, do it in a place that receives ample sunlight. Windowsills and balconies are the best places for growing epazote. Seeds can be either started in growing medium, tissues or soil as well. Once the seedlings are ready, you can transfer them to containers containing growing media or soil. You can also transfer them to containers containing water. Epazote can grow well in water that is replenished with nutrients sparingly.

It is recommended to grow epazote for at least 4-6 weeks before moving them outside (if you want to). If you do not want to grow them outside at all, you may continue to grow them on windowsills.

While epazote can grow in water, their growth will not be as satisfactory as epazote grown outside in the soil.

Plant Height & Width

Epazote plants are medium length shrubs and can grow up to 4 feet. They have reddish stems with dark green, serrated leaves. They are about 9-10 inches wide.

Epazote Herb Plant Closeup
Epazote Herb Plant Closeup

Leaf Color/Description

Epazote leaves are bright, dark green and come out of the reddish stem of the mature plant. They have serrated edges, i.e., edges that look like teeth. They can also produce tiny flowers that grow right with the stems. These flowers then grow into seedpods.

Growth Habits

Epazotes are rapid growers and quickly gain their standard height of about 4ft. If you continuously harvest the tip of the plant after every couple of weeks, the plant will continue to grow and get more and bushy as well. This will also allow you to harvest the herb throughout the growing season.

Epazotes do the best in warm weather where the temperature does not drop below 50 very often. Do not water the plants too much and a dense watering thrice a week is sufficient. If it does not rain, you may increase the watering. Do not use a forceful stream or pressurized water to water the plant, as its stem is often quite delicate. Do not over water or it will lead to root-rot.

Pests & Diseases of Epazote

Epazote naturally has almost no pests as the texture of the plant and the scent of the leaves act as a deterrent to parasites and pests all over. Epazote can also help you to get rid of pests from other plants, as pests will leave any area where epazote grows.

Crushing and spreading leaves of epazote plant can help you get rid of annoying pests like ants etc. from your house.

How to store Epazote

The beauty of Epazote is that it can be used and stored in a variety of ways. To store your Epazote, you have essentially three options:

  • For short-term storage, you can either store it fresh in the refrigerator,
  • For long-term storage you can:
    • freeze the fresh herbs for later use, which can be accomplished in more than one way,
    • or dry the herbs and store in your cupboard, pantry or root cellar.

Drying Epazote

Some people say that it’s not worth drying Epazote because it loses its flavor when dried, but I disagree. While the flavor may not be as intense as a fresh bunch from the garden, there is still plenty of culinary use for dried Epazote in everyday cooking.

There are several ways of drying Epazote which include

  • Air dry/brown paper bag/solar
  • Food dehydrator
  • Oven Drying

Oven Drying

To oven dry your Epazote, preheat oven to 250-300 degrees F. Lightly coat a cookie sheet with baking spray to help with sticking. Strip the leaves off the stems of the Epazote and spread the leaves in one layer on the cookie sheet. Let, the leaves dry out in the oven for 20-30 minutes, check once. You just want the leaves to lose the fresh green look. Take them out of the oven and cool on the cookie sheet. Use a spatula to scrape off the cookie sheet, and slightly crumble the leaves. Put in an airtight jar and store with spices, use when needed! These will last as long as any other dried herb.

Hanging Air dried herbs
Hanging Air Dried Herbs

Air drying

To air dry your Epazote herbs,

  • Wash, the Epazote under cool, running water and dry it thoroughly, but gently, with a paper towel.
  • Gather the Epazote together and tie the stem ends together with a string for them to be used immediately.
  • Hang the Epazote bunch in a dry area until all the water evaporates from the leaves of the herb.
  • Place the bunch upside down in a paper bag. Tie the paper bag closed and poke several holes in the bag with the tip of a knife to allow for ventilation.
  • Hang the bag in a warm, dry area that is not in direct sunlight.

Open the bag and check the herbs every few days to see if the Epazote is sufficiently dry. The herb should feel crisp and crumble easily in your hand, with no areas of moisture. It should take about one to two weeks to properly dry your Epazote.

Tips:

  • Keeping the Epazote in a bag while it dries allows the leaves to drop into the bag rather than onto the floor or counter.
  • Store the dried Epazote in a sealed, airtight container.
  • Dried Epazote tastes best when added to cooked dishes as opposed to salsas or salads.
  • Select Epazote for drying that has fresh, healthy leaves; avoid Epazote with wilted leaves.
  • Store fresh Epazote until you are able to dry it by placing the stems in 1 inch of water and covering the plant with a plastic bag. Fresh Epazote should keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Herbs On Dehydrator Shelves
Herbs On Dehydrator Shelves

Drying with dehydrator

Soak your Epazote herbs in a bowl of water. After they have soaked for a few minutes, put the leaves in a salad spinner or large dish towel and give it a twirl. This helps to make the leaves as dry as possible.

Next, remove the stems of the herbs. Some people prefer to dry their herbs without removing the stems; it is a matter of personal preference. Once the leaves are completely dry, the stems will be minimal, so you decide what’s best. If you plan to grind the dried leaves into powder, the stems will not make a difference.

Once you’ve cleaned and dried the Epazote leaves, lay them on dehydrator trays in a single layer. It is okay to have the leaves touch. They will not stick together when they are dried.

You should process these in your favorite dehydrator at 110° for approximately 1 to 3 hours. They dry fairly quickly so keep an eye out. You’ll know they are done when the leaves are crisp and crumble between your fingers.

Open Storage Jar of Home Dried Epazote
Open Storage Jar of Home Dried Epazote

How to store dehydrated Epazote

To store dehydrated Epazote, place the dried Epazote in an airtight container and keep in a cool, dark, dry place for the best flavor and color.

Use the leaves within a year. Keep the leaves whole; they have a longer shelf life than ground herbs. For the best flavor crush or grind the leaves just before using.

Dried Epazote lasts as long as two years, and you don’t have to worry about freezer burn or other problems that occur when freezing food.

Freezing Epazote

If you have the freezer space or happen to have a second freezer as we did for many years, freezing is a good way to preserve Epazote, which, also, has the benefit of retaining more of the original flavor of Epazote then drying does.

There are three basic methods for freezing Epazote:

  • The Ice Cube Method
  • The Vacuum Sealer Method, and
  • The Cookie Sheet Method
Frozen cubes of herbs

Ice Cube Method

One way of freezing Epazote is to add the leaves or parts of leaves to ice cube trays in water or broth before freezing. This method is useful for adding small quantities to recipes, especially soup, stews, and casseroles.

Equipment Required: 

  • Salad Spinner or two clean spongy kitchen towels 
  • Kitchen shears or sharp knife and cutting board 
  • Ice Cube Trays
  • measuring spoons

Ingredients

  • Entire leaf or hacked Epazote 
  • Fresh faucet water 
  • Pick through the fresh Epazote and dispose of damaged leaves. Spin drying or pat dry between two kitchen towels to remove as much moisture as possible. 
  • Strip off the leaves from the stem.
  • Dice the Epazote and add to ice cube trays.
  • Fill every compartment with leaves. 
  • Top off with filtered water or broth and place in the freezer. 
  • When the ice cubes have frozen, remove the Epazote cubes.
  • Store in water and air-proof freezer bag or container in your freezer. 

How to use cubes:

Vacuum Sealer Method

This method preserves more color and flavor by keeping the leaves sealed.

Equipment Required:

  • Vacuum sealer with proper bag material 
  • Salad Spinner or clean spongy kitchen towels 
  • Kitchen shears or sharp knife 

Method: 

  • Wash and gently spin dry or gently pat dry with kitchen towels to remove excess moisture. 
  • Cut or remove the stems
  • Make a bag large enough to hold the Epazote leaves and allow some headspace between the herb and the seal. 
  • Label bag with herb name and date it. 
  • Place herbs into the bag. 
  • Vacuum seal the bag. 
  • Place flat in the freezer. After the bags have frozen solid, they can be put away upright or stacked to save space.

The Cookie Sheet Method

This method is in common use as most homes still do not have vacuum sealers in their kitchens. The cookie sheet method, also, preserves more color and flavor than drying Epazote.

Equipment Required:

  • Air tight freezer bag or plastic freezer containers
  • A cookie sheet or sheet pan which will fit on your freezer shelves
  • Salad Spinner or clean spongy kitchen towels 
  • Kitchen shears or sharp knife

Method: 

  • Wash and gently spin dry or gently pat dry with kitchen towels to remove excess moisture. 
  • Cut or remove the stems
  • Label bag with herb name and date it. 
  • Line the cookie sheet with parchment paper
  • Spread the Epazote leaves on top of the parchment paper
  • Spread the leaves on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet (not touching one another) in successive layers of parament paper and Epazote. For best results, at most three to five layers are recommended.
  • You can place a final layer of parchment paper and top with a second cookie sheet to gently press the leaves flat.
  • Let the leaves freeze a few hours or overnight.
  • Once the leaves are thoroughly frozen, quickly remove the leaves from the cookie sheet, and parchment paper, and pack the Epazote leaves loosely inside small freezer bags or freezer containers for long-term storage. 

How long can Epazote stored in the freezer?

If properly stored, it will maintain the best quality for about 4 to 6 months but will remain safe beyond that time.

Conclusion

Thank you for buying this book, and I hope you found it useful and interesting.

Gardening is a fun way to relax and enjoy the beautiful and often tasty results of your hard work. Epazote is a brilliant starter plant for everyone who is interested in growing herbs and is an amateur gardener. It is easy to grow and care for the plant and can be grown anywhere.

Epazote is quite potent, and only a small amount is needed to make your dish pop! This means you can grow a couple of plants, and they will last you throughout the season. If you are new to the taste of epazote, use it in various quantities to find one that suits and soothes your taste buds. Remember, it is always better to add less spice than more as it is possible to make up for less but removing more is almost impossible.

Once again thank you and good luck!

The Juniper Shrub

Juniper Shrub
Juniper Shrub

I have very distinct memories of Juniper shrubs from my youth in Eastern Oregon where we just called hem Junipers. It was not until I arrived in Texas, where everyone calls Them Cedars that I even realize they were cedars. Junipers shrubs are ubiquitous across the arid regions of the United States.

Description Of A Juniper

  • The Juniper (Juniperus communis ), also known as cedar, this treelike shrub which , depending on variety, can grow to a height of 20 feet or more and a width of 20 feet,
  • Junipers have tiny, scaly evergreen leaves that are densely crowded on the branches. A Junipers berrylike cones are usually blue and whitish wax coated.

Where Do Juniper Shrubs grow?

  • Junipers grow in open, semi-arid, places throughout the throughout North America, Europe, and Southwest Asia.

Juniper Berries
Juniper Berries

What Are The Edible Parts Of A Juniper?

  • The berries of juniper are edible raw.
  • Juniper twigs can be consumed as a tea.
  • Dried and crushed berries are good for seasoning meat.
  • The seeds can be roasted as a substitute for coffee.

Related References

Perennial – Mexican Oregano (Poliomintha longiflora)

Mexican Oregano (Poliomintha longiflora)
Mexican Oregano (Poliomintha longiflora)

Mexican Oregano is a culinary herb and native to North America,  even though in central Texas you are more likely to see it in landscaping that in the vegetable or herb garden.   Mexican Oregano has a very different flavor than Mediterranean oregano. Mexican Oregano stronger and more bitter, this more robust flavor makes a good companion for the spicier and stronger flavored seasons used in Mexican cooking. peppers, cumin).

Common Name

  • Rosemary Mint

Origin

  • Mexico and the southwest United States

Hardiness

  • Perennial
  • Evergreen
  • Drought tolerant
  • USDA hardiness zones: 9-10

Height

  • 2 – 4  feet

Spacing/Spread

  • 3 – 6 feet

Flower Color

  • Tubular lavender flowers, about,  1 inch long

Season

  • Blooms Spring until frost

Repels

  • Deer Resistant

Attracts

  • Butterflies
  • Bees

Requirements

  • Full to Partial Sun
  • Well-drained soil

Propagation

  • Easy to grow from root cuttings
  • Like Rosemary, the branches can be rooted and, pruned and transplanted.  Basically, scrap the bottom of a branch, cover with soil,  weight/pin it to the ground, and keep moist (don’t over water) it roots.  Then, prune the branch from the parent plane, gently dig it up (if you didn’t root it in a transplant pot), plant in new location water regularly, until the transplant has set in for the first season.

Use

Culinary Use

  • Frequently used as a replacement for oregano, although not botanically related. It is sweeter and less bitter than oregano. Used to flavor marinades, meats, tomato dishes, bean dishes, eggs, soups, and stews.

Medicinal Use

  • Used as a tea for respiratory infections, gastrointestinal tract disorders, nervous system complaints, and a palliative for sore throats. The plant was said to contain oils that had bacterial fighting properties.

Landscape Use

  • In central Texas, popular in landscaping as a middle tier perennial.  I usual plant them in groups of three to five plans, about 18 inches to two feet apart.

What Are Forage Foods?

Foraged edible dandelion flowers and greens in bowl

Forage foods, are foods which grow wild, or have escaped into the wild and are readily found along roadsides, in the fields, forests, and Meadows. They are an excellent way to supplement the foods you put on the table and/or preserve for winter, or later consumption. Forage foods can also be used to supplement foods raised in your home garden and backyard fruit and nut trees.  These food include the food long use in subsistence living and others.  Forage may also include animals (e.g meat) and animal produced foods (e.g. Honey). 

I have many fond memories of my youth where we forged in the forests fields and roadsides where we lived. These could range from wild berries to apple trees found in an old homestead on our property or neighbor’s property with permission.

Here is a quick list of forage foods that I can think of off the top of my head. Some of these foods, especially mushrooms, will require some special handling and special knowledge to be safely eaten.

Quick List of Forage Foods

  • Acorns (Nut)
  • Alpine Strawberry
  • American Persimmon
  • Autumn Olive
  • Bamboo (Shoots)
  • Barberry
  • Beechnut
  • Black Walnuts
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberry
  • Butternut
  • Cattail (Typha latifolia)
  • Chamomile
  • Chickweed
  • Chicory
  • Chili Peppers
  • Curly Dock
  • Damsons
  • Dandelions
  • Dewberries
  • Duck-potato (Sagittaria latifolia)
  • Elderberry
  • Epasote (Spanish Bean Herb)
  • Ferns
  • Fox Grape
  • Garlic Mustard
  • Gooseberry
  • Hickory Nut
  • Juniper Shrub
  • Kelp / Seaweed
  • Kudzu
  • Lingonberry
  • Mesquite
  • Mulberry
  • Mullein
  • Muscadine Grape
  • Mushrooms
  • Nettles
  • Paw Paw
  • Pecan nut
  • Persimmon
  • Pine Nuts
  • Prickly Pear Cactus
  • Rose Hips
  • Salmonberry
  • Sassafras
  • Sheep sorrel
  • Sloes
  • Sumac
  • Tepary Beans (Phaseolus acutifolius)
  • Watercress
  • Wild Asparagus
  • Wild Cherries (Prunus species)
  • Wild Onion
  • Wild Rice (Zizania Aquatica)
  • Wood Sorrel

Related References