Sunday, August 31, 2014

Make Your Own Hot Sauce

Hot sauce can be made from any peppers you grow.
This has been an outstanding year for peppers and tomatoes in our area. We've been canning spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce and tomato juice, and now it's time to turn attention to making hot sauce for winter and gifts.

One of the reasons I write books is so I can keep track of my recipes and my hot sauce book is a good example. When I wrote it, I tried and tested my recipes before putting them in the text. All are easy to follow, can be varied according to your heat preferences and it tells how to preserve, can or freeze each recipe. So this week, I'm making hot sauce!
40 pages of my own favorite recipes.
Here's one of my recipes, which is quite simple and easy to make. You can keep it in the refrigerator, or can it (instructions are in the book for safely canning hot sauce). To order the book, or read more, click here.

Quick & Easy Hot Sauce
This is a tasty, versatile recipe, vary it with the ingredients you have on hand.
Use it on scrambled eggs, grilled meats or as a marinade.

4 cups coarsely chopped mixed
peppers, such as cayenne,
Serrano, etc, stems removed but
caps left on, stems removed
2 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 tablespoon salt

1. Combine the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If the sauce
is too thick, add water.
2. Strain, discarding solids, or leave them in where they will continue to
further flavor the sauce.
3. Refrigerate for up to 5-6 weeks. Makes 3-4 cups.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

300 Year Old Botanist Visits Tulsa

300 year old John Bartram, in the form of Kirk Ryan Brown, spoke to the Tulsa Herb Society this week. Less known than Carl Linnaeus, the notable plant botanist, Bartram, was responsible for enormous numbers of plant discoveries and plants entering general usage.

John Bartram, prolific botanist of the 1700s.
John Bartram ranting about Carl Linnaeus.
John (Kirk Brown) in the background, shown next to the statue of Carl Linnaeus in Tulsa. John never received the recognition that Linnaeus did, partly because Linnaeus was a self-promoter and a "hog for the headlines" according to Bartram. Carl Linnaeus, did eventually call Bartram "the greatest natural botanist in the world."
Our friend, Sue Stees, who co-hosted Kirk's visit to the Tulsa Herb Society.
John Bartram, telling his story of botanizing and seed selling.
Bartram was sometimes called "the father of American botany" because of his extensive plant and seed collecting. Bartram started the first retail seed company in America and the company continued to thrive for several generations after him.
Tables of refreshments were on hand - herb groups always love to eat!

Delicious refreshments and period beverages were enjoyed by all.
John Bartram, an American hero.
Bartram's contribution to American agriculture and gardening is enormous. While Carl Linneaus got publicity and naming rights to enormous numbers of plants, Bartram is almost forgotten today.

Bartram's Gardens survive to this day and you can visit them. Here's the link to details.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Herb of the Year Artemisia

Copyright, 2014 Jim Long
The official Herb of the Year for 2014 is Artemisia, which encompasses a large and diverse family of plants. Probably the best-known Artemisia relative is French Tarragon, which a decade ago was on the list of the top 10 most-purchased plants in the U.S. (It has fallen off the top ten list, replaced a few yeas back in popularity and sales, by cilantro; to read more about the Top Ten Most Popular Herbs, from my nationwide survey, read my book by that title, click here for info).

French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus 'Sativa')
Another in this family of plants is absinthe (Artemisia absinthium), best known for the anise-flavored beverage, Absinthe. The spirit once had a bad reputation, mistakenly for the belief the ingredients could cause mental illness. It had great popularity as an alcoholic drink in the late 1800s, especially among writers and artists in France. Prohibitionists portrayed it as a dangerous and addictive drug and Absinthe was banned. Current studies have shown absinthe's properties were greatly exaggerated, and it was the over-consumption of alcohol, not the plant chemicals (thujones) present, that caused the problems. Absinthe is now manufactured by a variety of companies in both Europe and America. The plant itself is easy to grow and quite attractive.
Artemisia absinthium
With delightful gray-green leaves, the plant reaches to about 3 ft. in height and makes an excellent background or foliage plant in the landscape.
Leaves of the absinthe plant.
Yet another member of the Artemisia family is mugwort, (Artemisia vulgaris). It is seldom if ever used as a culinary herb, but its reputation in dream blends is well know. I use it in my own dream pillow formulas because it has been shown to help a person remember their dreams. (To read more, visit my Dream Pillows page of my website, or go to my Dream Pillows blog for stories about Dream Pillow use for quieting nightmares).
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris).
Upon first glance, Mugwort and Absinthe might look very similar but if you look closely, you'll see the leaves of Absinthe are more rounded and gray on top and bottom. Mugwort, by contrast, has pointed ends of the leaves and is green on top and gray on the underneath side. Another difference is Mugwort is invasive like mint, while Absinthe stays put as one plant much better.

To learn more about the Herb of the Year, visit the International Herb Association's website, click here.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Signs of Spring

I'm not alone in thinking "will spring ever come?" Friends in Minnesota told me they had 10 inches of snow this week. I mistakenly bragged slightly we'd had our first asparagus and morel mushrooms. The next day (3 days back) it was spitting snow and raining here and we got down to freezing. My shipment of hot pepper plants arrives tomorrow and I'm not even close to having the garden ready! But there are some encouraging signs.

It's a small handful, but still we take encouragement where we can find it!
These are just the early morels, the early white ones. The larger yellow morels will be coming up soon. Where do I find them? Primarily under elm, red oak and ash trees. But also under cedars and even a couple of times, in the gravel edge of road pavement (near an elm tree).
You have to look close to find morels.
But it's worth it when you find a bunch.

We had guests on Sunday and I served them tulips stuffed with chicken salad, deviled eggs, corn pudding, some of Josh's homemade sourdough bread, and a few morels for each of us. What I'd call, a perfect spring dinner. So there is hope that spring will eventually arrive and the cold will leave us for this season.
Happy spring!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Your Seed Order Helps Kids Gardening Project

A few of the 500 kids in one of their 3 gardens at school.
I've posted this before but thought a reminder would be in order since it's seed-ordering season. If you are going to order garden seed, consider ordering some of your seed through my website. On my home page, scroll down to the bottom and on the left you'll see this button:
We raised $465 from Renee Shepherd, from people who ordered her seed through our website, all of that money going directly to the kids' garden project. Thank you to all who ordered!
Kids gardening is important! When kids learn how to grow plants, learn where their food comes from and how to prepare healthy meals, they learn skills that will stay with them for their entire life. I've written about the amazing kids' garden project at the magnet school in Jonesboro, Arkansas, several times before. (Click here to see an earlier post and more photos). And here for the story about cooking with the kids in their amazing kitchen. But I thought you might like a reminder that this project is always struggling to find enough money for seed, soil and other supplies the kids need.

Learning to weed and identify the edible plants.
For 3 years we've had a button on our website, "Buy Seed, Help Kids." It's a project whereby you can order garden seed from, for your own garden, and Renee Shepherd generously donates 25% of the revenue from your order, back to the school! It's a wonderful project. Unfortunately we only raise about $25 a year for the school. I don't know if people don't find the link, or don't want to order seed, but if you go to our website,; here's the button you will see on the left side:

The lower left corner on our home page has the Help Children-Buy Seeds button. When you click on that, you are directed to a page with a code to enter when you place your order at Renee's Garden Seed You can order seed for your spring garden and when you order, it will count toward a donation for the kids' garden project, and you will receive outstanding seed.

Renee Shepherd, owner
Renee Shepherd donates to a wide variety of children's garden projects, both in the United States and in other countries. That's why we are so pleased to partner with her in helping this garden in Jonesboro, Arkansas. If you have not visited her website, please do so, her seed selections are outstanding and I grow many in my gardens each season.

To visit Renee's Garden website, go to our website at Long Creek Herbs, and click on the Help Children- Seeds button.  You'll find the link to Renee's Seeds website, look around and see if you aren't tempted by her spring seed offerings. Then when you order, use our code (it's in the instructions you'll see), so that she can make a donation to this wonderful project. Then, you will know that more kids, like this boy, below, can experience for the first time in their life, the taste and smell of a chive blossom and learn how to fix a meal using fresh herbs and vegetables right out of the garden.
I hope you'll consider ordering seed from Renee Shepherd, she has outstanding varieties you won't find anywhere else. And when you order, won't you do it through my website so the kids get credit? Thank you!
This was his first time smelling or tasting chives!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Papalo, an Old-Time South American Herb

Recently I've been working on a couple of magazine assignments about the hot new herbs and plants for 2014 for restaurants. My research started with new restaurant trends on-line, then I've been concentrating on interviews with chefs around the country. Not surprisingly, locally sourced produce is even bigger this year than last, new introductions of non-wheat pasta and noodles, sustainable seafood and children's menus in upscale restaurants are a few of the items.

Papalo, growing on mature plant.

One hot new herb that surprised me a bit for this year is papalo (Porophyllum macrocephalum), sometimes commonly dubbed "Buzzard's Breath" (although I'm guessing there won't be any chefs across the U.S. who will use that name; let's see, how might that sound on a menu..... farm-raised pork cemitas with seasonal chilies and buzzard's breath sauce...)

Used like cilantro in Bolivia, where my original seed start came from, as well in some states in Mexico, it's easy to see (or smell) why it got dubbed buzzard's breath. Just getting near the plant you'll get a whiff of something akin to aluminum with lemony overtones with some rue and other smells thrown in. That's on the mature plant, which isn't the stage of the plant normally used. The flavor has been described as something like a combination of arugula, mint and cilantro, although that doesn't quite describe it, either. The flavor is unique to the plant.
Cemitas, a Mexican sandwich.

Papalo is also commonly eaten raw on cemitas - sometimes known as a cemita poblana, which is a Mexican sandwich and street food that originated in the city of Puebla. Papalo is also sometimes found in guacamole and in Mexico it is used fresh in soups and stews. In Bolivia native Quechua people call it Killi and eat it daily just torn up onto foods. (If you use the search button on my blog for papalo, to the right, you can find more that I've written about this interesting herb).

Papalo sold as young, pulled seedlings in Acalpulco markets.

Papalo is showing up in gardens from California to New York City, and in markets with large Hispanic populations. However, a lot of Hispanics from other parts of Mexico or South America may not know the plant at all. I found it in the markets in Acalpulco when I visited there a few years back and admit I didn't understand the plant at all until then. I'd always let mine get to 3 or 4 feet tall and found the flavor of the leaves unpleasant. But in the markets of Acalpulco I discovered it was being grown as seedlings, the whole plant pulled up at about 12 to 15 inches tall, and the flavor of the plant was vastly better than from the mature plant.

Vendor in Mexico selling papalo.
Even though regular cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is used extensively in Mexican cooking, that herb is not native to anywhere in the Americas (it is native to the eastern Mediterranean). But Papalo is native to the Americas and can be found growing wild from Bolivia northward as far as the southern U.S.

Here's a simple recipe to try when you're learning the flavors of this ancient herb. It's a simple green sauce and if you travel in Mexico, you may encounter the sauce used on eggs, sandwiches or other dishes.

8 green tomatillos, diced
1 green onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, whole
1 serrano or jalapeno chile, stem and seeds removed
4 or 5 fresh papalo leaves
1 large or 2 small avocados, diced
2 teaspoons olive oil

In a small skillet, combine the oil, tomatillos, onion, garlic and chile and simmer on medium heat until the tomatillos are soft, about 10 minutes.
Pour the ingredients into a food processor, along with the papalo leaves (I sometimes add juice of 1/2 lime, too) and pulse blend until everything is chunky-smooth.
Pour into a bowl and add the diced avocado. Let stand for about 30 minutes for flavors to blend well. Serve with chips or as a sauce on your favorite morning egg dish.

The following companies offer papalo seed:
Nichols Garden Nursery
Southern Exposure Seeds
Johnny's Selected Seeds

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

All American Winners 2014

All-America Selections
Additional Winners 

DOWNERS GROVE, IL – January 28, 2014

Just in time for the 2014 gardening season, All-America Selections (AAS) is pleased to present eight more AAS Winners that proved themselves to be superior garden performers. With the addition of these eight winners, we have a grand total of nineteen winners for the 2014 gardening season, the most AAS Winners announced in one year since the first winners were announced in our first decade of existence in the 30’s and 40’s.

Both growers and retailers will want to offer the following National and Regional Winners to fulfill customer requests.

The four newest Regional Winners are:
Cucumber Saladmore Bush F1
Eggplant Patio Baby F1
Pepper Giant Ristra F1
Radish Rivoli

The four newest National Winners are:
Angelonia Serenita™ Pink F1
Impatiens, New Guinea Florific™ Sweet Orange F1
Ornamental Pepper NuMex Easter
Osteospermum Akila(R) Daisy White F1

A seed source list for those wishing to purchase recent AAS Winner seeds can be found here:  (Please allow several weeks for seed sources of the AAS Winners in this announcement to appear.) 
A complete list of trial grounds and judges can be found here:

A list of all AAS Winners since 1932 can be found here and is now sortable by National or Regional Winners.
Cucumber Saladmore Bush F1
AAS Regional Edible Winner

Saladmore Cucumber boasts a bush-type growth habit making this AAS Winner perfect for growing in container gardens. Anyone looking for a good slicing type cucumber with dark green skin and long straight fruits will enjoy this beauty, along with its superior taste and texture; a perfect reflection of summer’s bounty. An added bonus is the disease resistance that proved to be especially valuable in warmer climates where comparison varieties easily succumbed to late season diseases.

Bred by Seeds By Design
Eggplant Patio Baby F1
AAS Regional Edible Winner 

Two things judge after judge brought up about this eggplant: 1) This entry produced such an attractive plant that it could be used as both an ornamental and an edible and 2) It is a perfect plant for container gardens. Patio Baby is indeed compact at less than 24” mature height, and yet it produces a prolific number of small 2-3” teardrop shaped glossy purple-black fruits. And of course, taste is a top priority in the AAS Trials and judges agreed that the taste was excellent, noting it was less bitter than the comparison varieties. Several northern judges were extremely pleased that Patio Baby grew so well in their conditions and was earlier to harvest by about a week, which is important when the gardening season is shorter.

Bred by PanAmerican Seed
Pepper Giant Ristra F1
AAS Regional Edible Winner 

Talk about versatility! Giant Ristra looks like a red Marconi pepper but has the heat of a cayenne. The texture and heat (hot, but not too hot) of this pepper makes it an excellent eating variety while it can also be dried and used in dishes for up to one year. Should you choose to use the peppers for a decoration, they can be used to make a beautiful ristra of dried peppers. 
In the mountain and southern trial gardens, Ristra produced an exceptionally high yield of uniformly shaped peppers on attractive plants which judges reported were very easy to grow.
Bred by Seeds By Design
Radish Rivoli
AAS Regional Edible Winner 
(Southeast, Heartland, West/Northwest)

Rivoli earned the judges’ favor by producing a very large, uniformly-sized root with a bright red exterior and an exceptionally smooth, clear white interior. Unique to most radishes, Rivoli holds well and does not get pithy or woody, even under stress. All these attributes combined mean a tasty, sweet, crisp radish that also matures earlier than the comparisons. A helpful tip from the AAS judges is to space Rivoli further apart than normal radishes since roots are much larger.
Bred by North Carolina State University, produced by Bejo Seeds
Angelonia Serenita Pink F1
AAS National Flower Winner

Serenita is a compact, tough little angelonia ideal for very hot/humid temperatures like in southern areas but it does great in northern gardens too. This Serenita variety features a unique deep pink flower, not usually seen in angelonias. The AAS Judges praised this entry for being drought and heat-tolerant while continuing to produce a large number of flowers all season long.

Commercial growers should note that this is a new color for the Serenita series that require fewer PGRs to produce plants that are 2” shorter in the greenhouse, and can be up to 5” shorter in the garden.
Bred by PanAmerican Seed
Impatiens New Guinea Florific Sweet Orange F1
AAS National Bedding Plant Winner

Huge 2” blooms in beautiful shades of light orange against dark green foliage create a giant impact in the garden, especially in shade or semi-shaded areas where color is needed. The natural disease tolerance of a New Guinea Impatiens is a welcome addition to a plant that boasts such beautiful flowers on a compact plant perfect for small space gardens.

Commercial growers now have an alternative to vegetative New Guinea Impatiens and one that needs fewer PGRs to keep this beauty compact and tidy.

Bred by Syngenta Flowers
Ornamental Pepper NuMex Easter
AAS National Bedding Plant Winner

You know the AAS judges were impressed when the scores sheets read like this: “Exceptional plant. Love this little pepper! Striking color! Eye-catching! So easy to grow! Loaded with pepper fruits in fun colors. A favorite of garden visitors!” NuMex Easter is a very compact plant, growing to only 6” high but packs quite a punch in such a small package. Beautiful purple, yellow and orange conical fruits pop up above the foliage for a great display of color.

Commercial growers will appreciate the shorter crop time for NuMex which results in earlier blooms on a very compact, well-branched and uniform plant with fantastic fruit coloration. Judges familiar with the bedding plant market think this is the first real ornamental pepper for bedding plant growers.
Bred by The Chili Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University
Osteospermum Akila(R) Daisy White  F1
AAS National Bedding Plant Winner

White osteospermums are not unique but a clear white osteo with a yellow center is a novelty, plus, it’s easily grown from seed. Akila® Daisy White is a tidy, uniform plant with open flowers that produces non-stop blooms all summer long. Even southern judges praised Akila’s ability to keep blooming in the heat and they also showed more drought tolerance than other osteos.

Daisy White is part of the Akila series and boasts the same great greenhouse performance as the other colors in the series, none of which need pinching or vernalization.
Bred by PanAmerican Seed
Other recently announced AAS Winners:

National Winners:                                                                    Regional Winners:

Petunia African Sunset F1                    Sunflower Suntastic Yellow with Black Center
Pepper Mama Mia Gaillo F1                                          Cucumber Pick-A-Bushel F1
Tomato Chef's Choice Orange F1                             Penstemon Arabesque Red F1
Tomato Fantastico F1                                           Pumpkin Cinderella's Carriage F1
Gaura Sparkle White                                                         Tomato Mountain Merit F1
Bean Mascotte
Zinnia Profusion Double Hot Cherry
Zinnia Profusion Double Deep Salmon