Spices, seasonings, and more

The anticipation of growing my summer herb garden is starting to build for me this month.  I attended a gardening seminar a couple of weeks ago, and ever since the excitement of what I will be growing this year in my edible garden has stayed with me.  I always have my regular list of perennial herbs that I nurture every year, but add in a few other edibles, including vegetables, garlic, green onions, and a few tomato plants.

However, during the winter months, I have to rely on my kitchen cabinet of spices, seasonings and more.  I have finally admitted to myself that I must have an addiction, as I really love to try a variety of seasonings when I prepare our meals. I love my collection and have several favorites that I have acquired over the years.

My kitchen has three cabinets devoted to spices, seasonings, and flavorings.  My rolling rack contains a variety of salts, spices that are not used most days, and some baking decors.

My upper cabinet near my stove contains the spices I use most often for seasoning our meals.  Here I have a collection of salts, peppers, herbs, herbal blends, a variety of special blends, and some of my favorite mixes from Pensey spices.

I have found that using turntables in this cabinet has helped with the organization a great deal, as well as some boxes of spices organized by use which easily pull out to be accessed quickly.  I don’t buy my spices in large quantities, as I prefer to have fresh available all the time and would not use enough to justify large bottles of any particular seasoning.

I have a third cabinet for liquid flavorings and baking spices, along with more baking decorations.  Having an organized kitchen has helped me to be more efficient while preparing meals.  It has also helped me when planning to purchase ingredients for a new recipe, as I am able to easily check my current supply as I know where every one is located.

Springtime is a great time to get organized in the kitchen!


snipping chives in November

As the leaves are falling and naturally protecting my herb garden, I can’t help but admire how the green herbs continue to thrive even in November.  I still have green onions growing and anticipate using them during the Thanksgiving holiday.  As I look at the garden, my two kinds of parsley–curled leaf and Italian leaf are growing, with sage, thyme, rosemary, chives, rue, sorrel and lavender also available for use. My Thanksgiving turkey will have a fresh herbal mix applied again this year.

I like to use chives in a variety of recipes, including herbal dips and pasta sauces. I plant chives plentifully in the garden, and continue to use them until the snow falls and covers them.


This week, I used some chives for a pizza casserole, which will be soon featured on this blog.  I used my new epare five bladed scissors to easily snip them. The scissors save time, since the three-inch long stainless steel blades are grouped in a set of five.  One pass of the snips allows for five times the cutting power.  The scissors are sharp, and snipped the chives very quickly.  There wasn’t any bending of the soft thin chives.  The cuts were precise and clean.

I like the silicone lined handles, as they are more than comfortable–especially when I am chopping parsley and chives.  I use these snips for my scallions with great success, as well.  The scissors clean easily in soapy water and are even dishwasher safe.  These snips have become one of my favorite kitchen tools.  The storage cover also helps with removing small bits of herbs from between the blades for use in the dish.


I received a sample of these scissors in exchange for an honest review on my blog.  For more information, please follow this link: http://www.amazon.com/epar%C3%A9-EPHT01-Epar%C3%A9-Blade-Scissors/dp/B00NX61912/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1415308575&sr=8-1&keywords=epare+five+bladed+scissors





it is always pretty easy to spot tansy in an herb garden.  my plants happen to be the tallest in my garden with distinctive fern-like leaves.  the leaves are bright green with small heads of round button size yellow flowers.  this is one of the herbs that will grow in just about any type of soil, and will tolerate very dry conditions.  it is very easy to grow by roots and is very easily propagated.

tansy has great insect killing properties and was often hung in kitchens during the colonial days to repel flies.  it was also used in sachets to store with clothing during those times.  it is said that the leafy foliage will keep cats out of the garden and away from the flower beds.

tansy is a great perennial herb and is grown in my Michigan herb garden each year.

the herb garden at dow gardens


we are so very lucky in midland Michigan to have the beautifully maintained Dow gardens.  this botanical garden is one of the most beautiful in the nation.  each visit opens my eyes to some of the most lovely displays of trees, flowers, and landscape design ideas.  i have escorted several of my out of town guests, straight over to the gardens, so i can watch them marvel at the beauty created a few miles from my own home.

one of my very favorite areas has to be the newly redesigned herb garden.  the fragrance, artistic display, and the interesting mix of plants draws me in to appreciate everything about this specialty garden.  although Dow gardens has maintained an herb garden for many years, the horticulturist decided to transform the garden into a more desirable visual presentation of the herbs.  i have learned so very much from her demonstrations and discussion about how she planned this garden.

i highly recommend visiting and touring all of Dow gardens, but don’t miss the herb garden.  it is an edible gardener’s dream.



monarda is technically a cultivar from the mint family.  bee balm, grown in many herb gardens, has an unusual flower, often described as ragged clusters of blooms.  my plant attracts all the neighborhood hummingbirds, and i often see at least two at a time by the petals.  my bee balm grows in two colors and two separate areas of my garden.  one plant is pink and the other is purple and grows more aggressively in my mint garden.  bee balm requires full sun to develop strong stems.  make certain to have good air circulation around the plants to prevent powdery mildew.

there are many cultivars now that are mildew-resistant including a red bee balm. after planting, it may take a couple of seasons for your bee balm to establish well.  i found that my plants have established nicely in my garden.  they are wonderful for attracting bumble bees and hummingbirds. they are a perfect addition to any garden, and will bloom later in the growing season. keep the plant dead headed to encourage re-blooming.

i have paired my bee balm with anise hyssop for a beautiful color combination.



i don’t plant many annual herbs, because many years ago, i decided i would rather develop a perennial herb garden.  however; having said that, i usually buy borage every year. i should explain that i live in Michigan, in other zones greater than zone 5, borage may return for you year after year.

this is one of the few herbs that i really enjoy as borage attracts bees.  it is always recommended to have in your garden, as bees are needed for pollination especially in vegetable gardening.  borage likes the sunshine and to grow well, needs full sun.

i understand that borage will self-seed, but i haven’t had any luck with that technique.  so each year i go on a mission to find a plant or two already growing in the springtime.

i have never used borage in cooking, but understand that the leaves have a cucumber flavor.  i also understand that in generous quantities, they could be toxic.  so, i have never attempted to decide how much is generous.  i don’t want to experience any bad effects from my garden.

borage is a vigorous plant and seems to grow well every year for me.  the secret to growing borage is giving the plant lots of sun.  the flowers are pendent with fine fuzzy hairs noticed on the stems.  the flowers are very different.

love the lovage



with a flavor very similar to celery, the herb lovage is well loved in my garden.  this is one of the few herbs that may grow up to four or five feet tall.  surviving in full sun or even light shade, lovage is often used in the herb garden as a background plant, because of the nice leafy character and of course, the height.  

over the past few years, i have enjoyed lovage in cooking soups and even salads.  i mainly substitute in the herb for celery leaves, most often in asian soups. if lovage is tall enough, it will flower, and the stems and flowers are not edible. some references will say that once the lovage has flowered, the leaflets become bitter. my plant has not grown tall enough to flower in my garden.

over the years, i have heard this herb called love parsley.  the leaflets are very similar to parsley  and the plant produces pale green groupings of three beginning each spring.

lovage is a perennial herb, and has done well for me even in the coldest Michigan winters.  i usually trim back the foliage and use shredded leaves to cover my entire herb garden like a blanket for the winter months.