Honey, an herbal delicacy

Honey in the mouth won’t help bitterness in the heart.
Yiddish Proverb

Autumn has tinted the foliage of our trees with brush strokes the color of honey. Look around. The golden rod, mums and turning leaves are speaking the language of the harvest. Trees and perennials are almost asleep while we are enjoying nature’s bounty from the garden. One of nature’s oldest gifts from the garden is honey. Honey cannot be grown, but without the growth of flowers, honey cannot exist.
What is this magic elixir? Is all honey the same? How can we best take advantage of its special qualities? Is honey even good for us? This substance called honey is truly enchanted. In fact the word ‘honey’ comes from ancient Hebrew and means ‘enchanted’. The use of honey is very old. Even the popular combination of honey and mustard is thousands of years old.
Everyone knows that honey is made when bees go from flower to flower and take nectar back to the hive. It is a fascinating combination of chemistry evaporation that makes honey. The nectar (sucrose and water) is collected in the bee’s honey sac. The bee adds enzymes, which break down the nectar to simple sugars in a process called ripening. The process is already taking place as the bee continues to flit from flower to flower. It is almost like a tiny cement mixer! The nectar, which has almost become honey, and pollen, are delivered to the workers in the hive. The worker bees work the honey in their own sacs and store it in the honeycomb. Moisture then evaporates and the honey thickens.
Most of the honey is good for the bees. The rest, about a pound for every nine pounds, is gathered for human use. If the hive is not emptied of this excess, the bees will have to leave the hive to find a less crowded place for the bees to do their work.
Raw honey is heated to kill off fermenting yeast. Then it is filtered to remove grains of pollen. If you wish unfiltered honey can be bought at health food stores or from the beekeeper.
Honey is mostly glucose, fructose and water, but about 4 % is a mixture of pollen, organic acids, minerals, enzymes and proteins. Many of these are useful to the human body. These elements are also what gives honey its color, flavor and scent. This is where honeys may be quite amazingly different.
Commercial honey plants are clover in the north, buckwheat in the west and tupelo in the south. Clover is sweetest, but the sweetness also depends on the sweetness, or lack of acidity, of the soil. California touts mild sage and orange-blossom honey. Specialty honeys are found in shops all over the country. Dandelion honey is bright yellow. It is strong and aromatic. Fruit blossom honey is mild and light to golden yellow in color. Lavender and thyme honeys are mild and light in color. Forest honey, from spruce, oak or maple is mildly spicy and golden amber in color.
Is honey good for us? A pediatrician once told me that honey is the single-most impure food that exists. Unpasteurized honey is said to contain a bacteria that is harmful to infants. Older children and adults are unharmed by this.
Honey is better for the body to process than refined white granulated sugar. Consider though that 1 tbsp. of honey has 64 calories, while 1 tbsp. of sugar has 46!
Therapeutic treatment with honey is called apitherapy. Honey is said to help one regain lost energy. It is said to help respiratory problems and hay fever. It calms the mind and helps one sleep. It is also said to help indigestion and help minor skin problems. Honey and lavender in the bath is wonderfully soothing.
In addition to being an easily digestible food, honey is nature’s only naturally preserved food with no need of refrigeration. Millenniums have shown honey to be a healthy, tasty and enchanting food. Check out honeys that are beautifully rich in color and have originated from many different flavorful herbal flowers.

Kathy Catani

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The Chagrin Valley Herb Society Library Garden at the Bainbridge Library is just beautiful at this time of the year. The color in the tea house garden is just inspiring. The potpourri garden is well worth your attention. Come to see the gentle colors, but stay to enjoy the scents in each section of our garden.
The two high raised beds house our fragrant touch and sniff herbs. Touch the plant then smell your hand. I guarantee some wonderful surprises. It has been said, “plants leave their fragrance on the hand that nurtures them.”
Plants carry scented oil for one of two reasons. Essential oil either protects the plant against drought or draws pollinators. Plants that grow in areas that are hot and dry most of the year protect themselves from water loss. They do this by producing essential oils which evaporate more slowly than water. These oils are wonderfully fragrant. The fragrance is found in the leaves and stems of the plant as well as in the flowers. Most of the herbs have originated in the Mediterranean climate which is characteristically hot and dry.
Flowers with strong colors are not often highly perfumed. The bright red and oranges attract bird pollinators. Fragrant flowers are usually pastel colored. These attract moths, butterflies, beetles, flies and of course the bees.
Without the pollinators we would not have the beautiful flowers and vegetables we enjoy so much.
Gardens were once purely functional. A patch of ground would mean a place to grow needed food. Many gardens today tell a different story. Collecting plants and enjoying their beauty and fragrance can bring great satisfaction.
Although many plants in this garden are annuals, replanted every year, many are perennial living for many years. Lavender, for instance, over-winters well. One can go out to the garden in mid-February, placing a hand beneath the snow, touching the lavender. When the hand is brought to the nose, all of a sudden it is springtime and stress is momentarily history.
Scent triggers memory. When you get a whiff of lilac, do you find yourself taken back to your grandmother’s garden? Bring a plant to your own garden which evokes a childhood memory and experience very positive emotions. Keeping one’s memory active through scent is a healthy connection for the brain!
Aromatics have had a long and interesting history. They have moved from a role in ancient rituals to medicine, perfume and aromatherapy. Explore and enjoy fragrance and all it can offer.

Kathy Catani

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The Bunny Bath

On the right a pot of geraniums and hibiscus;
just dirt in the area of this garden
it is July 21st, 8 pm, 76 degrees and less humid
in the enclosure is much grass
grass with abundant clover.
Every day two baby bunnies come to this enclosure and eat vegetation
and take a bath – one at time.
A bunny scampers in the dirt
then sits and scratches his ear with a paw, and around his face
and then rolls in the dirt, squirming and stretching.
Suddenly he is still, laying on his back as if in a sauna.
When revived, he eats clover and scampers under the picket fence to his burrow.
Now it is the second bunny’s turn…

By Karen Miller

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My garden is coming to life; with a little help

March 21 2015, 10AM temp 42 degrees, no sun,no wind,snow is gone, thankfully.

Rake in hand, ready to assault the firmly packed fall leaves and remaining vegetation from last fall.
Tarp in place for easy removal of “unwanted” stuff.
Pe’pe, our 5 month old Havanese puppy running around picking up small branches and twig and chewing, chewing,chewing.
Husband severely pruning an Hydrangea that is his way when he mowes.
While raking I’m feeling delight, blooming purple crocus revealed,
Rake rake rake around a Lenton Rose bush Wha la, the flowers are there, ready to stand tall in All Their Glory. I knew they would be—but they were covered. So glad to see them.
Rake rake rake under the debris daffodils leaves are rising what a joy.
Rebirth, Joy, Life Goes On.
What Spring treasure will I release next?

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A visit at Eden Gardens, Wesley House, Point Washington, Florida

While visiting with friends in Florida in February, we toured the Eden Gardens and the Wesley House, located in Point Washington FL in the panhandle. What a delight for those of us who like history and gardens.

The Wesley House was built in 1895 by the lumberman William Henry Wesley. The design was inspired by an antebellum plantation where the builder was give given shelter on his way home from the war between the states. It is located on the Tucker Bayou in what is now a Florida State Park where, in 1895, it was a virgin forest of longleaf pines and cypress.
In 1963 the home was purchased by Lois Genevieve Maxon, a collector of Louis XVI furniture. Now it is owned by the Florida State Parks. One can tour the home which has furnishings of the period of LOUIS XVI.

Lois Maxon also planted the many gardens. Camellias and azaleas bloom from October to May, peaking in March (except this year which was unusually cold in March. ) There is a rose garden, a butterfly garden, reflectionpool, and hiking trails. Many playful statuaries are found along the trails. There are several Live Oaks growing here, including a 600 year old tree. Many events occur including a Christmas Festival, a Easter event, music on the bandstand, Bayou American Festival, and a BBQ arts festival.

By Karen Miller

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Travel Report: mansions and gardens of classical town Weimar in Germany

This is a travel report of a trip to the famous German town of Weimar, which isĀ  home to several cultural memorial sites called ” Classical Weimar”. You may ask yourself why a report of classical Weimar at this herb blog. But part of Classical Weimar are also castles and mansions with historic parks and gardens designed and built by famous landscape gardeners. So, as a cultural enthusiast and having a weakness for gardening and herbs it is an ideal place to go (if you are planning a trip to Europe).

One of these mansions is Tiefurt House a small stately home on the Ilm river at Weimar, about 4 km east of the city center. It was the summer residence of duchess Anna Amalia of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. She was the regent of the states Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Eisenach from 1758 to 1775. Her husband Ernst August II Konstantin died two years after their marriage and left her regent for her infant son Karl August. She transformed her court and its surrounding into the most influential cultural center of Germany of those days. For about 25 years Tiefurt House was the favorite residence of Anna Amalia and the center of a circle of poets, as a part of Weimar classicism.

On the duchess’s death the house became neglected. Her grandson Karl Friederich began renovation during the lifetime of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who spent his whole later life in Weimar. In 1907 Tiefurt was opened to the public as a museum and from 1978 to 1981 it was restored to its 1800 decor. The nearby landscape garden in the English style was maintained by well-known landscape gardener Eduard Petzold during the 19th century. It is said that the famous German poet and philosopher Friedrich Schiller is buried in the grand-ducal burial chamber in the grounds.

Only a few kilometres away of that lovely mansion Tiefurt the house of Dorotheenhof is located. It was the former estate of Cavalry captain Carl von Kalckreuth. It is situated in its own pittoresque park spreading across two hectares of land. Now, the Dorotheenhof has become a hotel of romantic character. Beside century-old orchards a well-equipped herb garden with dozens of different herb species is part of the botanically interesting park. The herbs are used in the kitchen of the hotel’s restaurant, where you can taste them as a part of culinary interesting meals. It is said that Dorotheenhof estate has served as the fruit and vegetable supplier for Tiefurt House and the court in Anna Amalia’s times and the 19th century.

Beside Tiefurt House and Dorotheenhof there are other parks and gardens in Weimar very worth visiting. For example the backyard garden of the Goethe House, which was the residential house auf the poet and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (a very good example for a historic residential garden of the beginning 19th century) and orangery and park of Belvedere Castle.

By Dagmar Held


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Happy New Year 2015

I was sitting at my kitchen table and looking at the snow-covered garden in front of the window thinking about what had happened the last year as I am always doing these days shortly after New Year’s Day and probably a lot of other people do, too. So, how was the year 2014 for the Chagrin Valley Herb Society?

After that extraordinary cold winter 2013/2014 the gardens looked very sad. I remember our garden planning meeting in April, when everybody was concerned about the plants and how many may have survived that winter. Only one month later nature has recovered and at our annual plant sale in May, which went as well as always (except a smaller number of member plant contributions due to the hard winter), all looked pretty well.

Founded in 1989, it was the 25th anniversary year of the herb society. We celebrated this with a gorgeous party at Kathy Catani’s in July.

The fall rewarded us with lovely weather especially in September and brought a lot of fun and nice looks of the garden and also enjoyable CVHS meetings with very interesting presentations. Although Louise Reiling of Auburn Pointe Nursery made a rather bad forecast for the upcoming winter 2014/2015 being as cold and snowy as the previous one at her presentation “Putting the garden to sleep”. We all hope she will not be right.

Last but not least the herb society went online in its anniversary year with its own website chagrinvalleyherbsociety.org. This is another great opportunity to bring information and news about our society to the public. The website currently has a number of 135 visits a month after 11 months of existence.

This is the first post of the herb blog, a new feature of the website designed to publish informations, interesting stories or simply thoughts abouts herbs and our gardens and for the first time really to interact with the public, because people are able to comment on our posts. I want to strongly encourage every CVHS member to send everything she thinks should be published (recipes, tips around the garden, own experiences, nice stories, memories or thoughts, and more). There are no limits. Let us see how it will work and if we will get a community of followers and interested people.

Happy New Year 2015!

By Dagmar Held

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