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Gardening with Herbs

Herb or Vegetable? What is Cardoon?

Cardoon or Cardune Is Herb & Vegetable

        Cardoon is known as a showplace focal plant in landscape design.   Beautiful blue hair like artichoke type blossoms which can be dried and used as centerpiece in floral arrangements.   Also an edible with the leaves and stalk being eaten.   In Europe fields of this gorgeous plant can be seen.   A perennial plant ( Zone 7 and below) , going dormant in winter, re-emerging in spring and self seeding.   Often used as the center focal plant in many U.S. gardens.   Available at Wake Forest HerbFest most years. 


Eleonora Basil, Downy Mildew Resistant, Offering for HerbFest 2015

Eleonora Mildew Resistant Basil

       In 2014 much of the Southeast had to deal with Powdery Mildew on the basil production.   This form of disease transmits to most varieties of basil and there is little one can do to stop the infestation.   There is one variety of basil that is more resistant than other varieties and that is the variety "Eleonora".   Wake Forest Herbfest 2015 will offer this variety to our customers.  You will still have the same flavor, growing conditons as the more familiar Genovese, Italian style basil,  but this year you can expect  healthy, full leaved basil plants from us.  Our goal is to only provide you with the best in local, organic, non GMO plants for your lifestyle.

     As with all our herbs this variety is still non GMO, raised from organic sources and raised organically so you are still getting the herbs you expect from HerbFest.   For more information on powdery mildew click here for report from N.C. State University.


Savory - 2015 Herb Of The Year



Savory - 2015 Herb Of The Year

   There are two varities, minimally, of Savory and generally described as "Summer & Winter" due to their flavor and habit.  Summer savory is an annual and Winter savory is a perennial in many zones.   At Wake Forest Herbfest 2015 we will feature both varities of this year's herb of the year, Savory.

    Below reprinted from to give you some more ideas on what to do with Savory:

    Savory, an herb rich in tradition and legend, has such a fine taste that a whole class of cookery is attached to it. How many times have you heard the phrase "a savory stew?" Savory is used in herb combinations, such as

Herbes de Provence, a French combination of herbs used for seasoning. It also has healing properties and has been used for centuries for a variety of ills. It should be noted that there are two distinct varieties of savory -

summer and winter.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Karen Thurber adds, "Summer Savory is an annual--completing its life cycle in one year. Winter Savory is a perennial, Zone 6. It grows 18 to 24 inches tall."

History of Savory

The old English word "saverey" was derived from the Latin "satureia." Roughly translated, it means "satyr's herb." It has been associated with love potions for centuries. The famous French herbalist Maurice Mességué suggested

savory instead of ginseng to help couples restore happiness in the bedroom. It has long been used to restore the sex drive. Romans used savory as a medicinal and culinary herb long before they discovered pepper. They used it

as a medicinal herb for bee stings, and as an aphrodisiac. When the Romans brought savory to England, it was used there for poultry stuffing instead of a medicinal herb .

The early colonists brought savory to America to use as an aid for indigestion. A lot of the old cookbooks discuss savory and its uses.

Medicinal Uses

As a medicine, savory is used for treating several ailments. Summer savory is most often used for healing. Summer savory is said to increase sex drive, while winter savory decreases it. Active ingredients of savory are

carvacrol, p-cymene and tannins. It is an astringent and mild antiseptic. A tea made from summer savory is said to control diarrhea, stomachache and mild sore throat. In Europe, it is often taken by diabetics to reduce

excessive thirst. Rubbing a sprig of savory on an insect bite will bring instant relief. An ointment made from savory works well for relief of minor rashes and skin irritations.

Culinary Uses

Savory is best known for its culinary powers. Both summer and winter savory are used in cooking. Summer savory has a peppery taste much like thyme, while winter savory has a more piney taste. Savory blends well with other

herbs such as basil, bay leaf, marjoram, thyme and rosemary. It is said that the taste of savory brings all these herbs together for a unique flavor.

Savory is popular in teas, herbed butters, and flavored vinegars. It complements beef soup and stews, chicken soup, eggs, green beans, peas, rutabagas, asparagus, onions, cabbage, and lentils. Use savory when cooking liver,

fish and game. Winter savory, which has a stronger presence, works well with game that has a strong flavor.

Growing Savory

Savory is best grown from seed and cuttings. It grows well in sandy loam soils with a pH balance of 6.8. Savory likes full sun, so plan your herb garden accordingly.

Summer savory is a bushy annual with finely haired stems. There are about 30 species of savory, but summer and winter are the best known. The savory plant is highly aromatic. It's woody at the base and forms a compact bush

about 1 to 1 1/2 feet in height. Leaves are soft and linear, and about 1 inch long. They are grayish, turning purple in late summer. Savory flowers in mid-July, with white or pale pink 1/4-inch blooms grouped in terminal


TIP: Karen adds, "Summer Savory readily self-seeds and can come back year after year. Allow a few flowers to go to seed in your garden and you will be rewarded with more summer savory the following season."

Savory seed germinate quickly. Planting in flats at a depth of 1/8-inch and then transplanting the seedlings after all danger of frost works best. Space about 10 inches apart, and keep the plants well watered for optimum


TIP: Karen advises, "Seeds require some light for germination, so be sure not to cover them deeply with soil."

Harvesting and Storage

You can begin to take savory as soon as plants reach 6 inches in height. Keeping the plant pruned back insures continued harvest. When they insist on flowering, cut the whole plant and put it on a screen or paper in a warm

shady place. When dry, strip the leaves and store them in airtight jars or tins. When the seed begins to turn brown, harvest them for next year's planting.

TIP: Karen suggests, "To speed the drying time of herbs, try chopping into small pieces and laying them on a screen. Once they are dry, put them in an airtight container and save for later use."

Cooking With Savory

Mince fresh summer savory leaves and combine with garlic, bay and lemon for a good marinade for fish. Make baked mozzarella sticks by cutting the cheese into squares, dip in eggs and dredge in bread crumbs with minced savory

leaves. Bake in a 450 degree oven until the cheese just begins to melt.

The savories have been used in cooking for over 2,000 years. As a medicinal herb, it has many uses. As an aromatic, it has few peers. Try growing both summer and winter savory in your herb garden this year.

Read more:


The Mexico Midget Salad Tomato On Steroids

A Gigantic Grower - The Mexico Midget Salad Tomato Plant

From our perennial Master Gardener:

  "Neena, one of my master gardener friends, bought this Mexico midget at this years HerbFest and said that it's enormous.    This is the plant after several severe prunings.  "

   What makes this so outstanding is not only the size but Mexico Midget variety of tomato is known for it's prolific output.   Not only do you get a vast amount of small tomatoes, but also the Mexico Midget tends to drop the tomatoes and they in turn reseed around the plant.  By being an organic, heirloom, non GMO variety it's possible to buy 1 plant and through self seeding never buy another plant again.


Just Plain Drunk? No. Plant Drunk - Absinthe

Artemisia "Silver Mound" - Van Gogh's Bad Choice For Absinthe

     Van Gogh may have kept his ear had he not been sipping absinthe ( Banned in the U.S.), a toxicating substance derived from the plant species "artemisia".   Yes it was known that Van Gogh was imbibing on absinthe when he made that fateful choice to amputate his ear.   But the basic rule is not to use artemisia internally for it's medical properties but to use  externally as a poultice for:

  • bruises
  • sprains
  • antiseptic for topical infections

    Artemisia is also called  "wormwood," and has been used over the centuries to treat people for worms - accounting for the common name.  There are presently over 400 varieties of artemisia.  Depending on native plants artemisia had numerous other medicinal uses; i.e., to treat poor circulation, rheumatism, colds, fevers, jaundice, stomach problems, and more.  However, it is generally considered unsafe for internal use; because the active ingredient in artemisia is thujone, which is a narcotic and a poison which causes convulsions.  

Practicial Uses:
    It is an effective insect repellant, especially against black flea beetles, cabbageworm butterflies and in some instances ants.  It is also a great plant to have around to discourage slugs.  Due to the absinthe in the plant it is not always the best neighbor for surrounding plants and some feel it dwarfs their growth. If you have concerns, though, give your artemisia its own special place and use as a true specimen plant in it's own niche.

     One of the nicer aspects of artemisia is using it in your landscape as a specimen plant or for borders or mounding as a visual feature.  The silvery aspect of the leaves makes it stand out in areas where greens, yellows, and browns are predominant coloration.   At night the silver leaves reflect the moon's light and it becomes a very attractive night time addition to the landscape.  Many people use artemisia as a ground cover plant and plant it to edge out areas of their yard, gardens in the overall landscape design.   The distinctive color and habit helps to deliniate borders.  The problem with artemisia over time is the plant tends to get "heavy in the middle" and the branches will flop down leaving a mound with a hole in it.   The way to avoid this issue is to simply cut back the branches in early spring so they do not get as heavy and thus the moundings aspects of the plant's habit are retained.  The other control method is to divide and plant each spring when one of the plants is getting too large.    Artemisia does have a flower, generally yellow, however it is of little concern as the flower does not last long and is small in overall appearance of the plant. 

Growing Conditions:
   Artemisia grows in zones 3- 7 and is known as a Mediterranean herb.    It requires little, if any, fertilization.  The more sunlight the better for growth.  The "deal killer" to artemisia in your landscape is "wet feet".  Being a meditteranean herb the ideal soil is sandy, not rich in nutrient content, and rain falls on the plant, into the ground and passes away from the roots.  The plant will not survive in a moist environment.

Artemisia "powis castle"


Artemisia 'Silver Mound' and 'Powis Castle" will be available at HerbFest 2014.   Artemisia is the International Herb Association Herb of the Year in 2014.


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