The Buzz

Tropic Heat

By Sherri McCalla, Herb Garden curator at MBG
Yup. It is that time again: hot and humid. If it weren’t for our winter, we would live in a
tropical paradise. Oh, and speaking of that, tropical plants LOVE it here!
We should reconsider our annual plant options and include tropicals in our planting schemes.
Which ones?
For starters: Cardamom ( Elettaria cardamomum), which will probably never bear flowers and produce the seed of its name here, but whose leaves can be added to foods to add a tasty perfume. (Oh, by the way, cardamom overwintered in the Herb Garden last year!)
La Lot ( Piper sarmentosum, syn: Piper lalot) is an attractive plant in the pepper family.  Piper lalot leaves are used often in Vietnamese cooking, especially to wrap and cook beef tidbits.
The gloriously-flowered tropical hibiscus ( Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), and Roselle hibiscus ( H. sabdariffa) have flowers that are tasty in salads as well as teas.
Not too sure about using a house plant as an annual? Well, goodness, you might be an herb person and plant basil every year and don’t have a problem with that! In a warm, tropical environment, many basils are actually perennials…How ‘bout that?!
All you have to do is purchase the pretty plant, plant it, then enjoy it until late fall before frost– sometimes as late as Thanksgiving. Then what? Then you have 3 options: donate it/them to an organization that might like them as attractive houseplants (maybe a church, a friend, but not us! We thank you, and appreciate the thought, but MBG already has plenty of nice plants to overwinter.),
bring them inside your own home and treat them as a houseplant until the next spring, or have a Zen moment and just let nature have its way, after all, you have enjoyed it for 120+ days and probably paid less for it than you would pay for a restaurant lunch, making it cost pennies a day.
Back to the “hot” thread: don’t forget to hydrate.
A nice calorie-free solution is to grab a handful of herbs (whichever ones and whichever combination you like: basil, mint, stevia, cilantro, rosemary, hibiscus flowers, Tagetes lucida, etc.), crush them, place in the bottom of your water jug, fill with ice cubes, then pour in water. Drink. It gets ever better as it sits.
Pretty to use during a gathering of friends and family, now is a good time of year to make a cool, easy “pickle” recipe. I say pickle and put it in quotes because you aren’t actually heating the cucumber recipe or using a water bath, so it isn’t really pickling, but the cucumbers will be cool and just crisp enough.
Gather your items: vinegar of your choice (I like apple cider vinegar, but white wine or rice vinegar would be nice. Avoid white vinegar as that may be too strong.), sliced cucumbers, a small sliced onion and 1 or 2 diced garlic cloves. Put the cucumbers, garlic, and onion in a bowl. Make a 3:1 vinegar and water solution (example: ¾ cup vinegar plus ¼ cup water), and pour this over the ingredients until they are covered. Best to let marinate overnight; a couple of hours will do if necessary.
This can be fancied up by adding diced homegrown tomatoes, a little sugar if you like sweetness, or maybe a touch of salt instead. Herbs such as dill, mint, basil, etc., can be added, too. It might be interesting to slice a summer squash or zucchini and toss that in! Adjust the amount of garlic to your taste; add more-or none!
Use sweet onions versus “hot” non-sweet, little green onions cut into lengths that can be covered by the vinegar solution, or a red onion, or, once again, none!
You could try tossing in some banana peppers, or maybe a hot pepper or two…stay cool, and come visit me in the Herb Garden!
Posted by sherri mccalla at 6:00 AM


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