Herb Christmas Wreath

Personally I love Christmas,  the enchanting carols,  the family, friends  and the food.  I am also fascinated by the symbolism and this year our wreath outside the back door symbolizes love, long life and  good fortune to all those that cross the threshold.

Christmas WreathEach herb in this wreath has its own symbolism.

All evergreens symbolize  immortality and victory.

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Pine cones symbolize fertility, they also have numerous seeds which are edible. In ancient times pine cones were seen as a gift from the gods.  St. Ambrose considered  the pine cone as the image of the never ending continuance of nature and therefore a symbol of future eternal life.

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The pine and spruce were considered good protection against evil and were often hung on doors to keep the ill-intentioned  out!

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The ivy is steeped in myth and magic. At Christmas it was traditionally used to decorate the houses and churches as it is said to bring good fortune to the women of the house.  It also symbolized eternal life, loyalty, devotion, patriotism and undying desire.

xmas 5Myrtle was sacred to the goddess of love , Venus.  The plant was reputed to make love grow and also to preserve it.  The Jews saw Myrtle as a symbol of peace and reconciliation.

May I wish you all, Long life, Love, Happiness and Peace for this Christmas and for 2014.

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Traditional symbols of eternal life and happiness

We have passed the Equinox and the nights are drawing in.  The bees and butterflies are making the most of the glimmers of  sunshine, feasting on the nectar of ivy  flowers as they well know that the weather is turning and winter will soon be upon us.   I have always been fascinated about the traditional and ancient uses of Herbs.

Ivy, Hedra helix L. an evergreen native herb which, in ancient times,  symbolised eternal life, loyalty, devotion and undying desire, for it’s well known habit of attaching itself firmly to a wall or tree.

Bay, Laurus nobilis, was also considered a symbol of eternal life. The Greek generals wore a laurel wreath in the belief that, by doing so, they could cleanse themselves from the bloodshed. .  The Romans, adopted the Bay as a symbol of victory. The latin ‘laureate’ means crowned with laurels, a synonym for bay, hence Poet Laureate.

And Myrtle, Myrtus communis,  a personal favourite, for it looks good all season long and is so useful in the kitchen. In ancient times, and this tradition has returned, was the symbol of love, marriage and fertility.  The Myrtle wreath was often worn by brides and bridegrooms.  In Wales it was believed that the destruction of the Myrtle is tantamount to killing love and peace.

So these three herbs, Ivy, Myrtle and Bay  when arranged in a vase to brighten the home in winter  symbolises happiness,  love, devotion and longevity.

December at Jekka’s Herb Farm

It has been a very busy few weeks putting the herb farm to bed for December.

The weather forecast is apparently going to give us a bit of everything in an over blown way and today has been no exception. We have had hail, rain, gales and now sunshine. However the morning sunrises on many occasions this month have been inspiring, this was one of my favourites.

In the kitchen I have been making Xmas presents for friends and family.  My Mirto, that I started in late October,  is maturing well. The recipe was in our last  News Letter in case you missed it.

I am going to strain it in the next few days, then add the sugar. So it should just be ready to toast in  the New Year.

So may we wish you all a very happy, warm, safe Christmas and a wonderful, peaceful New Year and we look forward to seeing you at  Jekka’s Herb Farm in 2012, our Silver Jubilee year.

Picture of Dipsacus fullonum, Fullers Teasel 

Summertime, and the picking is easy…

We recently enjoyed our penultimate Open Days of the season, and happily, the weather turned warm in the nick of time. Of our 650+ varieties, the most popular herbs were  Sweet Cicely (a natural sweetener), French Tarragon (no chicken dish is complete without it) and Lemon Verbena (makes the best tea in the world).

During her (twice daily and free) herb talks, Jekka asked ‘How many of you are growing Bay in a pot?’ and then ‘How many of you are feeding them? Because they won’t survive on water and love alone.’

Jekka's Open Day talk "Feed on Fridays"

Especially container grown herbs. Give them a foliar feed – being organic, we use liquid seaweed, which is available from most garden centres. And remember, “Feed on Fridays”.

Jekka’s workshop, ‘How to grow salad herbs for autumn’ included some special, seed sowing tips and tricks of the trade.  Student herb-growers were very pleased to take their samples home afterwards; they’ll see their efforts grow into a luscious, tasty autumn crop.

August is harvest time –  a month of abundance in the herb garden. There’s a vast choice of fresh, verdant herbs to harvest: Chives, Lemon Verbena, Mint, Sage, Wild Rocket,…to name but a very few.

Chive abundance

Evergreens like Rosemary and Thyme can be harvested all year round, but if you’ve recently cut them back, you might have an excess that you’re wondering what to do with. If you have a glut of a particular herb (and no wish to be gluttonous), then preserve them for winter use. Parsley, for example, freezes beautifully, and Lemon Verbena is easy to dry and store for use until this deciduous herb produces leaves again next (late) spring/(early) summer. Or try your hand at making a herb butter, or vinegar. Sage butter, for example, is fantastic for basting a roast, or tossing, melted with fresh cooked pasta. Vietnamese coriander vinegar is great for sauces and stir-fry. Jekka’s Herb Cookbook has a section at the end of each chapter on what to do with a glut of herbs (don’t miss Fennel and cucumber pickle – very, very mmm).

Melted herb butter - what could be better?

 August is also, really, your last chance to safely cut back those herb plants which have rewarded you with beautiful flowers and now need a darn good haircut to preserve the health and shape of the plant, before the season of mists and potential frosts. But the mellow fruitfulness of the herb garden goes on right throughout autumn, with the ripening of deep, dark blue berries on Myrtle (dry them, grind them and use them like Juniper) and the sweet, red fruit of Chilean Guava (allegedly Queen Victoria’s favourite fruit).

Myrtle - summer flowers & autumn berries. Use the leaves like Bay for a touch of spice

But enough of this chilly talk – it’s holiday time. Don’t forget to keep your herbs well watered on hot days (the best time is early morning before the sun gets up), and don’t forget these dates: 2nd, 3rd and 4th September. They’re our last Open Days of the season, and our end-of-season plant sale. It is the very best time of all to get a perennial bargain – plant it then, and it will have two whole seasons to get established for next spring. A most sensible plan. Happy herb harvesting.

Open Days – straight after the Royal Wedding

It seems the whole world’s excited about tomorrow’s Royal Wedding, and it’s infectious. Customers have been ordering Papavar orientale  ‘Royal Wedding‘ …

Papaver Orientale 'Royal Wedding'

..and Myrtle, ‘herb of love’, a sprig of which makes a traditional appearance in the Royal Wedding bouquet. This tradition goes back to the time of Queen Victoria, who planted a sprig of Myrtle from her wedding bouquet in her private garden – and it’s still growing there today!

Myrtus communis - Myrtle

We’re excited too, and it’s not just Royal Wedding Fever – we’ve got Open Days again, starting Saturday 30th April until Bank Holiday Monday May 2nd. Because we’re mostly an online business, we love Open Days because we can spend all day talking herbs – our passion – with our herb-loving customers.

We’re nearly ready now – the Berry Blue Creative Foods marquee went up this morning, so our visitors  can partake of delicious, seasonal, locally grown food  and relax during bouts of herb-shopping amongst our 650+ organically grown varieties.

Berry Blue marquee going up in the sunshine

Luscious, leafy, flowery herbs for Open Days

…and the herbs are looking luscious, leafy and some are even flowery – just in time for our Open Days!