Tag Archives: Herb Companion

How To Use Homegrown Arugula

My neighbor came over this morning and said, “OK, Patsy Bell, I grew arugula. How do I use it?” Here’s what I had to tell my neighbor.

The English call it rocket; the French call it roquette, from the Italian rochetta. Native to the Mediterranean, arugula is a member of the mustard family (Brassicaceae). Its peppery mustard flavor makes it a favorite of mine in salads and mesclun mixes. I also use it in lettuce and cold pasta salads. In Italy, it is used as a pizza topping.

Add arugula to any summer salad. Photo courtesy Renee's Garden.

Add arugula to any summer salad. Photo courtesy Renee's Garden.

Pick the leaves while young. The flavor gets stronger as the leaves get older and larger. Home gardeners have the advantage with arugula because it is quite perishable. Arugula is used fresh or steamed in the way you might use spinach. Keep it close to the kitchen, so you can easily pick a few leaves for sandwich greens or add a bit to homemade pesto and salad dressings.

Arugula is slower to bolt than spinach. Add to pasta salads or homemade pesto.

Rich in nutrients, such as iron and vitamins A and C, and low in calories, your culinary imagination is its only limit in the kitchen. Because arugula is so versatile and comes in many varieties, don’t limit yourself to one variety or package of seed.

Arugula is said to have aphrodisiac powers. I’d like to know what you think about that.

Arugula is ideal for succession planting. Photo courtesy Renee's Garden.

Arugula is ideal for succession planting. Photo courtesy Renee's Garden.

The Great Sunflower Project

Herb gardeners know how important bees are to our gardens. One of every three bites of food we eat come from a plant pollinated by wild pollinators. Unfortunately many pollinators are declining. That’s what the Great Sunflower Project wants to change. 


Grow sunflowers to attract butterflies, bees and finches. Photo by Patsy Bell Hobson

The Great Sunflower Project, a project that plans to unravel the mystery of the disappearing pollinators, pulls together data that you help them collect. With this data it will create a database to help understand what is happening to the bee pollinators and how our green spaces are connected. Sunflowers is an easy-to-grow plant that gives height to the herb garden and is wildy attractive to birds and bees.

Sign up and plant your sunflowers.
Watch your sunflower for 15 minutes: Write down how long it takes for the first five bees to arrive at your sunflower. After 15 minutes, you can stop. If you haven’t seen 5 bees by then, the Great Sunflower Project want to know!
• Enter your data online.

By watching and recording the bees at these sunflowers, you can help with the research the Great Sunflower Project is doing to understand the challenges that bees are facing. Grow annual ‘Lemon Queen’ sunflowers (Helianthus anus). I got mine from Renee’s Garden. ‘Lemon Queen’ is a lovely branching variety that is particularly attractive to bees. Other herbs that bees are attracted to include basils, borage, catmint, lavender and rosemary.


Win ’Lemon Queen’ sunflower seeds and participate in the Great Sunflower Project. Photo by Rhonda Fleming hayes/Courtesy Flickr

Win ‘Lemon Queen’ sunflower seeds and participate in the Great Sunflower Project.
Photo by Rhonda Fleming hayes/Courtesy

Seed Packet Giveaway

Renee’s Garden is giving away three packets of ‘Lemon Queen’ sunflowers to three lucky blog readers.


• Post a comment in the comments section below telling us why you grow, or why you want to grow, sunflowers.

• End date: June 1, 2011 (12:00 a.m. Central Time)

Good luck!


More Thyme in the Garden

I have a lot more thyme than I used to. If you want more thyme, try these tips.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is an aromatic herb valued as an ornamental and culinary herb. It has small lavender or pink flowers. Plant thyme in a rock garden or border for decoration; cultivate it for culinary seasoning. Thyme grows around 6 to 12 inches tall. It has a sprawling habit and can easily be increased from cuttings, crown division or seeds.

Strip the tiny leaves off the stem.

Strip tiny leaves from stem.
Photo by Patsy Bell Hobson

After its first year, cut thyme plants back each spring to renew them and keep them tidy. Plants prefer well-drained dry soil. Since it grows slowly, especially early in its life, weed-control is essential. It is a perennial in Zones 5 to 8.

Use fresh thyme with zucchini. Sauté any summer squash in a bit of butter and olive oil with onion, parsley, and thyme.

Read more: http://www.herbcompanion.com/in-the-herb-garden/garden-giveaway-thyme-seeds-spring-garden.aspx#ixzz1IjIlwh4u

Spinach, Spring Green

Herb Companion Blog


Spinach Seeds for Your Spring Garden

Grow spinach this year for fresh salad greens. Photo by faria! Courtesy Flickr

I am growing a vegetable I used to hate: If your introduction to spinach was from a can

of that salty gray-green plant matter, you understand. Not even Popeye could change my mind.

In 2006, an Escherichia coli bacterium (E. coli) outbreak in spinach was followed by more food contamination incidents. In 2007 a company recalled bags of its spinach after finding salmonella during testing. And in 2010, spinach potentially contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes was recalled. Seed sales tell us that record numbers of people are purchasing vegetable seeds. More and more, we want to know where our food comes from. Food contamination is rarely a problem if the food comes from our own backyard. You can supplement a lot of family meals by growing spring greens, like spinach, beets, turnips and lettuce.

I’m growing spinach (Spinacia oleracea ‘Bloomsdale Long-Standing’) this spring. In fact, those first few leaves of these glossy greens never made it to the kitchen last year. I ate them in the garden. (They were that good.) A fan of heirlooms or not, this is a good spring greens choice that has been around for more than 100 years.

Bloomsdale heirloom spinach, a home garden favorite for over 100 years

For this cool-season crop, save a few seeds from your spring planting and sow again for a fall crop. Expect a heavy, continuous yield of thick-textured, glossy dark green leaves. If you grow lettuce, you can grow spinach; its soil and light requirements are similar. Greens are a cool-season crop that love full or partial sun. Put a few radishes in with the spinach to serve as row markers. Gardening Tip: Try a couple of spinach varieties to possibly extend the season and see which one grows best for you. It might not be the same choice every year.

‘Bloomsdale Long Standing’ spinach is slow-growing, slow to bolt and has better-than-average heat and drought resistance. It will usually grow a week or two longer than other spinach varieties. It grows more upright than most spinach, keeping the leaves cleaner or less gritty.

Try This: Let your kids or grandkids help you plant a container of salad greens. Spinach, served fresh in salads or cooked in quiches and souffles, is a delightfully different thing than canned spinach. It supplies vitamins A, C and the B-complex, calcium, and proteins. Try this easy Spinach Souffle Recipe from Burpee.

spinach quiche by Pille - Nami-nami Courtesy Flickr

If chives are up, use it in your spinach salad. I suggest that you use spikey chive leaves instead of green onions, or break apart blossoms and sprinkle the flower petals on the salad.

You can buy spinach seed, Spinacia oleracea ‘Bloomsdale Long-Standing’ from many seed sources. Mine is from Burpee Seed and I have always had good luck with their seeds.

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