Herb of the Year for 2022: Viola (violet, heartsease) named by the International Herb Association
Flower of the Month for August: Gladiolus
August is National Watermelon Month
August’s Feature: Taste-Tempting Fruit Vinegar
Week 1. National Simplify Your Life Week (10 good ideas! We love “If you don’t use it, lose it.”)
August 6: The Shakers (America’s premier herbalists) arrived in New York Harbor on this day in 1774, on a ship called Mariah.
Week 2. National Smile Week (Check out Martha Stewart’s family craft suggestions).
August 9: National Rice Pudding Day. This pudding has an 8000-year backstory: first recorded in India in 6000 B.C.
August 10: Chicago IL was incorporated as a village on this day in 1833. (Not as old as rice pudding.)
Week 3. Friendship Week (Rosemary is the friendship herb).
August 15: Today is the birthday of Julia Child (1912-2004), also known as Our Lady of the Ladle.
August 17: National Vanilla Custard Day.
August 28: Pepsi-Cola (originally an herbal drink to treat indigestion) got its name on this day in 1898.
An addiction to gardening is not all bad when you consider the other choices in life.—Cora Lea Bell
The peaches are ripe and luscious, the market is displaying beautiful raspberries, blueberries, and cherries, and your garden is full of fresh herbs. Use them, along with a variety of spices, to make flavored vinegars that will spark salads and fruit dishes in months to come. Start now, and you’ll have a shelf of wonderful taste-tempters (and delightfully unique gifts) this winter.
You’ll need fruit and herbs (suggestions below), cider or white vinegar, and lidded containers. Here are the easy directions.
- Assemble your jars and lids (pint, quart, half-gallon: size depends on the amount of fruit you’re working with). Wash and scald.
- Pit the fruit if necessary, cut it up, or mash it lightly. Wash the fresh herbs and bruise lightly.
- Heat the vinegar to just below boiling.
- Put fruit and herbs into jars and cover completely with hot vinegar. Leave 1/4″ head space.
- Put on the lid and set the container in a dark, cool place, shaking or stirring every day and making sure that the vinegar covers the fruit and herbs. Steep as long as a month, checking for flavor.
- When the flavor suits you, remove fruit and strain vinegar through a coffee filter until it is clear.
- Rebottle in washed, scalded jars. Label. Best to store in refrigerator (up to 6 months).
Use apple cider vinegar with these fruits and herbs:
- Raspberries, lemon thyme, and rosemary
- Cherries, tarragon, and anise hyssop
- Cranberries, mint, orange peel, cinnamon stick
Use white wine or champagne vinegar with these combinations:
- Peaches, opal basil, cinnamon stick
- Raspberries, fragrant rose petals, rose geranium
- Strawberries, mint, candied ginger
- Strawberries, peaches, opal basil, candied ginger
- Okay, so what’s the connection between Chicago and herbs? If you didn’t already know that onions are herbs, it’s time you found out! Listen to Susan’s podcast, “The Magical, Mystical, Magnetic Onion.” The place-name “Chicago” means “onion field.” The word was first recorded in a 1688 French document, where it appears as Chigagou, an Algonquian word. The document explains that wild onions and garlic grew profusely in the area. For something a little different, marry onions with mint, as in this intriguing recipe: Roasted Sweet Onions with Mint.
- Celebrate St. Julia’s Day by reading her book, My Life in France. You might also enjoy the memoir Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, by Julie Powell, who cooked all 524 recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking—and lived to blog about it! The blog became a book (naturally) and the book became a film, starring Meryl Streep as the irrepressible Lady of the Ladle. Cooking doesn’t get any better than this.
- Observe Vanilla Custard Day by getting better acquainted with vanilla, perhaps the best-loved flavoring of all time. Vanilla pods are the fruit of the vanilla planifolia, the only orchid to produce an edible substance—and after saffron, the second most expensive herb to grow. For a classic plain-vanilla baked custard recipe, try this one. And if you haven’t read it yet, now is a great time to indulge in A Plain Vanilla Murder, China’s 27th mystery.
- If you’d rather make your vanilla custard with condensed/evaporated milk, simply substitute. And while you’re at it, you might want to know how Gail Borden came to develop canned condensed (or evaporated) milk and why it was so important at the time. What’s the difference between condensed or evaporated and sweetened condensed milk? Here’s the low-down.
- Learn the history of one of the most famous soft drinks of all time. Pharmacist Caleb Bradham brewed up a drink he called “Brad’s Drink,” designed to ease indigestion and boost energy. It was concocted of carbonated water, sugar, vanilla, “rare oils,” and high-caffeine kola nuts. On August 28, 1898, he gave it a catchy new name: “Pepsi-Cola.” The rest is history.
- Find out what Susan is up to during these hot summer weeks by visiting her blogs, LifeScapes and BookScapes. There’s always something interesting happening in the Texas Hill Country and on Susan’s writing desk.