Herb of the Year for 2020: Blackberries, raspberries, and their cousins (Rubus ssp.)
Flower of the Month for July: Larkspur: Each blossom color has a different meaning: pink means fickleness, white conveys a happy nature, and purple represents a first love.
July is National Blueberry Month, National Ice Cream Month
July Feature: Prairie Doctor
July 4: A day to celebrate America and the spirit of inclusiveness and unity that makes us who we are as a nation. Happy birthday to us!
July 6: Hey, it’s here! Deadlines, the long-promised first novella in Susan’s new Pecan Springs trilogy.
July 9: National Sugar Cookie Day.Week 2
July 21: Watch for the publication of Fault Lines, the second novella in Susan’s new Pecan Springs trilogy! Book 3, Firelines, is coming on Aug. 4
July 24: Nestle introduced Nescafe instant coffee on this day in 1938.
July 28: Beatrix Potter was born on this day in 1866.
July 30: National Avocado Day
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) is blooming across the Plains states now, its purple petals a colorful contrast to its bright orange centers. On this hot July afternoon in Texas, it is the prettiest thing in the garden. The bees and butterflies pausing happily to enjoy it obviously think so, too.
Echinacea is native to the Great Plains of North America, and the native people of the region, skilled herbalists as they were, understood its effectiveness long before white people came into their territory. In their larder of plant medicines—golden seal, slippery elm, chickweed, goldenrod—echinacea held the highest place. It was used to treat toothaches, coughs, infections, and sore throats. Preparation was simple: they dug a fresh root, washed it, and sucked on it.
European botanists learned about the coneflower in the early 1700s. But it was not until the Plains Indians shared their knowledge with the settlers that word of this American treasure, often called the “prairie doctor,” got around. It is still in use by herbalists, recommended as a treatment for colds, flu, and related ailments. There’s a great deal of scientific reporting about this herb; while there are no known safety issues, it’s a good idea to read about it before using it.
Herbalist Steven Foster suggests making your own herbal tea with the fresh flowering tops of E. purpurea. Pick a flower, he says, chop it fine, and put it into a tea bag or non-reactive strainer. Steep in hot water for 15 minutes, and sip to combat flu and colds.
Celebrate Ice Cream Month by using some of that luscious lavender in your garden to make a batch of sinfully rich Honey Lavender Ice Cream.
All the world loves a cookie! Observe Sugar Cookie Day by baking some of China Bayles’ famous curry and cardamom sugar cookies, re-posted on the Spice House website, along with some nifty five-star cookie reviews! You can read the story the recipe comes from in An Unthymely Death and Other Garden Mysteries.
If you’re French, celebrate Bastille Day. You’re not French? Celebrate it anyway, by baking a classic Quiche Lorraine. Bon appetit!
Have some special fun on Vanilla Ice Cream Day by helping the kids make vanilla ice cream in a bag (yes, really!). Or maybe you’d rather follow Oprah’s vanilla bean recipe or (omigosh!) fennel seed basil vanilla ice cream. (We haven’t tried this. If you do, let us know how it tastes. We’re skeptical.) And, of course, you’ll want to dip into China’s latest adventure, A Plain Vanilla Murder.
Instant coffee, introduced in July, 1938, may not be your favorite choice of this herbal beverage, but you can make it a little more tasty. Try a couple of teaspoons of one of these refreshing mixes in a mug of hot water. Start with a basic mix of 2/3 cup instant coffee and one cup sugar. And yes, of course coffee is an herb!
- For a mint-flavored mocha, add 1 teaspoon dried mint leaves (powdered) and 2/3 cup non-dairy creamer.
- For an orange-mocha treat, add 1¼ teaspoon crushed dried crushed orange peel, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, and a pinch of cloves
To celebrate Miss Potter’s birthday, read one of the delightful books in Susan’s Cottage Tales series about Miss Potter’s village life and treat yourself to some of her gingersnaps. You’ll find the recipe at the bottom of the page for The Tale of Hill Top Farm.
Avocados have been on the human menu for eons. Also called “alligator pears,” they were gathered and eaten in Mexico as early as 8000 BCE, and grown in orchards by 3000 BCE. For a bushel of avocado recipes, go here To learn about its medicinal uses, go here.
Find out what Susan is up to these days by visiting her blog, Lifescapes. There’s always something interesting going on in the Texas Hill Country. On her “other” blog, BookScapes, she posts book reviews, bookish thoughts, and notes on the fast-changing world of books–a world that is changing even faster to adapt to our Covid era.