Herb of the Year for 2021: Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
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: Sweet Liber-teas
July 9: National Sugar Cookie Day.
July 11: Let’s declare today Love Your Basil Day. Susan’s garden is full of it—is yours?
July 24: Nestle introduced Nescafe instant coffee on this day in 1938.
July 28: Beatrix Potter was born on this day in 1866.
July 29. St. Martha’s Day. The patron saint of housewives, St. Martha stopped sweeping long enough to put out a dragon’s fire with holy water. (Do not try this at home!) But what does Martha’s dragon have to do with King Kong?
July 30: National Avocado Day
Likely, there was a pitcher of of iced tea on your picnic table on the Fourth of July. But for the people who lived during the American Revolution, China teas (including their current favorites Bohea and Green Hyson) were not on the menu. The whole affair had, after all, begun with the Boston Tea Party, and one of the patriots’ earliest acts was to renounce their cherished imported (and newly-taxed) tea in favor of locally-grown, tax-free herbs.
As they drank, they sang this catchy ballad:
Throw aside your Bohea and your Green Hyson Tea,
And all things with a new-fashioned duty;
Procure a good store of the choice Labradore,
For there’ll soon be enough here to suit ye;
Then do without fear, and to all you’ll appear
Fair, charming, true, lovely and clever;
Though the times remain darkish, young men may be sparkish,
And love you much stronger than ever.
Yes, plants can definitely be political!
The Labrador tea mentioned in the ballad was brewed from Ledum groenlandicum. The plant was used medicinally by Native Americans, who shared their knowledge about it with the colonists. In 1768, the Boston Gazette reported that Labrador tea had been poured for a “circle of ladies and gentlemen who pronounced it nearly, if not quite, equal in flavor to genuine Bohea tea. So important a discovery claims attention, especially at this crisis,” the editor added. “If we have the plant, nothing is wanted but the process of curing it into tea of our own manufacture.” Labrador teas were a household affair, and every housewife had her own recipe, compounded from the plants she found growing nearby. Most teas included rose hips, mint, and wild ginger leaves. Dried citrus peels, cinnamon, and cloves might be added when they were available.
Sassafras Tea, and other Tree Teas
This popular “root beer” tea was brewed long before and after the Boston Tea Party, for it was thought to be both delicious and health-giving. And since the sassafras tree was an all-American native, it was certainly on the list of politically-correct tea plants. Other trees or shrubs with leaves and/or fruits that were frequently used as beverage teas during the Revolution included the sweet gum, willow, rose, raspberry, and sumac.
Catnip and pennyroyal were easy choices, along with bergamot, lemon balm, verbena, rosemary, thyme, sage, wintergreen, and various mints. Blossoms went into the teapot, as well: elder, red clover, violet, goldenrod, linden. Rosehips, fennel, dill seeds, and spices (especially cloves and cinnamon) were also included.
Your Own Liberty Tea
To make a pitcher of Liberty Tea, pour 10 cups boiling water over these slightly-bruised fresh herbs: 5 sprigs spearmint, 3 sprigs applemint, 2 sprigs red bee-balm flowers, 2 sprigs lemon balm, 1 sprig peppermint. Steep 15 minutes. Serve iced. Or purchase a variety of dried herbs, seeds, and spices and create your own unique blend. Our brave revolutionary foremothers would applaud your experiment!
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 anyway, with a classic Quiche Lorraine. Bon appetit! (Do we actually need an excuse to make a quiche? Perfect for those summer weekend brunches.
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 vanilla adventure, A Plain Vanilla Murder.
Instant coffee, introduced in July, 1938, may not be your favorite form 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. Drink hot or cold. 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.