Herb of the Year for 2022: Viola (violet, heartsease) named by the International Herb Association
Flower of the Month for March: Daffodil
March is National Women’s History Month
March Feature: The Many Virtues of Redbuds
March 7: The birthday of American horticulturist Luther Burbank, born 1849. He developed many new varieties of fruits, vegetables, and flowers. A Burbank favorite: the Shasta daisy.
March 14: National Potato Chip Day.
March 15: Ides of March (beware!)
March 16: On this day in 1915, absinthe (a liqueur made from the herb wormwood) was banned in France
March 17: St. Patrick’s Day. The luck o’ the Irish to you!
March 23: Today is the birthday (1857) of Fannie Farmer, who wrote the Fannie Farmer Cook Book.
March 25: Waffles of the world, frolic! Today is International Waffle Day!
March 30: National Hot Dog Day. Pass the mustard, please.
April 2: The Islamic holy month of Ramadan begins.
I like to pluck a handful of blossoms and toss them over a spring salad . . . . Redbud’s cheery color brightens white desserts like custard or rice pudding: just stir in a handful of blossoms before you set the dish in the oven to bake. And homemade ice cream can be infused with the pastel color and flavor of early redbud blooms.—Susan Tyler Hitchcock, Gather Ye Wild Things
The redbud trees (Cercis canadensis var. texensis) are in bloom this month around the margins of our little Hill Country woodland, their purple flowers like a cloud of color, brightening the darker oaks and elms around them. Green leaves will replace the flowers in another week or two, and by the end of summer the tree will be hung with purple-brown fruits, pods four inches long, flat and leathery. These lovely trees are worth growing for their stunning beauty, at a time of year when most other trees are still thinking about putting out their first leaves. But loveliness is only one of the many virtues of this little North American native.
The Medicinal Redbud
Dried and powdered, the redbud’s inner bark was an important medicine. Indian healers used it to staunch bleeding, ease skin irritations and poison ivy rash, and treat sores and tumors. Bark tea was drunk to treat diarrhea and dysentery and used (like quinine) to reduce malarial fevers and ease joint and muscle pain and headaches. The flowers were also steeped as a tea to prevent scurvy, treat kidney and bladder infections, and ease urinary ailments.
The Edible Redbud
The flowers are tossed in salads to add tartness and color. The buds, flowers, and tender young pods are sautéed for 10 minutes in butter and eaten as a vegetable. Native Americans roasted the pods in ashes and ate the seeds. The buds can be pickled: Cover with a brine of 1 quart cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, 6 cloves, 1 2” cinnamon stick, and 1/2 teaspoon each allspice and celery seed; ready in about 2 weeks. And in Appalachia, green twigs from the eastern redbud were to season for venison, earning the redbud another name: the spicewood tree.
The Pliable Redbud
The supple young sprouts, peeled and stripped, were used in the construction of baskets. Some tribes used the white inner bark or the red outer bark as decorative elements in very sophisticated work. The bark was also used as cordage and coarse twine, and the roots were used in sewing animal skins.
Whatever uses you find for the redbud, the special virtue of this little tree is the beauty that comforts our spirits. These difficult days, that counts for a lot, don’t you think?
Celebrate National Women’s History Month by discovering who Fannie Farmer was and why she is important. Hint: How would you like to follow a recipe that calls for “a piece of butter the size of a duck’s egg”?
Brush up on your potato chip history. (Who said “Betcha can’t eat just one”?)
On the Ides of March, find out what all the fuss is about. Here are some traditional ways to defend yourself.
- Hang a bunch of dill over a child’s bed to protect against evil fairies.
- If you’re concerned about dishonesty, plots, or secrets, place borage leaves or blossoms nearby and listen in. (Borage is said to encourage people to tell the truth. Maybe we should adopt it as our national herb?)
- Wear angelica to protect yourself against evil spirits (but be aware that it may also keep you from seeing potential opportunities). Brew a tea it and sprinkle a few drops in the corners of your house.
Take a virtual tour of Luther Burbank’s home and gardens in Santa Rosa CA, and find out what Burbank did to create the Shasta daisy. (You knew, of course, that the daisy itself is an herb—didn’t you?) For more on Burbank and his plant breeding business, read Jane Smith’s interesting, informative biography, The Garden of Invention: Luther Burbank and the Business of Breeding Plants.
For some delicious Ramadan foods from around the globe, look here.
Listen to one of Susan’s podcasts about the lore and magic of herbs. Each one is fun—and you’ll learn something you didn’t know about your favorite herb! And check out her China Bayles’ Book of Days for 365 daily celebrations.
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