Herb of the Year for 2023: Ginger ( (Zingiber officinale). Named by the International Herb Association
Flower of the Month for April: Daisy
April is National Poetry Month
April Feature: Wild Weeds, Native Herbs
April: The Islamic holy month of Ramadan began on March 22 and continues through Friday, April 21.
April 5: The Jewish Passover begins, ends Thursday, April 13.
April 9: On this Sunday, Christians observe Easter.
April 10: Arbor Day. First observed in 1872, in Nebraska. Planting trees helps us tackle the climate crisis.
April 11: Licorice Day. A cup of licorice tea, anyone? An immune-system booster, licorice helps to protect against upper respiratory infections.
April 16: National Stress Awareness Day. Soothing choices: a cup of mint tea, a relaxing scented bath, and one of the Cottage Tale mysteries.
April 18: Step outside and watch for bees, doing their spring thing. Assuming you’ve finished your taxes, that is. Today is Tax Day.
April 22: International Earth Day. Please. Let’s not get so busy with our daily to-do lists that we forget the crisis we’ve created on our planet.
April 23: St. George’s Day. Watch for fleeing dragons!
April 25: National Zucchini Bread Day. (Nice, but in April? Doesn’t this belong in July, when zukes are coming out our ears?)
April 28: Maryland was admitted to the Union on this day in 1788. Its state flower: the black-eyed Susan.
April 29: On this day in 1796, Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery was published, the first cookbook by an American author.
A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Let’s stop thinking that an herb is something we grow in our gardens. These useful plants are all around us! But we have to stop calling them “weeds” and begin to understand them as “native herbs” before we can see and appreciate their unique usefulness. Begin your get-acquainted program with this spring quintet, likely to be popping up soon, somewhere in your immediate vicinity. These illustrate just a few of the many ways humans have found uses for our plant neighbors in this green world.
- Chickweed (Stellaria media). A zippy addition to salads in early spring, the seeds of this plant are especially loved by wild birds and domestic poultry–hence the name. Traditionally used to treat liver and kidney ailments, coughs, rheumatism, pleurisy. (You may remember this plant from the China Bayles mystery, Dead Man’s Bones, which features its European cousin, Stellaria holostea.)
- Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). You can probably see this plant just outside your window. The young leaves are used in salads; the blossoms are made into wine; and the roots can be dried, ground, roasted, and brewed as coffee. Medicinally used as a diuretic; also anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune booster.
- Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). Native Americans used the fibers of this plant to make twine and netting; collected the latex sap to make chewing gum; harvested the fuzzy seeds as stuffing for pillows; and used a decoction of the roots to treat rheumatism, stomach complaints, and gallstones. Butterflies love it: milkweed is the monarch’s favorite larval food plant.
- Purslane (Portulaca oleracea). Purslane migrated to the North American continent from India via Europe, brought by those who enjoyed it for salads, soups, and pickles. Plenty of vitamins and minerals. The tiny black seeds can be used like poppy seeds, sprinkled on baked goods and in salad dressings.
- Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota). A European migrant, the seeds likely brought by women who appreciated its unique helpfulness in managing our reproductive cycles. Given the current legislative agenda in some states, this is a plant to know. Read here about its use in regulating fertility. But do be careful, please. China’s 26th mystery, Queen Anne’s Lace, tells a cautionary tale.
The pedigree of honey
Does not concern the bee;
A clover, any time, to him
Want to read more like this? Look for The China Bayles Book of Days, with a thymely entry for every day of the year.
Celebrate Earth Day by choosing at least one way to modify your lifestyle this year, to reduce your footprint on the planet.
Find out what St. George has to do with dragons. From Roman soldier to Christian icon: how a religious legend is built.
Zucchini bread is better with garlic and your favorite herbs. This unusual recipe from TheFreeRangeLife makes a great flatbread (super with a bowl of tomato soup) or pizza crust.
Take a look at Amelia Simmons‘ famous 1798 cookbook, the first written by an American woman for American women. Through the magic of the internet, you are looking at the original pages of a book that is a treasure of its time. One of my favorite recipes (there are dozens): Tongue Pie (p. 24)
Soothe tax-day stress with these helpful herbal fragrances. Choose scented candles or use a diffuser with essential oils.
- Rose, for depression, irritability
- Orange, for apprehension, nervous tension
- Ylang-ylang, for sleeplessness, nervous tension
- Lavender, for tension, anxiety, and sleeplessness
Learn about the black-eyed Susan’s medicinal properties, and watch for its pretty bloom throughout late spring and summer.
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. Watch for an update (coming soon) to her post on “Libraries and Politics: A Dangerous Mix,” about the bookbanning efforts in a neighboring Texas county.
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 have a wonderful month!