"The earth is the Lord's and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it."
Today was my first presentation at the Lyonia Environmental Center at the Lyonia Preserve in Deltona, Florida.
The Lyonia Environmental Center promotes an understanding of the natural environment, the heritage, and the challenges of the local ecosystem plus offer numerous opportunities to experience and learn.
The presentation combined the uses of common herbs with those found in the Florida scrub which is characterized by low growing shrubs at the preserve.
Beginning with the current definition of herbs – any plant valued for its medicinal, savory or aromatic qualities or which has economic or industrial uses – we took a look at the uses of 6 groups of common & Florida scrub herbs along with my tip for each one.
TIP: Spearmint – the best mint for culinary use - makes an elegant garnish either fresh or crystallized plus a choice accompaniment to ice tea either as a fresh sprig or combined with half a strawberry in a lemonade ice cube
BEEBALM (Monarda didyma)
TIP: Bee Balm attracts bees, making it excellent to grow near vegetables gardens or orchards. The fragrance of bee balm is great for potpourri but also deters deer!!
HORSEMINT (Monarda punctata)
TIP: Rich source of the essential oil 'thymol' which is antiseptic when used as a poultice for swelling in addition to it’s attractive flowers and aromatic leaves.
ROSEMARY (Rosmarinus officinalis)
TIP: Rosemary, a piney scent which combines well with orange & cranberry as well as potatoes and beef, when dried should be soaked in hot water before being added to uncooked foods.
FLORIDA ROSEMARY (Ceratiola ericoides)
TIP: Although not edible, a great fragrance & a great plant for xeriscaping plus wildlife benefits - provides nesting sites for northern cardinal, grey catbird, yellow-rumped warbler, Florida scrub-jay (endangered), common yellowthroat, and mourning dove!
TIP: Essential to Italian cuisine. You can substitute marjoram for oregano and vice versa, but not in equal quantities. Always use the same form of the herb (fresh, dried, etc). When using oregano in place of marjoram, use a little less oregano; when using marjoram instead of oregano, use a little more marjoram or add some thyme
EPAZOTE (MEXICAN TEA) (Chenopodium ambrosioides)
TIP: Essential to Mexican cuisine. It is used as a vegetable and is especially popular for flavoring beans of any kind and helps reduce some of the “negative” effects of eating beans
CALENDULA (Calendula officinalis)
TIP: The showy edible flowers close when wet weather is likely to occur and they can therefore be used as a rough means of weather forecasting as well as adding color to dishes like saffron
YUCCA (Yucca aloifolia, Yucca filamentosa )
TIP: The flowers, fruits, seeds and flowering stems are all edible, plus the roots can be used for salves and soaps. The green leaves have very strong fibers used as cordage for binding and to construct baskets, fishing nets, fishing lines and clothing. The leaves of Yucca filamentosa contain the strongest fibers native to North America
BAY (Laurus nobilis)
TIP: Use leaves to deter roaches & weevils, as a fragrant bookmark, in kitchen wreaths & holiday decorations plus bring together other flavors in dishes
SWAMP BAY (Persea palustris)
TIP: Keep this tree away from sidewalks and driveways to avoid getting surprises on windshields or pavement from birds which enjoy the berries as well as the leaves
WAX MYRTLE (Myrica cerifera)
TIP: The aroma of the wax myrtle’s leaves rubbed on you can keep mosquitos away plus the berries yield a wax for candles & soaps
TIP: Rose hips can hold a scent in potpourri as well as provide vitamin C in a tart tea.
BEAUTYBERRY (Callicarpa americana)
TIP: The seeds and berries are important foods for many species of birds as well as provide winter color and the berries can also be used to make jelly and wine.
BLUEBERRY (Vaccinium darrowii)
TIP: Blueberry leaf tea is sweet tasting plus good for controlling blood sugar and restoring normal acidic pH of urine
PRICKLY PEAR (Opuntia humifusa)
TIP: The pads, pear, flower buds & seeds are edible. Even the woody skeletons left after the fleshy tissues is dried can be used in the construction of houses, rustic furniture, and assorted trinkets
WINGED SUMAC (Rhus copallinum)
TIP: The edible berries are good for jelly or dye. The leaves turn a brilliant orange red in fall before they drop.
We also enjoyed a snack made with a combination of some of the herbs in these cookies along with an iced herbal tea with edible flowers, rose hips and spearmint:
CALENDULA CORNMEAL CRISPS: Combine 1c sugar with 1/2c fresh or dried calendula petals in food processor. Combine the calendula sugar with 1c butter until creamy then add 1 egg, 1/2c chopped pecans, 1/2c dried and seeded rosehips and 1tsp vanilla extract. Add a combination of 2c flour, 1/2c cornmeal, 1tsp baking soda and 1/2tsp ground nutmeg until just blended. Roll into two logs, wrap & refrigerate overnight. Slice, sprinkle with sugar and bake at 350 degrees for 10 mins.