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As water in Southern California quickly becomes a precious commodity, homeowners are encouraged to make use of drought tolerant, versatile landscaping alternatives in order to employ and maximize conservation efforts.  There are numerous landscaping plants and trees that are functional and valuable in countless ways.  Along with providing visually dramatic landscaping, many bestow fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flora whose uses are wide-ranging and limitless.  From the culinary to the medicinal, from teas to cosmetics, fragrant potpourris and marvelous decorations, the overlapping benefits and function of these plants far exceed that of providing simple landscape – they assist in sustaining our homes and our health.

Simple culinary ideas for the herbs you grow…

Refreshing Spa Water Drink

  • Cut and wash a dozen or so leaves and stems from any of the following:  Spearmint, Mint, Scented Geraniums, or Lemon Balm
  • Place cuttings in ceramic or glass pitcher
  • Place a long metal spoon in pitcher (this prevents shattering when boiling water is added)
  • Add 1 cup boiling water to pitcher along with ¼ c. sugar or 2-3 packets artificial sweetener.
  • Let stand 20 to 30 seconds, add cold water and ice to fill pitcher, remove spoon.
  • Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.  Remove herbs, and strain over ice before serving – simply wonderful water!

Easy Way to Dry Your Herbs

  • Gather several bunches of herbs: Thyme, Oregano, Mint, Basil, etc.  Wash and air dry
  • Place herbs in a brown bag, close tightly and put in a warm dark place for a few weeks. (keep each type herb in separate bag and label with name and date)
  • Process dry herbs by pulling the leaves off the stems.  Crunch them into tiny pieces with your hands or by running over a screen.
  • Place crushed herbs in recycled glass jars, label with name and date  .
  • Store in kitchen or pantry.  These herbs will keep for a few years. Use dried herbs for teas or seasoning

Herbal Tea

  • Use 1-2 tsp of dried herbs per cup of tea
  • Place dry herbs in tea pot
  • Fill pot with boiling water, cover and let steep for 10-20 minutes, depending on how strong you like it.
  • Herbs will stay at the bottom of the pot but to avoid any loose herbs, strain the tea while pouring.
  • Enjoy sweetened with honey or Stevia

Herb Cheese

  • Beat together 4 oz cottage cheese and 2 tbs. sour cream
  • Mix in herbs: 1 tbs. each of fennel and lemon balm, 2 tbs. chopped parsley, 1 clove crushed garlic.
  • Serve on tomato or cucumber rings, with toast or crisp breads or as a sandwich filling
  • Variation:  To make an herb cheese dip, add 4 tbs. sour cream or low-fat yogurt

Herb Butter

  • Beat 4 oz butter to a cream.  Mix in chopped herbs: 2 tbs. parsley, 1 tbs. chives, ½ tbs. mint, and ½ tsp. mustard powder
  • Add 1 tbs. lemon juice drop by drop – beating well.
  • Place butter on waxed paper and form it into a roll
  • Roll the butter up into the paper and refrigerate 2 hours to harden
  • To serve, cut the butter into round pats with a sharp knife or stamp the pats using a cookie cutter

Reference Books:
The Complete Book of Herbs         Author: Lesley Bremness
The Edible Herb Garden                Author: Rosalind Creasy
The New Age Herbalist                  Author: Richard Mabey