Origins of Aloe vera

There in Misali, I was discovering my own circular route, from childhood familiarity with Aloe vera in America, to the splendid diversity found in Africa, and eventually… back home again. RICHO CECH The popular story goes that long ago, somewhere in North Africa, grew a smallish yet handsome, robust and edible aloe, plump of leaf and yellow of flower.  This unique plant…

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Weeding With Feelers Out

The higher you are on the pyramid, up there collecting your volunteers, the better the view! — Richo Cech The Wasabi (Wasabia japonica) patch was long overdue for a bit of upkeep and rejuvenation.  Plants planted in midwinter were developing slowly beneath a cover of grasses and forbs.  My extended fingers pushed in toward the crown of the plant,…

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2019 14th International Herb Symposium

14th International Herb Symposium 2019

It seems that as one begins to study herbs, the plant’s essence infuses one’s entire life with joy. People become happier, healthier, more in balance and in tune with their inner dreams. The beauty of the herbs work their gentle magic on the heart of the user. — ROSEMARY GLADSTAR This coming June, the 14th International Herb Symposium is…

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Growing Mandrake — Beyond the Basics

Mandrake Fruiting Plant

Growing mystical plants requires a certain amount of consciousness on the part of the gardener, and for best results one allows the plants to call the shots.  This is only to the extent of one’s willingness to let go of control.  One never really knows where it will all go.  Simply wishing the plant to do well seems to…

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Ashitaba, Mystical Reiso of Japan

Ashitaba Plant

Ashitaba (Angelica keiskei koidzumi), Mystical Reiso* of Japan *Reiso, “A mysterious or mystical herb or plant.” Ethno botanical: According to ancient documents, the gene-center of Ashitaba is Hachijojima, an island in the Izu archipelago, a moist subtropical region located southerly to Japan. This island is well-known as the “Island of Longevity.”  Historically, inhabitants consumed an austere diet composed…

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Advanced Seed Planting Tips

Know your seed.  Examine the seed before planting.  Large seeds, especially those from the Legume (Fabaceae) family, have impermeable seed-coats that may require scarification (nicking or rubbing) before planting.  Smaller seeds in the Lamiacea (the mint family) also appreciate scarification to wake them up — rub on a #8 seed-screen or on medium grit sandpaper.   Needle-like seeds in the Asteracea…

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Medicinal Herb Seeds Per Gram

Stinging Nettles

Granted that careful planting of a small packet of seeds sometimes gives more results than a haphazard planting of a much greater number of the same seeds, yet still, it is nice to have access to larger quantities of seeds. Often labor and materials may be minimized and plant happiness maximized by planting directly in the garden or field,…

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Why Grow Open-Pollinated Seeds

  Cultivating a direct connection to the earth and all her goodness is the core value of gardening.  One trades the sweat of the brow for sustenance at table, for remedies in the medicine cabinet.  This is the birthright of humans, and can be accomplished simply, locally, inexpensively, and without advanced education.  You plant a patch of pumpkins, and…

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How to Grow and Use Saffron

An aura of mystery surrounds Saffron (Crocus sativus), both the bulbous plant and the spice derived from its luminous red stigma. In actuality planting the corm and raising a few saffron plants to produce a small supply of the spice is easy, fun and rewarding.  One of the simplest ways to provide the right conditions for healthy saffron and assure…

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The Power of Naming in the Plant World

“Leta mukasi!” says the witch doctor living on the northern tip of the island of Pemba in Zanzibar.  “Bring mukasi!” His hand rests on the distended abdomen of a little boy who complains of stomach pains, a common complaint in a tropical region where food supplies are seasonal and parasites know no winter.  The plant is Leonotis mollissima, a…

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