Oikos Update 5/29/12

It seems like the lettuces in my garden have been winding down, but still coming in. My spinach is almost entirely bolted, my remaining mustard greens will go shortly and a couple overwintered collard greens have bolted. C’est la vie. I’m enjoying fresh salads from the garden while I can. I’ve been plucking a few beets, radishes, turnips, parsnips and carrots here and there and eating greens (swiss and rainbow chard, kale, mustards, collards, beets and turnip) just about every day, which is nice. Within the past week I’ve harvest a ton of snow peas and I’ll probably start freezing them, just like I did last year. Actually, I still have some frozen snow peas from last year. My fennel is looking good, there’s a few volunteer tomato plants from compost starting up that I’ll let take their course, the tomatillos are looking vibrant and we put in a few bell pepper and eggplants within the past week or so. The strawberries have been coming in as well and I think we’ve probably picked about a pint or two from our whiskey barrel planters. The new mini-orchard is starting to take off as well.

On the herbal front, I’m getting some things sown from seed coming up. My dill is going nuts and I have all the oregano, chives and catnip I need. Basil, peppermint, chocolate mint, cilantro and parsley are at the point where I can use them, but I have to be a little careful. Everything is looking better after this weekend’s rain and sun.

We had the first official CSA delivery last week, which was nice and a good supplement to what we’ve been getting from our garden. Got some radishes, spinach (which was nice with ours just having bolted) and lettuce.

I just finished Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis (Portfolio) by James Rickard yesterday, which I’ll probably review shortly. Just started on A Gift to My Children: A Father’s Lessons for Life and Investing by Jim Rogers, which will be a quick (and insightful!) read.

Silver has been down lately, in the neighborhood of $27-$28. I’m thinking about buying, but I have a feeling that turmoil in Europe could cause the dollar to go up a little more and send the price of metals down a little more. Based on where the prices have been over the past couple years, this isn’t a bad time to buy. We’ll see what happens. If I buy now or at $24 (just speculating…), I still think it’s a good mid/long term play regardless.

I bought a few shares of Herbalife (HLF) earlier this month when the price tanked based purely on a few comments by David Einhorn and the prospect of him making a few more comments about that business. So far the price has been level at about what I paid for it, but nothing has actually changed with the business so I’m anticipating that it will climb up somewhere back in the neighborhood of $75 in the near future. That hasn’t panned out yet, so we’ll see how that foray into swing trading works out for me. Fortunately I don’t have a ton of money on the line that this will make or break me, but enough that I don’t want to lose it. I might just have to hold on to it a little longer than I wanted to.

Murray now looks like a big dog:  

He’s earned the nickname “Honey Badger” or “Badgerius” (saw the Improvised Shakespeare Company recently who used this name for a character) due to his behavior and appearance.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4r7wHMg5Yjg

Also, yesterday was Memorial Day.  I try to be thankful every day that I’m on this earth and make the best of it in honor of my comrades in arms that never made it back home.

Catnip – Not Just For Cats

In middle school I recall hearing a few urban legends that smoking certain common items like banana peels and catnip would produce a high similar to marijuana.   I recall a kid claiming that he went on top of his grandmother’s garage to smoke catnip.   He apparently started hallucinating – he believed a black dot was chasing him and he ended up falling off the garage and breaking his leg.   Whether or not that’s how he actually broke his leg, I don’t know, but up until last year that was the only time I had heard of catnip being consumed one way or another by humans.

Towards the end of summer I had heard about all of catnip’s benefits and was able to pick up a few plants from a garden center very cheap – unfortunately I had passed up on several free plants from a different garden center closing down for the season within days of hearing that it’s actually useful from this website

Anyways, I have four plants around my yard, mostly worked into rockbed landscapes.   Catnip (nepeta cataria) is a perennial and sure enough, the plants came right back this spring.   I have them all in semi-shady areas where they seem to be doing fine.    Like other members of the mint family (catnip is also known as “cat mint”), it can be invasive and get out of control.  My plants are in places where I’ll be glad to have them take over and just consider that good fortune – it doesn’t need much attention, it looks nice, it attracts beneficial insects and it’s useful.   What’s not to like about that?

Catnip is a calming herb without harsh sedative effects due to the nepetalctone content so it’s good when you’re feeling tense or just looking to wind down one way or another.    I like to have a tea with catnip when I’m planning on tuning out and drifting off for the rest of the night, sometimes mixed with chamomile.

Catnip also helps with when dealing with an upset stomach and other digestive disorders as well as helping relieve headaches and symptoms from PMS.    The link I posted has a laundry list of all the benefits of catnip and I’d suggest going through the list to get an idea of all the different things catnip is good for.

As previously mentioned, the herb is in the mint family so naturally the taste is minty, although a lot more subtle than spearmint or peppermint.   It’s mild, kind of grassy and slightly citrus-like (I think).    I usually mix it with other herbs when I make teas, but it would be just fine on its own with maybe a bit of honey. Just put some fresh or dried herbs in a tea ball of some sort and let it steep.

This is a plant that be grown hassle-free just about anywhere with a ton of uses.  If you don’t have any catnip around your oikos, I’d strongly suggest looking into throwing a plant into your landscape or a container (not garden spaces though because it might be too invasive).

As far as smoking it goes, I have a feeling it’s just a school yard legend.    As for banana peels, well, I tried it in 8th grade after seeing the Dead Milkmen’s “Smokin’ Banana Peels” on Beavis and Butthead and it didn’t work.   Tasted nice enough though, I guess :::shrugs:::

Oregano

This is some Greek oregano that established itself somehow in one of my rock beds last year and seems to be doing just fine again this year:

Oregano is a perennial herb that originates from the Mediterranean region and can naturally be found in the cuisines of that part of the world (Greek, Italian, Middle Eastern, Spanish, some French, Turkish, etc.) and places influenced by that part of the world (Mexico and Cuba, for example).   It does well in partial shade and doesn’t really need a whole lot of attention.  It’s fairly low growing and seems to be just fine in places with marginal growing conditions (i.e. my shady rockbed).   I think oregano would be one that would be a good choice for food-minded guerrilla gardeners and/or those practicing permaculture due to these reasons.  Although it is a perennial, it is often grown as an annual in cold/temperate climates.   I think I just got lucky with the mild winter this year and it managed to make it through the winter or reseed itself.  It can be grown in a container fairly easily as well.

When cooking a little bit goes a long way with oregano and sometimes it’s better to err on the side of caution when winging it with a recipe.    Typically oregano is added towards the end of a recipe because excessive heat can alter the flavor.  It’s probably most widely known in our part of the world for being in most anything Italian with tomatoes (marinara, pizza, etc.) and in many Mexican dishes.    It also goes well with a bit of mint on lamb for a Greek-influenced dish.

Not only is it good in pasta sauce, it also has some notable medicinal qualities.   Oregano is considered a good herbal antiseptic and used as a remedy for respiratory conditions like colds, bronchitis, tonsillitis and asthma, especially infused into a tea.    The essential oil has been used to ease inflammation, especially in toothaches and joints.    Like many other herbs, oregano aids in digestion by stimulating bile flow and reducing flatulence.  Oregano contains vitamin K, some essential fatty acids, antioxidants and  fiber.