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The Arkansas Unit of the Herb Society of America had a great turnout

for their herbal celebration at the Arkansas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired yesterday in Little Rock.

The weather cooperated as well for the garden tour after the lecture.

Tina Marie Wilcox

from the Mountain View Ozark Folk Center shared some of her herbal lore with us yesterday, and as always I learned quite a few new things. She covered at least one herb from each of the various themed demonstration gardens to talk about. She encouraged everyone to start eating their weeds--dandelions

and chickweed

in particular. (Make sure no herbicides are used). She also talked about trying new things.

I happen to love cilantro,

but many despise it. In fact, some people think it tastes like soap. I grow it every year and use it fresh in Mexican dishes, but I even like a few leaves thrown in my salad. Cilantro is a cool season plant which I grow in the fall and early spring. When the weather gets hot, cilantro quickly begins to bloom

and set seed, and turns into coriander --the seed version of the same plant. In the US, we call the foliage cilantro, and the seeds coriander. In the UK, both parts are called coriander so watch out when using recipes from other places. Normally when cilantro starts to bloom, I pull the plants, and plant something else. Since I was gone, that didn't happen and now my cilantro plants are loaded with seeds.

Tina says the seeds have a very different flavor and encouraged even non-cilantro lovers to try them. I will harvest mine tomorrow and give it a go.

They can be ground in a mortar and pestle, or you could use a coffee bean mill. Many cooks keep two coffee bean grinders--one just for coffee beans and the other for herbs. I will try my mortar and pestle and give you an update. The seeds will last up to a year if stored in a cool, dry place, while the ground seeds lose their potency. I plan to harvest my whole seeds and grind or use as needed.

She also went on to do a demonstration on making a tincture of echinacea. Years ago at the Arkansas Flower & Garden Show I was coming down with a cold. I stopped by Tina's booth and asked her for an herbal remedy. She gave me a few drops of her echinacea tincture, and I did not get a cold. After watching her demonstration, I think I will give it a go. She took a flower and a small handful of leaves

and cut them up and put them in her mortar and pestle. She ground them up pretty well

then put them in a measuring cup. It was about 1/8 of a cup of plant matter, which she then added a little less than 1/2 cup of 100 proof vodka---ok, I hear it now, everyone thinks it was the vodka, but I don't think so. You mix the stuff up in a glass jar, turning it morning and night for 2 days. After that, you strain out the plant matter and put the liquid in a dark colored glass bottle and store it for later use. All you take is a drop or two--not much. You can buy these tinctures commercially for $8 - 12 an ounce, but I have echinacea (coneflower) and I can buy some cheap vodka.

Echinacea tincture is widely known for promoting a healthy immune response, sort of like taking zicam or cold ease when you are getting a cold. Researchers are the University of Connecticut found that taking echinacea cuts the chances of catching a cold by 58%, and if you do get sick, echinacea can reduce the average duration of sickness by almost a day and a half, so I am going to make some. Learning and trying new things is what life is about.

If you have seen the forecast, a cold front is due in later tonight and Monday and Tuesday look like ideal gardening days. Good thing I don't have to go to work!!

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