Mar 282014

by Avis Licht  – The Wonderbag and wine and flowers, ready for dinner The slow cooker Wonderbag is a wonderful find. Originally invented by founder Sarah Collins in South Africa with the intention of conserving cooking energy in developing nations, this cordless, power-free, gas-free slow cooker might just change the way we slow-cook forever. For every Wonderbag purchased in the US, one is donated to a family in need in Africa. Families in developing countries who use Wonderbags save up to 30% of their income otherwise spent on fuel for wood stoves.

Here is an opportunity to reduce your energy use, help women and children in poor countries, cook healthy meals in very little time and a side benefit for me – no burnt pots!

This is my super simple recipe for chicken soup with fresh herbs.  You can buy this amazing Wonderbag from my store. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Here is the series of photos of the making of the soup.  It’s actually cooking on the dining room table in the insulated bag!

Using fresh herbs from the garden

Sage, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, marjoram and parsley are the fresh herbs I used. Plus onion and garlic. Plus a little salt.

Chopped Herbs

Chop the fresh herbs and place in the pot with the broth.


Any kind of mushrooms can be used. In the slow cooker they don’t get too soft.

Onions and garlic

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil or coconut oil. The smell is divine and gives a better flavor to the soup than used raw.

Add clied carrots to the saute.  rich in color and flavor
Add sliced carrots to the saute. rich in color and flavor


The chicken has been sauteed and then the broth added.

The chicken has been sauteed for about 5 minutes and then the broth added.

Pot with lid

Bring soup to a boil then simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Put a close fitting lid on the pot and put into the bag.

Close it up tight

Close it up tight and leave for 5 – 9 hours. Don’t open and peek or you will let the heat out.

Open the top and check the soup. It's cooked and absolutely delicious.  Slow cooking   keeps the flavor.

Open the top and check the soup. It’s cooked and absolutely delicious. Slow cooking keeps the flavor.

A bottle of wine, some flowers, and fresh hot rolls, and you've got yourself a lovely dinner.

A bottle of wine, some flowers, and fresh hot rolls, and you’ve got yourself a lovely dinner.

Jun 252013

by Avis Licht

It’s two days after the Summer Solstice and the garden is coming into fruition. I am feeling so grateful to have a garden, to spend time in it, and to have so much wonderful food come out of it.  We also have  flowers everywhere, to bring color and joy. And to invite our friends the birds, butterflies and bees. It’s a regular gathering place for the multitudes. This unusual June rain is a gift beyond compare. Those of you in other parts may get summer rains. Maybe even too many.  But here in California a summer rain is what we call a gift from heaven. Thank you to the Powers that Be.

Here are some photos I took this morning in the rain.

We will have a bumper crop of apples this year.

We will have a bumper crop of apples this year.



Daylily buds are edible and highly prized in Chinese cooking



Thin the grapes early to make room for them to grow full size

Cherry Belle Radish

Radishes – Harvest early and often

Harvesting raspberries

In an unusual June rain, we adore picking raspberries.


Growing basil in pots is easy. In the ground sometimes basil gets eaten by earwigs and slugs. In the pots not so much.

Delicata squash

My seedlings of the squash have germinated beautifully and will start growing rapidly after this rain. The white flower is nicotiana, a fragrant night blooming flower.

Miniature rose

These roses have been blooming for months. After cutting them back a few weeks ago, they are starting all over again. I put these small roses all over the garden for beauty and delight. Rose petals are used in many culinary ways.

IMGP0058Variegated thyme

Variegated thyme provides a wonderful leaf contrast and I use it in cooking. I grow it near the strawberries as a companion plant.


Even though my kale has a few munching holes in it, it’s still great to eat. I don’t worry about a few pecks here and there.


Raspberries are easy to grow and I feel rich when we eat them. They’re expensive to buy, and cheap to grow! Watch out though, they like to spread themselves around the garden. Read about them in this post:

Squash blossom

Your plants will have many blossoms, and we often get way too many zuchinnis. So why not eat the blossoms? They’re delicious. Here are some ways to cook them: Squash blossom with ricotta.

Cucumber blossom

Once they start blossoming you can expect to get cucumbers soon and often. I plant 4 or 5 varieties, including lemon, Persian, Armenian,Thai and pickling. We love our cucumbers.

Blueberries starting to ripen

Given plenty of water, the blueberries are growing large and plump and we will harvest them over a long period of time. One of the best shrubs for the edible landscape. Read more on blueberries in this post.

Sep 262011

All plants do not require the same care.  This may seem like an obvious statement, but really how much do you know about what your plants really need?

Salvia is a sage

Hot Lips Salvia requires little water and poor soil

Many herbs that we commonly grow and use are from the Mediterranean area.  They need lots of sun and low rainfall and well drained, rocky soil.  Lavender, rosemary, thyme and sage: these plants do not want rich, high nitrogen soil or plenty of water.  You can literally kill your plant with kindness. Misplaced love, I call it.

The flavor and fragrance of these plants depend on their tough conditions, which favor the essential oils that give the plants their strength.

When you’re standing there with the hose in your hand waiting to give your plant love, think twice and check the soil moisture first.  

Many California native plants live in dry, hot conditions.They  don’t need too much water or rich soil.

Arctostaphylos 'Howard McMinn"

California Manzanita shrub (click to enlarge)

There is virtually no rain for at least six months of the year. Plants like the Manzanita in the picture on the right, do not need or want too much water.  Don’t treat them like your English perennials.

When you are grouping your plants in the garden, be sure to put plants that have similar water needs together on one station. Try not to mix up plants with very different requirements.  The same goes for soil, sun and light requirements.

Even in an Edible Landscape, your food producing plants will have different needs. Be sure to investigate your plant’s needs before putting them in the ground.

Sep 102011

$20 off $40

The Fall season in Northern California is the worst time for deer in the gardens. The grasses and other forage in the wildlands have dried up and intrepid deer come wandering into our gardens, looking for something good to eat. If you don’t have a 6 foot fence surrounding your garden, you’ll want to know some herbs that you can count on to be deer resistant.

lavender in the Edible landscape

Lavender (click to enlarge)

Lavender is one of my favorite herbs.  It is fragrant, easy to grow, doesn’t need much water and deer really don’t eat it. It does need sun and good drainage.  It is a perennial plant, that in mild climates, meaning no heavy snow cover, can live for 5 – 7 years.  After that, it starts looking worn out and old, and needs to be replaced.

I was surprised to taste how good a glass of ice cold water from a pitcher that had a sprig of mint and a sprig of lavender in it was.  As long as you don’t over do it with the lavender, it is really a wonderful flavor.

rosemary in the edible landscape

Rosemary at the bottom of steps (click to enlarge)

Rosemary is another absolutely fantastic herb for the edible landscape.  It is a multi purpose plant. It is also easy to grow, liking full sun and little to moderate water and doesn’t need much care. It’s evergreen and cold hardy to 20 deg. although some varieties are more tender. You can use it in many styles of cooking.  I’ve never seen a deer eat a Rosemary plant, which can’t be said for many plants.

Rosemary varieties can be found as upright shrubs to 6 ft tall, and as low as 1 ft. cascading over walls. The flowers attract birds, butterflies and bees and produce excellent honey.  I call this plant the work horse of all herbs.

Yarrow in the edible landscape

Free blooming pink yarrow (click to enlarge)

Yarrow, called Achillea millefolium, is a beautiful and carefree herb.  It grows in all zones in full sun, with little or no water.It has finely toothed leaves and a flower that can be used for fresh or dried bouquets.

You can find varieties of Yarrow with white, pink, red or yellow flowers. There are creeping varieties and ones that grow to 3 ft tall.

Thyme is a well known herb which comes from the Mediterranean. It is a low growing, plant in the mint family.  There are some wonderful flavors of different thymes, including lemon, lime, caraway scented and orange scented. I use it as a ground cover between stepping stones.  It has a beautiful flower as well as being fragrant when you step on it.  As with the other herbs I’ve talked about, this one also doesn’t need rich soil or much water. For maintenance it is best to shear or cut back plants after they flower.

Thyme in the edible landscape

Thyme between stepping stones (click to enlarge)

These are a few of my favorite herbs for the edible landscape.  But I promise there are more to come just as wonderful.

Aug 262011

Nasturtiums cascading over wall (click to enlarge)

There are some beautiful, easy to grow and fun to use herbs for the edible landscape. In the photo above, you see the Nasturtium (Traepolum sp.) hanging over a concrete retaining wall. This is one of the multi- purpose edibles that everyone should know about.  It is pretty, it grows easily and different part of the plant can be used. Leaves of nasturtiums are tangy and great in salads. The flowers have a spicy flavor and you can use them to decorate many dishes and also eat them. In mild climates they last through the winter, and in cold climates you should treat them as an annual.

Close up of Nasturtiums

Mixed herbs in the landcape

In the photo above, you will find thyme, sage, basil, both green and purple, parsley and tarragon. You should place these herbs close to the house where you can come out of the kitchen while you’re cooking and harvest them right as you need them. Fresh herbs are SO much better than dried herbs.

They make a nice edging along the deck and are easy to reach.

Purple and Green Basil

This is a close up of purple Basil.  It has a dramatic color in the leaf, but tastes the same as traditional Basil.  Green Basil can be seen in the background starting to flower.  Like Nasturtiums, Basil does not overwinter in cold climates. If you plant enough, you can make a great Pesto sauce and freeze it for a wonderful winter Pasta dinner.

Follow this simple recipe: so easy and so good!

1/3 cup basil leaves, chopped

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons Parmesan, grated

3 tablespoons walnuts, chopped

1 clove garlic, sliced


Put the basil in the blender with the olive oil, cheese, walnuts, and garlic.  Blend until smooth: then season with salt.

This pesto can also be used to garnish pizza, soups or vegetable dishes.

More great herbs to follow,  check back soon.


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