Once-golden leaves completing their lifecycle for the year
November has come and my yards are a carpet of gold and bronze leaves and the hostas in beds along my picket fence are a bright yellow-gold color that will soon turn to brown as the weather grows colder.
Just a few weeks ago, these same leaves covered the trees in yards, roadsides and woodlots in amber and russet. The leaves have completed their cycle of life for another year – from buds in the spring, to fall carpets of autumn color and after the cold, ice, and snow of the winter to come, they will be back again when the spring is new.
November’s birthstone is the topaz. Its rich amber color is a perfect complement to the dramatic reds, russets and golds of the fall season. First discovered on the Isle of Topazos in the Red Sea, the topaz has for centuries been highly prized for its beauty and the belief that it was a protector of health, a sound mind, happiness and safety.
The Romans called the topaz “The Stone of Strength” and the Roman emperor Hadrian, who vastly spread and prospered the Roman Empire, daily wore the topaz in a ring. But whatever its past, the topaz in color and legend is a beautiful token of the fall.
Thyme, parsley and sage are common herbs often associated with our November holiday, Thanksgiving. Used as a seasoning in preparing Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing, these herbs have been cultivated for centuries and used for medicinal and culinary purposes. As culinary herbs, they have a complimentary taste and actually aid in digestion when added to various foods.
When using herbs in cooking, some handy guidelines can help ensure a more tasty outcome.
1. When deciding how much of an herb to add to a recipe, remember that the amount will vary according to how fresh the herb is when used. Fresh herbs will have the strongest flavor.
2. Cut back on the amount of herb used in your recipe by three-quarters when using fresh herbs in the recipe rather than dried.
3. To freshen the flavor of dried herbs, soak them in 1 tsp. lemon juice for 10 minutes before using.
4. To enhance the flavor of herbs used in cooking, sauté them lightly in oil or butter before using.
5. Add herbs to a recipe at the same time as adding salt and pepper and add them during the last half hour of cooking to retain as much flavor as possible.
6. Crush the measured amount of herbs in the palm of your hand with the heel of your other hand before adding them to your recipe. This action releases the full flavor of the herb.
Want to try your own herbal blend for the holiday dressing this year? The following is a savory basic blend that can be varied to taste and can be stored in a sealed jar for up to six months for use at any time.
Savory blend to use in poultry dressing or soups
3 Tbsp. sage
1-1/2 Tbsp. lemon thyme
1 Tbsp. lovage
2 Tbsp. marjoram
2 Tbsp. parsley
2 Tbsp. salt
Pepper to taste
It is not a bad idea to plan for some extra exercise at holiday time. We often eat as much as a day and a half to two days’ worth of calories on Thanksgiving Day and though it is most enjoyable, it can add a few unwanted pounds. An exercise to consider is shopping, which burns about 200 to 250 calories per hour, and Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving.
November garden tip: Finish planting bulbs, rake and add your fallen leaves to the compost pile. Put away hoses and drain and winterize irrigation systems. It is also time to cut back roses and mulch or heap dirt around the base of the bush. Covering the base will keep it from the damaging freezing and thawing that can take place through the winter months.