The Great Herb Debate

February 5, 2012

Which side are you on? The Great Herb Debate” is here!

[Update: Audio of “Decision Chicago! The Great Herb Debate” is now posted here. ]

Are you strapped in? Ready to rumble? “Decision Chicago! The Great Herb Debate” is finally here on The Mike Nowak Show.

Today’s debate is part of the One Seed Chicago 2012 vote to determine which of three herbs will be the plant of the year. Here are the teams, the people who will be speaking for each herb, and a short statement about the plant.

#TeamBasil is represented by Anthony Todd (@FoodieAnthony), who is food and drink editor for Chicagoist. His statement on Basil:

“I’m Italian, so I was practically born with a sprig of basil in one hand and a tomato in the other.   It’s the tastiest, most useful herb I know, and you should vote for Basil for One Seed Chicago.

Unlike my colleagues, I’m not a gardening expert; in fact, I’m something of a novice.  I have tried to grow herbs in my windows and on my porch countless times, and the I have the skeletons of thyme, lemon verbena and, yes, cilantro plants to show for it.  But Basil has never let me down.  It’s almost laughably easy to grow – and it lasts forever.  Most people have never seen a full-grown basil plant, just the babies at the store.  They can grow to be the size of a small bush!

Basil originally came from India (and is prominent in Indian cuisine) but most Americans identify it with Italy.   Pasta sauce would just be red goo without it, and pesto would be nothing but pine nuts soaking in olive oil.   I dry it, freeze it, and put it in my canned goods so I can use it all year round.

Basil comes in many varieties, each of which is a little different.  Purple basil, licorice basil, lemon basil, thai basil.  Once you’ve grown one, you’ll want to try the whole rainbow of options.  Is it healthy?  It might help fight arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.  Plus, basil essential oil can repel mosquitos.  What’s not to love?”

#TeamChamomile, is represented by Linda Tyson (@ssgardengirl), who blogs as Garden Girl. Her statement:

“I chose chamomile for it’s pretty, daisy-like little blooms.  I’ve never grown it, but would like to give it a try in the garden.  I buy, and use chamomile tea often.

Chamomile is an aromatic plant, and makes a good companion for vegetables in the brassica family. It’s said to enhance their flavor, discourage cabbage worms, host hoverflies and wasps, and to accumulate minerals such as calcium, potassium and sulfur in the soil.

The January, 2005 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published a study showing chamomile tea is an immune system booster, and helps relieve muscle spasms and cramps.  Other studies have shown it provides relief from anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia, soothes the digestive tract, and can be  helpful for relieving migraine headaches.

As a compress, chamomile can help relieve under-eye circles and other skin discolorations, and the tea is an effective treatment for mild cuts and burns.  It may also be beneficial for hair and scalp as a rinse, and is sometimes included in chemical-free shampoos, conditioners, and skin-care products.

Camomile is drought-tolerant once established, and will grow in full to part sun.  Camomile tea can help prevent damping off of seedlings, Because of its antibacterial and antifungal properties, chamomile tea can be used to treat fungal diseases including black spot and powdery mildew.”

#TeamCilantro is represented by Jessica Rinks (@SnappyJDog) a regular contributer to this show who is a blogger for and President of the Forest Park Community Garden. Here’s her statement:

“Multicultural appeal and easy to grow!  You should vote for Cilantro!

Coriandrum sativum , commonly known as either coriander or cilantro, is an ancient herb native to southern Europe and the Middle East.  Coriander is mentioned in the Old Testament and coriander seeds were recovered from King Tut’s tomb in Egypt.  Historically the leaves, seeds, and essential oils were used for various medicinal, religious, and culinary purposes.

The herb was brought to the Americas by European explorers and was eventually popularized as a culinary herb particularly in Mexican cuisine.  However, cilantro’s utility goes far beyond just salsa.   Worldwide, cilantro is used in many cuisines including Indian, Chinese, and southeastern Asian cultures.

Cilantro is an easy herb to grow in a home garden, as it can be directly sown into your garden plot (no need to start indoors under lights) and grows quickly (harvest leaves in as little as 6 weeks and seeds in 9 weeks after sowing). It works well as a container plant too.  Cilantro can tolerate cooler temperatures, so you can sow seeds a few weeks prior to last spring frost to get a head start.   Also, it is very easy to save seeds from cilantro to replant in your garden.  Cilantro seeds will not cross-pollinate with any other of your garden crops.  Also, cilantro will often self-seed on its own.  Cilantro plants are also good garden neighbors as it is thought to repel undesirable insects such as aphids and to attract beneficial pollinators.

All in all, cilantro’s ease of culture and breadth of use make it the best  choice for One Seed Chicago.”

I will moderate the debate, since I have not decided which seed I will support…yet. In addition, I will have a true herb expert on board–Sal Gilbertie, co-author of Herb Gardening from the Ground Up: Everything You Need to Know about Growing Your Favorite Herbs. Gilbertie is the third generation owner/proprietor of Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens located in Westport, Connecticut. Established in 1922, Gilbertie’s is the largest herb grower and supplier in the United States today.

My thanks to Mr. Brown Thumb, who helped to pull this debate together. I understand that he will be working Twitter and Facebook this morning during festivities. Don’t forget to go to One Seed Chicago 2012 to cast your vote.

Fighting for a clean, healthy environment in an election year

Who said this?

“We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly one hundred years…Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade.”

A) An oil and gas industry lobbyist
B) The current President of the United States

If the quote sounded familiar to you, it might be because you watched President Barack Obama‘s State of the Union Address, where he made the above statement (I removed the phrase “and my Administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy” because I didn’t want to give away the answer.) He also said that he will direct his administration to open more than 75% of the nation’s potential offshore oil and gas resources for development, and indicated that nuclear energy and so-called “clean” coal are on his list.

This had organizations like Food & Water Watch scratching their heads. I guess that’s environmental politics in an election year. But Environment Illinois Program Director Max Muller says it’s important to remember tha,t at the same time, the Obama Administration has been moving ahead with a number of rules required under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act to protect public health and the environment. The Bush administration put these on hold, creating a backlog of rules that the Obama administration has been making progress on. These Include:

But make no mistake. If enviros have problems with some of Obama’s decisions, they need only look at what Republicans would do if they regained the White House. They are already incuding hundreds of anti-environmental riders and amendments in budget bills.

And, much like Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction,” the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline threatens to rise out of its oily bathtub and grab America by the throat. It might be attached to a transportation funding bill that would, among other things, open the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as well as the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, while cutting all funding for biking and walking safety and stifling environmental review for transportation projects.

Gotta admire the consistency of those Republicans. It’s the consistency of oil, I think.

Of course, there are always local environmental issues to be concerned about. For instance:

  • “Clean Coal” in Illinois (the Tenaska bill). The State House will be voting on this soon and Environment Illinois is strongly opposed.

Max Muller stops by the new WCPT studios this morning to discuss all of the above…and possibly more. So much environmental degradation, so little time, eh?

What does climate change look like?

Meteorologist Rick DiMaio and I often discuss climate change when he does his weather segment on my show. I don’t think I’ve seen it brought into starker terms than on this post I found on Daily Kos. Please read and be prepared to discuss on my show Sunday morning.