This season has been the complete antithesis to the 2009 cool and wet summer in the Northeast. Last year we remember never having to water our crops after May 25th. This summer has had more days in the 90's than I can remember. Lawns in the neighborhood are brown and on the 5000 square feet that make up our micro-farm, we've needed to do twice a day watering by hand, which take up to 2.5 hours a day. Raised-beds have the benefit of warmer soil earlier in the season but will also dry out more quickly.
Keeping cool has been challenging for some of our vegetables and tender young seedlings. Use of open well-ventilated light-weight row covers are extremely helpful for this but the bigger challenge is how we keep ourselves cool and still do productive work outside. The answer is not cranking the AC but a refreshing herbal iced tea made with some important and tasty perennial herbs and our prolific cucumbers.
There are many varieties of hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) most notably Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) and the type that we grow called Korean Licorice Mint or Giant Hyssop (Agastache Rugosa). This bushy 4 foot licorice tasting perennial is important in our micro-farm since it's nectar-rich purple flowers are a heavy attractor to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Although the flowers are edible, I leave them to the pollinators. They also attract the much unwanted white cabbage butterfly that lays its eggs on brassica vegetables. Cabbage worms are responsible for the destruction of young broccoli and brussels spout seedlings and our organic control has been row covers and manual removal of these critters.
Native Americans have used the hyssop plant leaves as a breath freshener, tea infusion, cough depressant, and like Stevia, a natural sweetener. This plant also self seeds and creates many volunteers that we dig up and transplant to other places.
RECIPE: HYSSOP, MINT AND CUCUMBER ICED TEA
1/4 cucumber, sliced (I used Armenian cucumber)
Optional: thai basil flowers for garnish
Fill a half gallon jar or container heavily packed with leaves of hyssop and mint. Fill with filtered water, cover and let brew in the full sun for a day. Add cucumber slices and chill the contents either by refrigerating or adding ice and enjoy. Once used, you can refill the water and enjoy again.
Recipe adapted from Ethan and Dyami of Appleseed Permaculture