Make Your Garden Grow
Spring is springing all over the place these days, and, as many of us are cooped up inside our houses, it’s the perfect time to get outside and start working on those gardens.
Since many of us don’t have much else going on right now — and Easter dinners around the area are more-or-less canceled –, we figured this would be a great time to pair some of our beers with their perfect horticultural matches.
And, since the staff at Straight to the Pint knows less about gardening than they do about medieval French poetry, we contacted Kathy Salisbury: a real, live horticulturist, Director of the Ambler Arboretum of Temple University, consultant at Katsura Horticultural, and lover of all things beer to help find not only the perfect plants for our beers, but also ones that will thrive in the climate throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
“We are kept from connecting with others,” she says. “We are kept from caring for others. Gardening gives us an opportunity to care for something, to nurture, to help and to be rewarded for our time and effort.”
Being out in nature, enjoying the outdoors, and the physical act of gardening have been linked to improved mental health.
“Research has shown just five minutes outside in this time of crisis and stress when everyone is under some sort of stress,” she continues, “gardening provides a stress release, a time to focus on something other than the news. It can be quiet time away from the news and the full house and it can be physical, making up for time lost at the gym or in the park. It is exercise and it is meditation.”
And growing your own food, for now, is a bit safer than traveling to the supermarket.
“For now, it is safer to go into the backyard and harvest a tomato than to travel to the grocery store for one,” Kathy says. “There is comfort in doing what you can to provide for yourself.”
Furthermore, as we’re all cooped up together in our houses, gardening is something that the whole family can enjoy together. It’s something you can do with the kids, and even people with limited mobility can get outside and tend a container or a window box.
“Gardening is fun and it gives you something to look forward to,” Kathy says. “I have to say I felt something special and optimistic when I saw that my asparagus was peeking through the soil yesterday morning.”
As for beer and gardening? Well, that’s a match made in beer heaven.
“I mean, for me, there isn’t much that beer isn’t a perfect match with,” Kathy laughs. “Beer is a liquid connection to the soil. It is the perfect thing — as my dad would say, it hits the spot — after an hour, a day of gardening. Beer can be what washes down the lovely dinner you made with your harvest or what you share with your special someone in the shade of the tree you planted.”
So… let’s pair ‘em up!
If you’re new to gardening, you can’t go wrong with scented geraniums.
“They can be planted in containers or right in the ground,” Kathy says. “They are easy to grow and do not need much care.”
Apparently, they’re referred to as “scented” not so much because of the fragrance of their flowers, but for the scent of their leaves when they’re gently rubbed.
“Fragrances range from Citronella — no, it will not keep the mosquitos away — to rose to orange,” Kathy tells us. “There are a few Orange scented geraniums out there, but Pelargonium ‘Orange Fizz’ smells just like Orange Crush soda.”
Sounds like you’re going to want a Crushin’ It while you plant this geranium. With Citra, Mosaic, and Azacca hops blending together to accentuate the fresh flavors of orange juice, Crushin’ It is dry, approachable, and perfectly balanced.
“The scented geraniums are a great addition to any sunny garden,” Kathy says. “Orange Fizz gets nice pink and dark purple flowers atop chartreuse leaves. Just like most plants with heavily scented leaves, these tend to be pest-resistant and even deer tend to stay away from them. Scented geraniums are drought-tolerant and need very little maintenance once established. You can even bring them inside as a houseplant when the first signs of frost appear.”
Thymus “Spicy Orange”
“A variety of creeping thyme, Spicy Orange Thyme gets covered with clouds of pink flowers atop narrow green leaves in summer,” Kathy says. “Not only good for the herb garden, this drought-tolerant, dense, mat-forming groundcover can also be used in the cracks of bluestone patios and walkways and as a lawn alternative in less-traveled areas of your gardens.”
And fresh thyme is always a great addition to your cooking. Simply dry the leaves and add them to your favorite dish.
“In the kitchen,” Kathy says, “you can use the leaves of this thyme to flavor seafood, pork, or poultry dishes.”
Then, you’ll want to pair those dishes with a frosty, cold Crushin’ It!
If you’re looking to landscape your yard and you’re thinking about a good shade tree or two — and you love our Mexican Lager with Limes and Sea Salt, Tan Limes — Kathy suggests the Littleleaf Linden: also known as the Lime tree.
“Well, that’s what Europeans call it, anyway,” she says.
The Lime tree or Littleleaf Linden (Tilia cordata) as we may find it labeled in America is a fantastic shade tree, ideal for landscaping large areas.
“It has a formal, regular gumdrop shape, tolerates all sorts of landscape conditions — best to avoid standing water or deep shade, but anything in between will do,” she tells us.
You’re definitely going to need some room for this tree — they grow up to 70 feet tall and 50 feet wide.
“Plant it where it will shade your house in summer and protect your home from winter winds to save some heating and cooling costs,” Kathy suggests.
And honeybees love it! While it’s a great tree to lounge under while sipping a Tan Limes, it will also help us make sure that we’ve got enough honey to keep making our award-winning Honey Porter — and that we all have enough food to eat, because, as they say, no bees, no food.
“Yellow-green flowers emerge in late spring and call out to every honeybee in the area,” Kathy says. “If you can find a beekeeper who has it, linden honey is delicious.”
“The young leaves are harvested and eaten in salads in various regions of the world,” Kathy explains.
Maybe make a little salad dressing with some Tan Limes? Sounds delicious!
At Straight to the Pint, we can’t get enough basil. The ghosts of our ancestors whisper in our ear each time we make marinara, “Moooorrre baaaasssillll….”
However, lime basil is a little different than the traditional sweet, or “Genovese”, basil.
“Thinner leaves, a more mild flavor, and the plant is fuzzy compared to sweet basil,” Kathy explains.”Use the leaves to add lime scent and a mild lime taste to seafood and poultry dishes.”
You’ll want to plant your lime basil in a sunny garden and keep it well-watered until it’s established.
“Be sure to pinch off flowers as they emerge to ensure adequate leaf growth for the season,” Kathy suggests.
“The leaves can also be muddled for a cocktail.”
Hey, now! That’s right up our alley! Muddle some of those leaves in simple syrup, add some Tan Limes and vodka, and you’ve got a refreshing and delicious summer drink! Or, substitute the vodka with Devil’s Reach and you’ve got a Beerscow Mule!
American Cranberry Bush
“This cranberry is for the birds more than for us,” Kathy explains.
Viburnum opulus var americanum — or the American cranberry bush — is a beautiful flowering shrub for decoration, but it’s also perfect for creating a wildlife garden, a garden for the birds, or a garden that will stay bright and colorful over multiple seasons.
And, much like our cranberry shandy, The Bog, the American cranberry bush is full of cranberry goodness.
“Three-inch clusters of white Lacecap flowers emerge in late spring followed by clusters of shiny red fruits in the fall,” Kathy explains. “They’re so brilliant that they’re not hidden by the purple-red fall color of the leaves.”
This shrub prefers wet, shady areas but will tolerate average garden conditions, and is certainly much larger than the plants you see growing cranberries for The Bog.
“While you may be able to find some shorter varieties in garden centers,” Kathy says, “generally this hardy shrub can grow to ten feet tall and wide and so is best saved for a larger garden area rather than as a foundation plant at the front of your home.”
While The Bog is filled with delicious cranberry flavors, you can’t miss that tang provided by the shock of sweet lemonade. We paired this aspect of The Bog with Kathy’s favorite herb, lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus).
“I cannot walk past it without crunching up some leaves to release the fragrance,” she says, “and I cannot walk past it with a group of people on a tour and not encourage them to do the same thing.”
Kathy grows lemongrass at her home in Pennsylvania, saving the stalks and freezing them or using them fresh as barbecue skewers for meat and vegetables on the grill. What a great idea!
“It imparts that delicious lemon flavor into everything,” she says.
And lemongrass lives up to its name: delicious lemon aromas from the stalks, and it grows just like a grass.
“When you buy the plants,” Kathy says, “they look like little sprigs of a weedy grass in the container, but do not let that stop you.”
“They add some nice height to an herb garden,” Kathy tells us. “Or if you like to plant containers and usually have something tall in the center, consider using lemongrass. It will serve two purposes: adding some height to your display and adding some flavor to your cooking.”
However, lemongrass will likely not do well over the winter.
“This plant is not winter-hardy and a bit of a challenge to overwinter,” Kathy says, “so consider using it you would use any other annual in the garden. Plant in full sun and with enough water to get it established.”
We love Kathy’s idea of using lemongrass skewers for grilling meat and veggies. Cook some up and pair it with The Bog!
Cape May White
Cape May White, our Belgian-style wheat ale brewed with coriander and orange peel, is a perfect “lawnmower beer” — one that you’ll want to sip while gardening. And, luckily, you can plant some coriander for your herb garden!
Kathy explains that coriander is both an herb and a spice. One plant, two uses!
“Herbs are the leafy parts of the plants,” she says, “and spices are the seeds, roots, stems, or other parts of the plants.”
When you use the leaves of coriander, it becomes that much-debated herb cilantro: you either love it, hate it, or hate to love it. However, if you wait for the plant to flower and set seed — “which it will always do more quickly than you would like it to,” Kathy jokes — you’ll have coriander.
“It’s best to start coriander from seed in the garden,” Kathy tells us. “Prepare an area of loose garden soil and sow the seeds directly into the soil.”
However, don’t use all of the seeds in the packet. The seeds will germinate rather quickly — in about a week.
“Allow the plants to continue to grow, keeping them watered as needed,” Kathy says. “If you have a shady part of the garden, this is ideal as these plants will flower and seed in the heat, becoming bitter.”
Sow your seeds like this every two weeks.
“Cilantro is quick to bolt (flower and set seed),” Kathy says, “so if you like using cilantro leaves, resowing every couple of weeks ensures a fresh crop of leaves throughout the season.”
Once the cilantro bolts, you don’t want to remove it from your garden.
“While the leaves are no longer tasty, the flowers will form seeds, and this is coriander,” Kathy explains. “Simply collect the ripe seeds from the plant and keep them in a cool dark place until you are ready to toast and grind them for use in your recipes with coriander.”
There really is nothing better than fresh herbs and spices! Give this one a whirl! Maybe cook up some kielbasa with onions and apples and a generous amount of coriander — then pair it all with a delicious Cape May White!
Kathy is thrilled that we brew a beer in honor of our friends in the Coast Guard.
“Yay for a salute to the Coast Guard!” she said. “My dad was in the Coast Guard and they don’t seem to get the same recognition of the other military branches. And, it turns out that the Coast Guard has a class of boats called the Juniper Class and they feature plant names!”
So, it was relatively easy for us to find plants to pair with Always Ready! With the addition of wheat and oats for a medium body, with brilliant aromas of tropical fruits like pineapple, mango, and citrus zest, and with a low ABV of 4.8%, Always Ready is perfect for days spent in the garden.
There are many varieties of juniper, but Kathy suggests the Eastern Red Cedar, otherwise known as Juniperus virginiana.
“This is not the juniper that flavors gin,” she explains. “That is Juniperus communis, common juniper. Though not as common around here as the name would suggest, it is found all over the world.”
The Eastern Red Cedar is common in this area, and are a common sight along our coastal plains.
“Red cedars tolerate the hot, dry conditions of sand dunes,” Kathy tells us, “and are a pioneer plant, meaning that they take hold in areas after disturbances such as natural disasters and development.”
For landscaping, the Eastern Red Cedar is great for hedging and screening, and it’s terrific for wildlife gardens, as well.
“If you are gardening in the sandy soils of coastal southern New Jersey or Delaware, there is nothing you need to do for this plant for it to thrive except give it room to grow,” she explains.
Another bonus is that more than sixty species of birds are supported by this one species of tree. Furthermore, two species of butterfly — the sweadner’s and olive juniper hairstreak butterfly — depend on this tree in order for their species to survive.
So, this is a great plant if you’d like to attract birds and butterflies to your garden! Then, sit back with an Always Ready and watch!
These gorgeous trees lend their name to one of the Coast Guard’s Juniper Class boats, the USCGC Papaw. In addition, you may remember singing a song in elementary school that went, “Pickin’ up pawpaws, put ‘em in your pocket…” — this is what that song was about.
You see, at one time, pawpaw trees were everywhere — particularly in this area.
“This tree is native to a very small part of the Delaware River Valley in New Jersey and can be found in more abundance in Pennsylvania and midwestern river valleys,” Kathy explains. “They are a colonizing tree growing from suckers in the shade of tall forests and along creek and river edges.”
“They are rarely found in markets because they do not transport well,” Kathy explains.
Regardless, if you’d like to grow your own food, this is a plant to consider. The mango-sized fruit is said to taste like a combination of mango and banana with a custard-like texture.
“Though they do form thickets, you’ll want to plant more than one of these in your garden,” Kathy continues. “Pawpaws need plants from different genetics, different seed sources, to pollinate and reproduce, so a thicket of them will not pollinate themselves.”
The trees are relatively small, topping out at about twenty feet, but you can control them a bit by pruning the suckers at the ground when they emerge. And, with large leaves, they’ll lend a tropical feel to any landscape.
“The leaves are preceded by three-petaled maroon flowers in early spring,” Kathy tells us. “The fruit ripens around mid-September, and, later in the fall, the leaves turn a reliable butter yellow. Even if you do not care for the fruit, and some people do not, it makes a really nice landscape plant.”
It sounds like the pawpaw would go deliciously well with the tropical aromas of Always Ready. In fact, Innovation Director Brian Hink suggests that pawpaws pair well with sour beers, as well, so you may even want to try it with Irrationally Exuberant — available for sale online and in the Brewtique. If you ever get the chance to give it a try, let us know!
It looks like you’ve got some gardening to do! Kathy says that it’s important to remember that gardening is universal, and, as everyone around the world is currently experiencing this crisis, it’s one more thing to bring us together.
“Gardening connects us,” she says. “It is something cultures share around the globe, growing for food and for beauty. It gives us something else to talk about: even if we are speaking about not having a green thumb, we are all familiar with the act of gardening.”
Even if you don’t have space or a great location for a garden, “simply the act of gardening, touching plants, inhaling fragrance can reduce the stress we feel.”
And, as our stress levels go through the roof right now, we can all use a stress reliever, found in the garden with a great beer.
For more ideas — and some great blog reading — check out Katsura Horticultural. Kathy can even help you find some seeds to get your garden growing.