Is it a weed? White Horehound


There is a plant that grows everywhere around here and I’ve always wondered what it was. Grows like a weed so to speak. I knew it was in the mint family as the stems were square but was definitely not a mint. I just ID it from a book, Weeds of the West.

The plant growing in my gardens is white horehound which is a herb. There are two types of horehound—black horehound and white horehound. Black horehound can be toxic while white horehound can be beneficial. They are easy to tell apart because black horehound has little purple flowers while white horehound has little white flowers.

Since ancient Egypt, white horehound has been used as an expectorant. Native American and Australian Aboriginal medicines have traditionally used white horehound to treat respiratory conditions. Some people make homemade cough drops out of them and some use the dried leaves to make a tea. They actually sell the seeds in Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds but around my place it definitely grows like a weed on its own without my help. I use to pull it out because it is not a particularly attractive plant and frankly grew where I didn’t want it to grow.

But since I became a beekeeper, I noticed the bees are wild about it with its small white flowers, so now I leave it for them. The US Food and Drug Administration banned its use in US made cough drop saying it has no proven benefit. However it is widely used in Europe and you can buy it in European cough drops, just not US made ones.

I recently had pneumonia and a dry hacking cough that would give me fits. The only cough drop that would help stop the coughing that I tried is called ‘Ricola’ Cough Drops’, which is a Swiss made cough drop. Guess what is in those cough drops? Horehound! Only I didn’t know about white horehound, or Ricola cough drops or what that weed was growing in my gardens.  I found all this out while I was recovering and on the computer a lot-how serendipitous!

Herb garden

I use to have a great herb garden but then built the studio here at the house on top of where it was located and had to tear it out. What a mistake. I thought it would be easy to recreate that herb garden-but it hasn’t been. I’ve struggled with my ‘new’ herb garden space for the last three years. First, the drip system clogged up (I wasn’t paying attention) and the plants weren’t getting any water and died. Now for the last 2 years the bunnies, who aren’t suppose to like herbs, have leveled them to the ground because there is so little to eat out there. Last year I tried 3 different types of basil in a large pot on the deck because of the bunnies eating them and they did great. The bunnies won’t come up on the deck. This gave me the idea of growing them in containers.

herbs in pots

So this year I decided to take the little 2 inch starts that we get at the nurseries and give them a head start inside in April. They are now transplanted up in gallon size pots and are outside on the deck. Once I get a fence around the herb garden, I will plant them there. I think starting them inside and letting them get bigger (and keeping the bunnies away) will be the trick to getting a good herb garden again. Shown here are chives, oregano, English thyme, tarragon, lemon thyme and sage which are all perennial herbs I use in the kitchen. I already have kitchen sage, lemon balm, rosemary (arp variety), and lemon verbena tucked into the perennial garden among the other plants and they have all are done well for several years. I also have a winter savory and a garlic chive that did survive the bunnies and drought in the herb garden-must not taste too good to the bunnies.

Santa Fe Master Gardeners Herb Sheet

I just finished teaching the Vegetable class this evening class for our Master Gardener Interns and realized during the class I didn’t xerox off the Herb Info sheet. I told the class they can get it here by Tuesday but I’m teaching the other class at 9am so here it is now for anyone liking a copy of it. You can get it here HERBS as a pdf and print it out for yourselves. Class was great tonight with some very intelligent questions and I hope they all enjoyed it!

Elodie’s basil pesto

basil-cleaned and ready to be made into pesto

Three basil plants needed trimming to keep them bushy. Here is the recipe and some pictures for making basil pesto.

Elodie’s Basil Pesto

About 6-8 cups packed of fresh, clean basil
good quality olive oil
garlic crushed
Parmesan cheese
shelled pinon nuts-1/2 cup

Clean, wash and cut off stems from basil. Crush garlic and add to blender.

add oil to basil

Put about 1/3 of the basil into a blender and start to pour olive oil into the blender (maybe 1/2 cup or a little more). Start to blend on low and add more basil and/or oil as needed to make the mixture  thick (like thick spaghetti sauce) but still pourable.

add Parmesan cheese to basil

Add Parmesan cheese to taste and a little salt if needed but taste it before adding salt as the cheese has lots of salt in it. You can add pinion nuts if you have them but we didn’t here. Put in plastic freezable ziploc baggies and flatten the baggie as pictured. The mixture should be no more than 1/2 inch thick when bag is flattened. Put in freezer and break off chunks as needed. Don’t heat the pesto or the basil will turn dark (it’s ok to eat but not as pretty).

final pesto

Just break off a chunk from your baggy of pesto and put it on your drained but still hot pasta and it will ‘melt’ into the pasta as you mix it up. This amount made about 2 cups of pesto.