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Jerusalem sage is a perennial herb with long, hairy stems covered with fuzzy, velvet-like, gray-green leaves. In mid-to-late-summer, the stalks are topped with whorls of buttery-yellow flowers that give off a sweet floral aroma. The leaves of the Jerusalem sage are heart-shaped at the base, long and slender, coming to a point. They offer a strong, herbaceous flavor. The entire plant is edible.
Jerusalem sage is available year-round.
Jerusalem sage is grown as both an ornamental and a culinary herb. It is botanically known as Phlomis with up to one hundred species varieties including primarily P. fruticosa and P. russeliana, the latter often being referred to as ‘Hardy Jerusalem sage’. The plant is also sometimes called ‘Sticky Jerusalem sage’ or ‘Shrubby Jerusalem sage’.
All of the Phlomis species contain flavonoids, terpenoids (responsible for Jerusalem sage’s intense aroma), and phenolic compounds which provide antioxidant, anti-microbial and anti-diabetic benefits.
Jerusalem sage can be used as the more common sage (Salvia officinalis) in meat dishes or stews. The leaves can be fried in butter or oil and used as a garnish on meat, vegetable or egg dishes. Chop Jerusalem sage and add to pasta or risotto dishes. As with the common variety, Jerusalem sage should be used sparingly. Store Jerusalem sage in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic, for up to a week.
Jerusalem sage is often used as an ornamental plant. The flowers and leaves remain on the plant through the winter, and when dried, maintain their color. Used for both gardens and for arrangements, Jerusalem sage attracts bees and butterflies to the garden.
Jerusalem sage is a hardy herb native to the Mediterranean region, specifically the areas around Turkey and Syria. It has a wide range, spanning the islands in the Mediterranean and Greece and reaching east into Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. This hardy sage is drought and frost tolerant to about twenty degrees (USDA Zone 4), and prefers rocky or sandy soils along the edges of woodlands and borders. Jerusalem sage is a low-water plant and is well-suited to the climate in California, one of the only states in the United States where the plant has been introduced. Jerusalem sage is predominantly available from seed companies, growers and small local farms and farmer’s markets.