Grow Your Own Spices

Episode 10
Sustainability Book Chat

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If you thought that it was beyond the reach of mere mortals to grow spices like ginger, turmeric, vanilla, cinnamon, and cardamon, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by this episode with Tasha Greer, who talks about her book, Grow Your Own Spices.

Although many of us may use “herbs” and “spices” almost interchangeably, this book goes way beyond growing a little basal and cilantro. Tasha explains that herbs are generally the leafy green parts of a plant whereas spices are more mature parts, such as the roots.

If you are a fan of ginger, we get into that particular spice quite a bit, so you won’t want to miss this episode. We talk about how you can grow spices in the garden, in a greenhouse, and in pots on your deck and inside your house. We cover how to get started and how to fertilize, as well as common beginner challenges.

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Transcript – Grow Your Own Spices

Deborah Niemann 0:04
Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever size your living space, you can do more than you think to lead a greener lifestyle. In the “Sustainability Book Chat,” we are talking to authors and experts about all the different ways that achieving sustainability is within your reach.

Deborah Niemann 0:28
Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s episode. I am really excited to be joined today by Tasha Greer, who calls herself an “epicurean homesteader,” which I think is my favorite new phrase. I love that. And, she is the author of a really fun new book here called Grow Your Own Spices. Welcome to the show, Tasha.

Tasha Greer 0:53
Thank you so much for having me! I’m really excited to talk to you.

Deborah Niemann 0:56
Yeah, this is gonna be a lot of fun. I love spices. And I think when a lot of people first hear this, they think, “Oh, herbs.” Like, “You’re just growing herbs.” But it’s not just herbs. Like, we’re not talking about cilantro and basil and things like that. We’re talking about things like tumeric and ginger and the fancy stuff that most people think is probably beyond their ability.

Tasha Greer 1:26
Yeah. I think for me, the place I always draw the distinction between spices and herbs is that I consider the spices to be the mature parts of the plant, and the herbs are kind of like the leafy greens that you can grow a lot faster. I don’t think they’re any harder to grow spices. You know, sometimes you have to make a few adjustments for your climate and, you know, maybe do some things partly inside, partly outside. But yeah, I think everyone can grow spices, and some people probably are and they just call them herbs. You know, like you said, cilantro, or when you’re growing them just for the leaves, that’s the herb part. But if you grow them out longer, and you actually harvest the seeds, then that’s actually a spice. So it’s a little bit more commitment, but, you know, it’s really the same basic skill just done over a longer time.

Deborah Niemann 2:08
Oh, I love that! So now I feel accomplished. I feel like I can say I have grown spices, because I have harvested the coriander seeds. And that’s really fun, because they produce so many seeds.

Tasha Greer 2:22
And they smell so fantastic. I mean, just like, I love to go out there, and just walk by them, and shake the heads a little bit every once in a while, and just get the ones that are ready to fall off. And, I actually leave mine all the way until they dry, because that’s okay if they reseed, then they’ll just grow again. And I’ll either harvest them for the leaves or not. But, I just really like that prolonged experience of having this constant aromatic, you know, inviting a time going into my garden to get these things.

Deborah Niemann 2:49
Now, there are so many books out there on growing herbs. I mean, you could probably fill a library of books on herbs.

Tasha Greer 2:56
I kind of have a library.

Deborah Niemann 2:59
Yeah! And so really not that much, though, on spices. So, what inspired you to write a book about how to grow spices?

Tasha Greer 3:07
So, that’s actually the funniest part. I mean, I’m a writer. I was blogging for, like, MorningChores, and I did some writing for Mother Earth News, and I have my own blog, and I also wrote for The Grow Network and did some videos and things for them. But Jessica Walliser, my editor over at Cool Springs Press—the publisher for this book—she called me, because she found some of my posts on spices, and she was like, “You know what, Tasha? We really need you to write a book on growing spices, because there’s nothing like that anywhere on the market.” And so, she kind of talked me into it. I thought she was joking when she first asked me to write a book. Like, “Really? You just…?” But she turned out to be totally right. Because, when I started doing the research, like you said, I found a lot of herb books that maybe touched on a couple spices, but I didn’t find any spice books that were actually, like, growing things from beginning to end. So, I think there was a need for it. And I was glad that she picked me out for that.

Deborah Niemann 4:00
Okay. Now, one of the things that I would have thought… Like, you know, I think of ginger and stuff, that you grow that from, like, a chunk of ginger. But you start out the book talking about growing some spices from seeds, which I think, I don’t know—to me that sounds easier. I think that probably sounds less intimidating to a lot of people, like “Oh, I can plant seeds and do this?” Because most people—if you’re gardening at all—you have planted seeds. So, what are some of the spices that you can start from seeds?

Tasha Greer 4:31
So, seeds are definitely the easiest place to start, especially if you get some of the short-season ones. My favorite that I love to tell people is fenugreek, because that’s literally the aroma that you smell when you have, like, that imitation maple syrup. They use that to aromatize it. This plant, it’s a legume; it’s very compact. It’s only about, like, you know, 1 to 2 square feet of space. It produces, you know, pretty quickly, and it’s aromatic from the moment it breaks ground all the way until you get to the little seed pods. And the seed pods look a lot like tiny peas. So, if you’ve ever shelled peas, all you have to do is shell those little things. And then, anytime you’re making a curry, you just throw, like, five or six of them in there at the end, just to add this really sort of brown sugar, vanilla aroma. So, that one’s one of the, like, easiest, I think, to begin. And kids love it. You know, if you have any kids, they just love smelling it the whole way through.

Tasha Greer 5:24
But mustard is another favorite. Because, a lot of people don’t realize how easy it is just to grow your brown mustard. I mean, the same leaves that you grow to harvest the leaves, just don’t harvest the leaves; grow it out over a long season, and then harvest those seeds, and you can make your own mustard condiment. A lot of people think you have to have that special white mustard seed or the black mustard seed. But your average, you know, mustard that you grow for leaf will make amazing seeds that make a wonderful mustard condiment. So, that’s a super easy one to start with as well. But fennel, dill, Nigella sativa—that’s kind of a little bit more rare. But it’s a very pretty little flower; it kind of looks like a Cinderella carriage when the flowers first start to open up. So there’s… Yeah, seeds are a great place to start. But I wouldn’t be intimidated by the other spices, either, because when you’re growing ginger from a piece of a rhizome, it’s really just like putting a seed in the ground, except for the seed’s a whole lot bigger and you’re putting it a little bit deeper. So it’s the same basic skill, you’re just starting with a different sized, you know, seed.

Deborah Niemann 6:28
Mm-hmm. Now, some of these things, like ginger, for example, are tropical, right? So you would not be able to grow them year-round outside. So, if you were going to grow ginger, for example, would you lift that in the fall, like gladiola bulbs if you lived up North?

Tasha Greer 6:46
That’s a great question. So for ginger, I usually kind of just start them out on my kitchen counter, because it’s very kind of moist in there, and I’ve got enough light. And I just let them develop some nodes, you know, just sitting out there in that kind of moist environment—and put them out, like, at the end of February, beginning of March. And it’ll take a few weeks, and they’ll start to develop those, like, sort of white nodes on the sides. When they get those, then you could put them into a pot. And you could just keep them growing inside, but get them close to a window, or underneath the light source, so that they start to experience the light and want to grow. And then, when they actually break ground, that’s usually about the time that you could, like, take them outside and pot them, or you could just continue growing them inside, but give them a lot more light, because they definitely need a lot of light once they start to break ground. But they do need temperatures of at least 55 degrees to be actively growing, and 75 is more, like, ideal. So, I grow them in my greenhouse. I’ve actually… I’ve got some here, you know, growing actually inside my office. I have, like, a vegetable cart that I grow ginger and galangal and turmeric in that vegetable cart. I’ve also got vanilla growing on my office desk, as well. So, you know, your inside climate sometimes is absolutely perfect for these spices, as long as you can give them enough light. And that’s where I think people try and they say that it doesn’t work; but that’s because they don’t give it supplemental light. You definitely need to buy a plant light. No window in your house—unless you have like a, you know, a sunroom or something with at least three sides of light—no place in your house is going to give enough light for these to actually be really productive.

Deborah Niemann 8:24
So then, do you just keep letting it grow in your house until… When?

Tasha Greer 8:30
So ginger—you can harvest baby ginger after about 6 or 7 months. You could just keep, like, breaking off a little piece and eating it whenever you need it. But, if you actually want to get those hardened-off rhizomes, like you get from the grocery store? That, it depends on, you know, when you started and what kind of conditions you give it. But like, for me, because I’m not growing in ideal conditions… I’m growing inside my house, or inside my greenhouse, and it’s not 75 degrees all the time; it’s usually, like, November and December when I have large enough rhizomes that I’ll start to harden it off. Basically that—if you have natural light that’s reducing—they’ll actually harden themselves off if the light is declining, the temperatures are declining. But if not, you can fold the stems down, just kind of fold them in half, and that deprives the rhizomes of energy, and it kind of tricks it into thinking, “Oh! I better get ready for bad conditions.” And so, then it gets that hardened outer coating, and that’s what you can store a lot longer. So, if you’re doing it your house, because you’re not going to necessarily be dropping your temperatures below, you know, 60, 55, 40, you know, degrees, then you really kind of have to force it. But outside, you know, if you just leave it out and let the light and the temperature decline, you know, then it will actually do it all by itself. So, the real thing is that, once it hits 55 degrees, it’s going to stop growing. So, if you’re keeping them outside, you know, that’s the time where, if you’re in a cold climate, you know, and the rhizomes aren’t very large, bring them in, keep them growing, and then “senescing” is what it’s called when you actually, on purpose, make the rhizomes harden off by folding down those stems.

Deborah Niemann 10:04
Okay. So basically, then, is the idea that the green part above ground is going to die, and then you harvest the roots?

Tasha Greer 10:14
Exactly. So once that starts to die, you can see it’ll be drying off, then you’ll know you can reach down underneath and you’ll be able to feel the edges and it’ll have that hard skin that kind of confirms that it’s ready for long term storage. But, if you don’t want to do that work, just dig it up as baby ginger and, you know, dry it or keep it in the refrigerator for a while. You can even shred it and freeze it in ice cube trays. So, there’s lots of ways that you can keep it without having to senesce it first.

Deborah Niemann 10:40
Ooh, that sounds fun. I love the sound of baby ginger. Does it taste the same as mature ginger, or maybe not as tough, like, a little more tender?

Tasha Greer 10:51
Yeah, it’s definitely more tender. So, that’s kind of a benefit for a lot of people. Like, if you’re using it in smoothies, it won’t have as many of the thready kind of pieces inside of it. The taste is not quite as strong, but I think if you’ve already been growing this for, like, 6 or 7 months, it’s usually pretty well-developed on the flavor side. So it’s not exactly as strong, but it’s pretty darn close, so. But it also depends. There’s more than just one variety of ginger. Like, what you get at the grocery store most of the time is a Chinese type ginger, and it’s literally grown because it’s the best storage type. It’s the same, like, the garlic you get at the grocery store; it’s not the most flavorful, but it’s the best for long-term storage. So, if you actually really get into it and start going to, like, organic seed providers and getting your ginger rhizomes from them, you can get a couple different flavors that are even milder or more aromatic. So, you’re not stuck with just the grocery store ginger.

Deborah Niemann 11:43
Oh, that sounds so exciting! Now, one of the things that I love as a gardener are perennials, because to me that’s just, like, free money. You know, you plant it once, and then, you know, like the rhubarb and asparagus, we just keep coming back year after year and harvesting more. So, I was surprised when I first saw that there was a section in your book on perennials. So, can you tell us what are a couple of the perennials that people can grow for spices?

Tasha Greer 12:15
So technically, ginger is a perennial, but most people grew it for the annuals, because you want the rhizomes. But, galangal is a close relative of that, and people usually grow that as a perennial, because it’s actually cold-hardy down to about 20 degrees in the ground. But you could also just keep it in a pot, and bring it indoors over winter if you live in colder climates. But then it just keeps on growing, and when you want to harvest some, you can go dig down on the sides, and harvest a little bit of the fresh little growth part, and just keep it going, so. But that’s still in, you know, in the kind of not too cold-hardy zone. But, if you really want some cold-hardy perennials, then there’s something called Sichuan pepper. This one actually isn’t in the book, so this is kind of a little secret. But, Sichuan pepper—it looks a lot like a cross between black locust and elderberry. It’s kind of like a shrubby tree with some kind of spikes on it. But that one you can actually grow outside, even in cold climates; it’s quite cold hardy. And so, you can have just, like, this little Sichuan pepper bush.

Tasha Greer 13:13
Now indoors, there’s a lot of perennials that you can grow. Like, I’ve got tamarind growing in my office. Tamarind could be 100-foot tree outside, but in my office, it’s only going to be about 3 feet, because I’m going to keep it small as, like, a bonsai. I won’t get huge amounts of tamarind, but I will, you know, get a few pods here and there. Peppercorns, like for your red, black, and white peppercorns, that’s a vine. It’s a really well-behaved houseplant. So, you know, you can keep it in a pot; it doesn’t have to be very large. You just kind of need to put it on a little bit of a trellis so that you can, you know, train it up a little bit. Vanilla, too. It’s gonna take, probably indoors, in your house, it’ll probably take about 5 years before you ever get a vanilla harvest. But, it really likes the conditions of our house. You just have to let it climb something, because it needs to go up at least 3 feet, and then when it folds down, it actually flowers on the downhill side. So, those are kind of easy perennials that you can grow in your house. And if you live in warmer climates, like allspice, you can grow that as an herb, but you can also grow it out for the berries. But you do need three plants if you’re doing allspice, because they don’t all produce the fruit, so you never know whether you’re getting a fruiting plant or not. So there’s… Yeah, there’s quite a few perennials that you can grow no matter where you live. So, it just depends on how much work you want to do. Cardamom is another perennial in the ginger family. It’s not even going to produce until it’s about 4 feet wide and 8 feet tall, so that one’s not for everbody. I have some in my greenhouse; it’s absolutely gorgeous and fragrant, but it’s huge.

Deborah Niemann 14:46
Wow, that sounds exciting! Is your greenhouse heated?

Tasha Greer 14:51
So I do—actually, I have a wood fired hot tub in one side of the greenhouse as part of my heat plan. And then I have an electric heater that I run on solar panels on the other side. So, we’re in Zone 7a here, and so we definitely get down to, like, you know, 10 degrees multiple times, but we don’t go a whole lot lower than that. So usually, just between, like, building some compost piles inside during February—which is our coldest period—and then keeping the electric heater going, the plants, they overwinter fine. They get a little bit stressed, but not horribly. I can, you know, just kind of nurse them along, and then it gets warm again. So, yeah, but definitely have to heat it, because these are all tropicals.

Deborah Niemann 15:32
Yeah. So, what are a couple of the best spices for people to grow if they’re just getting started?

Tasha Greer 15:40
Well, I would say, inside, I would definitely try galangal, because, you know, once you get galangal going, it just… It’s a nice houseplant, and you can keep it growing. Outside in the garden, any of those seed spices. Cumin is the only one that’s a little bit tricky, because it really doesn’t like warm weather. And so if you, you know, end up having a heat wave in the middle of, like, when it’s actually got the most pollen, that pollen won’t be viable, and you won’t end up with seeds. So, you kind of have to plan it for a cold season. But everything else, I mean, fennel… You talked about perennials. So, some fennel is perennial, some is biennial, there’s even some annuals depending on your conditions. But, if you just let it seed, it will continue growing in that same location forever, because you’ll never get all the seeds. Something will always re-germinate, and so you can just keep that going and keep harvesting the seeds. Caraway is really, like… It’s almost bulletproof. You know, you just throw some caraway seeds out in spring, and you’ll get, you know, seeds the next year, and then it’ll just keep self-sowing. So those are definitely fun, easy places to start.

Deborah Niemann 16:45
Okay. I have to keep reminding myself not to say herbs. That’s just, I… That’s normally… You’re talking about herbs when you’re talking about stuff that’s aromatic and tasty and stuff.

Tasha Greer 16:55

Deborah Niemann 16:56
Now, I have not heard of galangal before. So, what exactly…? You said it’s similar to ginger. Does that mean, like, in taste, or that you grow from a rhizome? Or, what exactly is it?

Tasha Greer 17:06
Okay. So yeah, I mean, it’s actually… It grows pretty much like ginger; it just doesn’t grow quite as perfectly. It’s a slower grower. But it’s really popular in Thai food. So if you’ve ever done any Thai cooking, it’s a ginger-like taste, but there’s something a little bit more sour and sweet at the same time about it. And so, it’s very unique. And it’s even better dried. Like ginger, I always find ginger better fresh, but galangal, when you dry it and use it, like, later in tom kha gai soup or something like that, it’s really delicious. So, it’s not quite a ginger substitute, but it kind of fills that role in a lot of dishes, so you could use it in places where you just kind of need that sour, spicy, you know, sweet mix in there.

Deborah Niemann 17:51
That sounds like it would really be good.

Tasha Greer 17:52
It is.

Deborah Niemann 17:53
So, I feel like I need to look that up. Now for ginger, I think I could probably just buy an organic rhizome from the grocery store. Does that work?

Tasha Greer 18:03
Yeah, everyone always thinks that you, like, have to start with seed ginger. And you really don’t. I mean, I started almost all of my, you know… Learned how to grow this stuff, basically, from things I got at the grocery store. And it wasn’t even always organic. I just, I went for the biggest, healthiest pieces I could find that didn’t have any signs of, like, you know, mold or fungus or anything, and they weren’t drying out too much on the tips. So, they’re fine. The only risk is the same risk that anytime you pick up something from the grocery store, is that maybe they’ve been irradiated, or maybe they came from soil that has pathogens in it. So when you’re growing these things, like, in pots and in raised beds where it’s, you know, if something goes wrong you can always replace your soil, there’s really no risk. But, if you’re putting it direct in the ground, then, you know, you don’t want to be accidentally transplanting something in. But honestly though, if you are in a climate where you can naturally grow these things, then whatever pathogens they’re carrying probably aren’t a huge risk for the other kind of plants that you would grow, so. I think a lot of people just really think everything should be organic, and, you know, perfect. And I’m a homesteader, and I think it should be cheap and easy. So, I think it just depends on your perspective, whether you want to try the grocery store stuff or if you want to go get some from a seed seller.

Deborah Niemann 19:18
Okay. The reason I had mentioned organic for the ginger is because I had heard that, if it’s not organic, it could have been sprayed with something, or maybe irradiated, so that it wouldn’t sprout. But you mentioned, like, as Step 1 that you let it sit on the counter to see if it develops nodes. So, if it had been sprayed or irradiated, that wouldn’t happen, right? Like, it would just be sitting on the counter and nodes would never develop, and so you’d just be like, “Okay, we’re just gonna eat this.”

Tasha Greer 19:47
Exactly. Or maybe not, that’s frightening. I’ve literally really never had ginger not node. So—

Deborah Niemann 19:53

Tasha Greer 19:53
And before I started growing it, I used to buy 15 pounds a year, and I never had it not node when I, you know, kept sit around for a little while, so. So, I don’t know that it’s as heavily irradiated as some other things, so.

Deborah Niemann 20:07

Tasha Greer 20:07
But yeah. The other thing people do sometimes is they soak ginger in water. And I’ve done my own trials with that, and it’s fine. You know, you can soak it a little bit, but it’s not really necessary. And it might save you 1 or 2 days, but then you run the risk of having your ginger rot if it’s got too much moisture in it. So, I don’t like the extra work, so I don’t do the soaking. But that is something if you’re worried about, you know, maybe that it was sprayed with something, you could soak it for a day, you know, and then see if it’ll node.

Deborah Niemann 20:35
Okay. I am all for no extra work. And this is really hilarious that we’re talking about this right now, because I’ve just decided I want to try and grow some peach trees from seed, and so I was reading about how to do that, and the first step is “Soak the pits for an hour.” And my son just came up to me and said, “Hey, how long are you going to soak these things?” And I was like, “Oh my gosh. Uh, I think it’s been, like, 2 days.” And, I forgot about them.

Tasha Greer 21:06
Yes. Well, I mean, the peach—they’re kind of hard. You know? And so soaking them a little bit might, you know, help the pre-sprouting. But, I’ve germinated a lot of peach pits and never actually had to soak them, either. So, I think it’s really just a lot of people don’t keep their soil moist while they’re starting their plants. And so, yeah, so that’s a cheat, but if you’re growing in nice potting soil, or, you know, some kind of compost or something like that, it should start pretty quickly as long as you keep it well watered.

Deborah Niemann 21:34
All right, so…

Tasha Greer 21:35
Why are you growing them from pits? Just out of curiosity.

Deborah Niemann 21:38
Just to do it. I have a really hard time getting peach trees to grow up here, even though I try to get them… Because, I’m in Illinois. They don’t really like cold weather much. Like, most of my peach trees don’t last more than 3 or 4 years. And this is a tree that has lasted for, I don’t know, 6 or 7 years? It’s lasted longer than any of them. So it just occurred to me like, “Hey, maybe this would be a good one to try to grow.” Like, you know, it’s lasted longer than any of my other peach trees, so maybe it’s got what it takes to survive my Illinois winters.

Tasha Greer 22:14
Yeah, definitely. It could be on a good root stock, though, so starting the peach pit might not necessarily get you the right results.

Deborah Niemann 22:21
That’s true. That is a very good point, yeah. Because I have just always bought, you know, baby fruit trees. Bare root. Planted them.

Tasha Greer 22:29
It’s definitely fun. Like, I’ve got an avocado sitting on my desk here. I know that, you know, this avocado needs to, you know, grow for… It’s gonna need to be a lot bigger, because it’s not a dwarfing variety, but I’m just growing it as a houseplant, and it’s a lot of fun.

Deborah Niemann 22:43
Yeah. They can be so pretty. I was on my way to growing a beautiful pineapple plant, and then it got left outside one night and froze.

Tasha Greer 22:54
Yes. I had a friend who, she spent 7 years growing a pineapple, and she was so excited when she got her pineapple. But it’s a lot of work. And I mean, it’s fun, though; they’re beautiful. And it’s just so nice to have that long relationship with a plant.

Tasha Greer 23:09
I do talk to plants. I can’t lie about this. I don’t really think that they’re speaking back in the exact same language, but I feel like we have communication, so. That’s the other thing I really like about spices is so many of them, you know, that I am growing, like, perennial and here in my office, and it’s like we’re friends almost. I’m not crazy. I promise. I really… I care about everything I take care of. So, you just start to notice all these little nuance things that make it seem like you’re participating in a relationship rather than just having a one-sided transaction, or me watering this thing, you know, and fertilizing it. So.

Deborah Niemann 23:47
Mm-hmm. Yeah. So, that actually is a good thing to bring up. You mentioned fertilizing. So, do these spices require a lot of fertilizer, or does it vary tremendously from one to another?

Tasha Greer 24:01
So, I’ll be perfectly honest, I think almost nothing needs fertilizer. I think everything needs compost and maybe some compost tea. So, when you’re growing plants in pots, they can’t access a large soil base to find all the nutrients that they need. So, when you’re growing plants in pots, I really think, like, a compost tea—just a light fertilizer. So I do, you know, raise worms; I do vermicompost. So I always do, like, 2 pounds of vermicompost to 5 gallons of water, and let that steep for a couple of days. And then, I strain the water into 1 part compost tea to 9 parts water. And then I use that to water the plants. So, that works out really fantastic. They’re always happy.

Tasha Greer 24:41
The other thing is a mycorrhizal inoculant. So this is something that you can buy, but in potted plants, if you don’t want to have to water them every two seconds, then using a mycorrhizal inoculant will get you a lot better results. Especially with the rhizomes, like the ginger and turmeric, because they really do, you know, need a lot of water—a lot of targeting water. You don’t want to just keep watering the rhizomes; you want to get down below where the roots actually grow. And so, those guys really appreciate the mycorrhizal connections, because then the pot that you’re growing them in holds a lot more water naturally. So, if you forget for a day or two, the plants don’t get stressed out. But I… You know, there are sometimes, if you don’t want to make the compost tea, then a really slow-release granulated fertilizer—like Espoma. You know, it’s kind of the one that they always have at the store around here. Something low on the nitrogen number, like in the 2 or the 3 range is usually good. You know, the phosphorus, you know, somewhere between a 3 and a 5 is fine. But that, basically apply once a month; I apply once a year to a potted plant. I think plants get hooked on fertilizer, and so if you’re in the habit of always using it, then they just start… You know, they need it all the time. But, if you just start them on compost, then they know how to feed themselves. So you just need to make sure that you keep your pot stocked with a little bit of compost tea.

Deborah Niemann 26:01
I love that idea. Because, basically all of the plants in my house get vermicompost tea, and then everything in the garden gets compost that is made from the big stuff outside.

Tasha Greer 26:15
The goat stuff, right?

Deborah Niemann 26:17
Exactly. Yeah. All the goat, and straw, and everything that composts out there. And then, the worms take care of everything I grow in pots. So, that’s good news.

Tasha Greer 26:28
Yeah, that’s perfect for them.

Deborah Niemann 26:29
Now, I don’t have to do anything special; I don’t have to buy any special fertilizer or anything.

Tasha Greer 26:32

Deborah Niemann 26:35
Is there anything that a new person should stay away from? Like, maybe, “Oh, this particular plant is an advanced plant for somebody to grow”?

Tasha Greer 26:49
You know, I honestly think that, you know, if you decide you want to grow a plant, then just try to understand that plant’s needs. You know, where does it grow naturally? And how can you recreate those needs where you are? I think the mistake that a lot of people make is that they don’t realize that plants have preferences. And so, you know, they plant them in exactly the wrong location, and then they don’t have success. I think you can grow anything. And I think anybody can grow anything. I don’t believe in, you know, somebody having a black thumb; I think that’s just that you didn’t take the time to understand what the plant actually needs. So, if you can find out how much light it likes, you know, what temperatures it likes, you know, and any special things that has—like, you know, for getting ready for fall or something like that—then you can take care of any of these plants. None of them are any harder than a houseplant that you can get at the grocery store. It’s like, vanilla is an orchid; it takes a long time to grow it. But if you can grow the grocery store orchids, then you can grow a vanilla plant. So, I really—

Deborah Niemann 27:45
I have that.

Tasha Greer 27:46
Exactly! So, you’re ready for vanilla. But, you just need to take a little bit of time—you know, half hour, hour—try to understand the plant, and then try to create the right conditions. And then it will, you know, it’ll be happy. I think that plants appreciate the effort. You know, even if you don’t get it perfect, they’re more forgiving if you have it pretty close for most of the year.

Deborah Niemann 28:07
Okay. Are there any common mistakes that people make with growing spices that they could avoid?

Tasha Greer 28:14
I just really think some people try too hard on the gardening front. And they worry about every little thing. I mean, like, I’ve got curry trees going in my greenhouse, and once a year, the curry trees just look like they’re on death’s door. Because, they just—they lose their leaves. You know, they have a point… Sometimes it’s when it’s really hot. Sometimes it’s when it’s cold. They’re tropical, so you still have to keep them above 40 degrees. But they just have a moment where they’re like, “Ah, I’m exhausted. I need a break.” They drop their leaves, and then they come back more beautiful than ever. But I think people who are new to gardening, especially, kind of panic the second that a plant doesn’t look perfect. And usually plants, as long as you’ve given them the basic care that they need, they’ll find their way through it, you know? So it’s like, if you rush to overwater when you’ve already put your finger in the pot soil and it’s wet—no, you don’t need to water again. So, I think people just over-garden sometimes instead of just waiting a little bit and seeing if the plant corrects its own, you know, situation a little bit.

Deborah Niemann 29:11
Yeah, that sounds like really good advice. Well, thank you so much for joining us today! I think this is going to be very helpful for a lot of people. I think it’d be very encouraging and inspiring to a lot of people who thought that growing something like ginger or turmeric or some of these other spices was going to be really complicated and difficult and time-consuming and expensive and everything. And, you know, your book does a really excellent job of showing that it’s really not any of those things, that, like, it really is within the grasp of anybody who wants to garden and grow anything.

Tasha Greer 29:45
Yeah, absolutely. I think just pick something you want, something you’ll enjoy, and then you know, just figure out what you need to do to create the right situation for it. But yeah, everyone can do this. I’m totally convinced.

Deborah Niemann 29:59
So, if somebody wants to connect with you online, how can they find you?

Tasha Greer 30:04
So, the easiest place to find me is on That’s my website. I’ve been a little bit neglectful of it, because I was writing a second book called Weed-Free Gardening, but I will be putting a lot more posts up there. And I’ve already got hundreds of posts already up from all the different places that I’ve written. And so, that’s the easiest place, but I’m also sort of getting started on Instagram to give sort of a little slice-of-life kind of stuff from the homestead. So, if you want to see what epicurean homesteading looks like, then you can go to @ExploreSimplestead on Instagram. And I’m also on Facebook, so you can, you know… Just, yeah. Just look up “Simplestead,” and I’m sure I’ll come up. I think I’m the only one.

Deborah Niemann 30:44
Awesome! That sounds great! And yeah, it does sound like you keep it nice and simple.

Tasha Greer 30:48
Trying. We have enough stress in our lives, right?

Deborah Niemann 30:52
Exactly, yeah. I am all for keeping it simple. Thank you again for joining us today!

Tasha Greer 30:57
Thank you so much for having me! This has been a lot of fun.

Deborah Niemann 31:01
And that’s it for today’s episode. You can find show notes at, as well as a transcript. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any future episodes. You can also find Thrifty Homesteader on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. See you next week on “Sustainability Book Chat.”

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