Wednesday, May 16

A Garden Of Herbs

To plant an herb garden is to plant a piece of history. Books have been written about them, poets have penned poems and prose. Herbs seem to be more than just ordinary greenery you might throw in a pot for flavor, they seem to be mysterious and mystical. Herbs are steeped in folklore by years of oral histories past from generation to generation. For centuries they have been used by cooks and 'healers' alike. They are symbols of such virtues as courage, friendship, fidelity and remembrance. Did you know that when you move into a new home you should plant a hearty rosemary bush by your back door or gate? It is a symbol of remembrance and friendship and welcomes all who come into your home. I like that, whatever the reason. I am fascinated by the old tales, and folklore and believe that there are many gems of knowledge and understanding in the old ways. Have you checked out the vitamin isle lately at your local pharmacy???
I just love this little round herb garden.
Easy to care for with bountiful results.
I really love cooking with fresh herbs. There isn’t a chef alive who wouldn’t agree that the use of herbs plays an important roll in cooking. These wonderfully fragrant plants enhance our foods in a natural and fresh way. If you have never used fresh herbs in your cooking try it sometime. You can pick them up in the produce section of your local grocery store. You will be completely amazed at the difference it makes in the way your food tastes. If you and your family discover a new taste sensation during mealtime buy 2 or 3 plants to put in your kitchen window. Who knows before long you may just be planting your own herb garden! Herbs are hearty plants and will grow easily in pots on a patio or even on a window sill in an urban location, make sure to choose a sunny location. If you already have a garden full of flowers you can plant herbs in and among your beauties. No self respecting Kitchen Garden would be complete without them! 

These are wonderful and easy ways to grow herbs. The raised bed will contain your herbs so they will not spread into other areas of your garden. Mint can really get out of control if you do not contain it's space. The little window box, set of six herbs, is perfect for the avid cook with no outdoor space and using pots on your patio makes for easy access. How do you know which herb to use when you are cooking? There are some well known combinations which may help you to choose which herb to use with a particular dish. However I think it all comes down to personal taste, what you like and don't like. I am not crazy about sage. The only time it is used in our home is Thanksgiving when it's time to make our favorite dressing/stuffing, and then it is used ONLY sparingly! Trial and error I think is your best course of action as with anything else in life. Just remember, once cut, fresh herbs will only last a few days in the refrigerator so only pick or buy as much as you need for one or two days.

I’m a big fan of cooking with herbs. Whether they be fresh, or dry, they can bring so much flavor and life to your dishes. Below are some of my favorite herbs and simple ways to use them.

 Basil is an annual and grows in full sun. It is a hearty plant, you can't kill it! It will reseed itself easily. You can see the beginnings of the flowers on the top of the plant here in this picture. PINCH that off! Leaving the white flowers on top will stunt the plants growth. It has a hint of anise and spicy pepper flavor. It is the main ingredient in pesto. Great in Italian dishes and Purple Basil makes GREAT red vinegar! Basil is the symbol of love and devotion.

Rosemary is a perennial and grows in full sun to partial shade. This herb is a KEEPER, I grow it in my kitchen window on a heart topiary....which needs attending badly. Rosemary goes with just about any meat or veggie dish. My personal favorites are to throw it in while I am roasting small red potatoes or make slits in a beef or pork tenderloin and stuff with a mixture of chopped rosemary, Italian Parsley, garlic and olive oil. Great in marinades and makes wonderful infused oils and vinegar. Rosemary is a symbol of Love, Friendship and Remembrance....remember the bush by your backdoor?

Tarragon is a perennial grown in full sun to partial shade. It is a delicate plant and if you have excessively hot summers like we do in the Lone Star State, or frigid winters, you may have to replant every year. It is worth it! This is my GO TO herb for seafood. I love the taste of Tarragon, Lime and Sweet Butter on baked, poached or grilled fish. To make a compound butter you must start with room temp unsalted butter, add as much chopped tarragon as you like, and the zest and juice of a lime. Mix them together and pour out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Fold the wrap over your butter and shape into a log and pop in the fridge. You can slice this and put it on your fish before cooking,  during cooking or you are plating it up for dinner. YUM!

Oregano is a perennial grown in full sun, no shade for this plant. Fairly hearty plant with intense flavors of balsam and clove. I think we all know what to do with oregano.....Italian dishes. Anything with tomatoes tastes better with oregano. Throw it on pizza, in stuffing or scrambled eggs. You can't go wrong here.

Parsley is an annual in my neck of the woods and sometimes needs to be planted more than once in a growing season. It can take partial sun, preferably morning sun afternoon shade. It's flavor is mild, savory and slightly peppery. I cook with parsley quite a bit. When I am cooking green beans, or other veggies and most main dishes as well. I find Parsley's biggest asset is that it doesn't have an overwhelming flavor and when added to any dish it gives it a POP! Brightens it right up. I Love it, my favorite being Italian Parsley, flat-leaf parsley. It's good and compliments most any dish.

 Mint is very much a perennial, once you plant it you better love it because it will NEVER go away! It grows in full sun to partial shade. PLEASE dear readers make sure you do not plant mint among other herbs or plants. Plant it in a separate container or it will over take your herb garden....I have experienced this and there is no getting rid of it. Okay, that being said, I love mint! It is so fresh and smells wonderful cut in my kitchen. It just brightens up my day. It's flavor varies from peppermint to spearmint. Add mint to fruit salads, tea, lemonade for a refreshing boost of flavor. The obvious choice where mint is concerned is in making jelly or sauce to serve with lamb. Mint is the symbol for Virtue and made the Mint Julep a Southern superstar! I have never tasted one. Anyone else?

Dill grows as an annual and in full sun. It's flavor is a cross section of parsley, anise, celery and a hint of lemon. That's pretty good. Add to salad dressings for cucumbers and tomatoes. Dill is delicious in  potato, tuna, egg and pasta salads. Dill seeds have an intense flavor and are used in the picklin' process.

 Thyme is a perennial and grows great in full sun but will tolerate a bit of afternoon shade. Thyme has a pungent, spicy, savory flavor. Lemon Thyme is a bit milder, with a lemon flavor. Thyme, Lemon or otherwise, is wonderful with fish, meats, most veggies and soup. It makes great compound butters to top steaks, grilled chicken or fish. Thyme is the symbol for courage.

 If you have an abundance of herbs at the end of your growing season by all means dry them. You will have fresh dried herbs all winter long. Cut your herbs and bundle with string, raffia or even a rubber band. Bend a large paper clip and hook your herbs upside down in a cool, dry and dark area, preferably in a room not used often.  Just remember that a dried herb is stronger in flavor than a fresh herb. Usually 1 teaspoon dried = 3 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs this is a good rule to follow.

I hope you will try herbs in your cooking. Start out on a small scale and take it from there. I love growing them AND sharing them. I have a neighbor down the road that comes and cuts mint from my garden. I mentioned how mint gets out of hand.....this little lady has full reign to come and cut as much mint as she wants!

 Enjoy Miss Susan's artwork on Herbs!
This pretty little page was written and published by Susan Branch, one of my favorite artistic authors. This is from her Summer book, check her out

......and plant a little garden of herbs, you'll be glad ya did!!


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