Category Archives: Herb Everything

Blog posts and herbal experiences

Julia’s Ratatouille

The Ratatouille harvest basket.

Ratatouille makings. Tomato, eggplant, peppers, squash.

An old fashioned vegetable dish, ratatouille is a combination of all the things I grow in my garden. Julia’s Ratatouille is garden gold in your freezer.

Once you master a great dish like ratatouille, you become confident enough to try variations.

I can hear Julia Child talking about this dish. The full name of the stewed vegetable dish is Ratatouille Niçoise. Her recipe is the classic, start there and then adapt it to your taste.

It’s time to make ratatouille when there is an abundance of eggplant in the garden. Usually the last main crop vegetable to produce in my vegetable patch, eggplant is the star of my version. If your don’t like eggplant then leave it out of the recipe. 

This dish very quickly uses up the seasonal glut of produce that happens in August. By now, I have all the zucchini, tomatoes and eggplant that I can eat. I grow every vegetable that goes into this simple French peasant dish.

This dish is a celebration of my garden bounty. It’s a thanksgiving meal at the peak of the growing season.

Cabin fever cure

Make a double batch because this stew reheats well for the next day or hoard it for your lunches. Make this dish and freeze it. This winter, when the snow is falling,  a reheated ratatouille meal will taste like a garden party in your mouth.

Reading seed catalogs while eating a steamy bowl of home-grown and homemade ratatouille is a ritual guaranteed to cure cabin fever. That vegetable casserole inspires my wintertime seed order.

Julia’s Ratatouille is garden gold in your freezer, A true example of your garden prowess.This versital vegetable casserole can be a featured entre, a side dish, lunch for many cold winter days.

I freeze it in portions for one or two.Serve it over noodles or rice for a heartier meal. Add a slice of crusty bread. Make plans to go to Paris some day.

Here is my version:

Ratatouille home-grown and homemade  IMG_2132







Grow your own leeks, garlic and onions

A Little Leek Love

Known best in French cooking, leeks are often overlooked in our home gardens. Leek Potato Soup, or vichyssoise, is a cold soup that every French chef has mastered. I use leeks in potato leek soup, three onion pie, and vegetable soup.

Leeks are expensive at the grocery store but you can grow them for pennies. They take up little space, have very few pest or disease problems and can be grown in containers.

Plant leeks deeper than onions. Continue to mulch plants as they grow to increase the tender white part.

Plant leeks deeper than onions. Continue to mulch plants as they grow to increase the tender white part.

Grow leeks from seed or starts. It will probably be your first late-winter or early spring crop. Onions, leeks, garlic can take a late snow or freeze.

Tender young leeks can be used as scallions or green onions.

Plant starts deep er than onions. The deeper, the better able to retain moisture. Select well worked soil with plenty of organic matter.

As leeks grow, continue to mound soil over the stems to blanch them, creating more of the white, tender part of leek. Consistent moisture will encourage tender leeks. Thin leeks to grow six inches apart.

Use only the tender green and white parts.

Use only the tender green and white parts.

Grow vegetables – Make Soup

Grow your own soup. Garden fresh vegetables are loaded with nutrients and cost very little to make. If you don’t think you have time to make soup, make a double batch and freeze half for a busy day. Make soup in the crock pot. Soup usually tastes even better the next day. What could be faster than that?

Chili, chicken and noodle soup, vegetable soup and stews of any kind are better and usually have less salt when made from scratch. I love soup and will be sharing some soup gardening and soup making tips from time to time.

Potato Leek Soup

Jazz up your favorite potato  or cauliflower soup recipe by adding leeks.

Potato soup is a winter time favorite of mine. The leeks in the garden will continue to grow and I will pull them as I need them for Potato Leek soup. Simply add leeks or replace the onions in your favorite potato soup recipe.

I make this big batch because this soup is even better the next day. You can make half this recipe, but I bet you will wish you made more.

Basic Potato Soup

Makes about 8 servings (about 2 quarts).

  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • water to cover
  • 6 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped OR, chop 2 or 3 leeks
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • nutmeg to garnish


In a large sauce pot, cover chopped potatoes and carrots with water. Cook in water until fork tender.

Drain and set aside carrots and potatoes, reserving cooking water.

In a Dutch oven, while potatoes are cooking, saute onion and celery in butter until tender. Sprinkle in flour.

Slowly add milk. Bring to gentle boil, stirring until thickened. Add carrots and potatoes, salt and pepper. Gradually add cooking water until the soup in the desired thickness. Taste and adjust seasonings. For smoother soup, use a potato masher or stick blender. This will thicken the soup and create a smoother texture. Add additional cooking water or milk to taste.

Grate a little nutmeg to garnish soup.

potato leek soup with sausage

Potato and Leek soup with kielbasa.

Go Gourmet:

Top your soup as you would a loaded baked potato, crispy bacon, grated cheddar cheese, green onions, a dollop of sour cream or a pat of butter.

Bake: Use baked potatoes instead of boiling potatoes.

Veggies: Add a cup of frozen or fresh vegetables in the last few minutes of cooking to thoroughly heat through all ingredients. Try green peas, chopped kale, corn

Meat: Plan on adding a half a strip of crumbled bacon on top of soup. Use crumbled chorizo or Italian sausage

Herbs: Stir in chopped parsley, celery leaves, chives or thyme.

Enrich: texture and flavor with 4 ounces of sour cream, plain Greek yogurt, cream, butter. Add a little at a time.

Leeks, chopped

Chop tender young leeks to freeze for soups and casseroles.

If you do not like onions, try leeks. They are  milder and easier to digest. These mild alliums are beneficial for cardiovascular and digestive health. Research points to leek’s  potential to fight cancer.
















Today’s Harvest Basket

Today's Harvest Basket

Three squash: light green Clarimore, Golden Dawn yellow and dark green, almost black, Raven zucchini.

“Pot of Gold” Chard, 3 kinds of zucchini, Chinese cabbage.


Soon to be Green Rice, Zucchini cake, and Chinese chicken salad.


  • Chard, sweet, mild

This deep green chard with golden stems, is tender and never bitter. Plus, it is beautiful. I’m a chard fan and prefer it to kale. A favorite chard recipe is green rice. It is easy to double the recipe, make two casseroles and freeze one for fall.

Substitute chard for spinach in any recipe. Many versions of this old classic are on the internet. I’ve made many versions of what I call Green Rice Casserole.

Spinach-Rice Casserole inspired by the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. Serves 4 – 6

4 cups cooked rice (white or brown)
2 cups raw, chopped chard
1 or 2 cloves minced garlic
3 tablespoons butter (or, coconut oil)
4 beaten eggs
1 cup milk (or almond milk or, soy milk)
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar
1/4 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs like parsley, chervil, basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Saute’ onions and garlic, in butter (or oil). When onions are soft, add spinach or chard or kale and salt. Cook 2 minutes. (Or use drained, frozen chopped spinach, thawed)

Combine the onion mixture with the  rice, eggs, milk, cheese, herbs, nutmeg,  and chopped nuts. Spread into a sprayed casserole.

Bake, covered, 25 minutes at 350 degrees F. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes.

This is Container Chard, “Pot of Gold,” an exclusive from Renee’s Garden Seed. Chard is packed with vitamins A, C, and K, as well as magnesium, potassium, and iron.

  • Ah, Zucchini!

Zucchini, I’ve discovered, is much easy to keep at reasonable sizes if you growIMG_1357 container varieties. Look for specially bred zucchini plants designed container growing. Tender, small squash are perfect for lightly grilling or roasting.

Thin skinned, baby zucchini are tasty eaten raw. Perfect to include in a fresh Pasta Primavera.

  • Chinese Cabbage

Nappa Chinese CabbageChinese Cabbage will be a main ingredient in Chinese chicken salad, Kim Chee, cole slaw. Thanks to the milder summer weather and plenty of rain, I still have a couple for cabbages to harvest. It’s very unusual to have these plants so late in the season.














Today’s Harvest Basket

Zucchini and cucumbers, plus fresh dill

The July zucchini explosion is here

Three kinds of zucchini - I know - what was I thinking?

Three kinds of zucchini – I know – what was I thinking?

At last, I picked cucumbers today, three long, thin-skinned English cucumbers. They are my favorites English Cucumber, “Chelsea Prize”, which is an exclusive from Renee’s Garden Seed.

Cucumber season is never long enough. When the little cucumbers finally arrive in a couple of weeks, I’ll make a few pickles. But, these slender, sweet fleshed Chelsea Prize cukes are best for fresh eating.

Visit Zucchini Everything on Pinterest or try this simple cake to use up a big zucchini.

One recipe makes three cakes zucchini, carrot or apple  Yes,  the recipe really calls for 4 cups of zucchini (!), carrots, or apples. It is a beautiful cake with flecks of both zucchini and carrots.

While I have plenty of zucchini and carrots, I’ll make a couple of these cakes to freeze.












It’s Garlic Scape Season

lavender, leeks, clantro, scapes

Herb bouquet with garlic scapes, lavender, leeks, cilantro flowers.

One springtime meal that I always look forward to is garlic scape pesto tossed into on a big ol’ bowl of pasta.

Only hard necked  garlic bulbs produce these tall flower spikes. For years I grew soft neck, not to be bothered by the need to cut off the scapes. When I read Tomatoes, Garlic, Basil by Doug Oster, I discovered garlic scape pesto.


Garlic scapes are green stems and unopened flower buds of hard-neck garlic varieties.

Scapes have a mild garlic flavor and a slight sweetness, which makes them a prized addition in the kitchen. You can find them in the early summer at farmers’ markets. If you grow your own garlic, trim the scapes off before their flowers open. This forces the plant to focus on bulb.

The best way to keep scapes is to make garlic scape pesto and freeze. I freeze pesto in small 1/2 cup containers.

Garlic Scape Pesto

Garlic Scape Pesto

makes about 2 cups

  • Ingredients

10-12 garlic scapes
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

  • Instructions

Rinse scapes in cold water, then roughly chop into half-inch pieces.

Process the scapes and chopped walnuts into the food processor. Blend for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl. Blend for 30 seconds, or until a fairly smooth texture is achieved.

With the machine running, slowly add olive oil, and process until thoroughly incorporated, about 20 seconds.  Add the Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper, and blend for another 5 seconds. Taste and adjust more salt and pepper.

Garlic scapes are available once a year for only a couple of weeks.  Make batches of pesto while scapes are in season.  Freeze in air-tight containers.


Pickled Garlic Scapes

Adapted from the “Dilly Beans” recipe from the Ball Blue Book® Guide to Preserving

Makes approximately 1 pint

1 bunch garlic scapes  (about 10 – 12)
2 tablespoons pickling salt
1 cup vinegar (white wine vinegar or cider vinegar)
1 cup water

fresh herb sprigs (optional)



Combine salt, vinegar and water in sauce pot and bring to a boil. Keep hot.

Clean and trim garlic scapes , cut to 4 ½-inch lengths or coil scapes. Pack  into clean, sterilized one-pint jar until full. Add sprigs of fresh herbs (optional).

Fill packed jar with vinegar. Remove air bubbles with a chop stick. Cover, allow to cool, and refrigerate. Wait at least 24 hours to develop flavors.

Try one of the coiled picked garlic scapes on a steak sandwich. When the scapes are gone, mix the vinegar with olive oil for a garlicky vinaigrette.

Suggested herbs: dill, oregano or thyme.













And so it begins

Zucchini season

It's Zucchini season

It’s Zucchini season

Be prepared for the summer squash explosion. My Pinterest has amazing zucchini recipes.


Zucchini, courgette, summer squash

Find the best zucchini cake recipe on Zucchini Everything at Pinterest. And you have to try the Zuni Cafe zucchini pickles.

If you make just one zucchini recipe, Zucchini Cake with Crunchy Lemon Glaze by David Lebovitz is a must. Can you believe, this guy has to BUY zucchini to make this cake?  See Zucchini Everything

lemon glazed zucchini cake









Today’s Harvest basket

First basket 6/1

Today’s Harvest Basket


Sugar snap peas, pak choi, turnips, lettuce, radish, green onions. Salads and stir-frys are the blue plate specials at our house this week.

Don’t like turnips?

The little white turnips in the corner of the basket may change your mind about turnips. These Japanese Baby Turnips, “Mikado” are from Renee’s Garden  I grow them in the spring and in the fall.

These white, mild turnips grow as big as walnuts. They are good raw or cooked with the greens.


The Renee’s Garden Cookbook review

Cooking from the garden


A gardeners guide from seed to table.

Most cookbooks will send you straight to the kitchen to make something good to eat. Not this one. With ”The Renee’s Garden Cookbook,” your first trip will be to the garden, and then to the kitchen.,

The recipes are quick and simple enough for everyday cooking. Your garden fresh vegetables and herbs will elevate any dish to gourmet fare. This book is perfect for those who shop at the farmers market.

Vegetables fresh from the garden

Sun warmed vegetables fresh from the garden.

300 kitchen tested recipes are easy-to-make and showcase whatever vegetables and herbs are at the peak of the season. For example, the section on Chard has tips on planting and growing, plus recipes.

Renee’s Garden Cookbook has the answer on what to do with those just-picked tomatoes or chard or, cucumbers.

When I read The Renee’s Garden Cookbook, I ordered more garden seed. The tips on growing cucumbers are interspersed with the recipes for fresh cucumbers and pickles. So, I’m thinking, “it’s not too late to plant more cucumber seed.”

Vegetables grown from Renee's Garden Seed.

Chard, eggplant and green beans.

When Renee brings in fresh vegetables from her trial gardens, she and co-author Fran Raboff get to cooking and creating new recipes. The two launch into a cooking and eating orgy. A fortunate few good friends and advisors join Fran and Renee for the recipe trials.

As a result, the recipes make the most of each harvest. Gardeners will enjoy this trip from Renee’s Garden Seed Catalog to The Renee’s Garden Cookbook. Renee offers a great combo package: The Renee’s Garden Cookbook & Easy to Grow Seed Collection at a discount.

This is a gardeners cookbook and a cook’s gardening book. Get ready to take off your garden gloves and put on your chef’s hat because, gardeners do make the best cooks.

A sampling of Renee’s Recipes include one of the most popular recipes: Lavender Shortbread. Seed packet artist, Mimi Osbone illustrates the book with her familiar watercolors of vegetables and herbs.

Nasturtium, "Cup of Sun"I hope this book will inspire you to include a few herbs and flowers in the vegetable garden. Not only are they tasty recipe additions, but will also improve vegetable pollination. Growing herbs and flowers will attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds to your gardens.


A gardeners final day of winter.

A slow cooked pork stew on a snowy day tastes even better loaded with foods from last summer’s garden. One tasty stew addition to the stew pot is sweet potatoes. Loaded with root vegetables potatoes and sweet potatoes, plus garlic, onions and carrots. Mild and sweet yellow sweet potatoes and homegrown garlic are from the garden.

White and sweet potatoes make this rich pork stew an even hardier winter fare.

White and sweet potatoes make this rich pork stew an even hardier winter fare.



From the summer farmers market: locally grown shiitake mushrooms – dried in the dehydrator and stored in plastic ziplock bags.

Home made tomato soup, several versions of stew and chili are wintertime mainstays here at the Hobson Estate.

Home grown tomatoes, garlic and peppers enhance the flavors of pork chili.

Home grown tomatoes, garlic and peppers enhance the flavors of pork chili. photo PBH














As we wrap up winter, it’s inventory time for the deep freezer and pantry. We ran out of salsa around the first of the year. So, I need to grow more tomatoes (plus, onions, garlic, peppers, herbs)

We need more salsa, crushed tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, sun dried tomatoes, even more tomato soup.

We need more salsa, crushed tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, sun dried tomatoes, even more tomato soup.

Today, I think, “I can never have too many tomatoes.” In August, that will be a different story.

Paste tomatoes, Arkansas traveler, Giant Martian, Gold Medal

Paste tomatoes, Arkansas traveler, Giant Martian, Gold Medal


“What was I thinking!?”

Akk! First Frost

The killer hard freeze

"Italian Genovese" "Queenette" Thai basil, "Italian Cameo" L-R

“Italian Genovese” “Queenette” Thai basil, “Italian Cameo” L-R

First frost in fall is as nerve-racking as the last frost date of spring. It’s no surprise to a gardener that the first frost is impending. But dang, one more warm week and I would have had a dozen more one-pound golden-yellow tomatoes.

Gathering herbs before frost. I’ll pick all tomatoes with any hint of color, decent size peppers, and eggplant.


A week or two more for fresh herbs and vegetables. Plus, I’ll make some casseroles to freeze. (Like the Court of Two Sisters eggplant casserole, Chunky vegetable soup, Ratatouille)

Then, this fall/winter, some home canned and frozen food we’ve accumulated all summer, will serve as comfort food on the coldest days.

Several fresh cut basil brought indoors before the frost. herbs in jars

Several fresh-cut basil brought indoors before the frost. herbs in jars

Bring in basil cuttings, even if is a possibility it might reach.

Learn more about Hardy Fall Vegetables  – Big beautiful leeks, leafy chard, sweet baby carrots are still in the garden.

"Pot of Gold" chard

“Pot of Gold” chard from

Where to find these recipes:

Court of 2 Sisters eggpla

  • Court of Two Sisters eggplant casserole – Next time eggplant starts piling up in the garden, make this recipe and freeze it. (Easy to double.)
  • Chunky vegetable soup
  • Ratatouille – Julia’s recipe!
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