Category Archives: Herbs in the kitchen

preserving and using fresh herbs in recipes, beverages, and gifts.

Mint Happens

Control this aggressive herb by planting it in a controlled space or between paving stones.

I just watched a friends YouTube “how to propagate mint plants.” A better story is how to control mint plants before they take over your garden.

Years ago I asked a friend for a start of his mint plant. Phil said no.

“Because we won’t be friends any more. When it takes over your garden and then your yard, you will hate me.

So, no. I won’t give you mint because I like you.”

I have 5 kinds of mint in my gardens these days. Each mint plant is in an assigned garden spot.

Mint In The Garden

These two mint plants are competing for sunshine and space with the near by lavender plants.

I plant  starter mint plants in long chimney tiles buried deep in the ground. The terracotta tubes help to control the rambling roots. Everyday, I snip off a sprig of mint from one of the plants to add to my tea.

Because I have plenty of mint, I generously use it in my cooking. Once you have a generous supply of mint, you will find ways to use it in your cooking. Plus, my bar tending skills  legendary since I mastered the mojito.

 

Growing and Caring For Mint Plants

Mint will do just fine on its own. No need to feed or water it. That would only encourage the plant to take over your world.

After overwintering in my zone 6, Southeast Missouri garden, the mint starts to come back in the spring.

Plant mint in containers with drainage holes. Sink the container in the ground. Leave the top of the container a few inches above ground level. Prune plants to keep stems in upright position. Stems that touch the ground will quickly root.

Winters and planting in containers control the spreading root systems. Its rhizomes, or roots, run underground and can send up shoots several feet from the mother plant.

To create more plants, place a sprig of mint in a glass of water until roots form.

Mint In The Kitchen

Mint is loaded with nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and some vitamin B2. It also has essential minerals such as manganese, copper, iron, potassium and calcium.Mint tea is said to aid in digestion and heartburn relief.

Mint Recipes

Tabbouleh

Dressed in good quality extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice, chopped fresh parsley and mint combined with tomato, cucumber and bulgur. to show off summer’s best vegetables and herbs.

Mint pesto

Lemon mint pesto

4 cups lightly packed mint leaves,rinsed and spun dry
1/3 cup sunflower seeds or pepitas
2 medium cloves garlic minced
grated zest of one lemon
salt and black pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil, more if needed

Blend all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor until finely chopped. Slowly add the olive oil while the machine is running until the mint is a loose paste.

Include mint in any pesto recipe. Using mint leaves in addition to basil is exclusively to serve over marinated tomatoes, gazpacho, or in a salad dressing. Try mint pesto with garlic scapes or pea shoots.

 

The largest choice of mint is at RICHTERS HERBS   in Goodwood, ON, Canada  Tel. +1.905.640.6677  Fax. +1.905.640.6641 My favorites from them are Hillary’s Sweet Lemon Mint, Mojito Mint and, Peppermint Mint.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 6 /12, 6/16

Squash blossoms and herbs

No more complaining about too many zucchini. Pick the flowers to prevent zucchini squash overload.

Pick zucchini blossoms in the morning.

Today’s harvest basket is loaded with big yellow flowers, blooms from the zucchini plant.

Fragile and short-lived squash blossoms are pricey, if you can find them at the farmers market. Any kind of squash can be used in this gourmet dish.

Add the flowers to pasta primavera, salads or omelets. Fried squash blossoms are a big restaurant hit. My favorite is baked, stuffed squash blossoms.

There is a monster squash plant in my garden.

By monster I mean, it has completely taken over the 4 ft. x 4 ft. raised bed and is creeping out several feet on all sides of the bed. It is a squash blossom factory.

The monster sized squash plant is a volunteer plant that I don’t recognize from any seed catalog. The new 4×4 raised bed is filled with lots of compost, garden waste and kitchen scraps that I’ve added since last fall. This spring, the monster squash plant appeared.

I have well-behaved zucchini plants growing in containers on the deck. The monster squash plant’s only purpose is to produce flowers. I don’t want more zucchini squash, for heaven’s sake.

Pick flowers in the morning. Rinse and hold in cool water until time to prepare. Freshly picked flowers will stay fresh for a couple of days when wrapped in damp paper towels stored in the refrigerator.

The only purpose of this squash plant is to produce blossoms. I did not grow this zucchini for squash. Collect blooms every day or two.

Oven Roasted Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Remove the stamen from the flower.

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients:
  • 12 zucchini blossoms, center pistil or stamens removed
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh herbs (such as parsley, basil, thyme, mint)
  • 2 tablespoons pepitas and/or sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper (optional)
  • olive oil, for drizzling

 

Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of cheese mixture.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Gently remove the stamen from the center of the flowers.
  3. Combine the ricotta, herbs, pepitas, sunflower seeds and egg together. Season with salt and pepper (optional).
  4. Carefully open the blossoms and stuff with the 1-2 teaspoons of ricotta mixture per flower depending on the size of the flower. Gently twist the flower at the end to enclose the filling.Lay stuffed zucchini flowers on prepared sheet pan or baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Bake for 25 or 30 minutes, or until the baby squash is tender-crisp and blossom starts to brown on bottom.

Suggestions. Add 1 Tablespoon garlic pesto or any pesto to ricotta mixture instead of chopped herbs. Serve warm squash blossoms with pasta sauce on the side for dipping.

I grow zucchini from seed in containers. Container Zucchini Astia  from Renee’s Garden. Serve roasted, sautéed, grilled or baked.

Pick squash when about 5″ or 6″long.

 

Too many zucchini? Go To: my Pinterest board Zucchini Everything

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Chervil – You Can GrowThat!

If you don’t grow your own, you probably will not have the privilege of  enjoying this fresh herb in the spring and fall. Chervil’s delicate anise flavor and dainty appearance make this a must grow herb for herb gardeners and foodies.

Chervil Anthriscus cerefolium, is a mild flavored, delicate cool season annual.

Direct seed chervil in early spring. Plant in filtered sun or light shade if climate is hot areas. Sow seeds an inch apart in well worked soil. Barely cover and keep soil moist. Germinates in 10 to 14 days.

Chervil grows to 10 -12 inches tall.  Once seeds germinate and grow 1 inch tall,   thin seedlings to one plant every 6 inches or so. Chervil has a delicate tap root and does not transplant well.

Plant chervil in partial shade or, in the spotty shade under other plants. It grows best in moist soil and cool spring weather.

I use chervil (pronounced SHER-vil) in delicate dishes, like tomorrows breakfast omelet. Sprigs of chervil will top the deviled eggs and, in a nonmayonnaise based potato salad.

As soon as the weather heats up, chervil plants bolt (flower and set seed) By June, my plants have set seed. After seeds are brown and dry, I’ll collect them to reseed in the fall and  next spring.

Although you probably aren’t going to eat enough chervil to make a nutritional impact, it is a flavorful source of calcium and potassium.

Chervil is a delicate annual, growing only in cool weather. It’s a great herb for succession planting. Add a few seed to the garden every week in the spring to extend the season as long as possible.

Fines Herbes

Add fresh chopped chervil at the last-minute to enhance to bright flavor in any dish.

The famous French herb blend uses chervil. The combo includes chervil,  parsley, chives and French tarragon. Fines herbes (pronounced feens-erb) is best used fresh because the herbs lose a lot of flavor when dried.

 

 

 

Remember, anything you grow as an early spring crop can be grown  fall crop. Sometimes veggies are even more successful since the soil is already warm.

Chervil Herb Butter

One of the best ways to preserve chervil is in butter.

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped chervil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Blend lemon juice, and chervil into softened butter. shape butter into a log and chill. Refrigerate or freeze butter log.

Chervil is sometimes used as a tarragon substitute. When cooking with chervil, add to dishes at the ending of cooking to preserve the delicate flavor.

Use chervil or chervil butter in omelets and scrambled eggs.

Companion plant chervil near cabbages and kale. Chervil is said to help repel slugs. It is easy to grow as a container plant.

Chervil is a delicate herb with a short season. It’s rare that you will find it in the market. If you want to enjoy this herb, it’s best to grow it from seed. Make sure to save some seed so you can grow it again in the fall.

adding mixed herbs to the pot outside the kitchen door. Fresh Fines Herbs are always at the ready.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 5/11/17

Spring greens

First basket of the season!

Baby turnips, green onions, cilantro and mustard greens. PBH

Baby turnips, green onions, cilantro and mustard greens, These little turnips will change your mind if you don’t like turnips. They are small, radish-sized Japanese turnips. Sweet and good raw, eaten like a radish, grated into a slaw or served on a tray of roasted root vegetables.

The seeds are from Renee’s Garden. Always order enough seed so you can grow a spring crop and a fall crop. It’s the only turnip I grow. They don’t take up much space and are ideal for succession planting. Great for filling in any blank spots in the garden.

(FYI, Savor The Luxury Of Growing Your Own. Aromatic Herbs 20% Off Through 5/31. Order cool season crops and the herbs to freeze or dry in the fall.)

The rest of the basket was mostly thinnings.

I thinned the mustard greens. This early in the season, they are mild, but still a little spicy.These  greens are tender for a quick stir-fry addition to any mix of leafy greens or add a couple of leaves into the salad bowl mix. Mustard greens are too hot for me, but a little in a mix of greens or salad greens will add a bit of sparkle.

I always plant onions too close, planning on thinning the green onions until they are 6 inches apart.  My thought, you can never have too many onions.

Red Torpedo Onions A favorite. Makes beautiful pickled onions.

Keep a few green onions chopped in the fridge when green onions are abundant. If the are ready to use, I use more onions in salads, loaded baked potatoes, potato salad, topping enchiladas.

Alliums, in my garden a red, white, Cipolini onions, leeks, garlic and chives. The fall-planted garlic looks like we will have a good crop this summer. Thinned baby leeks made the best onion soup this spring.

Cilantro is popping up every where from volunteer seed that made it through the winter. It is really growing like weeds between the beds and showing up in surrounding  raised beds.

Plant this herb a few seed every two weeks so you always have it for canning and recipes. Usually cilantro is long gone from the garden when tomato salsa making season happens in August.

Thy hand hath provided.com has a genius recipe  for Cilantro sauce, a condiment frozen in tiny portions, ready when ever you need. Gather up this fresh herb now and you will have all you need for you tomato and salsa recipes.  I faithfully return to this site when it is tomato soup canning time.

You will get better production and higher yields per plant with properly spaced plants.

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Getting Ready For Canning Season

Grow your own herbs

Time to refresh the spice cabinet.

Time to gather all the herbs and spices needed for canning and pickling this summer. I’m planting several herbs, including half a dozen different types of basil. And, I’m putting in an order to Penzeys to refresh the spice cabinet.

Learning about herbs

Add 1 bay leaf. Really? I always believed bay leaves were a lie. A pretentious herb. Maybe because they didn’t make a single bit of difference in any recipe when I was a kid. Pot roast tasted exactly the same whether you a 1 or 2 or 0 to the pot roast.

But the Kroeger tin box the held the little grey bay leaves above the stove had been there for years in the hot, humid kitchen. So now, 50 years later, I refresh my bay leaf supply every year.

Bay Leaves are Bay leaves are also spiciest when dried. But old bay leaves are tasteless. Today I proved to myself that bay leaves (Laurus nobilis)  do have taste and are also a fragrant herb.

Herbal Taste Tests

First, dump those herbs that have been in your cabinets for years. If you can smell nothing or haven’t used that jar of herbs for a couple of years, toss them. Buy a small amount of fresh herbs.

1. Bay Leaf  Tea

Add a few bay leaves to 2 cups of boiling water. Steep 5 minutes.

Do this test with any herb to learn about its unique flavor. Make a cup of tea. That’s it.  A cup of hot water and a tablespoon of herbs. Let it steep 5 minutes, taste the herb flavored water.

I add several leaves to a pint jar of hot water, put a lid on it and wait 5 minutes. There is enough tea for two cups, if you can talk someone into taste testings with you.

2. Herb Rice

Herb scented rice. Add a few bay leaves to the rice cooker at the beginning of the cycle.

Do this test to check how this herbs flavors food. Make a batch of plain white or brown rice. Add 2 or 3 bay leaves (or other herb) and cook the rice with no other seasonings, except an optional small amount of salt.

I use a rice cooker. So, I use a cup of rice and two cups of water, 3 bay leaves. When the rice is cooked, fluff and taste it plain and with a pinch of salt. I get light floral scent and mild earthy hint of flavor in every bite of white rice.

3. Herb Omelet

1 tsp butter, 2 eggs, 1 Tbs chopped chervil, 1 Tbs shredded cheese.

My favorite spring mornings begin on the deck or patio. Make the coffee and an omelet. Maybe through a slice of bread in the toaster. Dine outdoors with the humming birds and bees buzzing about. Songbirds sing and your plan for the day becomes clear.

Herb omelets are one of the delights of spring breakfasts on the patio.

A great way to educate yourself to the unique flavors of a fresh spring herb is in an omelet.

2 eggs

a buttered skillet with 1 teaspoon of butter.

1 Tbs fresh chopped chervil (or chives, cilanto, parsley*.)

1 Tbs shredded Swiss cheese ( or American or mozzarella, optional.)

The first herbs to pop up in the spring are some of the most delicately flavored herbs of all. A simple 2 egg omelet with a sprinkling of a teaspoon or two of fresh chopped herbs. Maybe add a tablespoon of mild shredded cheese, salt, pepper.

Herb omelet or scrambled eggs with chopped fresh herbs, it’s your choice. Try this method with just one herb per omelet to learn about the flavor of each herb.

I’m not going to get into how to make an omelet or scramble eggs. My mission is growing and enjoying herbs. An omelet made with fresh spring herbs is flavorful enough that you don’t need a lot of filling ingredients.

With more experience, experiment with herb combinations. My favorites are Fine Herbes: chives, tarragon, and parsley. Or any combination of these herbs.

This breakfast tastes even better served on the patio with a big cup of hot, black French roast coffee.

My favorite herb omelet is chervil and Swiss. A couple of slices of buttered and salted baguette with radish slices complete the perfect spring meal.

1 large Bay Leaf = 1/2 teaspoon broken = 1/4 teaspoon crushed

Substitute one fresh leaf for every two dried leaves.

More

Discover the flavor of  herbs with herb vinegar.

I show case single herbs in my herb vinegars. Save the flavor of delicate spring herbs by making herb vinegar while herbs are at their peak.

If you don’t think herbs have much to offer, it could be because you tasteless herbs are old. Buy a small starter plant and try some fresh herb leaves in your recipes this season. I don’t think there would be any point to raising tomatoes if  I didn’t also grow basil.

* Seed Sources

Renee’s Garden – Annual herbs are grown from seed. Chervil, cilanto, parsley and dill. Plus, chives, parsley calendula and nasturtiums.

Bay Leaves

The plant’s Roman name, Laurus nobilis, comes from the word laudare, to praise, and a crown of bay leaves has been a sign of  honor, as in the Olympic Crown of Bay Leaves.

 

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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

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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.

IMG_3018

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

Ingredients
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)

 

Instructions

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.

 

 

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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.

IMG_0210

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

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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

August:

“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.

TOMATOES IMG_8656

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 reneesgarden.com

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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