Category Archives: Herbs in the kitchen

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

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!

Gazpacho is a garden celebration in a bowl

The taste of summer

When the vegetable garden goes into full production, it’s time for gazpacho. The best gazpacho is made with garden fresh produce at the peek of the season.

IMG_5353 (1)

Add pureed vegetables to the chopped vegetables.

Gazpacho is a cold vegetable soup. It’s a southern Spanish dish of blended fresh raw vegetables in a tomato base.

Use up a lot of vegetables. Tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, onions, herbs.


When the garden explodes and the kitchen counter is covered with fresh produce, make gazpacho.


Don’t like  bell peppers? Leave them out. Add zucchini, roasted garlic, a few shakes of hot pepper sauce. The point is to make this recipe your own by adding the vegetables and herbs that you grow and love. Or, pick the best and most abundant produce at the farmers market.

Use any variety of sun ripened tomatoes.

Use any variety of sun ripened tomatoes.

Some gazpacho is served puréed until smooth. I prefer a chunkier version that includes chopped vegetables. Choose vine-ripened tomatoes and the freshest vegetables.

Use any variety of sweet peppers.

Use any variety of sweet peppers.

Use what you have and what you like. I will use extra cukes in midsummer. Later, when all the pepper varieties are producing, I’ll use more peppers and less cucumbers.




Basic recipe.

Start with the basic recipe, then make it your own.


2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
tomato juice
1 or two cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium chopped red onion
1 small hot pepper, seeded and minced (your choice, jalapeño, poblano, banana)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar (herb vinegar)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
mixed herbs 2 tablespoons of your choice
2 tablespoons fresh basil for garnish

tomatoes and  cucumbers

Chop vegetables, puree in small batches with the blender or food processor.

Combine half of the chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, red and yellow bell peppers, onion. Mince small hot pepper and 2 garlic cloves. Add 2 cups of tomato juice, half the salt and purée. I use a stick blender.

Add the rest of the chopped vegetables to the purée. Stir in oil, vinegar, salt pepper, mixed herbs. Taste and adjust seasoning. Cover and refrigerate.

The important thing is to chill the soup. Refrigerating the gazpacho allows the vegetable flavors to meld. The most flavorful a gazpacho will chill overnight.

SERVE – in chilled bowls with chilled soup spoons, with a chiffonade of basil to garnish. Pass around extra chopped herbs or grated Parmesan cheese.

tomatoes peeling in waterPEEL Tomatoes:  To remove the skins, mark a small “X” on the bottom with a sharp knife. Slowly lower tomatoes into boiling water for 30 seconds, then shock in ice water. The skins will slip off, and you can proceed with the gazpacho recipe.

chiffronadeCHIFFONADE basil:  Create ribbons of basil by stacking the basil leaves and roll them into a cigar shape. Carefully cut across the rolled basil with a sharp knife.

The taste of summer.

Your garden in a bowl. Even better the next day. For thicker soup, add a bit of tomato paste as you adjust the seasoning.


Gazpacho and garlic cheese toast.

FINISH soup: add a splash of red wine vinegar, herb or balsamic vinegar, olive oil or extra chopped herbs.

ADD Herbs: parsley, basil, cilantro, oregano, thyme. Use roasted garlic instead of fresh raw minced garlic. Top with a dollop of pesto.

Herb bouquets

Include herbs in the Flower and vegetable garden


Keep a herb bouquet in the kitchen

Trimming herbs will tidy the garden and provide fragrant culinary inspiration in the kitchen. Keep a herb bouquet in the kitchen to inspire using fresh herbs in cooking. A handy sprig of fresh oregano may be just what the tomato sauce needs.

Clip or trim herbs to encourage, healthy, bushy growth. For example, a basil plant will produce more leaves if kept trimmed. Learn more about the importance of Pinching terminal buds for better plant growth.

Herbs and flowers by PBH

Cutting herbs (cilantro) and flowers like zinnias will encourage production. Plants continue to grow, trying to bloom and make seed. to seed will extend the growing season. Herbs and flowers by PBH

Herbs add greenery and fill a bouquet to colorful blooms. A handy supply of herbs in the garden will always brighten any bouquet. Replace filler like baby’s breath and leather leaf ferns with your own home-grown herbs.


A hummingbird and bees were drawn into admire this bouquet on the patio.

A herb bouquet on the kitchen counter will inspire you to use more fresh herbs. Often, cut herbs will last longer than a floral bouquet.

Later, the lavender will flavor lemonade. The garlic scapes and cilantro will be added to salsa.

Garlic scapes.

Garlic scapes.






You can never have too much basil.


Chopped fresh basil and oregano boost the flavor, turning any dish into gourmet fare.

Plant enough to use fresh, to preserve as pesto and in herb vinegar. Keep a pot on the patio or right outside the kitchen door. Read more about basil: Seed starting, growing and storing Basil

Basil flavor is best when fresh. If you keep basil cuttings in a kitchen bouquet, don’t be surprised in the stems form roots.

Discard the rooted stems and use only the leaves in cooking. (Or, plant the rooted cuttings.)

A variety of basil cuttings.

Gather basil cuttings before the first frost to extend the fresh basil for a couple of more weeks.

Keeping basil pinched or cut back will produce more leaves. Keeping a glass or jar of those cuttings in the kitchen makes it much more likely that you will use the herbs at their best.

Wordless Wednesday


Garlic scape bouquet.

Hardy fall vegetables

Big beautiful leeks, leafy chard, sweet baby carrots are still in the garden.

chard, leeks

Pot of Gold chard, is a garden show off now that the weather has cooled. The big leafy plants are not bitter. Photo PBH


There are also some young kale, broccoli and, cauliflower plants still in the garden. The plants are slow-growing and may not have time to make before the cold weather settles in. I’ll harvest the young kale leaves.

Read more:  Cool season crops organic Swiss Chard

Build a bed this fall. Get a jump or the spring garden season. Try  simple wood framed easy raised bed. Build the basic garden this fall. Get a jump on next spring’s garden.

Raised beds are a quick start for new gardeners

Baby kale is sweet and crisp.

Read more:  Cool season crops organic Swiss Chard


The baby kale will be part of Zuppa Toscana, an Italian potato soup with sausage and kale. It’s one of the many soups collected on the Bread and Soup board on my Pinterest .

Add kale in the last minutes of simmering so it will stay bright and green.



Sweet baby carrots


Little carrots still have time to grow bigger and sweeter.

Little carrots still have time to grow bigger and sweeter.

Daucus carota. There are lots of carrots out there in the garden. They are sweet, orange and about three inches long. I’m curious, they have been thinned and are growing faster than anything else.

I’ll just watch and see how long they keep growing. Carrots as a fall crop are new in my garden. I’ll sow more carrots in the spring.

A packet of carrot seed has about a gazillion seed. Buy it and you will have enough for two crops a year. There are dozens of varieties.  You can get a generous packet of carrot seed for two bucks at Nichols Garden Nursery

I pulled up some short fat carrots, Chantenay Red Core Carrot, I think. It’s an old heirloom and it is growing well in my Southeast Missouri garden. They take up so little space in the garden.  Try to grow carrots if haven’t.

There's lots of parsley in the garden this fall.

There’s lots of parsley in the garden this fall.


Parsley is loaded with vitamin C. It’s a real asset in chicken soup. I’ll add a heaping helping in the last minutes of simmering.

Some parsley will stay in the garden because it is a biannual and will appear early in the spring. It will flower and go to seed in the second year.




And finally, perky little blooms are hard to come by in November. Calendula, “Flashback” is a volunteer. They frequently self seed. Anywhere this colorful plant appears, it’s welcomed to stay. This bright orange bloom brings pollinators to the garden.




Scarlet Nantes




More information:

Grow 2 crops of carrots this season

How to grow long straight carrots

Nichols Garden Nursery – Fine Seeds & Herbs. Has some good carrot growing tips. Plus, they have 11 varieties of carrots. several good varieties that are under $2 a packet. I may have slightly exaggerated in saying there are a gazillion seeds in a packet.

There are approximately 18,500 carrot seeds per ounce or 650 seeds per gram.

 In the soup pot today: Washed and coarsely chopped chunks of  these Leeks, kale, carrots, onions, oregano, garlic, parsley and rosemary are simmering in a big pot destined to be a vegetable broth by tomorrow. Beef, chicken, or vegetable both will make any soup brighter, adding another levels of taste.

When cooking a chicken for chicken soup, cook it in your homemade broth instead of water. The resulting golden chicken broth is the best. Really. I mean it. Double broth may have originally come from heaven.

Becky’s Flowers

delivered October 22, 2013

Borage (Borago officinalus)

An herb, borage is a sun-loving annual that reseeds from one year to the next. Once it is established, borage may be returning to your garden every spring. Even though it is an annual, it freely reseeds.


Find two or three colors on one plant. Photo by Patsy Bell Hobson

Each plant has dozens of blooms continuously all summer and until frost. In my garden, it tends to sprawl and reaches a foot or two in height. I love the periwinkle-blue blooms, a few of the flowers are pink, lavender and, rarely white.

borage bud

The dill and borage grow tall, perfect in the back of the herb garden border. Photo by Patsy Bell Hobson

Borage flowers are Becky’s flowers today, each plant is a bouquet of  colored blooms.

The blooms are edible. Sometimes flowers are served on tea sandwiches, the taste is a mild hint of cucumber flavor. They can garnish a salad or cold soup. Candied borage flowers will decorate cakes or cookies and maybe cup of  sorbet.


Pale blue to a sky blue in color, the sweet 1″ flowers are beautiful served candied and decorating the tea tray.  Photo by Patsy Bell Hobson

In the garden, borage grows well in containers, bed and borders. It is a blooming delight, a little taller than many herbs, it is a good choice growing in the back of the herb bed.

It is believed to have originated in Syria, but borage has naturalized throughout most of Europe and the USA. Because it reseeds easily, you often find it near abandoned farm homes and junk heaps.

Bees love borage, it may increase the amount of honey produced in the nearby hives. Leaves can be added to green salads. Add sprigs to wine, cider or tea. Borage is a good companion plant for strawberries.

*Becky Funke is in a hospital that does not allow flowers in the rooms. So, not to be deterred, I’ll send them on Pinterest. You can stop by her CaringBridge site to leave well wishes and get updates. The girls, her 3 beautiful daughters, keep the site up to date. 



Winter comes to Cape

WinterBluSpruceThe first day after a snow is the most beautiful, isn’t it?  This snowy blue spruce has been moved so many times. It was only about 18″ tall when it was planted the first time. Now in it’s permanent home, the tree is about 5′ tall.

I've had this a little over a year. I got it out for morning coffee and a few minutes of prayer for our country and all out leaders. Do you think they can put the well fare of out country ahead of politcs?

I’ve had this a little over a year. I got it out for morning coffee and a few minutes of prayer for our country and all out leaders. Do you think they can put the well fare of out country ahead of politcs?







I forgot to pull the leeks out  of the garden before this first big snow.  Hope theywill survive under their snow blanket. I am looing forward to potato-   leek soup.  I’m stll working on a  multi allium soup recipe. Something like a 3 onion soup. However,  my recipe will still be topped with a crouton and cheese. Those French can cook! don’t cha think?


wintergardenThe garden is pretty with the first snow, but I feel that it wants to be blooming again. I’m still tossing around plant ideas for those chimney tiles. Any thoughts?

I love the week between Christmas and New Years. Seems like there is always time for a walk with your sweety, the occasional nap, and that little happy moment when the eggnog is finally all gone!

Well , call me or send me your phone # to  hobsondotpatsybellatgmaildotcom I lost everyons phone, so call me.

Streets and sidewalks are clear. We have plenty of coffee and tea, so come on down. There’s always a fireplace on somewhere.





Grow wild wasabi arugula

Plants From Seed

Try something new this spring. photo: Renee’s Garden “Wasabi” arugula.

Something new and green that I’ll be planting come spring: wasabi arugula. It tastes  just as snappy as you might imagine. And, while you probably won’t want a salad bowl filled with it, a few leaves on a plate of fresh mixed greens is delicious.

When my seeds came in the mail, I thought the packet was empty. When I opened and looked inside the packet, it was hard to even see those tiny seed. Traditional arugula seed dwarf these teeny tiny wasabi arugula seed by comparison.

Sow sparingly every 2 or 3 weeks from the earliest date you dare plant in your area. In my zone 6 SE Missouri garden, the plant did best in spring and fall.

I encourage you to grow this tasty new arugula variety. Once it is growing  in the garden, you will think of many flavorful ways to use it in the kitchen. Add a few leaves to your own mesclun mix.

We tucked it into fish tacos, roast beef or tuna salad sandwiches, even topped a pizza with these greens as soon as it came out of the oven.

Hub pages has more information: How to grow organic arugula.

Buy the seed from Renee’s Garden. But don’t limit yourself to just one variety of arugula, I’ve tried several of Renee’s selections. My other favorite arugulas are “Rustic” and “Rustic Style.” “Wasabi” Arugula is a Renee’s Exclusive, a wild discovery that really does taste like it’s namesake.

Renee’s Garden has the best new thing in the early spring garden: “Wasabi” arugula. Photo: Renees Garden.


Scented or Flavored Sugars Recipe

How to make Lavender or Vanilla Flavored Sugars

L-R small jar of pure sugar; middle, 4 cups of vanilla sugar, and right, lavender sugar

The last of the lavender is blooming. Bees are abuzz. They have hovered aroud the lavender all summer. Noticing the last of the blooms nudged me on make a quart  (4 cups) of lavender flavored sugar.

I always keep these flavored sugars in the kitchen cabinet. Each summer I bake a pound cake to go with the season’s berries. Substitute lavender sugar for regular sugar in your favorite recipe. Or try Paula Deens Pound Cake recipe.

Pollinators frequent the lavender from the first bloom to the last.

Vanilla Sugar
Vanilla sugar is also easy to make. Substitute vanilla scented sugar in any cake or cookie recipe. It is also good in ice cream recipes.

Vanilla Sugar Recipe
Break whole vanilla bean pod in three or four pieces and distribute throughout a quart canning jar filled with white sugar. Wait 3 or 4 weeks for the vanilla to infuse the sugar. I buy spices from Penzey’s.

I’m making lavender sugar and vanilla sugar. Scented sugar or flavored sugars add another level of flavor to your recipes. It’s my secret ingredient and a sweet and suttle accent to baked goods.

Lavender Sugar
I’m collecting half a dozen lavender flowers to make lavender sugar. A little goes a long way. Lavender can quickly overpower the food it is meant to flavor. Lavender scented sugar adds just a hint of floral flavor.

Lavender Sugar Recipe

Three stems of fresh lavender flowers will infuse the 4 cups of sugar.

To make your own lavender sugar, add three or four whole flower heads in layers as you fill a pint jar with white sugar. Seal and wait two weeks to use the sugar. Test the flavor after the first week. Use a teaspoon of dried culinary flowers if fresh lavender is not available.

Using lavender sugar instead of lavender flowers in baking will add the light touch that will accent a recipe, not overpower it. Sift out the lavender flowers before adding the sugar to the recipe.

Use scented sugar in pound cake and/or the glaze. Substitute lavender sugar for regular white sugar in any baking recipe. Try lavender sugar cookies or blueberry muffins made with scented sugar.

Make scented sugars your secret ingredient. Adding vanilla extract to your baking is optional if you are using scented sugars. Also, try cinnamon stick or fresh mint leaves. If you have pesticide-free roses, make rose flavored sugar.

Make More

If your cake recipe calls for 2 Cups of sugar measure out what you need and sift out nd flower bits. Refill the quart jar with more regular. Tighten the lid and gently shake or roll the jar to mix the new and remaining flavored sugars.

Let your taste or smell be the judge about when to replace the herbs or spices. I bake very rarely, so I refresh the herbs or spices in a quart jar once each year. Wait two weeks to infuse  the additional sugar.

Todays Harvest Basket

July 13, 2012

tomatoes, cucumber, squash, hot peppers.

This horrible heat has caused the tomatoes to stop blooming.  Tomatoes are suffering, even though I am watering the tomato plants. It is just too hot to bloom or produce fruit. Even when we get a temperature drop, it will take 5 week to produce a tomato. It takes about 3 weeks for the tomato to grow and then 2 more weeks for the big ones to ripen.

Today I harvested the ingredients, along with the home grown onions and garlic, for ratatouille.

I have loads of tomato information on Pinterest Tomato Everything

On Hubpages  Read My Hubpages about saving seed and tomatoes.

Hubs like this one: What causes tomatoes to crack?

Top Tomato Tips: When Size Matters

Why hot tomatoes stop growing

Sungold tomato. photo: PBH

This tangerine colored cherry tomato is little and the sweetest tomato I’ve ever eatin. This is the only tomato that I will for sure have in the garden next year.


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