Category Archives: Herbs in the garden

annuals and perennial herbs for containers, landscapes and kitchen gardens.

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.













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.


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!

A rainbow of Zinnias

It’s a good zinnia growing year.

Zinnias, Zinnia elegans are the star of the summer flower show. For filler and contrast, try adding herbs, or coleus. It doesn’t always have to be leather leaf ferns or baby’s breath.

Red and gold zinnias with coleus in an antique watering can.

Red and gold zinnias with coleus in an antique watering can.

Summer-long blooms bring butterflies and pollinators to the garden. Zinnias meant “thoughts of an absent friend.” in the Victorian language of flowers.


Zinnias and Russian sage. Cutting Zinnia, “Hot Crayon Colors” ↑ 


Zinnias and mini marigolds. ↑ →

“Signet Starfire” marigolds. grown from seed. Little yellow and orange dwarf single marigolds keeps blooming until frost.

Shades of red:


Red and white zinnias with coleus make a simple bouquet.

Zinnias and coleus.↑


Zinnias and Nicotiana. ↑


Zinnia and Coleus. ↑

Zinnias were named 1763 by Linnaeus in honor of Johann Zinn, a German professor of botany and medicine.

Pinks and lavender:


Zinnias and coleus. ↑ Cutting Zinnia, “Berry Basket”

These crayon colored flowers are long-stemmed cutting flowers with long-lasting blooms.

To extend the life of cut flower blooms by trimming off the bottom of the stem, every few days. Replace the water with fresh every 4 days.


Zinnias and basil. Cutting Zinnia, “Berry Basket” ↑


Zinnias with oregano and basil. Cutting Zinnia, “Bling Bling.” These lovely cut flowers are bigger and brighter every year. Disease resistance has much improved through the years.

Pink zinnias and Queen Ann's lace.

Pink zinnias and Queen Ann’s lace.

If it’s been awhile since you’ve included zinnias in your garden, take another look. Zinnias are disease resistant rebloomers that will keep you in flowers until frost.

You might also like:

IMG_3335I got all the zinnias in this post from Renee’s Garden.

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.

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