Category Archives: Learning about herbs

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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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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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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Parsley


Common parsley, Petroselinium crispum, a member of the carrot family (Apiaceae) I never grew parsley as a biannual before. But this year the parsley came back and took off on it’s mission to reproduce seed in the second year.

It’s grown as an annual in my garden both as a food source to butterfly caterpillars and some of my favorite recipes. Snip this leafy stalk-like herb close to the ground and begin clipping on the outside edges of the bunch. Cutting parsley like this will encourage new growth. Keep pruning parsley all season. Usually parsley grows to about 12 inches tall in my garden the first year.

This second year, I just left the plant to grow a second year. It grew about three feet tall before blooming and setting seed. Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars which are black, green and yellow caterpillars feast on parley. So I always plant a lot of parsley. Parsley is slow to germinate from seed. Be patient, and keep the soil moist. Parsley leaves are very high vitamin C content. They also contain vitamin A, B1, B2, Calcium, Iron, and anti-inflammatory flavonoids.

I’m collecting seed this year to plant next spring. I’ve always purchased seed for growing both curly and flat leaved varieties. When I have a lot of fresh parsley, I tend to use it more. One of my favorite summer recipes includes loads of fresh parsley, mint, and tomatoes.

Really, it’s not good unless you have fresh parsley.

Recipe for Toubli is here:
Tabouli Salad and Lemon Thyme Couscous

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