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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.