Tag Archives: basil

Lovage and basil and curly-leaf parsley…these are a few of my favorite herbs

Herbs have been a part of my culinary experience since childhood, but my parents never had a separate herb garden. Instead, herbs were interspersed throughout their massive vegetable garden. Parsley often sprouted randomly between flagstones on the patio, and dill….well, dill just grew wherever it wanted to.

About 30 years ago, I took an herb gardening class, which inspired me to design one at our first house. Since then, we’ve moved twice, and each time, the herb garden has grown larger. When we bought this house, we created the garden around a grape arbor. The grapes never did well despite my father’s attempts to school us in the fine art of grape growing.

Along the way, the arbor began to fall apart and we finally dismantled it and removed the grapevines. Don’t ask my husband about this. You’ll be sorry.

Anyway, the grapes left, but the herbs stayed. Some survive above ground throughout the winter, while others pop back up each spring.

Some years the parsley sees us through the winter and rejuvenates in the spring. This year, it is nowhere to be found, which means planting new seed — the same with basil. That means making do with the dried version until the new plants begin to produce.

But the old favorites are back in droves…lovage, oregano, thyme, lemon balm, chives, summer savory. Dill grows randomly throughout a separate perennial garden.

My all-time favorite is lovage, which is a tall plant with edible leaves and stalks, and resembles celery in flavor but is stronger. The plant in our garden has been moved three times (from one house to the next) and split up and shared with countless friends and family members. Each summer, I have to trim it back two or three times when it becomes too tall and the stalks too woody. New stalks are always ready to take over.

LovageLovage can be added to salads, soups, casseroles, and is easily frozen or dried for future use. It makes a great addition to one of our summer favorites: couscous salad with whatever veggies are available.

Lemon balm grows like crazy. In fact, a former neighbor and I once suggested to our husbands that we just let the lemon balm take over our yards so we wouldn’t have to mow. Let’s just say their enthusiasm didn’t match ours.

We eat a lot of salads in the summer and throw in whatever herbs are available — parsley, basil, lovage, chives. Oregano is a good addition to Italian dishes — anything with pasta.

Oregano

Lemon balm

Lemon  balm has a gentle lemon smell and taste, and is good for flavoring fish like grilled or broiled salmon. My favorite use is to add it to mint iced tea (no caffeine) — good for settling an upset stomach.

Not everything in the herb garden is an herb and not everything is welcome there (e.g., horseradish).  Technically, this isn’t an herb but somehow it found its way into the herb garden. I don’t even like horseradish, but the hubs does. So does my mom…so much so that every summer, she and a friend dig up their horseradish roots to make pots and pots of horseradish sauce.

In a moment of ignorance, I agreed to let my husband transplant some horseradish from her garden into ours. This was before he created what he and our daughters have dubbed “the man’s garden”. And now it is time for the man to dig up his roots and move them to the man’s garden. In its place, I’ll plant a new herb.

Wonder what it’ll be?

Chives

 

 

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Simply in Season

Scrolling through Facebook recently, I noticed that a friend had asked for some “healthy, simple recipes” for summer meals. Very quickly, several friends suggested recipes from “Simply in Season,” a cookbook that focuses on using local, seasonal foods. It is categorized by season — spring, summer, autumn and winter — which can vary by geographical location. Though the recipes are filed under specific seasons, many use ingredients that can be found year round (but in that case, may not be locally fresh).

According to the cookbook’s authors, Cathleen Hockman-Wert and Mary Beth Lind, “recipes are living things that change with the season and with the preparer.  And while there are few completely original recipes, contributors were encouraged to submit recipes that were shaped by their own lives.”  Each recipe is accompanied by the name(s) of the contributor(s) and their hometown.

One of the first responders to the Facebook request, recommended the fajitas in the summer section. She used chicken in hers, but the recipe provides alternatives — a common thread throughout the book, as many can be adjusted for vegetarians/non-vegetarians. Likewise, many recipes suggest a variety of vegetable (i.e., what is available in your own garden, local farmer’s market or grocery store.)

To find out more about the cookbook, check out this website on “World Community Cookbooks” , where you’ll find a fruit and recipe guide, recipe of the week, related blogs, even a study guide. If you have children interested in cooking, I recommend getting them a copy of the “Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook”.  Not only will they learn to prepare food, they’ll learn where foods come from and begin to understand the concept of eating locally. Which, when you think about it, might be a good starting point for adults new to the concept!

I don’t have a favorite recipe in this cookbook, but there are certain ones I return to frequently — especially during the summer when my garden is overproducing zucchini, summer squash, basil, parsley, lovage, etc.

I can’t wait to try the current “Recipe of the Week”. Just for the record, I’ll be using parsley…for some reason, cilantro and I don’t agree. For extra protein, try the quinoa version. If you’re unfamiliar with quinoa, it’s an amino acid-rich seed that is often considered a grain. It has a fluffy, but slightly crunchy/nutty texture.

Stoplight Salad

The name refers to the colors in this tasty salad. Using grilled corn is optional but offers a lovely smoky flavor. Try this salad alongside grilled meats or as a light main dish.

Yields 6-8 cups / 1.5-2 L

2 cups / 500 ml tomatoes (chopped and drained)

2 cups / 500 ml corn

1 medium green pepper (diced)

1 medium red sweet pepper (diced)

1/4 cup / 60 ml fresh cilantro, parsley, or basil (chopped)

2 cups / 500 ml cooked black beans (optional)

Combine in a bowl.

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or lime juice

1 clove garlic (minced)

Whisk together in a separate bowl. Pour over salad. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently and serve.

Southwest variation: Omit the tomatoes and add to the dressing 11/2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, 11/2 teaspoons ground cumin, 3/4 teaspoon chili powder and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

Quinoa variation: Add 2 cups / 500 ml cooked quinoa. Serve with warm flour tortillas.

Cathi Baer, Archbold, Ohio
Laura Tiessen, Toronto, Ontario
Kristen Burkholder, Norman, Oklahoma
Marjorie Liechty, Goshen, Indiana

© 2011 Mennonite Central Committee

The curse of the Mother’s Day plant

Last Sunday, the rain let up just enough that I decided it was time to do some planting. Despite a hankering for a new high-rise raised bed, I’d decided instead to do mostly container gardening. Having done this successfully several years ago, and bolstered by an article posted on the Stratton Greenhouses Facebook page, I headed out to the playhouse.

Okay,technically this is no longer a playhouse, but since I like to play in the garden, we still call it that. My dad built this A-frame “cottage” about 18 years ago, intending it as a playhouse for the girls. He told me we’d be lucky if it lasted for two years, but since my dad never did anything halfway or shoddy, it still stands.

Anyway, the toys housed inside have been replaced by gardening tools and equipment, pots of all sizes, bags of potting soil, and assorted spiders and bugs. So…Sunday, I shoved aside the spiders standing guard at the door and grabbed four big clay pots and a bag of potting soil.

This was to be an early planting of succession crops (I made that up to sound like I know what I’m talking about). In one pot went mesclun (a “gourmet” blend of greens, and in another pot I planted spinach. Then because I wanted to compare the success of basil grown in a pot versus that grown in my herb garden, I plopped some basil seed in the third pot. In the fourth pot, I mixed a handful of year-old buttercrunch with spinach.

Container garden pre-squirrel attack

Despite the fact that it was likely to rain within a few hours, I dutifully sprinkled water over the four pots. In the back of mind, a niggling voice festered. “Maybe you should put screens over the pots….just in case.” Since I’m so good at ignoring little voices I took some pictures of my pots and pleased as punch, went into the house to announce the start of my 2011 garden.

The next day, I was talking to my youngest daughter on the cell phone as I walked home from work. As I approached the patio, I excitedly told her about the plantings. My happiness suddenly turned to howls as I realized one of those wretched squirrels had decided to feed on my newly planted seed.

Her response? “Mom, it’s the curse of the Mother’s Day plant. Remember?”

Pot post-squirrel attack

Oh, how I remember. Long ago, when she was about six years old, she’d planted a flower in a tiny pot at school and brought it home to give me for Mother’s Day. She and her dad had hidden it in the garage, locked the door, and forbade me to enter the garage. They forgot to tell that to the furry creature hidden somewhere in the dark recesses of the garage.

The next morning, the two of them sneaked out to the garage. There was a loud scream, followed by angry cries of frustration. Somehow, they’d unknowingly locked a raccoon inside the garage and he seemed to think that flower was his breakfast.

I honestly think if the raccoon had hung around, Anne would have grabbed the nearest shovel and smacked it.

It was Anne’s version of Judith Viorst’s “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day.” A Mother’s Day I’ve never forgotten.

Twenty years later, she’s obviously still hanging on to her memory of that day, but with a humorous twist. And so…there you have it…the curse of the Mother’s Day plant. Guess I’ll have to wait until after Mother’s Day to re-plant.