Tag Archives: Lovage

What tennis golf and spring have in common

Yep. Spring is here. Skeptics will argue the point that this can’t be true because of the weather — snow flurries one day, 60 degrees and sunny the next, tornado watches another day, and so much rain that even the ducks are complaining.

And yes, all that is true. But really, aren’t those all just signs of spring…at least in Ohio?

But here’s the thing: I work at a university and there is one sure sign of spring that overrides all others. The tennis golfers are out in full force. That resounding THWACK of the ball being smacked across the campus green, followed by cheers of “FORE! clearly suggests one thing: spring has sprung. That and the fact that you might want to wear protective headgear.

There are, of course, other sure signs….

Flowering pear tree

Flowering pear tree

Hellebores

Hellebores

Miniature daffodils

Miniature daffodils

Hyacinths

Hyacinths

Parsley survived the winter!

Parsley survived the winter!

Early morning sun glinting on the National Quarry

Early morning sun glinting on the National Quarry

Peach-center daffodils

Peach-center daffodils

Lovage

Lovage

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The annual experiment: Harvesting, drying and freezing herbs

When one lives in a farming community, fall brings with it the frequent rumble of tractors and trailers passing by as they haul their harvest to the local grain elevator. It was that rumble and the threat of an imminent freeze that reminded me that it was high time to harvest my herb garden.Early this summer, as the herbs began to grow…

There is no exact science to harvesting, then drying or freezing herbs. To quote Janet Killborn Phillips, “There are no gardening mistakes,
only experiments.”
Every year, it’s a new experiment: which herbs to dry and which to freeze. Truthfully, the decision usually rests on time and patience  — neither of which I possess in great quantities.
There is also no routine to my process….otherwise, the herbs would freeze in the ground before I got around to begin cutting. I’m sure there is some expert herbalist out there who will argue this point but too bad for him or her. I was raised by a biologist who saw everything as an experiment. Maybe it would work. Maybe not. But it the end, it’s all a learning experience.
To give you an idea of how this ended up, here are some photos. Oh, and one more thing….baby food jars make excellent containers for dried herbs.
Mint waiting to be dried in the microwave
Lovage heading to the freezer

Oregano waiting to be dried in the microwave

Dried oregano and thyme to be crushed and placed in glass jars

 

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