Tag Archives: parsley

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



Miniature daffodils

Miniature daffodils



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



Finding beauty in an dreary week of February

January and I don’t get along. Let’s just say I’m SO glad when February arrives because at least there is Valentine’s Day to celebrate and then you’re halfway through the month!

But okay. Enough is enough. It’s time for February to morph into March. It’s the time of year when we’re ready for something…anything…that suggests a possibility that spring isn’t so far away. Let’s just say the last few weeks in our part of Ohio have been — for the most part — dreary, cold and wet, with a few beautifully sunny days to whet our appetites for better weather.
A stroll through the back yard revealed some highlights…my favorite was the parsley that survived the winter underneath the snow. And then there were these beauties:

The green tips of spring flowers poking their heads up through the ground.

The green tips of spring flowers poking their heads up through the ground.

Forsythia buds -- time to cut a few to bring inside to force for early yellow color!

Forsythia buds — time to cut a few to bring inside to force for early yellow color!














In the midst of searching for spring, it occurred to  me that I should be able to find some beauty in the ordinary, so I began looking for unusual plants, grasses and pretty berries. The local florists will never have to worry about me horning in on their business. But channeling my late mother-in–law, who could make the most straggly stems appear beautiful, here’s what I came up with. Not bad, eh?IMG_0391[1]

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.


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?




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

Crocuses, parsley and forsythia, oh my

Isn’t it amazing how crocuses suddenly pop up? Yesterday, the warm weather sent me out of my stuffy office in the early afternoon. I just had to get out and enjoy the sun and warmth, so decided to walk home to check in on the husband and the dog. As I walked through the backyard, I was surprised to see some random crocuses blooming. Their bright yellow color immediately lifted my spirits and I began to look around the gardens for other signs of spring.

Little green shoots everywhere! Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths…and other plants I can’t identify until they bloom. The forsythia buds were starting to pop, so I clipped off a few stems to force indoors.

About this time, I found the dog dragging his master around the block…or maybe it was the other way around. I stuck a crocus in the dog’s face. Apparently, they don’t hold the same fascination for him as they do for me, or he was just disappointed that the yellow thing didn’t smell edible. The husband, on the other hand, was happy to see the crocus. As we stood there like two dummies, staring down at those tiny flowers, we wondered how it is that they surprise us every year. We wondered if we stood there long enough, would we be able to watch them grow and open? Maybe some botanists know how this works.

I snapped a picture with my phone and sent it to my daughters. One responded later on (yawning), that “Oh, I’ve seen them all over my neighborhood.” So much for that excitement.

Okay, so the arrival of the crocuses fell flat on the kid, but it sure got me inspired. Although the gardening catalogs have been filling our mailbox for several months now, I’ve not paid much attention to them. See, part of the problem is that a couple of my brothers are already eating from their gardens, but then that’s an unfair comparison. One has a farm with a greenhouse and the other one plants spinach in the fall so it’ll pop up early in spring. It’s a lot warmer in Virginia and Kansas.

If that smacks of sibling rivalry, it probably is. But hey, I’ve got crocuses. Bet they don’t. AND I have fresh parsley which recently poked up its head from under its winter blanket of snow.

Now I’m rambling, so it’s time to quit. Besides, those gardening catalogs are calling me. Time to build some new raised beds and get moving.

Isn’t it amazing what a little warm weather will do for the soul?