17 April 2011

Ode to Herbs

Kitchen herbs are one of the simplest and most pleasurable things that we grow in the garden. A bonus in Central Texas is that many of herbs can be grown year round, or pretty near close to year round. When warmed by the sun, they infuse the garden with scent and we use them infinitely in our cooking.

In fact, I'd say that growing fresh herbs has completely transformed our cooking here. We almost never use dried flaky bits of herbs any more. Though we grow enough herbs to dry some and store them, we almost never need to do so.

Growing around the garden, and not all picture here, we have: flat leaf parsley, curly parsley, Thai basil, Italian basil, cilantro (coriander), speariment, peppermint, lemon balm, lavender, culinary sage, rosemary, bay, Greek oregano, Mexican oregano, Mexican mint marigold, thymes, savory, lemon verbena and marjoram.

We are forever chopping up fresh flat leaf parsley. Toss it in with many dishes to freshen things up a bit. Throw it in with some papardelle pasta, bacon, peas, parmesan and raw egg for a quick carbonara.

Chop up some spearmint and parsley, and mix with a can of whole tomatoes (chopped), a tablespoon of pre-soaked bulgur wheat, some lemon juice and oil, and you have a quick and lovely tabouleh.

And of course, I've sung the song of the bay tree in a previous post.

Rosemary and sage can be tossed in just about anything.

Thyme is something that I've always struggled with, though it's supposed to be "easy" to grow. I read a great article by Vicki Blachman in Texas Gardener magazine and she recommended trying it in a pot, which has worked wonders. Mostly, the pot method has worked because I can move the darn thing around until it finds happy sun situation. I've also learned, too, that most herbs need more water than you might think in the hot Texas summer.

Cilantro is great for the winter garden because it bolts so quickly in the warm weather. It's kind of ironic, because it's a key ingredient in salsas and picos, and those tomatoes are hot weather fruits. Not sure how that marriage ever happened unless someone was growing cilantro in cooler upper altitudes in Mexico just up the mountain from someone growing tomatoes in the hot valley.

Here is the cilantro bolting and flowering. The seeds, of course, are coriander.


dm said...

That is a true mystery how cilantro came to be a key ingredient in salsas not to mention being a key ingredient in so many other cuisines from hot climates.

Mamaholt said...

We've always wondered about the cilantro thing too. I keep thinking I'm going to try and find a way to grow some all summer. I kept the same basil plant alive for 3 years! in a pot. I love a big pitcher of iced tea with tons of sugar and mint. mmmmm.

BethEtta said...

I have read that if you keep cilantro cut, never let it bloom, in fact cut it back as soon as it gets those lacy leaves, then it will not bolt. Plan to try it this summer.

Lee said...

I have not found that to be the case BethEtta, but let me know if you have better luck than I!

Lee said...

Mamaholt: How about a big pitcher of mint juleps with lots of sugar and mint? Mmmmm.

LindaCTG said...

I agree: you can cut cilantro as much as you want, but once we hit these hot days, it is out of here! I'm impressed that you can keep sage growing. I'm definitely going to move my new thyme from the ground to a pot: I can already see that summer will wear a dent in it. I've been growing basil in a pot the past few years to keep an eye on its water, too. Lovely recipes, thank you!