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.