Garden Fresh Culinary Herbs
My Kitchen Door Herb Garden in Snow
This winter was a hard one here on Canada's West Coast. Statistics tell us that on Christmas Day, Victoria, BC had more snow on the ground than anywhere else in Canada! This in an area where we often have winters with no snow and very little frost.
Shucks, we have roses still blooming in December and daffodils in late February!
So, I'm not sure what happened to our weather this year this year. I do know that here on our little Gulf Island, the deer have been extraordinarily voracious. They have been scrambling for food for three weeks, and shrubs that were never touched before in my gardens have been stripped bare.
With the last few days of warmer temperatures and rain, our snow has vanished. I've been out to look around my gardens, noting the heavy snow destruction on several shrubs that were planted too close to the roof line, and took a direct hit when the heavy wet white stuff slid off with a loud 'whump'.
However, I was really happy to see my kitchen door herb patch made it through with little damage. True, the parsley that had been green and fresh less than a month ago has been lost. My favourite four perennials - rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage - that grow within reach of my kitchen door made it through with virtually no damage.
Cleaning Fresh Herbs
Right now, with the recently departed snow and the rain, my herbs are looking good and seem really clean. However, its still a good idea to wash any herbs, whether from the garden or the grocery store.
Use a deep bowl of fresh cold water, and immerse the herbs. Swish them around gently, and then lift them out. Rinse the bowl, and repeat. Spread them out on an absorbent towel, and gently pat them dry, then roll them up in the towel and let them sit for a few minutes so the water can be absorbed into the towel. Don't spin dry, don't press down on the towel.
You can now pick the leaves off the stems, and the herbs are ready to use. For cilantro, the stem can remain. For parsley, you can save the stems for use in broths or soups, as they have a lot of flavour.
Using Fresh Herbs
Fresh herbs make a wonderful addition to soups, stews, breads, dips, dressings, rubs... you just need imagination. Some quick ideas:
- add chopped fresh herbs to biscuits, and serve with a good homemade soup (rosemary and sage leaves are especially yummy in biscuits)
- add fresh rosemary and thyme sprigs to your slow cooker when you make a beef stew
- chop fresh oregano and/or basil coarsely, and add to warm potato salad
- chop fresh basil leaves and add to green salads
- add nastursium leaves and flowers to green salads
- fresh dill leaves and chives make a potato salad
- coarsely chop fresh rosemary, mix with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil, and use as a chicken marinade.
Now for some favourite recipes:
How to Chop Delicate Herbs
Recipes Using Fresh Herbs
Pork Tenderloin with Fresh Sage Rub
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp fresh black pepper
- 1 tbsp fresh finely chopped sage leaves
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Mix ingredients into a paste, and rub over a pork tenderloin. Let marinate overnight or at least 4 hours in the fridge. Barbecue or oven roast. (When barbecueing, you can scrape off some of the marinade before cooking.)
Basil Pesto Crostini
- 1 French or sourdough baguette, sliced
- 2/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup fresh basil pesto
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- salt to taste
1. Preheat oven on broiler setting. Arrange bread slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Place under broiler until lightly toasted on one side. Remove from oven, and flip bread slices so that the toasted side is on the bottom.
2. Set the oven temperature for 350 degrees F. Mix the mayonnaise, pesto, garlic, Parmesan and salt and spread evenly over the bread slices.
3. Bake 6 to 8 minutes. Turn the oven to broil, and place the rounds under the broiler just until they begin to bubble and turn golden. Let cool slightly before serving.
Growing Culinary Herbs
Greek Stuffed Tomatoes
This recipe is great with delicious fresh tomatoes from the garden. I don't even try it in winter, when the only tomatoes are the less-than-flavourful hothouse tomatoes.
8 large tomatoes 1 onion - finely chopped 1 garlic clove - finely chopped 1 zucchini - finely chopped 200 g Feta cheese - finely chopped 2 tablespoons oil 1 lb ground lamb or ground buffalo meat 1/2 cup vegetable stock 2 tablespoons crème fraiche (or sour cream) 1/4 tsp Nutmeg 1/2 tsp Paprika Salt and pepper Fresh oregano - chopped Parsely - chopped Chives - chopped (or use green onion tops, chopped)
Pre-heat oven to 200° C (375F) Slice the top from the tomato with a sharp knife. Using a spoon, scrape the insides out of the tomato. Place the tomato 'shells' in an ovenproof dish. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the ground meat until brown. Add the onions, garlic and zucchini and continue to saute for a few minutes. Pour in some of the stock and mix in the crème fraiche. Add the nutmeg, paprika, salt, pepper, oregano and parsley to the mixture.
Remove from the heat and add the feta cheese. Spoon the mixture into the tomatoes and place the lids back on top. Pour the rest of the stock into the ovenproof dish and bake for 15 minutes.
A Few More
Herb Infused Olive Oil
This oil, put into a pretty bottle, makes a great gift to your cooking friends. The oil is great for salads, in dressings, or as a bread dip.
- 6 leaves fresh basil
- 2 sprigs each of fresh rosemary, thyme and oregano
- 1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled (optional)
Wash and dry the herbs. Place basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano and garlic in a 12 ounce bottle. Using a funnel, pour oil into bottle. Cover tightly, and refrigerate. Use within 3 to 5 days.
Fresh Herb Dip
- 1/4 cup fat-free mayonnaise
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup minced fresh chives
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon or basil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
Combine the ingredients, mix well and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving with assorted fresh vegetables.
For a delicious change of pace, try spreading herb butter on corn on the cob or on freshly baked biscuits. Combine 1/2 cup of softened butter with 1 teaspoon finely chopped sweet basil or parsley.
Rub leafy herbs in the palm of your hand to release the flavor and aroma. Robust herbs such as sage, thyme and bay leaves stand up well over long cooking times, while milder herbs like basil, marjoram and parsley should be added at the last minute for best results. This is especially true for fresh herbs.
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© 2009 Nicolette Goff