Happy New Year, garden friends! I don’t really do New Year’s Eve as I can barely stay awake past 10:00PM, but I do love champagne. I also hate new year’s resolutions. What I love about this time of the year is the sense of new beginnings, new and actionable goals, and the knowledge that what we plant and nurture now will sprout and grow and provide us with the sustenance we need throughout the year.
As I write this, it is 55 degrees and blustery in Los Angeles, so it feels like winter. Yes, I know it’s 20 below where you live and snowing. I used to live in Syracuse, NY, so I remember what real winter is. I am thinking about my garden. It suffered a bit of neglect in 2014, but we did put in a dedicated chicken yard, and we removed the 2 dead trees from the front yard, and the roses did really well in spite of the drought. I am also writing down my garden goals for 2015:
1. Plant more perennials along my front fence. I really don’t have time to keep planting annuals every couple of months, and now that the two trees…
Somehow in my series on culinary herbs and how to use them in cocktails, I left out one of the best known and most widely herbs: basil. You would think that an herb with a nearly 4000 year history (mentioned first by the ancient Egyptians and used an an embalming herb) and whose Latin name Ocimum basilicum references a Greek warrior and the Greek word for “king” would have been first on my list. It is my favorite herb!
Basil is known in India (by the name Tulsi or Toolsi) as a holy herb. Hindus believe that basil is sacred to all the gods and acts as a protector. It is often planted around temples and cemeteries. Other cultures view basil as a love token or even as a protector against evil. Oddly enough, through much of history, basil was thought to be poisonous and a symbol of poverty, hate, or abuse. Victorians, in their love of floral symbolism, categorize basil as representing both hatred and best wishes.
The numerous modern cultivars of basil include scented basils like cinnamon, lime, licorice, and lemon. Other varieties include Thai basil, lettuce leaf basil, Genovese basil, amethyst basil, and Christmas basil. One of…
Tagged with: basil
, basil cocktail
, herb garden
, indoor garden
, Tulsi basil
I think it’s finally fall in Los Angeles. The Liquid Amber trees are starting to turn a brilliant red. The nights and early mornings (the dog wakes me up at 5:30am!) are cool. Daytime is warm and dry, and if you’re very still in the afternoon, you can feel just the tiniest bit of chill in the wind. Fall is very subtle here, but it is also the time when the garden starts to wake up again after the summer’s oppressive heat. The roses are starting to bloom again and my herb garden is starting to recover. It is time to plant again!
I have 5 4′ x 4′ raised beds in my backyard garden and assorted containers in the front. I’d love to rip out what is left of my lawn in front and add some metal feed trough beds and a pomegranate tree. The husband is still holding on to his love of lawn although I am not sure why since it’s pretty brown and more weeds than actual grass. Like shoes that mysteriously ‘appear’ in my closet, I am sure the beds will start to increase.
What tree, honey? Oh, the pomegranate! Don’t you remember how much…
Tagged with: container garden
, container gardening
, cover crops
, edible flowers
, herb garden
, organic gardens
, pomegranate tree
, raised bed garden
, urban farm
, vegetable garden
If you had to think of one herb that has been used since ancient times and is probably the most popular scent in a dizzying array of bath and body products from shampoo to soap to lotion, it would be lavender. If you had to come up with a flower that epitomized the Provence region of France, the cottage gardens of England, and even the drought tolerant native gardens of California, it would be lavender. However, name a culinary herb off the top of your head, and lavender probably won’t make the list, which is too bad because lavender can bring a lovely floral herbaceous flavor to so many dishes (and cocktails, of course).
The history of lavender goes back more than 2500 years. Ancient Egyptians used lavender in their mummification processes. The Roman word lavender most likely comes from the Latin verb lavare, which means ‘to wash’ or livendulo, which means ‘bluish’. They used lavender for bathing, cooking, healing, and for scenting the air. In Christian history, lavender has been used as a ward against evil. It is mentioned in the Bible as spikenard, with which Mary anoints the feet of the baby Jesus causing the air to be…
Tagged with: cooking with lavender
, culinary herbs
, dried lavender
, drought tolerant
, essential oils
, flower fields
, growing lavender
, lavender flowers
, lavender shampoo
, lavender soap
, medicinal herbs
I will say that folks are pretty passionate about their feelings for cilantro. In my very informal and unscientific pole, the cilantro lovers came out ahead! So, in your honor, here is a cocktail that highlights this aromatic herb:
Grapefruit Cilantro Margaritas
Kosher salt for rimming the glass
1 oz simple syrup
2 oz. freshly squeezed grapefruit juice – pink or white
1 oz. silver tequila (I used Patron silver)
1 large cilantro sprig (and more for garnish)
1 lime wedge
Make a simple syrup by dissolving 1 cup of white sugar into 1 cup of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil until all of the sugar is dissolved. Cool to room temperature, and then cover and refrigerate until cold. Simple syrup will keep in a covered jar for 2 weeks in the fridge. In a cocktail shaker, mix 1 oz. simple syrup, grapefruit juice, tequila, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. Add ice to the shaker and shake until well chilled. Rim a rocks or martini glass with the lime and dip into the salt. Strain the liquid from the shaker into the glass and garnish with a sprig of cilantro. Makes 1…
When I was in my late teens, I went on a backpacking trip in Northern California. The weather was warm, and I clearly remember being on a hike near a reservoir. At some point in the hike, I slipped down a small slope that was covered with wild cilantro. At that point in my life, I would have rather fallen into a pit of poison oak because I hated the smell of cilantro so much. Flash forward way too many years to count and even more culinary adventures, and I can proudly say that I actually like cilantro!
And so I tread carefully into cilantro land this week as I know there will be many haters. Did you know there is actually an I Hate Cilantro blog as well as a Facebook group with over 3000 members dedicated to haters of cilantro? Even Julia Child hated the herb! Apparently, there is scientific evidence to indicate that cilantro hating may be genetic (oh, good, something else to blame your parents on). I’m not sure what turned the tide for me. All I can say is that I hated the stuff and now I think it is a culinary necessity…
I picked dill as the herb of the week, so what would work with dill in a cocktail? I kept thinking of dill pickles, and thought why not? If you can have a dirty martini with olive brine, you could have a dill martini with dill pickle juice. The vodka is smooth, the pickle brine adds some pucker, and the dill adds a bit of freshness. Garnish with a pickle slice and serve it up chilled with a corned beef or Reuben sandwich, and you’re all set! Cheers!
2 oz. vodka (I used Skyy Vodka)
1 0z. dill pickle juice
splash dry vermouth
sprig of fresh dill
garnish: a pickle slice and sprig of fresh dill
Muddle dill in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add ice, vodka, pickle juice, and vermouth. Shake until well chilled. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with the pickle slice and fresh dill.
Please sip responsibly.
Tagged with: cocktail garden
, corned beef
, dill pickles
, entertaining at home
, herb garden
, herbal cocktail
, Reuben sandwich
, Skyy vodka