Category: herbs

Bursting with Flavor! 6 Tips for Growing Your Own Herbs

I remember the first time I ate a salad with herbs in it. Amidst all of the typical lettucey (not really a word, but I am going for it anyway) flavors was something deeper yet familiar. Dill! And Italian parsley! OMG – There are herbs in this salad!! I would never look at a salad the same way again. Fresh mint and oregano and basil were itching to get into my salad bowl, so I went to the market and bought a bunch of those little plastic boxes of fresh herbs. Some TV chef said, snip the ends and put them in a glass of water in the refrigerator, so I did what I was told. I snipped off some mint and sprinkled on some watermelon, and then promptly forgot about the herbs.

A couple of days later, I wanted to use my fresh herb bundle in some chicken salad. I opened the fridge only to be disappointed. The herbs were now droopy and well, icky looking, and not so fresh. What a waste of $10! That’s when I decided to invest a bit of time into growing my own. Fresh herbs are one of the easiest edibles for the

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Basil, King of Herbs (and a cocktail, of course)

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

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October in My Garden

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

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Long Live Sage!

“How can a man grow old who has sage in his garden?” ~Chinese Proverb Tweet: “How can a man grow old who has sage in his garden?” ~Chinese Proverb

 

Common Sage (Salvia officinalis) is considered by many cultures to be a sacred herb. In fact, Salvia means ‘savior’ or ‘sacred’. It has been used since ancient times as a medicinal herb to cure everything from sore throats to rheumatism, as a sacred ceremonial herb to cleanse spaces of evil spirits or negative energy or to impart wisdom and immortality, and more recently as a culinary herb.

As a garden designer, I like to use culinary sage planted among ornamental plants. Its many varieties show off soft grey green, purple, and even variegated leaves. The plants grow in low, mounded clumps, and in the summer they bloom with purple flowers. Sage reminds me of fall: fireplaces, roast turkey, and pumpkin ravioli. As I write this, however, it is 106 degrees Fahrenheit in Los Angeles, and, frankly, roasting a turkey is about the last thing I want to do. But I have sage in the garden, and as long as I keep watering it, it

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Lovely Lavender – Herb of the Week

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

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Grapefruit Cilantro Margaritas – What I’m Drinking This Week

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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Treading Into Cilantro Land – Herb of the Week

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

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Dilly Martini…What I’m Drinking This Week

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!

Dilly Martini

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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.

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A Good Dill of Herbal Usefulness

The word dill means to soothe, and this herb of Mediterranean and southwestern Asian origin has been used as a medicinal herb as far back as ancient Egypt to calm upset stomachs and soothe fussy, colicky babies. The first reference to dill as a culinary herb came in 3000 B.C.E. when the Babylonians grew dill in their gardens. Dill also has minor role in the Christian Bible in Matthew 23:23, although in the King James Version, the word dill is translated (or mis-translated) to ‘anise’. It is also mentioned in the Jewish Talmud. In Medieval times, dill was thought to protect people from witchcraft, to make love potions more powerful, and as a good luck charm to bless a wedding. As a medicinal herb, dill is high in calcium and has antioxidant and antibacterial properties. As a culinary herb, dill is used all over the world. Common culinary uses include dill with salmon (or gravlax) in Sweden, dill in rice in the Middle East, dill pickles (of course!)  in Germany, and dill in stuffed grape leave (dolmas) in Greece.

Dill’s horticultural name is Anethum graveolens. It is a member of the Apiaceae family, which includes carrots, fennel, cilantro, Queen Anne’s

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Jardesca Verde…What I’m Drinking this Week

A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of being introduced to a lovely California aperitif called Jardesca. Its beautiful bottle and botanical notes of mint, orange blossom, apricots, and grapefruit make it the perfect aperitif to drink with friends in the garden before dinner to whet the appetite and get the party going.

Since mint is is the herb of the week, I wanted to find a cocktail that was refreshing, sophisticated, and fun. The Jardesca Verde fits the bill perfectly. It’s like all the best parts of a summer garden in a glass. I highly recommend seeking Jardesca out if you live in California or ordering online here if you don’t.

Cheers! Please sip responsibly.

Jardesca Verde

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