Tag: herb garden

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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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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This Year, Next Year, Some Thyme – Herb of the Week

Amongst the plethora of puns, I always have fresh thyme in my garden, and a jar of dried thyme in my spice drawer. I use it the most of any culinary herb I grow because it seems to work with almost everything. There a a ton of varieties too.  Mountain Valley Growers sells 28 (!) varieties including lemon thyme, coconut thyme, lavender thyme, and juniper thyme ( Note to self: need to try the juniper thyme in a gin drink).

History (because I love history)

Thyme has been around for thousands of years. The word thyme comes from the Greek word Thumos, which means smoke, as well as another Greek word thyo, which means sacrifice. Thyme was burned to purify Greek and Roman temples, to ward off disease and evil spirits, and to show respect and bravery. In the Middle Ages, soldiers were given gifts of thyme to wear as a badge of honor. And you thought thyme was just good sprinkled on your roast chicken.

Medicine

Thyme has historically been used as a powerful medicinal herb to treat and cure illnesses from consumption to whooping cough to fatigue. Thyme oil also has antiseptic properties and was used to

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Rosemary is for Remembrance…Herb of the Week

“As for rosemary, I let it run all over my garden walls, not only because my bees love it but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance and to friendship whence a sprig of it hath a dumb language that maketh it the chosen emblem of our funeral wakes and in our burial grounds.” — Sir Thomas More (1478-1535)

Indigenous to the rocky shores of the Mediterranean Sea, Rosemary officinalis is a versatile herb indeed. It is a woody perennial with short needle shaped leaves that are very fragrant with blue, white, or pink flowers. Historically it is associated with memory and friendship, weddings and funerals, powerful healing and sacred cleanses. Today while rosemary is still studied for is medicinal uses in certain cancers, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s Disease; it is primarily used as a culinary and aromatherapy herb.

Growing tips Rosemary is also one of the easiest herbs to grow, and for the home cook, believe me, you only need one plant. It’s best to buy seedlings and plant them in well draining organic potting mix. Once they are established, they need little water or fertilizer and can handle salty sea air and temperatures down to -10 degrees Fahrenheit.

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