In a past life, I worked for Cuisinart demonstrating food processors in department and kitchen supply stores. It was the perfect job for me at the time. My children were little, I worked primarily on weekends and holidays, and I enjoyed the learning and socializing with the store clientele. The perks from Cuisinart were excellent – equipment for practice, tons of tested and tasty recipes, a generous grocery allowance, and a free apron! This job introduced me to the use of fresh herbs. I had never used herbs fresh from the garden before and I loved the idea of little window or patio gardens offering fresh parsley, thyme, rosemary, and the like for cooking at a moment’s notice.
Today I have fresh herbs in multiple locations in my garden and yard. I have found that herbs are not only useful for culinary and therapeutic purposes, but they are just plain pretty to look at and to smell! My luck with indoor herb gardens has been only partially successful. My indoor herbs thrive better if they are growing in water instead of soil. In contrast, my outdoor herbs are amazing. I enjoy collecting new herb varieties but am so grateful for the tried-and-true hearties – parsley, lavender, mint (DON’T put mint directly into the ground – you will never control it!), thyme, chives, oregano, sage , and rosemary. They all are pretty drought tolerant and, since herbs need some sunshine to ensure their flavor, they do well in our climate. The added bonus is, of course, the bees and butterflies love their little flowers.
Over time, I have accumulated several books featuring herbs for my kitchen library. I enjoy leafing through them, taking in the gorgeous photos and enticing recipes. Three of my favorites are: The Herbal Yearbook (Gillian Haslam, © 1994), The Complete Book of Herbs: A Practical Guide to Growing and Using Herbs (Lesley Bremness, © 1988), and The Herb Bible (Peter McHoy and Pamela Westland, © 1994). I was pleased to see that all three of these beautiful books are still available online. A good sign of a classic!
While it is always satisfying to grab a pair of scissors to cut fresh herbs from the garden when cooking, having a collection of dried herbs in the pantry can also be quite helpful and thrifty – have you priced the cost of packaged herbs lately? There are many ways to dry and store your own fresh herbs. These range from the simple use of sun drying to fancy dehydrator appliances. The key is to provide lots of fresh air – no heat and no plastic bags. It also helps to hang herbs upside down while drying to preserve the essential oils that give the herb its distinctive flavor. A quick internet search yielded this descriptive article on drying fresh herbs: https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/how-to-dry-herbs/.
Here is an easy recipe for Herbs de Provence, a flavorful mix of dried herbs commonly used for all sorts of dishes – from salads and sauces to all types of meat and fish. You can adapt the ingredients to match the fresh herbs growing in your garden. And, as our dear friend Julia would say, “Bon appétit”
2 T. dried rosemary
1 T. fennel seed
2 T. dried savory
2 T. dried thyme
2 T. dried basil
2 T. dried lavender blossoms
2 T. dried parsley (Italian is best)
1 cup dried oregano
1 T dried tarragon
Grind the rosemary and fennel seed using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Store airtight.
The Red Bluff Garden Club is a member of Cascade District, California Garden Clubs, Inc., Pacific Region Garden Clubs, Inc., and National Garden Clubs, Inc. We meet at 1 pm on the last Tuesday of the month, in the Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 525 David Ave., Red Bluff.