Herb Garden

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


I make no such claims to be much of a chef. It's not that I don't like cooking, though, that may be the case. I think the parts of me that would agree with a statement along the lines of "i don't like to cook" is mostly based on that role of having to cook for people everyday. The whole we-need-to-eat-to-survive aspect that bookends my days and kind of squashes the creativity and joy in it for me. Also having a small kitchen that feels isolated from the rest of the house when I am in there, well it ends up just being cast into the chore zone of life. I really admire people who can take an everyday task and turn into a passion, especially with cooking. I wish I was more like that. I could be more creative. I have been. I am a "good" cook when I do make an effort. I understand flavor. So I usually stick to pretty simple recipes that don't require a lot of time, have as few steps as possible, but still feel like an act of love and nourishment when eating because I think that last aspect is really important. 

This is where my herb garden comes in. I like cooking tricks. And adding some fresh herbs to a dish is one of the easiest ones out there. It can immediately elevate food to not only taste better in flavor but also in that feeling one should get when eating with intention (as opposed to mindless snacking, or when a must-feed-kids equals a box of macaroni and cheese). I do love opening my door and picking fresh herbs for a simple breakfast of scrambled eggs, or to make a rub for a roast chicken. My favorite herbs and the ones that I have happily let taken over my herb garden are . . .

Mint - Oh mint. I do love mint, but it's so invasive I can never seem to keep up with it so I have learned to use it as much as possible because cutting it back and tossing it out seems so wasteful (trust me I try to give it away first! not many takers.) I add it to my water (and other drinks), to salads,  and sometimes mix it with a little lemon juice and olive oil to douse on chicken breasts. Another great thing to do is to make a compound butter with it and use that for your corn on the cob in the summer. 

Tarragon - this has to be one of my favorite spices, it's easy to grow and it seems so under used! Honestly I it use liven up (but not overkill) lots of simple dishes from tuna fish salad sandwiches to scrambled eggs to fruit-based salads. 

Oregano - is a nutrient rich spice filled with lots of good vitamins for you. It's most famous for it's use in Italian food, but I also use it frequently in saut├ęs and salad dressings and Mediterranean dishes. 

Parsley - Another staple spice that grows really well without being invasive. You can add it to almost everything, it gives it that 'cut' in food like a bit of lemon might, but is mellow enough for even the most sensitive palette. And of course if you really want your parsley to be the star you can make a tabouli salad. 

Rosemary - Rosemary is not a quiet herb that's going to shy away in either your food or your garden (it grows to be almost shrub-like). It's loud and fragrant and can be a bit overpowering, but it is also one of my favorites. Of course it's great with roasted potatoes, and on meat dishes. One of the more creative ways I have used it is as a kabob skewer for roasted veggies on the grill, or to flavor a simple syrup to drizzle over a roasted pear or or peach (which goes great with ice cream by the way). 

What are your favorite go-to herbs? 

21 comments:

  1. I really want to start a herb garden, but for now I know I don't have enough sunlight. Great selections for yours!

    Sarah
    aroseinthecity0.blogspot.com

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  2. We've (I say "we" but everyone knows it means just J, not me) been using mint a lot more recently. J just made asparagus risotto and he boiled the asparagus with mint before using them, which gave it a really subtle flavor. We also love a poached eggplant recipe with mint and garlic, it all works together so well. Other than that I'm simple and love me some basil. But I don't like rosemary! I don't know why. It's so strong for my palate. My dad had a really (really, really) filthy joke about parsley that makes it impossible for me not to giggle like an idiot whenever the herb comes up. xo

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  3. one of our weekend projects is to start an herb garden outside of the kitchen so I can go and grab some too! i never thought of planting mint, but i love the sound of infusing my water with it - especially this time of the year with it being so hot out. i drink my tea warm (not hot) these days and a simply fresh mint tea sounds lovely. and tarragon! if i had that growing, i think i would use it more often too! i don't even have that in dried herb form. i've never had success with rosemary, but now that we can plant into the ground, maybe we will have success. and my favorite? basil! i love just rubbing the leaves and smelling the air afterwards.

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    1. i loooove basil too, but that is the one that i just cannot seem to grow. every year i buy a plant and within a week it's dead. so sad because i know i'd use it a lot if i could grow it.

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  4. Rosemary is simply The Best to have in a garden. It grows so easily and smells SO good all the time. I use it as decoration for simple place settings and it never fails to delight

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    1. so true. i love rosemary because while it is a bit overpowering it also really hardy. i sometimes add it to little flower arrangements too.

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  5. I hear you. cooking is still often the job of the woman, a chore, so the enjoyment goes missing quite quickly. and l'm also with you on remote kitchens. I hate it. it's one thing to cook for everyone else in an open-plan living area where you feel involved with everyone else, but being locked away in the kitchen while everyone else is doing other things. I hate it...

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    1. i do think if i had an open layout i'd love cooking so much more. i love alone time but cooking and eating, especially when making it for others, doesn't give me that feeling. it is something i feel like would be much more fun if i was around the people i was cooking for. xo

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  6. I like to cook, but not every single day. Sometimes I may spend an entire Saturday in the kitchen, experimenting different dishes, and whenever I visit my parents cooking is one of our favourite activities - their having a spacious kitchen and their own vegetables and herbs garden also helps. I love all kinds of herbs, from thyme and mint (which I just love to sprinkle on vegetarian pizza), to lovage and oregano. I've started to use rosemary much more often lately too. I like to add it to roasted vegetables just 5 minutes before they're done. I love the flavour it leaves.

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    1. i do love to make "feats," i love the celebratory nature of cooking and eating. which is why i wished i liked it more in general. when i am in the space of mind where i enjoy it, i really enjoy it a lot. but i am definitely not in that space everyday!

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  7. I mentioned in passing to a friend how crap my gardening skills are and she passed me a cutting of mint. "It'll spread like wildfire" she said, "you'll be cursing the existence of it soon". Ha! Managed to kill that too (so yes, I would have taken some off your hands). I know what you mean about cooking, the longer my hours at work, the more of a chore it becomes. There's nothing wrong with keeping it quick and simple though and fresh herbs certainly jazz up the simple to make it a touch gourmet! I rely on buying fresh and freezing into ice blocks (given my poor gardening skills). Sage is a favourite of mine, sprinkled over some pumpkin and mixed with ricotta cheese to add to a pasta. Delish! x

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    1. quick and simple is okay. i actually think simple dishes are usually the best. my problem is i tend to rotate the same dishes over and over again because i don't spend enough time in the kitchen to experiment. i was actually thinking of doing the ice block thing! most of my herbs end up dying in the winter, it'd be a great way to keep some in those months. xo

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  8. Such a pretty picture. We have a small garden, but plenty of herbs. Yours you list here are among my favorites, although I probably rely on rosemary and mint the most. Dill is always in there too, although it's tricky to grow. Too fast, sneaky dill!

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    1. thank you :) dill is one i love as well, but i think i did give up on it over the last couple years because it always seemed to "disappear." i also LOVE fennel but i didn't grow this year :(

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  9. I love the idea of an herb garden!! I'd love to have one someday :)

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    1. they are so easy. if you get a mix of several different ones, i have found that at least a few of them will take. i always seem to lose one or two when i plant them - so i guess i get a new variety every year by default ;)

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  10. I want to come over to your house to eat soon, I think all the ways you use your herbs sound so good! I've been playing around with the idea of making mint oil lately but haven't gotten around to it. Or there's always Mojitos ; )

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