Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Garden of Eatin’: Five Herbs You Should Be Growing This Summer




You know it’s that time of year. The signs are all around you. Children are running loose. Everything is turning green. Ghostly legs emerge from Winter’s wool and stand upon sandaled feet. That woman (you know the one) is exposing far more skin than could ever be considered appropriate, but still not as much as that guy on the riding lawnmower. Or that guy riding his bicycle. Or that guy jogging down your side of the street. Or that guy cutting in front of those kids to use the slip n’ slide. Every block you drive offers a wisp of smoldering charcoal; the promise of an appetite satisfied by flame-kissed meat. That’s right, it’s Summer. It’s that time of year when the word “fresh” finds its way into our vocabularies. When we want to bite into an ear of fresh corn, and smell fresh cut grass on fresh breezes. When our tables are adorned with fresh cut flowers, given as a peace offering after a boy has gotten a little TOO fresh. It’s also prime time to start growing and cooking with your very own fresh herbs. Here are five basal herbs that you’ll thank yourself for planting every time you pick a fresh sprig for your Summer supper.
  1. Rosemary (Perennial)
    Right off the bat (hey that’s a reference to a Summer sport) one of the great things about rosemary is the fact that it’s a perennial herb. That means that if you plant this fragrant, flavorful evergreen shrub, it’ll be providing you years of deliciousness for nothing more than a little water every now and then. Just remember that if you live in a climate that doesn’t have to dream of a white Christmas, it’s best to plant this herb in a pot and bring it in out of the cold for Winter. Rosemary excels when it is flavoring all different kinds of meats.
  2. Sweet Basil (Annual)
    This versatile herb will need to be replanted each year, but the number of times I find myself cutting some fresh basil every Summer more than makes up for the “hassle.” Basil will add a fresh flavor to just about anything. Whether you are chopping it up with some pine nuts and citrus for a light pesto, or just tearing it up for a little flavor in a romaine salad, you’ll be surprised how often you come back inside with some basil in your hand.
  3. Chives (Perennial)
    Another hearty herb, like rosemary, chives will return each year. Once you get hooked on these little green spears, you’re going to find that you’re garnishing everything you can think of with these wonderful oniony shoots. Put them on your baked potato, sprinkle them on your steak. Heck, just try some pasta with a little butter and chives. It’ll become your Summer comfort food when it’s too hot for casseroles or meatloaf. Hey, I should try them on meatloaf!
  4. Cilantro (Annual)
    This is for when you are in the mood for some Mexican inspired dishes. Cilantro is a great offsetting flavor to the chiles used in a lot of the spicier dishes that come from south of the border. It is one of the necessities of a good salsa, and if you’re feeling adventurous, throw some into the pesto we talked about before. You’ll be surprised how much you like the results.
  5. Mint (Perennial)
    Mint is often overlooked as an ingredient. Most people think it’s just the “breath freshener” herb. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Try taking a few leaves and using them as a garnish on an otherwise heavy dessert, or chop them up and toss them into a fruit salad with a little Triple sec. Not only will it add a welcome color to your plate, the refreshing flavor will be a welcome addition to your palate. And of course, lest we forget, there is only one acceptable cocktail to drink during the Summer: the mojito.
These are, I believe, the essential basic herbs to grow. If you can only grow some, these are probably the best. Once you cook with fresh herbs from your own garden, you’ll wonder why you ever bought dried herbs from the store.

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