Saturday, January 8, 2011


I went to a great demonsration on herbs.  Using them on a daily basis is a new goal I have set for this year.  I was impressed--even the refreshments (cakes, breads, and desserts) were made with herbs and edible flowers. Herbs newly harvested from the garden or from window planters have incomparable depth and complexity of flavor.  I want to share some of the information I learned:

Culinary herbs are plants whose leaves, both fresh and dried, are used to add zest and garnish to food.  Many herbs are perennials, and once planted and properly cared for, will last for years.  (I love that part!) Compost and fertilize once a year.  (Additional fertilizer will produce lush plants with poor flavor).  They can be grown inside, in a window box planter, or out, weather permitting.  Some important things to remember when growing your own herbs:
  • Harvest at their height of flavor, early in the day, before the plant blooms or goes to seed
  • Fresh herbs can be substituted for dried herbs in recipes:  1 teaspoon of fresh herb equals 1/4 teaspoon of dried
  • Stressing herbs by allowing them to dry out a bit will heighten their flavors
  • Gather a small bundle of single or mixed herbs, secure with an elastic, hang to dry away from the sun, in a ventilated area  They will dry in 1-3 weeks.
  • Store dry leaves, uncrushed, to preserve oils, in jars or plastic bags, away from sunlight
Here's a list of herbs she suggested, and what they can be used for:
  • BASIL:  Many varieties, including lemon/oriental and Thai, which grows small leaves.  Spicy basil grows slowly; ued in oriental cooking.  Sweet basil grows 26-28" and is the most multi-purpose basil; used in Italian cooking, pesto, salads, tomato dishes.  Very tender, so plant outside after the last frost.
  • CHERVIL:  A French herb excellent for flavoring salad dressings.  Similar to parsley.
  • CHIVES:  Cut the leaves from the bottom of the plant.  Use fresh florets on salads; leaves chopped for garnish or to mix in with butter or cheeses.  Very hardy! 
  • CILANTRO:  Also known as Chinese Parsley.  Coriander is its seed.  Use sparingly until accustomed to its strong flavor.  Best found in the produce section.
  • FENNEL:  Sweet licorice-like flavor.  Used in Italian sausage, sweet pickles, fish dishes, and pizza sauce.
  • LAVENDER:  Nice aromatherapy.  Spanish and French are annuals in my area.  Use in cookies, sauces, vinegars, and potpourri.
  • LEMON VERBENA:  Wonderful scent!  Semi tender, mulch well for any chance of surviving our winters.  Steep for teas, puddings, and ice cream.
  • LOVAGE:  Strong savory flavor similar to celery; tall perennial.  Add leaf to soups or stews, poultry, fish and sauces.  True marjoram in an annual in my area.
  • MINT:  All varieties are perennial.  Plant mint in a contained areas, because it spreads aggressively!  Use for drinks, garnishes, Greek dishes, cream cheese, chocolate desserts and jellies.
  • OREGANO:  A member of the mint family.  Used mostly in Italian dishes:  pizza, spaghetti sauce.  The purple flower is edible.  Choose "Greek" variety.  A hardy perennial.
  • PARSLEY:  Most common herb.  Biennial, meaning nothing you do will keep it from going to seed the second year.  Italian/flat leaf parsley is more flavorful than curly.
  • ROSEMARY:  Only "arp" is somewhat hardy in my area.  Fragrant, spicy herb used in stews, meat dishes, biscuits, dresings, Italian foods.
  • SAGE:  Many cultivars available.  Use on poultry, or dry, crushed into stuffing.
  • SALAD BURNETT:  Nutty, cucumber flavor, nice in salads.  Perennial.
  • TARRAGON:  Licorice flavored leaf used in French cooking.  Do not buy Russian Tarragon--it has no flavor.  Use in salad dresings, marinades, bearnaoise sauce.
  • THYME:  Many varieties.  Perennial that may even be harvested in winter.

Susanne Holland Spicker Mother, Grandmother, Homemaker, Gardener, Teacher, Photographer

Passion is defined as the love of, or the object(s) of affection and emotion. I am passionate about family, friends, flowers, food, photography and fabulous music! This blog is dedicated to those loves.

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