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Call me obsessive but the herbs in my garden are in this order from south to north: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. I know, pitiful isn’t it?
But there are more — oregano, dill, chives, spearmint and basil. When I started the garden several years ago, I thought it was just neat and small pots of herbs weren’t terribly expensive.
Some are biennials, such as parsley, and some are annuals, such as basil. The others, depending on the severity of our winters, are perennials. The larger they get in the summer, the hardier they will become in winter. One good thing about herbs is that they are easy to grow and resist pests and diseases.
Something to remember when starting a bed of spearmint or any mint plant is to plant it in a tub first and then bury the tub. If you don’t, you will have mint sprouting up throughout your entire herb bed. Believe me, I know.
After replacing some of the herbs that died out several times, I am determined to cook more with fresh herbs and maybe even try to dry some instead of spending money in the spice aisle at the grocery. I am going to add a mortar and pestle to my Christmas list.
The Hardin County Cooperative Extension has publications on most any agriculture topic including “Culinary Herbs,” “Herb Gardening in Kentucky,” “Container Gardening with Herbs” and “Herbal Recipes.” As I read “Culinary Herbs,” I was reminded that if you do try drying them, gather them in a large bunch after washing, and secure the stems with rubber bands and then cover with a paper bag to prevent gathering dust. Once dry, strip the leaves from the stems.
In planning for using herbs in cooking, there are several different products you can prepare such as herb butters, herbal tea, herbs in olive oil, herb salts, soup bags and something you might see in a recipe called “Bouquet Garni.” It is a group of herbs tied together that make up a bouquet. The usual combination is parsley, thyme and bay leaf. They can be small or large for a more robust flavor. Always remember to remove the bouquet before serving.
Also, you can make pesto to use in recipes. And you will see a reference to Fines Herbs in many cookbooks with gourmet egg dishes.
1 T. minced fresh herbs
1/3 c. softened butter
Allow to stand for 2 hours at room temperature to let flavors combine. Store in refrigerator for up to a month or frozen for about three months.
1 c. dried parsley flakes
3 T. pine nuts or walnuts
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
2 to 3 cloves of garlic, (not bulbs!)
Place all in a food processor, adding enough olive oil to make a smooth paste. Store in closed container in the refrigerator or freeze.
¼ cup dried parsley flakes
¼ c. leaf chervil
¼ c. freeze-dried chives
¼ c. leaf tarragon
Combine all ingredients. Keep in tightly closed containers. For omelets and scrambled eggs; butter sauces; vegetables, meat, poultry, and fish sauces.
3 T. leaf oregano
3 T. leaf marjoram
1 T. leaf thyme
3 T. leaf savory
3 T. leaf basil
2 T. leaf rosemary, crumbled
1 T. leaf sage
Combine all ingredients. Keep in tightly closed containers. Good for use in meatballs, salad dressings, tomato sauce, eggplant dishes, sautéed chicken and veal.
White vinegar — use chives, tarragon, mint or salad burnet
Apple cider vinegar —mint, basil or garlic
Wine vinegar — basil and garlic, mixed
Crush or bruise three handfuls of fresh herbs for each half gallon of vinegar. Put the vinegar in a pot on the stove. Heat thoroughly, but do not boil. Pour hot vinegar over herbs in a storage jar or bottle and cover lightly. Shake often. Store vinegars for four to six weeks. Strain into smaller bottles, discarding herbs. Cap and store until needed.
Nora Sweat, author of “Mama and Me,” is a native of Hardin County and a retired home economics/family and consumer science teacher. She can be reached at email@example.com by mail at 408 W. Dixie Ave., Elizabethtown, KY 42701.