The garden is the poor man's apothecary.
Does your herb garden produce more fresh savories than you can possibly use in summer? Then drying and storing the leaves is the way to go so you can add their pungent essences to your culinary masterpieces all year long!
My three favorite herbs to grow and cook with are Basil, Rosemary and Sage. Basil thrives in hot conditions though is shallow rooted so doesn’t like the soil to dry out. One source speculates that Basil may have originated in India, but is better known in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine (Herbs and Spices by Mary Trewby). Basil leaves taste best fresh but another source suggests when preserving, put the leaves into a jar, sprinkle a little salt between layers, and fill the jar with olive oil (Herbs by Susan Fleming). The leaves will blacken but they and the oil will flavor your dishes nicely.
I’ve tried growing the big ‘lettuce leaf’ Basil (Ocimum basicicum), unsuccessfully. Perhaps my garden just doesn’t get hot enough for it to thrive, so I buy fresh organic whole Basil leaves on stems from the grocery store. But they last only a few days on the kitchen counter (refrigeration turns the leaves black) so I have to have several recipes in mind ready to use it every day. If I keep it too long, it wilts and turns brown. I thought I’d get smart and try to keep it longer. I cut about a ¼ inch (0.5 cm) off the base of the stems and put them in a glass of water, like flowers in a vase, and ya know…it worked. The leaves perked up and lasted about a week and a half so I didn’t feel like I had to use some every night for dinner.
When I lifted the last few stems I noticed they’d begun to root out! Well, being the thrifty gardener that I am I potted them up and I think they are growing. Ok, with the cold, wet spring we are having here they are not really GROWING, more like sulking. But potentially when summer gets here I could get 4 basil plants out of this! We’ll see. If you want to see true Basil growing success, check out Shari’s Bully Basil! Shari’s experience prompted me to try again but with a different variety this time. So this year I bought some Greek Basil seed (Ocimum Balilicum minimum), a small leaf variety, growing to about 12 inches (25 cm). The seed germinated just fine and I have 6 seedlings, now with just a bit of continual summer heat they’ll be on their way. Still waiting for the heat.
I’ve found a wonderful Scarborough Fair Bread recipe linked here from Taste For Life magazine. If you were around in the 60’s you may remember the song, it includes “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme”. I like the finished loaf but found it a bit weak on herbs. Being a recipe tweaker I substitute ¼ of the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour and I more than double the dried herbs. Not being a fan of parsley, I leave it out completely. The herby-yeasty aroma of this bread during the rising and baking is outstanding!
Now if I could only get that song out of my head!
In Bloom In My Garden Today: Bletilla (hardy orchid), Thalictrum rochebrunianum (Meadow Rue), Lavender ‘Hidcote’, Digitalis, Begonia ‘Bonfire’, Penstemon schmidel ‘Red Riding Hood’, Salvia officinalis (culinary sage), Salvia nemorosa ‘Viola Klose’, Astilbe ‘Bridal Veil’, Baptisia, Tomato ‘Stupice’, Dianthus (Pinks), Hardy Geranium, Peas, Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’, Armeria latifolia ‘Joystick’, Dianthus, Day Lily, Rose, Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’, Saxifrage, old fashioned Coral Bells (Heuchera), Alpine strawberry, Daphne caucasica ‘Eternal Fragrance’ and ‘Summer Ice’