Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Home Grown Herbs, Not for Smokin!

My neighbor came over for coffee this morning like she does most Wednesdays.  I asked her if she wanted some fresh basil.   She said, "sure, so what do I do, just hang it up and dry it"?  Other people have made similar comments to me when I offer them some of my abundance of garden herbs, and I'm surprised.  Perhaps it's my culinary background that has taught me the many uses for these fresh delights, but then again, I remember growing a galvanized tub of herbs every summer at my parents house.  

In keeping with the "Green Experiment", I would like to tell you about growing fresh, organic herbs and just some of the many uses for them.  Unlike a full blown garden, many herbs can be easily grown in small pots in an apartment.  Although basil, my personal favorite, seems to do best straight in the ground.

If you have never done this, I would start with just a few, easy to care for, simple herbs, like mint, thyme, rosemary, or oregano, basil you can try, but I have not had much luck with my attempts at growing it potted.  You can grow them from seed packs or for just a few dollars you can find many of them at your local grocery, or garden supply store.

If you already have a yard or a garden area, you can just plant them directly into the ground among your plants and flowers.  I like this structured, chaotic look.  The form and function together.  If you do this, just make sure all danger of frost is past.   Just be aware that some herbs, such as mint, can be invasive.

If you choose to plant them in posts inside, just make sure the post is at least 2x bigger than the herbs' current container.  Not providing them adequate growing room is one of the reasons some people's attempts fail to grow.  Also make sure that your pots either have drainage holes at the base or a layer of rocks at the bottom to provide drainage.  

Now, here's the best part.  All you have to do is pretty much ignore them and let them just do their thing.  Overwatering is a big killer of the indoor herbs, and if yours are planted out doors, unless you're in a drought, they should pretty much get all the water they need naturally.  If they start to look wilted, give them some water, otherwise, just let them be.

Now, here's when you do want to manage them.  When any of them start to flower, pinch them down at least a couple leaf segments back.  Pinch the stem off right above a new leaf segment.  The blossoms absorb the flavorful oils from the plant; rendering the herbs less tasty.

When you're ready to use them, just snip off the desired amount above a new leaf section and there you have it.  You should have fresh, tasty additions to your meals for a long time.  
Now, here is my husband's favorite recipe of mine that is made from my beautiful, fresh basil that you see pictured above.

Jillian's Bruschetta

1/4 Cup of fresh basil, chopped
2 cups of grape tomatoes quartered or chopped
handful of chopped red onion
fresh buffalo mozzarella to taste (if you can find the tiny balls, just toss them in)
Coarse sea salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
A couple dashes of good aged sweet balsamic vinegar
A dash or two of extra virgin olive oil
A fresh , crusty baguette cut into 1/2 to 1" slices

Mix all the ingredients to taste (except the bread of course)
Brush olive oil on the bread and either grill it or broil it until it is slightly golden and crunchy.

I do not use exact measurements in my cooking and have just tweaked the ingredients over time to suit my family's tastes.  I recommend you do the same.  In the words of Cole Porter: Experiment.


mindcaster said...

A good friend of mine in Amsterdam (Portugese-American) has a podcast, and recently he interviewed 2 urban(!) farmers from Philadelphia. In light of this post and your move to D.C., I highly recommend it :)

mindcaster said...

and I will definitely try your Bruschetta, at least I have a few fresh produce shops in my neighborhood to choose from :)

*3 stories up and happy*

Jillian said...

I will def. check that out. I believe it is because of our current econimic crisis(?) but I have seem more suburban/urban gardens this summer than ever before. Like I said before, change by force is better than no change. will luuuuuuuvvvvv the bruschetta!

mindcaster said...

I could get into a diatribe about the whole capitalist system and its pitfalls...but I won't (spoil your appetite) :)

Will report back!