Monday, May 10, 2010

My Garden of Herbs

Five years ago--on Mother's Day--my husband and 2 children (then 3 and 11 months) planted me my very first herb garden. At the time, I had been talking about wanting fresh herbs for at least a year. I was an avid watcher of the Food Network... and one day on The Naked Chef... Jamie Oliver talked about using fresh herbs.  He said (in loose quotes... this was at least 6 years ago... so this is the gist of how I remember it),

"Using fresh herbs is great, but the idea of fresh herbs is that they're FRESH... not drive to the store 'fresh'... fresh does not come in a package."  

What he said, has been morphed over time... but the meaning of what he said has held strong for me for the past 5 years.  Using fresh herbs should be an organic process of cooking where you reach for herbs that are growing from the soil...when they're supposed to be growing... the idea of fresh herbs as a packaged product really undermines what using "fresh" is all about.   

So... that year, my husband got a big half wine barrel and various other pots and planted my most used herbs: Thyme, rosemary, parsley, chives (didn't use quite so much), dill, and basil.

5 years later, a cross-country move to St. Louis and back to Wilmington...I still have an herb garden... it's just in a different form. No longer contained to a wine barrel (it's now home to a contained forest of mint) my herb garden grows along the side of my house. It's also grown in the variety... I now have planted an unconfined forest of mint, rosemary, oregano, flat-leaf parsley, dill, thyme, lemon thyme, chives, sage, "Italian" basil, lemon basil, cilantro, chocolate mint, and a bay bush.  The only original plant that I have from that original Mother's Day herb garden are the chives. They've doubled and quadrupled in size... and while I don't use them as much as some of my other herbs... I LOVE having the ability to use them when I choose to :)  As with all my herbs, I cut what I need, when I need it and leave the rest to grow.  No plastic container, no rubber-bands, no twist-ties needed... and that means no waste.... because it takes nothing more than me and a pair of scissors.

My favorite thing about chives is their flowers.... ;)
Here's some Parsley and Dill growing from seed...

A little of my Mint forest and some Sage....

Rosemary and Thyme,

and Basil.

What to do with all those herbs??  Get cooking (or let them grow and flower for the pollinators ;)).  

Over the past couple of years, I have made the commitment to only use fresh herbs from my garden.  That means that I only use what herbs are growing in my herb garden during a given season.  I'm able to reap the bounty of Thyme, Rosemary, Sage, Oregano, Mint and Chives through all seasons.  Parsley comes and goes throughout the year.  I only use basil in spring and summer... yes... I make loads of pesto to keep in my freezer to last me all winter.  I try my best to center my cooking around what is growing...if a recipe calls for an herb that's not growing, then I make a substitution for something that is... the best flavor comes from the freshest ingredients... and you can't get any fresher than your own backyard (or patio or windowsill).

Here are a few photos of some recipes that I've tested for The Blissful Chef using herbs straight from my herb garden....

Since I'm recipe testing, I can't give out recipes.  BUT...  Magical Raw Tacos (above) were featured on The Blissful Chef Blog... SO make them...with whatever you have growing... they are absolutely AMAZING Magical ;)