Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Herbal Essence...

Herbs, Rosemary, Thyme & Sage
 For most of the country, spring has been anything but sunny mornings and tulips opening up in vivid colors in your garden. It has, for most of us, been a wonder as to what unusual weather pattern will we experience this week. Hail and snow in March for some parts of the country, to record highs when the norm has been in the lower 30's for other parts of the country. It has been hard to really get a handle on the spring time planting season as well as the needed sun to allow the already planted seeds and seedlings to grow.
One of the best things to plant at anytime (excluding outdoors in winter) has been herbs. You can't go wrong with chives or thyme fresh from your garden to bring life to often bland dishes. And where would we be without basil for pesto? Herbs are great for the kitchen window sill or in most areas of your garden that has a small patch of earth that calls out to be filled. Herbs are easy to grow, provide ample supply and can turn a ok dish into a WOW dish!
Some of my favorites tend to be the top five herbs you should always have on hand.

1. CHIVES - Baked potatoes wouldn't be the same without chives. This garlic/onion herb is also perfect for salads, dips, and soups. The flowers of the chive plant are edible and can be added to salads as well. This herb gives any dish a earthy onion flavor with out being overpowering.
2. THYME, We all need a little more thyme in our lives. This wonderful herb is one of the most used in cooking. Adding thyme to all meat dishes, vegetables, soups and stuffing's will spice the dish up just enough to be new again.
3. BASIL - Italian cooking would not be italian without basil. This aromatic, leafy herb is the ground work for pestos, sauces, salads, and pizzas. You can even try adding a little to your next shellfish dish, perfect!
4. ROSEMARY - Most commonly recognized as the herb in rosemary chicken, rosemary is more versatile than most home cooks realize. The delicate herb is the perfect addition to lamb, fish, potatoes, and breads. Rosemary can also be used to flavor oil for cooking and dressing salads.
5. SAGE -Sage is a wonderful herb used in many recipes. This herb is probably most readily known for its use in sausages, but the distinct flavor will bring new life to stuffing's, soups and vegetables as well.

Other herbs you may want to add to your selection are;
Oregano - popular in the use of pizza but it also used in stuffing’s and pasta sauces.

Parsley - this herb is incredibly easy to grow. You just have to be patient because the seeds take at least 6 weeks to germinate. Parsley can be used as a garnish as well as an ingredient in many dishes and comes in several varieties including flat and curly leaf.

Garlic -  this herbs well known and almost universally loved by good cooks across many cultures.

Cilantro - is an herb that is commonly used in Mexican dishes. In addition, the seeds can be used to make curry powder. The dried seeds are called Coriander.

Mint - this herb is the general term used for a variety of highly aromatic herbs, the most common of which, for culinary purposes, are peppermint and spearmint. There is even a chocolate variety that gives a mocha essence. There is no substitute for fresh mint in beverages or as a garnish for fresh strawberries or melons, fruit salads. If you are planting outside be aware that mint can be invasive into other areas of your garden.

So now is the time to get started or make it a simple project for the family, starting your own herb garden. Herbs can make any dish better tasting as well as better looking.

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