May 19th, 2011

It’s Better with Basil: Reclaim Your Taste Buds with Herbs!

CB045265Did you know that dried chives cost $34 an ounce?  Isn’t that ridiculous?  Look at the unit prices of spices next time you’re shopping and you’ll quickly understand that someone’s getting rich here and it’s not you.

You don’t even need a garden to grow your own herbs:  try a small pot of chives on a sunny windowsill—not only will it last all summer, but all winter and the next year, and the next! For an investment of some $3 for a little starter plant, you will beat that $34 an ounce price ten times over.   You don’t even need to dry them; just snip them off with kitchen scissors right onto your eggs, sauces, or whatever.  You can even grow chives outside in a pot or window box. They will seem to die off in the fall, but like Lazarus, they will rise again!

I love that so many herbs are perennials, coming back each year. This is perfect for laid-back gardeners like me.  This year the North East Branch’s “Greenfingers” garden, planted by kids, saw the return of oregano, mint, and sage.  Amazing!  Patrons tell me that they’ve had certain types of rosemary bushes growing for eight consecutive years in their yards.

But… basil defeats me, wanting more attention than I can give and dying on me every year.  Still, it is one indispensible herb – it deters aphids from tomato plants, and just adding some fresh-chopped leaves to a recipe can make the flavor explode in your mouth! (see Emeril LaGasse’s cookbook From Farm to Fork: Eating Local, Cooking Fresh for ideas)

So I need to learn more about growing herbs—and why not learn from a master—Master Gardener Eileen Boyle will be conducting a thorough and interesting program on growing herbs—“Scent-sational Garden Herbs” on Sat. May 21st at 10:30am at the North East Branch Library. Call 410-996-6269 to register.

And growing is just the beginning. With herbs you can also make vinegars, marinades, sachets, pestos, drinks, facials….the list is endless.  “Herbs are a gift from nature,” says author Kami McBride (The Herbal Kitchen). This is a wonderful book whose basic premise is that we should go back to cooking naturally with fresh herbs instead of relying on packaged foods, whose contents are preserved with chemicals and preservatives. Why not take a little time to grow some herbs to add zest to your life?

So if you’ve lost the art of using fresh herbs in your cooking, “You are in luck, because the harvest is still on,” says author McBride.  “The earth hasn’t stopped giving; we have just forgotten how to receive.”

What’s your favorite herb?


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May 11th, 2011

Social Networking – Past, Present and Future

socialnetworkIf you’re online, it’s not long before you’ll bump into icons for websites like Reddit, Digg, Mixx, Buzz, Twitter, or Facebook.  What are these sites?  They’re commonly referred to a “social networking” sites. It’s a popular phrase these days and according to Dictionary.com, social networking is “the use of a website to connect with people who share personal or professional interests, place of origin, education at a particular school, etc.” People use these sites to share information and often their lives with friends and acquaintances or to follow businesses or events. The 2 most popular sites are Facebook and Twitter; Facebook currently has over 500 million users, half of which log onto the site daily. This means that 1 in 14 people on Earth have a Facebook page! Twitter is also immensely popular and estimates that its members send 100 million “tweets” each day.

As we have become more “connected” to the internet as a society, these sites have gained a special significance. Mobile phones are now called “mobile devices” and access to the internet and specifically to social networking sites is easier than ever. Once someone opens an account, which is free by the way, they can connect to friends and family and begin to share photos, news stories of interest, personal information, etc. Twitter is slightly different, allowing friends to share only short 140 character “texts” or a photograph with their group of friends, making it easy to take a picture of something on your phone and “tweet” it instantly. So a quick note or “tweet” like, “Mary’s on the way to the prom” with an accompanying photo can be seen by family and friends, no matter where they are.  Is this necessary? Maybe not, but right or wrong, this is how much of our communication is done these days. Consider this: a Pew Research study showed that 61% of Americans get some of their news online and 65% of people under 30 use the internet as their primary news source. Keep in mind too that almost every online news site has built-in, 1-click ways to send articles that you like directly to your Twitter or Facebook account to share. Information moves very quickly these days.

Across the Middle East and North Africa, more than 6 out of 10 people are under the age of 30, meaning that most have been exposed to the internet and the world outside their country for most of their lives. Growing up with this knowledge of life outside their borders and with ways to communicate instantly has played a significant role in the current conflicts. Activist Wael Ghonim of Egypt said “This revolution started online. This revolution started on Facebook….”

Cecil County Public Library has many books for beginners on using social networking sites, including Facebook for Dummies and Twitter for Dummies. If you’re looking to market your business or increase sales, try The Social Media Bible. Visit your local branch OR OUR FACEBOOK PAGE for more information.

What’s your favorite form of social media? Leave us a comment!