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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