SOME OF MY FAVORITES…
Basil: A close relative to mint, basil has a floral anise- and clove-like flavor and aroma. There are two main types of basil: Sweet, or Genoese, basil and Asian basils. In Western cuisine, basil is most often associated with Mediterranean foods like pesto and tomato sauce. Sweet basil pairs naturally with tomatoes, but it can be used with almost every type of meat or seafood. Asian basil has a more distinct anise flavor and is often used in soups, stews, stir fries and curry pastes.
Other Basil verities include Lemon Basil, A basil with a burst of citrus flavor. Great for dishes such as Lemon Chicken Basilica, Cinnamon Basil, the name applies. Red Ruben Basil. A deep purple color, and Thai Basil. The later two have an ‘earthy’ flavor while being identifiable and distinctly different.
One of my favorite ways to use basils is to create a salad using just the leaves of the plants. Many of you will remember that Aladay Organic Farms specialized in both culinary and holistic herbs and supplied 6 varieties of basils to the local farmers markets in the area. Basils are easy to grow and harvestable within 60 days. They can also be a great container herb also doing well in window boxes in a window receiving southern exposure during the winter months.
Parsley: One of the most common and versatile herbs used in Western cooking, parsley has a light peppery flavor that complements other seasonings. It’s most often used in sauces, salads and sprinkled over dishes at the end of cooking for a flash of green and a fresh taste. Flat-leaf or Italian parsley has the best texture and flavor for cooking. Curly parsley is best used as a garnish.
Cilantro: Cilantro, also called coriander, has a flavor that some people find “soapy,” but it’s still one of the world’s most popular spices. Many people are addicted to its bright refreshing flavor, and it’s a staple of Latin and Asian cooking. The sweet stems and leaves are usually eaten raw, added after a dish has been cooked. The roots are used to make Thai curry pastes.
Mint: Although more commonly associated with sweet treats, mint lends its cooling, peppery bite to plenty of savory dishes, particularly from the Middle East and North Africa. Fresh mint is perfect for summer-fresh salads, to liven up a sauce and or to brew fragrant teas. The cooling flavor is also used to temper spicy curries.
Thyme: One of the most popular herbs in American and European cooking, thyme can be paired with nearly any kind of meat, poultry, fish, or vegetable. To use fresh thyme, peel off as many of the leaves as you can from the woody stem by running your fingers along the stem. Particularly with younger thyme, some of the main stem or little offshoot stems will be pliable and come off with the leaves, which is fine. Thyme keeps for at least a week in the fridge, wrapped in a damp paper towel and stored in a plastic bag.
Sage: Most people use dried sage once a year for their Thanksgiving stuffing, but there are many other delicious uses for this herb, particularly in dishes with pork, beans, potatoes, cheese, or in the classic sage and brown butter sauce. The flavor can be somewhat overwhelming — particularly with dried sage — so start off with a small amount and build on that. Fresh sage can add nuance and complexity to a dishes.
Chives: Chives add a flavor similar to onion without the bite. Plus, their slender tube-like appearance looks great as a garnish either snipped and sprinkled or laid elegantly across a plate. Add these delicate herbs at the very end to maximize their color and flavor. Purple chive blossoms are more pungent than the stems and can be a beautiful addition to a salad.
Rosemary: Rosemary is used as a seasoning in a variety of dishes, such as soups, casseroles, salads, and stews. Use rosemary with chicken and other poultry, game, lamb, pork, steaks, and fish, especially oily fish. It also goes well with grains, mushrooms, onions, peas, potatoes, and spinach.
In closing your ‘woody’ stemmed herbs, Oregano, Sage, Thyme, Rosemary, will do well in a green house setting but not so well in a house plant setting type of environment….my experience at least. That said these plants once established will produce an abundant among of usable product that can be dried and stored for use over the winter months providing your culinary talents the freshest dried herbs. For ideas on how to mix herbs in with your garden to use as accent plants and create aesthetically pleasing scenes in your garden see this project Aladay mobile Media has been working on
Storing Tip: I always dry my herbs on the stem tiering them in a bunch and hanging upside down. I leave the leaves on the stem until I use them. This requires Gallon or larger glass storage containers.
Content contributions from Lake Tahoe Markets.
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