Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Using Herbs in Your Recipes

I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

Today I wanted to talk a little about using herbs in your recipes. I know this is a concern when you are new to experimenting with herbs. First off, there are some herbs that are simply all-purpose and good with just about everything. These are also the culinary herbs I would suggest everyone start with if you are wanting to grow an herb garden. For me they are: thyme, basil, parsley, chives, oregano, sweet marjoram and sage.

You can combine them with any meat, poultry or seafood dish, mince them into dips, spreads, breads, scones, savory muffins, vinegars, sauces etc. A little of each one dried, or more of fresh. The flavors of thse herbs aren't overwhelming, so you don't have to fear they will take over a dish.

One of my favorite ways to use them is to take a handful of chives and a bunch of fresh thyme, rinse them off, and put them in the cavity of a whole turkey breast or whole chickens. You can also add the snipped herbs to a little bit of olive oil and spread it over the top of the poultry like I did in the picture below. I add a little water to the roasting pan, put it in the oven, covering it with a lid, and bake until done. I pick out the herbs when it's done roasting, remove the turkey from the pan and make gravy from the drippings. It couldn't get any easier, and everyone in the family loves it.

Some herbs are a little stronger, such as rosemary, dill, mint and tarragon. I use them very sparingly. Here are some suggestions for these:

Rosemary: vinegars, lamb, chicken, herb butters, onion soups, marinades and any type of beef dish. Make sure you mince or crush it well-- or you can tie it into a little bundle and remove after cooking.

Tarragon: chicken, fish, vinegar, mayonnaise, dressings, green beans, and marinades. Again, use sparingly.

Dill: fish, cucumbers, herb butters for seafood or veggies, shrimp, salads, dips, spreads, vinegars, and marinades. My favorite part of the dill to use is the frilly leaves before they go to seed. I think it's fresher tasting. The seeds are strong- so really watch how much you use.

Mint: Iced and hot teas, peas, jellies, drinks and punches, lamb, marinades for lamb or vegetables. It can also be used in certain salads, both for fruit and vegetables. It's a good one to experiment with.

On OFL we have more recipes and tips on using dill:


Monday, September 21, 2009

Fall Garden Questions and Answers

The leaves fall, the wind blows, and the farm country slowly changes from the summer cottons into its winter wools. ~Henry Beston

Good Morning! I have several garden question and answers today.

Can you help me with information on Tent Worms? They are all over the trees at my condo. ~Anita

Every year we snip off the branches that have them and throw them in the fire. They are harmless to us, but can cause damage to trees or shrubs. The Minnesota DNR has suggestions for prevention:

"you may be able to prevent migrating caterpillars from climbing up the trunk by the use of barriers. Basically,you construct a barrier band around the trunk made of duct tape, tin foil or tar paper and coat it generously with grease (Tanglefoot or Vaseline). Never apply the grease directly to the tree bark. The barrier band should be in the shade or you run the risk of killing the bark and cambium under the band. Check the barrier band daily to see if more grease or Tanglefoot is necessary. Remove the band in early July after the caterpillars have formed cocoons."

You can also use gloves and pull the "tents" off the trees or shrubs then dump them in a bucket filled with water that you've added a little bleach and dish soap.

What is the best way to store the roots from Four O'Clocks? Some years they *make it* through winter storage and sometimes they don't. I really like planting previous year's roots because you get more robust plants that bloom much earlier than starting from seed. ~Debbie

Thanks Debbie! I've always grown my Four O'Clocks from seed, so this is a neat thing to try. Four-O'Clock, Marvel of Peru, Mirabilis Jalapa, is a perennial in warm climates, but it can't take frost. As Debbie mentioned, those of us in colder climates, can dig up the tubers can store them until fall. They should be stored in a dark, dry location either in peat moss or sand-- but don't use plastic or any type of container that is closed because they can rot. Use cardboard boxes, and store the tubers between layers of paper. A basement should work fine for storage.

My mother and I just planted Kale plants and was told we can eat the tender parts of the Kale but wasn't told which was the tender parts. We would like to know which is the tender parts if you or anyone else knew. ~Debbie

Kale is usually harvested by removing the outer leaves, and then the plant will produce more leaves. The mature leaves are the most tender, so those are on the outside. You can also allow the plants to stay out in the garden for a light frost then harvest the entire plant. You should be able to harvest some plants through early winter. Pick the kale and store at about 32 degrees F. It will keep for about 2-3 weeks.

We have tulip growing tips on OFL: