Tag Archives: herbs

The most amazing plant discovery ever!

Last year I made the most amazing plant discovery ever.  Seriously.  This plant is a medicinal powerhouse.  Chew it or chop it up and apply it for immediate relief from bug bites, bee stings, nettle stings, and rashes.  Apply it to a deep sliver and it will actually pull it out of the skin.  It cures infections, stops bleeding, and, oh yeah, you can eat it too.

As you are probably imagining, this is a rare rainforest plant only recently discovered and this is why the general public doesn’t know about it yet.  It is sold at such high prices that only the elite have access to it.  Um, not quite.

This plant is actually a “weed” that grows prolifically just about everywhere.  Even city dwellers can probably find it sprouting between side walk stones.  But somehow, in the ease of plunking down our money at the nearest drug store, it’s medicinal use has been long forgotten.

This amazing plant is the topic of my last instalment of the Forgotten Plants series over at Gnowfglins.   I really couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this garden weed in the pages of my medicinal herb book and I can’t wait to make better use of it in my garden, and medicine cabinet, in the spring.

If you know of any other “forgotten plants” I’d love to hear about them!

The Best Whole Wheat Pizza Crust Ever! (and it’s easy, too!)

Those of you who have been around the blog for a while will know how much I love my Friday Night Pizza. The recipe has been a staple in our house for several years, and I almost always have a ball of it in the freezer, ready for a quick dinner any night of the week.  It is a recipe that I rave about and often share with others.

So you can imagine that it pains me a little to say this…..but I found a better recipe.

Last night I made the “No-Work Mostly Whole Wheat Pizza Dough” from The Food Matters Cookbook (although I made mine all whole wheat because that’s just who I am.)

The recipe is so easy.  Basically you combine all of the ingredients in the morning, leave them for the day, and you have a beautiful pizza dough by supper time.  And no rolling or stretching either – i just pushed the dough with my fingers until it fit my pizza stone.  It only took about 12 minutes to cook, and was the softest, most beautiful whole wheat pizza crust I have ever had the pleasure of eating.

Last night I topped it with homemade pesto (frozen in the fall after harvesting the basil from the garden), caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, and mozzarella.

Hubby called it the best pizza I have ever made.  He also declared it restaurant worthy!

As this was the pick for the Food Matters Project this week, you will find the original recipe here, and links to all kinds of variations here.

The only changes I made to the dough was to use whole white flour instead of the all-purpose, and I used traditional yeast, dissolved in a little warm water, instead of the instant.

I’m so sorry Friday Night Pizza, but it looks like there is a new crust in town!

 

My New Favourite Gardening Book

We have a whole shelf in our book-filled house dedicated to gardening.  Last year I posted a list of my favourites, and since then I have a list a mile long of books I have read from the library, and those that I hope to read.

But of all the gardening books I have read so far, I now have a new favourite.

You Grow Girl by Gayla Trail.

This book is different from any gardening book I have read before, and I think that is why I love it so much.

To start with, Gayla keeps things simple.  After reading stacks of gardening books with flawless photos and long lists of plants I can never seem to find, and a confusing amount of information on soil and ph and watering and garden design, it is refreshing to find a book that is, well, fun!  Rather than getting bogged down by how much there is to be done, she makes gardening sound doable, reminds you that it doesn’t have to be perfect, and then gives you lots of great ideas for making your garden a success.

And it’s not that the book isn’t meaty, because it is.  There is a wealth of information in there on starting a successful garden, no matter how small the space you have to grow (and even what to do if you are growing on a public space!)   But there are also really fun crafty projects like making your own leaf-shaped concrete stepping stones (I so want to do this!), sewing yourself a garden apron, creating moss-covered pots and stones, making tea with your own home-grown herbs, and on and on.  All told in a relaxed, you-can-do-this kind of way.

And as much as I love reading about gardening, I sometimes find the process a little stressful as the list of things I have to be doing and I should be doing and I need to be planting gets longer and longer.  You Grow Girl comes without the panic.  Instead there is the kind of enthusiasm you get when talking to your best friend about the thing you are passionate about.  I finished reading the book inspired and excited about the gardening season ahead.  (and I have yet another book  I am going to keep out of the library as long as I can….) :)  I am also adding “grow my own loofah sponge” to my list of gardening things to do.  I had no idea this was something you could grow in your garden – how cool is that?!

Gayla also has an amazing gardening blog which I read regularly, and two other gardening books which I can’t wait to check out.

Have you read any good books lately?

Harvesting Herbs

 

I know I haven’t been writing here as much as usual.  Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me through this busy time and still read my posts.  You mean the world to me!

We have been extremely blessed this year with an abnormally mild fall.  Usually by this time my garden is frost-bitten and gone, except for carrots, but this year we are still harvesting lettuce, spinach, herbs and celery.  Oh the celery we grew this year!  Seriously, if you live anywhere close by and you would like to have your own bunch of fresh-from-the-garden celery, please let me know!  I am happy to share from our bounty.  I’m also considering sending all my friends bouquets of parsley and dill - what do you think?  :)

This extended warm spell has also given me lots of time to harvest most of the herbs I grew this year (other than the basil, which faints at the first sign of cold, but luckily I already had most of that made into pesto weeks ago.)

I am pretty simple when it comes to preserving my herbs.

I pick them.

I brush off any dirt that might be sticking to them.

I freeze them in glass jars.  (We have a plethora of glass jars because they aren’t recyclable here, plastic bags would work too.)

I enjoy them all winter long.

That’s it. 

I make pesto with basil, and this year I tried to make a parsley paste of parsley and oil, which I froze in small clumps as I do with the pesto. 

I decided to try to do this with a mortar and pestle, because I heard that it is better for the colour of the herbs when you do it this way.  Next year I will go back to using my food processor.  The end result was not quite as “pasty” as I would have liked it, more like clumps of parsley suspended in oil.  However, when I’m tasting that fresh parsley flavour in our winter cooking I won’t be worrying about consistency.

Anyone else out there enjoying a mild fall?  How are you preserving your garden harvest?

Herbs in My Garden: Lovage, Lavender and Mint

How are your gardens coming along?  I am away from mine this week, but when I left the vegetable garden was coming along well (despite an attack of cabbage worms along with our cucumber beetles) and I had just finished getting all of the annuals into the flower gardens.  When I return I hope to be greeted by lots of flowers (and hopefully not too many weeds!) 

This will be my last post in the herb garden series.  These final three are the last that I have grown for at least a year, although I have included a list at the end of what we are experimenting with this year.  As always, if you have any herb tips to share, or if you grow an herb I haven’t included in this series, please let us know in the comments!

Lovage

In the garden: I grew lovage for the first time last year in a pot on our sunny deck.   This year I planted it directly into the vegetable garden, in a section that receives partial shade, as it prefers.  Although it is a perennial, it will be grown as an annual in its current location as we like to rotate our veggie crops each year.  I have not attempted to grow lovage indoors, and with its rather tall size, I probably won’t attempt it any time soon!

In the kitchen: lovage is similar to celery in taste and the leaves can be used anywhere you would use celery – salads, sauces, soups, stews, etc. 

Lavender

In the garden:   This perennial has grown extremely well in my partial-shade garden.  I am not sure which variety I grow, although it is a small variety (about 1 ft tall.)  Although I have never brought mine indoors, I have read that these smaller varieties grow very well in pots with a little sun each day.

In the Kitchen:  lavender isn’t often used for eating (although I have had lavender tea before) but the dried leaves and flowers make beautiful potpourri, sachets, or sleep pillows.

Mint

In the Garden: Mint is a vigorous perennial that will easily take over your whole garden!  It grows very well in pots (which is how I grow mine) although I have read that you can also sink a pot down into the earth if you would like to grow it in your garden yet keep it confined.  My plants also do well overwintering indoors, although they do tend to get “leggy” due to lack of light.

In the Kitchen:  Mint makes a wonderful tea, and pairs brilliantly with fruit in a wide variety of dishes.  My grandmother used to make her own mint jelly (most often served with lamb, although eaten with other dishes as well).  I also like mint water, mint ice cream, and want to try my hand at making my own mint extract for baking. 

New Herbs in the Garden

One of the things I enjoy most about gardening is trying out new plants.  This year I have added sorrel, chervil, catnip, and borage to the herb garden. 

What herbs are growing in your garden?  Which ones do you want to try?

Garden Harvest Cooking: Refreshing cucumber and lemon herb-infused water

We have had some hot weather here over the last few days.  And on a steamy hot day, what better for cooling and refreshing than a cold glass of water? 

But somehow, water can seem a little ordinary.  But add some cucumber and lemon and a handful of garden-fresh herbs, and you’ve got something a little special, but just as thirst-quenching.  Make it in a glass pitcher, and you’ve got something pretty to grace your picnic table.

Refreshing Cucumber and Lemon Herb-Infused Water

  • a piece of cucumber
  • a lemon
  • a handful of herbs (I like mint or lemonbalm or a combination of the two)

 

Slice the cucumber into rounds and place in the bottom of your pitcher.

Cut the lemon in quarters and gently squeeze to release the juice as you place it on top of the cucumber.

Finally, gently squish the herb leaves in the palm of your hand to release their fragrance and flavour and place in the pitcher.

Fill the pitcher with cold water and ice and let steep for at least an hour before serving.

We often fill our pitcher up with water a second time and leave it in the fridge for the next day with results that are just as refreshing.

Enjoy! 

How are you keeping cool on these hot summer days?

Garden Harvest Cooking – Creamy Yogurt Salad Dressing

The gardens are planted, the weeding is done (for now!) and it is time to enjoy the first of the garden’s harvest.  Fresh leaves of all kinds are poking up in my garden, perfect for pairing with radishes, asparagus, strawberries, and other early summer fruits and veggies.  To top it all off, here is a quick and easy yogurt-based salad dressing.

Yogurt & Herb Dressing

  • plain yogurt
  • fresh lemon juice
  • fresh herbs (I love this dressing with mint)

Pour some plain yogurt into a glass jar with a lid.  (You don’t really need to measure, think about the size of the salad you need to dress and then eyeball it.)  Add some freshly squeezed lemon juice, and some freshly chopped herbs.  Put the lid on and shake the bottle.  If the dressing is too thick, add a little more lemon juice.  If it’s too thin, add a little more yogurt.   

Toss it with your salad and enjoy!

What’s your favourite way to enjoy the first of the harvest?

More Herbs in My Garden: Dill, Lemon Balm, and Marjoram

How are your gardens coming?  With all the wet weather, we’ve been experiencing a slow start this year, but the potatoes and onions are flourishing and I ate my first radish yesterday! 

Today I will continue my series on herbs with three more you will find growing in my garden.

Dill

In the GardenDill is an annual which I grow from seed in the garden each year.  It also does very well in pots on my sunny deck.  I plant this herb twice, in spring for a summer crop, and again in early summer, so I will have lots of seed heads for pickles in the fall.  I have not tried growing dill indoors, and probably wouldn’t, due to the height of this plant!

In the kitchenThe feathery leaves (often referred to as “dill weed”) are wonderful in many summer salads, especially cucumber salad!  I cut off the big seed heads in the fall to flavour pickles, and know that you can both collect the seeds and dry the leaves for winter cooking, although I have not done so myself. 

Lemon Balm

In the Garden: I added this herb to my garden last summer, when herbs were on sale for 25 cents a pot.  It grew well last year, and this spring was one of the first to appear in the spring garden and has more than doubled its size from last year already.    Mine grows in a sunny spot, but I’ve read that it is tolerant of partial shade, and that it can be aggressive, like mint.  Some recommend that it is actually better grown in pots, and, like mint,  I would imagine that it would also grow well indoors.

In the KitchenI have note yet used any of my Lemon Balm yet, although I love smelling its fragrance in the garden.  This summer I plan to brew some for iced tea, use it to add flavour to cold ice water, and maybe try some in fruit salad.  With its lemony flavour I would imagine it would be a good complement to fish. 

Marjoram

In the Garden:  Sweet Marjoram is an annual that I grow in my garden, and in pots on my deck.  The pots overwinter well indoors in a sunny window, and although its growth slows down, it can still be harvested in small amounts all winter long.   

In the Kitchen:  My primary use of marjoram is in roast chicken.  I slip some between the skin and breast meat (along with some thyme) and also use some to stuff the cavity (usually along with a lemon, and rosemary).  It is also sometimes used in soups and stuffing recipes. 

This post was written with help from Herb Gardening in Five Seasons by Adelma Grenier Simmons (Hawthorn Books, 1964)   Don’t you love discovering great old books?  

Do you have any herb tips or recipes to share?  Please leave them in the comments, and don’t forget about our Facebook page for posting your photos, asking questions, or linking up your gardening blog posts!

The Herbs in my Garden – Basil, Chives, and Cilantro

For the next few weeks, while the garden plants are settling in or sprouting, I thought I would feature the herbs that I grow in my garden.  Next to tomatoes, they are the garden plants I get asked about the most.

I decided to begin with three fairly standard herbs, and the ones that most often find their way into my kitchen.

Basil

In the garden: Basil comes in many different varieties, but for the past several years I have just grown the standard sweet basil, and lots of it!  It’s an annual, so it needs replanting each spring, and it grows well from seed in pots or right in a sunny garden, although you can also find basil plants at most garden centers.  I haven’t had any luck growing basil indoors, as its requirements for sun far outstrip what our sunniest windows can provide.

In the Kitchen  Where there are tomatoes, there can be basil.  Basil is beautiful in tomato sandwiches, in salads, mixed in bruschetta, cooked in pasta sauces, or made into pesto.  I grow many plants so that I can make pesto in the fall and then freeze it to last throughout the winter. 

Chives

In the GardenChives are an easy-to-grow perennial that come up year after year.  They are one of the first plants to appear in my garden in the spring and have pretty purple flowers.  When the plants get too big, you can simply dig some of it out and plant it somewhere else.  From a very small chive plant I had three years ago, I now have chives growing in three different spots in my garden.   Chives grow very well in pots and can be over-wintered indoors in a window and set outside again in the spring. 

In the Kitchen:  Besides the standard sour cream & chive baked potato topping, I think chives are wonderful chopped into salads, mixed into potato dishes of all kinds, or used as a garnish on creamy soups or cheese sauces.

Cilantro/Coriander

 

In the Garden:  This plant is refered to as cilantro when harvesting leaves, and coriander when harvesting the seeds.  It is a self-seeding plant that will come up year after year (if you don’t harvest all of the seeds, of course!)  Mine did well both in pots and in the garden, although you need a good-sized pot to get a decent harvest.  My garden plants grew to a much greater size and had many more leaves to harvest than my potted plants.  If you like the leaves (like I do) you will want to replant this herb all summer long to guarantee a continuous supply of thick leaves, as they tend to thin out as the plant grows taller. 

In the Kitchen:  Cilantro is a wonderful accompaniment to spicy foods, and I include it in salsas, guacamole, burritos, bean salads, quesadillas, nachos, and spicy tomato soup.  I did not collect the coriander seeds last year as I do not often use coriander in my kitchen – perhaps that will be something to try this year! 

What herbs do you grow in your garden?  If you have any tips or recipes to share, please let us know in the comments.  And don’t forget our Facebook page where you can link up your blog posts and share your garden photos!

What’s Growing in the Garden in September..er..October

The air is getting cooler, the leaves are changing colour, and the gardening season is winding down. 

I realized today that I had not yet taken September photos of the garden, but as it is only the 2nd October, I figure it’s close enough. 

This cute little nutmeg melon is trying to make the most of the September October sun, but I don’t have too much hope for him ripening before frost sets in.  Poor thing.  This was our second, and last, year for growing melons.  They have had the best of everything this summer – heat and a long growing season, and still they do not ripen.  We will use the space next year for something else. 

The basil is still going.  I’m looking forward to a few more days of pesto before these plants die off for good.

The lemon balm has spread out nicely…I realize I am going to regret plopping this right into the garden, but at the moment, it looks pretty.  Anyone know any good lemon balm recipes? 

My potted sage is languishing but this plant is gorgeous!  Perfect for slipping under the skin of a roast chicken.

I bought this lemon verbena for less than a dollar at an end-of-season sale.  It was sad and pot-bound but it looks happy now.  Another herb I need recipes for. 

The last zucchini!  Or so I thought until I harvested it and found two more underneath.  This plant does not give up!

The first parsnip I have ever grown.  Can’t wait to make some roasted parsnip and carrot soup. 

The leeks are finally getting some substance to them.  I am hoping they will mature while I can still pull them out of the ground.  Notice the tomatoes which are everywhere… 

My ground cherries are another failed experiment.  Unripe, but they look pretty, don’t they?

One baby green pepper.

And the tomatoes that took over the world.  Seriously, there were tomatoes everywhere!  And the poor sick-looking plants with all of their unripe fruit.   I spent 3 hours with the tomato plants this afternoon.  All the Mystery Keepers are tucked away to ripen, there are red tomatoes in the kitchen for stewing, a few green tomatoes left on the vine for making green tomato ”mincemeat” and a basket full of yummy yellow tomatoes for eating.   While I harvested tomato after tomato and composted plant after plant I decided that we would not plant so many tomatoes next year (what were we thinking??)  Our garden is just too small for so many plants.  Mystery Keepers and Yellow Kopchen will stay (I have never seen a plant produce so much fruit!) and then we just need to find one good red tomato variety and we will be set. 

I’m thinking of a tomato and cucumber salad with basil and goat cheese. 

The compost is overflowing but the garden is looking a little less like a tomato plant graveyard.

What’s growing in your garden?  Any plants that you definitely will, or will not, be growing next year?

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