Since it’s summer, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to share my summer garden with you, courtesy of 19-6: Fresh Herbs. This one came from the new book, and is the prequel (of sorts) to 19-7: Fresh and Dried Herbs. I had lamented not being able to easily find fresh tarragon back when I wrote that one–well, now I grow it myself in my own backyard.
Growing my own herbs in my own garden for use in cooking was one of the top reasons I wanted to buy my own place, and the garden situation outside was one of my main factors when selecting a house (back when you could have preferences about things like that and didn’t just have to overpay for whatever was available).
I use my homegrown herbs for cooking all year round, and it’s quite the pleasure to be able to use just the amount needed fresh from my own backyard rather than buy overpriced herbs at the grocery store and then watch them wilt and die in my fridge.
I grow most of these myself (with the exception of the lemon balm and watercress), so I’ll share some pictures of my current plants and include some links to some Simply Delicious recipes that make good use of fresh herbs. Let’s take a field trip outside of the kitchen for a change!
Since I don’t have a picture of a homegrown lemon balm plant to share with you, you can just imagine it. Here’s some lemon balm recipes:
- 5-14: Thai Chicken Omelette – Use with or in place of parsley and/or cilantro. I have some Thai basil growing that would work nicely as well.
- 15-45: Strawberries with Cottage Cheese – Use as garnish. You can also use mint (which I also have growing).
- 16-42: Easy Lime Pie – Also used as garnish (same note on the mint). Doesn’t seem like it’s used more than garnish for most dishes in this book.
I grew Italian/sweet basil (and Thai basil, not pictured) last summer for the first time (garden was built in winter 2020 – spring 2021), and I had a TREE on my hands, not just a bush. I made several batches of pesto which froze beautifully and kept us in fresh sauce long into the winter. The big boi didn’t make it through the winter though, so I had to start over again this spring. I got a late start this year due to a long vacation we took in May, so all I have is a smol boi. Just enough for some dishes here and there, but I don’t know if I’m making full-on pesto batches like I did last year.
And excuse the droopiness–I took these pictures just this afternoon and it’s currently 100 degrees (and climbing) here today. Trust me, they’re more than watered–I just pulled some chonker mushrooms out of that bed yesterday and I was not TRYING to grow mushrooms. Note my chives that you can see to the left–those were hanging on all winter with just a few little spikes and then EXPLODED into the chive bush you see now.
Basil recipes for you:
- 12-9: Pasta with Salmon and Basil – I love pasta, salmon, AND basil, so this one’s a winner for me.
- 13-10: Zucchini Piccata – Not only can you use your garden basil, you can use up some of those tomatoes and zucchini as well.
- 6-41: Chicken Breasts with Tomato Salsa – Same as above, use up ALL those summer garden veggies and herbs.
I like to grow what I call the “Simon & Garfunkel” herb set–parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. This is my original thyme plant from last year, and it was barely bigger than a fist until just this spring when it started finally taking off. See that little tiny green clump in the left hand side of the picture somewhat in the shade (that’s not attached to the thyme plant)? That’s my parsley plant–I’ve not had good luck with parsley so far. I think it’s too hot/sunny for it, and even having it in the back row (which gets less sun) hasn’t helped. I’ve moved it all around the bed, and it still bolts on me. I might have to try it in a pot placed in the shade, or just give up on it at this point.
Thyme however, seems to love the hot, dry conditions and I don’t worry about it like I did last year. My only worry at this point is when it outgrows its little corner of the bed–I’ll have to split it off and try growing it in some other places. My front yard is full of HUGE rosemary and lavender bushes (which also love it hot and dry), I might put some out there as well.
Thyme recipes for you:
- 4-21: Herb-Roasted Potatoes – One of my favorites from this book, it’s a great oven fries recipe
- 10-10: Roast Leg of Lamb – A classic take on a timeless dish
- 9-3: Herb Garden Meat Patties – Since we’re talking about herb gardens, I can’t let this one go unmentioned
I had a rough start with sage last year (kept dying on me), but I planted this one late last summer and it survived the winter as a teeny plant, only to explode with purple flowers this spring. The bees LOVED the flowers, but I cut them back eventually to help the plant itself grow a bit larger. It’s been growing sideways more than tall-ways, but it’s finally starting to get some height back again. I like to use leaves of it for sage brown butter or as part of a bouquet garni. I also like to make smudging sticks with it, once I have enough.
It has a VERY hearty oregano neighbor to its left, which is my original oregano plant from last year. A big change I made for this year that’s helped a lot is adding the wood mulch you can see covering the tops of the beds (playground mulch from Lowe’s). Mulching has helped a TON with keeping in water and keeping out whatever else I don’t want (mostly weeds, sometimes the neighbor’s cat).
Sage recipes for you:
- 6-29: Stuffed Turkey – The quintessential American Thanksgiving dish, with a sage-scented stuffing to accompany it.
- 1-20: Prosciutto Appetizers – Mixed fresh herbs combined with salty Prosciutto and a tangy blue cheese filling.
- 7-7: Mushroom-Stuffed Pork Rolls – Pork rolled around mushrooms sautéed with mushrooms and herbs, served with a creamy sauce.
This one feels the most random to me, but as I mentioned in 19-7: Fresh and Dried Herbs, it’s not always that easy to find tarragon in the store (especially fresh). Tarragon (along with chives, parsley, and chervil) is part of fines herbes, a big part of French cooking. This little guy almost died on me during our long vacation in May, but a nice fill of the pot 2-3 times a week with water seems to be keeping it alive even in 100+ degree weather. It’s nested in two (broken) pots because sometimes you get what you pay for when you buy bargain pots from Grocery Outlet.
I haven’t even used it yet but it’s nice to know it’s there, especially while still working on this project. It lives in front of my greenhouse with its buddy pictured next to it, the mint. The mint has to be isolated in a pot because if you plant mint anywhere in the ground, it will take off on you and you’ll never stop it. This guy has died at least 3 times on me, and keeps coming back for more.
Tarragon recipes for you:
- 5-21: Omelette with Herbs – A delicate choice for a simple breakfast dish
- 7-23: Pork Chops with Tarragon – It’s in the name, what more do I need to say
- 20-13: Béarnaise and Hollandaise Sauces – Tarragon is the main flavor in Béarnaise sauce, go do your best Julia Child impression
I barely know what watercress is, outside of some references from the 1980s and earlier. Something about eating watercress and cucumber sandwiches at high tea? I think we use “microgreens” now. Or is that outdated too? I can’t keep up.
Here’s the only two recipes I have for it so far, and I probably didn’t even use watercress for them.
- 2-8: Chicken Salad – Used as a garnish, probably easier to get/use parsley
- 2-4: Chef’s Salad – Same as above.
That’s all I’ve got for you on herbs today–I leave you with a picture of my happy place that I built myself. It’s not much, but it’s all I need. There’s other patches of herbs/plants all over the property, but this is the main “garden” section.
If it seems rocky/sparse to you, remember that I live in Northern California and we’re ALWAYS in a drought/on fire/etc. Don’t even get me started on my succulent collection–that’s a whole other blog/post/topic for another day.
Thanks for indulging me on my garden tour. 😁