Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Re-Greening My Thumbs

Agnes and I both enjoy cooking, and we especially enjoy cooking with fresh herbs ... there's a flavor that fresh herbs lend to your food that nothing else can match. And there's the wonderful smell that permeates the house when you're chopping the herbs. And there's the wonderful experience of using a big, heavy chef's knife to chop the #%$& out of those herbs, imagining that it's the last person that pissed you off lying there on the chopping board. It doesn't get much better than that.

But there's a problem with using fresh herbs ... they cost a fortune. Our local supermarket sells little plastic boxes of fresh herbs for $2.99 or $3.99 or more each, which is nuts. When we can, we drive a bit farther and go to the international market where the herbs are much cheaper, but still pretty expensive.

The obvious solution to the problem is to grow our own. We've done that in years past, and I figured it was time to get off my pasty white backside and do it again.

Over the weekend, I went to the local garden center and bought my first set of bedding plants ... we now have parsley, basil, thyme, sage, dill, chives, and mint (for mojitos, of course) growing in pots on the deck. I also put in two rosemary plants in a sunny spot in the yard ... since they can grow large and bushy, I thought it would be best. In the past, I'd cultivated two plots on the sunny side of the house, but the layout was a bit awkward for getting access to all the plants ... plus, I was tired of the deer and the rabbits thinking of my garden as their own personal all-you-can-eat salad bar. The pots on the deck seemed like a good idea, as the deer are unlikely to climb the stairs and the squirrels don't usually bother herbs. We'll see.

I've tried to grow vegetables in the past, with mixed results. The deer ruined many of the plants and the vegetables, and insects and birds did their thing as well. We'll probably have some tomato plants come in along with the herbs, growing from the seeds in my compost pile ... if that happens, I'll just re-pot the healthiest ones that come up and see what happens. I also have some acorn squash seeds I may try to plant, just to see what will happen. The last time I planted acorn squash, I reaped a harvest of exactly one beautiful squash, which we stuffed with sausage, brushed with molasses, and baked for a wonderful dinner. Maybe we can do it again. More than once.

So now we just sit back, pull weeds, water as needed, and wait for all those fragrant herbs to come in. Perhaps the next time I need to make this recipe, we'll be able to use our own home-grown herbs ...

Fragrant Tuscan Herb Salt

- 4 to 5 garlic cloves, peeled
- Scant 1/2 cup kosher salt
- About 2 cups loosely-packed fresh rosemary and sage leaves, about a 50/50 mix or whatever proportions you prefer

     Cut each garlic clove lengthwise through the center, remove the green sprout (if any) in the center and discard.
     Mound the salt and garlic on a cutting board. Use a chef’s knife to mince the garlic, blending it with the salt as you work.
     Place the herbs in a mound and coarsely chop them. Add the herbs to the garlic salt and chop them together, stirring the mixture frequently as you chop, until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand.
     Spread the salt on a baking sheet or in wide flat bowls and leave near an open window for a couple of days to dry while the smell drives you nuts. Store in clean, dry jars and use in everything.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



eViL pOp TaRt said...

Best wishes on your herb garden, Bilbo! I like to grow basil and rosemary, myself! And I wish I could grow tomatoes.

Squash stuffed with sausages sounds delicious!

Duckbutt said...

Yahoo! Time to garden. I'm limited by recent surgery from heavy lifting, but hope to get peppers and tomatoes.

Mike said...

I hear the deerner bell ringing.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Have a great herb crop this year, Bilbo!

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

I grow the tomatoes and peppers and you can bring the herbs. :-)