Several years ago we put new windows in our house. There was a little debate about putting in one of those garden windows in the kitchen. After we heard the price, the debate was quickly over! After all, I hadn't even successfully kept any plants alive in the house up to that point (with the exception of a plant I got from my grandma's funeral). Eight years later, this decision seems like a very poor one! I would give anything to have more window space for all of the herbs I have.
As I mentioned in my first blog post, Maurice drives truck; and it was after one of his first trips to California when he came home raving about the tacos on the taco trucks. He spent a week trying to re-create these mysterious tacos. When he finally got it right (hint: less is more), I'm not exaggerating when I say this is all we ate for months. I must say, I have no idea where "Americans" got their idea for tacos because real Mexican tacos are "da bomb."
You might be asking yourself what tacos off of a taco truck have to do with herbs....Well, quite simply...Cilantro, that's what! Before I elaborate, I want to point out that I just had an "aha' moment...not only did tacos from a far away place kick off our herb growing infatuation; but they also kick started our own little food revolution. Huh, that's cool! Okay, now that I am done patting myself on the back....back to Cilantro!
As I was saying, we ate nothing but tacos for months. Which means we were constantly at the store buying an ounce of Cilantro for $2.99. As you can imagine, that gets a bit spendy. So, hey...here's an idea...grow your own dummy (me, not you). Duh!! For $2.50 I can buy a packet of seeds and have an unlimited supply! Well, that is if you can get it to grow. After a couple of failures, we finally had a good amount of cilantro. Next came basil. Again, after a couple of failures I finally managed to get a very nice pot of basil going in the window above the sink. However, I also managed to kill it off last year after putting it outside. And much to my dismay, I planted another packet of cilantro and basil in the house with no success. Ugh....
Turns out I am much better at getting stuff to grow in the ground than in pots in the house. One (and I want to emphasis One) of our favorite spots in the garden is the herb section. Last year that included Chives, thyme, parsley, rosemary, dill, curry plant, marjoram, mint, oregano, basil, and of course cilantro. I think I can honestly say that there is nothing more satisfying than walking out to the garden and collecting a handful of herbs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I mean, seriously....it's just right there!
Fast forward to harvest time and time to clean out the garden. Well, I can't just let all these scrumptious herbs die out here. So out comes the spade! Oh, wait....there is something more satisfying than walking out to the garden to gather herbs....walking 10 feet across the kitchen in the dead of winter to gather herbs! I am trying to upload a picture of our little herb garden, but it doesn't seem to be working (gotta love technology)!
Growing herbs is just half of it....the other half is what to do with them?
Cilantro is easy (if I had some)....pico de gallo or guacamole are two of my favs. Chives...well can any one say baked potato with chives? At the moment what I have the most of is parsley...I was uber excited to find out that I can make a pesto with parsley instead of the elusive basil (not having much luck with it). So, here is my version of a classic pesto.....
2 cloves of garlic
3 tbsp pine nuts
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesean
Process the first 3 ingredients in food processor for a few seconds, add the next 6 ingredients until well blended, then slowly add the olive oil...when that is incorporated add the cheese. Voila...pesto! The great thing about pesto is that there are many variations...as mine is. You can use walnuts in place of pine nuts, as pine nuts can be expensive. This pesto is absolutely fabulous tossed with pasta!
If you are growing your own herbs and are having a hard time figuring out how to actually use them, I strongly suggest "The Herb Farm Cookbook" by Jerry Traunfeld. It is a fantastic guide to growing, handling and cooking with herbs with over 200 recipes. I also like to use my Vegetarian cookbook...not because I am a vegetarian (I love my meat); but because vegetarian dishes add flavor using herbs and spices. I quite often take one of those recipes and just add whatever meat I want to it.
As planting season is quickly approaching, I will be adding a few new herbs this year.... lavender, stevia, and mojito mint are a couple. I am also going to try several different types of basil and our household favorite...Cilantro!
Happy planting....and stay tuned for more herb uses and hopefully a picture....grrrr!