Friday, August 15, 2014

Cindy's June Newsletter from The Herb Cottage- Beyond Basil Pesto




Basil Plants

Beyond Basil Pesto

Pesto made with fresh basil leaves is an easy and quick way to preserve the summery goodness of basil. Frozen, it keeps for months and has so many uses. In our household, fast food is cooking some pasta and tossing it with thawed basil pesto, leftover veggies- especially roasted or grilled- and adding a green salad. Voila! Supper!

If you like using pesto to mix with pasta, to top bruchetta, add to vinaigrette salad dressings or to flavor grilled or roasted vegetables, expand your choices by making pesto with other herbs, nuts, seeds and even leafy greens. Try different combinations such as basil with parsley, parsley with spinach, cilantro with parsley, lemon basil alone or mixed with standard basil or parsley... get the idea?

You can add different oils, nuts, seeds and cheese to alter the flavor to your liking.

You don't absolutely need an electric food processor or blender to make pesto, but it really speeds up the process. Any of the following recipes can be made with a morter and pestle. And, a food processor with its wider, shallower bowl works more easily than a blender. Either will do, though. With a blender, you just have to stop and push the food back onto the blades more often than with a food processor. Just be sure the blades have stopped turning before you stick a scraper or spoon into the jar.

Don't do what I did one time.... and stick a wooden spoon in the jar before the blades stopped turning. The spoon was jerked from my hand, bounced out of the jar, sprayed oil and basil everywhere and broke the spoon inside the jar. I threw the whole mess away and had to start over so I didn't have splinters in the pesto. Plus I had to wipe up oily basil from the counter, floor and other surrounding surfaces.
I reiterate.... wait until the blades have stopped turning before sticking the spoon in!!!
Any of the tradtional dairy cheeses in the following recipes can be replaced with vegan varieties, just so long as the cheese is hard enough to be grated. Seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin can be substituted for the nuts. Roasting the seeds or nuts before use will bring out their flavor.

To roast raw seeds or nuts, spread them on a cookie sheet and place in a 350 deg. oven for 10 minutes, stirring and checking frequently to avoid over toasting. Or, place the seeds or nuts in a dry fying pan, I use cast iron, on a hot burner and stir around until you can smell aroma from the oils released from the the seeds or nuts. Do not over brown. Roasted nuts and seeds can be stored in an air-tight container or frozen.

You can make fresh pesto every time you need it, but it's very easy to make a bigger batch when the basil or other herbs and greens are at their peak.

Pesto freezes wonderfully. I like to freeze it in ice cube trays overnight then transfer the cubes to a big plastic freezer bag. One cube is one serving of pesto to mix with pasta. Be sure to mark the bag with the type of pesto inside. Parsley, basil, cilantro, spinach and arugula can all look alike after they're frozen!

Some people leave the cheese out when freezing pesto and mix it in after the pesto is thawed. I've never done that. My pesto is ready to go when it's thawed. It tastes great and the texture and color is perfect!
Following are some recipes to get you started, along with info and ideas for uses of pesto, storing and freezing.
Traditional Basil Pesto
Basil Pesto
Picture courtesy of allrecipes.com

  • 2 cups clean basil leaves (you can use all one variety or mixed varieties, according to your taste)
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup nuts. Pinenuts are traditional, but I use pecans because they grow here on our farm.
  • 1/2 cup grated hard cheese such as Parmesan or Romano, or a blend.
  • 5-8 cloves of garlic, according to your taste
  • Approximately 1/2 cup olive or other vegetable oil. This amount can vary depending on how much cheese and nuts you put in.
    Food Processor:
    Add all ingredients except the oil and process until the ingredients are chopped. Slowly add the olive oil until you have a consistency similar to that of mayonnaise. If you prefer, you can leave your pesto more coarsely processed... it's up to your personal taste.

    Blender
    This is a little more work than using a food processor, but makes an equally delicious pesto.
    Place about a quarter of the basil leaves in the jar adding 1/2 cup oil, the nuts and cheese. Blend (I use the puree setting or high setting.)

    You'll need a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to push the mixture down onto the blades fairly often. ---See warning above!!

    After you have that first mix pretty well blended and the nuts are well ground, just keep adding the basil leaves about a handful at time until all the leaves are used up. If the mix is too thick, add a little oil to thin it down.
    It doesn't have to be perfectly smooth. In fact, I like the pesto a little coarse so I can see the leaves, but the nuts should be well ground.
    From The Herb Cottage Website
  • Basil, Spinach & Walnut Pesto

  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 3 cups fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoon grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    Basil & Spinach Pesto, Nut Free
  • 4 cups spinach
  • 2 cups basil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
    Cilantro & Parsley Pesto
    Cilantro Pesto
    picture courtesy of seriouseats.com
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh cilantro sprigs
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
    To turn this into a more Southwest flavored pesto try adding the following:

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/4 cup roasted, salted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 or 2 chopped fresh serrano or jalapeno peppers, seeded- or not seeded if you like it very hot


    Arugula Pesto
  • 4 cups (packed) arugula leaves (about 6 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup (packed) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

    Fresh Tomato Pesto
    Fresh Tomato Pesto
    picture courtesy of Farm Fresh Feasts Beautiful bounty for the freezer!! Great on pizza!


  • 4 medium or 2 large tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup packed basil, parsley, or arugula leaves
  • 1/3 cup salted cashews, almonds, or macadamia nuts
  • 1 clove garlic (or use some roasted garlic, if you like)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    Add everything to a food processor or blender and pulse until ingredients are chunky. Then, run on high to puree ingredients. If it's too thick, add a little more olive oil or another tomato.
    Roasted Tomato Pesto
    Roasted Red Pepper Pesto
    Picture courtesy of Oh She Glows
    Yields about 1 cup


  • 9 large roma tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup almonds, toasted
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup tightly packed basil
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus extra for roasting the tomatoes
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    Heat the oven to 400 deg. F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or foil- or use a shallow baking dish. Place the tomatoes with the cut side up and brush or spray with olive oil, adding salt and pepper to taste. Roast for about an hour, watching carefully during the last 15 mnutes. Remove from oven to cool.

    In food processor or blender, chop the almonds and remove. Then, add the garlic and chop. Next, add the basil and process until chopped. Now add the olive oil, tomatoes and chopped nuts. Process until desired smoothness.

    Pour over cooked pasta and enjoy! Or freeze as directed above.
    Recipe inspired by Oh She Glows.

    Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

    Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

    There is no oil in this recipe making it very low calorie.
    Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups

  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 cups sliced roasted red peppers
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons water, or more as needed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan- only 8 - 10 minutes, shaking the pan and watching closely so they don't burn.
    Add the pine nuts along with the rest of the ingredients to a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add a bit more water if pesto is too thick.
    from The Food Network
    Numerous Uses for Pesto
    Pesto Butter Mash:
    3/4 cup pesto into 4 tablespoons softened butter.

    Pesto Chicken Salad:
    Whisk 3 tablespoons pesto with 1/4 cup each mayonnaise and sour cream. Stir in 4 cups chopped cooked chicken, 1/2 cup chopped celery and 1/4 cup each chopped red onion, walnuts and crisp bacon.

    Lemon-Pesto Dip:
    Whisk 1/2 cup sour cream with 1/4 cup each mayonnaise, Parmesan and pesto, 2 tablespoons capers and 2 teaspoons each lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper.

    Pesto Hummus:
    Mix 1 cup hummus with 2 tablespoons pesto. Top with chopped mint, toasted pine nuts and a dash of paprika.

    Pesto Croutons:
    Toss 4 cups bread cubes, 3 tablespoons pesto and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Spread on a baking sheet; bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees F.

    Pesto Panzanella:
    Toss Pesto Croutons with 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons olive oil, some chopped tomatoes and cucumber, sliced red onion and more pesto.

    Pesto-Tomato Soup:
    Cook 3/4 cup chopped shallots and some fresh thyme in a pot with butter. Add 1 large can crushed tomatoes, 1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 cup cream; simmer 20 minutes. Puree, then stir in 3 tablespoons pesto.

    Pesto Frittata:
    Cook 1 grated zucchini in an ovenproof skillet with butter. Stir in 1/4 cup chopped parsley and 2 tablespoons each pesto and grated Parmesan. Add 6 beaten eggs and cook until almost set, 3 minutes. Bake in a 350 degrees F oven until set, 15 minutes.

    Pesto Salmon Cakes:
    Mix 1 pound cooked flaked salmon with 1 cup panko, 1/4 cup pesto, 1 egg and 1 tablespoon lemon zest. Form patties; cook in an oiled skillet, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve with tartar sauce mixed with pesto.
    Ideas garnered from The Food Network
    Create Your Own Pesto Recipe!
    Use the ideas and proportions from the various pesto recipes to create your own signature pesto. Did you know the word 'pesto' comes from the Italian word 'pestare', which means pound or crush.? Think mortar and pestle- the original way pesto was made.

    Mortar and pestle

    Even today, some people eschew the use of electric appliances and only make their pesto by hand. I must admit, even though we have a lovely ceramic mortar and pestle, I've never made pesto that way. Give me my food processor!!
    Enjoy the summer with fresh pesto made with all the goodness from your garden, farmers' market or CSA.




  • QUOTE FOR THE MONTH

    "You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them."

    Maya Angelou, Poet, Activist- April 4, 1928-May 28, 2014

    Maya AngelouUntil Next Time,
    Good Growing to You,
    Cindy Meredith, proprietor
    The Herb Cottage
    442 CR 233
    Hallettsville, TX 77964
    phone & fax: 979-562-2153, cell: 361-258-1192
    email: cindy@theherbcottage.com
    http://theherbcottage.com/
    Visit Cindy's Blog at http://theherbcottage.blogspot.com/

    Monday, August 11, 2014

    “Summer Watermelon” presented by Pat Baugh



    Watermelon Slushie: freeze watermelon cubes and blend with lime juice for a refreshing slushie drink!

    SUBJECT: “Summer Watermelon presented by Pat Baugh

    WHAT: Rockport Herb & Rose Study Group

    WHEN: Second Wednesday of every month, next meeting August 13, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.


    WHERE: ACISD Maintenance Department (Formerly Rockport Elementary), 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport, Texas

    WHY: To educate those interested in herbs.


    The really hot days of summer are upon us, and what better way to cool down than eating watermelon?! Pat has been doing lots of research on this summertime favorite so some on by for some demonstrations, tastings and recipes to cool down. 

     Watermelon Gazpacho Recipe

    Come and learn everything you ever wanted to know about herbs. Did you know that there are over 2,000 herbs and that roses are herbs too? And did you know that many of our Texas Native Plants are also herbs? Herbs have been used for centuries for not only culinary purposes, but also for medicinal uses, in cosmetics, cleaning solutions, clothing (one of which is Gossypium cotton), building supplies and art and craft purposes.

    Our herb study group was founded in March 2003 and meets the second Wednesday of every month at the ACISD Maintenance Department (Formerly Rockport Elementary), 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport, Texas at 10:00 a.m. to discuss all aspects of using and growing herbs including the historical uses of the herbs and tips for successful propagation and cultivation. We are open to the public. Some members of the group are available as speakers to other audiences.

    The Rockport Herb & Rose Study Group, founded in March 2003, is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to increasing public knowledge and awareness about herbs.



    And some people were asking about the roses and Epsom Salts, so here is the information that I have.
     
    In Texas Gardener January/February 2003 issue, there was an article by Lillian E. Illig entitled My Secrets to Growing Great Roses. She has been gardening for many years in the Houston area, and the article is very informative. She states that she measures into an 8 ounce paper cup 3/4 cup of 13-13-13 fertilizer and 1/4 cup of Epsom Salts, and after the sprinkler wets the beds, around each rose without touching the stems, sprinkle one cup in a 6 inch circle and dig it into the earth and water again.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2014

    July Edition of The Herb Cottage Newsletter

    BOTANICAL NAMES

    Why they're important to learn

    green line
    It might seem like too much work, unneccesary and even downright pretentious to call your plants by their botanical name.

    Chamomile

    Chamomile, Matricaria recutita
    But, think about it. Botanical names are very specific. Each name refers to only one plant. Especially when discussing herbs for medicinal or therapeutic use, knowing the botanical name is vital. It is a matter of safety.

    Nicknames for plants are fun, descriptive and for many people easy to remember. They can evoke childhood memories, an admired plant in a friend's garden or conjure up the picture of the plant in your mind. But, they can cause confusion.
    Gomphrena Cornflower


    Both the flowers above are known as Bachelor's Buttons.... confusing, isn't it?
    Learning some of the basics of the binomial system when referring to plants, especially herbs, also gives you very descriptive names, ways to recognize the plant and distinguish it from all others.
    All plants, animals, too, are classified by the binomial system.

    Carl Linnaeus
    Carolus Linnaeus, who gave us Binomial Nomenclature so people speaking different native languages could communicate their scientific information with less confusion.
    Picture courtesy of http://linnaeus.nrm.se/botany/fbo/welcome.html.en

    Each organism can be uniquely identified by 2 words- the genus and the species. The value of this system is that people who speak in different languages can be sure they are talking about the same plant, for instance, by using the genus and species name in what is now called "modern scientific" Latin.
    Coriandrum sativum is cilantro, coriander, Chinese parsleyAs you can see there are several common names for the herb, and by using the botanical name, everyone knows exactly what plant we're discussing. 
    The Genus describes the group to which all the like plants belong.Mentha is the genus to which all true mints belong. Each mint has its unique species name.
    Spearmint is Mentha spicata
    Peppermint is Mentha x piperata.
    The "x" indicates that this species is a hybrid or cross between two other mints. In the case of peppermint, it is a cross between M. spicata and M. aquatica. When discussing a particular genus, it is common practice to use simply the first letter of the genus so long as it is clear which genus is being referenced. If you see the "x" in a botanical name, seeds from that plant will likely not come true to type. So, beware anyone selling Peppermint Seeds!
    Look at this graphic to help you see how the categories narrow down the description to just one plant.

    How do you remember all those Latin names??
    I'm often asked.
    It's like learning any names. You just learn them. In many instances the botanical name actually gives you a clue as to the characteristics of the plant itself. 
    For example: if you see a plant with the species name "alba", that means the flower is white. Here is a short list of some other common colors found in the species name of various plants: 


    argenteus- silver, silveryniger- black
    coccineus- scarletrubens- red
    azureus- sky bluecaeruleus- blue, dark blue
    purpureus- purpleviolaceus- violet
    aureus- goldluteus-yellow
    sempervirens- always greenviridis- green
    There are variations on the above words, but these are some very common ones.
    Some of the words used for the species name indicate the shape of the leaf, fragrance or taste, markings or how the plant grows. 
    alternatus- leaves grow in an alternate pattern on the stem
    cordatus- heart shapeddentatus- toothed
    erectus- uprightfrutescens- shrubby
    globosus- roundreptans- creeping
    hirsutus- hairypubescens- downy
    fulgens- shinyconcolor- evenly colored
    variegatus- variegatedhumilis- low growing
    minor- smallscandens- climbing
    tortuosus- meanderingverticalis- vertical
    Let's look at a few herb names and see if we can decipher the common name from the Botanical one.
    Artemisia vulgaris- OK, this is in the Artemisia genus, and it is known as the common or "vulgar" one. If you guessed "mugwort", you're right! 
    Mugwort
    Mentha suaveolens- Mint (Mentha), sweet smelling is Apple Mint.
    Apple Mint
    Lavandula dentata- This lavender (Lavandula) has "dentate" or toothed leaves. It's also known as French Lavender
    French or toothed lavender
    Ulmus rubra- Ulmus is the genus for Elm, and rubra means red or reddishSlippery Elm does have sort of reddish bark.
    Slippery Elm
    Anethum graveolens- Anethum is the genus for Dill, and graveolens refers to its strong fragrance.
    dill
    Trifolium pratense- This  time the  Genus also tells us about the plant. Trifoliummeans 3-leavedpratense is from the meadow. It's Red Clover
    red clover

    Picture courtesy of http://www.uwyo.edu/plantsciences/uwplant/forages/legume/red-clover.html
    Pronunciation is sometimes an obstacle to feeling comfortable with botanical names.
    No one wants to embarrass themselves in front of another. Just remember that the names are not Latin, but rather 'latinized.' Most people pronounce latinized words as they speak their own language: just by sounding out the syllables.

    For more on pronounciation of the botanical names of plants, please go here.

    When you learn a little bit about the world of the botanical names of plants, you learn a lot about their characteristics, behavior, time of bloom, leaf markings and more. Don't be afraid of the botanical names of your plants. Learn to read them and know you're learning more about the herbs and plants we love.
    For more information about the botanical names of plants, there is a book called A Gardener's Latin from the Editors of Country Living Gardener Magazine. 

    Book Cover- A Gardener's Latin
    green line

    QUOTE FOR THE MONTH

    A book is a version of the world. If you do not like it, ignore it; or offer your own version in return.
    -Salman Rushdie, writer (b. 1947) 

    green line
    Until Next Time,
    Good Growing to You,
    Cindy Meredith, proprietor
    The Herb Cottage
    442 CR 233
    Hallettsville, TX 77964
    phone & fax: 979-562-2153, cell: 361-258-1192
    email: cindy@theherbcottage.com
    http://theherbcottage.com/
    Visit Cindy's Blog at http://theherbcottage.blogspot.com/

    Sunday, June 29, 2014

    Many benefits of using organic fertilizers.

    The following is from John Ferguson of Nature's Way Resources. It came to me in the newsletter called The Lazy Gardener by Brenda Beust Smith of Houston. You can subscribe to the newsletter and see all the back articles on Organics at natureswayresources.com.


    In visiting with customers this week, the subject of organic fertilizers came up.  The question of "WHY?" came up many times. So I am going to list a few of the reasons WHY?
     
    - Organic fertilizers contain trace minerals which are often critical to plant health and growth and missing in artificial fertilizers.
     
    - Organic fertilizers do not leach out of the soils as compared to water soluble artificial chemical fertilizers.
     
    - Organic fertilizers do not contain harmful salts that contaminate soil and create hardpan as is the case with artificial chemical fertilizers.
     
    - Organic fertilizers last longer in the soil hence are cheaper in the long term (on turf grass only two applications of an organic fertilizer gives better results than 4 applications with an artificial fertilizer).
     
    - Organic fertilizers do not burn the roots of plants.
     
    - Organic fertilizers do not destroy beneficial microorganisms and earthworms.
     
    - Organic fertilizers increase a plant's resistance to disease and insects! (Artificial fertilizers do the opposite which works out nicely for the manufacturers since they sell more insecticide, fungicides and other chemical poisons.  Plants become addicted to the chemicals.)
     
    - Many brands contain Mycorrhizal fungi for plant health
     
    - Organic fertilizers are naturally slow release
     
    - Organic fertilizers contains carbon as an energy source for the microbes
     
    - Organic fertilizers increase microbial diversity
     
    - Organic fertilizers recycles waste products from many industries
     
    - Organic fertilizers build soils humus and improve the soil quality
     
    - Organic fertilizers increase nutrients like Vitamin C content compared  to synthetic nitrogen fertilizers (USDA).
        
    -Organic fertilizers nourish AND improve the soil.  Feeding your plants nothing but nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (artificial fertilizers) is like feeding your children nothing but cookies.  Plants need a balance of nutrients; macro, minor, and trace. 
        
    - Research at Cornell University has shown than corn fertilized with cow manure suffered less corn rootworm damage than control plots fertilized with the same amount of nutrients from synthetic chemical fertilizers. 
       
    - Similar research in Minnesota showed that Alfalfa fertilized with cow manure gave larger yields than control plots fertilized with synthetic chemical fertilizers.  Synthetic fertilizers create weak growth that actually attracts pest insects (remember the example - lace bugs on azaleas).
        
    - Organic fertilizers are easier to use as we are feeding the soil and let the soil feed the plants. When using artificial fertilizers we need many types (hibiscus, azalea, rose, palm tree, violet, lawn, citrus, houseplant, etc.).
     
    SUMMARY:  The advantages are so overwhelming, the real question is "WHY NOT".
     
     
     

    Thursday, June 26, 2014


    Hello!

    It is with sorrow that I'm sending out this notice. This morning, I received a telephone call from Mary Ware. She informed me that her husband Dave died of a heart attack early Wednesday morning. There will be a Memorial Service for him on Tuesday, July 1, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Rockport, Texas. A luncheon will be held at the Church following the service.

     
    First United Methodist Church
    801 E. Main
    Rockport, TX 78382
    361-729-1659
    http://www.fumcrockport.org

    Click on the following for a map:


    I spoke to Mary and she said her daughter and granddaughter are coming in this weekend. I asked her if she needed anything, and she said no, but that if she does, she will not hesitate to contact me.

     
    If you care to send a note of sympathy to Mary, her address is:

    PO Box 1000
    Rockport, TX 78381
    361-790-3346

    If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.


    Linda


    Linda T. Collins
    Rockport Herb & Rose Study Group
    Post Office Box 1988
    Rockport, TX 78381
    361-729-6037 (Land)
    713-582-2268 (Cell)
    361-729-6058 (Fax)

    Saturday, June 7, 2014

    Summer Drinks with Herbs

    With the warm weather on the way and herb gardens beginning to produce lots of those flavorful fresh herbs, it's time to get creative using more of your herbs. Why not create refreshing summer sodas with your herbs? It's as simple as combining some sugar and water, heating the mix until the sugar melts then adding herbs to steep. That's it!
    Here are more detailed instructions:

    Simple Syrup:

    Equal parts sugar and water
    Combine sugar and water, heat and stir to dissolve.
    When sugar has all dissolved, remove pan from heat, cool and store in fridge until needed.

    Herbal Simple Syrup

    After syrup is made, add coarsely chopped or torn herbs and steep until the syrup is cool.
    For a stronger infusion, add more herbs or steep longer.
    Strain, label and store in fridge.


    Basil Simple Syrup
    Picture courtesy of Oh My Veggies Blog- great ideas for using simple syrups

    Summer Herbal Soda:

    Add about 1 tablespoon Herbal Simple Syrup (or to taste) to an 8 ounce glass
    Fill glass with ice and sparkling water, tea or juice. Garnish with herb or a piece of fruit.

    The possibilities are endless. Any herb you like the flavor of can be used.


  • lavender
  • mints, of course
  • lemon herbs: lemon verbena, lemon balm, lemon grass
  • basil of all flavors
  • dill- why not?
  • fennel
  • mexican mint marigold


  • herb barrel

    Think combinations, too:

  • mint, lemon balm
  • basil, mint
  • lemon verbena, ginger mint
  • lavender, mint
  • Add fruit like strawberries or blackberries. Oranges and lemon add a citrus flavor. Use lemon juice and make your own lemonade. Mmmm... lavender lemonade.
    You can make these drinks with plain water and freeze them as popsicles. Try adding chopped fruit for great hot summer afternoon treat for you and the kids!

    For adult popsicles, add rum, vodka or your choice of spirits to the mix before freezing. (They won't freeze as hard if you add too much alcohol.)

    strawberry popsicles
    Strawberry Popsicles


    And, if you're concerned about the sugar, feel free to use honey or agave nectar. You can even use Stevia preparations or fresh or dried Stevia leaves. You won't have the thick syrup-like consistency, but you'll still have a herbal sweetened liquid to use. For adult drinks, try adding gin, vodka or other spirits to the pitcher or glass. Make an herbal wine sprintzer by replacing some of the sparkling water with your favorite wine. For a get-together, make several different herbal syrups and let your guests mix their own beverages, with or without the alcohol.

    Herbal syrups are useful for more than just drinks. Add some to plain, unsweetened yogurt to dress it up. Or, add some to whipped cream for a dessert topping. Spoon some over iced cream. Mix with fruit for a herby fruit salad.

    The uses are limited only by your imagination and creativity. Enjoy your summer with healthy, fresh herbal sodas. Don't keep them just for guests. Store some syrups in your fridge- or freezer- for your own afternoon pick-me-up.

    Here are some recipes to get you started!!
    Strawberry Basil Lemonade

    Strawberry Basil Lemonade
    Peter Ogburn for NPR

  • 1 16-ounce glass
  • 3 strawberries - de-stemmed
  • 5 basil leaves
  • 1.5 ounce Smirnoff Strawberry Vodka- optional
  • 1 ounce Island Oasis Strawberry Puree (or just pureed strawberries)
  • Fill -approximately 4 oz. Lemonade

  • Muddle 3 strawberries - de-stemmed, with the five basil leaves and Smirnoff in a 16-ounce glass.
    Mix Strawberry Vodka, and Island Oasis Strawberry Puree in mixing glass or martini shaker.
    Add ice, shake for 15 seconds and pour into glass.
    Fill with lemonade and stir.
    Garnish with extra strawberry and basil.



    Summer Watermelon Situation

    watermelon
    Picture courtesy of foodclipart.com

  • 8 cups diced watermelon (about 1/2 of a small watermelon), plus slices for garnish
  • 8 ounces lemon vodka, chilled
  • 7 ounces simple syrup, recipe follows
  • 1 (17.5-ounce) can coconut juice
  • 1 lemon
  • Simple Syrup:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water


  • Chill watermelon in the freezer for 30 minutes. Put all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon. Serve very cold in a chilled glass, and garnish with watermelon or lemon slices.

    Blackberry Herb Cocktail

    Yield: Serves 6

    Blackberry Herb Cocktail
    courtesy of 17apart.com

  • 2 cups fresh blackberries
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle Prosecco (Italian sparkling white wine), chilled
  • Garnishes: fresh rosemary sprigs and blackberries


  • Simmer blackberries, sugar, water, and rosemary in a small heavy saucepan, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced by about two thirds, about 20 minutes.
    Pour into a very fine sieve set over a glass measure and let stand 5 minutes (there will be about 1/3 cup). Discard solids (do not press on them). Chill syrup, covered, until cold.
    Divide Prosecco among 6 small flutes, then pour 1 1/2 teaspoons syrup into each drink.

    Cooks' notes: This recipe makes more syrup than you'll need for 6 drinks. Use additional for extra cocktails or stir it into sparkling water or lemonade for delicious nonalcoholic drinks. Syrup keeps, covered and chilled, 3 days.



    Rosemary Ruby Cocktail

    Rosemary Ruby Cocktail
    courtesy of A Cozy Kitchen Prepare Rosemary Simple Syrup
    To a tall glass add:
    1 tablespoon Rosemary Simple Syrup
    Fill glass with ice, add Ruby Red Grapefruit juice and a dash of bitters
    Stir and enjoy!

    Happy Summer
    green line

    QUOTE FOR THE MONTH

    By plucking her petals, you do not gather the beauty of the flower.
    -Rabindranath Tagore, poet, philosopher, author, songwriter, painter, educator, composer, Nobel laureate (1861-1941) 

    green line
    Until Next Time,
    Good Growing to You,
    Cindy Meredith, proprietor
    The Herb Cottage
    442 CR 233
    Hallettsville, TX 77964
    phone & fax: 979-562-2153, cell: 361-258-1192
    email: cindy@theherbcottage.com
    http://theherbcottage.com/
    Visit Cindy's Blog at http://theherbcottage.blogspot.com/

    Thursday, May 15, 2014

    Lemon-y Herbs

    Here is the April 2014 Newsletter from The Herb Cottage

    Lemon-y Herbs for Summer


    Last month I wrote about Lemongrass, so this month I thought I'd continue with the lemon theme and discuss a few other lemony herbs. Lemon flavored herbs are great for summer: they make light and refreshing iced tea, add bright notes to grilled fish and seafood and combine well with salads.

    Here are my favorites!

    Lemon Verbena, Aloysia citrodora


    Lemon Verbena Flowers


    A perennial shrub from 3 to 6 feet tall, Lemon Verbena is also known as Lemon Beebrush due to its attraction to bees when in flower.

    The leaves will freeze and fall off the plant at 32 deg. F, but the wood is said to be hardy to -10 deg. F. Since I don't live where it gets that cold, I have no experience with such low temperatures. I do know, my Lemon Verbena comes back every Spring on the old wood. So, if yours freezes, do not prune the woody stems all the way down. Prune for shape, if you like, but know new leaves will soon populate the old, woody stems.
    In containers, I've found the smaller woody stems to also freeze, but new growth reliably comes from the root system.

    Lemon Verbena can be a bit of a lanky, leggy grower and a bit of Spring pruning can help shape the plant. Left on its own, it's not the most attractive plant in the herb garden. The flavor of Lemon Verbena, however, easily makes up for any lack of physical beauty.

    In the garden in the Southern US, give Lemon Verbena some afternoon shade and it'll be very happy, providing you with lots of leaves for tea and cooking. If you have a bee garden, Lemon Verbena is a good addition. The flowers are very attractive to our little pollinating friends. It makes sprays of white to pinkish flowers. Very attractive in arrangements, too.

    I like to refer to Lemon Verbena as The Queen of Lemon Herbs! It's flavor and scent is most like a real lemon, giving it the ability to make terrific tea, hot or iced. Used in cakes and cookies, it adds a distinct lemon flavor.

    Here's a recipe I found using Lemon Verbena in a muffin recipe with another summer favorite, zucchini:


    Lemon Verbena and Nut Muffins

    2 cups flour
    1/2 cup sugar
    1 Tbsp baking powder
    1 tsp salt
    2 Tbsp grated lemon peel
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1 cup chopped pecans
    2 eggs
    1/2 cup milk
    1/3 cup oil
    1 cup packed shredded zucchini - do not drain
    12 lemon verbena leaves, sliced finely

    Into a large bowl, put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon peel, cinnamon and nuts.
    In another bowl, beat the eggs with a fork, beating in the milk and the oil.
    Add to the flour mix and stir well.
    Then add the zucchini and lemon verbena and stir all together.
    Grease mini-muffin tins and then fill 3/4 full.
    Bake at 400 deg. F for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the tins.
    Test with toothpick.

    Glaze: juice the 2 lemons from above and add enough confectioners sugar to make a thin glaze. While the muffins are still hot, dip the tops in the glaze and set on wire rack to drain.

    Recipe from In the Kitchen at Shale Hill Farm

    Lemon Basil, Ocimum x citriodorum


    Lemon Basil


    Many people don't realize there is more to basil than simply the Italian or Sweet variety that is so popular for Pesto and other cooking applications. There is Lemon, Lime, various red and purple leaved varieties, African of several types, holy basil or Tulsi from India, Cinnamon, Licorice, Thai and more. Lemon and Lime are similar in that they have a soft and fruity aroma and flavor. Lemon Basil is said to be a cross between standard Basil and African Basil.

    Lemon Basil is grown in Northeastern Africa and Southern Asia for culinary purposes. In Laos, it is used in a popular stew called a 'lam' and in Indonesia it is called 'kemangi' and is said to be the only basil used.

    It grows like the other basil types, likes warm weather, lots of sun and is not particularly drought tolerant. The leaves are narrower than the Italian types. It's flowers are white and attractive to bees. As with the other basils, it makes a nice container plant or addition to the herb or flower bed.

    Use Lemon Basil instead of your traditional basil for pesto, either alone or mixed half and half with parsely or even standard basil. Then try it on pasta, to top steamed, roasted or grilled vegetables or in iced tea for a different flavor. Here's an easy Basil Pesto Recipe. which can be adapted by using varied combinations of leafy green herbs such as Lemon Basil, Parsely or even Lime Basil.

    If using chopped Lemon Basil in a dish, add it to the food at the very end of cooking as the flavor cooks out rapidly. Or, simply sprinkle the chopped herb over your dish for a burst of lemony basil flavor. Sauteed Spring or Summer vegetables tossed with Lemon Basil is easy and flavorful to mix with pasta, quinoa or couscous.

    Lemon Thyme, Thymus citriodora



    Variegated Lemon Thyme

    Ah, Lemon Thyme! If you like lemon and savory flavors, then Lemon Thyme is the herb for you. It is so delicious with grilled or steamed vegetables, chicken- stuff it under the skin of a breast portion- and in dips and spreads. Try in with salmon, trout and shrimp.

    Lemon Thyme, a variety of the common thyme, Thymus vulgaris, is a perennial herb in most areas. It comes in a couple of types. There is a green variety then there is the Variegated Lemon Thyme with bright green leaves edged in gold. Both have a bright lemony scent and flavor. Lemon Thyme, like the other thymes, grows low to the ground, needs really good drainage and, in the Southern US, grows best with afternoon shade in the summer. The variegated variety is not as winter hardy as the green-leaf type, but I have no trouble with it in my Zone 8b garden.

    It puts on tiny pink to lavender flowers during the summer that are visited by bees and other pollinators. Thyme is a great container plant because you can give it perfect drainage there and it looks cute cascading over the edge of a pot.

    Lemon Savory, Satureja biflora


    Lemon Savory


    I wrote a rather long newsletter last year on the Satureja, or Savory, family of herbs. Included was this lemony flavored herb known as Lemon Savory. It looks a little like a cross between thyme and an oregano with small rounded leaves. It's very tender- winter hardy only to Zone 11, but is well worth growing in the summer months. It dried well and keeps its flavor, so if you should grow a lot of it, you can preserve it for winter use. I've never seen it sold commercially as a dried herb.

    Like many herbs, it likes lots of sun and like other savories, it's fairly drought tolerant. I grow it easily from seed found at The Thyme Garden, a wonderful nursery located in Oregon. If you have an established plant you can ground layer it to propagate it. That is nothing more than letting a branch or two or three... tound the soil nearby, keeping the soil moist until new roots form where the little branch meets the soil. You can bury a part of the stem and put a rock on it to keep it in the ground or use a bent piece of wire to keep the stem in contact with the soil so the roots can form. Once roots have formed, simply clip the stem the new plant off the mother plant, gently dig it up and replant it where you want it.

    I use Lemon Savory much the same way I use Lemon Thyme, on fish, especially salmon, with shrimp and other seafood. It is a nice addition to a vinaigrette either as a tossed green salad dressing or a marinade. It also pairs well with grilled, sauteed or roasted vegetables and is delicious added to chicken soup or stock. You can add it early in the time, as, unlike Lemon Basil, for instance, it does keep its flavor during cooking.

    Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis



    Lemon Balm


    Lemon Balm is one of those herbs that is found in lots of old herb gardens. It has quite a history of medicinal use and is also used for flavoring food. It is in the mint family and can be a bit of a garden thug if it's happy where it's growing. It grows in a mounded form, but sends out runners like other mints and can end up taking over quite a bit of garden real estate. I would not be without it, however.

    I use it for tea, distill it into a hydrosol that is used to soothe irritated skin, add it to baked goods and let it flower to attract bees.

    The plant is named 'Melissa', which is Greek for honey, due to its sweet aroma. 'Officinalis' is the medicinal designation for a plant, meaning it is the one traditionally used in herbal healing. It makes a soothing tea which will settle an upset stomach. It blends well with other tea herbs such as peppermint, hibiscus and green tea.

    Here is more information on Lemon Balm

    Here in the Southern US and especially in South Texas, Lemon Balm likes more shade than sun. In more temperate areas, it can be grown in a sunny spot. It's not particular about soil conditions and can take heavier, less porous soil than some of the other herbs. It flowers in late summer here. After the flowers fade, I trim the plant down quite a bit... at least by half. By then, the leaves are looking sort of ratty due to the high heat of summer and the plant looks better after a pruning. As the summer wanes, new growth is put on and by fall there is lots of fresh, new growth ready for harvest.

    Lemon Balm Quick Bread

    3/4 cup sugar
    8 tablespoons butter
    1/4 cup lemon balm leaves, finely chopped
    2 large eggs
    1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup milk
    grated rind of one lemon

    Grate the lemon peel and remove the juice from the lemon. Reserve the juice for the glaze.
    Cream butter, sugar, and finely chopped leaves.
    Add eggs and beat well to get a smooth consistency.
    Add remaining ingredients (flour through lemon rind).
    Pour into one large or four miniature greased loaf pans.
    Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes if using a large pan or 25-30 minutes if using miniature pans.
    Before removing from the pans, use a toothpick to prick holes in the crust.
    Pour Lemon Balm Glaze over the top while the loaves are still warm.
    Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan. Loaves can be frozen for later use.


    LEMON BALM GLAZE

    1/2 cup sugar
    2 tablespoons finely chopped lemon balm leaves
    juice from one fresh lemon (about 4 tablespoons)


    ~~TIP: To avoid having bits of chopped herbs in the bread, steep the chopped leaves in the liquid for a half an hour or so. If you heat the liquid first, then add the herbs, the flavor develops more fully. This liquid can then be stored in the refrigerator for later use, or used right away in the recipe



    Here is a PDF of the recipe you can print out.


    Lemon Balm Beginning to Flower


    I hope this Newsletter has given you some inspiration to grow and try some of the fresh, flavorful, refreshing Lemon-y Herbs that are out there for you. A cold glass of iced tea on a hot afternoon is a great way to start using these lemon-y herbs.


    QUOTE FOR THE MONTH

    Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.
    -- Nathaniel Hawthorne, American author


    Until Next Time,
    Good Growing to You,
    Cindy Meredith, proprietor
    The Herb Cottage
    442 CR 233
    Hallettsville, TX 77964
    phone & fax: 979-562-2153, cell: 361-258-1192
    email: cindy@theherbcottage.com
    http://theherbcottage.com/
    Visit Cindy's Blog at http://theherbcottage.blogspot.com/