Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Basil Ocimum basilicum: Growing and Using Tips

Cindy Meredith was asked by Growing Basil to give a few growing hints for basil Ocimum basilicum.

Here is Cindy's response to "7 Expert Basil Growing Tips":

5. The Herb Cottage http://theherbcottage.com

The Herb Cottage is a great source for information about herb growing and gardening.

Cindy Meredith, it’s herb enthusiast, gave us some wonderful tips:

Q: Do you have any tips or suggestions to give beginners who are looking to grow basil for the first time?

Basil likes water, so make sure to keep it well watered. To keep your basil producing longer, harvest the leaves regularly. To harvest, cut or pinch a section of the stem then remove the leaves to use.

Q: When you’re not growing herbs.. what do you like to spend your time doing?

For relaxation, I read and solve crossword puzzles. I work in my garden, too.

Q: Have you got a favourite basil recipe?

One of my favorite ways to use basil is on sliced tomatoes. Slice tomatoes, homegrown are best, of course, drizzle with a little olive oil, add a dash of salt and pepper, then chop up some sweet basil and sprinkle on the tomatoes. Yum!

Q: Apart from Basil.. what is your favourite herb?

Rosemary, definitely. It has such a great flavor on potatoes, with chicken, pork, salmon. And, it’s so easy to grow here in Texas. It makes a great landscape plant, too.

Check out Cindy’s highly informative webpage on basil:


And here is more information about basil provided by the British Herb Society.

And here is one of my favorite basil recipes!

--4 cups (8 to 10) tomatoes chopped or 4 cups canned whole tomatoes
--4 cups tomato juice or V-8 juice (you can use spicy if you like a little heat)
--1/4 cup finely cut sweet yellow onion
--2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
--12-14 washed & dried basil leaves, chiffonade
--1 cup heavy whipping cream
--1/2 cup butter (1 whole stick)
--Kosher Salt
--Freshly ground white & black Pepper

Combine tomatoes, juice, onion and garlic in a large pan and simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Add basil, cream and butter and continue to heat over low heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve with hot crusty French bread. Enjoy!

Great Gardening!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Don't Like Cilantro? The NYTimes explains why.

Cilantro Haters, It’s Not Your Fault

......Culinary sophistication is no guarantee of immunity from cilantrophobia. In a television interview in 2002, Larry King asked Julia Child which foods she hated. She responded: “Cilantro and arugula I don’t like at all. They’re both green herbs, they have kind of a dead taste to me.”
“So you would never order it?” Mr. King asked.
“Never,” she responded. “I would pick it out if I saw it and throw it on the floor.”
Ms. Child had plenty of company for her feelings about cilantro (arugula seems to be less offensive). The authoritative Oxford Companion to Food notes that the word “coriander” is said to derive from the Greek word for bedbug, that cilantro aroma “has been compared with the smell of bug-infested bedclothes” and that “Europeans often have difficulty in overcoming their initial aversion to this smell.” There’s an “I Hate Cilantro” Facebook page with hundreds of fans and an I Hate Cilantro blog.
Yet cilantro is happily consumed by many millions of people around the world, particularly in Asia and Latin America. The Portuguese put fistfuls into soups. What is it about cilantro that makes it so unpleasant for people in cultures that don’t much use it?
Some people may be genetically predisposed to dislike cilantro, according to often-cited studies by Charles J. Wysocki of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. But cilantrophobe genetics remain little known and aren’t under systematic investigation. Meanwhile, history, chemistry and neurology have been adding some valuable pieces to the puzzle.....
This is only part of the whole article, go here to read it all.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dee Gonzales and Go Texan

Dee Gonzales with Go Texan was very helpful with our 6th Rockport Herb Festival. And next year, Dee and Go Texan are going to help us even more! YEA! Thank you Dee and Go Texan!

Here are some of their publications that you might find interesting:

Restaurants and Food Events

Recipes and Cooking Tips

Go Texan Herbs

Olive Oil Recipes

Growing Olives in Texas

Starting a Vineyard in Texas

And check out their website for lots of great information!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

CANCELLED! Field Trip to the Herb Cottage!

Hey Herbies!

Well, Ruth has been, and still is sick! I'm getting a sore throat too. And since only 4 of us were signed up to go to The Herb Cottage tomorrow, we (Ruth, Cindy and I) decided to cancel our field trip for tomorrow. Cindy will come to Rockport next Wednesday, April 21 to pick up the left-over herbs which I am babysitting. If you know anyone else that wants some, they will be here until next Wednesday. If anyone wants to meet us for a "Dutch-treat lunch" (Is it socially acceptable to say that?) on Wednesday, let us know and we will let you know when and where.

Thanks for everyone's help with the 6th Rockport Herb Festival!


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wildflowers - what a show!

Yesterday Dick took me on a ride to see wildflowers.  They were beautiful.
On the entrance grounds of the old mission in Goliad the indigo spires (SAGE Salvia longespicata x farinacea) were in abundance.
On a ride through the state park we saw red phlox. (Phlox drummondii)

Then while driving towards Woodsboro we saw a fantastic field of pink buttercups.
(Oenothera speciosa).

I'm really looking forward to what we will see on our way to the Herb Cottage on Wednesday.

My Herbs are planted

At Last!!! My herbs I bought at the festival are in the ground.  I have been ill with a cold, allergies, or all of the above for the past week.  I put the tomatoes in the ground on Friday when I had a spell of feeling almost normal.  This morning I am sure I am better so I got the basils, oreganos and the one rosemary into the ground.  Little Stevia is waiting for me to decide whether he goes in a pot or the ground.  I am thinking of using an old fashioned urn I have around here. Any suggestions?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Grow an Olive Tree

I couldn't sleep very well early this morning, so I got up very early and started doing some research on the Internet.

I went to the Houston Chronicle website and found all kinds a great information about herbs and gardening in general under their Houston Grows section. Two articles that I found of interest were A new Texas oil rush and Making the most of that green-gold goodness, both of which talk about growing olives Olea europaea L. in Texas.

If you aren't already growing at least one olive tree here in Texas, then you need to think about doing so. I found this article Growing Olives in Texas Gardens by George Ray McEachern and Larry A. Stein, Extension Horticulturists, Texas A & M University with lots of good information on olive growing. They state the following important information about olives:

"The olive should not be confused with the Russian-olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) or the Anacahuita (Cordia boissieri), which is sometimes called the Texas or Mexican Olive. Both of these plants belong to different botanical families. The olive, however, is related to the Desert Olive (Forestiera sp.) and the American Wild-Olive (Osmanthus sp.). The fruits of these two "olives" are not edible."

Here is information about the Texas Olive Oil Council.

I planted an olive tree in my yard about two years ago, and it is doing great, even with our freezes this past winter. So give it a try. I think it is fun to grow things in my yard that "aren't suppose to grow here."

Here are a couple of olive and olive oil recipes for you to try!


4 slices French bread, sliced ½ inch thick
2 tomatoes, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, either finely chopped or minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, EVOO
2 tablespoons fresh basil, can be either finely chopped or chiffonade
1 tablespoon fresh chives, either onion or garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh oregano finely chopped
Freshly ground pepper and kosher salt to taste
Parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients except bread in a small bowl and chill.

Brush bread with olive oil on one side; grill oiled side down until golden brown; then turn and continue to grill oiled side of bread.

Place oiled side of bread down on a serving plate and top with the remaining ingredients. Top with Parmesan cheese. Can garnish with whole fresh basil leaves.

*Bruschetta[broo-SKEH-tah, broo-SHEH-tah]
From the Italian bruscare meaning "to roast over coals," this traditional garlic bread is made by rubbing slices of toasted bread with garlic cloves, then drizzling the bread with extra-virgin olive oil. The bread is salted and peppered, then heated and served warm.

Pulpeta (Cuban Meat Loaf)

3/4 lb. ground beef
1/4 lb. cooked ham (ground)
4 eggs
3 boiled eggs
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 3/4 cups cracker meal
20 olives w/ pimiento
2 tbsp olive oil

Mix the beef and ham together and add two beaten eggs, salt pepper, oregano, cumin, garlic and onion. Mix well, add enough cracker meal to make the meat hold its shape (3/4 a cup or so), and form the mixture into a large loaf.

Open the loaf by cutting it across. Place the three hard boiled eggs down the center and line the olives on both sides of them. Close the loaf tightly, roll the loaf in the other two beaten eggs and then the cracker meal three times until all the cracker meal has been used. In a large skillet, brown the loaf in the heated oil. Its suggested that you try to brown the ends of the loaf first.

After the loaf is browned, begin prepared the salsa (sauce). Pour the sauce over the loaf and simmer for about 45 minutes, turning it once or twice (or bake in an oven at 350 degrees). After the loaf is well done, remove from the heat and allow to cool before slicing.

To make the sauce for the meat loaf, combine:

1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp ground bay leaves
2 tbsp tomato sauce
1/2 cup white wine

Mix well
Serves 4-6

From Texas Monthly July 2000
Lapin aux Olives Vertes or Rabbit With Green Olives
“Franco File” recipe from Café Perrier, Houston

1 fresh rabbit (2 to 3 pounds) or chicken, cut into 7 or 8 pieces *Can use Chicken rather than Rabbit.
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon flour
2 1/2 cups dry white wine
4 tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded, and chopped
2 bay leaves, preferably imported
3 tablespoons minced fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, and parsley
1 generous cup pitted green olives, preferably imported

Season rabbit pieces liberally with salt and pepper. In a deep, nonreactive skillet (preferably not nonstick) large enough to hold rabbit pieces without crowding, heat oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot but not smoking, add rabbit and cook until golden brown, 10 to 20 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add onions to fat and liquid in pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle on flour and cook, stirring, until liquid becomes a thick paste. Slowly stir in wine. Add rabbit and remaining ingredients. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until rabbit is cooked through, about 20 minutes. (This dish may be cooked longer, if desired, and may also be prepared ahead and reheated.) Rosemary potatoes make a nice accompaniment. One rabbit serves 2, one chicken serves 2 to 4.

*Can use Chicken rather than Rabbit.

Photos courtesy of Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Serves 6 to 8
Difficulty Easy - for beginners
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cooking Time 30 to 40 minutes

1 ½ pounds small new potatoes or can slice or dice up larger potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil and/or butter or a mixture of the two
4 cloves freshly chopped garlic (can be adjusted to taste)
½ cup finely chopped sweet yellow onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 strips bacon
*Shredded cheddar cheese (about 1 cup)

Pierce potatoes with a fork. Fry the bacon until all the fat is rendered out. Remove the bacon drain on a paper towel. In the bacon drippings, sauté the onions, garlic and potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and rosemary. Cover and cook potatoes until almost tender, about 30 to 40 minutes or until very tender and brown. Crumble cooked bacon and sprinkle on top of potatoes.

*Can add the cheddar cheese and cook another 5 minutes.

Or instead of cooking this on top of the stove, it can be baked in the oven at 400° for 30 to 40 minutes.

Places to get organic gardening supplies!

On Facebook, Buchanan's in Houston has a suggestion for getting rid of slugs and snails in your garden! Check out Buchanan's Native Plants, or in case you don't have a Facebook account it suggests the following:

Our herb specialist, suggests SLUGGO pellets. You can sprinkle them around veggies and herbs. Slugs and snails eat them and die from iron poisoning (iron phosphate is the primary ingredient). But we sure like the friendly anole suggestion!

Photo by Linda Turner Collins

So if you are in the Houston area, be sure to check out Buchanan's Native Plants, and if you are in the Rockport area, be sure to check out Moore Than Feed. They have a really good gardening section with lots of organic supplies!

And here are some websites to check out for organic gardening supplies:

If you are in the Victoria area, be sure to check out Earthworks nursery "the natural gardening center", began 13 years ago as a "mom and pop" retail nursery. The first year or two of business, with our organic philosophy, we were the different ones in the garden business. Times have changed. The natural way of gardening is very much the way of the future, once again.

And in Austin you can check out Garden-Ville and Lady Bug.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pictures, we have pictures.

                  Here's where we were.
                            Please sign our guest book.
                      Ellen Zimmerman teaches us about women's herbal health.
                                        Browsing the hall.
The Master Gardener's explain what they do.

These are Herbies who are also Master Gardeners selling herbs for our group. Looks like they were enjoying their job.
Pat Baugh is selling tea towels to Sue Weir and my daughter-in-law.
                                                  Mary Ware's wares.
            At the welcome table again.  We greeted about 475 herb lovers.
                                             Everyone loves lavender.
              This is what we came for. And a good time was had by all.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Chef Kevin Argentsinger's Recipes

For those of you that attended the 6th Rockport Herb Festival, here are Chef Kevin Argentsinger's cooking demonstration recipes. Enjoy!
Chef Kevin Argentsinger's Recipes

1 - 9 oz Bag of Baby Spinach Leaves
1 - qt Heavy Whipping Cream
2 - tbs Knorr Caldo de Tomate con Sabor de Pollo
Salt to taste and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Pour heavy whipping cream and Knorr into a medium saucepan. Heat cream until it comes to a steam. Salt and Pepper to taste. Put spinach leaves in the steaming cream until slightly wilted. Take wilted spinach out of cream and let drain, serve.

1 - whole Pineapple cored peeled and diced in small chunks
6 - whole ears of Sweet Corn cut off the cob
1 - Pint Whole grape Tomatoes cut into small peaces
1 - Bunch of Cilantro diced
Juice of Limes to taste
Chipotle pepper spice

Take corn and tomatoes combine in a bowl and Chipotle pepper spice, salt, and sugar to taste. Roast in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until roasted let cool. In a large bowl combine everything and mix well. Taste and adjust.

1 cup of white rice
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sliced almonds
4 tbs butter
Salt to taste

Melt butter in a saucepan add almonds when lightly browned add rice stir until roasted brown. Add chicken broth, bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for 25 minutes then fluff with a fork.

Brine Chicken
1 gallon cold water
1/2 cup kosher salt (reduce to 1/4 cup if using regular table salt.)
2/3 cup light brown sugar

Mix brine together well with a whisk. Place 1 whole chicken (thawed or frozen-You may also use chicken parts.) in brine for 2 hours up to overnight. Cover and store in the refrigerator.

Cook Chicken
1 Brined skin on boneless chicken breast
1 sprig pineapple sage fine diced
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary

Spice Blend
1 part salt
1 part fresh ground pepper
1 part chipotle pepper powder
1 part diced onion flakes
1 part diced garlic flakes

Coat chicken with some of the oil. Rub chicken with spice blend. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a sauté pan until just before smoking. Put chicken in skin side down until nice and crispy brown. Turn over to seal chicken. Take out of oil and place on a baking pan. Put in oven until chicken reaches an internal temp of 165 degrees. Take out and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.