Sage — This herb gives savory flavor to sausages and stuffings, either by itself or in combination with other herbs. To amaze your friends at dinner parties, pick a handful of the thick, fleshy leaves and fry them to crispness in olive oil, then sprinkle them with sea salt. Much better than potato chips as a snack.
Among gardeners, it’s a well-known supposition that herbs flourish best in impoverished soil: dry, sandy, and well-drained. In the heat of the summer, herbs almost ooze the oil that carries their flavor and scent. Yet, during this rainy season, the herbs at the 6th & B Garden in the East Village have prospered as never before, sprawling across the plots, producing a biomass far in excess of normal. Yes, these herbs are somewhat less pungent than when growing in the heat of the summer, but that means you can use them in salads in addition to the usual applications. Here is a gallery of herbs found in the garden now.
Peppermint — The mint (small serrated leaves in the picture) shoots up long, lavender flowers. Don’t discard the flowers! These have a strong and slightly different flavor than the leaves, and make a nice addition to salads. While most use it to make iced tea or juleps, the mint can also be used in pestos, and to make various other Italian salsa verdes.
Flowering chives — Beloved of Chinese cooks, this herb (actually, an entire class of herbs) can be used in stir-fries, or as stuffing for meat, poultry, or fish. Steamed with a little sesame or olive oil, the chives make a fine side dish by themselves.
Lemon balm — Said to have healing properties, this herb in the mint family smells like lemon more than it tastes like it. It can make a fine addition to salads or teas, or — as the name says — can be macerated to make a soothing balm for insect stings or sunburns.
Basil — Once again, the flowers are the most potent part of this anise-y smelling herb, and, crumbled over pasta or fresh mozzarella with olive oil, make all the dressing you ever need.
Curly parsley — Once provided on the side of the plate almost universally in restaurants as a breath freshener (you were supposed to chew it after the meal), curly parsley is strongly flavored, and a little goes a long way. Salads or pestos are its best use, or sparingly in meat and poultry stuffings. Or try stuffing a big zucchini with rice and chopped-up curly parsley.
Lavender — Identifiable by its lovely lavender flowers and sawtooth leaves, lavender is more fragrant than it is tasty, and cooking applications are sometimes hard to find. Yet it is indispensable in the bouquet garni of France, is great stuffed in a sachet and hidden in your underwear drawer, and can be sparingly used in flans, ice creams, and other sweet applications.
Thyme — After a rainfall, thyme becomes the densest of herbs, and also one of the most pungent. Typical uses include savory stews and soups, and why not dry a handful for the winter? Much better than the jarred variety in stores.
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