becoming gourmet

a light hearted chronicle of my culinary ideas and adventures

Happy Earth Day!


I’ll admit it. I have been nothing short of obsessed with my herb garden this spring.  Mother Nature has been showing off the past couple weeks, and my perennials, experiments, and transplants are in heaven.  Here are a few of my favorites right now:

Hot and Spicy Oregano (perennial):  I couldn’t resist trying this little number when I was looking for an oregano specimen to plant in my garden.  It has that signature Italian flavor with a tiny kick of spice.  The first year I put it in, it was a little scraggly, but a few years later it has spread out to about 6 feet long by 2 feet wide.  Just a couple weeks ago it was maintaining its winter hair cut at ground level, now it’s about a foot high!  Foodie uses:  whole leaves are great surprise in salads.  A delicious finish to pizzas and pastas.

Bay Laurel (evergreen tree):  While I didn’t have enough space to trade in my full sun spots for a bay tree in my garden, I had a dream that I would have fresh bay leaves from my own tree after taking cooking lessons at the Culinary Institute of America.  We harvested leaves as needed from a large tree just outside their kitchens.  I grow mine in a pot on the deck.   It’s been a little thin for the two years I’ve had it, but it has a number of new blooms that popped out in the last week (lighter green leaves).   Foodie uses:  Use to flavor soups and sauces, fishing the leaves out before serving or storing.  My favorite beefy BBQ steak sauce uses them minced up!

Chervil (annual):  A month or so ago, I tucked a couple tiny chervil plants into a open pot on my deck (so as not to tempt the deer in my main garden).  It’s sometimes referred to as French parsley.   If you know what Italian parsley is, chervil’s leaves are a little smaller and more delicate than that with a slight licorice flavor.   It started growing like crazy the last few weeks.  I would have moved the pot to give it more room, but it seems to love the cool shade on this pot rack.  Foodie uses:  A great finish to dishes you might use parsley for.  Extra yummy over perfectly cooked scrambled eggs.

And now for updates on my science experiments … I have been reading up on foods you can regrow from kitchen scraps.   I have results on celery, green onions, and carrots so far.

Celery (biennial):  Cut off the bottom couple inches of a celery stalk you buy at the store.  Instead of throwing it out, plant it!  I put mine flush with the soil.  After a few weeks, celery leaves have started poking through, and the plant is widening.  I read that celery loves a lot of water, so I planted strategically, and it’s helping me balance out this wine barrel planter that tends to pool water on the bottom level!

Green onions and carrots:  I have also read that you can regrow green onions and carrots from the parts you would normally throw away (the hairy root end of the green onion and the top of a carrot).   Instead of heading to the compost bin or landfill, why not try to regrow them?  Here’s my barrel with green onions in the back and carrots in the front.  After a couple weeks, I can see the onions are turning into something I can use.  The carrot tops are starting to sprout too, so I’m hopeful a lil’ carrot is doing it’s thing underground :)

OK, back to the garden.  Bye for now!

posted under Foodie Chatter
2 Comments to

“Happy Earth Day!”

  1. Avatar April 26th, 2012 at 6:47 pm yankeedog Says:

    Yeah, those plants are really taking off!

    Nat, how much usable oregano can you cull from a patch like the one you have? Is it enough for a year’s use? Is it possible to grow enough of various herbs/spices to be self-sufficient given a decent-sized patch?

  2. Avatar April 27th, 2012 at 6:43 pm admin Says:

    Oh my! This oregano plant gives more than I could ever think to use. I haven’t even tested out drying yet because it’s almost always producing fresh out here in Cali. About 9 months out of the year, I am pretty self-sufficient on my herbs except for the deer stealing my Italian parsley. Even though my garden is all spread out given the landscaped look I’m going for, containers or a small plot would cover it for a single family. Plan for some lower maintenance perennials like rosemary, chives, and thyme to swap in for herbs that are more seasonal/persnickety. Herbs like dill and cilantro give you their goods for a short window, then shoot to flowers and stop giving the leaves, so you have to keep throwing seed down every few weeks in summer to make sure you always have young plants in the mix. Basil doesn’t shine until summer hits, so I substitute with my other fresh herbs everywhere I need to. To me, it *can* be replaced in almost everything but pesto, but when basil is in season, there’s nothing like it!

    Note that when herbs are picked fresh, many also store well in a glass with water. Basil plucked from your plant can sit in a glass of water on the counter and last for another month (it even starts to root in the glass). In the meantime your plants outside start generating new bounty. Just make sure to remove the bottom leaves so the water doesn’t get ‘icky’ :)

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