Browsing articles tagged with " basil"
Aug 7, 2013
Mark Hutton

Turn Your Fire Escape into an Herb Garden!

We would like to let you in on a little secret: adding fresh herbs to a dish, whether as a distinct flavor or a garnish, is one of the easiest ways to immensely improve your food. Maybe you already knew this, but a friendly reminder never hurts!

However, space in NYC is extremely limited. The prospect of growing your own herb garden may seem merely impossible. But we assure you, it isn’t. As a matter of fact, growing your own herbs doesn’t take too much space at all, and the easy gardening reaps in benefits.  

Good old New York City fire escapes and windowsills offer plenty of unused space on which to grow delicious things!  Fire safety rules make it illegal to store things on a fire escape so be sure to get a planter that will hook onto the ledge and hang outwards toward the street. Planters can be found at most hardware stores or sustainable good shops in Manhattan.  

Start from seeds or pre-sprouted plants. We prefer to start with already sprouting plants, which can be purchased for a very reasonable price at local greenmarkets.  At the beginning of the spring, we purchased two types of basil (regular and Thai), as well as a mint plant to grow outside in a plant box.  Almost overnight, bright green leaves started springing out of the stems, and could be picked instantly to add an extra layer of flavor to our summer cooking.

Watering the herbs is the only work they require; we set an alarm  to remind us to check on the plants every couple of days. If you make a mistake and neglect them, causing them to dry up, don’t panic! Merely take off any dead parts of the plant, water it, and if the environment is sunny enough, the plant will spring back to life in just a matter of days. 

To harvest the herbs, make sure to pick the leaves from the top first, as these are the oldest and the bottom leaves will grow up to replenish the stock.  Use your hands! Metal kitchen scissors can cause the plants to oxidize and lose flavor. Also, remember to wash the leaves well before using them—this is New York City, after all.

When the plants are full of leaves, be sure to harvest the herbs to make room for new leaves to grow. If you can’t use them all at once, you can freeze them in an ice tray with olive oil for easy cooking.  We like to use basil and mint to make simple syrups to add to cocktails and coffee, for a fresh summer flare.  Boil one cup water with herb leaves, stir in sugar until it dissolves, and strain out the leaves.  The herbal syrup keeps for a month in the refrigerator. The herbs can also be used as a garnish; a quick chiffonade with a sharp knife and a sprinkling of these herbs truly makes any homemade (or takeout!) meal more elegant and flavorful.  

Homegrown fresh herbs also make an excellent (not to mention inexpensive) gift for hosts or visitors.  You can pick them and store them in a mason jar or tie a bunch with a ribbon.  City folk will be impressed that you grew something in the concrete jungle! 

 

Aug 1, 2013
Mark Hutton

5 Flavored Sugars from Your Herb Garden


Basil Sugar by Cupcake Project – photo by J. Pollack Photography; Mint Leaves by Two Tarts

(Herb Sugar Collage)

Herb sugars are simple to make and are a unique way to use fresh herbs from your garden. Once you’ve created your herb sugars, you can use them to flavor a host of sweet and savory dishes.  I’ve shared suggestions below for five different herb sugars and how food bloggers are using them. But, don’t stop with the herbs and recipes featured here; go ahead and experiment with all the herbs in your garden—there are so many possibilities!

1. Mint Sugar by Two Tarts (shown above, right): Two Tarts uses mint sugar as a condiment for citrus salad and to rim a cocktail glass. I love that the cocktail has a green rim without using food coloring!  

2. Basil Sugar by Cupcake Project (shown above, left): I substitute basil sugar for plain sugar to create summery strawberry basil cupcakes.

3. Rosemary Sugar by Tartelette: I bet you can guess what dessert Tartelette uses her rosemary sugar in. She adds it to a tartelette, of course. The rosemary sugar adds earthiness to white peach tartelettes.

4. Cilantro Sugar by Brownies for Dinner: Watermelon tomato salad is sweetened up just a touch when Brownies for Dinner adds cilantro sugar to it.

5. Lavender Sugar by Joy the Baker: Joy adds lavender sugar to her coffee to make it extra special. Lavender sugar used in place of regular sugar also yields an elegant sugar cookie.

Which herb will you start with?

Jul 24, 2013
Mark Hutton

Gather inspiration at the Devonian Botanic culinary herb garden

 Gather inspiration at the Devonian Botanic culinary herb garden I spent some time last week at the gorgeous research gardens owned by the University of Alberta while on assignment at the Birch Patio. One of the master gardeners at the garden, Justine Jenkins-Crumb (at right), gave me a quick tour of the culinary herbs, which made me want to rush out and get a plot or pot of my own, just so I could dream of sorrel, chicory,  French tarragon and the other hundred or so varieties of herbs in the garden.

Though the Devonian Botanic Garden doesn’t sell its produce to the public, the Birch Patio, run by Edmonton chef Nate Box, uses many of the fresh herbs daily in its preparations. But at this time of the year, anybody can get lots of fresh herbs at a variety of farmers markets, and there is nothing like a handful of fresh mint, lovage (which tastes like celery) or basil to make a salad feel and taste exotic to our winter-hardened palates.

If you are tempted to do an herb garden or pot of herbs on your balcony, Jenkins-Crumb recommends a number of varieties that do well in our climate. Parsley and dill are great in containers, as is savoury, which can be sown right in the pot. For transplants, think sage, basil or thyme.

“(Herbs) love the sun and the heat and they require almost no time (to care for),” says Jenkins-Crumb.

Jul 11, 2013
Mark Hutton

Brownie Troop 40593 visits new community herb garden in Cranford

 

Cranford Brownie Troop 40593 recently visited the new community herb garden at Hanson Park in Cranford and took part in a free seed planting event sponsored by Senior Scouts Amber Bretz, Julia LoGiudice, and Natalie Schindlerof Troop 40334.

As part of their Silver Award project, Amber, Julia and Natalie planted the community herb garden and hosted an event for younger scouts to learn about different herbs.

Each younger scout then decorated two biodegradable seed pots and planted basil and parsley seeds to bring home to start their own herb gardens.

The girls will be hosting a community harvest day later this summer at the garden.

Jul 3, 2013
Mark Hutton

Brownie Troop 40593 visits new community herb garden in Cranford – Cranford Chronicle

 

Cranford Brownie Troop 40593 recently visited the new community herb garden at Hanson Park in Cranford and took part in a free seed planting event sponsored by Senior Scouts Amber Bretz, Julia LoGiudice, and Natalie Schindlerof Troop 40334.

As part of their Silver Award project, Amber, Julia and Natalie planted the community herb garden and hosted an event for younger scouts to learn about different herbs.

Each younger scout then decorated two biodegradable seed pots and planted basil and parsley seeds to bring home to start their own herb gardens.

The girls will be hosting a community harvest day later this summer at the garden.

May 10, 2013
Mark Hutton

How to get the most out of your container herb garden

Beautiful, delicious, aromatic and self-sufficient, herbs represent a form of perfection in the garden.

Culinary herbs are singularly suited to growing in pots and other containers — they love a dry, airy perch. People love them, too: You can position a potted herb garden almost anywhere with a bit of sunlight, on a breezeway, a balcony, a front stoop or a back patio. The only criterion, other than sunlight, is that it be handy, so you can snip what you need for the kitchen. Herbs love to be trimmed; they respond by growing bushier.

May is the month for assembling your herbs. The weather is warm enough, finally, to please heat seekers, such as basil and lemongrass, and to coax mint into life for Kentucky Derby juleps.

And if I haven’t quite conveyed how easy, inexpensive and foolproof it is to grow herbs in pots, and how badly I want you to do this, let me just say: GROW HERBS IN POTS.

Here’s how to do it:

 

Containers

The larger the container, the better. A greater volume of soil moderates root temperatures, retains moisture and allows room for crowded herbs to grow. A 14-inch-diameter pot is ideal for housing four to six herbs, don’t go with anything smaller. Forms, colors and materials vary widely.

If you are on a budget, a simple plastic or basic clay pot costing a few dollars will work. If you have deeper pockets and want to make more of a design statement, you can find glazed ceramic pots for about $30 to $60, smart terra cotta pots from $40 to $100, and high-design concrete or resin pots for as much as $200 or more. Metal containers can look stylish, but they can get uncomfortably hot in summer, as can black or dark-hued pottery.

All pots must drain freely, so make sure they have at least one drainage hole. Decorative “feet” — three to a pot — are cheap and can make a vital difference in preventing waterlogged roots, especially if the pot sits directly on concrete or stone paving.

A grouping of pots can provide a focal point and expand your range of herbs, but avoid lots of little pots. Three beefy pots of different diameters and heights can look great, define a corner of a patio, or visually lighten corners and walls.

 

Soil

No potted plant will thrive in poor, dense soil. Don’t use garden soil or stuff left over from last year’s pots. The classic general purpose potting soil is a peat-based mixture with perlite and limestone, often with compost and vermiculite added. You can make your own or buy bags that are ready-made. For herbs, particularly Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary and lavender, some gardeners like to add some gravel or chicken grit to the mix to aid drainage. Adding sand might not help so much.

 

Planting combinations

In creating any effective container garden, the pros give plants three distinct roles: as an upright accent, as a lower-growing mound and as a trailing plant. They are known in the trade as “thrillers, fillers and spillers.” The same principle applies to potted herb gardens.

We asked Adam Pyle, horticulturist at the U.S. Botanic Garden, for some of his favorite herb combinations:

— Decorative Mediterranean

In a stylish square-topped clay planter, he placed four plants: an upright rosemary, rue, a silver-leafed curry plant (Helichrysum italicum) and a variety of oregano named Kent Beauty.

— Floral twist

In a blue glazed pot, Pyle assembled a lot of curly parsley, which flopped and functioned as both filler and spiller. For height he used the feathery bronze fennel alongside a small-leafed and variegated form of basil named Pesto Perpetuo. To provide some visual punch, he added two annuals with edible blooms: Nasturtium (whose peppery leaves also spice up a salad) and a common marigold. Another group of marigolds, called Signet marigolds, have finer leaves and flowers and are well suited to the herb container.

— Standard herb combo

In a green ceramic pot, Pyle selected five herbs that tolerate moisture (with adequate drainage). As a thriller, he put in a small bell pepper plant. His was unnamed, but I suggest a diminutive and fruitful sweet bell pepper named Golden Baby Belle. He added dill (variety Bouquet), which is a cool-season herb. Once it flags in the heat of early summer, you could replace it with a scented geranium. He added a red-leafed basil variety and a nasturtium from a group called Alaska, which are more heat-tolerant than other nasturtiums. He finished the ensemble with a trailing common oregano named Hot and Spicy.

— Culinary Mediterranean

Pyle likes to put dry-loving Mediterranean herbs in clay pots, which are porous and wick moisture from the soil more rapidly than other types of containers. He also adds extra drainage by placing gravel or other small stones at the base of the pot, incorporating chicken grit into the soil and topping it off with a mulch of small pebbles. You could use washed pea gravel. Pyle employs an expanded glass product named Growstone.

In this recipe, he used rue (not used much as a culinary herb, but with a lovely blue-green fine texture), a novel variety of chives named Cha-Cha, silver santolina, the English lavender Hidcote, compact with indigo blooms, and a caraway-scented thyme, noted for its caraway flavor, fine texture and rot resistance.

— Perennial herb combo

This is my recipe for herbs that are winter-hardy and will give several years of service. It’s worth noting that most herbs are short-lived plants, especially in pots, and should be replaced after three years or so. Plant these in a frost-resistant container (not standard terra cotta) and remember to move the pot to a sheltered location in the winter. This will protect the pot from freeze damage and nurture the herbs. (A pot is a colder environment than a garden bed.)

I have suggested five herbs: The twist is to use rosemary as the spiller by selecting a trailing type such as Prostratus. For the thriller, use a lavender — English or French lavandin type — and fill in with hardy sweet marjoram and lemon thyme, the latter a yellow variegated thyme with citrusy oils. Finish the medley with a clump of chives.

May 7, 2013
Mark Hutton

Mid-Michigan residents delight in seasonal herb garden growing

For example, Breedlove said, mint and oregano can be invasive, and can take over an entire garden. Those herbs should be confined to a special spot, or grown in a pot.

Basil can only be grown when it’s warm.

“They all have different qualities or habits,” he said.

Potted herbs are an easy starting point, he said.

Breedlove said Pleasant Thyme sells basil, rosemary, chives, mint, thyme, lavender, sage and parsley, as well as many other popular herbs.

Breedlove sells plants, not seeds or cuttings.

While basil and parsley can be grown from seeds, plants are easiest for novice herb growers, and tend to grown a bit better.

May 4, 2013
Mark Hutton

How to get the most out of your container herb garden

Beautiful, delicious, aromatic and self-sufficient, herbs represent a form of perfection in the garden.

Culinary herbs are singularly suited to growing in pots and other containers — they love a dry, airy perch. People love them, too: You can position a potted herb garden almost anywhere with a bit of sunlight, on a breezeway, a balcony, a front stoop or a back patio. The only criterion, other than sunlight, is that it be handy, so you can snip what you need for the kitchen. Herbs love to be trimmed; they respond by growing bushier.

May is the month for assembling your herbs. The weather is warm enough, finally, to please heat seekers, such as basil and lemongrass, and to coax mint into life for Kentucky Derby juleps.

And if I haven’t quite conveyed how easy, inexpensive and foolproof it is to grow herbs in pots, and how badly I want you to do this, let me just say: GROW HERBS IN POTS.

Here’s how to do it:
Containers

The larger the container, the better. A greater volume of soil moderates root temperatures, retains moisture and allows room for crowded herbs to grow. A 14-inch-diameter pot is ideal for housing four to six herbs, don’t go with anything smaller. Forms, colors and materials vary widely.

If you are on a budget, a simple plastic or basic clay pot costing a few dollars will work. If you have deeper pockets and want to make more of a design statement, you can find glazed ceramic pots for about $30 to $60, smart terra cotta pots from $40 to $100, and high-design concrete or resin pots for as much as $200 or more. Metal containers can look stylish, but they can get uncomfortably hot in summer, as can black or dark-hued pottery.

Apr 24, 2013
Mark Hutton

Herb garden

Master Gardeners Mary Justice, left, Mary Beth Weidman, Joy Gatlin, and Connie Whitman, right, visit with Harry Truman Moore, second from right, as they work at Centennial Park in Paragould over the weekend. Moore is chairman of the planning committee of the Paragould Economic Development Corporation. The committee organized Paragould’s City-wide Clean Up held Saturday. Work done by Master Gardeners at Centennial Park included the planting of an herb garden, including sage, rosemary, oregano and basil.

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Welcome to the discussion.

    Apr 20, 2013
    Mark Hutton

    Cultivate A Herb Garden – South County Times

    St. Louis Effort for Aids
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    04/19/2013 – Many people cultivate gardens both inside and outside of their homes with a focus on adding aesthetic appeal to their property. But a garden that boasts plants that are edible and pleasing to the eye is a possibility as well.

    Planting an herb garden is a creative way to enjoy the sights, smells and tastes of a wide variety of plants. Using fresh-harvested herbs in culinary endeavors imparts a taste that dried spices cannot match. What’s more, fresh herbs are often easy to cultivate.

    Herbs are versatile, capable of lending great flavor to foods while also playing different roles in personal health and beauty. Herbs can be grown to perfume homes and bodies. There are herbs that are purported to help with ailments, from upset stomachs to anxiety.

    When planting an herb garden, pay particular attention to the types of flavors and smells preferred in the home and in cooking. This will help to narrow down the types of herbs to plant. Many would-be herb gardeners tend to start small to see what luck they have when cultivating herbs. Fortunately, herbs can grow well in containers indoors, provided the soil is amenable and there is plenty of sunlight.

    Herbs will grow best in well-prepared soil. Make sure it is rich in organic matter and drains well. For plants like parsley, be sure to have deep pots or dig deeply in the garden to establish long taproots.

    Until the weather warms up, herb cultivation can begin indoors and then be transfered outside during the summer. Basil, for instance, is a tropical plant that does well in warm conditions. Therefore, it will need to be kept away from drafts and get several hours of direct sunshine a day. Place most herb planters in a south-facing window of a home to ensure they get ample sunlight and to allow the soil to dry adequately between waterings.

    With many herbs, leaf production will diminish on any stems that flower. It is essential to pinch off flowers that form to encourage the herb plant to continue producing leaves, which are the parts of the plant most associated with seasoning and aroma.

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