Cucumber & Peach Salad

I am in the middle of a  lovely and busy week.  Heather of the Texas Worm Ranch and I teamed up for a class on Tuesday.  We had a sweet, small group of ladies who enjoyed a wonderful herb themed lunch.  Those recipes will be posted later.  First, I need to post the recipe I made for the White Rock local market Go Texan cooking demo.  This was a great recipe and it was so much fun cooking for the patrons of our market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talk about simple and tasty!  This comes from the blog- The Spiced Life.com

For the basil, I substituted lemon basil and holy basil

 

Cucumber and Peach Salad

Ingredients
  • 3 medium cucumbers, peeled if the skin is thick and sliced into rounds
  • 4 medium peaches (ours were small so I used more), cut into chunks
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ c cider vinegar
  • 1 T water
  • 1 T agave syrup, or to taste
  • 1 T finely chopped sweet basil
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh mint
  • Pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Place the onion slices in a bowl with cold water to calm the onion fumes down. Set aside for 10 minutes while you prep the other veggies.
  2. Whisk together the water, oil, vinegar, agave and salt. Add the chopped herbs and whisk. Taste for more agave, salt or even vinegar.
  3. Place the cucumbers and peaches together in a large bowl. Drain the onion slices and add them. Then toss everything with the dressing.

– See more at: http://www.thespicedlife.com/2013/09/cucumber-and-peach-salad-with-mint-basil-vinaigrette-alex-chops.html#sthash.He3cjotF.dpuf

 

Give it a try- you will be glad you did!

 

 

Basil- For A Moment More & How To Make An Herbal Vinegar

As I left out on my morning run, for the first time this year I wore a hooded sweatshirt over my t-shirt and wind-pants with a cap on my head.  For us here in East Texas, that is just almost cold.  I could see my breath but there was no frost on the ground, just a heavy dew.  Oh, but how brilliantly the dew shone in the early morning sun with the reds and golds of the leaves finally beginning to show.  I was not the only one feeling invigorated by this Autumn morning, as I ran by the field across from our place, the resident horse came galloping up to the fence and ran along with me until she ran out of field.  Some days, it is an effort to choose to run but not today.

purple basil and kale

One thing the morning did tell me was that basil and it’s other hot weather friends are not long for this world.  So, in preparation for the influx of herbs & peppers that are about to line my drying racks and the hall (I have to make use of the space I have so I have fishing line strung down the hall to hang herbs on) I am getting the jars and vinegar’s ready to go.  Making herbal vinegar is an easy process, they make wonderful gifts and they add so much to your kitchen prowess.  A pork loin marinated in basil vinegar tastes like something from a five star restaurant.

purple basil and vinegar

For the most part, which herb you use and which vinegar to use are completely up to you and your taste buds.  A good place to start is with white wine vinegar and basil.  This will make a wonderful vinaigrette or marinade.  If you have purple basil, you will have the most beautiful purple/pink vinegar you ever laid your eyes on as seen in the above picture.  The purple basil is Dark Opal and the green is Sweet Genovese- both of these are the standard type basil flavor with which you would make pesto or spaghetti sauce.  Health food stores will generally have better prices on large quantities of vinegar in its various forms.

The recipe below calls for chives, if you don’t have any you can leave that off.  If you have not been growing herbs long enough to have this much material to cut from, you can purchase fresh herbs at your local farmer’s market.  Remember, any flavors you like together will go together in the vinegar such as rosemary and garlic, oregano, basil, and sun/oven roasted tomatoes.  While learning the way, start with small batches this way if it tastes bad, you didn’t lose much.  However, every mistake is a lesson learned and experience is the best teacher.

For sterilizing your jars, wash them with hot soapy water, rinse and dry in a 225′ oven for 15 minutes or use a dishwasher.

 

Basil, Chive, & Lemon Vinegar

Zest of ½ lemon

5 Basil Leaves

10 stalks of chives

1 cup white vinegar ( any type such as rice or wine)

 

Zest lemon, crush or chop basil and chives, place in a clean dry jar.  Pour vinegar in and cap- vinegar should cover all the herbs completely add more if needed. After 24 hours add more vinegar if the herbs have soaked up the vinegar.  Vinegar is ready to go after 24 hours, but the flavor will develop the longer it sits so 10 -14 days is fine too.  Strain herbs out and compost them.  Store  vinegar in a cool dark place, it will keep indefinitely.

Making these things at home is a safe activity- it has been being done since ancient times.  Use good sense, clean and dry utensils and jars- moisture is your enemy- and all will be well.  Remember- if it is growing funny things, bubbling like it is boiling but there is no heat or it smells raunchy- throw it out.  Please consult your county extension office if you would like more detailed information on canning.

herbal vinegars

 

The choices are endless, just make certain that you label and date all your creations at the time to place them in the jars.  Trust me, you won’t be able to remember it later!

Lemon Verbena- An Herb That Should Get A Lot More Press!

Lemon Verbena:

Aloysia citrodora is a species of flowering plant in the verbena family Verbenaceae, native to western South America. Common names include lemon verbena and lemon beebrush.[2] It was brought to Europe by the Spanish in the 17th century and cultivated for its oil.

Lemon Verbena  was/is used by those believing in magic and spells.  Lemon Verbena is for love- to make yourself attractive to the opposite sex.  I don’t know about all that, but after one growing season I am in love with lemon verbena!

lemon verbena 2

“This is my favorite herb,” Jonathan will reply when a customer asks him which herb he likes.  And who can blame him, Lemon Verbena has a wonderful citrus scent, bright green, glossy leaves and it grows with little or no care.  This herb is a friend to your immune system, nervous system and to your kitchen- making wonderful teas and jellies.  And of course, lets not overlook the the sweet serenity caused by dropping fresh lemon verbena leaves in your hot bath!

At first introduction, many people hear “verbena” and think of the low growing perennial with clusters of brightly colored blooms.  But lemon verbena is quite different as you can see by the pictures.  It does bloom once a year with long conical spikes bearing clusters of tiny white flowers.  The flowers are lovely and a great help to the butterfly and bee populations.

About 20 plants encircle my herb garden providing me with plenty of material for using fresh and drying.  One or two plants will serve the average home well, our home is not average given that is houses our herb business.  The plant itself will grow quite large- 4-6 ft tall, but the more you cut on it, the more compact it will stay.  It is a lovely shrub, dropping its leaves after the first hard freeze and budding back out as soon as the days get longer and the earth warms up.  With low water requirements and heat and drought tolerance, this is a great herb to grow in Texas.

The leaves of lemon verbena can be tossed in with any tea while it steeps or it can stand alone as an herbal tea.  The dried herb can flavor breads and muffins or saved as tea for the winter months when your mood and immune system need a boost.  Lemon Verbena Lemonade is a great refreshing drink on a hot day.   I also like to place fresh stems with the leaves in tact directly on the grill and lay my fish on top- this infuses the fish with a mouth-watering flavor.  I also made apple jelly with lemon verbena last week- all I can say is wow!  This recipe is well worth the time and effort.

apple jelly with lemon verbena

For health, Lemon Verbena is a heavy hitter as well.

WebMD states

Lemon verbena is a plant. The leaves and the flowering tops are used to make medicine.
Lemon verbena is used for digestive disorders including indigestion, gas, colic, diarrhea, and constipation.  It is also used for agitation, joint pain, trouble sleeping(insomnia), asthma, colds, fever, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, skin conditions, and chills.

In foods and manufacturing, lemon verbena is used as an ingredient in herbal teas, as a fragrance in perfumes, and as an ingredient in alcoholic beverages.
How does it work?

Lemon verbena contains a substance that might kill mites and bacteria.

 

 

Any time you make a lemonade, tea, or cook with lemon verbena, you are making your own medicine.  The more herbs you eat, the healthier you will be!

lemon verbena in the herb garden

 

 

How To Make Herbal Tea

lemon sage tea on wood

Cool weather makes one want a nice cup of hot tea, and an herbal tea will not only warm the soul but it will boost your immune system as well.

To Make A Tea:

Place one teaspoon of dried herbs in a  tea bag, a tea egg, or loose in a cup and pour hot water over the herb, cover and let steep for five minutes.  Remove bag or egg if using.  Sweeten with honey & add a shot of fresh lemon juice, if desired.

Enjoy!

Yes, teas are that simple.  By covering the tea while it steeps, you are keeping the essential oils in the tea.  Otherwise, the essential oils can evaporate into the air along with the steam.  Also, you can substitute a tablespoon of fresh herbs for the dried herbs.  You can also add herbs such as lemon balm and mint to any green or black tea while it steeps.  This not only adds flavor that is just scrumptious, but it adds lots of health benefits, too.  Such a boosting the immune system, relieving stress, calming the nerves, and calming the digestive tract.

Another tip to improve the flavor of you tea, is to heat the water just till the boiling point.  Then remove the water from heat and pour over the tea.  By doing so, the water will contain more oxygen and this leads to a less bitter tea.

A great combination for a tea to boost the immune system and brighten your mood, is lemon verbena, lemon balm, pineapple sage, and sage.  I blend this tea and sell it at our farmer’s market.  It tastes great and makes the body feel good.

Herbs are easy to grow and easy to use, every one should be growing some.  Even if all you have room for is a pot of mint on a window sill, you will benefit from it.

Herbs Make The Difference!

lemon sage tea with window shadow

Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries with Rosemary

I must say that for years, I had an aversion to sweet potatoes.  The only form in which I had ever encountered them was creamed with marshmallow on top.  While most of my family loved these at Christmas, I did  and do not.  Not until my husband requested sweet potato fries did I reconsider this versatile vegetable.  Now, I can’t imagine a pantry that is not stocked with a box of sweet potatoes.  I love to chop one up and add it to vegetable soup.  While sweet potatoes are on the sweet side of life naturally, they are not so sugary that they would ruin a good savory soup.  On the contrary, they add a depth of flavor and texture along with a great punch of vitamins, flavor, and anti-oxidants.

As oven roasted fries, sweet potatoes are fabulous with a caramelized outside and a tender yet firm bite.  These compliment any meat dish and pair well with rice, quinoa, and most other grains.

For a simple, non- processed meal, sweet potato fries are a great side.  Easy to make, very healthy, and quite tasty- a great recipe.  This is the time of year to purchase sweet potatoes, they keep for months so you can buy them in bulk at your local farmer’s market and stash them to grace your table all winter.

 

Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries With Rosemary

Serves 6

 

4-6 Sweet potatoes

Olive Oil

2 Tsp. dried Rosemary

Sea Salt to taste

Slice sweet potatoes into French fries.  Place on cookie sheet, cast iron skillet, or baking stone. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat, sprinkle with rosemary.

Place in a 450’ degree oven for 20-30 minutes.  Cook until tender with a nice bit of caramelizing.  After 15 minutes, give the fries a stir flipping the potatoes over.

If you are not a fan of Rosemary, just omit the herb.

sweet potato friesSweet potato fries prepped and ready to go into the oven.

sweet potato friesOven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries, cooked and ready to into my mouth!

Try some, you will be glad you did.

 

 

Rosemary For Remembrance- And A Whole Lot More!

trailing rosemary

When folks think of herbs, Rosemary is always one that comes to mind.  We have sold a lot of rosemary which always surprises me given the fact that once Rosemary is established it grows quickly and makes a rather large shrub.  It would seem that one plant would be all a person needed in a decade.  But, with its lovely evergreen foliage, fabulous scent, and many uses Rosemary is one that people just can’t pass up.

But, I have confession to make about Rosemary.  I don’t really like the taste of it in my food.  Yes, there you have it, an herb farmer that doesn’t like to cook with Rosemary.  The flavor is growing on me as I have been experimenting with different flavor combinations.  I am also finding that with Rosemary being such a strong scented/flavored herb that you only need just a dash of it in a dish.  That may be part of the reason that my first excursions into the world of cooking with Rosemary were disappointing- I treated it like thyme or parsley and used way too much.  I am finding that just a smattering of dried Rosemary on oven roasted sweet potato fries or home-fries made with regular spuds it very tasty.  Most have eaten rosemary in some form and the culinary uses are the uses most thought of in considering this lovely shrub.

Rosemary is a great plant for landscaping- it can be used as a hedge. .  But for the herbal medicine cabinet, Rosemary is an essential herb to grow.  Thankfully, in most areas of Texas, Rosemary thrives as our winters are mild and drought and poor soil are not of much concern to an established plant.

Health Benefits of Rosemary:

A rich source of calcium, Iron and dietary fiber, Rosemary is a powerful addition to the diet.

Rosemary is used to stimulate the mind and in stimulating the brain, clarity is achieved.  This benefit of Rosemary is what lead the ancient cultures to believe that Rosemary was for remembrance and those in higher learning would wear wreaths of rosemary on their heads to help them remember all the information they were learning. Now wearing the sprigs on your head my not have helped (except for the aromatherapy) but studies have now proven that the oils from rosemary do stimulate the brain.

Medical New Today reports these attributes concerning rosemary:

Rich source of antioxidants – laboratory studies have shown rosemary to be rich in antioxidants, which play an important tole in neutralizing harmful particles called free radicals.

Improving digestion – In Europe rosemary is often used to help treat indigestion – Germany’s Commission E has approved it for the treatment of dyspepsia. However, it should be noted that there is currently no meaningful scientific evidence to support this claim.

Enhancing memory and concentration – blood levels of a rosemary oil component correlate with improved cognitive performance, according to research in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, published by SAGE.

Neurological protection – scientists have found that rosemary is also good for your brain.Rosemary contains an ingredient, carnosic acid, that fights off free radical damage in the brain.

Carnosic acid can protect the brain from stroke and neurodegeneration. The findings were published in The Journal of Neurochemistry and Nature Reviews Neuroscience.

Prevent brain aging – Kyoto University researchers in Japan revealed that rosemary may significantly help prevent brain aging.

Cancer – Research published in Oncolocy Reports found that “crude ethanolic rosemary extract (RO) has differential anti-proliferative effects on human leukemia and breast carcinoma cells.”

Another study, published in Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, concluded thatrosemary can be considered an herbal anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor agent.

In addition, a report published in the Journal of Food Science revealed that adding rosemary extract to ground beef reduces the formation of cancer-causing agents that can develop during cooking.

 

Protection against macular degeneration – a study published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, led by Stuart A. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D. and colleagues at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, revealed that a major component of rosemary, carnosic acid, can significantly promote eye health.

The rosemary plant that I take most of my cuttings from was planted the summer before the record drought of 2011.  During that drought I could not water all my property and the bed containing the rosemary was one that received no extra water for two months.  To my amazement, that plant doubled in size- despite temps that never came out of the 100’s, no rain, and winds that felt so hot you would have thought that they were blowing straight from the pit of hell.  Rosemary moved up my list of plants I love just because of that summer.  Then I began to learn of all the benefits Rosemary has and I would never have an herb garden without at least one plant.

A couple of weeks ago I pruned the plant pretty heavy needing cuttings for propagation.  From the cuttings, I filled 10 flats containing 20 cups each- that is 200 new plants, provided all the cuttings root and prosper.  I am pretty confident they will, Rosemary roots like a dream.  Rosemary officinallis is the strain of this rosemary- just the original “plain Jane”.  I know there are a lot of more fancy cultivars out there, but this one has proven itself in our climate unlike several other varieties that I have planted. Therefore, this is my go-to plant.  I want folks to succeed when they take plants home from Hollyberry Herb Farm so I am sticking to what works.  I do have an “Arp” variety that is so far doing well and we will see, if it is still going strong next summer I will add that to my favorites list.

Jonathan and the rosemary.  What a great, tough plant

Jonathan and the rosemary. What a great, tough plant

So, if you haven’t already, plant some rosemary!  You will be glad you did.

Do you cook with rosemary?  If so , how do you use it?

Could You Use A Little More Thyme?

This is one from the archives, but I love this herb and thought it worth repeating!
Thyme
Lovely plant and wonderful scent
Kitchen Dictionary: thyme
Pronounced: TIME
This is one of those little plants that laughs in the face of a Texas summer and remains undaunted by a few freezes.  The creeping variety has been spreading between the rock stepping stones in my herb garden for months.  I have to harvest it or it will cover the stones.  It is fabulous!  With dark green foliage that is so petit it belies its strong flavor, it is a perfect choice for edging the bed or filling in between the stones.
For me, it was surprising to see that Thyme is classified as a Southern European and Mediterranean ingredient.  I thought it was totally southern cooking.  When you think of decidedly southern dishes such as Chicken n’ Dumplins, Turkey & Dressing, Roast Chicken, Meatloaf, and so on, Thyme is a key player in creating the warm comforting tones of these dishes.  If I am boiling chicken for almost anything, I have Thyme in the pot, too.  Nothing beats the flavor of a lightly battered filet of Tilapia with Thyme mixed in the flour and cornmeal, I don’t care who you are- that is good right there!
Being that Thyme is a perennial, it is easiest to start with a seedling in the garden.  Soggy places are no good for Thyme as it likes will drained soil.  Lots of sun is a must, but a little afternoon shade in a Texan summer is greatly appreciated.  This is an extremely easy plant to grow. 
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
With Thyme being available in the garden year round, there is no reason not use fresh Thyme in all your cooking.  Just snip off what you need and chop it finely or tie the sprigs together with kitchen twine and remove before serving.  Thyme is a well-mannered herb and is not given to being over-powering in a dish.  To a roasted chicken, I will sprinkle about 2 teaspoons over the skin or add about 2 tablespoons to a pot of soup.  Your personal tastes really are the determining factor in how much to use.  Experience is the best teacher, so give it a try.
Thyme is perfect for filling gaps in a rock pathway
However; some days it may not be very convenient to get to the garden, so I like to keep dried herbs in the pantry. To dry Thyme, cut as much as you want from the plant- but never taking more than two thirds of the mother plant- and using a rubber band, secure the stems and hang in a dry place with good air circulation.  I have a little “clothes line” strung above my refrigerator where I clip bunches of herbs for drying.  Once dry, which will take about 2 weeks, remove the leaves from the stems and place the leaves in a air-tight container and store out of the sunlight.  Dried herbs keep for about 6 months and any extra you may have makes great gift ideas.
A “mini- clothesline” works great for drying small amounts of herbs
Matches well with: beef, carrots, chicken, figs, fish, goat cheese, lamb, lentils, onions, peas, pork, potatoes, soups, tomatoes, venison 
So, get planting!  Everyone needs a little more “thyme” in their day!

Garlic & Texas

As we get out and about now selling our herbs a Farmer’s Markets and Garden Festivals, I am frequently asked if I have any garlic.  When I ask questions to clarify just what the customer is looking for, I am surprised that they are looking for seedlings so that they can grow their own Garlic.  How marvelous!  Just one problem…

If you want to grow garlic in Texas you need to plant is in September, the same with strawberries- but that is a whole other blog and soapbox.  Once planted in September, the bulbs will sprout and grow all winter long then in June or so, the tops will start to turn brown and it is time to harvest.  Yes, no matter where you live garlic takes that long to grow.  But, it is so worth it and it really is easy.

To get started, you will need something to plant- right?  Garlic can be purchased in the store as a bulb.  In that bulb are many cloves.  Each clove when planted will produce another bulb and the cycle just keeps going.  So, once you purchase your garlic you will not ever need to purchase more, just save some cloves from your harvest and you will be good to go.  You can plant the garlic from the grocer or you can order from a seed company.  If you order from a seed company you will know exactly what variety you are getting and in the supermarket you will have no idea.  I have planted plenty from the grocer and did just fine.

The looser the ground, the better for growing garlic.  However, I have grown in clay and done fine.  Just dig a little whole twice as deep as the clove is long and plant the clove pointy end up.  Then wait.  You can inter plant with something like lettuce that has a shallow root system to make use of the open soil and double your harvest from the same square footage.  For the best harvest, you will need to water- but no more than you would for any other crop.

You will know when to harvest by the fact that the stalks have bloomed and now are beginning to turn brown.  Use a pitch fork or something similar to loosen the soil.  Gently pull the garlic up.  Spread the stalks on a dry and flat surface and let the cure (dry out a bit and the outer “paper” will dry).  Garlic can by stored for the better part of the year easily meaning that if you plant enough you will never need to buy garlic again.

Happy Planting!

garlic bulbgarlic plantinggarlic young plantgarlic bloom

"Orange" You Glad You Read This!

What I am about to share with you is the simplest of all homesteading, self-sufficient things.

Making your own orange oil cleaner.

It is this simple:

Peel oranges- eat the oranges

Place the peelings in a large jar and cover the peelings with vinegar.

Let set in a sunny window for about 3 weeks- longer is OK, less time will make it weaker.

You can collect the peelings over several days to a week.

Strain vinegar into a clean jar.

That is it!  I dilute it by half into a spray bottle.

Now you can have high quality orange cleaner for just pennies and you know exactly what is in it.

Orange oil

Straining the oil

Straining the oil

 

How To Make An Herb Infused Oil

Filling a large jar with citronella to make an infused oil.

Filling a large jar with citronella to make an infused oil.

There are many reasons for making an infused oil and all are great.  Really, the infused oils fall into two categories- for culinary purposes or medicinal purposes- because of all the great benefits of herbs, any  oil used for culinary purposes gets to double as a medicinal oil.  Either way, infused oils are made the same way- and it is simple.

You will need:

1 qt jar- clean and DRY

Desired herb

desired oil- I like to use olive oil, it is good for you and easily available.

Place 1/3 cup of dried herb in the jar, add enough oil to the jar to fully cover the herb.  Check jar after a few hours to make sure the herb material has not soaked up the oil and left any of the herbs exposed.  If this has happened, add more oil to cover herbs.  Make certain that your jar and all utensils are dry as moisture will ruin your oil.

Cover the jar with a piece of cotton cloth, cheese cloth or an unbleached coffee filter and secure it with a rubber band.  Do not cap with a lid yet as the herbs may release gasses that can blow the lid off.  The results would be awful to clean up!  Let the oil infuse on a sunny window seal or the kitchen counter for at least 10 days.

After that time, strain out herb matter and discard to the compost pile.

The resulting oil can be stored in a glass bottle at room temperature for up to one year.

Citronella oil ready to steep.  Always label with name and date- leave nothing to chance!

Citronella oil ready to steep. Always label with name and date- leave nothing to chance!

Suggestions for medicinal oil-

  • Mullein for ear pain.- add a drop to the hurting ear.
  • Calendula will sooth and heal skin
  • Lemon Balm will help to sooth the nervous system.
  • Simply rub oil on skin and let your skin absorb the oil and use the herbal goodness.

Suggestion for Culinary Oil-

  • Lemon Pepper Oil- zest of one lemon, 2 tsp of multicolored peppercorns, 1 cup of olive oil
  • Garlic, Chili, and Oregano
  • Parsley and Cilantro
  • Basil and Garlic

There are so many combinations so explore and be creative!