Herbal harvest

Herbal harvest

How I have waited for this time of the year! I just love aromatic herbs, and now is when many of them are at their best. It’s oh so fragrant, oh so beautiful!
With their lovely fragrances, each so specific to the plant in question, it would be a suitable task for a poet trying to describe their taste. Most aromatic herbs are also part of a medical tradition, as well as surrounded by diverse folkloric stories and beliefs. These are just some of the herbs in our garden…

BasilI think basil is a culinary icon. I just love it, and it’s the aromatic that I wait most impatient for each summer.
Basil exists in lots of varieties today, but the only one that should be used in a true pesto is the kind named Genovese. Historically there are many thrilling traditions associated with basil. In India it has been considered a holy plant, part of religious ceremonies, and people thought that the creator of the earth lived inside the plant. Another quite fun story is that the ancient grec apparently thought that one had to scream and shout in order to make the basil seeds germinate. I haven’t tried that technique, but I have everything between the traditional basil Genovese, to purple basil, thai basil and my very favorite – the holy basil growing in the garden. I find the holy basil spicier than classic one, yet sweeter in the same time. It goes with everything from a tomato salad to some fresh strawberries with a little sugar. A must-try if you haven’t discovered it yet. There are many others, but I tend to like the varieties I mentioned above the best. Basil lasts for harvest a long time once it has started to produce. I tend to use most fresh, dried its use is completely different. If anyone has the experience of freezing basil to conserve I would love to hear about it.

Some other herbs have already given their major harvest and will be conserved by drying. That’s the case of my oregano and marjoram. It was with both joy and sadness that I cut the lovely flowering bushes that they have formed. Thank you nature for this fragrant and beautiful gift!
Yet others, like the lemon balm (first picture above) and my two varieties of mint will even have time to re-grow three times during the summer season.

On the middle picture above there is also an herb called Perilla that I have become found of in infusions. Perilla is the parsley of the Japanese, and the green variety is even included in sushi from time to time. Yes, it exists in two shapes, green or red, the green one being the most aromatic. I haven’t found any seeds of the green Perilla even though I am keen on growing it to try. Apparently its taste is something between cumin, coriander, mint and lemon all at once! The red Perilla on the other hand is quite discrete but has nonetheless a pleasant flavor, and is antispasmodic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and contains lots of vitamins. The foliage of the plant also makes it a beautiful eye-catcher in the garden.

The third picture is Chrivil (Cerfeuil en francais). I think it is my Swedish origin that makes me so keen on these licorice-like flavors. I am a big fan of its really, really thin leaves with refreshing taste. Try it to fish or in a light yogurt sauce to accompanie  the barbecue. Chrivil is an annual that is also an excellent companion planted near the salads. It’s scent makes slugs less eager to feast on the salads, and since it is a bit sensible to heat, they share the same preferences for exposure.

P1040039I am also happy to see that my Rosemary is beginning to thrive and grow stronger. Rosemary means ” the dew of the sea” in latin, and naturally grows at the beaches of the Mediterranean sea. Not a climate much like ours at almost 1000 meters altitude in the middle of the mountains, with other words. Last year, I had the chance to have a piece of an already accustomed Rosemary plant though, and it seems to be a successful cutting. I have made two other cuttings on my plant this summer and hope to enlarge the population.
Rosemary is full with health properties and is very pleasant in infusions. Included on its list of benefits is that it stimulates the memory and helps relief stress and anxiety.

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And here are the young sages sown this year. They are coming along fine but will not really give much before next year. In the middle of the rows I planted marjoram this spring but it seems to have been less successful – I can hardly find any that are still there actually.

Anyway, my conclusion of the day is that we should all enjoy the fragrant gifts of mother nature this time of year, and keep marveling at the rich and surprising tastes she serves us with!

 

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Stocking up

This time of year nature is abundant with fresh, nutritive dense greens in many shapes and forms. All around, flowers are blooming, and whilst the garden is still warming up, many plants in the wild are at the perfect time of harvest. We enjoy eating meadow salads again, coloured by spring flowers and young chlorophyll-filled leaves, as well as remineralizing Nettle soups or Hogsweeds gratins for the cooked meals. It’s not hard to find ideas when nature inspires with such a burst of vibrant energy!

And coming out from winter we haven’t forgotten how appreciated these wild greens are at other times of the year, when we cannot find them just around the corner. That’s why we are taking the time to stock up on certain of our favourite greens for some spring-revisiting later on. Hogsweed (Berce en français), Nettels (Ortie en français) and Hedge woundwort (Épiaire de Bois en français) are easy to conserve by freezing. Even if they are not as nutritive after beeing frozen as in fresh condition, it’s still a good compromise that provides a much healthier vegetable base than, for instance, imported greenhouse tomatoes in december.


Before freezing, I find it practical to « blanchir » my greens. I simply wash, and let my leaves take a 1-2 minutes plunge in boiling water, before quickly cooling them of in ice cold water and squeezing them from excess fluid. Then of they go to the freezer, packed in flat blocks, handy to defrost whenever we feel like making a wild meal without going harvesting first.

So, in-between those so longed-for spring salads in the sun, take a cloudy afternoon to prepare for colder days. You will appreciate it later on, I promise.

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Another interesting technique for keeping different kind of vegetables, and even making them richer, is lacto fermentation. I’m currently experimenting on some new recipes and I will share more in another blog post coming soon…