Well, you don’t have much time, but if you hurry you’ll make it. No, not to catch a plane, train or ship, but it is something very important to your kitchen and cooking. And what is that thing you are racing the clock (or calendar) to do? Why, it’s to get your winter herbs and other garden things planted!
When you plant herbs, you cut about 1/3 off to use immediately, then you will have many months of fresh herbs. Almost all the winter herbs (parsley, dill, cilantro, chives, rosemary and thyme) can tolerate our winters very well. In fact, they quit producing and bolt or go to seed when the weather gets too warm. Then, it is time to get the warm weather herbs going: basil, lemon balm, mint, oregano and fennel.
Even if you have only a small area or a patio, you can still grow a few pots of fresh herbs. I have a small raised bed, and I buy one plant of each variety and plant seeds around that particular plant of the same variety — sort of like so the seeds know what they are supposed to look like.
If you are not using them all immediately after harvesting — like clipping fresh chives for a baked potato or rosemary stems for grilling kabobs — the herbs can be dried or frozen. However, the color will change, so they cannot be used for garnishes or fresh in a salad. Keep in mind when using dried that they are much more concentrated than fresh ones. A good rule of thumb is to use 1 tablespoon dried herbs to 3 tablespoons fresh.
I must admit I enjoy growing herbs (and other plants) for the pure joy of seeing them grow. A friend of ours who worked in the Rio Grande Valley Citrus Experimental Station in Weslaco said if you want to see an optimist, find a gardener. I agree.
Joy in gardening is hard to explain to some people, and having a “green thumb” has nothing to do with it.
Now, what can we do with these wonderful fresh herbs when we get them growing? A few weeks ago I shared with you my Dilly Bread recipe. Each year when the dill goes to seed, I collect some and use them in this recipe. I leave some on the plant so they will come up again, producing more plants. But using the fresh dill is wonderful in lots of things. A little sprig on a canape (an open-face sandwich) is beautiful. Probably one of my favorite ways to use fresh dill is in a sauce to use on fish, particularly salmon.
Lemon Dill Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
I slice (1/4- inch thick) of a medium onion
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2-3 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
Melt butter in microwave in a medium bowl. Add onion, cook 1 minute, remove onion slice and discard. Add flour and cook for 3 minutes on high, stirring after each minute. When flour is brown, remove from microwave, and stir in broth. Replace in microwave and cook for 2 minutes. Whisk with wire whisk. Mix cornstarch with lemon juice and pour into sauce mix. Cook 1 additional minute in microwave. Spread over cooked salmon or any fish or vegetables, especially green beans or asparagus.