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Humble Seed’s Herb Guide To Cooking

July 20th, 2014

 

Caprese Salad

If you’re new to cooking with herbs, adding them to dishes and combining them with other flavors can feel intimidating. In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about cooking with herbs – from what meat and produce it compliments, to which flavors it pairs well with, and a few recipe ideas also. We’re wondering: which herbs are your favorite to use? Which dishes with fresh herbs does your family love? 

Superbo Basil This Genovese-type of basil provides thick leaves and wonderful flavor.

Compliments: Chicken, lamb, roast beef, turkey, berries, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese

Pairs well with: Fennel, thyme, and oregano

Recipe ideas: Basil tastes best when uses fresh. Use as a garnish, in pesto sauces, stir fries, marinara sauces, and Italian dishes. 

Purly Chives This chive variety grows leaves that are straight and upright, with pretty globe-shaped blooms that make delicious garnishes. Purly chives offer a mild onion flavor, and it is an easy-to-grow herb, perfect for containers or the garden. 

Compliments: Steak, veal, red meat dishes, tuna, potatoes, eggs, and a variety of vegetables like asparagus and bokchoy. 

Pairs well with: paprika, chopped parsley, tarragon, chives, and marjoram 

Recipe ideas: As garnish, in beef stew, soups, mixed in mashed potatoes, potato salads, baked potatoes, omelets, and salad dressings

Santo Cilantro This quick growing cilantro is a classic herb that is very versatile. For a continuous supply of fresh cilantro leaves, direct seed every three to four weeks. Cilantro leaves provide more flavor before plant flowers. 

Compliments: Chicken, beef, grilled fish, pork, black beans, avocados, corn, and tomatoes 

Pairs well with: Allspice, cumin, cardamom, ginger, lime, chili peppers 

Recipe ideas: As garnish, in salsas, Mexican dishes, sausages, and stuffings – also used in some baking dishes. 

Cumin While this plant grows best in warmer regions, cumin will grow in northern areas if seed is started early. Cumin’s foliage is similar to dill and sometimes confused with caraway, and cumin’s flavor is commonly mistaken for other herbs, and other herbs for it, due to problems in translation from the languages of the lands where its cultivation and use are common. Young leaves add great flavor to salads. For many Indian and Mexican dishes, cumin is a must-have ingredient. 

Compliments: Salmon, pork, chicken, avocados, tomatoes, mixed vegetables, cabbage, and chickpeas 

Pairs well with: ginger, turmeric, chili powder, garlic, coriander

Recipe ideas: Stirred in avocado dips and chili, commonly found in Moroccan dishes, Mexican dishes, Indian dishes

Bouquet Dill Bouquet—the most popular dill variety—produces highly flavorful leaves and seeds. The seeds are great to use as a pickling spice. Dry dill leaves for use later.

Compliments: Chicken, fish, eggs, carrots, cucumber, green beans, potatoes, and yogurt

Pairs well with: garlic, onion

Recipe ideas: Quiche, sprinkled on grilled salmon, mixed in potato and carrot salads, commonly found in Greek dishes and Scandinavian dishes

Bronze and Green Fennel  This non-bulbing type of feathery fennel offers bronze-red and dark green foliage. The sweet flavored leaves make a great addition to salads, soups and stews, and fennel leaves make a pretty garnish. For medicinal purposes, fennel seeds are used in teas and tinctures and also as a digestive aid, expectorant and a spleen, kidney, and reproductive tonic.

Compliments: Pasta, jicama, chicken, pork, potatoes, 

Pairs well with:  citrus, anise, cinnamon, black pepper corns, basil, mint

Recipe ideas: Roasted chicken, pasta dishes, topped on pizza, baked in a potato casserole, topped on pork tenderloin, mixed in a lightly steamed bean salad

Greek Oregano This Greek oregano is more pungent than common oregano, and it is prized by chefs for its aroma, flavor and versatility.This Greek oregano is great for container gardening

Compliments: Marinated vegetables, tomatoes, white meat, beef, fried fish, roast beef

Pairs well with: garlic, olive oil, parsley, chili flakes, bay leaves, marjoram, fennel, basil and thyme

Recipe ideas: Sprinkled on pizza, stirred in tomato sauces, Italian dishes

Titan Parsley Titan parsley grows into upright, compact plants that provide good uniformity and yield. Although this parsley is a biennial, the flavor is best in the first year, thus it is grown as an annual. The flat leaves that this parsley produces makes them great for garnishing dishes

Compliments: Chicken, fish, red meat, potatoes, eggs, a variety of vegetables 

Pairs well with: Basil, chives, and tarragon

Recipe ideas: Sprinkled on casseroles and pasta dishes for color, stirred in soups, minced and added to mixed, sautéed vegetables 

Common Sage Use sage’s flavorful grey-green leaves to season beans, cheese, meats, pork, poultry, sauces, sausages, and more. Sage is also used as a digestive and nerve tonic. Sage plants are good for containers, and they make an excellent border plant for an herb garden. Replant sage every 3 years as it naturally dies off after 5 years.

Compliments: Sweet potatoes, pork, white meat, sausage, beef, cheese, apples, winter produce

Pairs well with: lemon

Recipe ideas: Tastes best when cooked with butter, top on baked sweet potatoes, add to stuffing, sausage, roasts, pork tenderloin, cheeseburgers

Ginger Winter Thyme Thyme goes with just about anything, and this is the herb to use if you’re a new cook!

Compliments: Poultry, grilled fish, roast beef, pork, lamb, egg, mushrooms, mixed vegetables

Pairs well with: Bay leaves, cilantro, oregano, marjoram, rosemary

Recipe ideas: French dishes, grilled fish, omelets, quiche, seafood chowder, soups, sprinkled on mixed vegetables

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed. We’re also proud to say we have taken the Safe Seed Pledge!!

Does starting your first garden seem too overwhelming or you simply don’t have the space? The Tower Garden may be the answer for you!  Passionate about gardening and healthy living, or looking to expand your current health-based business? Consider becoming a Tower Garden distributor! Email info@humbleseed for more information or message us on Facebook.

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Two Ways To Store A Year Of Fresh Herbs

July 21st, 2013

photo (16)

If your basil’s tall green leaves are drooping over, and your parsley’s becoming bushy and overcrowding the tomatoes – it may be time to think about storing your favorite herbs long term. Freezing herbs, especially basil, cilantro, chives, dill, parsley, and homemade pesto is a brilliant way to enjoy their fresh flavors all year round (besides, who really gets that excited about dried herbs?  Compared with fresh herbs – there is no contest!).

Our two favorite ways to store herbs are 1) as an ice cube, and 2) as an herb log. Learn the easy processes below, and you too can make summer soups, pastas and sauces full of garden fresh flavor all year round. When you get a chance, don’t forget to check out this post on re-growing chives and celery.

How To Freeze Fresh Herbs

Herb Ice Cube Instructions:

After washing the herbs, place 2-3 individual leaves, or a spoonful of chopped herbs into ice cube trays. Fill the tray half full of water, gently ensuring that the leaves stay down. If a few leaves give you trouble, the next step should alleviate the problem.

Once frozen or mostly frozen, fill the remaining cubes with water, and freeze once more. When completely frozen, place the individual blocks of ice into a zip blog baggie, or a lidded glass container. When ready to use, remove from the freezer and drop the entire ice cube into soups, stews or sauces.

Herb Log Instructions:

Remove the leaflets off of the stem, rinse the leaves, and dry them well. Place the herbs in a freezer bag, and begin compressing and rolling the bag into a log, ensuring the air has escaped. Tie with a rubber band, and freeze. When it’s frozen, remove the herbs at any time and slice as much or little as you need.

Herb harvesting tip: Always harvest the thickest stems first, leaving the thin midsummer stems time to grow stronger and more flavorful.

***Fellow gardeners: Have you tried freezing your herbs as an ice cube or log? What is your favorite way to use frozen herbs and pesto? 

 

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed.

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The Most Frost Tolerant Plants In Your Garden

December 1st, 2012

Don’t wait until after the last frost to plant these vegetables that prefer cooler weather. These plants can take a little frost – and should be planted a month or more before your area’s last average frost. While most vegetables may perform better when started indoors, radishes, turnips, and lettuce germinate and grow rapidly, and are simple to sow directly into the ground. When they are finished growing in the spring, it’s easy to grow warm loving vegetables in their place. Be sure to follow spacing recommendations, and place them in a full sun location during the coolest months.

Broccoli – This nutrient packed plant loves cool weather, and will tolerate a day or two of frost or freezing weather. Plant this vegetable approximately a month prior to your area’s average last frost date. We carry the Di Cicco Italian variety in our Veggin’ Out and The Producer seed kits.

Carrots – These beta-carotene rich vegetables taste sweeter in cooler weather, but can be enjoyed in the spring, summer, and fall. Adding mulch over the roots to keep the soil from freezing can add even more vitality during the winter months. The Scarlet Nantes Carrot, featured in Veggin’ Out and The Producer has a reputation for abundant production.

Chives – These perennial herbs are incredibly weather tolerant, and can be harvested in the spring as leaves appear. Our Purly Chives offer a mild onion flavor, and can found in the Uncle Herb’s Favorites seed kit.

Collards – These hardy greens love cold weather, and can even tolerate a hard freeze. They also fair well in the warmer months, though- keep them out of extremely hot weather.

Lettuce – Green leafy vegetables like lettuce do quite well in cool weather, but need some protection from freezing weather. When gardeners take the time to plant a few seeds every week, a crop can become available on a continuous basis. Red lettuce varieties, like our Red Saladbowl can add beautiful color to your garden.

Peas – These cool season vegetables grow well on a fence or teepee, and under direct sunlight.

Radish – These cool weather-loving vegetables can be harvested as quickly as a month after seeds are planted. You may want to grow these smaller vegetables in containers to save space in your garden.

Spinach – Spinach is loved by gardeners for its low maintenance and cold tolerance. These plants perform better in areas with mild winters, and thrive in the shade during the summer months.

Swiss Chard – Our Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard is one of the most cold tolerant varieties around. This pretty leafy green tastes great raw, sautéed, or added to your favorite soup.

Learn how to protect plants that are not frost tolerant: Protecting Plants From Extreme Cold

**Friends, which frost tolerant plants do you have in your garden right now? How are they doing?

 

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease.  We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed.

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How To Freeze Fresh Herbs And Pesto

September 18th, 2012

Many gardeners enjoy the early fall ritual of freezing annual herbs; especially basil, cilantro, chives, dill, parsley, as well as homemade pesto. This easy process requires minimal time and effort, and can make chilly weather soups, stews and sauces full of garden fresh flavor.

While freezing herbs can be done in bulk, the key to freezing pesto is to create serving size portions – perfect for drizzling over pasta or a homemade pizza. Pesto does not preserve well when it is re-heated and re-frozen. Therefore, creating individual portions allows the pesto to taste fresh with each use.

Ready to try?

How To Freeze Fresh Herbs

(Baking Sheet Method)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and carefully spread out the washed and dried herbs. Not allowing them to touch will prevent the herbs from freezing in a large mound. When frozen solid, place the herbs in lidded glass container back in the freezer. Once already frozen, the leaves will not clump together.

(Ice Tray Method)

After washing the herbs, place 2-3 individual leaves, or a spoonful of chopped herbs into ice cube trays. Fill the tray half full of water, gently ensuring that the leaves stay down. If a few leaves give you trouble, the next step should alleviate the problem.

Once frozen or mostly frozen, fill the remaining cubes with water, and freeze once more. When completely frozen, place the individual blocks of ice into a zip blog baggie, or a lidded glass container. When ready to use, remove from the freezer and drop the entire ice cube into soups, stews or sauces.

How To Freeze Fresh Pesto

Make your favorite pesto sauce (our favorite recipe is below), and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon out ¼ cup mounds of pesto onto the baking sheet and place it in the freezer. When they are frozen solid, wrap each portion with plastic wrap, and store them in a lidded glass container in the freezer.

 Fresh Basil-Chive Pesto

Recipe from The Happy Go Lucky Vegan

¼ cup pine nuts (almonds or walnuts will also work)

1-cup basil

2 tbsp chives, coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic

½ lemon, squeezed

½ cup olive oil

½ cup water

Sea salt and pepper

Method: Add all ingredients except for the water into a blender or food processor. Slowly add the water to thin out as desired. Add salt and pepper to taste.

**Fellow gardeners: what is your favorite way to use frozen pesto and herbs?

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Re-Grow Chives and Celery In 3 Easy Steps!

September 6th, 2012

Calling all thrifty gardeners! Did you know you can completely re-grow celery and chives by saving the bottom piece that is often thrown away? Take growing your own food to the next level and try this simple trick (and save money!).

Step-By-Step Instructions

Step 1: Remove the top edible portion of the celery or chives. It’s your choice whether you prefer to use the top portion as you need it, or to remove the top portion all at once after it’s harvested.

Step 2: Place the root end(s) in a shallow glass of room temperature water.

Step 3: If you are re-growing chives, leave the glass near a sunny window. Within a week, you will be able to harvest the flavorful green ends. Be sure to change the water every few days.

If you plan to re-grow celery, leave the celery in the shallow glass for only 2-4 days, or until you notice small leaves growing at the top. Transplant the celery to your garden. The celery will begin to grow stalks within a few weeks. If you find the celery needs further support as it grows, remove the top and bottom of a clean plastic soda bottle, and place it around the plant.

Get the Kiddos Involved!

On an uneventful weekend, this is a wonderful “experiment” to do with the kids. They’ll be fascinated by how fast both the celery and chives re-grow on their own! One blogger commented that she was amazed when her children would run out to the garden to “sneak” a celery stalk. Getting the kids involved not only sparks their imagination, but promotes healthy eating as well!

Looking to plant more vegetables and herbs this fall? Our Uncle Herb’s Favorites and Veggin’ Out seed kits have a variety of organic and heirloom seeds to get you started.

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Themed Gardens for Kids: Pizza Anyone?

June 7th, 2011

 

Getting kids interested and involved in gardening is not only a great way to spend quality time together, it’s also a fun, adventurous activity for them, and it’s a great educational experience—you never know, you may have some future plant botanists or horticulturalists in your family!

Make gardening with the kids fun by allowing them to help plan the garden from the start. Incorporate a theme that will really get them excited, such as “Pizza Garden,” “Stir-Fry Garden,” or “Peter Rabbit Garden.”

Decide together what you want to plant and how the plants will be arranged in the garden then get in there and grow your own foods. You can also mark a wall calendar with fun, colorful gardening stickers on the days that you and your kids will be tending to the garden; this will give them something to look forward to, and it’s a great way to incorporate routine and responsibility into their lives.

Help your kids make and decorate some whimsical signs for their garden or let them pick out a few garden accessories to place in their garden.

Pizza Garden

A Pizza Garden is as much fun for the adults as it is for kids. Why? Because who doesn’t like pizza? And this themed garden is shaped like a pizza!

Place a stake in the ground, attach a 3 ½ foot piece of string to the stake then mark off a circle, keeping the string tight. Divide circle into six wedges.

In each wedge, plant classic pizza ingredients: 2 to 3 basil plants, 1 to 2 bell pepper plants, onion, 2 to 3 oregano plants, 2 to 3 parsley plants, and 1 tomato plant. If you plant more, you can always transplant them into another area of your yard.

It just doesn’t get any better than homemade pizza made with fresh herbs and vegetables from your own garden.

Stir-Fry Garden

Stir-fry is one healthy meal, and fresh-from-the-garden vegetables make it simply amazing. This is a great dish for experimenting with your favorite food flavors.

Some classic stir-fry ingredients include: bell peppers, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chives, garlic, green beans, hot peppers, squash, etc.

With stir-frying, foods cook fast so they retain their flavor and texture, and cooking fresh ingredients contain less calories than packaged stir-fry entrées.

Peter Rabbit Garden

Beatrix Potter’s characters are great inspiration for kids to garden, and this theme is a wonderful way to educate kids on nature and animals.

Plant a variety of herbs and vegetables along a border or in raised beds then tuck garden bunny statues in between the plants. Name the statues after The Tale of Peter Rabbit characters: Peter, Flopsy, Mopsy, and/or Cottontail. Even though Mother Rabbit forbade her children to enter Mr. McGregor’s garden, your children’s garden can be a cozy home for their sweet garden statues.

Parsley, sage, thyme, bush beans, cabbage, and carrots are perfect for a Peter Rabbit Garden.

Making fun, meaningful, and long-lasting memories with family is so important, and this is an activity your kids will cherish for their whole life.

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How-to Dry Herbs for Cooking and Decorating

May 12th, 2011

 

With their intoxicating aromas and ability to transform dishes into palate pleasing wonders, herbs are simply sublime. Throughout history, herbs have been used in many ways and for many reasons. Ancient Greeks used parsley as a cure for stomach ailments; early Dutch settlers planted chives in meadows so that cows would produce chive-flavored milk; and early American settlers burned herbs for their fragrance, stored herbs with linens, and used herbs for illnesses. These are just a few ways that herbs have been used throughout history. In some way, shape or form, herbs have been used by different cultures around the globe.

If you have an abundance of herbs growing in your garden or if you would like to preserve some of your herbs to enjoy year-round, you should dry some of your harvest. It’s easy to do, and it is a great way for you to savor the herb gardening season and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Once dried, you can enjoy your herbs for cooking or decorating. Tie pretty ribbons around bunches of dried herbs then hang in increments from a string for a simple, sweet window swag; add dried herbs to glass bottles filled with olive oil, which you can use to decorate your kitchen counter with and for flavoring salad dressings and sauces; or make an aromatic sachet with dried flowers and herbs to tuck into travel bags or scent a drawer.

When cooking with dried herbs—if you’re substituting dried herbs for fresh herbs—one teaspoon of dried, crumbled herbs is the equivalent to one tablespoon of fresh herbs. Before storing dried herbs in air tight containers, look for any dried herbs that may show signs of mold and toss those out. To retain flavor, store leaves whole then crumble them when you’re ready to use them. Dried herbs will last for about one year and should be kept out of the sunlight.

There are several ways that you can dry fresh herbs, but we’re going to keep it simple and provide you with the steps for air drying low moisture herbs, such as bay, dill, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. Air drying is the easiest process and least expensive:

1. Cut healthy herb branches mid-morning from plant. Cutting herb branches mid-morning allows for any morning dew to dry from the leaves. If you cut too late in the afternoon your herbs may be wilting from the heat of the afternoon sun, and you don’t want that. Note: The best time to cut herbs for drying is just before they flower—this is when they contain the most oil, which is what gives them their aroma and flavor.

2. Check the leaves, and pull off any diseased or dry leaves and make sure there are no insects on leaves.

3. Pull off lower leaves from herb branches, approximately one inch from bottom so that you have space to tie them together.

4. If the leaves are dirty, you can rinse herbs with cool water, but make sure to gently pat them dry with a paper towel as wet herbs will mold and rot.

5. Combine 5-6 herb branches together then tie with string.

6. If you want, label a paper bag with the name of the herb(s) you will be drying inside. Make several holes in the bag then place the herb bundle, leaves down, into the bag so that the stems are at the opening of the bag. Gather the open end of the bag around the stems and tie closed with a long piece of string. Hang the bag in a well ventilated, warm room (70 to 80 degrees F). You can dry herbs without placing them in a paper bag, but the paper bag helps keep dust off of the herbs while they’re drying.

7. Check herbs in approximately two weeks then periodically until dried. The drying process should take approximately 2 to 4 weeks.

Enjoy!

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Seed Spotlight: Lancer Parsnip

November 14th, 2010

 

One of our favorite cold-weather root vegetables is parsnip. Cultivated in Europe since ancient times and a relative of the carrot, the ivory-colored, fibrous parsnip offers sweet, nutty flavor and celery-like fragrance. It can be harvested through the end of November, and if you wait until after the first frost of the year, you’ll find that they are delightfully sweeter, because cold temperatures turn the parsnip’s starch into sugar.

Because parsnips are so fibrous, they’re generally cooked before eating. Parsnips are the sweetest of all the root vegetables and easy to prepare. They can be cut up or left whole then baked, cut up or left whole then boiled and mashed with butter and cream, cut into big chunks then microwaved, or peeled, sliced and steamed like carrots. Vitamin C-rich parsnips make a great addition to roasts, soups and stews. Flavors that complement this root vegetable include: allspice, brown sugar, chives, cinnamon, ginger, maple syrup, nutmeg, rosemary, and sage, to name a few.

Here is a mashed parsnips recipe, perfect for pairing with roasted meats.

Mashed Parsnips

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds parsnips, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • ¼ cup heavy cream

Preparation

Place parsnips in a large saucepan then cover with water. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt to the water. Bring to a boil, lower heat then simmer for about 12 minutes or until parsnips are very tender. Drain parsnips then place in a food processor. Add butter nutmeg, cream, and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt; Process ingredients until smooth. SERVES 4

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