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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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Crockpot Cooking Tips For Fresh Vegetables and Herbs

February 6th, 2013

Looking for more ways to use your garden fresh vegetables and herbs this winter? The crockpot is one of the greatest time-saving appliances in your kitchen. While one of the best features of a crockpot is its simplicity (just flip a switch!), getting vegetables and herbs perfectly tender and flavorful in a one-pot wonder can be tricky. Read our tips to ensure your next crockpot meal shows off your garden’s bountiful harvest.

Crockpot Tips For Fresh Vegetables and Herbs

*Vegetables do not cook as quickly as meat. Therefore, place all vegetables at the bottom of the crockpot, which is nearest to the heat.

*Fill the crockpot halfway to 2/3 the way full. Overfilling the crockpot will not allow the contents to cook entirely, while not filling the crockpot enough will cook the contents too quickly.

*Adding plenty of liquid to the crockpot (ie: vegetable broth, water, juice) will allow vegetables to become tender and moist.

*Avoid the urge to lift the lid to stir or to “check on” your meal (we know it’s tough!). Lifting the lid, even only for a moment will only force heat to escape, which may affect the cooking time anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.

*Add tender vegetables that cook quickly at the end of the cooking period (we suggest the last 45 minutes to an hour). Vegetables that cook very quickly are tomatoes, squash varieties, and mushrooms.

*Try sautéing vegetables in olive oil, salt, and seasonings directly in the crockpot before you add the remaining ingredients. This will add more POW to your meal.

*Many dry herbs can be thrown in at any time, yet many fresh herbs should be added only at the end of the cooking period. Herbs like basil, cilantro, and parsley taste their best when stirred in last minute, just before serving. You can also try using half the herbs in the beginning of cooking, and using the remaining herbs at the end of cooking.

Ready to test these crockpot tips out? We offer many of the vegetables and herbs in this recipe in our Veggin’ Out and Uncle Herb’s Favorites seed kits. This slow cooker stew recipe is simply a cinch to make, and has many of the bright flavors associated with Mediterranean cooking.  Feel free to layer it on pasta, ravioli, rice or quinoa – or serve it as a rich stew all on its own. Is it me, or is it hard not to puff up your chest a bit when making a fabulous meal using a slow cooker?

Slow Cooker Mediterranean Stew

Serves 4-5

2 cups eggplant, diced with peel

1 yellow squash, diced with peel

1 small yellow onion, diced

¼  cup black olives, sliced

¼  cup golden raisons

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

½ cup vegetable broth

8-ounce can tomato sauce

½ teaspoon chopped cumin

¼  teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon lemon zest

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons fresh parsley

olive oil for drizzling

Method: In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients except for the parsley and olive oil and stir until well mixed.  Cover, and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until vegetables are tender. The last 30 minutes, add chopped parsley. Serve over pasta, ravioli, quinoa or rice.  Drizzle each plate with olive oil before serving.

 

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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Beginners And Experienced Gardeners Love Growing Herbs!

March 25th, 2012

With gorgeous spring temperatures close to arriving, you may be toying with ideas on what to grow in your garden this year.  If you are new to gardening, growing fresh and flavorful herbs is a great way to begin the journey.  Many herbs found in Uncle Herb’s Favorites are perennial, meaning they last for three or more seasons (think of the “P” as “permanent”). Fresh herbs like chives, fennel, oregano and sage are all perennials found in this herb seed kit, and are easier to maintain without replacing them each season. Stop by and read our informative herb gardening guide for more tips on how to effectively grow your own herbs!

If this isn’t your first rodeo, perhaps you are looking to expand your selection of herbs in your garden.  A steady supply of herbs just a few feet away is naturally more ideal than running to the store for an expensive, commercially packaged herbs.  Uncle Herb’s Favorites has 10 varieties of herbs that can enhance salad dressings, salads, meat, tofu, and even desserts and drinks. You’ll also find that we offer the freshest seeds around! All of our food kits use Myler® bags to keep each seed at its best, and are then placed in a container that is FDA approved for long-term food storage.  You can trust that our kits are unlike the store bought version; they are water and rodent proof, and re-sealable so that seeds stay fresh between plantings.

Looking to dry your own herbs for long terms use? We found this informative article that will guide you through that endeavor. Spring is here, and it’s a great time to get growing!

Click on image below to view Uncle Herb’s Favorites seed varieties.

 

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A Heart-y Holiday Menu

November 23rd, 2011

Looking for a non-traditional entrée or a side dish that will wow your guests over the holiday? Try these delicious yet heart healthy dishes that will certainly break up the monotony at your dinner table! The winter holidays arrive only once a year; making it unlikely that one or two high calorie meals will tip the scale.  But healthy eating as a lifestyle is really about the big picture of what you choose to put in your body.  Replacing heavy creams and fatty meats with fresh vegetables, herbs, nuts and lentils are just a few ways to transition a holiday meal while still making it taste flavorful and satisfying. For more pictures, information, and recipe ideas go to Happygoluckyvegan.blogspot.com.

Holiday Lentil Walnut Loaf

An exceptionally delicious entrée for vegetarians, and for those wanting to serve a unique dish on the holidays. Use fresh herbs and vegetables. This recipe can be made gluten-free.
(6-8 servings)

1 cup dry green lentils
3 tablespoons ground flax seed
½ cup warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced finely or grated
1 celery stick, diced finely
1 small apple, grated
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
¼ teaspoon Herbes de Provence
¾ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
½ cup whole wheat flour (or oat flour to make this gluten-free)
¾ cup leftover stuffing (or breadcrumbs)

Method: In a medium- sized pot, add 1 cup of dry green lentils to 3 cups of water.  Allow lentils to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, or until lentils are tender.  Strain lentils, and process 75% of the lentils in a food processor or blender. Add the processed lentils to the whole lentils in a large bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a large pan to medium-high heat and add olive oil.  Combine onions, garlic and a pinch of salt, and allow the onions to sweat.  Add carrots, another pinch of salt, and sauté for 2-3 minutes.  Add the celery and the apple, and mix in your fresh and dry herbs. Allow flavors to combine for 2-3 minutes.  Let it to cool slightly, and combine the onion mixture with the lentils.

Make flax egg by combining the ground flax seed and warm water in a small bowl. Allow mixture to thicken for 5 minutes. Combine the flax egg, walnuts, flour, and leftover stuffing with the lentil mixture.  Knead the loaf with hands until it is moist and all ingredients are mixed well together.  Form into a large loaf and place into a well-greased loaf pan or casserole dish. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes. Use your favorite barbecue or tomato sauce to glaze the loaf.

 

Cauliflower with Curry Butter

This non-traditional cauliflower dish is incredibly flavorful, and full of spices rich with anti-inflammatory properties.  Although, your guests will not be concentrating on the latter as they go back for seconds! Use fresh cauliflower:

(6-8 servings)

3 pounds cauliflower
4 tablespoons Earth Balance, or other vegan butter
½ teaspoon turmeric
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon black pepper
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
salt

Method: Using a paring knife, cut cauliflower into small florets. This should yield 8 cups of cauliflower. Heat a large pot of salted purified water to high. In batches, stir in cauliflower once the water reaches boil. Allow the cauliflower to simmer for 4-5 minutes, or until tender.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the cauliflower and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter and combine turmeric, cayenne pepper, black pepper, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.  Once all ingredients are incorporated, drizzle the butter sauce onto the cauliflower while mixing.  Stir in cilantro and lime juice.  Add additional salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with additional cilantro and serve warm.

Homemade Herbed Stuffing

A vegetarian-stuffing full of flavorful herbs, this recipe can be made gluten-free.
(6-8 servings)

1 loaf of bread (brown rice, whole wheat, multi-grain), torn into small pieces
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
½ cup parsley, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 teaspoon fresh sage, minced
salt and pepper
2-3 cups vegetable stock

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast bread cubes in the oven or toaster until golden brown.  In a large saucepan, combine olive oil, garlic, onions, and a pinch of salt and sauté until onions have sweat.  Add the celery, another pinch of salt, and cook until celery is tender (about 4-5 minutes).  Allow the celery mixture to cool, then using a rubber spatula, add the celery mixture to the bread crumbs. Add the fresh herbs and additional salt and pepper to taste to the bowl.

Slowly pour the vegetable stock in, as some bread absorb better than others. The bread should be evenly coated, moist and clumping together.  It should not be soggy or drowning in stock.  Pour bread mixture into a large casserole dish, and drizzle a little olive oil on top.  Cover with foil, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the tin foil after 25 minutes, and bake an additional 10 minutes for a crispier top.  Serve warm and with vegetarian gravy.

Savory Green Beans and Roasted Tomatoes

A simple yet satisfying dish with heart healthy green beans and cherry tomatoes.

(6-8 servings)

2 pounds of green beans, ends trimmed

1 carton of cherry tomatoes (about 10 tomatoes)

1/2-teaspoon cumin

1/2-teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4-teaspoon ground cloves

Salt

Pepper

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  On a lightly greased cookie sheet, place tomatoes on sheet and lightly salt and pepper them. Bake tomatoes for about 50 minutes, or until no longer firm   Boil 1 inch of water in a deep skillet.  Add green beans and allow water to boil again.  Place cover on beans, and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Simmer until beans are tender, but still a little crisp.

Remove beans and add seasonings. Toss green beans evenly, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Place roasted tomatoes on top.

 

What’s your favorite holiday dish?

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Companion Planting: How To Effectively Play Musical Chairs With Your Garden

October 10th, 2011

Have you had the dilemma in which your pea plant grew remarkably tall with plump pods next to last year’s carrots, but were sulking by the onions the following year? I can tell you it is not the vegetable gods cursing your peas this year.  It has to do with placement.  Companion gardening is strongly recommended as an eco-friendly way to manage your garden.  This is because most of the plants in your garden have substances in their leaves and roots that repel and attract other various types of plants.  We can thank the Iroquois tribe for discovering companion gardening when they noted that three vegetables grew very strongly together. They dubbed them the Three Sisters: corn, beans and squash. Since the discovery, vegetables and plants have been studied to find which plant took from the soil to compliment plants that put nutrients back in.  Companion planting is commonly used on personal gardens, and can greatly enhance your crop as well as aid in naturally deterring insects.

You can find any of these premium vegetables and herb seeds in Veggin’ Out and Uncle Herb’s Favorites!

 

                  Vegetables And Herbs That Grow Well Together                                                     

Vegetable

Friends: Companion Plant

Enemies: Non-Companion Plant

Bull’s Blood Beet Bush beans, cabbage, broccoli, kale, lettuce, onions, garlic Pole beans
Scarlet Nantes Carrot Beans, tomatoes None
Di Cicco Broccoli Beets, celery, dill, Swiss chard, lettuce, spinach, onions, potatoes Pole beans
Washington Cherry Tomatoes Carrots, celery, cucumbers, onions, peppers Corn, potatoes
White Spear Bunching Onion Beets, carrots, Swiss chard, lettuce, pepper All beans and peas               

Herb

Friends: Companion Plant

Effects

Superbo Basil Tomatoes Improves flavor and discourages insects
Bronze and Green Fennel None Most plants dislike it – keep it separate
Common Sage and Greek Oregano Carrots, cabbage, peas, beans Deters some insects
Bouquet Dill Cabbage and carrots Improves growth and health
Titan Parsley Tomatoes, Asparagus Improves growth and health

 

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Color Your Plate and Palate with Super Foods

August 2nd, 2011

 

Super foods—some grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, yogurt, and more—offer a great source of antioxidants and essential nutrients. And they’re low in calories, which make them an excellent choice for weight control and weight loss.

Did you know that the colors of fruits and vegetables also put them in their own group of super foods?

Green super foods, such as broccoli, parsley and spinach, contain large amounts of chlorophyll, which is what gives green vegetables their wonderful green coloring. When chlorophyll found in green vegetables is consumed, hemoglobin in blood is increased. Hemoglobin provides more oxygen-rich blood, and oxygen-rich blood helps cells thrive. Green super foods also contain large amounts of easily digestible nutrients, minerals, proteins and vitamins.

Orange fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, mangoes, oranges and pumpkins, are high in beta carotenes. Beta carotenes may help improve immune function and reduce the risk of heart disease. And beta carotenes help strengthen eyesight, the esophagus, the lungs, and the stomach and may help fight cancer in these areas.

Red fruits and vegetables, such as pink grapefruit, red bell peppers, tomatoes and watermelon, offer large amounts of lycopene. Lycopene, a bright red carotenoid pigment and phytochemical, helps protect cells against damaging free radicals. Studies have demonstrated that lycopene may help fight lung and prostate cancers.

In the moments when we’re enjoying a refreshing, tasty slice of watermelon or flavorful, crunchy carrot we don’t always think about the increased health benefits they offer, but they’re there—super benefits from super foods!

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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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