Posts Tagged ‘Culinary Herbs’

When I was a young ‘tweenager’ my mother started to get me cooking meals. She taught me about preparing all the basics, selection vegetables, different meats and their cuts and about flavouring things with herbs and spices. Later I would find my own ways of experimenting with simple recipes.  One herb which fascinated me was the Bay Leaf (Laurus nobilis). Imagine my surprise when I saw True Bay Laurel trees growing in front of my sisters place on Government street!
The clipped Bay Laurel in front of my sister's place.

The clipped Bay Laurel in front of my sister's place.

It seems very appropriate to be writing about this plant as it is closely associated with   athletic games held in ancient Greece The event winners would receive a Bay Laurel wreath as a prize. The games called the Pythian Games and were held to honour the god  Apollo.
This Laurus noblis is a multi-stemmed shrub which is regularly clipped.

This Laurus nobilis is a multi-stemmed shrub which is regularly clipped.

Apollo was amorous of Daphne who did not return his feelings, she ran off and asked her father (Pereus the River god) for help. He turned her in to a laurel tree which was located near  the bank of a river. In this disguise she was able to escape from Apollo. Apollo found the tree and made himself a wreath from it’s branches in the memory of her beauty. The Laurel tree was one of Apollos’ symbols.
These two True Bay lead into the formal herb garden at Government House, Victoria.

These two True Bay lead into the formal herb garden at Government House, Victoria.

Wreaths were also given to important poets and this is where the term Poet Laureate comes from.  The source of ‘baccalaureate’ is the laurel berry.
Christians held the Bay tree to be a symbol of the resurrection of Christ and triumph of humanity.
The Bay tree even is spoken of in Chinese folklore in the famous story of Wu Gang. Wu Gang was a man who wanted immortality but neglected his work. When the deities found out about his neglect they tricked Wu Gang by making him think that by cutting down a Laurel tree he could join them. Every time he cut the tree down it would miraculously regenerate and never could be fell.
These wonderful True Bay leaves have a spicy scent if rubbed up against.

These wonderful True Bay leaves have a spicy scent if rubbed up against.

The Bay tree and it’s parts are found symbolized in many places as diverse as the American one dollar bill, ten yen coin of Japan, the shield and flag of the Dominican Republic and strangely is the clan plant of the Scottish clan Graham.. It naturally is very important to the country of Greece where it is found in the national emblem of the country.

This Laurus noblis has set flower busd which will bloom later in the year.

This Laurus nobilis has set flower buds which will bloom later in the year.

For most of us it is a flavouring used in stew and other savoury dishes. It can be harvested as single leaves or as branches and used right from the tree or bush. It also can easily be dried and used later. As my mother taught me one leave goes a long way, so care must be used with this flavouring.
The only part of this herb garden which were not replaced was the three True Bays.

The only part of this herb garden which was not replaced were the three True Bays.

The California Bay Laurel (Umbellularia Californica) is sometimes sold as the True Bay. The leaf margins on the plant are smooth whereas those of the True Bay tend to undulated. I would not use the California Bay in place of True Bay in food preparation as it has much stronger volatile oils which are not the same.
Just another happy Laurus noblis growing in a Herb garden.

Just another happy Laurus nobilis growing in a Herb garden.

In its native habitat of the Mediterranean, Laurus noblis has been cultivated for thousands of years where it  grows to about 18m (60ft). Here it more commonly grown as a clipped, shaped shrub which can be used as a formal hedge, container plant, accent or specimen plant. Buy them as a small trees in a container and then shape it as you please. The True Bay like well-drained soil and full sun. It tolerates short droughts very well and does not like to be over-watered. Bay’s live in zones 8 through 11 and tolerate temperatures down to freezing for short periods.

More about Bay Trees:

Wiki has a good page:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_leaf

A good article from Flooridata: http://www.floridata.com/ref/L/laur_nob.cfm

Now on to Kim’s yummy recipes!

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The year I went to Horticulture school in Vancouver was unusually warm at Canadian Thanks Giving time and i went home on the train for the long weekend. While I was there I saw that someone had harvested the vegetables which I had planted in the small garden which I had kept. There was zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and cabbage there on the back porch when I got home. During the weekend I decided to walk around the neighborhood and see the gardens with my newly educated eyes and brain. To my surprise I saw some culinary Sage (Salvia officinalis) growing in a back garden. I decided as soon as I could I would give my mom a Sage plant to grow and use in her delicious turkey stuffing. She was so thrilled when she could use fresh Sage the following year.

Salvia officinalis 'Purpurescens' and 'Minimus"

Two forms of Savia officinalis are seen here, Dwarf and Purple leaved.

Sage has long seen as a valuable plant, it’s Latin name ‘Salvia’ means to heal. During the centuries past it has been used in many medicinal ways. It’s best known property is being used to reduce perspiration, this is useful for those persons dealing with night sweats. It is also well known as an astringent which has commonly been used as a gargle for  tonsillitis, laryngitis and sore throats. Salvia tea in the past was also prescribed for  problems such as nervous conditions, trembling, depression and vertigo. Crushed fresh leaves are used help relieve insect bites.

Salvia officinalis 'Rosea'

Salvia officinalis 'Rosea' is one flower color variation which makes an attractive addition to a garden.

Sage also has other qualities which were seen to be more important in the past. It was believed to help ward off evil spirits. The quality whhich is most important today is that of it’s ability to flavor savory dishes. The most traditional use at this time of the year is related to it’s use in the Christmas Turkey. Sage imparts a peppery earthy flavor which adds depth to many dishes. It can be used fresh or dried and it often blended with other herbs. It often is used with fatty meats such as duck, goose or pork.

Salvia officinalis 'Icterina'

Salvia officinalis 'Icterina' is also known as Golden Sage and is one of the brightest shrubs in the garden.

Savia officinalis is a low shrub which is evergreen, the leaves are unusual in that they are highly aromatic. There is now a fair selection of color forms ranging from the dusky purple of ‘Purpurascens‘ through the traditional ‘sage green’ through to almost yellow forms such as ‘Icertina’ and ‘Aurea’. There are also an attractive wider leaved form called ‘Berggarten’ and a narrow type ‘Lavandulaefolia’. ‘Tricolor’ is a weaker growing form which blends green, white and purple and commonly reverts to green. ‘Alba’ has the grayest foliage and produces attractive white flowers.

Salvia officinalis 'Purpascens'

Salvia officinalis 'Purpascens' is probably the most attractive and vigorous form of Sage to grow.

Sage is a member of the labiatae (mint) family and has the characteristic square stems and  lipped flowers. It is quite hardy for a herb and tolerates zone 4 -30f(-34c). Salvia officinalis grows to about 2ft(60cm) tall and slightly wider. The one thing which it dislikes is winter wet especially if the soil is poorly drained. Sage is best grown in full sun and sharply draining soil that is average in nutrient content.  Prune back after flowering.  It is a very versatile plant which grows well in many situations such as perennial borders, herb gardens, shrub borders,  rock gardens, container plantings and in areas of low watering or in sites which are not easily watered. You can also plant in places where the foliage will be rubbed to give off its scent. Sage is also a butterfly and bee attractant.

Salvia officinalis 'Berggarten'

Salvia officinalis 'Berggarten' has slightly broader leaves than other Sages.

Pests do not bother Sage. One disease (Verticillium dahliae) called Verticillium or  Sage Wilt will kill the plant. It is important if you have this problem not to replant any Sage in the same place again.  When selecting a plant to buy choose the most vigorous plant with the best coloring in the leaves as it can vary. Most forms are now produced by cuttings which easily root. You can grow the plain Salvia officinalis from seed but it will be more leggy compared to others.

Flowers of Salvia officinalis

The attractive flowers of Salvia officinalis are quite showy compared to other members of the mint family.

More wise advise on Sage:

My favorite site for all things herb and spice: http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Salv_off.html

Wiki page on Sage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvia_officinalis

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Chives are Our Choice!

The mild flavor of Chives makes it a wonderful versitile herb which as you will see can be used in many different situations whether it is in your garden or on your place. So now its time to High Five the Chive!

Since I grew up in a very cold zone 3a( can get as cold as -40c/f) we were severely limited in what kind of plants could be grown. The growing season is short and fast, it can freeze into June and has beeen known to do the same in late August too. Fortunately many good vegtables can be grown as they many have quick seasons being annuals. Salads are supreme!  Once we conquered vegtables next we wanted to do herbs. This was more of a challenge. The first one my mother was given was Chives( Allium schoenoprasum) which has survived and thrived admirably there, producing year after year and happily seeding so we had to give it’s offspring away.

The Familiar Papery Purple Flowers of Chives.

The Familiar Papery Purple Flowers of Chives.

Allium schoenoprasum have been with us a long time as they naturally grow over a wide area of the Northern hemisphere. They are found wild in not only Europe and Asia as well as North America, which makes them the only Allium species which is known in the new and old world. Chives were known to be used by Gypsies in fortune telling( don’t ask me how)! They early on where known to ward off disease and it was common to see dried bunches hanging in the house for this purpose. Medicinally Chives where used as far back as the Roman era to relieve sunburn and sore throat pain. It was believed that eating Chives would increase blood pressure and increase urination. Farmers also knew that Alliums repelled bugs and other pests and would plant Chives along the edges of their crops to protect their main harvests.

Chives Are Ready to Harvest When They Are in Bud Like This.

Chives Are Ready to Harvest When They Are in Bud Like This.

Since we all know and have experienced with Onions(Alliums) we know something about Chives, They taste oniony. They can be a tasty addition to many culinary concoctions, the same can be said for in a garden.  Chives are one of the more well behaved members for working with in designing.  They can be Incorporated in many places and look perfectly at home. They can be used formally or informally and look like they belong. They have long been used in vegetables and herb gardens, but also can be used as an informal, low edging which is soft in the spring and becomes more colorful when in bloom.

Here Chives are used as as an informal edging in a medicinal/herb garden.

Here Chives are used as as an informal edging in a medicinal/herb garden.

All parts of Allium schoenoprasum are edible with the leaves cut finely to add to flavor soups, salads, sauces and other things. the flowers are added to salads more for the color. the bulbs are generally not harvested now as there are better members for culinary use such as Shallots. Other members of the onion family are very similar with thin grassy leaves and slightly differing flavor. I especially like the local Nodding Onions(Allium cernuum)  which have been harvested for centuries by the native peoples of this area which makes an attractive addition to my garden. Another small attracive Onion for your garden would be the white flowering Garlic Chives(Allium tuberosum) which has flat leaves which are slightly ‘garlicy’.

Allium cernuum(Nodding Onion) in my garden.

Allium cernuum(Nodding Onion) in my garden.

Growing Chives and other smaller onions is easy. they need full sun and well drained fertile soil. they do not like drought conditions are will become susceptible to disease if this happens. remember to clean all the debris of the dead leaves in the fall to keep them free of any problems. As they are a bulb it is best to remove the flower buds if you are growing them for repeated harvest throughout the year. they also seed seed very freely if not deadheaded after blooming. Large clumps can be divided in the spring or fall to increase their vigour.

More About Chives:

Growing Chives the easy way: http://www.garden.ie/howtogrow.aspx?id=1047

A little about the history and the family of Alliums: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chives

Until We Meet Again Next Month Happy Eating…. and Happy Gardening!

From Kim: Our Choice is Chives!

Chives is one of those ingredients I use a lot in cooking and oftentimes I use in conjunction with green onions. I love its mild flavor while yet still giving me that onion taste I want without being overbearing. There’s so many uses for this herb, mostly you’d see it as a garnish to a loaded baked potato or pasta dish but I wanted to do more with it for this post – and show chives as a topping but also cooked within the dishes. Now for a few facts about chives:

They are part of Alliaceae (onion family). Chives’ constituents equal those of the close relatives, onions and garlic. The following volatile com­ponents have been identified: dipropyl disulfide, methyl pentyl disulfide, pentanethiol, pentyl-hydro­disulfid and cis/trans-3,5-diethyl-1,2,4-tri­thiolane. Chives contain significant amounts of the vitamins A and C.

Gernot Katzer’s Chives Spice Pages | see Jen’s page also for more information on Chives

One of the ways I use chives also is in stir frying. Because most of the time I use fresh chives, I don’t want them to cook too long and burn so stir frying which takes such a short time is perfect for this long stem onion and so now let me introduce you to my menu, first up:

For Breakfast – Scrambled Eggs & Chives

Easy dish in the morning to make and remember that breakfast really is the important meal of the day – this is not a heavy meal in the mornings either. It’s not good to eat anything that weighs you down when you still have eight or more hours to go before dinner.

4 eggs
1/4 stick butter
Pepper to taste
chives (rough chop)

Warm pan, add butter. Beat eggs in a separate bowl and add chives. Add eggs to pan. Scramble and pepper to taste. Best to eat right after you fix them.
So, now that we’ve taken care of breakfast, it’s time to go on to lunch and so how about:

Carmelized Onions Mushroom & Chives Quiche

Isn’t this a pretty dish? Love it! This could also be a side dish for dinner too or served at a dinner party. I think it’s elegant looking enough but the primary thing is that it tastes good and the recipe is quite simple:

2 tbsp. minced shallots or white of green onions
3 tbsp. butter
1/2 lb. sliced mushrooms
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp. chicken stock
3 eggs
1 c. heavy cream
9″ pastry shell
1/4 c. shredded Swiss cheese
Snipped chives

Saute shallots in butter until tender. Add mushrooms, cook until tender. Stir in salt, lemon juice, flour, and stock; simmer 5 minutes or until liquid has evaporated; cool.

Beat eggs and cream until mixed. Stir in mushroom mixture. Pour into shell and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until set. Garnish with chives.

Notice with this dish, I’m combining three onions – shallots, green onions, and chives. They’re all a mild flavor – shallots having sort of a sweet aroma to them and so they complement each other well. I love vidalias and use them the most as far as onions go and I have mixed them with chives too, to me they balance each other out.

And so now I need to get on with supper right? So don’t want to disappoint…I have two choices for you so without further ado First Choice:

Capellini Shrimp Chives Served with Sour Cream Chives Biscuits

Oh boy now seafood and chives, I’m really in my element now!!!!!

1/2 lb. raw med. shrimp, cleaned, peeled & deveined
1 tbsp. EVOO
1 med. vidalia onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1/4 tsp. pepper
Dash of cayenne
1 tsp. dried basil
Salt to taste
1/4 c. minced fresh chives
1/2 c. pitted, chopped black olives
Grated Parmesan cheese
12 oz. capellini or long pasta

Heat oil in large skillet; add onion, garlic and shrimp; saute until shrimp turns pink. Remove shrimp and set aside. Add tomatoes, pepper, cayenne, basil and salt to the onion mixture. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes. Add shrimp, parsley and olives to mixture. Serve over noodles with chives.

I even like to use chives for the presentation to make the whole meal come together pretty on the plate. It just adds a special touch that the eyes feast on first and I love to play with my food.

2 c. Bisquick
1 c. dairy sour cream
3/4 c. plain yogurt
1 tbsp. dried snipped chives

Mix all ingredients until dough forms, beat 30 seconds. Turn onto surface, dusted with baking mix, gently roll in baking mix to coat. Shape into ball. Knead 0 times. Roll 1/2 inch thick. Cut with 2 inch cutter dipped in baking mix. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet until golden brown, 8-10 minutes, in preheated 450 degree oven. So good!!!!!

Here’s my second choice and to me it is a sophisticated looking dish, colorful and all!

Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Chives

Isn’t this a lovely way to use chives? I think so, the cherry tomatoes add such dimension with its color but flavor too! Who says everyday ingredients together have to look boring?

One last thing…

Suppose you’re hosting a party and you need a good appetizer for it? I know that when I host a party, which is rare, I clam up beforehand and I look for something simple to serve to sort break the ice but also to help me calm down a bit. So I have a really good idea to serve up:

Smoked Trout Served on Crackers with Cream Cheese and Chives


10 ounces smoked trout fillet, skin and bones removed
cream cheese
Crackers (your favorite brand)
Chives, snipped

Cut smoked trout and to fit on top of the crackers. Spread each cracker with cream cheese, top with the trout and sprinkle chives on top. Makes a pretty appetizer!

This simple appetizer you can’t go wrong with and I think that when you make anything look nice on the plate, your guests will think you’re a gourmet chef but you don’t have to be to serve really beautiful looking and great tasting dishes! Remember that if you’re not big on cooking. You don’t have to be afraid to experiment – it doesn’t have a set formula the way baking does.

And with that said, this concludes my take on chives for this month! Hope you try any one of these and let us know what you think. Visit Jen’s page will give you detailed information on chives along with some beautiful photos!

Until next month…from The Garden Palette!

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