Posts tagged ‘herbs’
The basil harvest has begun. This harvest warms my heart and kitchen. As the basil grows, a sense of comfort, warmth and strength overwhelm me. It may sound strange to talk about the way one’s plants affect one, but they do affect us in all different ways. Basil nurtures, warms and loves.
Today there was much harvesting to do in the Beach Flats Garden. The squash have been growing in the heat of the sun, getting sweet and tender to please the gardener’s tastebuds. We harvested two for ourselves, but at least a dozen more tasty specimens were hiding under the broad pointed squash leaves. The first cabbage was ready today; a large light green head was harvested. This cabbage will last for several weeks in the fridge, giving a sweet fresh crunch to tacos, salads, soups and sandwiches.
The main harvesting task was the herbs. We have a long row of oregano, thyme, mint, and tarragon on the east side of our parcel. These herbs form an aromatic hedge that is abundantly delicious. They have been growing feverishly all spring, and now the long sprigs of oregano and thyme need to be harvested. the oregano is growing secondary stems and and the thyme is starting to flower. We cut them down to the base with garden clippers, leaving a little bit of of the plant to grow back for the next round of harvesting.
Fava Beans are a great crop to grow in Coastal California. They can be planted in the fall for a spring harvest or in the spring for a fall harvest. Under the right conditions, the plants can reach over 4 feet tall and have long pods filled with big tasty beans. When grown over the rainy season, irrigation is often unnecessary due the plentiful rain. The leaves are edible, and often show up in gourmet dining establishments when they’re in season. As a bonus, they can be used as a cover crop in the winter to reduce weed growth and boost your soil fertility. A great addition to any garden, Fava Beans are easy to grow and fun to prepare.
To incorporate the all mighty fava into our garden I went to the seed bank at Subrosa last spring and procured some heirloom purple fava beans (about 5 seeds total). I sowed these in the back of our parcel for the 2011 summer season. After many months of growing, blooming, and finally drying, the fava bean seeds were ready for harvest. I collected a basket full of dried fava bean pods and brought them home. After a few more days drying in the sun on my the porch, I shelled the beans and gathered them into a glass jar to save for later. In the fall the whole parcel was sown with the beans in rows about 18 inches apart. These hearty plants grew all winter with the help of the sun and rain. In April, when the first seed pods were forming, I cut down three quarters of the plants and dug them into the soil for compost. The remaining favas stayed in the ground a few more weeks until the pods were large and fully developed. Last week they were ready, so I harvested three quarters of the remaining beans. One row was left for seeds.
The fresh fava bean pods were brought home, and together we shelled the first bag of them. The whole beans were then boiled for one minute and then drained. After this, the beans have to be husked one by one. Once this is done, you are ready to enjoy your beans. Some people complain that fava beans are lot of work to prepare. This may be true, but in reality the work is easy and goes by pretty quickly. I feel that the ease of growing and harvesting of these beans makes up for the little bit of extra work in the kitchen. And besides, if you grow your own dry beans, you have to shell them anyways, so the difference in work between favas and black or pinto beans is minimal.
We ate our fava beans over a bed of quinoa with a garnish of fresh garden oregano and cilantro with lemon juice and pine nuts. A dash of salsa livened up the mixture with some fresh chile and tomato flavor.
Cilantro is an annual herb used around the world to enliven meals with a fresh herby zing. A common ingredient in salsa, soup, salad and chutney; the fresh or dried leaves are used by chefs in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, India, Africa, and the Americas. The seeds are a spice known as coriander; which is as widely used as the leaves. The difference between an herb and a spice is what part of the plant is being used. A spice is a seed, stem, bark or other hard part of the plant while herbs are the leaves, flowers and soft parts of the plant. In the case of the cilantro plant; the leaves are an herb, and the seeds are a spice
In the Beach Flats Garden cilantro can be found in almost every plot; it even grows wild sometimes. Most of the gardeners plant it in rows 2-4 inches wide, with the seeds densely sown to create a hedge of cilantro that blocks out competing weeds. It is harvested as needed, by pulling it up from the roots. To use the herbs, we first wash them, then remove the stems and save the leaves. The leaves are finely chopped and used in almost every meal. In the fall the cilantro goes to seed, and the gardeners dry and save the seeds for next year. Some gardeners winter crop the cilantro also, for a year round harvest.
Today I harvested oregano, tarragon, and lemon verbena from our parcel. Oregano is a must have in any herb garden because of its savory taste and fresh aroma. The tarragon is a zesty perennial herb that is used in french cooking and is great in eggs. Lemon verbena is a favorite herb in Argentina; we have one in our parcel that we harvest for making tea. During the peak season our herbs produce more than we can use each day so we dry the excess and save some for the winter. Oregano, thyme, lemon verbena, marjoram, mint, and rosemary can be preserved this way.
Ladybugs are a good friend in any garden. They eat aphids and other bad insects, so always be nice to them and thank them for their hard work in pest control. Certain plants attract them including marigolds, oregano, corn, beans, squash and many more.
Here is an easy recipe for pesto (courtesy of my mom).
Photo coming soon!
3 tbs. melted butter
2 cup of fresh basil leaves (washed and dried)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp. salt
2 garlic cloves
2 tbs. pine nuts
Grind up together in a blender or food processor. Don’t overdo it. You can also use a mortar and pestle or a knife and a cutting board.
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 tbs. Romano cheese
Enjoy on pasta, toast, sandwiches, salmon, chicken, veggies etc.