I live with someone who hates herbs. So, I often make an unadorned version of a recipe, and then add herbs to my portion. It is a pain but reduces complaints. I have many of the classic herbs growing in my garden, where I can get them fresh. But I also have a cupboard full of those that are exotic or I can’t grow here. I love to cook international dishes, and without my herbs, they just wouldn’t be the same.
Cooking is a labor of love to me. I adore nothing more than cooking for family and friends, and me! When I first learned to cook, there were basic techniques that needed to be mastered. Over time, each recipe begged for my own stamp of individuality. Herbs became a way to dress up simple dishes, while they also added to the authenticity of the recipe. Over the years, I have become quite a connoisseur of herbs and spices.
A Chef’s Plethora
Opening my cabinet, you can find dried herbs from my garden. Thyme, rosemary, chive, lavender, and much more. The really wacky ones that only grow in warm climates are purchased. What would an Indian dish be without garam masala, a blend of exotic herbs and spices. Kaffir leaves are necessary for a good homemade curry. Asafoetida is essential in Middle Eastern cuisine. Shiso features in Asian dishes. Sushi is pointless without wasabi. Thai food wouldn’t be the same without lemongrass.
I have the standard herbs in my garden that I can use fresh year round. But in spring and summer I grow some other fun herb plants. Mexican oregano, Thai basil, Vietnamese coriander, Culantro, pineapple sage, lemon verbena, turmeric, bergamot, and chamomile are currently in the garden. These exotic herbs are dried for winter use. I have used a dehydrator with good effect to preserve dried herbs. Many exotic herbs keep their flavor best when dried in the sun on old window screens. I hang these or brush off the leaves to store in glass bottles. Storing herbs in a dark, cool location will keep the flavors brilliant.
I can’t talk about herbs without talking about catnip. I’m a crazy cat lady with 6. We need a constant supply of the herb, plus enough to store for winter. This year, I tried to grow it from seed up in a high location where the cats wouldn’t get the seedlings. But I forgot I had 2 kittens. They were very crafty about getting to the nip and destroying the crop, while making a mess with the dirt. So I started some in the greenhouse. Unfortunately, while hardening them off to transplant, the cats discovered them again. Only a few stems remained which I successfully rooted in glasses of water. Today the catnip is finally planted with a Fort Knox system around the little plants to prevent wily felines from disrupting the area while the plants take off.
Sleepy Time Lavender
I pull all the little flowers off my lavender at the end of the season. They are stored in the freezer. I can’t sleep well, so I made a little bag to put under my pillow. I keep it well stocked with the aromatic herb, which seems to help send me off to dreamland when I have difficulty dropping off to sleep. Lavender is one of those herb plants that helps me keep my sanity.
So I grow herbs for eating, tea, tinctures, balms, and cats. I really can’t imagine not having a vast stock of flavor, comfort, aroma, and medicine. Herbs are the keystone of our home life, and one that makes all things more joyful and enjoyable.