Sunday, May 13, 2012

Simple Steps to Frugality and Green Living #7 ~ Grow your own herbs

Simple Steps to Frugality and Green Living #7 ~ Grow your own herbs

No matter where we have lived, from small apartment with no balcony to where we are now in suburbia, I have always grown fresh herbs. I know you can buy a bottle of dried herbs and use them all year and now you can buy fresh herbs at most grocery stores, but having your own fresh herbs really gives a cook a good feeling.

Herbs are simple to grow from seed, but if that is too much of a bother buy a selection of herbs at the plant nursery and grow them onwards from seedlings. Herbs will grow anywhere providing they get sun during the day and that you do not over water them. They hate having "wet feet"!

If you are in an apartment with only a sunny windowsill you can successfully grow your culinary herbs right there. Make sure that you have the seedling replanted in a pretty pot standing in a saucer so that when you water then you do not have a waterfall going down your windowsill to the floor!

If you have a sunny balcony, then transplant your herbs into suitably big containers and keep them in the sunny spot. Remember not to over water them, three times a week in dry times and twice or less in wet/cool times. Certain herbs can also be grown in hanging baskets or ones that fix to the wall. Shallow rooted salads also will grow like this. Coriander, chives and thyme will all be happy in baskets, or even the new trend of "gutter" gardening.

Of course if you have a small garden and want to grow herbs then you can use your walls like mentioned above or you can make a herb spiral. My herb spiral turned into a herb tower but it works very well. The idea is to plant sun loving herbs that like less water at the top of the spiral/tower and ones that enjoy moist soil and less sun at the bottom. My herb tower is in sun all day in summer and only afternoon in winter. Today it contains mint, celery, majoram and origanum.

This is not the only place I grow herbs. I have all my culinary herbs right outside my kitchen door so that I can get them quickly for a meal. I do however plant lots of celery so that is interplanted in other veggie beds too. In summer I give big sections to basil so that also flows into the vegetable garden. At the moment the raised bed has borage (flowers for bees and salads, leaves for compost), bulbinella (for burns and stings), majoram, sage, chillies, celery and coriander.

I also have more sage and rosemary and nasturtiums planted at the base of my lemon tree outside the kitchen. I have recently learnt to love sage in cooking, but I do grow lots of it for sage and lemon grass soap.

There are not many instances that I have to buy fresh or dried herbs, unless coriander is out of season and while its not a huge savings on a grocery budget that is well, rather big, it is something. For me its more about the smells of fresh herbs, the beauty of them and knowing they are always ready for me. I have lavender planted in pots around our courtyard and I love it when I can brush my hand over them and get the smell. My mom always planted penny royal between her stepping stones and that is a smell I remember from my youth.

If you only have a little space, I suggest that you grow only culinary herbs like:



Bay (plant in a big container, not in the ground.)
And then only the ones from this list that you know you will use.

Here are two recipes that I made this week which called for bouquet garni (which is just a French term for "a bunch of herbs!"). Traditionally you would tie it up in a muslin bag or in a parcel form, but I don't bother. I take the leaves off the twigs and I remove the bay leaf, which is big enough to see, before serving. You can use different combinations of herbs for different meats and vegetables.

For red meat use bay, rosemary and thyme. You can add oreganum to this aswell if you want an Italian flavour. For chicken use sage, fennel, parsely, thyme and bay. For stock I always use celery, thyme, bay and sage.

End of week soup with sour dough bread.

This is such a cool meal as it uses up veggies about to go over, contains nutritious beef or chicken stock and barley.

Melt a good knob of butter, then sizzle a very generous bunch of your chosen herbs. I used sage and thyme in our soup today. Then add any washed, peeled or chopped veggies that you need to use up. I used carrots, celery, baby marrows, 4 tomatoes and 2 red onions. Let these sweat for a bit in the herbs and butter. Then add 1 litre of homemade stock - either beef or chicken - and one cup of barley. Bring to the boil and then turn down to simmer for 2 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with bread.

We served it today with the sough dough bread, the starter I nursed through the week. So nice to have bread after many weeks away from it.

Ratatouille, my style.
I know that this traditional vegetable stew is meant to be made with Aubergine, but none of us really like that veggie. I don't mind it, but it does make my lips itch! Again you can make this dish with veggies that need to be used up in a hurry, and is even better cold the next day. Here is how I make it:

Slice in lengths: 2 bell peppers, 8 baby marrows (courgettes) 2 red onions and 4 tomatoes.

The tomatoes need to be skinned first by pouring a kettle of boiling water over then and the puncturing the skin once. The skin will fold back and then you can drain the water and peel them easily.

Heat a drizzle of oil in a wide pan and fry up your chosen herbs. Sage, bay and thyme are great. You can substitute thyme for oregamum or majorum. Fry your onions until soft then place in an overproof dish in a layer. Add another drizzle and fry your marrows, putting them ontop of the onions when done. Then do the same for the peppers and lastly tomatoes.

Place this at medium heat in the oven for about 1hour. The recipe can be doubled for a main meal, but these portions are for a side dish.

I hope you are now inspired to try your own herb growing!

1 comment:

reginascottage said...

hello wendy
i love herbs,too. i grow all my herbs in containers.....the most from seedlings. it's very easy and cheaper
mmmh the homemade bread and your soup
looks very delicious.
have a nice evening,
love regina