With summer half way through, I wanted to share some of the wonderful herbs I was able to harvest so far! Ever since I took a more minimalist approach to gardening this year, I was able to manage my entire garden without burning out as quickly. The garden also didn’t look like such an overgrown mess during those weeks when I couldn’t maintain it! As a result, I had beautiful, healthy herbs that I could snip for delicious meals!
My summer herbal harvest included quite a few beauties this season: English Thyme, Lemon Balm Thyme, and Silver Queen Thyme; Genovese Basil, Thai Basil, and Amethyst Basil; Hot and Spicy Oregano and Greek Oregano; Barbeque Rosemary, Curly Parsley, Tri-Color Sage, Chives, Spearmint, Marjoram, and Tarragon. Unfortunately, the heat wave killed off my sage, but the rest of my herbs survived!
WHY GROW HERBS?
Herbs in general are my favorite items to grow because they are relatively easy to care for, smell incredible, and can be harvested for fresh seasoning. My obsession for cooking aligns well with my obsession for herbs! If you like to cook, you’ll love the diversity of flavors available to you if you keep a pot of herbs on your window ledge, or in your yard.
Another wonderful thing about growing herbs at home is the species variety available to you. Conventional herbs from the grocery store are wonderful in a pinch, but you can’t purchase specific varieties that are culinary game changers. For example, I love lemon thyme, but I can only get it when I grow it. Fresh lemon thyme has a citrusy flavor profile and is far less bitter and herbaceous than English thyme, which is what is typically sold at American grocery stores. Fresh marjoram is another herb that I cannot find at my local market unless it is dried, and by that point it has lost its true flavor.
MY FAVORITE HERBS THIS YEAR:
LEMON BALM THYME
I have a lot of favorite herbs, but if I had to be honest with myself, thyme is the one I use almost daily. I harvest loads of this in the spring, summer, and early fall. This year, I plan on drying it for the winter. Lemon balm thyme has a lovely lemon-like aroma and taste with a touch of floral flavoring that pairs well with fish and chicken. This year, I used it to make my fresh Fresh Italian Seasoning, which I used to make Chicken Saltimbocca from Half Baked Harvest. The herb combination was truly spectacular!
Basil is another of my favorite herbs, which I use shamelessly on pizza and pasta. During my first few years of gardening, I grew Genovese basil, amethyst basil, dolce fresca basil, Thai basil, lemon basil, and lime basil. This year, I kept things simple, focusing mainly on Genovese basil and Thai basil. These two are my favorites; Genovese because the flavor and aroma is sweet and robust, and Thai because of its peppery, anise flavor that pairs well with Asian inspired dishes. I grow tons of Genovese for our summer tradition of making homemade pesto sauce, pizzas, and pastas. I tend to grow only one Thai basil plant to use for making pineapple fried rice, peanut chicken, and other stir fries.
This was the first plant I grew from seed three years ago. Garlic chives really do smell… garlicky! They also have a slight garlicky flavor. I harvest these a lot to use as toppings for garlic bread, chicken, and fish. Recently, they’ve been great in my sourdough pancakes—more on those later. Chives are easy to grow, easy to care for, and they come back bigger and stronger each year! Did I mention their beautiful purple flowers?
I can’t live without bay laurel. My best friend and I have honestly laughed when some unfortunate Chipotle customers found mysterious leaves in their burritos and complained because they didn’t know what a bay leaf was. But, fresh bay leaves are some of the best seasoning out there to give your soups, stews, rice, and more that missing, subtle edge of sweet and savory. I don’t make soup without it. I was scared that I almost lost my plant this summer, but with some patience and care, I brought the beautiful tree back to life! That lesson taught me not to give up on a plant unless the situation is just bleak.
This is my first year growing parsley. Before I knew anything about cooking, I thought it was a useless plant used to decorate dishes at restaurants. However, parsley is very much seasoning. Despite its leafy, herbaceous taste, it does add a bright acidic flavor to foods, much like adding vinegar or lemon juice. I love it for making soups, stews, and seasoning blends. It’s another ingredient in my Fresh Italian Seasoning.
Mint in general is not my favorite flavor. Its cooling effect feels nice on my skin and nice in toothpaste, but overall it reminds me too much of dental care. That said, I love spearmint. It is slightly sweet, milder in flavor, and brightens up lemonade and green tea. I made the mistake of growing this in the ground, so I do have to constantly cut it back every month so that it doesn’t overtake my garden.
I think marjoram is underrated. It is similar to oregano, but not nearly as potent and spicy. I love its sweet and delicate flavor. Honestly, because oregano can be overpowering, I often use marjoram as a substitute for oregano because I find the flavor well balanced. It’s gorgeous in pasta sauces, and adds intensity to chicken breast.
Rosemary is heavenly to smell. I grow barbeque rosemary for its pungent aroma and flavor. It tastes wonderful chopped in beef and bread. It’s also pretty resilient. Regular trimmings keep it from growing leggy.
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