Using Herbs

JUL 29

There once was a gardener, who hadn't a clue,
With so many herbs, she didn't know what to do!
(So she kept reading)

"I have so much [insert herb name here] and don't know how to use it all!" Come summer time, your herb gardens are thriving and you want to be able to harvest the rewards. But if you are like me, you might be running out of ideas - there are only so times I can have a mojito in each hand with the excuse, "I need to use up this mint!" So here are some uses, both culinary and homeopathic, for the common herbs you might have bundles of:

Thyme: Thyme is one of those go-to herbs for kitchen use. With sweet and savory characteristics, it is useful in many dishes. Meats, sauces, vegetables, infusions, etc. are all improved by the added flavor of thyme. Standing up beautifully to rich foods, consider using thyme for stocks, stuffing, and soups. Blend it with wine for poultry, fish or pork sauces. Lemon thyme can be used to brew a refreshing tea.

Parsley: A biennial (but usually grown as an annual), parsley is a stable stove-side herb. Add it fresh to salads, chop and sprinkle on a sandwich, in egg dishes, garnish a soup, or just chew it raw (Parsley is said to sweeten the breath and, in particular, combats the smell of garlic). Dried parsley makes a good addition to Italian meats and sauces; add toward the end of cooking for best results. If you can't use up all your parsley this season, it preserves well, so throw it in the freezer!

Rosemary: In a recent Washington Post article, local mixologist, Derek Brown, offers his suggestions: When you have an excess of rosemary, try adding it to good olive oil. Heat the two together for a few minutes, then cool and transfer to a glass bottle. Drizzle the oil infusion over goat cheese and cured ham. Enjoy this with a chilled glass of fino sherry and you will understand the art of food pairing.

Mint: Mint is my go-to herb for drink recipes. Nothing spells summer quite like a caipirinha - the national drink of Brazil. I make a minty rendition of this beverage: Muddle lime wedges, fresh mint leaves  and simple syrup, shake in cachaça (Brazilian rum) and pour over ice - you'll love it, I swear. Spearmint can be made into classic sauces and jellies (popular for accompanying lamb), and makes an attractive garnish for dessert dishes such as fruit flans. Chewing mint is said to have relieve digestive problems.  Dry bundles of mint and hang in your food pantry to deter ants and rodents.

Chives:  Packing a punch of vitamin A and C and other minerals, chives are one of my favorites to cook with. I use chives to make whipped mashed potatoes, egg omelets, cream cheese blends, and when I'm feeling fancy, for making a chive-mustard butter, which is delicious with sourdough rolls.  To make your own, stir together ½ cup of softened butter, 4 teaspoons of your favorite spice brown mustard and 1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh chives. It's sure to wow your dinner guests.

Oregano: Oregano is beautiful in the garden. Low growing, its pink-purple flowers stand out against dark green leaves; oregano makes an attractive, aromatic garden edge. Out of the ground, oregano is just as useful. Especially flavorful dried, sprinkle oregano in chili, tomato-based sauces, on pizza, over a Greek salad or in an onion soup.   Steam inhalation is even used to relieve bronchitis and asthma.