Herbs

Making Herb Concentrate

How To Make Herb Concentrates - LivingHomegrown.com

Garden herbs were the gateway drug to my current edible gardening obsession.

As I was in culinary school, I started landscaping with herbs rather than ordinary landscape plants so that I could have the freshest ingredients possible in my cooking.

Herbs immediately captured my heart – not only because they had lovely colors & textures in the garden but also because  you only had to touch the leaves as you walked by and the air was filled fragrance.

Heaven.

But despite cooking with and constantly clipping from all those herbs, I quickly learned that I had much more than I needed. So, I dove into the world of preserving herbs.

I chopped, steeped, pureed, dried and froze herbs in every way I could find. And I now have several favorite, go-to preservation options.

But one of my favorites is the one method I started with (oh so many years ago): Herb Concentrates.

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Cooking With Marvelous Mint

Mint Today, I am taking part in Summer Fest.

Margaret Roach (awaytogarden blog) created this blogging project as a way to share “fresh-from-the-garden” recipes and tips. This week’s theme is HERBS and since I have been writing about herbal cooking and gardening for over 22 years, I just HAD to participate! This is my contribution on “Cooking with Mint”.

Mint is one of those unappreciated, underutilized herbs in the kitchen. Most people only think of it as an ingredient in chocolate recipes or as a garnish in ice tea. But mint is one of the few herbs that works exceptionally well in both savory and sweet dishes. It combines well with stronger herbs like rosemary and cooling herbs like lemon balm, cilantro and parsley.

Did you know that there are literally hundreds of different varieties of mint? It all started with about 20 species of mint that crossed and re-crossed until literally hundreds of different mints were created. Everything from apple mint to orange mint can be found at specialty nurseries around the country.

But of all the different mint varieties out there, spearmint and peppermint are still the most widely known and the most popular in the kitchen. Spearmint is so common that it is usually just labeled “mint” or “the best mint” by nurseries.  Cross breeding has created many different spearmint leaf shapes, but you can still determine if you have spearmint by the fragrance. It is cooling without the menthol overtones of peppermint. If however, the mint you find smells like a candy cane, it is peppermint.

DRINKS
Yes, mint is the perfect ice tea garnish and yes, you can make a killer hot tea with its leaves. But try making a limeade-mint drink this summer or add a little mint to your next fruit smoothie and you will see that mint can bump up the flavor a notch. It adds a coolness that is much needed when the weather warms up.

MintBlueberries DESSERTS
Mints combines well with just about all fruit desserts. Try mint with fruit salad, strawberry shortcake, sorbet, fruit parfaits or cobbler. You are probably already familiar with how well mint combines with chocolate. To change a chocolate recipe to chocolate-mint, just flavor the liquid of the recipe (milk, cream, water, etc.) with fresh mint leaves. This is best done by heating the liquid, adding fresh mint, covering and letting it set for ten to thirty minutes. Then strain out the mint and use the liquid in the recipe.

SIDE DISHES AND ENTREES
Try mint with carrots, peas, corn or new potatoes. I kid you not. It works! You can also add some mint to rice or couscous for a little variety in your side dishes. Mint also gives a nice contrast and balance to spicy ingredients like jalapeños. Add a pinch of mint to your next spicy meal and you will see what I mean.

As for main dishes, mint is most closely associated with lamb and pork recipes. But it can be used on chicken or beef as well, especially if combined with something sweet (like citrus) and something spicy (like hot peppers).

If you are interested in experimenting with mint, look to Mediterranean or Indian cuisine for some more delicious combinations. In the meantime, try some of the recipes below this summer.

MintCorn Minted Corn on the Cob
This is a fast, simple recipe for when you are in a hurry to get the dinner on the table. It is quick, but tastes very delicious.

6 ears of corn on the cob
butter or margarine
18 sprigs of fresh mint
plastic wrap

Shuck and rinse the corn. Pat dry. Generously butter and carefully place 3 mint sprigs lengthwise on each ear of corn. Wrap ears individually in plastic wrap and fold down the ends so that it is completely sealed. (The plastic wrap will hold the herbs in place.) You do not need to poke a hole for venting. It is actually faster if it is kept sealed and steams the corn inside. Microwave 3-4 ears at a time for 8-12 minutes on high or until corn is tender when pierced with a fork. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings. This recipe is also delicious with other herbs substituted for the mint such as thyme, rosemary or sage.

MintLimeade Spearmint Limeade
Limeade can be a nice change from the standard lemonade of summer, but if you prefer, you may substitute lemons in this recipe. If you do, you may need to also adjust the sugar to your taste.

½ cup fresh spearmint leaves
6 cups water
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups fresh squeezed lime juice
½ cup lemon juice

In a small saucepan, combine spearmint leaves with just two cups of the water. Heat to boiling, turn of heat and cover. Let mixture sit 20 minutes. Strain out and discard mint. Add sugar to the mint water and heat until sugar is dissolved (about two minutes). In a large pitcher, combine mint water, remaining four cups water, lime juice and lemon juice. Stir to mix. Chill and serve over ice.

Summer Punch
This recipe is great for summer parties and even the kids will like it. It calls for peppermint, but you can use any mint in the garden.

1 ½ cups water
1 cup fresh peppermint leaves
12 oz. can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
2 liters lemon-lime carbonated beverage
extra mint sprigs for garnish

In a small saucepan, combine water and mint. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and cover. Set aside for 30 minutes, and then strain into a large pitcher. Discard mint. Add remaining ingredients. Stir well. Chill and serve over ice with fresh mint sprigs in each glass.

For more herbal recipes go here:

Lavender Biscotti

Lemon Balm

Cilantro and Coriander are the same plant!

Lemon Verbena Syrup

Borage

Growing Lemon Verbena

Lemon Verbena Fruit Punch

 

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BayPlant This past week was National Herb Week- A special week created by the International Herb Association to promote the world of herbs and the Herb of the Year (which in this case is BAY).

I just blogged about growing bay and making “Rice Pudding” with bay over at the Herb Companion Magazine site. Yum!

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Fireplace Herbs

LavenderBundlesL As you cut back any herbs in your garden in preparation for winter, save the cuttings and branches from the most fragrant plants such as bay, mint, lavender, lemon verbena, rosemary and sage. Why? Because after they dry, you can bundle them into small packages and then use them as fragrant fire starters through winter.

You can also combine the dried herbs with evergreen sprigs such as balsam, cedar or pine for even more holiday fragrances.

As you cut back the herbs, tie the bundles with rubber bands for hanging. (The stems shrink while drying and the rubber bands will keep them from falling out.) When completely dry, remove the rubber bands and tie the bundles with cotton string or raffia for burning. (Don’t use pretty ribbon like the photograph unless you are giving these as gifts.) Use the bundles as kindling every time you want a fragrant fire.

With lavender, I dry the bundles and then remove the lavender blossoms for later crafting. (You just rub and the dried blossoms fall off.) What is left are just the stems which are still very fragrant.

I keep a basket of these stems near the fireplace (but not so close that they can go up in flames) and use them all the time. The fragrance is subtle, but nice!

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Lavender Biscotti

Lavenderfield_2 My mom harvested her lavender last weekend and ended up with several baskets filled to the brim with fragrant bundles. I dried my own lavender last month and have it hanging in the garage. All this harvesting and drying got me to thinking about some of the more unusual things I have done with lavender.

I know that not everyone thinks of food when they think of lavender, but I do. I like to bake with it. I use it in breads, pastries, cookies, custards and ice cream. When used correctly, it has a light, floral flavor. Too much, and your food ends up tasting like lavender soap! I have learned the hard way that a light hand is best.

Here is a delicate lavender biscotti recipe that I have made for years. The biscotti has a light blending of lemon and lavender — a great combination. I like to serve it with hot tea, or for dessert, or a midnight snack, or sometimes for breakfast with coffee…You get the idea.

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Featured Plant – Lemon Balm

Lemonbalm1_2 Have you ever grown a plant so long, you started to assume everyone already knew all about it?

It happened to me once when someone visited my garden and said, “What is this lovely smelling plant?” My first reaction was to say “Oh THAT? It’s just lemon balm,” as if it were nothing special. Poor plant!

Lemon balm is something special and just because it seems common to me, does not mean it is common to everyone. It deserves better than that!

So this week, I am featuring Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) as my plant of the week. (Cue the music…)

 

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Featured Plant – Kent Beauty Oregano

Kentbeauty1_3 Here is a “beauty” of a plant that everyone should grow.

It is called Kent Beauty Oregano (Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’). It is NOT an oregano that you eat. It is just one to look at, admire and impress your friends with. We all need a few plants like that, don’t we?

Like all oregano plants, Kent Beauty likes full sun. If you live in an area where you can grow regular oregano, you should be able to grow Kent Beauty as well. You can grow it as a short mounding plant toward the front of your border or in a container. Personally, I think it looks best in a container — especially a hanging basket. It just looks so intriguing trailing down over the side. It has these beautiful rose colored bracts that droop around the edges. They almost look like hops, don’t they? Kentbeauty2

Kent Beauty also looks incredible as a cut flower. Place it in a vase with taller flowers in the center. No one will know what it is.

You can buy the plants from:

Digging Dog Nursery

Goodwin Creek Gardens

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Did you know that cilantro and coriander are the same thing?!

Cilantro

The plant called Coriandrum sativum is really the combination of two herbs in one. The leaf portion is known as cilantro and used in savory dishes such as rice, chutney, beans or spicy sauces. But the seed of this plant is called coriander and used to flavor pastries, cakes, breads, pickles and curries. Cilantro is used fresh and coriander is dried. The flavorings are so different that you would never know they came from the same plant.

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Lemon Verbena Syrup

I mentioned Lemon Verbana a few weeks ago here. I thought I would share another recipe for how to use it…

Lemon Verbena Syrup has a multitude of uses. Try it as a sweetener in hot or iced tea or fruit drinks. Drizzle it over cake, ice cream, pastries or fresh fruit. Bottle some syrup to give as a gift with a box of tea. It is not something you can just pick up at the store. You MUST make it yourself.

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 cup hard-packed fresh lemon verbena leaves

2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a medium-sized saucepan, combine all ingredients over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer three minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for one hour. Strain into a decorative bottle. Store in the refrigerator and use within three months.

That is all there is to it!  Enjoy!

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Featured Plant – Borage

Here is a fun little plant: Borage (Borago officinalis).

Borage1

It actually looks like a weed most of the time, but if you can be patient long enough, you are rewarded with brilliant blue flowers. These flowers are edible and can be used in beverages or as garnishes on desserts, tea sandwiches, fruit salad…you get the picture.

My borage plant is in full bloom right now. So, let me tell you all about it…

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