H is for Herb

Do you pronounce it “erb” or “herb?” I say “erb.” Either way, adding fresh herbs to your meals simply seems to elevate the day.

Herbs are so easy to grow, they are a perfect introduction to gardening. You can start with a garden plot or a sunny windowsill. This is the prefect time of year to begin.

Chives are some of the first things I can harvest in my garden each year. They are they are perennials, and they come back quickly every year. They are not picky about sun, soil or water. Some of each is all they ask. You can plant seeds directly in the garden, or grow them in a sunny window. Chive plants are readily available in garden centers and sometimes in the market.

chive-plant-with-flowers photo by Crystl

Chives have a pleasant mild onion flavor and scent. Scrambled eggs with chives are an early spring tradition for us. As our tea is steeping, a trip to the edge of the patio with scissors (usually still dressed in a robe) is all that is needed to harvest a handful. The pale lavender flowers are edible too. Separate them into small clumps of petals and sprinkle on salads.

Homemade herb salad dressing is a very simple and inexpensive way to add gluten free flavor to your meals. I call it salad dressing, but it is a versatile topping for veggies, meat, poultry or fish. Today I give you a recipe using chives, because that is what I have in abundance now. You can adapt this for many other herbs though.


chive-dressing-on-fish photo by vsimon

submitted to Grow Your Own May 28, 2009 roundup

Chive Salad Dressing

Check out the color! And a delicate flavor, perfect for those who like things mild.

1 cup chopped chives

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

¼ cup mild flavored oil

¼ cup water

¼ teaspoon salt

Process in a small blender until smooth, about 1 minute. I use the tall cup attachment with my immersion blender. This dressing thickens with time. If you make it several hours before you use it, thin with more water or oil to desired consistency.


cilantro photo by Henrique_Vincente

Cilantro is a love it or hate herb. Some describe it as lovely, others say it is soapy. Some are polite and say it is an acquired taste. We crave it and use it generously on Mexican, Indian, and Thai foods.

It spoils quickly after harvest, and goes to seed quickly in the garden. When we are really organized, we sow seeds in two-week intervals. But really, that usually does not happen.

Epicurious has a versatile high flavor recipe for Cilantro Garlic Sauce. This sauce is a darker green than the chive sauce, but still vibrant. We drizzle it on beef as suggested in the recipe. But it also often tops enchiladas, veggies, or eggs at our house. It keeps in the fridge for a week or two. And we freeze it in small batches to liven up winter foods.


dill-seed-fireworks photo by Jurek_d.

Dill weed is a natural in seafood dishes. My favorite is shrimp salad with lots of fresh dill and lemon. We favor the leaves, not the seeds, but both are edible. You just need to plant dill in the garden once. Even though it is an annual, it self seeds and sprouts every year, every where. Even when we roto till the garden, it just keeps coming up. We do not mind, we harvest a whole plant when we want dill for dinner. Dill gets to be 3 feet tall, too big for a windowsill garden.

swallowtail-caterpillar photo by Shelly_and_Roy

One year, our wayward dill fed about a dozen yellow swallowtail caterpillars. The plants were stripped bear in a couple of days, you could almost hear the munching. But what a stunning sight when the butterflies started appearing! I think this is reason enough to let dill do as it pleases.


yellow-swallowtail-butterfly photo by OakleyOriginals

Basil, ah basil. Sweet, cinnamon, Thai, lime… There are so many kinds, each with distinct flavor, aroma, appearance and use. Sweet basil goes in spicy Italian Puttanesca Sauce with kalamata olives. Basil is the backbone flavor in Shrimp and Quinoa. Whole Thai or lime basil leaves get tightly rolled up in rice paper in my Midwest Summer Rolls, a loose adaptation of Thai Spring Rolls. When you have fresh basil in the kitchen, you will catch yourself pinching it under your nose and breathing in deeply to capture the heady scent.

Basil-leaf-face photo by L.Marie

Future posts will include some of the recipes talked about here. And there are many other herbs to savor everyday. We will highlight more herbs in the future, fresh and dried. For now, I encourage you to sow some seeds or plant some plants. Your nose and tummy will surely thank you.