April 1, 2009
Colorado cooks and gardeners know their growing season is shorter than most, so many start the spring season by growing herbs on a sunny windowsill. Theres great pleasure in having an assortment of fresh home-grown herbs to snip and add to a dish for a burst of flavor. Anyone who has ever considered growing their own herbs should give it a try its easy to start them indoors in containers and nurturing them is a rewarding accomplishment. Plus youll save money on groceries and have a bounty to share with friends.If you live in the Rocky Mountains, give yourself a head start by buying a variety of young plants. Herbs will start from seeds, but it takes longer. Your young plants may need to be repotted as soon as you purchase them. If the roots are crowded, find a larger container where theyll be able to stretch out. A good soil mixture will be important for a healthy growing process: use 1 part quality potting soil, 1 part sand and 1 part humus. Once a month, fertilize your herbs with fish emulsion.If you have a window with a southern exposure, that spot will be best. Next, keep each different herb in its own container. Youll find that they will each have their own needs in terms of water and light. Check the soil daily and don’t allow the plants to dry out. Most will like to be kept lightly moist. When summer arrives and your plants are strong and healthy, they will benefit from the long sunny days outdoors. Many herbs are perennials and can be transplanted into your garden where they will return next spring. Keep annuals in their pots and find a spot outside that allows them to thrive.Jeremy Kittelson, executive chef at Avondale suggests some of his versatile favorites to make the most of your gardening efforts. Plant herbs that can be added to a variety of dishes right before serving to give them a sprinkle of color and fresh flavor, he says. Herbs that enhance many dishes include chervil, sorrel, parsley and thyme. Heres his guide to hardy culinary herbs:Chives: have a mild, oniony flavor. Use with eggs or in dips. Chives are a perennial, and can be transplanted into the ground and will return next spring.Rosemary: this small, pine-like bush in the mint family likes a sunny, but sheltered spot outdoors. Use as seasoning for meats.Chervil: Has a light, licorice flavor with a wild taste of pepper. Likes shade or part shade. A great addition to salads and pastas.Sage: has a strong, slightly bitter flavor. Use sparingly in stuffings and with poultry. Perennial.Cilantro: Cilantro grows rapidly and likes a shallow, but wide container. Harvest by cutting down to the roots. Another strong flavor, use sparingly in sauces and salsas.Sorrel: a low-maintenance perennial. Likes shade. Fresh, lively flavor is great in salads.Parsley: Harvest regularly, don’t allow the plant to flower. Excellent addition to most foods, add just before serving.Basil: Likes a sunny, sheltered spot. Clipping to first pair of leaves from base allows plant to multiply. The main ingredient of pesto sauce, make a large batch and freeze small portions to use throughout the year.Thyme: Small shrub with tiny, brownish-green leaves. The leaves have an enticing aroma and flavor, great in soups and sauces. Perennial.Mint: Fragrant plant. Crush leaves just before adding to a dish. Excellent in a sauce or marinade for lamb, or try in desserts.Kittelson offers some of his favorite herb sauces here, but suggests experimenting. Let the aroma of the herb guide you. Then chop and add to one of your tried and true dishes to give it a new flavor. Salsa Verde1 cup fresh parsley, chopped1 cup fresh chervil, chopped1 cup fresh tarragon, chopped1 cup fresh chives, chopped2 anchovy fillets1 T capers1 cup olive oilJuice and zest of 1 lemonMake a paste out of the anchovy and the capers using a mortar and pestle. Season the lemon juice with a little bit of salt and some pepper. Combine paste, lemon juice and remaining ingredients in a large bowl with just enough oil to make the sauce the consistency of pesto. Yield 1 cup. May be used as a marinade, or serve as a sauce with grilled or roasted meats. Freezes well. Basil Sorrel Pesto2 cups fresh basil, packed2 cups fresh sorrel, packed1 cup olive oil1 Tb pinenuts, lightly toasted1 Tb parmesan, grated1 clove garlic, peeled2 Tb. fresh lemon juiceSaltPepperPlace the oil in the blender and place in the freezer for 20 minutes (this will help the oil to bind with the other ingredients). Blanch basil and sorrel in boiling, salted water, then shock in ice water immediately. Squeeze excess water from basil and sorrel and chop. Place in the blender with garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Blend well, about one minute. Add the pinenuts and the cheese and blend for 10 more seconds to incorporate. Yield 1 cup. Use as a sauce for pasta or grilled fish or chicken. Freezes well.