Get down and dirty in the garden
Jessy Rushing is a Texas gardener who fell in love with herbs after tripping into a rosemary shrub one day. The scent on her clothes cheered her up all afternoon. Her curiosity was aroused and since then her herb gardening has been part investigation, part experimentation and most importantly, part delight.
How could I not love October? After triple digit heat, October is like cool silk on my skin. The air is soft, cool and breezy. Herbal fragrances waft from our young garden and all is serene. We’ve been in the house a year, working one patch of earth at a time. All the composting and pestering neighbors for advice is paying off. The soil is rich, warm and crumbly, a far cry from the native black gumbo clay. I set a little herb garden by the backdoor where I could snip chives, basil or rosemary for a recipe. Let me be honest—I’m not a very good cook—ask anyone I know about my famous fried cookies. But I love growing herbs and I’m open to new recipes.
Parsley is a cool season herb.
Photo by Jessy Rushing
October in Texas is an open invitation to plant cool season herbs. Flat leaf, or Italian parsley, is one of my favorites. Even a cook with a questionable reputation can make a tasty dish with this useful herb. Not only is it pretty in the garden, it’s full of vitamins A and C, potassium and antioxidants. Plant plenty because beneficial insects like parsley when it bolts and it’s a host plant for black swallowtail butterfly larvae.
Parsley is a biennial that is usually treated like an annual. In warm climates, it’s a cool season annual. I plant some in fall and early spring. My luck with seeds has been iffy, but if you’re the patient type, plant seeds 1/4-inch deep in fine soil and they should sprout in 2 to 3 weeks. To keep Italian parsley after it's harvested, wrap in damp paper towels and snuggle in plastic bags. It’ll last 4 to 5 days in the fridge. To keep fresh parsley longer, chop it up, place in small, clean jar (baby food jars are perfect), cover with good quality olive oil and it’ll be ready to use in sauces.
Try this Parsley Butter on grilled fish (we love it on salmon) or spread on hot, crusty bread.
• 4 tablespoons lemon juice
• 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
• 4 teaspoons chopped Italian parsley (or more, to taste)
• 1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced (this is optional)
1. Mix all ingredients, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours for flavors to mix well.
Try fresh parsley in this delicious Cranberry Rice Pilaf.
Photo by Jessy Rushing
Cranberry Rice Pilaf
With the holidays upon us, here’s a great Cranberry Rice Pilaf recipe.
• 1 bag of boil-in-bag brown rice
• 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
• 1 to 2 clove garlic, minced
• 1/4 cup chopped scallions (You know I substitute green onions!)
• 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
• 3/4 cup dried cranberries
• 3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
• Chopped pecans, for garnish
1. Cook rice according to directions. Meanwhile, heat oil over medium-high heat.
2. Add garlic, onions and mushrooms; saute for 3 minutes.
3. Reduce heat to low and add rice, cranberries and parsley. Cook 4 to 5 minutes more.
4. Sprinkle a handful of chopped pecans on top for some added crunch.
Savor each day of October. It’ll be gone quickly without fanfare, a dim memory during the winter to come. Keep your eyes open to the beauty that surrounds us, often in unexpected places. On a trip to Austin to visit our son we came across the Spider House, a coffee house near the University of Texas. The evening was sultry, the air heavy with the whirr of cicadas, so we had our cappuccinos outside, in the backyard of what had once been someone’s home. Metal chairs that I remember from childhood turned the yard into an eclectic group of seating areas. Gaily colored lights snaked up tree trunks and through limbs so that if you looked up, the stars themselves seemed to be twinkling in primary colors.
I shamelessly copied the Spider House on a smaller scale. Tiny lights twine around the rails of my patio and I scour garage sales, antique and junk shops for the metal garden chairs of long ago. They’re still as comfortable as I remember.
Make time to relax outside this evening and enjoy your cool season herbs. Whether it’s an apartment balcony, farm pasture or backyard patio, October’s beauty is free for the taking.
Take a moment to enjoy the October air.
Photo by Jessy Rushing
“The kiss of the sun for pardon
The song of the birds for mirth
One’s nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth”
—Dorothy Frances Gurney