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Local Herb Societies and a Summertime Chili

3/24/2009 10:23:10 AM

Tags: Chili, Recipe, Herb Society, Dave Liske, Summer


You can check Dave Liske at

A local treasure-trove of activities, information and just plain good times you shouldn't be overlooking is the local herb society. About 15 years ago my sister Barb gave me a copy of the fundraiser book "Herbal Favorites" from the Genesee County Herb Society. This particular herb society, located in Flint, Michigan, and the surrounding area, hosts a number of events each year. For example, on June 27th and 28th in 2009 the society will present "Gardens in Thyme" at Historical Crossroads Village just north of Flint. This presentation, in cooperation with Michigan State certified Master Gardeners, will demonstrate how people from Michigan's past used herbs in their daily life, not only as health remedies and for the beauty of the herbs, but in their cooking as well.

One of the hardest working gals in the Genesee County Herb Society is Betsy. She posts in her herb blog, Betsy's Herb Garden, as often as she can at and hers is a blog I visit quite often. Betsy's posts tend to be amazingly informative with both photos and video, and she's always entertaining. It's people like Betsy who make an herb society as vital and as interesting as they can possibly be.


My sister Barb was involved in the Genesee County Herb Society's cookbook the year they published this particular edition. Not only did she submit a number of recipes for inclusion in the cookbook, she was also a member of the committee which assembled the book for the society.

What's interesting in a book like this isn't just the money coming in from sales of the cookbook. In the case of a book from an herb society, a lot of information is included in one place, information which may not see the light of day if it weren't for the cookbook. When people take part in putting together a cookbook fundraiser project they tend to submit their favorite recipes, family heirlooms which have been passed from generation to generation. They might even include a recipe for its fun factor. These are all well and good, but after a while all these little cookbooks tend to look the same.

However, when it comes to a cookbook for an herb society and the focus is actually on what you can and should do with herbs, it becomes more of a local treatise on history and culture. Members will tend to include what can be grown in that region or recipes that have been used in that region in the past. If techniques and garden plans are included, as they were in this book, they'll like be a bit more specific to what grows well in the area. This is important not only from a historical standpoint but also for beginning herb gardeners as well.

One of the recipes Barb included in this particular book is Summertime Chili. This is a lighter chili that's thick with vegetables. It's also topped with large chunks of zucchini and partial ears of corn. This makes it an excellent springtime chili as well as a solid summertime dish.

Summertime Chili
Adapted from a recipe by my sister, Barb Liske


• 1-1/2 lb ground chuck
• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
• 1 cup chopped onion
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 cup chopped green bell peppers
• 1-1/2 cup finely chopped celery
• 2 tablespoons mild chili powder
• 1 teaspoon cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon oregano leaves
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
• 1 cup chicken stock
• 1 tablespoon vinegar
• 1 cup crushed tomatoes
• 1 cup pitted black olives
• 2 ears corn or 1 cup frozen, thawed
• 2 zucchini

1. Brown the ground chuck and drain the oil off. Add the butter, onion, garlic, green bell pepper and celery, then cook until the vegetables have softened.

2. Stir in the spices and cook one to two minutes. Add the chicken stock, vinegar and tomatoes and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Add the olives. If using ears of corn, break them into thirds or half. Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise then cut into large chunks. Place the corn and zucchini on top of the chili.

3. Cover and cook slowly for 20 to 30 minutes. Serve with grilled herb bread with garlic butter.

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