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Spring has progressed in the Pittsburgh area. In fact, there have been summer days here already. It is always a delight to see what has started to grow in the spring herb garden. After we had the two-foot snow in early February, I hoped that the herbs would be OK when the snow was gone. Here are three herbs I've found growing in my early spring herb garden:
I was pleasantly surprised to find three curly parsleys that had started growing.
Curly parsley makes an appearance in my spring herb garden.
I love to grow curly parsley because you can even use it as a little temporary hedge around the garden. Italian or flat-leaved parsley is always the one recommended to be used for cooking. Usually Italian or flat-leaved parsley is a biennial that last two years, but the leaves are only good that first year. I usually make sure that I have new parsley plants each year, but we have already started to use the curly parsley in our salads this spring. I remember my mom making me eat the curly parsley garnish on my plate when we went out to eat. Parsley is full of vitamins, even the curly kind.
Parsley Dill Soup
This is my favorite parsley dill soup recipe from Buffalo Spring Herb Farm in Virginia. Sadly, that wonderful herb farm is no longer open to the public. This recipe can easily be doubled. Serves 4.
• 1 large onion, chopped or thinly sliced
• 2 large carrots, scrubbed, thinly sliced
• 4 to 6 tablespoons butter
• 1 large potato, scrubbed, peeled and thinly sliced
• 1/2 teaspoon dill seed
• 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock, heated
• 1 cup fresh Italian or curly parsley (frozen also works fine)
• Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Combine onion, carrot, butter and potato in covered saucepan and let stew for about 10 minutes. Add dill seed.
2. Add stock and simmer for another 30 minutes. Let cool slightly; add parsley and puree in blender.
3. Reheat and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with parsley and/or fresh dill garnish
Another mainstay in the herb garden in the spring is lovage.
One of the best times to use lovage is in the spring.
Lovage is about 4 feet high and 6 feet when it is in bloom later on in the summer. Lovage's flavor is a little stronger than celery, so a little goes a long way. My favorite lovage tip is that you can use a stalk in your Bloody Mary as a straw.
Garlic Orange Chicken
One of The Herbal Husband's favorite spring/summer dishes is from The Herb Companion magazine of August/September 1991 called Garlic Orange Chicken.
• Six boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
• 6 garlic cloves, peeled and halved (I mince them very finely rather than keeping them in larger pieces.)
• 1 1/2 tablespoons oil
• 1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
• 1/4 teaspoon pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
• 1 cup orange juice
• 1 cup chicken broth
• 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
• 1/4 cup chives, chopped
• 3 tablespoons lovage, chopped
• 12 ounces vermicelli (We usually use rice.)
• 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water
• 6 sprigs basil and 6 chive flowers (or another herb) for garnish
1. Trim any fat from the chicken. Open two small pockets in each breast half, either by slicing into it with a knife or by separating the muscles of the breast. Insert a piece of garlic in each pocket. Again I mince the garlic finely and add it along with the onions instead of inserting it into the chicken breast. Pat the chicken dry.
2. In a heavy skillet, brown the chicken on both sides in the oil, then remove it. Add onion (and minced garlic if you are using this method) to skillet, reduce heat and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the pepper, salt and mustard and cook for 1 minute, stirring the browned onion bits into mixture. Add orange juice, broth, and herbs. Bring mixture to a boil, add chicken, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Cook vermicelli while chicken is simmering. Remove chicken from pan and keep warm. Bring the sauce to a boil. Add cornstarch-water mixture and stir constantly until thickened. Spoon some of the sauce over the chicken and the remainder over the hot vermicelli or rice.
4. Garnish with the basil sprigs and chive flowers.
Hope you enjoy this recipe. It is a very flavorful way to prepare chicken. Do you have a favorite way of using lovage? I would love to hear about it. Please let me know.
3. Lemon Balm
The last herb in this early spring garden is lemon balm. Lemon balm is a wonderful lemon flavored herb that can become a nuisance in the herb garden. I leave it where it fills in a gap in the garden. When it is coming up through other significant herbs, it comes out. You need to use it fresh rather than dried. The lemon balm in the left front of this picture with yarrow and sage will be coming out since there is a larger lemon balm near. You can never have too much lemon balm unless you have not follow my golden rule to keep it cut back so that it never flowers. I love to use it with fruit, cold drinks and desserts.
'Berggarten' and 'Golden' sages, 'Moonshine' yarrow and lemon balm are looking pretty good in my spring herb garden.
Balmy Lemon Cookies
The sages are 'Berggarten' and 'Golden', the yarrow is 'Moonshine'. Here is a wonderful cookie recipe courtesy Tea & Cakes Under the Trellis by Jim Long (Long Creek Herbs, 1996).
• 1 cup butter-flavored Crisco
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 teaspoon lemon extract
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ½ teaspoon salt (optional)
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 2 1/2 cups flour
• 6 tablespoons lemon balm leaves, finely chopped
1. Cream together the shortening and sugar. Add eggs, extracts, salt, baking powder and flour. Mix, then add lemon balm leaves. Mix well and drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet.
2. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.
Hope you are seeing familiar herbs in your herb garden. Spring is one of my favorite seasons in the herb garden. If you have questions about your herb garden, I would be happy to answer them. Talk to you later.
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