In the Kitchen {Herbs}

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use Rosemary sprigs as flavorful skewers

 We’ve been enjoying fresh herbs from the garden, mainly parsley, thyme and basil right now, and drying some to use during the winter. They’re flavorful and it’s much cheaper than purchasing them at the store. When cooking just remember that dried herbs are about 3 times as strong as fresh. During the summer I use fresh herbs and during the winter I use dried; substituting one for the other as needed.

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  Parsley was one of the first things in the ground and it’s still going strong. I grow it in mini rows then I cut it and let it grow back again. This method is super easy and prolific!

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This year I tried planting thyme in amongst the carrots while Noah planted some thyme indoors. It’s astounding to compare the two. The outside plants are robust, dark green with large leaves; the indoor plants just don’t look like they’re doing as well. They are small, scraggly and pale. I pick as much fresh thyme as I like whenever I need it during  the summer. When I harvest the carrots I’ll harvest the thyme too and dry it. I use thyme a lot, especially on roasted meats and veggies. I use oregano nearly as often. I have a  container of oregano and two rosemary “trees” indoors too, and while they’re not quite as robust as they would be outside, they’re doing well enough until I can decide where I’m going to transplant the oregano (the rosemary I keep indoors because of our low winter temps). It’s a hard decision because, like mint, oregano has a tendency to spread and the longer it’s there the harder it is to remove.

As for the basil, I only pick a few leaves here and there so it will keep growing strong. Eventually, I’ll make some pesto and I’ll ferment a jar full (at least) as basil takes on a wonderful liquorice flavor when fermented. I also planted some sage and dill this year. It’s not ready for harvesting yet but I look forward to having some on hand for pickling, stuffing into fish, and maybe making up some gravlax!

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Slowly, I’m expanding the list of seasonings I grow instead of purchase. Other than salt and pepper the herbs above are my most used seasonings. I’ve also made onion and garlic powder by dehydrating them and then processing the dried veggies in a blender. The flavor is fantastic! I’d like to get some perennials going (maybe alongside those chives?)  and I wouldn’t mind trying to grow some chamomile (soon!)

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{In the Kitchen} Foraging

Now that spring is finally here all the wild shoots, blossoms and roots are resurrecting from the winter’s freeze. Over the winter I read several intriguing posts on foraging and using stinging nettle most notably from And Here We Are: nettle mead, and this post on nettle pasta, which is the one I used, although I made 6x the recipe and froze some for future use.

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There was plenty of nettle to be found and all of it was below knee height.  My little helper boys and I picked a whole lot, wearing a shared pair of gloves, until our bag was full and one by one they accidentally touched the nettle and poor Ishi fell hands first into a patch. Sting nettle really does sting. Growing up my brothers and I always called it seven minute itch as that’s about how long it really itches for- give or take. It was time to call it quits.

When we got back I sorted through, rinsed and then blanched the nettle. It only takes about 30 seconds for the nettle to wilt, then the stinging aspect is gone. It’s important to really squeeze the nettle as not to make the pasta too wet. By the way the green water from the nettle makes a great dark green natural egg dye.

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It was really very simple to make. Just like making regular pasta and it has that same great fresh pasta taste. I’ll have to try making spinach pasta next. After kneading a bit and resting the dough I rolled it out using a vintage cast iron pasta machine my older brother gifted to me. I’ll go a tad thinner next time.

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Here it is cooked and lightly buttered. To be honest the nettle didn’t give much flavor but it does add a lot of nutrients. I’m thinking of using part of the frozen dough as lasagna noodles.

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We’ve also been enjoying the spring by foraging wild blossoms for jelly and trying woodchuck (aka groundhog) for the first time in a pot pie.

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What do you enjoy foraging?

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