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By Dana Hyland-Horner

Spice Up Your Recipes with Your Own Herb Garden 
  Planting season is fast-approaching, which means it’s time to get seeds out and plans in place for harvesting and preparing them.

   My husband and I have a small victory garden with several tomato plants, cucumbers and a few hot pepper plants, but the garden we use most is our herb garden.

   We started it years ago in southern Ohio and have enjoyed our garden here in Troy. I have always used herbs and spices in cooking, but when you can go outside and pick fresh, it just changes the taste of the dish you’re making. It’s also a great food source for bees and butterflies.

   Gardeners have used herbs for centuries for various reasons from dying wool and fabric to making soap, ointments and potpourri. In our garden we have planted parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, chives and garlic chives. This year we are expanding our garden and planting lemon balm and peppermint, which needs a larger space, as they can take over an herb garden fast!

   There are really no rules on how to plant an herb garden. It can be a window box filled with vining herbs (such as the various thymes) or patio pots filled with certain cooking themes like pizza herbs. This might include basil, oregano, and chives. Throw them together with some pepperoni, sauce and cheese on a flatbread and you have a great meal.

   Sage is one of my favorites to grow and dry for our Thanksgiving dressing. I just bunch a picking of sage together and hang it upside down in a shady spot for about 3 weeks. They dry easily and can be crumbled up and put in spice jars for further use, such as around a baked chicken or in a vegetable soup.

   Another idea for harvesting some of your herbs is by using an ice tray. Fill the tray with butter and chopped herbs like chives, basil and rosemary, then freeze. When your steak comes off the grill, pop one of the cubes on top. You can thank me later, it’s delicious.

    I’m sure most of you have used the popular herb lavender, which means “to wash” in Latin. It can be found in shampoos, creams, jellies and potpourri. We have ours planted on both sides of our front walk and when it’s at its peak it is beautiful and smells divine. I recently learned that you can get a second flowering in the fall, which is when I pick, dry and give lavender as gifts.

   Another interesting fact that I have learned is that cilantro is the herb that produces coriander the spice.

 

   The Troy-Miami County Public Library (and other libraries in the region) has introduced a Seed Library this year in which they have taken an old card library cabinet and filled it with different seeds that you can check out just like a book and get your garden started. They also offer vegetable and flower seeds.     

   To get started with your herb garden, you will need well drained soil, raised beds or containers work great. You’ll also need a sunny location (at least 6 hours). Some herbs like a little afternoon shade. Most herbs do not require high levels of fertility. This is one area you can play around with and place herbs far enough apart to allow space to grow.  Here are a few of our favorite recipes using the herbs we grow, dry and freeze.

   My favorite thing to do in my herb garden is on a stressful day is run my hands over the plants to release their wonderful scents.

   Happy gardening all!

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Herb Butter Spread

2 sticks of butter, softened

1tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon chives

1 tablespoon rosemary

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

Place on a piece of plastic wrap and roll into a log. Twist ends and seal tight.

Freeze for at least an hour before use.

Slice into rounds and enjoy on steaks, chicken, pork chops or as a spread for French bread .
 

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Basil Pesto

 

2 cups fresh basil leaves

½ fresh parsley

½ cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup walnuts

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a blender or food processor, puree the basil, parsley, oil, garlic, salt and pepper

Add the nuts and cheese and process briefly until the pesto reaches the desired consistency.

Serve this over noodles of your choice.

Seasoned Salt

4 tablespoons parsley, dried and finely crushed

3 tablespoons sage, dried and crushed

2 tablespoons rosemary, dried and crushed

1 tablespoon thyme, dried and crushed

1 cup salt

 

Mix the Herbs and salt thoroughly and store in a large-holed shaker.
 

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As Medicine
Herbs can be good for what ails you too. When you have a cold, this herbal tea is very comforting.

1 part echinacea root

1 part peppermint leaves

1 part yarrow leaves

1 part lemon balm leaves

Put the echinacea in 1 quart of water and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Add the rest of the herbs, stir well, cover, and steep 15 to 20 minutes. Strain and add honey and lemon if desire. Dill, which I just planted seeds for and are coming up quick seems to be the gem in the herb garden as you can plant them in your flower garden and vegetable garden also. It’s a host to the black swallowtail butterfly, so your are helping the butterfly population grow as well.

Dana Hyland-Horner, a resident of Troy, will be sharing her love of cooking, gardening and adventures in Miami County and other interesting places with her Home & Away feature on My Miami County.