Tag Archives: chives

Harvesting Basil for Pesto!

Last week I talked about harvesting in the garden, but so many times, I’ve forgotten about really harvesting in my herb garden. Sure, I’ll run out and grab some rosemary for roast chicken, or basil for a sauce, but to really get the most out of your herbs, you want to harvest them at their peak to enjoy them, but also promote new growth and a higher yield.

Herb GardenThis year, I decided to grow my herb garden in pots on the porch. I’ve planted herbs for years in a small section of the garden, but I find, often times, they get taken over by the bigger vegetables. Also, if you have hardy herbs, growing them in pots makes it easy to bring them in during the winter, enjoy them all through the off-season, and then taking them outside in the spring and already having a start on the garden. That’s what I did with my rosemary. It was great to have fresh rosemary all year, and when the weather warmed up, I took it back outside, and it’s been thriving since.

Basil PlantFor my herb garden this year, I have the above mentioned rosemary in addition to sage, tarragon, and Italian leaf parsley, which I started from seed from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. The seeds were great and the plants have done incredibly well. I’m really happy with them. I also have chives and dill that I took the short cut and purchased at my local garden center. They are also doing well, but for my favorite, I was lucky enough to have someone bring me back seeds from Italy last year. I’ve never had basil do so well, and I can’t quite figure out if it’s the fancy seeds or just luck this year.  Either way, the basil has been doing great, and it’s time to harvest some and, of course, make pesto!

Basil FlowerI’ve found that herbs start out strong, and look amazing, but they usually get to a point, about this time of the summer, where they start to get leggy and just don’t do so well if left alone. However, if you cut them back, and bonus, you get to use what you’ve cut, they come back for a second life. The other thing to look for is if the plants start to go to seed. If you start to see flowers on the plants, that means they’re putting all of their energy into reproducing. While this may be great if you’re looking to get seeds for next year, if you’re still looking to use the herbs and want a longer season, you want to snip these flowers off. I simply pinch off the blooms, and then make sure that I use that branch next when I need some of the herb.

Leaves ReadyAs you can see, I’ve cut a good bit off of my basil plant. I’m hoping to make 3 batches of my pesto recipe. Each recipe makes about a cup of pesto. One note, I prefer to use a food processor for this recipe. You can use a blender, however, I’ve found that you need to add all of the ingredients first, and it does need some stirring and help to get completely processed. If you’re using a food processor, follow the process I’m outlining below. To start, take 3 cloves garlic, peeled, and chop them up in the food processor. Next, add 2 cups basil leaves. You just want the leaves for this, and you want pretty packed cups. Whirl that around until the basil is nicely chopped, then add 1/4 cup pine nuts and Ingredients1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese, grated. Give that another quick whirl. If you let it go too long, it will come together, almost like a dough. If that happens, don’t worry, you’re still good. With the food processor running, slowly add 1/2 cup olive oil, and process that until it’s nice and smooth.

After I was finished with this batch, I made 2 more. If you’re making several batches, just start over. You really don’t want to double or triple the recipe, as it doesn’t turn out as good. But, the good news is, I don’t even wash the food processor in between. 🙂

If you’re growing herbs, I hope they’re as productive as mine have been this year! And if you’re not, stop by the grocery store and pick up some basil. Pesto is a great sauce to have on hand, especially in the summer for a quick pasta dish. Enjoy!

Pesto

Taking Advantage of Spring Produce with Green Goddess Dip

One of the best things about spring’s arrival for me is I start to see some of my favorite, delicious, fresh produce at the farmers market and grocery store.  It gets me excited to think of new ways to prepare and serve these delicious morsels, especially since it always seems too brief that some of these make their appearance.  I love the asparagus and artichokes, tender baby lettuces and rhubarb, but my favorites are the sugar snap peas.

Sugar Snap PeasI’ve always been a fan of peas.  I can remember when I was little, helping my grandmother shell peas she picked from her garden.  Those raw peas, fresh from the garden, were delicious.  I am not sure if more of the peas ended up in her bowl or in my mouth.  From then on, there was a special place in my heart for raw peas.  While I don’t get many occasions these days to eat raw peas, my favorite way to eat sugar snap peas is still raw.  They maintain their crispness and sweet flavor, and they are perfect with a dip.  One of my favorites to serve with sugar snap peas, or really any vegetables for a crudites platter, is green goddess dip.

IngredientsGreen goddess dip or dressing is a simple recipe to make with fresh herbs, and it’s quick to whip up.  The recipe I use is from an old version of the Joy of Cooking cookbook.  Start by chopping chives and parsley so that you have 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives (minced scallions can be used instead if you can’t find the chives) and 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley.  Add them to a bowl with 1 cup mayonnaise and 1/2 cup sour cream.  Add 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, and 3 anchovy fillets, minced.  I know the anchovies may Ready to Mixscare some people, but they really just add a salty note to the dip.  It doesn’t taste fishy at all, however, if you’re concerned about the anchovies, don’t add them.  The dip will still be good.  Mix everything together and season with salt and pepper to taste.

That’s really it.  Once everything is mixed, your dip or dressing is ready to use, although I think the flavors come together after it sits in the refrigerator for a few hours.  As I mentioned, I use it as a dip for sugar snap peas.  I just washed 1 1/2 lbs sugar Ready to Eatsnap peas and snipped off any hard stems.  If you prefer them cooked, you can certainly blanch them in boiling water for just a minute, then drain and add them to a bowl with cold water and ice.  This will stop the cooking process but still keep them pretty crisp.

Feel free to substitute any other vegetables you prefer for the sugar snap peas.  But they do make a nice vegetable platter, especially in the spring when everything seems so fresh and new again.

An Update on the Garden and Seeds!

Today was finally the kind of day I’ve been waiting for.  It was beautiful, the sun was shining, the temperature was in the mid-60s, the grass was turning green, and everything outside seemed to be green and growing.  It finally feels like spring, so I took the opportunity to check things out in the yard.  I also wanted to provide some updates on the seeds I planted a few weeks ago.

Bearded IrisAs I wander through the yard, it’s always nice to see mother nature in action, sending up new shoots.  I spotted some of my bearded irises first.  They have such beautiful blooms, even though they are short-lived, but the spikes of leaves last longer and really add contrast to the garden.  The other great things about bearded iris is that they multiply fast.  What starts out as just 1 small rhizome quickly spreads.  You can divide them also to have more and also spread them out.  I’ve found that after the clump gets too big, you really need to divide or the flowers aren’t as big.

PeonySome of my favorites, especially in the spring, are peonies.  I love the big flowers.  They put on quite a show.  I have both tree peonies and herbaceous peonies.  The tree peonies are interesting in shape, but I think I lean towards the good, old-fashioned herbaceous ones.  Thankfully both are starting to show growth in the garden.  The herbaceous ones always send up these amazing red shoots.  They are easy to spot in the spring soil.  They will be bursting with color in May.

Tree PeonyThe tree peony is a very interesting specimen.  As the name suggests, it grows as a tree, and it sends out new shoots every year.  These shoots will include the buds that will also put on quite a show in a few months.  The one very nice thing about the tree peony is that the flowers don’t weigh the plant down.  Often times, towards the end of the blooming season, especially if we get a good rain, the herbaceous blooms will end up on the ground because they weigh the delicate branches down.  The tree peony comes with its own built-in support!

DayliliesDaylilies are just starting to burst through the soil.  The bright green shoots are coming up in a number of places.  They prefer a little bit of shade and do really well, growing into very substantial clumps, sending up big, colorful blooms.

20140331_161038Even though many people think of mums in the fall, they do start to sprout now if you have them in the garden.  They are a hardy perennial, and I’m always lecturing people about how they can plant their fall potted ones in the ground.  The good news is a bunch of friends have no desire to do it, so I get their leftovers!  These will need a cutting back before July 4th to make sure they don’t bloom too early.  Any later than that, and they won’t have time to bloom at all this season.

Probably the favorite plant in my garden as far as my Strawberryniece and nephews are concerned, the strawberry plants are doing well already.  They will have sweet, delicious berries in a few months.  One thing to note, they spread like crazy.  I have a few sections on the side of my house where there are beds that are surrounded by sidewalk.  They have done great in this location, and also can’t take over anything!  It’s a win/win.

TulipsI have a number of bulbs that I’ve planted over the years.  Some of my favorites are daffodils and tulips.  I love that the daffodils are one of the first to bloom in the spring.  They are such a welcome sight, and they multiply and create full clusters in the garden.  Tulips are another favorite, and you can really spread out their bloom time with the different varieties available today.  They are just starting to poke through, although they will take a little while to send up buds.  Even so, they are always such a welcome sight in the early summer garden.

As for the seeds I wrote about a few weeks ago, I’m happy to report that I have seedlings for all of them.  Some have definitely done better than others, but I’m not loosing hope.  There is still time for a few to come through.  Here is what’s growing so far:

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Eggplant

Eggplant…small, but coming along.

Kale...I've gotta thin these!

Kale…I’ve gotta thin these!

Tomatoes...these are both the San Marzano and Brandywine varieties.

Tomatoes…these are both the San Marzano and Brandywine varieties.

Beets...you can't miss these...I love the red color.

Beets…you can’t miss these…I love the red color.

Fava Beans...these are growing like crazy!

Fava Beans…these are growing like crazy!

Sage

Sage

Chives...these are also so tiny.

Chives…these are also so tiny.

Taragon

Tarragon

Squash

Squash