Do you smell that in the air? Spring is just around the corner, and that has me thinking about gardening.
Now, I’m not the world’s best gardener, but I sure like to try. While my tomatoes continually get blight, and my pepper plants are always too leggy, the one part of my garden that never disappoints is the herb section. No matter how much I forget to water them, they are always there; ready to grab at a moment’s notice to spice up whatever I’m cooking. They flourish despite my neglect.
As a chef and long time gardener, I really thought I knew it all when it came to growing and cooking with herbs. How wrong I was! After reading Homegrown Herb Garden: a Guide to Growing and Culinary Uses by Morgan and McCormick, I’m all set to make the most of my herb garden this year, and I have all sorts of new inspiration for cooking with herbs.
The book is kinda brilliant. These ladies (Morgan the chef, and McCormick the gardener), take fifteen herbs and teach you exactly what you need to know to grow and use them effectively. The book is broken into two sections, “In the Garden,” and “In the Kitchen,” with each section covering each herb in fascinating detail. The photography throughout the book is top notch, as well.
The garden section reviews each herb’s details, such as how to grow it, the varieties, how to care for the plant, how to grow it best if you don’t have lots of space, harvesting and storage. There’s also a fun little section for each herb called “Did You Know?” where fun facts are revealed. For example, did you know that cilantro has the same smell as bedbugs? That’s where its Greek name of Coriandrum comes from! Who knew? So, I guess if you go into a hotel room, and smell salsa, you’d better check the mattress.
The cooking section breaks each herb down into pairings (what to use the herb with), how to use it, and offers four or more recipes for each herb. Oh, the recipes! As a chef, I can tell you that they are really well constructed recipes that are very simple, but so ambitious!
There was not a recipe in the book that did not sound appealing, and I’m eager to test them all out this summer, when my herb garden is in full swing. I’m particularly anxious to try the “Skirt Steak with Chimichurri” and the “Lemongrass Shrimp Kebab” that uses the lemongrass stalk as the stick. Brilliant!
The Nectarine and Haricots Verts Salad with Buttermilk-Tarragon Dressing looks inspiring too with an interesting combination of flavors.
Header image courtesy of Federico Stevanin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.