Garden snapshot: Parsley.

IMG_2793

When asked about “seriously hardy and reliable” herbs for our climate, parsley is always a ready answer. I grew both Italian (flat leaf, seen here) and French (curly leaf) this year – I love them both and can never decide which one is my favourite. I harvested the leaves from all of my plants in late September and we’ve had two snowstorms and a couple of weeks of hard overnight frosts since then, and they are still merrily growing away. If the weather holds, I will get another handful of fresh leaves yet before winter settles in.  Sweet!  I won’t dig these up to overwinter as I have no room indoors (and they won’t last five minutes with our cat)…but I’ve had parsley overwinter inground in the past so perhaps it will be a gift that keeps on giving next year.

Another type of parsley I’ve grown in the past is root (Hamburg) parsley – our growing season is so short in Calgary that I don’t get really large roots from the plants, but I’ve had decent success with them each year I’ve put them in.  And, as a bonus, you can eat the tops as well.  A hugely versatile plant!

Is parsley a favourite of yours, as well?

Recipe: Shrimp with Holy Basil.

IMG_1562

I stuck to my usual veggie and herb staples this year in my beds at the community garden: spinach, potatoes, shallots, garlic, Swiss chard, parsley (both Hamburg and Italian), carrots, and sweet basil.  I couldn’t resist trying something new, however – this year it was holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum, syn. O. sanctum; also called tulsi), the seeds of which I discovered at Harmonic Herbs, an Alberta seed company out of Barrhead.

Holy basil is often confused with Thai basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflora), but although they both originate in the same part of the world, they differ in flavour and appearance.  My holy basil plants are very short (about 10″) – I’m sure this is due to my growing conditions, as they are supposed to reach about 2 feet.  The bees are completely gaga over the blooms so I haven’t pinched them off.  This is one fragrant, glorious basil!  I can’t recommend it enough:  the clove-like, peppery oils in the leaves are insanely delicious!

It seems that there is a dearth of recipes using holy basil on the ‘net, so I perused the contents of my fridge’s condiment rack and made something up.  I’m not into wildly spicy food, so this just has a minor kick, to my taste – feel free to alter this as desired.

Shrimp with Holy Basil

Place 2 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan and heat.  Add:

1 chili pepper, deseeded, destemmed, minced finely

3 cloves garlic, minced

Saute just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add:

1 large shallot (or 1 small onion)

2 scallions, trimmed, chopped finely

Cook 2 minutes, then add:

1 tbsp oyster sauce

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp fish sauce

1/4 cup chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

20 large raw shrimp (I prefer them deveined and peeled)

Cook until the shrimp turns pink.

Add:

20 leaves holy basil, washed and finely chopped

Cook just until the basil is wilted, about 30 seconds.

Remove from heat and serve over hot cooked basmati rice. Serves 2.

(Metric conversion tables here).

Do you grow basil?  What is your favourite kind?  Did you grow any “new-to-you” plants this year?  Are you pleased with how they’ve performed?

Good reads.

IMG_0981

I’ve had plenty of time to read while I’ve been off work…I thought I’d share my impressions of some of the books I’ve been going through!

The New American Herbal – Stephen Orr (2014, Clarkson Potter/Publishers, New York)

Need a comprehensive (and I do mean comprehensive) herbal?  Look no further.  This may be one of the most detailed and beautifully-photographed books about herbs available to readers today.  Over 125 species from the common to the unusual are profiled, complete with growing tips and uses and a handful of recipes.  A must-add for the gardening bookshelf – I can see myself consulting this one over and over again.

Inchies:  Create Miniature Works of Art Using Textiles and Mixed Media Techniques – Peggy Donda-Kobert, Editor (2015, Search Press, California)

I am not terribly talented an utter failure when it comes to doing crafts and art: I can’t knit, crochet, felt, sew, quilt, spin, scrapbook, fold origami, tat, quill, draw, paint…well…you get the idea.  I do know how to embroider, though, and when I recently saw these “inchies” on a website, I was intrigued.  No, make that obsessed.  Once my wrist heals, this is going to be a dedicated pursuit.  The really cool part about inchies is that they’re adaptable to pretty much any art or craft discipline – which means that you quilters and lace makers and felters might really get a kick out of them.  Plus, they’re a fun way to use up fabric scraps, beads, and other embellishments.

The Flower Recipe Book – Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo of Studio Choo (2013, Workman Publishing Company, Inc., New York)

Oh yeah, I failed to mention above that I can’t arrange flowers, either.  But that didn’t stop me from drooling over this insanely creative and inspirational book.  If you’re a florist, or just love to bring cut flowers indoors to admire, this book is chock full of breathtakingly gorgeous arrangements using 41 plants as bases “ingredients” for “recipes” that feature each individually as well as grouped with other flowers and floral elements.   One of the best things about this book is these are plants you’re probably growing in your garden:  sunflowers, roses, alliums, stock, carnations, hydrangeas, etc..

These ladies also have a Wreath Recipe Book using the same layout and staggeringly fabulous photography.

Green Art:  Trees, Leaves, and Roots – E. Ashley Rooney with Margery Goldberg (2014, Schiffer Publishing Ltd., PA)

This very cool art book features the work of primarily American artists of a wide range of disciplines, all interpreting the subject of trees (and tree parts).  From metal, wire, clay and wood sculpture, glass, paint, etching, light, outdoor installation – even fire and gunpowder(!), these works are as varied as the artists that have created them.  An absolute delight to pore through…and to be inspired by.

 What books have inspired you lately?  

 

 

Over the ground lies a mantle of white….

IMG_8285

Well, it is said that snow is a good insulator!  My garlic, chives and oregano plants are definitely “winter-protected!”

My beds are the ones directly left of the tall accessible bed (with the trellis) that isn’t completely buried under the snow at the centre right of the photo.  (It’s really hard to tell the difference between the regular raised beds and the big snow lumps!).  You can just make out the decorative metal framework of the child’s bench that is at the foot of one of my beds.  And it looks like a bunny or some other small critter walked over the edge of the box…the gate to the garden is wide open and frozen in place so that wouldn’t surprise me.  Good thing we checked all the guards on the trees before the snow fell!

We have 35 beds in our community garden, plus we have all the perimeter space along the fence which contains a huge variety of perennials and annuals, as well as food plants such as rhubarb, raspberries, strawberries, haskap and herbs such as lovage, oregano, thyme, lavender, chives, and parsley.   The gardeners can also grow large, sprawling plants such as pumpkins and zucchini in a section of the perimeter.  The trees are all very young (the garden hasn’t even celebrated its fifth anniversary yet), but the apples and crabapples sported a good crop of fruit last year.  I really ought to post a photo from the summer when the garden is in full GREEN – it’s very pretty!

Looking at the plants snoozing out there in that beautiful warm sunshine is giving me some ideas of my own – I know I have a ton of stuff to do yet in preparation for the holidays, but I think a little nap might just be in order….   😉

I hope you have a relaxing, fun weekend!  What are your plans?

Garden summary – Chervil.

IMG_7553

One of my favourite plants in the edible garden this year so far has been chervil.  This is my first year growing this delightful little herb and I must say, it won’t be the last.  I love its lacy foliage that looks a little like flat-leaf parsley (except daintier) and its tiny sprays of white flowers.  It grows in a tidy mound instead of an ungainly sprawl and would transfer nicely over to an ornamental garden.

The flavour, though…what is that, exactly?  I find it on the anise side, but others have described it as akin to tarragon (perhaps) or even basil, which I just don’t taste (well, maybe the purple basils, which seem to have a licorice zip to them).  The leaves can get a bit tough in the hot sun, so it’s really fortunate that I positioned my chervil plants right next to my monster mizuna greens, which lend them a bit of shade (yep, in retrospect it was all a nice bunch of pre-planning on my part, LOL!).  The chervil will have to fend for itself when I yank out the last bit of mizuna to eat.

So far, I’ve tried my chervil in egg dishes, in mixed green salads, and with baked fish…does anyone have any other favourite ways to use it?  I will probably dry some of it for later use.  I’m trying to think of a way to incorporate it into a canned product or baked good as well…the anise-ish-y flavour makes me think that it might pair well with pears or peaches, maybe even apples.  Ooooh, food for thought!   (Thoughts of food?).  😉

What “ornamental edible”  (herb, greens, fruit etc.) has made an impression in your garden and on your tastebuds this year? 

Anise hyssop-lemon-honey tisane.

Ah…spring(ish) cleaning.  Isn’t it funny how after Christmas, we’re programmed to reorganize and tidy our living spaces?  I don’t really subscribe to all the post-Christmas scrubbing hype – I have a somewhat flexible philosophy regarding cleaning.  For me, it’s more of a year-’round endeavour: it’s perfectly acceptable if spring cleaning lasts until autumn.  And ditto for fall cleaning:  it can go all the way through until spring, no problem. 😉  But I was recently hit with the urgent need to reorganize the freezer, when an innocent opening of the door led to an avalanche of tubs and bags containing everything from homemade soup to whole wheat flour and assorted veggies and berries.  After I stopped making grumpy annoyed noises, I picked it all up off the floor and stuffed it back into the freezer for next time.  (What’s the definition of insanity, again?).  But I kept back one particular item – a package of anise hyssop, which I had harvested from my garden plot way back in September.

HyssopFP

This was my first year growing anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum).  A member of the mint family Lamiaceae (it’s commonly called licorice mint), anise hyssop is a perennial in warmer climes.  Here in Calgary, it’s a bit too cold for anise hyssop to successfully overwinter, though if you have a suitable microclimate, you may have a chance.  Plants may also reseed themselves if we’re lucky.  Anise hyssop is a really pretty plant, with deep green needle-like leaves on woody stems (vaguely reminiscent of rosemary) and delicate blue-purple flowers in late summer.  The flowers are serious bee and butterfly attractants, and deer hate the scent of the leaves – how great is that combination of features?  I grew my plants from seed and they were really slow to germinate, taking almost a month from the time of sowing.  We had a really hot, dry summer, which isn’t ideal for anise hyssop – I ought to have been a bit more dedicated with the watering.  Finally, I don’t believe I provided enough nutrition in the way of compost amendments,  something anise hyssop requires.   My neglect combined with a short growing season and wacky weather made for tiny, stunted plants.  Despite all of this, I was still able to harvest a fair amount of leaves and flowers.  I dried some, and froze the rest.

IMG_4736

A small cache of fresh Meyer lemons in the fridge and the need for a break from all this exhausting springish cleaning (who am I kidding?) inspired this lovely tisane, perfect for a late afternoon pick-me-up:

Anise Hyssop-Lemon-Honey Tisane

Juice from 1/2 Meyer lemon (I am a HUGE fan of lemon-flavoured anything, so I used more lemon juice than you might.  Adjust according to your taste)

Several sprigs of fresh or frozen anise hyssop leaves and flowers, washed and removed from stems, enough to fill 1/4 of a tea cup or mug (if you’re using dried hyssop, cut the amount by half)

Organic honey, to taste

Combine everything in your favourite tea cup or mug and fill the rest of the cup with boiling water.  If you don’t like herb leaves and flowers floating in your drink, then bundle them all into a square of cheesecloth or place in a tea strainer.  Let steep for at least five minutes, then add honey.  Anise hyssop has a pleasant licorice taste that goes really well with the lemon.  Enjoy!

Have you ever grown anise hyssop?  Do you use it in cooking, baking, or for tea?