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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Vegetables/Salads/Herbs

TIP OF THE DAY: Chinese Chicken Salad

Since we were a mere tot, we’ve loved Chinese chicken salad. This American invention combines Asian ingredients into a delicious fusion.

There are variations on the name, but the rules are neither hard nor fast: “Mandarin” refers to the mandarin segments in the recipe. Chinese Chicken Salad uses mandarin or pineapple plus fried chow mein noodles. Thai chicken salad substitutes rice noodles (shown in the photo) for the chow mein noodles. Asian chicken salad, the most generic term, indicates a sesame-soy-ginger vinaigrette or peanut dressing.

We recently had this “Mandarin” chicken salad at Cafe SFA, the restaurant in Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City. It’s easy to whip up. Using fresh mandarin segments instead of canned makes a huge difference, as does fresh ginger instead of powdered ginger in the dressing.

If you don’t like ginger or peanut dressing, use plain vinaigrette of rice vinegar and vegetable oil, with a touch of sesame oil (taste it—some varieties are very strong, others are on the light side).

RECIPE: MANDARIN CHICKEN SALAD

Ingredients

  • Roasted chicken strips
  • Mandarin segments or pineapple cubes
  • Shredded carrots
  • Sliced radishes
  • Rice noodles or Chinese fried noodles
  •    

    chicken-mandarin-salad-cafeSFA-230L

    They call it Mandarin; we call it Thai because of the rice noodles and peanut dressing. Photo courtesy Café SFA.

  • Peanuts (any type—we used both raw and honey roasted; you can substitute cashews)
  • Spring salad mix
  • Shredded red cabbage (you can substitute white cabbage)
  • Green peas, sugar peas and/or edamame
  • Sesame dressing or peanut dressing (recipes below)
  • Optional garnish: black and white sesame seeds (we toasted them)
  •  
    RECIPE #1: SESAME-GINGER DRESSING

    Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger (or 1 teaspoon powdered ginger)
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil or other salad oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE all ingredients in a blender and blend on high.

     

    chinese-shrimp-salad-sweetandcrumbly-230

    This variation, from Bullock’s tea room in
    Sherman Oaks, California, substitutes shrimp
    for chicken. Photo courtesy
    SweetAndCrumbly.com.

     

    RECIPE #2: PEANUT DRESSING

    Ingredients

  • 1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 shallote, quartered
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons peanut butter (you can substitute tahini)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (preferably toasted)
  • 1/2 cup sesame oil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE all ingredients in a blender and blend on high.
     
    How To Toast Sesame Seeds

    Stovetop toasting: In a large frying pan, heat the sesame seeds over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally. They are ready when they darken and become fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes.

    Oven toasting: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spread the seeds on a baking sheet and bake until the seeds darken and become fragrant, about 15 minutes.

    Allow the toasted seeds to cool; then store in a covered jar at room temperature.

     
    THE HISTORY OF MANDARIN CHICKEN SALAD

    Raw salads are not traditional fare in Asia; Chinese salads are typically made of parboiled or stir-fried vegetables. There are different types of cold chicken salads, mostly from Szechwan, such as pong pong (or bong bong) chicken: shredded chicken and bean sprouts dressed with a peanut butter, red pepper and garlic sauce.

    We checked our favorite source, FoodTimeline.org, for the scoop on the emergence of the Asian/Chinese/Mandarin/Thai chicken salads we know and love today.

    According to American food historian Sylvia Lovegren, Chinese ingredient-inspired salads and dressings originated by the 1930s. But these early “Oriental” salads were nowhere close to what’s on menus today. One recipe circa 1923 consisted of diced prunes, dates, figs, chopped nuts, diced pineapple topped with “one cup salad dressing,” a vinaigrette or spiced mayonnaise.

    The “modern” recipe seems to have been introduced in California, and was made popular at Johnny Kan’s restaurant in San Francisco, a Cantonese restaurant that opened in 1953 (and is still operating). It combined shredded iceberg lettuce, strips of cold roast chicken and crispy chow mein noodles, fried noodles made from a combination of wheat and rice flours. The salad was tossed with a slightly sweet sesame oil-tinged dressing with flecks of hot red peppers or pepper flakes.

    The Asian-inspired salads that we know today evolved in the mid-1960s, adding more ingredients (mandarin segments, pineapple, vegetables) and more complex dressings, including the popular ginger-soy-sesame and peanut recipes.

    Asian-style salad dressings—soy sauce, ginger and sesame oil—were promoted in the 1980s as healthier alternatives to mayonnaise-based dressings for green salads. Thai flavors were introduced in the 1990s, with the growing popularity of Thai cuisine.

    Recent additions include edamame, borrowed from Japanese cuisine. Play around with it and create your own signature Asian salad. It will generate a huge demand!

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Three Pea Salad

    pea-and-pea-sprouts-hannahkaminsky-230

    Three-pea salad. Photo © Hannah Kaminsky
    | Bittersweet Blog.

     

    Before spring turns into summer, try this delicious spring pea salad from Hannah Kaminsky. Spring peas, also known as English peas, are a seasonal delight that can we enjoy as a side, in salads, and in soup.

    Says Hannah:

    “Spring is on my mind, driving me to the point of distraction. Longer, brighter days captivate me while simultaneously throwing of my finely tuned rhythm, and the influx of fresh, vibrant produce easily overwhelms my senses. What to eat first? Where to go, what to do?”

    The best cure for seasonal disorientation is immersion, so let’s jump right in and celebrate the other reason for my pea-brained state: Peas! In all their green glory, this simple salad combines snow peas, pea shoots, and English peas to showcase their myriad textures, flavors, and shapes. The rather silly, rhyming title doesn’t do this combination fully justice, but was unavoidable thanks to the matcha tea-infused dressing, lending equal parts bitterness and sweetness to the blend.

     
    In case you’re suffering from an equally pea-brained daze, a heaping helping of this bright, fresh homage to the humble pea might just be the antidote.”

     

    RECIPE: THREE PEA SALAD WITH MATCHA TEA DRESSING

    Ingredients For 3-4 Servings

  • 6 ounces snow peas, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 4 ounces pea shoots
  • 8 ounces raw English peas
  •  
    Green Tea Dressing

  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon yellow miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon rice Vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1/2 teaspoon matcha powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  •  

    RSVPea-230

    Fresh spring peas are a delight. Photo courtesy RSVPea.

     

    Preparation

    1. TOSS the sliced snow peas, pea shoots and English peas together in a large bowl.

    2. WHISK together in a small bowl all of the ingredients for the green tea dressing. Beat the mixture thoroughly until smooth.

    3. POUR dressing over the vegetables, tossing to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Tofu & Tomato Skewers

    tofu-tomato-skewers-nutrition.org-230

    Tasty tofu and tomato skewers. Photo
    courtesy Nutrition.org.

     

    We love mozzarella and tomatoes. Caprese salad is a favorite, along with skewers of mozarella balls with cherry tomatoes and basil leaves.

    But we’re also trying to eat more vegan dishes, part of our personal commitment to save the planet. (Animal methane is the leading cause of greenhouse gas.) You’d be surprised how delicious a tofu substitution can be. Try this easy recipe from House Foods, which adds a bright herb sauce for dipping.

    RECIPE: TOFU & TOMATO SKEWERS WITH HERB SAUCE

    Ingredients For 10 Skewers

  • 1 package extra firm or super firm tofu
  • 20 cherry tomatoes
  • 10 bamboo skewers
  •  

    For The Herb Sauce

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 large shallot
  • ½ bundle Italian (flat leaf) parsley
  • ½ bundle cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grounded black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  •  

    Preparation

    1. WRAP tofu with paper towel and place on plate. Microwave for a minute to remove excess moisture.

    2. PLACE garlic and shallot in a food processor and give it a quick whirl. Add parsley, cilantro and give it another whirl.

    3. COMBINE chopped herbs and add vinegar, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and olive oil in a bowl.

    4. CUT tofu in cubes in the same size as the cherry tomatoes. Place two tofu cubes and two tomatoes alternately on skewers. Brush tofu with the sauce and grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Brush a couple more times until grill mark is shown. Brush tofu again before serving.

    5. SERVE with herb sauce.

     

    House-Foods-Extra-Firm-Tofu-230

    Use only extra firm tofu so the cubes will hold their shape. Photo courtesy House Foods.

     

    You can also make tofu Caprese salad.

    Tofu is made in a variety of firmness levels, ranging from soft to extra firm, depending on the use. Desserts and smoothies, for example, use soft tofu; grilling requires extra-firm tofu, the texture of which is similar to meat.

    House Foods’ line of Premium Tofu products that are made with non-genetically modified (non-GMO) soybeans grown in the U.S. See all of the products at House-Foods.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Hasselback Potatoes

    The potato recipe that wins the award for “simple and elegant” is Hasselback potatoes. Simply by making a series of deep parallel cuts along the top of the potatoes, they open into this visually arresting fan. They are also called accordion potatoes or pillbug potatoes (because the segments resemble the shell of the pillbug—yuck!).

    While they look fancy-frilly, they take little extra time over a standard baked potato: All you need are good potatoes and a sharp knife. Then, just slice, brush with butter and bake.

    The cooked potatoes have the crispy edges of French fries, and the soft, creamy middle of mashed potatoes. The thinner the slices, the better the end result.

    The recipe was created at the famous Hasselbacken (“Hazel Hill”) restaurant in Stockholm’s Hasselbacken Hotel, an elegant edifice that opened in 1748. They are a favorite dish in Sweden, enjoyed for breakfast, appetizers, lunch and dinner sides, and snacks. The skin of the potatoes is usually kept on.

       

    hasselback-potatoes-thekitchn-apartmenttherapy-230

    Hasselback potatoes. Photo courtesy The Kitchn | Apartment Therapy. See their step-by-step recipe preparation.

     
    RECIPE: HASSELBACK POTATOES

    Ingredients

  • Medium-size potatoes (a starchy or all-purpose potato; we use russets or Yukon Golds)
  • Butter, melted or softened (substitute olive oil)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional garnishes: bacon, blue cheese, breadcrumbs, dill, garlic, red or black salt, rosemary
  • Optional garnish: crème fraîche, sour cream, fresh herbs or microgreens
  •  

    hasselback-potatoes-pan-thekitchn-apartmenttherapy-230

    Baking beauties. Photo courtesy The Kitchn |
    Apartment Therapy.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 450°F. If you decide to peel the potatoes, place them in a bowl of cold water to prevent discoloration.

    2. SLICE a bit off the bottom of each potato so that it can “sit” in the pan. Insert a thin skewer parallel, 75% of the way to the bottom of the sitting potato. This prevents the knife going all the way to the bottom, so all the slices remain connected, and enables you to make very thin vertical cuts. This requires careful knife work but is not difficult.

    3. PLACE the potatoes in a baking dish and brush with butter; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

    4. PLACE in the oven and bake 30-40 minutes until done, brushing the potatoes with butter halfway through.
     
    Recipe adapted from GroupRecipes.com.

     
    Variations

  • Crispier: For the crispiest exterior, toss the sliced, raw potatoes in hot fat (butter, butter and olive oil, or lard, before they go into the oven.
  • Garlicky: Use garlic butter or place small slivers of garlic between the slices.
  • Herbed: Slip rosemary or dill springs between the slices.
  • More: Sprinkle blue cheese crumbles, breadcrumbs, chili flakes, crumbled cooked bacon, lemon zest, Parmesan or other choice over the potatoes during the last ten minutes of cooking.
  •  
    Check out the different types of potatoes.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: “Barbecue” Potato Salad

    What to bring to a barbecue? Barbecue potato salad, a recipe from QVC’s chef David Venable, who blends barbecue sauce in with the mayonnaise.

    Says David: “In my opinion, it’s really not a barbecue without a side of potato salad. While the classic version is near perfection, sometimes it’s fun to play with the flavors (a sure sign of a confident cook!) This dish mirrors the flavor of your favorite barbecued meats.”

    RECIPE: BARBECUE POTATO SALAD

    Ingredients

  • 4 pounds new potatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 pound smoked bacon
  • 1-1/3 cups mayonnaise
  • 2-1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons barbecue sauce
  • 1 hard boiled egg, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Optional garnish: fresh chives, chopped
  •  

    barbecue-blt-potato-salad-davidvenableQVC-230

    Barbecue potato salad. Photo courtesy QVC.

     

    Preparation

    1. COVER the potatoes with water and bring to a boil in a large stockpot over high heat, with 1 tablespoon salt. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes; drain. While the potatoes are cooking…

    2. RENDER the bacon until crisp in a large skillet over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes. Drain the bacon on several paper towels and break into small, bite-size pieces. Set aside.

    3. MIX the mayonnaise, mustard, barbecue sauce and hard boiled egg in a large bowl. Slowly add the potatoes to the dressing and let them absorb the liquid, about 15 minutes. Add the celery, red onion, thyme, salt and pepper and refrigerate until well chilled.

    4. GARNISH with the bacon and chives just before serving.

    Find more of David Venable’s recipes at QVC.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Dandelion Greens

    dandelion-greens-ps-230

    Dandelion greens, the delightfully edible
    weed. Photo courtesy Webstarts.com.

     

    The scourge of the well-kept lawn—and one of the first signs of spring in the veggie universe—is the delicious, nutritious vegetable, dandelion greens.

    The slightly peppery greens are much more nutritious than broccoli†.

    A relative of the sunflower*, the crowns, leaves and stems are all recipe-worthy. The flowers are used to make dandelion wine.

    Cultivated dandelion greens from the market are less bitter than the wild ones you can forage. A rule of thumb is to taste a leaf to determine the degree of bitterness—and thus, how much to include in your dish.

    Alas, you can’t just dig them from your lawn, or other chemically-treated area. But should you be hiking through a mountain meadow or untreated area with a spade and a basket, there’s bounty awaiting you. (Wild plants that have gone to flower are much more bitter—pass them by.)

     

    HOW TO SERVE DANDELION GREENS

    Discard the tough lower portions of the stems. Depending on the recipe, cut the leaves crosswise into 2-inch pieces. Cook the greens in a pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until the ribs are tender (about 10 minutes). As with spinach, then rinse under cold water to stop cooking, drain in a colander and gently press out excess water.

  • Sauté the crowns and/or leaves with onion and garlic; season with a pinch of salt and fresh pepper or crushed pepper flakes.
  • Add to a salad (how about mixed greens, beets and almonds, or goat cheese and toasted hazelnuts?).
  • Substitute in any recipe that calls for bok choy or kale.
  • Make pesto (add some pumpkin seeds) for pasta and other recipes.
  • Serve wilted greens as a side.
  • Mix with collards, kale and/or spinach.
  •  

    FOOD TRIVIA

    Dandelion greens have long been a homeopathic treatment for a broad spectrum of problems: acne, digestive problems, eczema, edema, gout, jaundice, swelling and inflammation, even viruses. It has potent laxative and diuretic properties, as attested by its French name, pissenlit, “wet the bed.”

    Our word, dandelion, comes from the French dent-de-lion, “lion’s tooth.”

     
    *From the botanical family Asteraceae and the tribe Cichorieae (yes, chicory), the genus and species are Taraxacum officinale. While Asteraceae is a large genus of flowering plants, two species, T. officinale and T. erythrospermum, are found as weeds worldwide.

    †One cup raw brocoli: 581 IU vitamin A, 89.4 mcg vitamin K, 41.4 mg calcium, .6 mg iron. One cup raw dandelion greens: 2712 IU vitamin A, 151 mcg vitamin K, 103 mg calcium, 1.7 mg iron.
      

    Comments

    GIFT: Grilling Vegetables Basket

    Are you guesting on Memorial Day or holding your own shindig?

    If it’s the former, and you don’t have an assigned dish to bring, here’s a fresh idea:

    Instead of a bottle of wine or a pan of brownies, how about a basket of freshly picked vegetables? Your hosts will have something to grill and enjoy after the party food is gone.

    Melissa’s, purveyor of premium produce, has put together a barbecue gift basket of Anaheim chiles, Asian eggplant, red or yellow bell peppers, chayote squash, elephant garlic, fennel, cipolline or Maui onions, plantains and portobello mushrooms.

    The idea is to provide better versions of standard grilling favorites, plus something new. (When was the last time you grilled fennel or plantains?)

     

    mixed-veg-basket-230sq

    A gift for your barbecue hosts. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

     

    circle-kabobs-charcoalcompanionAMZ-230

    Fun skewers that circle the plate. Photo
    courtesy Charcoal Companion.

     

    The Melissa’s gift basket also includes:

  • A set of four circle kabobs.
  • A grilling basket to keep cut veggies from falling into the fire.
  •  
    The price is $64.99 on Melissas.com.
     
    Send it as a Memorial Day gift for dear friends and family, or a thank-you gift to your Memorial Day hosts.

    You can put your own basket together by going to the best produce market in town and picking out unusual versions of family favorites (Asian eggplant instead of conventional Italian eggplant, for example).

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Spanakopita, Greek Spinach Pie

    One way to get people to eat more spinach is to serve spanakopita, the delicious Greek feta-and-spinach pastry in flaky phyllo (also spelled fillo or filo) dough.

    A good filling comprises not just spinach and crumbled feta cheese, but leeks, dill and parsley. It’s the leeks and lots of fresh dill and parsley, plus nutmeg, that make homemade spanakopita so much more flavorful than diner and deli versions. (We like nutmeg so much, we double the amount.)

    While spanakopita is typically layered in a large pan from which individual servings are cut, it can be rolled into individual triangles—more elegant but more labor intensive.

    In Greece, spanakopita is usually eaten as a snack. In the U.S., it makes an attractive first course, a light lunch with a salad or a dinner entrée for vegetarians.

    Because it can be enjoyed warm or at room temperature, we like to serve spanakopita at parties, picnics and cook-outs as well. We’re making a tray of it as our contribution to upcoming Memorial Day festivities.

     

    spanakopita-plate-kontos-230

    Spanakopita is one of our favorite ways to enjoy spinach. Photo courtesy Kontos Foods.

     
    Here’s the personal recipe of Chef Demetrios Haralambatos, executive chef at Kontos Foods, a producer of traditional Mediterranean foods:

    RECIPE: SPANKOPITA (SPINACH PIE)

    Ingredients

  • 2 pounds spinach, steamed, squeezed, chopped, and drained (or frozen spinach, fully thawed)
  • 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup dill, chopped
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 leek, chopped or 1/4 cup green onion (scallion), chopped
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup olive oil for brushing pastry
  • 12 sheets phyllo dough
  •  

    spanakopita-tray-kontos-230

    Delicious party, picnic and cook-out fare.
    Photo courtesy Kontos Foods.

     

    Preparation

    1. MIX together the spinach, feta, dill, parsley, leeks, eggs, salt and pepper.

    2. BRUSH the bottom of an 8×8-inch baking pan with olive oil.

    3. PLACE a sheet of phyllo in the pan; brush lightly with olive oil. Use kitchen scissors to trim the phyllo to fit. Repeat until you have 6 layers, lightly brushing each layer with olive oil.

    4. PLACE the spinach and greens mixture on top of the 6 layers of phyllo, in an even layer. Flatten with a spatula. To create a “top” for the spinach pie, layer another six pieces of phyllo on top of the spinach mixture, brushing each layer with olive oil as you go.

    5. BAKE for 30-50 minutes at 350°F, until golden brown.

     

    Variations

  • Add chopped hard-boiled eggs to the filling.
  • Use puff pastry instead of phyllo.
  • Use kale instead of spinach, or a mixture; or a combination of spinach, leeks, chard and sorrel (a blend that is popular in rural Greece).
  • Subsitute tofu instead of feta for a vegan filling.
  •  
    ABOUT SPANAKOPITA

    Spanakopita (spa-na-KOE-pee-tah), a Greek savory snack pastry, is a member of the burek family of savory baked or fried filled pastries. The name means spinach pie.

    Burek pastries are typically made with paper-thin phyllo dough or a thicker, calzone-like dough. They can also be made with puff pastry.

    The pastries are filled with cheese, egg, minced meat or vegetables. This style of pastry is believed to have been invented in the early era of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922), in what is now modern Turkey.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Deconstructed Caprese Salad

    One of a foodie’s favorite salads is the Caprese, a delicious combination of tomato, basil and mozzarella that was “discovered” in Italy in the 1950s (the history of Caprese salad).

    Tasty basil and mozzarella are available year-round, but luscious summer tomatoes are required to make this simple combination soar. Until the crop comes in, look at alternatives—including cherry and grape tomatoes.

    The gifted chef Linda Anctil of PlayingWithFireAndWater.com offers a new way to look at Caprese salad. She balances different sizes of mozzarella balls and tomatoes to a lovely effect.

    Emulate her “art” with these ingredients:

  • Boconcini, bite-size mozzarella balls
  • Perlini, tiny mozzarella balls
  • Multicolored heirloom cherry tomatoes and smaller grape tomatoes
  • Basil leaves
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Optional: Basil oil
  • Optional: baby beets
  •  

    insalata-caprese-230

    Caprese salad on an artistic canvas. Photo courtesy Linda Anctil | PlayingWithFire.com.

     

    Linda actually injected the peeled heirloom tomatoes with basil oil and made mozzarella “balloons” filled with tomato water foam. She painted the “basil leaves” onto the plate with basil gel, and garnished the dish with olive oil powder and Balinese sea salt.

    This takes lots of skill!

     

    caprese-yellow-tomato-balduccis-230sq

    A conventional Caprese salad
    presentation—here with two types and colors
    of tomatoes. Photo courtesy Balducci’s.

     

    We adapted her concept with conventional Caprese ingredients, including fresh basil leaves and droplets of fine olive oil, basil oil and balsamic vinegar.

    And we loved it!

    More ways to look at Caprese salad:

  • Caprese Pasta Salad recipe
  • Plum Caprese Salad recipe
  • Tofu Caprese Salad recipe
  • Watermelon Caprese Salad recipe
  •  
    All are delicious food fun!

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: A Pot Of Herbs

    We were inspired by the photo below to plant a pot of herbs, otherwise known as container herbs.

    If you don’t mind frequent watering, a pot puts fresh herbs at your fingertips—not to mention, provides lovely greenery and fragrance. You can keep one in a sunny kitchen spot, on the back steps, porch or patio, or go whole-hog like our friend Connie has just done and stake out an elaborate garden plot.

    Your local nursery can provide assistance, and there’s plenty of advice online. Here are the steps to snipping:

    1. Pick a sunny spot. Most culinary herbs originated in the Mediterranean and other sun-drenched regions, so they need at least eight hours of sunlight a day.

    2. Seeds versus plants. Seeds typically need to be started indoors one to two months before it’s warm enough to move them outside. At this point in the season, look for plants (they’re also easier for beginners).

    3. The right container. A larger pot of soil or potting mix* dries out more slowly. To keep the plants moist for the longest time, use the largest pot you can.

     

    656SG4675

    Your favorite herbs, ready to snip. Photo courtesy Whiteflower Farm.

     
    *For containers, it’s better to use potting mix than potting soil. The latter is often poor quality soil with poor drainage. Potting mix is made mostly from organic matter (peat, composted plant matter) with good drainage.
     

    4. Select your herbs. They should, of course, be the ones you use most often. Basil, rosemary, thyme and parsley are popular. We use chives every day for flavor or garnish. Don’t be seduced into planting something you don’t use, under the theory that if you have it, you’ll cook with it. Odds are that you won’t.

    5. Choose watering-compatible herbs. That is to say, plant together herbs that require the same amount of watering. For example, basil likes more water, but rosemary likes drier soil. To keep the basil happy, you’d be over-watering the rosemary. Separate pots are called for.

     

    herbs-in-wheelbarrow-bonnieplants-230

    Thinking outside the pot—and into a
    wheelbarrow (with drainage holes, of
    course). Photo courtesy BonniePlants.com.

     

    6. Think outside the pot: How about something seasonal? Given that it’s iced tea weather, think about mint—which is a universal dessert garnish, too. How about some edible flowers—marigolds, nasturtiums and pansies, for example? They’re beautiful in salads, drinks, and as plate garnishes.

    7. Prepare the container. Be sure there are sufficient drainage holes, and fill the container to a quarter of the pot’s depth with gravel or pebbles. They help with proper drainage.

    8. Add the plants; plan to fertilize. The frequent watering required by herbs tends to wash nutrients from the soil/potting mix. Replenish them with fertilizer so your herbs will thrive. You can use a regular houseplant fertilizer every three weeks, at one-half the strength recommended; add a slow-release fertilizer when you plant; or look for a potting mix that contains the slow-release fertilizer.

    9. Use daily. From breakfast eggs to a garnish for dessert, enjoy those herbs. The more you cut them back to use them, the more they grow. If you aren’t using a particular herb often enough, snip sprigs as a plate garnish or a cocktail garnish.

     

      

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