End of the Terrible Turnips 5/7/2018

Turnips are not for us. I kept hoping we would stumble across a recipe that made them taste good that we both liked. I wanted to be excited about growing more turnips next fall. We kept an open mind. We really did.

We’ve tried them:

  • Mashed Bacon turnips – Blech! We both wanted to like it but couldn’t. What a waste of perfectly good bacon!
  • Broiled/home fries – Soggy tasted too much like mushrooms for the husband.
  • Soup Turnip, Carrot Onion & Beet – Honestly this was only made just for me. I froze it for when desperate times call for desperate measures (IE: husband is out-of-town and I need a meal). Maybe the second most palatable option but nothing you would request on purpose.
  • Fries with Garlic Aioli -This was the best by far but still not something either of us enjoyed enough to make again. They never were crispy.
  • Gratin – Basically turned out to be a dairy/cheese delivery system which still was soured by the turnip taste/texture. Husband saw my reaction to trying it and didn’t even want to give it a taste.

So it is not for lack of effort in trying. We have concluded they are horse food. I will not be growing these again for human consumption. Pity. They were fun to grow and fast to produce. But what’s the point if you don’t like to eat it? NEVER AGAIN.

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Today out at the garden the harlequin beetles eating the greens and they were starting to get powdery mildew so they have to be pulled out. The temperatures have gotten too high for them to be happy. I have a fridge full of turnips and NO good ideas on what to do with them. They might just end up in the compost bin.

3tlsmYy

 

 

 

Preserved Basil Success 12/10/2017

Not knowing what to expect as the result of the whole leaf basil in salt preservation technique, I have to say I’m extremely impressed. For dinner I made some caprese bread to go along with our turkey meatballs and zucchini noodles. It was a success.

The color of the basil looked a little wilted but the leaf structure was surprisingly soft and the flavor was perfect.

IMG_0116This was my solution to using some of the counter ripening tomatoes we’ve been able to enjoy from the first batch of tomatoes brought in on the 24th of November.

Ingredients:

  • Some nice crusty bread,
  • sliced tomatoes,
  • preserved whole basil leaves,
  • Motzerella in herbed olive oil,
  • a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar,
  • and a little sprinkle of basil salt on top

This was a hit. It’s amazing how gardening has been the thing to get me into cooking/food preparation. I want to use all the things I work so hard to grow darn it. I will most definitely be using the whole leaf basil preservation method in the future. I’m impressed.

Herbed Simple Syrup 11/18/2017

This post should be added to my Ways to use Herbs post here.

My husband’s family is here. They, and I, like to drink old fashions. Since it’s the thanksgiving holidays, I wanted to do something a little more special and kick it up a notch. Enter Rosemary and Lavender Simple syrup.

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It’s always such a nice feeling to be able to stoll outside and within a few feet from the back deck be able to cut some herbs fresh from the garden.

Ingredients:

  • Water
  • Sugar
  • 1 6-8 inch sprig of herb per cup of syrup produced.

The base recipe I use to make simple syrup is super simple; 1 part water to 1 part Sugar. It’s even unnecessary to use heat to dissolve the sugar in the base recipe. Just stir for about 2 minutes and voila! However, with the herbs it’s a little different. I ended up picking about 6 – 8 inch long sprigs of both lavender and rosemary for each cup of simple syrup produced. So for 4 cups of rosemary simple syrup I picked 4 sprigs of 6-8 inch lengths, same with the Lavender. I was pleased that I now have a way of using lavender stems rather than just the flowers.

Wash the herbs, but you can leave them on the stems. It doesn’t change the flavor and makes the syrup straining far easier with the herbs still attached to stems.

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Put your herb of choice in a pot with equal parts of water and sugar. Heat on medium heat stirring occasionally to help the sugar dissolve. Once the sugar is dissolved you want to produce a low simmer. Simmer your herb for about 1-5 minutes then take off the heat. I taste tested it at this stage and thought it was extremely mild. I let it sit in the pot and steep in the warm liquid and muddled it with my stirring spoon the best I could, and really just let it sit. The liquid will slowly take on color once it’s sitting, It’s extremely important to taste test it periodically. It can go from an almost flavorless mixture to an almost-too-strong mixture fairly quickly. In total mine took about 15 minutes to get to the desired strength level.

Little particles will undoubtedly have come off your herbs and be suspended in the simple syrup. Place cheese cloth piece in the funnel used to fill your jars to catch any of the suspended particles.

Chill for an hour to cool down to the correct temperature and enjoy!

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Rosemary Old Fashioned:

  • 1/2 oz of Rosemary simple syrup
  • 1 1/2 oz whiskey of choice
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Orange wheel & rosemary sprig garnish
  • (add a dash of cinnamon for a perfectly Christmas tasting cocktail)

Lavender Old Fashioned:

  • 1/2 oz Lavender simple syrup
  • 1 1/2 oz whiskey of choice
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • Lemon peel & Lavender sprig garnish

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Bottom’s up!

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Now that company has come and gone there is a clear winner. I thought it was funny and wanted to show you.

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Preserving Basil 9/17/2017

I hopped over to preparedness mama and found some great ideas on how to preserve my basil that was starting to look worse for wear. The older leaves on the plant are starting to get sunburn and new leaves aren’t forming as fast as they were. Plus I’ll be ripping it all out soon to plant garlic anyways.

I thought I would take the parts of the plant that look the best and do some experiments to see what the husband would like to use cooking.

Ideas from Preparedness Mama

Basil frozen in Olive oil using an ice-cube tray –

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Pretty self-explanatory, Just make little cubes and pop them out into a zip lock bag.  I’m excited to see if we can find some good recipe’s to use them.

Whole leaf basil in salt-

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It seems very odd to me that this is supposed to be kept in the fridge, but supposedly it will retain the leaf texture and color until spring when I can plant basil out again? I’m hoping to have it still looking right in November for thanksgiving. So this is an experiment. I might try another one on the counter and compare how they do.

Ideas from Melissa Norris  –

Basil Salt -The most interesting basil salt to me was the 4 parts basil to 1 part salt method because i had a lot of basil to use up. I will be storing this one in the fridge as recommended but i bet the inverse of this on her site, the 1 part basil to 4 parts salt would be fine on the counter.

My salt is going to end up a dark kale greenish color because of all the purple basil that I used. It will be something fun and different. I have NO idea what we’ll end up deciding to use this on but when I have some ideas or recipes I’ll post them.

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Ways to use herbs 9/9/2017

What good is growing an edible landscape if you don’t use it? It’s fun to find new ways to use the stuff out in the yard. The cool and fun thing about it is making things that you wouldn’t be able to find at the store. Growing odd stuff means you get to be a little creative with how it’s used. Here are a few of my favorite ways to use some herbs that are in the general landscape at my place.

 

Sun-Tea

Sun Tea was something newly discovered a few years ago here. It’s super easy and a great way to use fresh herbs from Spring through Fall here in Austin. In its simplest form you can just put a tea bag in a cup of water and leave it outside in the sun. The version I make now varies depending on what is available in the yard. There are herbs strewn throughout the fruit trees along the border of our lawn so all that is required is taking a stroll to see what is available.  The lemon/lime/mint flavors seem to work well. It can be made as simple or complex as desired, but here’s the base recipe:

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Sun Tea (for approximately one gallon):

  • 1/2 -1 cup honey – depends on desired sweetness level (or you could completely leave it out and use stevia.)
  • 1 cup of leaves in any combination (common varieties I use are mint, spearmint, lemon balm, lemon grass, lemon verbena, stevia, and pineapple sage)
  • Juice of a whole lemon or lime – (the skins of the fruit impart an unpleasant bitter pith taste).
  • 5 tea bags. Usually Mint and/or Tazo’s Zen Tea (made of mint and lemongrass)
  • glass pitcher & water

Pour honey into the bottom of the pitcher, throw in your washed herbs and if using lemon & lime juice plunk that in too, and then muddle. The goal of muddling is to bruise the leaves not to tear them. If you muddle for around 2-3 minutes you’re good for sure and you can probably do it in less just fine. Top off your pitcher to the desired level with water, toss in your tea bags (drape the tea tags over the side of the pitcher). Use saran wrap over the top of the pitcher secured with a rubber band so bugs can’t get in. Then plop it in a sunny part of the yard for a few hours. My pitcher will normally be outside anywhere from 4-8 hours. Strain out the teabags and leaves from your tea, press out the remaining liquid from them and refrigerate. (We toss the used up leaves and tea bags back out into the garden.) Serve over ice and drink while it’s cold for the best flavor. It’s amazingly refreshing on a hot summer day. It will last a week in the fridge but mine rarely makes it that long. You can also freeze it into ice cubes and use in a cocktail. Now that sounds like it would be good in some hard lemonade.

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My favorite variations of this recipe so far are:

  • Lemon-Lime = uses lemon balm, lemon verbena, lemon grass, stevia Zen tea bags and the juice of a whole lime or two. Good for summer when mint goes dormant.
  • Lemon-mint = uses fresh mint and spearmint, lemon balm, juice of a lemon and 3 mint teabags and 2 zen teabags. Great for spring new leaf growth.
  • Pineapple sage = pineapple sage, stevia, juice of a lemon and zen teabags. Good when running low on minty or lemony herbs.

Experiment and see what you like. It’s super easy to throw together in the morning then you have something to look forward to after work.

Cheers!

Want to kick your drink up a notch and do something a little more boozy? try some Herb simple syrup .

Rosemary-Sage Salt

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This has become a cooking staple in our household. It is something I usually only need to make only once a year. A small mason jar of the stuff will last us the whole year.  It’s super easy to scale the recipe because it just dependent on how many herbs you have on hand to use. Basic recipe:

  • 1 part rosemary
  • 1 part sage
  • 2 parts salt

Wash and dry the equal parts of rosemary and sage collected. Go for similar total volume once the rosemary is de-stemmed. now the part that makes the whole house smell amazing: Chop up the rosemary and sage into the smallest pieces that you can. The goal is to get them to be salt-like sized so you can use it through a shaker (although we never do). When the herbs are chopped it’s time to get your glass container out. Make a thin bottom layer of salt. Aim for 1/8-1/16th inch evenly covering the bottom of the jar. Sprinkle your minced herb mixture in approximately 1/8 inch or less thick evenly over the salt layer. Pour over the top of that an even layer of salt again covering up the herbs completely. when finished, there will be little distinct layers of salt and herbs beautifully ringing the container.

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The herbs are fresh and still have moisture in them, the salt helps draw out the water content of the herbs and I’ve found that if the container is turned upside down on top of a paper towel it has a way to escape. So I leave mine on the counter for a week or two until it looks like everything has evaporated and then seal it up and put it in the cupboard.

 

You can use other herbs too. Thyme, oregano, and lavender would all work well. We love the original so much we haven’t strayed from it yet though. It will last for a year and then the potency of the herbs starts to decline although it is still perfectly edible. My husband will use this to season almost any meat he’s cooking, he’ll put it in ground beef, on lamb, on top of steaks, chicken, to seasoning oven roasted new potatoes… It’s pretty delicious in almost any savory dish you can think of.

Herbed Salad

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It seems like a no-brainer that you can use herbs in a salad. When I think of salad, I still think of pre-washed bagged stuff from the store. But making it out of the yard isn’t hard and is a great way to use some herbs. I will say through trial and error there are some that I would leave out of a salad in the future. The more woody herbs that are perfect for the salt recipe above (rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, lavender) do not lend themselves well to an herbed salad in my opinion. That was an experience getting a mouthful of thyme leaves and an intensely bitter/pine taste and spitting them out again. Those herbs are best left for cooking and infusing drinks.

Things that go well in an herbed salad (in my opinion). Also you can add in some edible flowers for fun. If you have them why not use them?

  • Spring onions / chives & purple chive flowers – oniony taste
  • Society garlic stems & purple flowers/ Garlic chives & flowers – garlicky taste
  • Nasturtium leaves and flowers – peppery taste
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Red veined sorrel/lemon balm/lemon verbena leaves  – lemony & sour taste
  • Chard – nutty taste
  • Basil
  • Mint

Making a base of chard or some less intense flavored leave works the best. but I add in a ton of just random things that are available at the moment and it’s amazing how well it all seems to work together. Just take a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

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