Earlier this month I spent a wonderful week in Sardinia, my husband’s homeland. Warm evenings spent in my mother-in-law’s garden inspired me to write about herbs this week. I started photographing various plants as I was impressed with how many useful herbs one can grow easily on a very small piece of land, or even simply in a few flower pots!
Rosemary, mint, dill, sage, thyme and many more, all happily growing together in the backyard. In one of my recent posts I was encouraging you to pay attention to where your veggies come from and also inviting you to grow your own plants if possible. Well if you don’t have the space to grow leeks, broccoli or beans why not start with some herbs in one or two containers on the kitchen window sill? You can get your kids involved in looking after the plants and make a family thing out of it. Cooking with fresh herbs which you looked after will feel so much better than using supermarket bought herbs. If you want to learn about some other practical benefits of having herbs within arm’s reach, then have a look at this article from the Guardian.
If you are not cooking a lot at home, you might not even be familiar with a big variety of herbs and spices. If this is the case, I definitely want to invite you to start getting to know some of them. Even, if not home grown! If you are an experienced cook, then for sure you know the power of small but fragrant leaves, which can be used to prepare so many different types of food. They can create the main, dominant flavour of a dish or give it that little finishing touch, which makes all the difference. Just think of lemon zest or chilli flakes – always added in small quantities but what a difference these can make to the final result! Sometimes you can add a leaf which won’t even be eaten, but the scent itself will make a big impact on the overall experience. What comes to my mind here is a dessert which the restaurant chain Carluccio’s used to have some years ago. It was a kahlua chocolate fondant served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a couple of mint leaves. These leaves, even if not eaten, but just there for you to smell, were adding that much needed touch of freshness to a rich dessert.
Here are some of the herbs, which I found in the garden of my mother-in-law. Have a look and pick one or two to cook with or even better to grow at home! Do you have any favourites?
Adding rosemary, garlic and olive oil is always a great way to roast potatoes and other vegetables. Rosemary is also used to cook lamb and chicken.
I love adding a slice of lemon and some mint leaves to a glass of water. Makes such a refreshing drink! There are lots of things you can do with mint. Check out this article to find 49 ways to use mint!
Most often I pair basil with tomatoes, mozzarella and a splash of balsamic vinegar for a delicious caprese salad.
I will be honest- I have never cooked with sage! This is a herb I need to get to know better. Anyone any tips?
Thyme can be used when cooking meat or veggies and is also great when added to sauces.
OK, this is not really a herb! Mirto, in English Myrtus or Myrtle is a typical Sardinian plant. It can also be found in Corsica. It is used to produce Sardinia’s most famous liqueur, called as the plant: Mirto. You cannot really grow mirto in a container on your kitchen window sill, but as I am presenting you plants photographed in my mother-in-law’s garden in Sardinia, I just couldn’t leave out the traditional mirto!
I am sure all of you have used parsley before! Great for sprinkling onto salads, potatoes and of course a necessity when preparing a tabbouleh!
Boiled young potatoes with some butter and lots of chopped dill on top is my comfort food as this is what my grandma used to prepare for me often when I was little! It was the standard side to any typical Polish dish.
Peperoncino is more or less the same as chilli, just smaller! The jar you see above is dried peperoncino which we brought home from Sardinia ages ago. We still have some left and keep using it. The little peppers are really hot so you only add a tiny bit to any dish you want. My husband normally uses it for pasta sauces. You can try growing chillies in a container at home, but I read somewhere that to be successful and get the plant to produce the peppers you need at least 6h of sun a day which in the UK is not very likely to happen!
Aloe vera is a strong plant and can grow in all sorts of conditions. It has many great benefits. When I got sun burnt I just cut a bit of the plant and used the gel it has inside as a kind of a cooling lotion and it helped a lot. I did the same when I had a bad itchy mosquito bite and it helped too! At one of the juicing workshops which I attended, one of the recipes we tried out had some aloe in it. We just removed the skin and only used the gelly substance. The key is to know that you have a plant that is OK for consumption. There are different types and they look very similar so if you want to grow one at home, you need to make sure you get the right one.
A bunch of fresh herbs straight from the backyard into your kitchen. Can it get any better? I hope I have inspired you a little bit to get to know some herbs, start using them for cooking and even grow some at your home! What are your favourite herbs and how do you use them? Anyone out there who’d like to share? If so, do leave a comment below!