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Herbs in Your Cooking Should Start with a Pinch

Herbs (Discovery Gardens) can be part of a garden of their own or grow among your other plants.

Family members who seldom notice the garden are sure to notice when you add herbs to your menus to enhance flavors, fill the house with delicious aromas, and hopefully make everything you cook taste wonderful.

Chefs in great restaurants buy and use herbs lavishly. Homegrown herbs are fresher than those most chefs buy and use.

However, you can use herbs too lavishly, especially for children's tastes. You may find that this great improvement in your cooking is not appreciated at first. Here is how to make the transition more easily.

  • The best way to work herbs into your menus is to add them in small amounts to dishes your family already knows and likes rather than springing too much too new at once. By the way they eat, you can determined whether to repeat or delete or to add a little bit more or less.
  • Keep in mind that fresh and newly dried herbs have the most flavor, usually more intense than the ones you've been buying. Adjust the amounts a little at a time. You can always add more. Let the herbs bring out the flavors of your food, not overwhelm them or change them drastically.
  • Start with a pinch to one fourth of a teaspoon of dried herbs or a teaspoon of fresh herbs for a dish serving four.
  • Use herbs in only one or two dishes per meal.
  • As a rule, add herbs to hot foods only at the end of cooking, for flavor and nutrients can be destroyed by heat. For a roast or stew that cooks for 2 hours or more, add them in the last half hour. For vegetables, fish and sauced, add herbs in the last few minutes.
  • As you add fresh herbs, crush or bruise them with a wooden spoon or your fingers to release the oils.
  • When you make herbal blends, let one herb dominate and add others that complement it.

If you get carried away and overdo in your enthusiasm for herbs, or have a spill, there are ways to save the supper.

Spoon or strain out as much of the herb as you can.
Add half a teaspoon of sugar to cut too much salt.
Add more of the bland ingredients to absorb the stronger flavor. In some cases you can make a second batch of the recipe, leaving out the seasoning, and add it to the first. Then freeze half the dish and you'll come out ahead from your mistake.
Add a whole raw potato, peeled, to soak up some of the excess flavor. Remove it just before serving if it seems inappropriate.
Some dishes can be served cold and the taste of the over seasoning will not be as obvious.
After making your best effort to correct the seasoning, provided that the dish is edible, present it as if it were fine. With luck, everyone will think that it is.

Sage and rosemary (Leu Gardens 04) can make a marked enhancement in food flavors, or they can overpower.

Thyme is especially good with chicken dishes. So is sage. Before the hot weather returns, cut 1/3 of the foliage and dry it for future use, since these sometimes die out over the summer.

Photos excerpt from Herbs and Spices for Florida Gardens. If you would like, you may purchase an autographed copy of the book here.

HERBS AND SPICES FOR FLORIDA GARDENS. You can grow all the herbs in Florida that you can grow in northern states and some more tropical kinds that you couldn't grow there. But you have to grow them differently, follow our upside down seasons, take into consideration our sandy soil. Here are the growing instructions you need. Learn which ones are summer sensitive and what you can do about it. I visited herbs gardens and herb growers in Northern, Central,and Southern Florida, in the writing of this book, and you will see the subtle differences for climate variations.. Besides chapters on differences in Florida herb growing, easy ways to use herbs and spices, cooking with homegrown herbs and general growing information, there is an extensive plant directory. 1996, 250 pages, paperbound. There have been rave reviews! ISBN 0961633867


Dorothy Butler's Scented Geranium Pound Cake
1 yellow cake mix , with ingredients as directed on the box
1 teaspoon butter flavoring
15-20 scented geraniums leaves, cleaned
cup sugar
2/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 350. Grease & flour a 9 x 13 pan. Place 12 leaves over the bottom of the pan. Prepare the cake as directed on the box, add butter flavor. Carefully pour patter over leaves. Bake as directed.

While cake is baking, combine sugar, water and leaves in saucepan and simmer until reduced by half. When cake is done, poke holes in top with toothpick, strain geranium leaf syrup over top & cool. Best if made the day before. Cut up a few more leaves and spread on top.

Upcoming Event

"Gathering Wisdom from a Flower" - Tuesdays, March 11-April 15 10 am-noon
A 6-week Herb Class offered by Willow LaMonte
Willow Herbal Delight Gardens, Valrico, FL
Pre-registration necessary: (813) 643-7285
  • Visit Maggie's Herb Farm

    Naturally raised culinary, medicinal & aromatic herbs & edible flowers.