Grilled blueberries

Grilled blueberries

July is National Blueberry Month, and we’re celebrating with lots of information and recipes.

You read that right. Grilled blueberries. Yes, you really can grill almost anything, even blueberries. Not sure how you would go about grilling blueberries? You’re not alone. I mean, they’re pretty small and would fall through the grate, right?

Two words: foil packets.

Foil packets are a great way to grill all kinds of small items. We use them to grill sweet potato slices, tiny baby beets, even radishes. Just add some butter or olive oil, and wrap them up using several layers of foil, making sure to fold under the sides so none of the delicious juices leak out.

This recipe for grilled berries is perfect for your 4th of July BBQ gathering.

Grilled berries
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries*
1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries*
juice of 1 lemon
lemon zest
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon butter

*you can substitute any berries you have on hand

1. In a medium bowl, mix together berries, lemon juice, zest, brown sugar, and balsamic vinegar.

2. Create foil packet and spoon berry mixture into center. Add butter on top. Seal foil carefully, making sure the sides are turned under well to prevent leaking.

3. Place on the grill in a medium-heat zone, and allow to cook for 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Pour over ice cream, garnish with a mint spring, and enjoy!

Bay Laurel & Lemon Verbena

Bay Laurel & Lemon Verbena

When Herbs launched, 15 herbs were available to add to your garden. Now we have over 30 varieties of herbs available to browse through–with more varieties added this week. We would like to introduce Lemon Verbena and Bay Laurel to you and your Smart Gardens.

Bay Laurel

Native to the Mediterranean, the Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) may have more stories and traditions than any other culinary herb I know of! In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, he tells the story of the young Daphne turning into the Bay Laurel to escape from Apollo. Daphne is the Greek name for Bay Laurel, and the tree is also a symbol for the Greek God, Apollo. Also in Greece, to have a wreath of Bay Laurel is the highest nobility. In fact, the wreath was given as the prize during the Pythian Games, a precursor to the Olympics. It also translated over to the Romans, as a symbol for victory. Hence the words bacclaureate and post laureate, and the phrase “resting on one’s laurels.”

Show off your garden’s prosperity by adorning it with a Bay Laurel. Although this tree can get rather tall, yearly pruning and regular harvest can keep the plant small and shrub-like. In fact, Bay Laurel is commonly used as a topiary plant! If your winters are too cold to keep Bay Laurel outside, you can also grow it in a large pot, which you move indoors during the winter.

Bay Laurel is a great culinary herb, and I recommend adding it to any meat, stuffing, beans, soup, or stock you make. It has also been known for medicinal uses, such as alleviating arthritis, lowering high blood pressure. It also makes a great astringent, salve for open wounds, or oil to treat ear aches, bruises and sores.

Important Note: When cooking with whole Bay leaves, be sure to remove them before serving; they can be sharp enough to damage internal organs.

Lemon Verbena

As you may imagine, Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citriodora) is well known for its addition of lemon flavor and scent into culinary dishes, herbal teas, adult beverages, and household cleaning products. Although it sounds similar to Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena is much different. It is native to South America‘s Chile and Peru, while Lemon Balm is native to Europe and found along the Mediterranean. Also, Lemon Verbena requires full sun in order to grow well, while Lemon Balm can survive in partial shade. A significant difference for gardeners, is that Lemon Verbena is a shrub, and can grow as large as 10 feet tall in your backyard! While the size may be a bit intimidating, the large harvest and sweet fragrance will not have you thinking twice about it. You can also limit its growth by growing your Lemon Verbena in a pot. This method is more ideal for those with cold winters, as the plant cannot survive below 0˚ F.

Lemon Pot de Crème
* this recipe will require 6 ramekins or souffle dishes

1 cup water
14 lemon verbena leaves, 2 – 2 1/2″ long (fresh or dried works)
10 lemon peels, 1/2″ wide and 2″ long
6 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
6 egg yolks
1 tsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 425˚ F.

In a saucepan bring water, lemon verbena and lemon peels and to a boil until it reduces by half, about 4 minutes. Whisk in sugar and boil until the mixture is now 1/3 cup. Strain out peels and leaves and return liquid to the heat. Whisk in the whipping cream.

In a separate bowl (that can take heat), whisk your eggs together. Gradually whisk in the hot mixture from saucepan. Stir in lemon juice.

Transfer mixture into 6 ramekins and cover with foil. Put ramekins into a baking sheet, at least 2″ tall on the sides. Add hot water to the baking sheet so that it rises to half the height of the ramekins. Bake until it sets, about 45 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool in the water. Transfer ramekins into refrigerator and allow to cool for 4 hours, or overnight. Serve chilled with a lemon verbena leaf for garnish.

Lemon Verbena and Bay Laurel are now available to add to your garden. You can find all of our available varieties by Browsing under Herbs:

Oregano

Oregano

Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is an aromatic perennial that is essential to Italian and Greek cooking. It is also known as Wild Marjoram and is a close relative of Marjoram. Oregano is native to the Mediterranean, and loves full fun.  In areas with milder winters, it is grown as a perennial. In areas with colder winters, it is treated like an annual.

One of the remarkable things about oregano is its ability to compliment so many different flavors. It goes well with spicy and savory dishes, like chili and soup, as well as sweet and citrus dishes, like salads and glazes. Oregano is typically paired with basil in tomato based dishes, and is a standard in pizza sauces. In some pizza restaurants, shakers of dried oregano are found on the table next to the salt and pepper. It is also common in many Greek dishes, including the standard Greek salad, with sun dried tomatoes, feta, black olives, anchovies, and olive oil.

Lemon Garlic Oregano Dressing
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 tsp lemon zest
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Whisk together lemon juice, lemon zest, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper in a large bowl. Add the olive oil in slowly, whisking it into the mixture evenly.

This makes a wonderful, flavorful yet light salad dressing, perfect for spring vegetables.

It can also be used to dress grilled chicken, pork chops, and even fish. Oregano doesn’t keep its flavor if it is cooked for too long, so it is generally best to add it near the end of cooking. Whether grilling or roasting, simply cook the meat until it is done and then add the meat to a baking dish, cover it evenly with the dressing, and cover. Let it sit for about ten minutes, and then it is ready to serve!

Peppermint

Peppermint

Peppermint (Mentha × piperita) is actually a hybrid of watermint and spearmint. With its parentage, you’d be right if you guessed it loves moist conditions — in the wild it is often found growing along the sides of creeks and ditches. In older gardens, it can usually be found under leaky faucets.

If you have ever grown mint, you probably also already know how invasive it can be. It doesn’t generally produce seed, but instead propagates by sending out underground runners, and can be easily restrained by taking simple measures, such as keeping it in pots or contained beds, or staying vigilant at trimming it back.

Mint has long been used in medicinal potions. It has a high menthol content, and its oil can be found in all kinds of products, from ice cream to toothpaste. While usually associated with iced-tea, and as a garnish for desserts, mint also adds a simple, fresh flavor to many typically savory dishes. Lamb with mint jelly is a popular dish in many parts of the world. In India, fresh mint leaves are often added to lightly cooked vegetables.

Spring Salad

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 cup fresh green peas, blanched
3 green onions, sliced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped

Rinse and cook the quinoa following the instructions on the package. You can prepare the quinoa the day before and allow it to cool overnight, but you can also spread it out on a baking sheet and place in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the carrots, peas, and green onions and add the garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. Stir in the cooled quinoa, until all the ingredients are well mixed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the top with the chopped mint leaves and serve.

Lavender

Lavender

Lavender is one of the most popular herbs mentioned when people are asked to name their favorite scented plant, second only to roses, and maybe lilacs. English Lavender (Lamiaceae Lavandula angustifolia) is the most common type of lavender grown for commercial purposes. Its fragrance can’t be met by the other types of lavender. It also makes a great landscape plant, especially in colder climates. In warmer climates, you’ll find Spanish or Mexican Lavender, which also has a nice fragrance, but isn’t as strong.

When you think of lavender, you probably think of sachets, potpourri, body lotions, and relaxing bath fizzes. But did you know there’s a rich culinary history of using lavender in the kitchen? Its flavor is a pleasant change when added to savory dishes in place of rosemary, and it is delightful when paired with sweets. Just remember, a little goes a long way.

Lavender Lemon Shortbread

1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
½ tsp salt
1 tsp lavender flowers, dried
1 tsp lemon zest, finely grated

In a mixing bowl combine chopped lavender, lemon zest, and sugar. In a hand-held mixer at moderate speed, beat the butter into the sugar mixture. Add in flour and salt and mix on low speed, until it begins to form a soft dough (you can do this all by hand, too, it’ll just take longer!). Transfer to a sheet of wax paper and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Roll out to a log that’s 4” thick and refrigerate for 45 more minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Cut the shortbread log into rounds, ¼” thick. Place on an un-greased baking sheet and freeze for 10 minutes. Bake shortbread in oven for 20-25 minutes, until very slightly browned. They will stiffen up once out of the oven so don’t overcook them. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool before enjoying.