Five herbs perfect for indoor growing

image2All good intention for the New Year aside, the recent weather really had me second-guessing some of my planting goals for the first of the year. Frankly, it’s pretty cold and wet outside. A friend suggested I create an indoor herb garden, something I’d wanted to do and, the timing was perfect. I researched best practices and sought input from neighbors I knew had created lovely herb gardens in the past.Here’s what I came up with, note: it’s pretty easy! Five herbs perfect for indoor growing:

  • Chives
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

The best way to grow herbs is to place them on a windowsill or wherever gets the most daylight. A minimum of four hours of light per day is ideal, next:

  • Buy plants or separate from one already in your garden
  • Manage the size of cuttings – consider the space you intend to place them
  • I transplant herbs into 4” pots – perfect for windowsills
  • Plant each herb in its own pot – use fresh, quality soil
  • Fertilize – garden soil contains natural nutrients many indoor plants lack

Soil from the garden can also contain our little friends from outside (see: pests) as well as other potentially harmful components, so fresh is always best! Some Tips:

  • Leaves may drop in the beginning – the herbs are adjusting to a new environment
  • Keep the soil moist
  • Rosemary can have difficulty adjusting indoors so be patient
  • Indoor herbs can attract aphids or spider mites, so here’s how I handle it:
    • I inspect the herbs as I water
    • If found, I cover the soil surface and flush the plant upside down in a container of insecticidal soap and water.
    • If persistent, I flush once a week until the pests are gone

Right now, I’m working on Mint. Smells so good, my daughter loves it and, you’ve got to have mint for mojitos, right? Stories and pictures of your garden are always encouraged:   debbie@zukeeni.com

debbie@zukeeni.com

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!

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.

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm (Lamiaceae Melissa officinalis) is actually a member of the mint family, except instead of having a minty flavor, it has lemon-scented leaves. Traditionally, it was valued for its calming properties, and historically has been used to create tinctures for soothing nerves, reducing stress and anxiety, promoting sleep, improving appetite, and easing pain and discomfort from indigestion. It has also been used in several cosmetic applications, and makes a good facial cleanser for oily and acne-prone skin.

But did you know it can also be used to give a lemon flavor to many dishes and drinks. Here’s a simple, delicious, delicately flavored  herbal iced tea recipe, just in time for summer!

Summer Herbal Tea
(Adapted from Theresa Loe)

½ loosely packed cup lemon balm
½ loosely packed cup of mint
2 tsp Lavender flowers, dried or fresh
2 peels of orange, 3” long each
1 quart of water

Bring water to a boil, and pour over herbs and peel. Allow it to steep for 10 minutes, then strain to serve. Allow tea to cool and serve over ice for a refreshing treat.