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I am always on the lookout for new things to make from the garden.


Recently I learned how to make specially flavored salts using herbs from my garden.  ‘Herb salts’ have become a popular flavoring tool in the culinary community and they are very easy to make.


The process of making herb salts starts out looking like this…



And ends up transformed into this…

Are you interested in making your own herb salts? 

Summertime means that many of my herbs are actively growing and I sometimes run of ways to use all of the fragrant leaves of them.

Herb or ‘gourmet’ salts are a great way to preserve herbs while adding a new twist to flavoring my favorite foods.

Basil Salt

In my last post, I shared how to make basil salt using two ingredients – fresh basil leaves and kosher salt.

Today, I’d love to show you how to make your own unique herb salt blend.


For my herb salt blend, I went out into the garden and looked for a variety of herbs that I love to cook with.  I found rosemary, sage and thyme. I then grabbed a head of garlic and kosher salt.
I must admit that I was thrilled that I had all these herbs growing in my garden.  I grew the garlic too! 

For equipment, you should have a cutting board, a sharp knife for chopping, a baking sheet and a glass jar with a lid.  
You can make this recipe using a food processor, but it is optional.


1. You will need 2/3 cup rosemary, 2/3 cup sage and 2/3 cup thyme leaves.  These are the amounts I used to get the flavor I liked, but you can play around with the ratio of each herb or choose different herbs to get the flavor you want.  


2. Place 1/2 cup kosher salt on your cutting board and add 5 peeled garlic cloves and chop them together.  The garlic should be finely minced at this point.


3. Chop all of the herbs together.

4. Combine the salt/garlic and the herbs together and continue chopping until finely chopped.

**You can use a food processor for steps 3 & 4 instead of chopping.  Simply put all ingredients in at once and pulse for 30 seconds. 


At this point you can use your herb salt to flavor a roast of beef, chicken or pork before cooking or to flavor roasted vegetables.  But, if you aren’t using the herb salt right away, continue on…


5. Put your herb salt mixture onto a baking sheet in a thin layer and bake in a 200 degree oven for 30 minutes.  This step dries out the herb mixture.  You can also allow it to air dry over a couple of days instead of putting it into the oven.


6. Place your dried mixture into a food processor and pulse for 30 seconds to get rid of any lumps.
If you don’t have a food processor, you can put the dried mixture into a Ziploc bag and roll it with a rolling pin until it is finely ground up.


7. Put your herb salt into a glass jar with a tightly-fitted lid.  Store in a dark, dry place with your spices and dried herbs to preserve its flavor.

I will use my herb salt blend to flavor a pork loin, baked chicken or even a beef roast.  It would also taste great when sprinkled on roasted vegetables or put into soups, don’t you think? 


As you can imagine there are a number of different types of herb salts that you can make.  Here are a few different combinations that you might want to try:


Rosemary Sage Garlic Salt

All of these herb salt blends can be made following the same steps as I have done for my herb salt blend – except where noted.


Rosemary Lemon Pepper Salt – 1/3 cup rosemary leaves, 2 tablespoons lemon zest, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and 1/2 cup kosher salt.
*(Increase cooking time to 1 hour)


Rosemary Sage and Garlic Salt – 1/2 cup of rosemary leaves, 1/2 cup sage, 5 peeled garlic cloves and 1/4 cup kosher salt.


Sage Thyme and Garlic Salt – 1/2 cup sage, 1/2 cup thyme, 5 peeled garlic cloves and 1/4 cup kosher salt.


If your garden is filled with herbs, this is a creative way to use them in the kitchen or give them as gifts.  Even if you don’t have a garden filled with herbs, you can find fresh herbs at your local grocery store or farmers market.


So, how about you? What would herb(s) would your ideal herb salt contain?

Do you like using fresh herbs when you cook?


I do.  But, I don’t like buying herbs from the store because they can be expensive and often aren’t very fresh looking.


Purple basil and chives
I enjoy growing herbs outdoors in my garden, but I also grow herbs indoors on my kitchen windowsill.

Whether you have a garden, a balcony or a windowsill, you can grow herbs inside.


Many people grow herbs indoors during the winter time, but you can grow them inside all year long.

So, are you ready to grow your own fresh herbs?
Let’s get started…

1. Select a place to put your potted herbs that has a sunny window. – 
A window that faces south is best, but east facing will also work.  West facing windows may be too hot in if you live in the desert, but you can experiment with it.  
Herbs need at least 4 – 5 hours of sun.


It’s important to note that herbs grown indoors won’t look as compact or lush as those grown outdoors, which is due to the fact that they don’t get as much sun indoors.

2. Choose plastic or glazed containers with holes for drainage.  
It’s best to avoid terra-cotta pots, which can dry out – especially during the winter when the air in our homes can be dry from heating. 


You can also use cans as recycled containers.  I have grown herbs in tomato cans as well as coffee cans.  

A row of cans with their labels removed, filled with herbs would add a real contemporary look to the kitchen, don’t you think?  


3. Use potting or planting mix.  
Avoid using potting soil, which is not formulated for containers and can become soggy.
4. Select what herbs you want to grow.
There are many different herbs that will grow well indoors, which include basil, chives, lemon balm, mint, parsley, sage and thyme. 

You can buy herb transplants from your favorite nursery or sometimes at the grocery store.




Another way to grow certain herbs is to start them from cuttings.


I ran out to the garden to grab two types of basil and some apple mint to show you how to do this.  
Basil and mint are both easy to start from cuttings.


Remove the leaves from the bottom as shown, above.  Place the cuttings in a glass of water so that most of the stem is submerged in water, but take care that no leaves are in the water.




Place in a window with bright, indirect sun.  Change the water every other day and watch for roots to develop.  Once roots have grown 1/2 – 1 inch, transplant each cutting into a container filled with potting mix and your are done!
I told you it was easy.


5. Water your potted herbs when the top of the soil feels dry.
Herbs don’t like soggy soil, so it’s best to allow the top of the soil to dry out before watering deeply until the water runs out the bottom.  

An easy to tell when it’s time to water is to stick your finger into the soil till you reach your first knuckle – slightly less than an inch.  If it feels barely moist, then it is time to water again.

6. Fertilize your herbs.
When plants are grown in pots, they need to be fertilized and herbs are no different.  You can apply organic fertilizer granules and work into the top inch of soil OR you can use an organic liquid fertilizer such as fish emulsion.  

Follow directions on the granular fertilizer package when applying and guidelines for frequency.  In general, liquid fertilizer can be applied every 2 weeks.


Soon you will have fresh herbs close at hand and ready to use in your favorite dishes.

I recently made herbs salts from my herbs, which is fun and easy to do.  The flavor that they add to food is just delicious!


Click the links below to learn how to make:


Basil Salt


Herb Salt


For more information on how to grow herbs and how to preserve them, click on the following links:


Preserve Herbs By Freezing Them Into Ice Cubes


Preserve Herbs By Drying Them



I have spent the past few weeks indoors whenever possible avoiding the desert heat.  While I do venture outdoors occasionally to do consults and take a weekly tour of the garden to make sure everything is okay.

We did lose a small tree and some branches during a fierce monsoon storm over the weekend, but I was grateful for the rain and the cool temperatures that followed.

Last week, I showed you some of my favorite plant photos.  This week, I would like to share with you some of my favorite DIY blog posts, most of which you can do inside.
One of my favorite DIY projects was creating natural air-fresheners.

I don’t know about you, but I do not like the heavy, artificial smells of air-freshener sprays – not to mention the idea of chemicals floating through the air.  So, the idea of making air-fresheners using  plants definitely appealed to me.


I hope you are inspired to make you own!

Yesterday on Facebook, I showed you a photo of my latest project and encouraged you to guess what I was going to do next…


As you can see, I have two pots filled with potting soil.  In front of the pots are a head of garlic (grown in my garden) and onion sets (not grown in my garden 😉

So, what do you think I will do with the garlic and onion sets?

Hint: I am not planning on harvesting the garlic and onions in spring.


I am growing the garlic and onions in order to use the ‘green parts’ to flavor my favorite dishes.

Garlic ‘greens’ like a mild form of garlic while onion ‘greens’ have a mild onion flavor.

You can dice them, much like you would chives and sprinkle them onto garlic bread, on salads or on your favorite Asian or Italian cuisine.

After you snip off some greens, they will grow back.


You can grow them in pots in front of a sunny window or out in your garden.

In my zone 9a garden, I can grow them outdoors if I wanted to, but I like having some food crops growing on my kitchen windowsill in winter, where there are easily within my reach.



Other food crops that I like to grow in front of my kitchen windowsill include basil, parsley and chives.


When planting the garlic and onion sets, be sure to plant them with the pointed side upward and then cover with 1 1/2 inches of soil.


I like to use a regular spoon for planting small things like this.

Now all they need is some water.  *An easy to tell when to water them is to stick your finger into the soil, up to your first knuckle.  If it feels dry, then water.

Of course, you can steal out into your vegetable garden and snip off some of your onion and/or garlic greens now and then.  But, you don’t want to do that too often because these green leaves make the ‘food’ for the garlic and onions growing underneath the soil.


**Last winter, I had a real garden growing on my windowsill, using what most of us would call ‘kitchen scraps’.  You can read more about that gardening adventure here.


Have you ever sprayed air-freshener in your home?  Does it ever smell like the fragrance described on the can?


I must confess that I have used air-fresheners in the past, but I was never happy with how my house smelled afterward.  To me, the fragrances were so ‘artificial’ and I also wondered if there were some ingredients in these sprays that maybe weren’t so healthy to be inhaling.


So, I was quite intrigued when I heard about ‘natural’ air fresheners made from plants – many of which I had in my own garden.


Imagine if your home had the natural fragrance of citrus paired with your favorite herbs drifting throughout.  No overpowering, artificial fragrance, just subtle, refreshing scents.  

The combinations are endless and the fragrance is released into the air by adding the contents of jar and enough water to fill a small pot at least 1/2 – 3/4 full.  Heat to boiling and then turn the heat down to low and allow it to simmer for a couple of hours.  That’s it!


So are you as excited about creating your own ‘natural’ air fresheners as I am? 


Let’s get started with some ingredients that can be used to create your own unique fragrant combination(s):



All types of citrus are refreshing and can serve as the base of your air freshener.  I chose lemons, oranges and limes.  But, if you have a grapefruit tree that is overly generous with its fruit, they would work well too!


Now let’s grab some herbs from the garden (or grocery store)….



Basil



Thyme

Mint


Rosemary and lavender would also work great, but I didn’t have any growing in my garden.


I also decided to use vanilla extract and peppercorns in my mixtures.


Are you ready for the fun part and make some wonderful natural fragrance combinations?


Here are a few that I made…



I love cooking (and eating) Italian food – even though I have not Italian ancestry that I know of.  So, I like this combination of 1 sprig of basil, 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns and a few slices of lemon – it makes my home smell fresh as I imagine an Italian kitchen would smell like.


I added these ingredients to jam jars and filled them with water to the top…

I think it looks pretty, don’t you?


Of course, if you will use them right away, skip the jar and add directly to a small pot.  Pour more water until it reaches 3/4 full, heat to boiling, lower the heat to low and enjoy for a few hours – KEEP an eye on the water level and add more as needed – DON’T let it dry out.


Here is another combination that I love…



A few slices of lime, 4 – 5 sprigs of thyme, a sprig of mint and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.


You can make up one air freshener at a time, or make a few and store them in the refrigerator for a week or freeze them for longer until ready to use – just make sure to freeze them in a freezer-safe container such as a wide-mouth jar, like I have.


Lastly, this is my favorite combination and only has two ingredients…



Oranges and vanilla extract.



I sliced half an orange and added 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  The fragrance reminds me of the orange sherbet / vanilla ice-cream that I ate when I was a child.


You can also add cinnamon sticks or a few whole cloves to this mixture for a more spicy fragrance.


If you have ever stepped into a Williams & Sonoma store, they have their own natural air freshener recipe:


Lemon slices
Rosemary sprigs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract


In addition to the ingredients that I have used, here are some others that you can experiment with to create your own unique natural air freshener: citrus peels, apple peels, almond extract, peppermint extract, coconut extract, ginger, nutmeg, ground cinnamon, whole cloves, bay leaves, basil, sage, lavender, oregano and rosemary.



Have fun creating your own fragrance combinations. 


If you want to add a little freshness to your home, don’t waste your time spraying artificial fragrance through your home.  You can create wonderful combinations of scents using items in your garden, refrigerator and pantry.


**For additional fragrant combinations, click here.


I hope you enjoy making these natural air fresheners as much as I do!



I love growing herbs in my garden and one of the reasons is that they thrive in our hot, dry summers with minimal fuss.  
 
I must admit that I sometimes forget to make use of my fresh herbs, or sometimes I have more than I need. Some frost-tender herbs like basil don’t grow in winter in my garden – so either I have too much in the summer and almost none at all in winter.
 
Well, no more! Did you know that you could freeze your fresh herbs so you could use them during the winter months?
 
I tried this with my chives earlier this summer and it was so easy to do.
 
Here is how to do it:
 
Choose your favorite herb…
 
 
 Wash them.
 
 
Chop them into the desired size.
 
 
I just love chives.
 
 
Place your chopped herbs into an ice cube tray, filling up each one about 3/4 of the way full.
 
 
Fill up with water, taking care to allow a little room for expansion since water expands when it freezes.
 
Put in your freezer for a few hours.
 
 
Once frozen, pop out your ‘herb cubes’ and put them in a freezer container or plastic container and store in your freezer.

 

 Now, whenever you need fresh herbs when you cook, add a few ice cubes to your favorite sauce.
 

**You can also freeze herbs into ice cubes using olive oil instead of water, if desired.

 
Another great way to preserve herbs is to dry them.I talked about how to do this in an earlier post –  “How to Grow and Dry Herbs”

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I recently re-planted my herb container for the cool-season.

Last spring, I planted my container with rosemary, green basil, purple basil, sage, thyme and oregano.  All of these herbs do well in the warm-season and I enjoyed being able to step outside the kitchen with cut fresh herbs whenever I needed them.


 You can read the post here, to see how to grow herbs in containers.
I also did a “How-To” video about this too 🙂

Okay, so now that cooler weather is on its way, I wanted to add some different herbs that would do well through the winter in my zone 9 garden.


I planted Dill, Garlic, Lavender, Parsley, another Thyme and kept the Sage the I had originally planted.

My kids added some of their Petunias that their grandma bought them in the container too, which will add some nice color.
Other herbs that can handle cooler weather in USDA zones 9 and above are Cilantro, Chives, Fennel, Lemon Grass and Rosemary.

I highly recommend planting your own herb container.  It is very easy and so fun to be able to harvest your own herbs!

Guess who went plant shopping!
Not me….
But, my mom did.
She went to buy her fall vegetables at Baker’s Nursery, which is a hugely popular nursery in Phoenix.
Since I knew was going, she kindly offered to buy the remaining plants on my list.
And as another example of how wonderful she is – she took my two youngest kids (Kai and Gracie) with her and treated them to lunch.
So, what did we get?
 Dill, Parsley and Thyme, which are herbs that will do well through the winter in my garden.
Green and Purple Leaf Lettuce that I will be growing in pots and in a very unusual place that I will share later.
 Lobelia and Alyssum, which are great flowering, low-growing annuals that I will use in a unique container.

Lots of Broccoli, which is my favorite vegetable.
I didn’t get the garlic from Baker’s Nursery.  I usually buy my garlic from my local grocery store and it works just fine.  Although, you can buy different varieties from online nurseries.

The last thing they bought were Petunias, which weren’t on my list.  But, my mother loves to help foster a love for gardening with her grandchildren.  
So, she let Kai and Gracie each choose a six-pack of flowering annuals.  They choose Petunias, which they planted just after they got home.


Okay, I admit that my son looks less then thrilled.  But to be honest, that is how he looks in most of his pictures now.  He really was happy – he spent a few hours with me helping me to plant everything.

Why is it that young boys get this ‘fake’ smile once they hit 5 years old and then later – it is almost like pulling teeth to get them to smile at all?
I promise to share with you the few different things we did with our ‘goodies’ from Baker’s Nursery over the next few posts 🙂


I’m sure you all have been waiting with baited breath for the second installment of how to grow and dry your own herbs….I know I have 😉

Clockwise from top left – Oregano, Basil, Sage, Purple Basil, Parsley and Thyme.

 Last time we talked about how to harvest and dry your herbsThe process is so easy – the ‘air’ does most of the work for you.

Once your herbs are nice and dry, it’s time to get the herbs ready for their containers.
Now, I will be the first to admit that dried herbs aren’t all that pretty.
Even though they aren’t all that attractive at this point, they are full of concentrated flavors that will help you create delicious food.
I bought inexpensive glass jars at IKEA for a $1 each in which to store my dried herbs.
Now it is time to get the dried leaves off, without the stems.


I found the easiest way to do this was to simply press the leaves between my fingers.  They came off easily, without too many stems falling in.


The few stems that fell in, were easy to pick out.  I then used my fingers to grind up my herbs to the desired size…


All there is to do at this point is to pour the herbs into my glass jars…

Jars of Oregano, Thyme and Oregano

My homegrown dried herbs are ready to use right away.  They also make great gifts.

Dried herbs should be stored in a dark, dry place (pantry or cupboard) and taste best when used within 6 months.

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I hope your week is off to a good start.

I had two consults last week, which went very well.  In the summer, I don’t do too many consults because many people don’t want to spend a lot of time in the garden in the heat.  I actually enjoy this time of year because it is a bit of a break for me 🙂     

Do you like to use fresh herbs when you cook?

What if you could just step outside your door and snip some herbs without having to go to the store?   
Have you seen how expensive fresh herbs are at the supermarket by the way?

A few days ago, when I taped some “How To” gardening segments, I was asked to do one on how to plant a container herb garden.   

This is the herb container garden that I created on-camera and I thought you might like to create your own.
 
Here is how to do it:
 
1. Place your container in an area that receives at least 6 hours of sun.
 
Basil
 2.  Fill your container with planting mix, which is sterile, has a light texture and is specially formulated for container plants.  It retains just the right amount of moisture for plants. Potting soil can become soggy.
3. Add a slow-release fertilizer, such as Osmocote, and work it into the top 2-inches of soil.
Oregano
4. Plant your herbs. Oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme are easiest to grow when you start out with transplants. Basil grows easily from seed, but can you also use transplants.
 
Sage
5. Water deeply. Do not wet the foliage when you water them as they prefer to stay dry.
Thyme
6. Herbs like to dry out between watering. To check when they need water, simply stick your finger down to 1-inch deep – if the soil is moist, don’t water. However, if it’s almost dry, then water deeply until water runs out the bottom drainage hole.
Purple Basil (Not the healthiest specimen, but it was the only one they had – it was over-watered at the nursery).
7.  Don’t add any additional fertilizer after planting.  Herbs don’t like extra fertilizer since it causes them to grow larger leaves with fewer oils, which is what gives them their flavor.
 
I am going to place my new herb container in front of my new vegetable garden.  
 
Later, I plan on drying some of my herbs, which I will share with you.