I have anything but a boring palate. I love herbs and spices and detest bland food. The only thing that has really changed as I age is that I can no longer tolerate really spicy food, but I still like things spicy -- just not five-star.
So as you would expect, I have an herb garden with the usual suspects. Everything from the Simon and Garfunkel hit plus oregano, basil, chives, dill and varied mints.
What Are My Favorite Herbs?
Well, it really depends on what I’m cooking and even then, I don’t grow all the herbs I use. Take bay leaf for instance which, in reality, is a tree leaf from a member of the Laurel family that is used like an herb. I don’t grow bay leaf but I love it, and it has more flavor than you may think.
If you often wonder why a recipe calls for bay leaf and you think the leaf imparts no special flavor my guess is your bay is older than Methuselah. Replace it! Good bay leaves have all sorts of nuances such as mint, oregano, thyme with a wee bit of coriander and clove thrown in that elevate the lowliest recipe into a class act.
My other favorite herb that I also don’t grow is cilantro. I’ve tried, people -- multiple times. I can’t grow cilantro. It just won’t grow. It’s too hot here. Cilantro prefers cooler temperatures or it bolts, and even though I start early in the spring it isn’t uncommon for my area to have a 60 F day that amps up to 90 F and stays there (or higher) for the rest of the summer. I read that there are some slow to bolt varieties on the market now though, so never say never.
As for herb combinations I enjoy. Herbs work well alone or as a duo or trio or more. Take Thai food for example. This particular cuisine has a love of the trio of mint, cilantro and Thai basil. Delicious, just don’t make it too spicy!
As I’m writing this I’m taking a mental inventory of the herbs I love that I should be growing. Tarragon is one, and who says I can’t grow a bay tree?
Okay, I just looked it up. The USDA zoning map says I can’t. Bay laurel can be grown in zones 8-10, I’m in 6. I just don’t have any more room in the house for another plant let alone a tree…or do I…
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Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.
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