Having already documented in my post “Living Off the Fat of the Land” my inability to grow vegetables of any quantity and quality, I’ve decided to focus my “need-to-grow-something-edible” on my herb garden. Rosemary is the king in my garden, and it’s too bad that one cannot survive on it alone, because a little 4-inch container planted in my yard has grown into a grand piano-sized bush. Does anyone need any rosemary? Besides rosemary, I also grow tarragon, lavender, oregano, sage, mint, chives, basil, thyme, dill, nasturtium, and lemongrass. And although it is not an herb, I have a kaffir lime tree whose leaves are used to flavor Southeast Asian dishes.
Pretty much all the herbs I grow are perennials. The only annuals I need to replant each year are dill and basil. Perennial herbs are like weeds – they may die off in the winter, but they come back again. That’s why I like them! A word of caution about a particular perennial herb, though. Because mint is invasive, it is best to plant it in a container unless you want it to take over your yard.
Many of the herbs I grow can be propagated in water. Mint, basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and lemon grass should all form roots if you cut a 4 to 6 inch long piece of the herb, remove all the leaves from the bottom, and place the cutting in a glass or jar of water. Place the glass in a semi-shady location or where it will receive indirect light and change the water every day or two. The cutting should start setting roots in a few days and will be able to be transplanted carefully into the garden within one to two weeks. I’ve even had success rooting basil and lemongrass purchased at the market. On my kitchen counter I have a row of little vases lined up holding herb cuttings. They’re rooting and decorating my kitchen at the same time.
Here’s a simple and fragrant rice pilaf recipe that utilizes fresh rosemary sprigs. I’ve made it when I’ve needed a flavorful rice dish that wouldn’t detract from the main course.
(Adapted from a Food Network Kitchen recipe)
3 T butter
1 shallot, thinly sliced or chopped
1 to 1-1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups long grain rice (basmati is good)
3 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter and the shallot. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the shallots are soft. Add the rice and stir until coated with the butter. Increase the heat to medium-high. Let the rice cook until lightly toasted, stirring occasionally, but being careful not to let the rice burn – about 5 minutes. (Note: At this point, if desired, the rice can be transferred to a rice cooker to which the broth, bay leaf, and rosemary sprigs can be added).
To the saucepan of rice, stir in the broth, bay leaf, and rosemary. Bring to a simmer over low heat, cover, and cook until all the broth has been absorbed by the rice and the rice is tender, about 15 to 18 minutes. It is better to refrain from removing the lid and taking a peek during this steaming period. Remove the pan from the heat and let set for 5 minutes. Discard the rosemary and bay leaf. Fluff the rice with a fork before serving.
Makes about 5 cups of rice.