Herbs are always a good idea

Samantha here! This is our first post from The Staff Kitchen, where you’ll be reading about the ways the Garden Treasures crew gets their eat on with the organic produce we all love to love. Look for kitchen tips from Magnolia, Kari, Laurie, and Hannah throughout the summer.

We love growing herbs. In as little as 20 days from seed to plate, they are gratifyingly low maintenance. Many herbs are disease and insect resistant because of their high levels of essential and volatile oils. Geraniol, the rose scent produced by geraniums, is an effective mosquito repellent, while estragole, the anise-smelling component of tarragon and basil has antimicrobial properties. The stronger the smell, the more pests seem to be repelled, while bees and butterflies are attracted.

The basil house

Walk into a greenhouse full of herbs–a savory-sweet breath of air, punctuated by browsing butterflies. Herbs are magical.

Some people are hesitant to use fresh herbs, being more accustomed to dry herbs or flavoring mixes. I’m not a culinary instructor or anything, but here’s my basic take on using fresh herbs:

1) Add fresh herbs to everything. Making a grilled cheese? Add a few leaves of basil or tarragon. Smoothies? Toss in some fresh mint. Roasting veggies? Rosemary and oregano. Don’t hesitate about whether it will turn out great or not–just go for and see what happens. Usually, it will knock your socks off.

Parsley & Cilantro

2) Start with a little–add more to taste. I once over-rosemaried some spaghetti sauce and ended up pawning it off on friends as gifts (sorry about that, friends–it was a flavor exploration).

3) The more delicate the herb, the less heat it can take. Mint cooks out quickly (which is why you find it so often in ice cream, cocktails, and other cold treats). Herbs on woody stems like thyme and rosemary hold up to roasting for hours. You don’t have to know the name of an herb to decide how to use it–just use your fingers. If it feels like lace, add it to hot dishes at the very end. If it’s sturdy, let it stew.

Plain rice jazzed up with herbs. Courtesy Andrea Nguyen

4) Be brave. Mint lemonade is great. Raspberry and basil are great salad toppings together. Adding fresh herbs makes everything sound exponentially fancier. Tarragon pesto–fancy, no?

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