Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Wednesday wanderings . . .

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One thing I love about living in a house instead of a flat is my herb garden . . . situated just outside my kitchen door  it is so very handy for me during the summer months.   Fresh herbs are so expensive and I love being able to just pop out the door when I need one.   I also found when buying fresh herbs, they often didn't last long enough for me to use them up . . . I don't have that problem when I grow my own.  I simply cut as much as I need at any given time . . .

Now is the time of year that you want to be drying any herbs you will be wanting during the Winter months, as they will soon be past their best, going to seed . . . and then the frost will take them.  I have some lovely chocolate mint growing in a tub.   I always put mint in a tub because it has a tendancy to take over the garden when left unchecked.  Lemon Balm, Sage, Marjoram, Thyme, Tarragon, Parsley, Basil, Rosemary . . . Bay Laurel . . . Lavender . . .

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Basil never winters well, and so I plant it from seed in a bit clay tub every spring.   I gather bundles of it to turn into pesto.   I freeze the Pesto in ice cube trays and then pop the frozen cubes into freezer bags so that I can take out what I need when and if throughout the winter months.  You can dry it in a food dehydrator as well . . . but I much prefer to turn it into Pesto.

There are a few different ways to dry your herbs.  I like to tie them into little bundles and then hang them upside down . . .  strung up on little lines throughout the house.  Of course you could dry them in a slow oven or the dehydrator, but I love the beautiful smell which wafts through the house when the little bundles are drying in the air.

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You can make lovely vinegars with them as well.   Herb vinegars are easy and delicious.  Just bring your vinegar to a boil and drop the herbs in . . . bottle and seal.   As they cool the vinegar takes on a lovely flavour imparted by the herbs you have used.   Tarragon is a favourite done in this way, but dried tarragon is also a favourite and so I do a bit of each the dried and the vinegar.  Mint gets turned into mint sauce, as well as dried . . . the rest are simply dried.

Some, such as the bay laurel and the rosemary are very hardy and will stay the winter through, ready to add a pinch of fresh rosemary here and there, or a bay leaf to my soups and stews through the winter months.   They are not herbs I use very often in the summer months anyways, but they do smell lovely and add a certain romance to the summer garden, and indeed you can find rosemary growing in borders and hedges all over the UK.   That was one of the things that bade me fall in love with this country when I first arrived those thirteen years ago . . .

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All of my dried herbs are kept in a cupboard near to my stove,  along with my spices  . . . ready to use when needed.  When you open the door the whole world wafts into the kitchen . . . the smell is intoxicating . . . one is reminded almost of a busy Middle Eastern market where such smells linger with foreign voices calling out their wares amidst the sound of bleating sheep and goats . . .

Bay always makes me think of the ancient Greeks and the Olympiad . . . the victor's brows bound with laurel wreaths, an ancient symbol of immortality.  It was the author Edna St. Vincent Millay who plucked two laurel leaves from the graves of Shelley and Keats, keeping them always pressed in a book . . .

"For the sake of some things
That be now no more
I will strew rushes
On my chamber floor,
I will plant bergamot
At my kitchen Door."
~Edna St Vincent Millay  

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Poets love herbs, and not surprisingly so . . . how can one not love herbs with such lyrical names as bergamot, rosemary, rue . . . savory, thyme.   They strike down deep to the soul . . . they suggest far off and shadowy places from the beginning of time.

Old sunny gardens where ladies in sprigged muslin mingle over cups of tea.   Copper kettles steaming over great fires.   The young laughter of Kit Marlowe . . . the bright dark gaze of Shakespeare . . .

Have you ever noticed the garden notes that Shakespeare sprinkled richly throughout his plays . . . with phrases such as this . . .

"I knew a wench married in the afternoon as she went to the garden for parsley to stuff a rabbit."
~The Taming of the Shrew, ActIV, Scene IV

Tis love, gardening and cooking all in one beautiful sentence . . . the older I get the more I begin to appreciate Shakespeare.

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We are off to Wales today.   A beautiful day is in the offing.  I can tell from the mist which rises above the grass in the back garden.  Once it burns off the sun will shine with abandon upon our heads.  We had planned on going all summer and the summer has just gotten away from us and so today we will not tarry, but hop into the car and be off.   We shan't go far.   That is the beauty of Chester . . . Wales is right on our doorstep.   It should be a fun day, now the kids are back in school and the places we seek will not be as crowded as they would have been only a week hence . . .

And so a thought to carry with you as you go about your day . . .

"When you finally go back to your old home, you find it wasn't the old home you missed but your childhood."
~ Sam Ewing

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Baking in The English Kitchen today . . . Sugar and Almond Pastries.   So scrummy!

Have a great day.  Hope the sun shines down on your heads too!  

PS - Don't forget you can vote each day for my entry in the photo contest.  Every little helps!  Thanks!


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