May 20, 2010

Herbs- Cilantro

Cilantro is a member of the parsley family and is also known as Chinese parsley. The leaf is an herb- cilantro, while the seed is a spice- coriander. It is widely used in Chinese, Thai and Indian cuisine and is the distinctive flavor in many a salsa. Its flavor is pronounced enough that you either love it or hate it. I happen to love it.

Cilantro and coriander are natural digestive aids. Both stimulate the appetite and speed up digestion. Cilantro is another herb with antibacterial properties. And even if you hate it, you've got to love this: when combined with violet water, cilantro is said to cure hangovers!

Want to try the yummy recipes that include cilantro, but don't particularly like its strong flavor? Try this: substitute the same amount of fresh parsley, chopped; then sprinkle a little ground coriander over the parsley. Viola! Toned-down cilantro.

Cilantro does not like the summer heat. It will bolt- flower- early. If you are growing the potted cilantro from the Farm's herb box, no worries. Keep your cilantro growing throughout the summer by saving the seeds and resowing some every two weeks.

May 17, 2010

Herbs- Basil

Basil is also part of the mint family. Basil is an antibacterial, high in flavonoids, stimulates the appetite and helps curb flatulence. It pairs well with tomatoes, olive oil and garlic; it is delicious in green salads; and it's widely used in Mediterranean and Asian cooking. The Produce Box herb box contains sweet basil, most often used in Italian cooking. Here's another Italian favorite from my childhood:

Mozzarella with Tomato & Basil

1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
Fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
1-2 ripe tomatoes, beefsteak, heirloom or Roma, sliced
Olive oil
Salt & pepper, to taste

Forming rings, alternate slices of cheese and tomatoes on a plate. Tuck basil leaves in between slices. Drizzle your choice of olive oil (extra virgin or lighter) over slices. Serve with salt, fresh ground black pepper and crusty French or Italian bread. Delicious as a light lunch, salad or appetizer.

May 16, 2010

Herbs - Oregano

Oregano is a member of the mint family. Oregano winters over well in NC, both in the ground and in pots. Mediterranean oregano, which was in the herb box, is the distinctive flavoring in Italian and Greek dishes, as well as vinaigrette dressings; Mexican oregano is earthier in taste. Oregano is an antibacterial and an antioxidant. Enjoy it often, in Mediterranean, egg or cheese dishes. Fresh oregano has a milder taste than dried oregano. Dry oregano (and other herbs) like this: wash, dry and spread leaves in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until just dry, in a 250 F oven, checking every 10-20 minutes. Crush and store in an air-tight container. I like to get the benefits of the fresh herb too, so I add both fresh and dried when I'm cooking.

Herbs- Nature's pharmacy

Herbs- those lovely little plants that look so pretty and taste so good are also good for you! Herbs are the leaves of specific plants, as opposed to spices which are the bark, seeds, pods or roots of specific plants. Many herbs have antibacterial and/or antioxidant properties.

Quick Tip
: For a kitchen herb garden, transplant herbs in to a window box or small pots that fit on your kitchen sill. Or use a small strawberry pot and plant one herb in each of the side openings. Plant the oregano on top. A strawberry pot can be kept outside a kitchen door, or on an apartment patio or balcony. Perfect for snipping for cooking!

Quick tip
: Most herbs can be dried by spreading washed and dried leaves in a single layer on a baking sheet, and baking overnight in a 250 F oven; or by washing, chopping and freezing in baggies or ice cube trays, for use later.

Let's look at some herbs now:

Scrumptious Strawberries

The strawberry season is too short, but oh, so sweet!

Quick Tip: Strawberries are fragile. Immediately remove them from the cardboard or plastic containers and lay flat on a paper towel. If you can't prepare them immediately, store them in a single, flat layer, in a covered container in the fridge.

Strawberries are great sliced eaten out of hand, dipped in chocolate or powdered sugar, topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, in smoothies, milk shakes or pies, sliced into cereals or green salads, as a side to an omelet or French toast, or frozen for later use.

Frozen Strawberries

Wash and hull (remove green leaves) from berries. Spread in single layer on cookie sheet. Freeze for one hour. Seal in freezer bags. Eat frozen or defrosted. Blend frozen into smoothies or milk shakes.


Wash, hull and quarter or slice berries. Pack into quart freezers bags. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar, if desired. Freeze. Defrost and add to hot cereal or as topping for ice cream.

Green Salad with Strawberries

Mixed greens, torn into bite-size pieces (Bibb, red leaf, Romaine)
Feta or Bleu cheese
Almonds, walnuts or pine nuts
Balsamic vinaigrette

Place greens in a large salad bowl. Top with sliced berries, crumbled feta or Bleu cheese. Sprinkle nuts on top. Toss gently with balsamic vinaigrette. Serve immediately.