What Are You Sprouting This Spring?
“Fresh herbs really belong anywhere you put them”. -Alex Guarnaschelli, chef
March is here and it’s starting to feel like spring. I find myself daydreaming of planting flower bulbs deep into the soil and reaping the benefits of beautiful blooms, fresh herbs and other garden wonders for months to come. One of my absolute favorite things about spring is being able to walk out to the garden and gather ingredients for that night's pasta sauce.
With another frost or two possibly on the horizon, planting outdoors may not be a good idea just yet.… However, planting seeds and sprouting starter plants indoors is a great alternative for this somewhat in-between time of year that Tennessee always throws at us. Think about it as setting the blue print for what will go into your garden this season!
I have visions of a garden bountiful with flavorful herbs, bold colorful flowers & other goodies. Gather your gardening gloves, miscellaneous pots, empty cardboard egg cartons, seed starter packs and some good dirt, and let’s get growing!
You don’t have to be a pro to attempt a garden. I certainly am not. It’s important to remember that every year presents unique challenges for gardeners and to not get discouraged if it doesn’t work the first time. Some things grow better than others and each year you gain a little more knowledge for what works and what doesn’t.
If you’re like me, you’ll let your love for food be your driving force behind your love for gardening. Food + Cooking are my life and so I must garden. It helps that I enjoy it! Still, I tend to stick to the basics: Herbs.
Any time I cook, fresh herbs serve as my secret weapon. They simply add life to any dish. Fresh herbs can take a dish from good to gourmet very quickly. Basil, Chives, Cilantro, Dill, Parsley and Rosemary are staples in my garden. I also like to grow tomatoes (cherry & heirloom) eggplant, squash, cucumber, peppers (jalapeño & bell), strawberries and certain lettuces & cappages. I have also attempted a watermelon twice before and I may give it a go again this year....
Whatever size garden you attempt, it is sure to make you smile. Whether it’s in pots, a raised bed, an old tire or a window box, beauty can grow anywhere.
Get creative and enjoy the fruits of the labor!
Herbs that you must grow this season, and what to do with them:
Did you know that ounce for ounce, herbs and spices have more antioxidants than any other food group? Pretty cool, right? Herbs come in a variety of forms and flavors, but deciding which to use can be tricky. So, for your consideration, here are a few of my favorites...
Basil is my favorite herb. Maybe it’s my Italian roots or maybe it because its just so flavorful! This leafy green herb is commonly associated with Italian and Asia cuisine and is a member of the mint family, and many different varieties exist. Popular as a food seasoning, this aromatic herb is also used in teas and supplements which may provide a range of health benefits.
Chives are a low maintenance and popular culinary herb perfect for a home garden. This small-bulbed allium is easy to grow, as long as you have a sunny spot with good drainage. Hardy in garden beds or in pots, plant chives in full sun but don't let them dry out. Chives are great chopped up on a baked potato, in a homemade salsa, on salads, in soups, as an added zing in a chicken salad, and so lovely in a lemon-chive compound butter. This plant is also a bit of a show stopper with slender green leaves and purple flowers in late spring to early summer.
Cilantro is a bold and zesty herb commonly used in Latina American and South East Asian cuisine. Apparently, a small percent of the population thinks it tastes like soap. Luckily, I am not among this group! I love fresh chopped cilantro in guacamole, in a pico de Gallo on top of any protein, and especially in a spicy margarita. Yes please!
Dill is a lovely herb, springy and pungent. It has a lot more to offer than simply the dill pickle- although those are tasty! Dill has feathery leaves and beautiful yellow flowers in the late summer months. A little roughly chopped dill goes great into any salad, adds bold flavor simmering sauces, or my favorite way to use dill… is on top of a beautiful salmon filet with lot of fresh lemon. Anyway you use it, you will fall in love.
Rosemary is a hardy aromatic herb growing hefty in most regions throughout most of the year, including winter & fall months. Some of my favorite staple Rosemary recipes include: roasted garlic rosemary potatoes. Extra crispy, of course. Rosemary Orange Bread is more off beat but is still a favorite recipe. Rosemary Old Fashioned enjoy it, we know the scent is often calming and the benefits are bountiful.
Parsley is an attractive plant with dainty, serrated leaves (both curly and flat) and is widely grown as a garnish herb, but it is so much more than that! Parsley has a slew of health benefits containing high levels of nutrients like: Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Beta Carotene, Folate and Iron. When consumed on a regular basis, it can improve anemia, hormone imbalance, liver congestion, fatigue and menstrual cramps. Its also fresh and green and tasty in a multitude of dishes. Some of my favorite dishes that I love throwing a handful of fresh parsley are: Chicken Piccata, a bowl of pasta, chicken noodle soup, Pesto, and the absolute best Lemon Parsley Shallot compound butter.
Lemon, Parsley, Shallot Compound Butter
- 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter
- zest from one lemon
- 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup parsley, minced
- 1 tsp shallot, minced
- ¼ tsp salt
Soften butter and mix all ingredients together in a bowl to incorporate. Enjoy on crusty bread. Keeps for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.
Roasted Salmon with Lemon & Dill
- 4 (6-oz.) salmon fillets
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 8 fresh dill sprigs
- 4 lemon slices, halved
- Preheat oven to 425º.
- Place salmon fillets on a lightly greased aluminum foil-lined baking sheet; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Place 2 dill sprigs and 2 lemon halves on each fillet.
- Bake at 425° for 15 to 20 minutes or just until fish flakes with a fork.
A Los Angeles native, Rachel Spensatelli moved to Murfreesboro, Tennessee in 2014 to open The Curious Kitchen, a recreational Cooking School, Cafe & Catering Co., with her mother/business partner. A lover of nature & animals, her happy place is at home writing, gardening, and doing DIY crafts with her little boy. To take a cooking class with Rachel, please visit www.thecuriouskitchen.net. For more recipes check out her personal blog https://saffronandsunflowers.art.blog/