The Herbs of Summer

Using Herbs | The Healthy Rainbow

I can’t think of anything better than stepping out ontomy deck and picking a handful of fresh herbs to use in my favorite dishes. I love to cook, and I love growing fresh herbs to take my recipes to the next level of deliciousness. It’s kind of my thing! It’s my Zen. Growing herbs is particularly satisfying because it’s pretty easy. Herbs grow quickly, and offer a bountiful harvest throughout the growing season. They are lovely to look at, and even better to inhale. I use them in cooking and making tea, and they are fun to share with my friends!

I want to share a few of my favorite herbs with you that are especially well-suited to container gardening.

Chocolate Mint

Chocolate mint is one of my very favorite herbs to use in cooking and making tea. It is one of the most strongly flavored mints, and grows rapidly. Chocolate mint spreads if left to its own devices, so it’s a great plant to keep contained in a pot.  It is wonderful added to a salad, used as a tea, or as an accent to lamb or pork. You can also make a wonderful sauce by simmering the leaves in a little water and adding honey. Continue to simmer until the liquid has thickened. Serve it over some vanilla ice cream. Oh my!

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm (also known as Melissa) is another prolific grower that is suited to being corralled in a container. Its delightful lemony scent is wonderful as an addition to tea or paired with fruit. I love it added to fresh sliced peaches! Lemon balm is also a great mosquito repellent, yet another reason to keep a pot of this herbal beauty on your patio! It’s lovely, dainty white flowers are also pleasant to look at and attract bees. We all need more bees in our lives!

Sage

Sage is one of my very favorite savory herbs. I love its woodsy, earthy flavor and aroma. Sage is slower growing than some of the other herbs on my deck; it seems to like being coddled and doted upon, and I am more than happy to talk to my potted sage if it means I will harvest more. My favorite way to use sage is with roast chicken – oh, what a wonderful pair!  Sage has silvery leaves, soft to the touch, and release a heavenly scent when picked.

Fennel

Fennel is a delightful licorice-flavored and scented herb. It grows in delicate feathery fronds that are wonderful added to salad greens or fruit salad. It also goes very nicely with pork. I love adding fennel to my marinade when I grill pork chops. One of the nice things about fennel is that you can use so many parts of the plant. The feathery fronds are what I have growing now, but later these will develop into bulbs that can be sliced and added to stir fry or sautéed and eaten on their own. The plants also produce fennel seeds, which are a must when making your own breakfast sausage!

Lastly, I wanted to share one of my favorite summertime recipes, using one of my featured herbs…I hope you will give this a try for a lovely brunch dish – perfect paired with a frittata.

Watermelon Cucumber Salad

2  c seedless watermelon, cubed

3 small pickling cucumbers, chopped into small pieces

6-7 very thin slices sweet red onion

½ c feta cheese

10 chocolate mint leaves, sliced into very thin strips

A splash of balsamic vinegar

Place all ingredients in a clear glass bowl to show all the lovely colors. Toss very gently. Cover and refrigerate several hours to overnight so the flavors blend together. Serve over a bed of baby spinach and mixed baby lettuces. Top with some lightly toasted walnuts, if desired.

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