The summer rains woke me this morning. Typically, it is the sun peeking through the white curtains in our bedroom or the first tweets of our neighborhood birds that welcome me to the new day. The earth needed some fresh rain water in my spot of the world. And so it did just that, watered our flowers, plants, and grass to a vivid green. “Aw”, my green friends say. What a lovely, milder day of summer we had today.
My 3-mile power walk will need to wait until tomorrow. During our morning computer screen break between rains, Dean and I took a casual walk up the street to the newly opened coffee shop. A unique place, a coffee roaster situated in an old auto brake shop, Upshot Coffee Brake Shop. Dean treats himself to a cappuccino, and I to a herbal tea. I think this new establishment will be a once-in-awhile daytime perch for us during these mundane work-from-home arrangements, like it was today. Make it a special walk for a special moment in time.
Spring seemed to arrive in Missouri early this year. Grass and flowers bulbs sprouted up out of the ground, and we are not even to March yet. My vegetable and herb bed was prepped with rich organic compost, and spring greens and peas sowed on Monday, earliest ever for Deanna Greens And Garden Art. The pink tulip trees and yellow daffodils bloomed in color this week. And then … woo, the north wind blew in the arctic cold and snow flurries on Friday. Winter is still among us this weekend. Those daffodils swayed with the wind on Friday, but with hope they will continue to stand and bloom even in the chill of winter. Resilience. That is what we are called to this very day, and for a season. Isaiah 42:3 states “He won’t break a bruised reed. He won’t quench a dimly burning wick. He will faithfully bring justice.” Hot tea, a warm Sunday breakfast, and God’s Word keeps this wick burning this day.
The winds whirl late in October right into November. Such a reminder that autumn is amidst, and the chilly season will blow right into winter before too long. My heart has been so heavy these days. Not felt like writing. My Grandpa passed away on October 20, one day after his 99th birthday. Grandpa was the oldest of five generations in our family for almost 13 years. My oldest granddaughter will be officially a teenager this month of November. And I part of the “club generation”. Where does the time go? Grandpa Earl donated his body to science. We need to figure out how a ornery cuss like him lived so long. In Grandpa’s latter years, as his body was failing him, yet his mind kept him young. “There is a fountain of youth. It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age,” Sophia Loren once said. I will miss my grandfather’s storytelling and sense of adventure. A simple welder and WWII veteran, Grandpa received a military honor at his memorial service on October 30 with “Taps” played with a single trumpet. Very touching.
The winds whirl with a cold rain this November day. Our labrador-flat coat retriever, Midnight has been Grandpa’s dog, my father’s dog, and now ours. Midnight is playful like Grandpa. Today our 9-year old dog sits in the rain amongst the leaves, probably dreaming of his earlier duck hunting days with Grandpa and Dad. I suppose Grandpa and Dad are catching up on hunting and fishing stories now … I rest in my home this weekend. A homemade veggie-herb soup will be simmering soon … maybe cure what ails me, or at least bring comfort.
“Herbs deserve to be used much more liberally,” quoting food writer and chef, Yotam Ottolenghi. I keep telling my friends, family, and co-workers the marvelous benefits of herbs. Bursting flavor and full of nutrition! I recently found this guide, the ANDI guide which rates foods based on nutrient density. My ravings on herbs are justified according to ANDI. ANDI stands for “Aggregate Nutrient Density Index,” a scoring system that rates foods on a scale from 1 to 1000 based on nutrient content. ANDI scores are calculated by evaluating an extensive range of micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidant capacities.
Here is a list of basic herbs and their scores to illustrate this concept.
Herbs/ ANDI Score
Bay Leaves/ 271
Basil rated the highest of all the herbs! Such an easy herb to grow in terra cotta pots in the kitchen window sill or in a sunny garden spot. Our bed of herbs in the screenhouse of our greenhouse include a few varieties of basil. Genovese, lemon, and Tai to name three. In the heat of the summer, it is prolific! Basil nutrients rate up there with arugula, leaf lettuce, and radishes. It’s about 50% the value of superfoods kale and garden cress, but 4 or 5 times more than soybeans or pinto beans. The Italian and Mediterranean cultures include basil in many of their recipes as well as Thai and Mexican cultures. Where I live and work in the St. Louis, Missouri region, there is an Italian restaurant or pizzeria on every corner of the block and in between. We love our pasta and pizza! My home kitchen has the flavors of Italy with my own fresh homegrown basil. Cost pennies to grow. Last night I made homemade pizza with a cup of fresh Genovese basil leaves cut into strips and atop tomato sauce, Italian sausage, Canadian bacon, garlic and black olives. Sometimes its a veggie pizza, with chunky tomatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers, spinach, arugula, black olives, etc. You know, the plumposity of veggies in a single slice of pizza pie! Then there’s pesto! It’s flavor tastes how the word sounds when you say it. PEST-O! More flavors to discover in this nutrient dense herb … sweet, lemon, Tai, spicy, lime, Genovese, cinnamon, anise. Cannot wait to make some lemon scones with the lemon basil this weekend. What herb has captured your taste buds?
As a personal chef by nature I wonder if I should name my summer time culinary creations a nosh, dish, bowl, or plate. I improvise when I cook in my kitchen. With the ingredients in hand from the garden or farmer’s market, they make way for creativity. A casual menu on a whim. This summer my herbs climb with the summer humidity. My chicken risotto served in individual bowls one weekend was laced with a leafy green herb Dean brought home from the greenhouse. It had a spicy bite to it unknown to be parsley as I had thought it might be by its look. When returning to the greenhouse mid-week for watering, I discovered on the garden sign it was watercress added to Sunday’s risotto bowl. I had never grown or cooked with this newly discovered herb before, and it paired deliciously with the farm fresh eggs for egg salad on dollar rolls last night. I hear it is the new kale in the farm-to-table culinary world. Just 1 cup of chopped water cress is power-packed with potassium and vitamins A & C. There are only 4 calories in 1 cup of chopped watercress. Calorie breakdown: 8% fat, 42% carbs, 50% protein. Oh, the flavors burst, so it goes a long way!
Fresh sprigs of dill were snipped into the red potato-celery salad. This week a spare bottle of local summer ale went into the crockpot with the turkey breast sprinkled with lemon pepper from the Olde Town Spice Shoppe, slow-cooked for 10 hours. Succulent! Accompanied with farm fresh, roasted yellow beets, red potatoes, and carrots in a bowl! The leftover turkey breast had filled a casserole dish of enchiladas another night. When I cook, I cook for 2 or 3 meals, using one dish to accent another. Rarely does food go to waste in my home. That stock left from the turkey breast is put into the freezer and will make another risotto another rainy night. Tonight it is small plates of Three-Cheese Italian Herb-Veggie Foccocia and Italian Breaded Chicken Tenderloins. What nosh, dish, bowl, or plate are you making tonight with your garden fresh ingredients?
Dean and I delivered a trailer load mixture of compost and top soil to our greenhouse site at Boone Hollow Farm a few days ago. I inquired from a local farmer who I know from my childhood as this farmer uses sustainable practices at his top soil farm less than a mile from our home. Last weekend herb seeds were sown, and in less than a week we have garden cress seedlings sprouted. This warm, humid air has made the ideal conditions for my herbal bed. From what I read garden cress is very prolific. I seeded many culinary herbs such as parsley, sage, thyme, basil, chives, marjoram, dill. Garden cress is one herb I have not used in my dishes before, though I inherited a packet of seeds somewhere in my farmy networking. I do not discard gifts no matter how small or big, so I will come up with some uses for garden cress. I understand it makes flavorful tangy sprouts for salads and sandwiches. In England it is added to egg & mayo tea sandwiches. Sounds like a country tea party with my green garden tea plates & tea cups in a couple of weeks at the greenhouse.
I have found photos of such darling herb gardens these past few weeks. We have a retailer’s greeting card holder we bought for $5 from the local library moving sale. I want to repurpose it to a herb garden, particularly for my daughter who lives in an apartment with a balcony. Vertical gardens are trendy now, and very practical for urban dwellers. I will work with this idea later this summer into autumn. We went semi-traditional, a 12 x 6-foot bed raised 6-inches from the floor of our greenhouse on the screenhouse side. There is some protection from the sunrays with the black cover now. I need this for skin protection. I have battled basal cell cancer 2 years ago. The semi-indoor herbal bed will be protected somewhat from weeds as we have a landscape fabric under the gravel floor. We cleared most of the gravel before shoveling the compost-top soil mixture in the bed. We will see what happens in regards to pests and bugs. We found a 3-foot snake skin in our greenhouse last week. Critters can still get inside. Let’s hope Chuck, the groundhog who lives under the barn down the hill stays out! As well as his skunk, mole, and rat friends!
How do you grow your herbs? Containers? Raised beds? Vertical beds? Are your herbs for culinary or ornamental purposes?
At my full-time job I am inundated with wellness information constantly. Everyone and their brother have a new service or product to sell for one of the seven dimensions of wellness. I will expand on that concept in another post in the future. Working with employees on their wellness needs brings it back to me asking “what I am doing to take care of myself”? Creative ideas, programs, products, white papers, aggregate reports, diets, menus, and so forth pop in my head at any moment. Some of those ideas I apply to myself. Tai Chi and Weight Watchers At Work for this season in my life… This cold winter proves a challenge for many of us while we hibernate in our warm homes. Though this year I have devoted 10 minutes every morning to the 4-3-2-1 exercise routine … 4 minutes of cardio, 3 minutes of resistance, 2 minutes of abs, and 1 minute for stretches. This replaces the outdoor walks in nicer weather. Not only do I keep my body from idleness, in the evenings I fill the brain with articles, books, garden catalogues, blogs, poetry, art, and classic movies while curled on the recliner with a blanket sipping a cup of hot tea. In a few days the Winter Olympics will come to our TV screen after the Super Bowl hype is over. Meantime, I have picked up once again my copy of A Place of My Own
written by Michael Pollan. He writes about simple living in a place he built. This so relates to the greenhouse we built, thinking “look at what our hands have made”. No, look at what Dean has made. I credit my husband for his craft, skill, and diligence. My plants survive like I in the winter, but become vibrant once again come spring.
A couple of evenings ago I shared on this blog my healthy dinner menu and a recipe. (See “On The Menu”.) Last night we had comfort food, warm comfort to counteract the winter cold. I made a healthier version of chicken dumpling soup with a homemade veggie, herb,and chicken stock before spooning the herbed dumpling batter into the boiling brew. Did you know if you add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to the liquid while cooking bone-in meat, more collagen and other anti-inflammatory nutrients will be drawn from the bones? This reserved liquid gold will be used for a seafood chowder recipe I have been mulling over in my mind for this weekend. My culinary vocabulary book cleared up the one question I had, “what is the difference between chowder and bisque?” Chowder has chunks of vegetables, and bisque has a puree of vegetables. Both often have cream in or served with. I will lighten my recipe with milk. I will make more stock from scallops. Cubed potatoes, shredded carrots, chunked celery and a medley of herbs will fill the soup pot just in time for the next arctic blast blowing Missouri’s way on Monday. This is my winter wellness. Cooking healthy foods, reading, writing, and those morning exercises.
The midwest blizzard and subzero temperatures have Dean and I snuckered in the past two days. Recovering from an upper respiratory infection, the cold air has kept me inside with hot herbal tea, fresh baked scones, fragrant glowing candles, and the love of my husband to keep my body and soul warm. Home is the place to be. Business comes to a halt as most offices are closed. We can choose to be stifled or set free. Cannot deny the snow is so beautiful, perfectly white. Snowflakes patterned a glittery shooting star on the kitchen window. Neighborhood Eurasian tree sparrows discover our cedar wreath blown under our wagon as a shelter. The berries fed our feathered friends. Photos were captured with Dean’s new digital camera. And then our red adirondack chairs contrasting with the white. The sunshine and wind cast everchanging shadows with snow drifts. Cannot wait to see the photos. “Photography… it’s the way to educate your eyes, stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop …” St. Louis born photographer Walker Evans has been quoted. We did not have to go for a hike in the country today as our home’s window panes framed the wintery scenes.
“Dinner is double d-licious”, my husband said yesterday evening. To me just another creation made with leftovers and stables from our mostly empty frig and kitchen cupboards using little time. Dean and I are headed out-of-state in just a couple of days, so we have not stocked up with groceries. Saving time and pennies for the trip north. I made a breakfast dinner. On the menu: fresh organic blueberry pancakes and eggs scrambled with fresh organic basil, diced tavern ham, & shredded Monterey cheese. Tight schedules and tighter budgets dictate the menu some days. What throw-together meals have you created?
The basil is quite pungent now as the weather in the St. Louis area has been well over 90 degrees everyday this past week. Basil grows prolifically in Missouri, our long summers are ideal. I have grown sweet basil, but desire to try growing some other varieties.
Here are some varieties of basil:
Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilcum) is the most popular variety which is used in Italian style dishes and salads. It grows to a height of 2-1/2 foot.
Lemon Basil (Ocimum citriodorum) has a mild lemon flavor, and is commonly used with fish. I love it with lemon thyme in my lemon bread recipe. Double d-licous lemon flavor! This variety grows to a height of 1 foot.
Purple Basil (Ocimum basilcum purpurea) is similar to sweet basil, but has purple leaves. It is a tender variety and grows to a height of 2-1/2 foot.
Red Rubin Basil (Ocimum basilcum) is like sweet basil but has very dark colored leaves, a much deeper color than purple basil. It grows to a height of 2-1/2 foot.
Cinnamon Basil (Ocimum basilcum) comes from Mexico, and has a cinnamon flavor. I want to try this for sure! I like cinnamon flavors in my tea, coffee, chocolate, hot cereal, fruits, veggies, and meats. It grows to a height of 1-1/2 foot.
Thai Basil (Ocimum sp.) is very spicy, typically used in Indian cooking. I started experimenting with Thai foods this past couple of years. I will have to try this variety in my recipes. It grows to a height of 3 foot.
Please share the variety of basil you use in your recipes or have grown.
I came across this link http://travel.cnn.com/londons-new-afternoon-tea-trend-best-places-gluttonous-treat-515266 from the WordPress blog Eatoracy. Referenced on their blog post is this CNN article entitled “Best London Tea Experiences” tells us of a few choice eateries to have a spot of tea while in London. I have not travelled to London as yet, but hope to make a European trip in the summer of 2015. England will be one of the destinations. The Orangerie At Kensington Palace appears to be the tea spot for a spot of tea, an English country garden setting at an inexpensive price.
Back to the United States specifically St. Charles County in the state of Missouri, I dream of a quaint tea room housed in the screenhouse adjacent to our greenhouse. A country garden setting with painted antique dresser planters and the ceiling hoops overflowing with bridal veil, ivy, vinca, and geraniums. Currently at the Olde Town Spice Shoppe we sell many varied flavors of tea, loose leaf and bagged. My latest favorite is wild cherry, a black tea of distinctive taste. During the growing season, I would feature a tea of the week. Of course, all natural ingredients and organic where possible to be served. Homemade sweet scones and herbed finger sandwiches to nibble on while sipping that cup of tea. A library of old and the latest new books would be on hand to peruse or settle down for an afternoon of imagination or comprehension. A wicker seatee or woven hammock available for your relaxation or napping pleasure. I am ready for that pot of tea, how about you?
Share with me your favorite tea room spots. What makes this tea room special? What is your favorite tea?