Updated: Jul 15, 2019
I always tell people that say they don't have time or room for a garden that they can always grow herbs. In a small flower bed, in a pot, in an old boot - whatever works for you. It's a deliberate act to grow happiness and create one's own resources for health. Everyone seems to think that herbs are just small and not as valuable as something like a tomato plant. But that is not the case. Herbs are powerful antioxidants, full of phytonutrients and sunshine and they nourish every single body system and organ. And they bring a dimension to food that is stimulating and addicting. The essential oils inside these little green things are the chemicals our brains are supposed to be 'addicted' too, not sugar and artificial flavours. Getting kids interested in the flavours of rosemary, thyme and garlic is a much better way to help them be healthy in the long term. Having them like herbal ice tea with natural sweeteners or no sweeteners at all, instead of trying to curb their tantrum worthy need for sugar later, is waaaaay better for everyone involved. And it's also worthy of your own adult time - investing in retraining your own tastebuds to crave food instead of synthetic chemicals and refined 'nutrients' is incredibly rewarding... and it works, it really does. I literally cannot eat a Kit Kat bar. To me it tastes fake, waxy and sugary in a gross way.
Herbs are def my favourite thing to grow. It's not even mid-July and I picked everything you see here yesterday. From those twigs I had fresh mint for a homemade ice tea, basil for fresh pesto and a huge bag of soup stock (or pasta sauce) herbs, to freeze for the winter. If you wash, dry them off a bit and freeze them right away they freeze very well. (I wrap them up in paper towel, put into a freezer bag, squeeze the air out and they are still green in Winter when I take them out) Even better, picking them stimulates the plant to grow more - so I just keep picking and making herbal stock bags as summer moves along.
The trick with Basil is to keep picking the big leaves to encourage the plant to keep growing and not go to seed. Even if it does go to seed, the flowers and seeds are great for pesto and stock anyway.
I fail with Cilantro every year though. It does not like me. So I just salvage the little bit of good parts for some zip in my pesto and salads and put the rest of the plant that has gone to seed into the stock bag. (If I stop watching cilantro for 5 seconds it goes to seed, I have given up.)
Mint is basically a weed so it grows into November - I have sometimes still been able to get fresh mint from the garden in November from under the snow - if the snow falls before it's been cold too long. Hot fresh mint tea from the garden at the end of November makes Winter seem a little less long, so I always let the Mint come back up in Spring and let it do its thing.
I find that Thyme and Oregano do their thing no matter what, I pick a bunch they grow more than a bunch back. I leave Thyme outside until November too, it's usually still green and makes a good hot tea if you have a cold or a stuffy nose or are feeling chilled.
If you're inspired by the thought of a little herb garden you can still grow some of these herbs (cilantro for sure - good luck from a perpetual cilantro rookie though, haha.) The garden centres have what's left on sale, you may still find a few seedlings that are salvageable. If you plant in the next week you'll likely get a small harvest in early September. OR. If that seems complicated, @pembinavalleylocalfoodmarket has got you covered. It's on Thursdays at 4:30 in downtown Morden. There were lots of fresh herbs kicking around on the vendors tables last week.
I am a Master of Homemade Ice Tea - a master only because I just happen to be someone that goes ahead and makes it on a regular basis. It's habit I cultivated and now I don't think about it, I just do it.
Homemade Ice Tea...
Make one full pot of hot tea - use 5 or 6 tea bags (double whatever you would do for regular hot tea) Let it sit for half an hour, lid on, and then take the tea bags out.
Once it has cooled off a bit more, put in a few heaping teaspoons of honey, squeeze in the fresh juice of two lemons. (it's easiest to get the honey to dissolve when it's still warm.) Transfer to a glass pitcher, 2 parts tea mixture to one part water. Muddle some fresh mint if you have, mix it in and do a taste test by pouring over a few ice cubes and cooling off the rest of the way. Add a little more water or honey or lemon to taste and put in the fridge.
Pesto. Always pesto in this house because it freezes SO well. I have had to give up on pine nuts sadly. 'cause daycare. Too hard to keep track of what is a daycare allergy nightmare and what is not. The feeling of "omg, did I send death pesto into my child's daycare room?!" is not something I need to feel on a regular basis, so I don't use them unless it's a fresh, single batch for one meal at home. So here is the daycare-safe, freezable and so easy to make for daycare lunch, recipe. (And I don't have a mortar and pestle, this single momma does not have time for that nonsense. A toddler doesn't care how her pesto is made or how chunky it is.)
So, very unceremoniously, this is what I do...
I put all of the following into a Magic Bullet cup:
*A few chunks of Goat&Sheep Feta, about 1/3 cup
*1 chopped up clove of garlic
*Squeeze half of a fresh lemon in (I have a small tea strainer that fits over top and that's how I catch the seeds)
*I stuff the cup full of as much basil as I can fit in
*Pour in olive oil till it looks 1/3 full
*I may or may not put a bit of salt and pepper in, but I find the cheese salty enough for us
*You can totally add in a 1/3 cup of pine nuts if you don't need this for daycare
*Then I let the bullet deal with the mixing
*I may add in a little more olive oil if it tastes too tangy
*Portion into small cups and freeze.
Done. Least-fancy-pesto-ever. #iwin
This was all yesterday, the whole day was a win in general. It was one of those days where time floated along so beautifully and slowly that, in the best way, it felt like it would never end. We packed so much in that it felt like two days. We had early morning 'coffee' on the deck and listened to the birds, I had a couple hours to myself to head to the hills to breathe and meditate and centre myself in the morning, while my daughter went to the library and the aquatic park with grandma. We had lunch, some limited cartoon time and she had a nice long summer nap while I baked banana muffins. We gardened (I gardened while she played with the hose and her little pool,) I managed the ice tea and pesto while the family in the dollhouse had lunch, a road trip and bedtime. Dinner was picking raspberries in my dad's garden, a campfire, tire swings and running around barefoot with grandpa all the way into an unusually late and blissful return home for bedtime. Yesterday is why I work so hard during the week. Being able to be fully present to embrace all the moments on the weekend with my favourite person and my favourite people is what keeps me going. Nothing motivates me more.
...and, so, we slept in today (7:30 am is a glorious sleep in over here) and woke up to a thunderstorm. Thunderstorms are our favourite because jumping up and down in puddles and having rain boots full of water are now on today's list of things to do... and fresh Saskatoon pancakes with bacon, obviously.
Sigh. Summer is so amazing.
Enjoy it, grow it, pick it, eat it, sleep in it, swim in it, walk in it, just be in it and let it in - store up the sunshine in your very cells - and in your freezer - you'll need it in January ;)
Sonia Funk is a Nutritional Therapist and Employee Wellness Consultant at The Whole Avocado. To enquire about her work, she can be reached at email@example.com or at 204.295.3321