CSA Wednesdays! + My Container Herb Garden/Graveyard
I’ve been looking forward to this day since we moved to Reno in the dead of winter. Tonight we’ll get our very first CSA box of the season! (If you don’t know what a CSA is, see this post.) Living in the San Francisco area spoiled us rotten with year-round CSA subscriptions and farmers markets. Now that we’re back in the “wilderness” we had to wait until the earth thaws out before anything will grow.
We were lucky to find a CSA in Sparks, which is just a few miles up the freeway. The farm is called Spanish Spring Greens and owned (& cultivated) by Elizabeth Reifers, who happens to be a cousin of a close family friend. We met Elizabeth a few months ago and took a walk around her land. It’s awesome to see where your food is being grown and meet the person in charge of growing it. I’m thrilled!
During our CSA season, I plan to highlight one or two types of produce every Wednesday (hopefully) and share some recipe ideas. I know there are a lot of you who subscribe to a CSA so I hope you’ll find it useful! Because we haven’t gotten our first box yet, I wanted to chat for a minute about growing your own herbs.
Um, I kind of have a brown, withered thumb and have trouble keeping most green, living things alive. (I’ve had pretty good luck with children, so maybe there’s hope.) So, believe me… if I can do it, so can you.
I started growing mine last year when we lived in the Bay Area. It was the perfect training ground for me because you could practically put anything into the ground at any time of the year and it would grow. I had a hard time believing this, coming from a harsh climate like Eastern Idaho.
Because we’re currently renting our home and plan on moving this summer, I wanted something I could take with me. So I went over to Home Depot and got plastic pots, potting soil, and herb starters (I don’t have luck with seeds). I chose herbs that I use frequently (spearmint, rosemary, basil, parsley, sage, chives, and oregano) and a couple that I wanted to get to know a little better (lavender and pineapple sage…. which smells just like pineapples. It’s crazy. I’m not sure what to do with it, but I liked the smell.).
I put them in the pots with some potting soil and some organic plant food that I already had, watered them, and said a few prayers.
Unfortunately I jumped the gun and planted them on a warm sunny day at the end of April. A couple days later it froze over night and I lost a couple. . .
I had to replace the basil. I thought the pineapple sage was dead, so I bought some thyme to put in its place. As I was digging it out, I saw a few little green leaves so I put it in its own pot and I’m crossing my fingers. The lavender and mint are kind of sad-looking, but they’re hanging in there. All in all, I think they’ll be OK. I just have to watch the weather closely and either cover them or bring them in the house if it’s going to freeze overnight.
Just water them and make sure they have plenty of sunlight. Plants usually come with a little card that will tell you what they need. I usually throw those out and shoot from the hip. (Which is why most of my plants die. Someday I’ll learn.)
It also helps to use them. Pinching off groups of leaves helps the herbs grow back more abundantly. Pinch them off even if you don’t plan on using them. Wrap the herbs in a damp paper towel and store in an airtight container in the crisper drawer of your fridge. They’ll last about a week, depending on the herb. You can also set them out to dry and put them in a spice jar to use later.
Growing your own herbs is so easy. Really. Even in the wilderness. (Ask me again in a month or two.) You’ll save a lot of money, too. Fresh herbs are so expensive. The only herb that I don’t like to grow is cilantro. It goes to seed quickly and doesn’t get real thick, so you have to plant some every week or so and trim it in a rotation. A bit high maintenance for me. Especially since I use tons of cilantro and it’s only 50 cents at the grocery store.
You can use fresh herbs in place of dried herbs just about any time. Just use 2 or 3 times more fresh herbs than the dried measurement and if you’re making soup or something that cooks for a while, add the fresh herbs toward the end.
Here are a few of my favorite recipes that use fresh herbs:
Carrabba’s Bread Dipping Blend
Grilled Zucchini and Ham Pita Panini with Basil Hummus
Stuffed Zucchini with Ground Turkey (hmm. I guess I like zucchini and fresh herbs together.)
Oven-Baked Brown Rice with Lemon & Fresh Herbs
Balsamic Chicken Pasta with Fresh Cheese
Roasted Chicken and Potatoes with Garlic, Lemon & Rosemary
Whole Grain Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Crusty Bread