The Culinary Herbal: Growing and Preserving 97 Flavorful Herbs

The Culinary Herbal: Growing and Preserving 97 Flavorful Herbs


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781604695199
Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 01/27/2016
Pages: 328
Sales rank: 515,165
Product dimensions: 7.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Susan Belsinger has written and edited more than 25 books and hundreds of articles about gardening and cooking. A flavor artist, Belsinger delights in kitchen alchemy—the blending of harmonious foods, herbs, and spices.

Arthur O. Tucker is a botanist specializing in the identification and chemistry of plants of flavor, fragrance, and medicine. He is the research professor and director of the Claude E. Phillips Herbarium.

Shawn Linehan photographs small farms and farmers mostly around the Portland, Oregon area. With a journalist’s sense of narrative and an artist's eye, she creates intimate, authentic images that celebrate the lives of our environmental stewards who are helping to better our access to local, healthy food.

Read an Excerpt

The Modern-Day Culinary Herbal: An Introduction
Why do we put herbs into our soups, casseroles, desserts, and beverages? Because herbs add depth of flavor to any food and enhance and round out aromas and tastes. Herbs are broadly regarded as green plants that are used for culinary, medicinal, and ornamental purposes. Generally, herbs are not used on their own as a dish, but combined with other foods to add flavor, nutrients, and medicinal virtues. We practice all three of these uses every day, and we are passionate about using herbs in the kitchen. For decades, we have been wooed and enchanted by these inimitable fragrant and tasty plants. We know them by their appearance, their leaves, their shapes and color, and their flowers and seeds—and we know them intimately through sensory experience. We have written this book to share our knowledge about growing and cooking with herbs, so that you can cultivate these various plants and create and enjoy foods graced by them.

In this culinary herbal, we go beyond popular herbs such as parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, and venture farther afield. While we do include many herbs that are easily cultivated in our gardens, we also discuss a number of wild herbs often considered weeds that we forage from our backyards, meadows and fields, and the woods’ edge. We also include plants that are not typically considered herbs. For example, although elder is considered a shrub or tree, garlic is a bulb, and arugula or chile peppers are usually found in the vegetable garden, these plants are grown and harvested for seasoning. We have gathered together this collection of herbs specifically for their culinary attributes. We give you descriptive details of cultivation, aroma, and taste for nearly 100 herbs, as well as examples of the many foods and dishes in which they are used.

Ancient herbals were the medicinal manuals for their eras. They offered recipes for treating all sorts of maladies as well as for tonics, and some of the plants were even toxic and dangerous to consume. Depending on the author, plant descriptions were sometimes included in these herbals.

This book is a modern-day herbal. Rather than exploring the medicinal properties of herbs, this book is a gardening-and-cooking culinary herbal, focusing on the smells and tastes offered by certain plants. We have sorted through many species and varieties of culinary herbs and selected our favorites to cultivate for cooking. Having spent a large part of our lives growing, smelling, tasting, and eating herbs, we offer our opinions on which herbs lend the best fragrance and flavor.

All About Smell and Taste
Everyone talks about how things taste, but we don’t often hear people discussing how a certain dish smells. And yet flavor is derived from both taste and smell. Smell is not only a precursor to flavor, but it is an integral part of flavor. Without smell, you cannot sense and savor the full flavor of a food. In fact, flavor is about 90 percent smell.

Here is a simple experiment you can do right now to understand this proposition. Pick an herb leaf, but do not rub it or sniff it. Hold your nose closed with your fingers and do not let go. While holding your nose, take a little nibble of the herb leaf. Do you taste anything? No? While still holding your nose, take another nibble to be sure. Same results? Now let go of your nose and breathe. You will be amazed to experience the herb fragrance and flavor filling your nose and mouth. Now you understand the smell-flavor relationship. We do this experiment with children and adults to show them the power of our olfactory sense. Try it with your friends and family.

In our olfactory memories, we each have tens of thousands of smell memories, beginning when we were born. An infant instinctively knows who its mother is by her scent. We know when our neighbors are grilling outdoors by the odor of lighted charcoal or searing meat, and we know when they are mowing the lawn by the aroma of freshly cut grass wafting through our open windows. When driving down the road, your nose lets you know when you go by an Italian restaurant or a fried chicken diner. You don’t even have to think about it—it is an imbedded olfactory memory. While each individual has innumerable smell memories, we have many fewer taste memories.

While most of us have learned that our tongue has four kinds of taste buds—sweet, sour, salty, and bitter—a few other cultures add a few more tastes. In India, proponents of the Ayurvedic system include “pungent” as a taste, and we agree heartily with this, since we consider garlic, chile peppers, and even mustard as pungent. To this taste might be added the opposite—cool—like the menthol in peppermint. And then there is umami, which is a Japanese word that might be translated as “a pleasant, savory taste” or “a deliciousness” that some describe as brothy. Umami is recognized by our taste receptors that taste glutamates (such as MSG, monosodium glutamate) and is found in foods or food combinations like aged or fermented foods, soy and fish sauces, seafood, cured meats, mushrooms, seaweed, and some vegetables and cheeses. We have tasted umami in recipes combining some of these ingredients, soups, and even fine wines. And sometimes, “mouthfeel” is added as a taste by some researchers. Mouthfeel is the curious coating that occurs in the mouth when you consume lactone-rich foods, such as coconut dishes.

So, let’s say we add pungent/cool and umami to the basic four tastes, and that gives us six tastes. When you think about it, that isn’t very many, but every food and every herb that we eat can be categorized into these six basic tastes or a combination of them. By adding an herb like sorrel to a soup or sauce, its tart, lemony flavor and mineral salts will add a sour and salty flavor to the dish. And adding chile peppers or garlic to a dish will make it pungent. Since herbs contain concentrated flavor and natural minerals, we can often use less salt in foods containing them.

Today’s society craves sweet and salt, and fast foods have exacerbated the overuse of these two tastes. When we create a dish, we look for a balance of flavors and try to incorporate all of the tastes—sweet and salty, bitter and sour, and pungent/cool and umami—so that we can enjoy the full range of sensory stimuli. With the other dimensions of flavor offered by herbs, we do not need so much sweet and salt in our diets. In addition, bitter and sour stimulate our digestive juices, to aid in digestion.

When we smell an herb, we rub its leaves to release the essential oils and inhale deeply, usually with our eyes closed. We do this again and again, so we can capture the bouquet in our olfactory receptors. The same goes for tasting: We take a nibble and let the taste roll across our tongue and permeate our taste buds, and we taste again. We find that the more we do this, the more in tune we are with the sensory experience, and our senses of smell and taste become heightened. In this manner, we can create for ourselves the utmost sensory pleasures. We also feel that anyone can do this if they take the time to smell and taste and think about it. The more one practices, the more acute your senses become.

About the Book
Through the years, we have cultivated many herbs. We have our favorites, which are tried and true, and we share them with you in the book. This way, if you are a beginning or even a somewhat experienced gardener or just have a small space, you can choose the best herb plants to grow.

The main section of this book includes profiles of selected culinary herbs. In these plant descriptions, we explore how each individual herb smells and tastes. We mention foods or dishes from around the globe that highlight or go well with that herb’s flavor. We discuss whether the herb is best used fresh or cooked, and how to prepare it. Each plant profile also provides information on cultivating that particular herb, and offers suggestions on harvesting and preserving it. For some herbs, like chervil or lovage, we recommend just growing the straight species. For other herbs, like the basils or mints, we suggest five or six favorites.

While we have not included plants that primarily have medicinal applications, the culinary herbs, besides adding flavor, often have medicinal virtues, so we occasionally mention some of those attributes.

Although we have included many tender perennial herbs, we have not included tropical herbs and spices, since these plants need to grow in a hot climate or a greenhouse to produce flowers, seeds, roots, or tubers. We have greenhouses and we have grown turmeric, cardamom, tea, coffee, allspice, and other tropicals. Even with a greenhouse, though, we have not seen them flower and produce seed or fruit; we grow them mostly for the pleasure of having them.

Among the selected culinary herbs, we have included those that are sometimes called potherbs. These plant materials, such as nettles, lamb’s quarters, and purslane, are on the borderline between common culinary herbs and vegetables, and can be gathered from the wild or cultivated. They are often used for seasoning, but also their leaves, stems, and flowers can be cooked and used for food by themselves, and many potherbs are excellent additions to salads.

After the plant profiles section of the book, we provide general information on growing herbs. We explain how to start herbs from seed, cuttings, and layering (bending down branches and covering with soil so they root), how to grow herbs in containers or indoors, and how to maintain healthy herbs. We then discuss particulars on preserving the harvest, including what techniques you can use, from drying to freezing. We also offer our master recipes for capturing, storing, and cooking with the essence of herbs.

Table of Contents

Preface 8

The Modern-Day Culinary Herbal: An Introduction 10

The Culinary Herbs 16

Growing Herbs 272

Preserving the Herbal Harvest 288

Master Recipes using Culinary Herbs 300

Metric Conversions 312

Sources 314

Suggested Reading 316

Acknowledgments 318

Photography Credits 319

Index 320

Ajowan 18

Amaranth 20

Angelica 24

Anise 26

Anise hyssop 28

Arugula 30

Basil 34

Bay laurel 38

Black cumin 40

Borage 42

Burdock 44

Calendula 46

Caper 50

Caraway 52

Catnip 54

Chervil 56

Chickweed 58

Chicory 60

Chile pepper 62

Chives 66

Cilantro 70

Clove pinks 74

Cuban oregano 76

Culantro 78

Cumin 80

Curry leaf 82

Dandelion 84

Daylily 88

Dill 92

Elder 96

Fennel 100

Fenugreek 102

French tarragon 104

Garden cress 108

Garlic 110

German chamomile 114

Good King Henry 115

Hibiscus 118

Hops 120

Horseradish 124

Hyssop 128

Juniper 130

Kaffir lime 132

Lamb's quarters 134

Lavender 136

Leaf celery 140

Lemon balm 142

Lemongrass 144

Lemon verbena 146

Lovage 148

Malva 150

Mexican oregano 152

Mexican tarragon 154

Miner's lettuce 156

Mint 158

Mioga ginger 162

Mitsuba 164

Monarda 166

Mustard 170

Myrtle 172

Nasturtium 174

Orach 178

Oregano 180

Papaloquelite 184

Parsley 186

Pepper 190

Perilla 194

Plantain 196

Poppy 198

Purslane 200

Rau ngô 202

Rau ram 204

Red bay 206

Roman chamomile 208

Rose 210

Rosemary 214

Saffron 219

Sage 220

Salad burnet 224

Sassafras 226

Savory 228

Scented geranium 232

Sesame 236

Shungiku 238

Sorrel 240

Sow thistle 244

Spicebush 246

Stevia 248

Stinging nettle 250

Sweet cicely 252

Sweet marjoram 254

Sweet woodruff 256

Thyme 258

Viola 262

Watercress 266

Wintercress 268

Wood sorrel 270

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