I cook a lot on weekends. So I’m sure many of you weekend chefs out there can relate when I express my frustration with fresh herbs staying fresh. I love using fresh herbs in my cooking, whether it’s in basil pasta (I use a lot of Basil) or a little cilantro in my salsa. But buying the packaged fresh herbs in the grocery store is always a little upsetting. This is mostly because I only cook nice meals three nights a week, meaning any unused herbs will wilt and become extremely unattractive before I can use them again.
But I’ve never been one to ignore such a culinary crisis so I came up with a solution. I’d grow my own staple herbs! Basil was a must and while I was at it why not try for parsley and some salad greens (can you tell I do a lot of Italian cooking?). So I picked up some seeds, potting soil and a variety of “pots”– I use this term very loosely, I like using a variety of mugs, jars and pots for my seedlings– and got started.
Now, I am notoriously bad at keeping plants alive, if the soggy state of my past (dead) plants soil is any indicator I’m a chronic over waterer. This issue took some adjusting in my watering schedule, Rather than water my plants every day I started waiting 1-2 days before watering again. This seemed to make my stubborn little seedlings happy and believe it or not, the things started to grow. The trick, it seems, is to understand your weaknesses. Do you over water like me? Make sure your pots have a little hole in the bottom (and a saucer underneath if they’re indoors) to drain excess water and only water once every other day or so (or when the top soil looks extra dry). Do your plants die even with proper watering? Perhaps they need more or less sun or plant food with a little fertilizer in it (check the obnoxiously small care instructions on seed packets if you’re stumped). If you get your plants from a nursery or market ask the vendor which herbs will do well indoors. Basil is typically a very hearty plant and if its near a window with a little sun, tends to do very well. I am fortunate enough to have a balcony to keep plants on but I start all my plants indoors near a window where it’s easy to remember they need to be watered and where it’s temperature controlled. Many potted herbs do perfectly well in a sunny window (succulents too- they are absurdly popular out here and seem to thrive with little care- can’t eat them though). The short of it is, with your own supply of herbs you’ll save money and not have to use any more than you need to at a time making your cooking life a happier one.
We’ll also look at another option: your local farmers market! That is where I got some very healthy, hearty plants and the inspiration for today’s eye candy. So enjoy the San Francisco Farmer’s Market! I know I did! While you’re at it pick up the few ingredients it takes to make Julia Child’s Potato and Leek soup, Potage Parmentier (recipe in link). It’s surprisingly simple but with a name like Potage Parmentier your friends and family are sure to be impressed (and it keeps incredibly well in the freezer). Not to mention it tastes like “Delicious mashed potatoes and a little onion” according to my mother, which I consider a rave review.
Stay tuned, Later this week I’ll be talking about a new cookbook One Pan Two Plates and Prosciutto Wrapped Salmon with succotash. Mmmmmm!