From your garden

Published 9:05 am Sunday, June 13, 2021

I have always grown up with a garden in the backyard. Whether it was my parents’ patch or the raised beds at my Nannie and PawPaw’s, there was always a fresh tomato to be sliced or zinnia to be picked.

When I moved to college and spent my first summer in school and away from home, I was lost without the Tupperware container of peeled and sliced cucumbers marinating in Italian dressing that was served with every meal. I couldn’t believe I had to buy squash and zucchini from the grocery store and actually try to make those store-bought tomatoes compare to the acidic delicacies that overran the countertops on Hummingbird Lane.

Come March, Dad has already tilled the garden once and is starting to prepare for a bounty of plants to go into the ground by April.

From the obvious tomatoes and cucumbers to bell peppers, okra, and eggplant, he plants it all; and Mom turns each ingredient into lunch, dinner, and items to be canned and stored or bagged and frozen for the months to come.

My thumb isn’t that green, but I will say that I can grow a pot of herbs as good as any other novice patio farmer out there. I’ve tried a little bit of everything over the years. I can’t have enough basil and love to grow it in all varieties. Rosemary is a year ’round plant I try to keep up and even use in floral arrangements at work when I need a pop of fragrance. Oregano or Thyme are usually planted along with some type of Mint and possibly even Dill.

Of course, it’s best fresh in dishes like chopped fennel in my Mom’s smothered squash or fresh basil atop diced tomatoes for bruschetta.

But, all of those herbs just go to waste if you don’t harvest them regularly. Plus, once they bloom, the flavor can become bitter; and then you’ve just got another potted plant to water all summer.

I’ve tried kitchen gadgets to chop and process herbs, and I’ve found out the hard way that you just can’t wash them, chop them, and put them in mason jars. (We’ve thrown away quite a few moldy herbs before.)

Thankfully, after scouring Pinterest, I found the solution. Once the herbs are washed and patted dry, remove the leaves from the stems, and place them in brown paper lunch bags. Fold over the top to keep any and all dust particles out, and place them in a window to dry out. After a week or two, crunch the dried leaves in the bag, and pour into a jar. Then you’ve got your own organic and dried herbs all year long.

Jennie Guido writes a column for The Natchez Democrat.