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culinary herbs

How to Use Chive Blossoms In the Kitchen + Make Chive Blossom Vinegar

There's a 100 year old farm just down the road from us that grows all of their crops organically. Every few days, they stock the little barn-side shop on their property with fresh produce, herbs, and baked goods. Locals can stop by just about any time of day to shop, leave their money in the cash box, and head home with truly fresh-from-the-farm food. I love it! One of the things that has been included in the selection at the barn these past couple of weeks is Chive blossoms. They're such delightful blooms to use in the kitchen, so I brought a batch home to enjoy.

The blossoms smell just like Chives and have a bright, mild, onion-like flavor, so I like to use them to accent flavors in savory dishes. One of the ways I like to use them is in a vinegar infusion; the result is always so beautiful - the vinegar turns bright pink within a day or two!

Infusing the blooms in vinegar is fairly simple. Place them in a mason jar and pour fresh vinegar over them until they're covered. Cap the jar, give it a good shake, and set it out on the counter so you'll remember to shake it each day while it infuses. It'll be ready in a few weeks (2 to 6, depending on how strong you want the flavor to be - taste it occasionally to gauge the strength) and then you can strain out the blossoms and store the vinegar in a fresh jar in the pantry or fridge.

Chive blossom infused vinegar can be used to make vinaigrette salad dressings, to flavor meat dishes like chicken or fish, and can be added to soups, eggs, or grilled dishes to add a delicious, bright flavor to the overall plate.

Chives blossoms can also be chopped and added to herbal butters or soft cheeses (including cream cheese). Using them this way can add another layer of flavor to garlic breads, biscuits, breadsticks, potatoes, crackers, or pizza crusts. The stalks can be used in the same way and can also be hung to dry or wrapped fresh around bundles of veggies, like asparagus. Tie one around a bundle of fresh basil and set it in a mason jar with water as a pretty decorative piece for your table.

Chives are a member of the onion (Allium) genus, and are closely related to garlic, onions, and leeks. They have a bright, fresh, mild onion-like flavor and can be grown as a hardy perennial herb in growing zones as low as zone 3. Chives grow happily in almost any soil type, but seem to thrive best in rich, fluffy soil that is well draining and kept moist; they don't like to dry out.

Chives aren't really used medicinally by herbalists, but they are used as a delicious culinary herb. They combine especially well with other aromatic herbs used for flavoring savory dishes. Add them at the last moment when cooking to keep their flavor bright and fresh. The bulbs can be pickled for use in the off-season as well.

Are the Chives blooming where you are? Let me know in the comments below. =)

Much love,
Erin

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Medicinal Properties of 12 Culinary Herbs (that You Can Grow Yourself!)

As you saw last week, I'm currently in the midst of planning out my garden spaces for the year and getting everything planted up. Realistically, this also means that I've been trying to keep my wish-list down to a manageable selection of plants and refrain from purchasing every pretty little bulb and seedling I see when shopping around town. (Our local garden centers are full of fragrant hyacinths and lilacs at the moment. They're practically irresistible!) Quite a task for a plant lover! I've been looking forward to being able to grow more of my own herbs this year.

As I narrowed down my seed selections, I realized that I had a few herbs on my "must have" list. These plants are so easy to grow and so versatile that I think every herbal enthusiast ought to give them a try.

[Edited to add: My top 7 herbs to grow yourself or purchase from a local farm for best quality are Calendula, Yarrow, Chamomile, Tulsi, Peppermint, Red Clover, & Astragalus. The difference between herb purchased from even the most reputable suppliers vs. homegrown for these herbs in particular is incredible.]

HERBS YOU SHOULD CONSIDER GROWING THIS YEAR
+ A FEW WAYS TO USE THEM

Note: I could obviously add more to this list, but I think that these 12 herbs encompass plants that can be put to use by almost everyone, so they're the ones I'm choosing to feature today. Which herb(s) would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments section at the end of this post.

  1. Calendula
    Calendula is a beautiful, sunny, flowering, skin healing herb. It's often infused into Aloe or carrier oils and used in salves, lotions and creams meant to help support the skin as it deals with irritation, inflammation, injuries, or other skin issues. It's an ingredient well suited to skin care products for all skin types. It's also excellent for the lymphatic and digestive systems and can be taken as a tea. It's easy to grow in the garden and the freshly harvested and dried blossoms look lovely in the apothecary.
     
  2. Peppermint
    Reputed for its affinity for the digestive system, Peppermint is one of those delightful perennial herbs that is very easy to grow. It's best to propagate via cuttings and is one of those "leave it and it'll spread" type plants. If you don't want it to take over your garden, plant it in a container where it has a little bit of extra room to grow. Harvest leaves as needed for fresh Peppermint tea and for use in fresh salads and dishes that need a little something extra. Chewing on a leaf of Peppermint mid-afternoon when you're longing for a nap might be just the thing you need to feel refreshed and energized once again.
     
  3. Rosemary
    Another plant easily grown from cuttings, Rosemary is a hardy perennial herb in many parts of the US. It's obviously perfectly suited to cooking, but it's also valuable for memory and concentration, improving circulation, and is known for its ability to tone the nervous system. It's strengthening to the heart muscle and is also used in skin care products and hair products. Reputed to stimulate hair growth, it's often employed in herbal hair rinses its essential oil is included as an ingredient in natural shampoos. I love it because it tastes wonderful, smells amazing, and is so willing to be included in formulas. The smell of fresh Rosemary with fresh Lavender is probably my most favorite aroma.
     
  4. Lavender
    Who wouldn't want to grow Lavender? The plant is absolutely beautiful (even my German Shepherd adores it) and the flowers can be used in so many different ways. Lavender honeys, lemonades, cookies, teas, and other dishes often include this herb. I like to dry the fresh flowering stalks and use them to make wreaths. The dried buds are perfect for herbal pillows - I make them for our family to use in the bedrooms and keep one for use in the car for my pup. She is an intelligent, high energy dog and the pillow helps her to stay calm when we need to drive for a longer period of time. An uplifting nervine, Lavender can be employed for relaxation and supporting sleep. I like to use it in eye pillows and foot baths when I have a headache and I include it almost every skin care formula I make.
     
  5. Dill
    A pretty culinary herb, I like to include Dill in potato salads and homemade sauerkraut recipes, as well as in herbal digestive aid formulas (it's a great carminative). I also think the plant itself is quite lovely, with its delicate fronds and cheery little yellow flowers. I like to rub its leaves to release its essential oils when I pass it in the garden - its smell is so refreshing.
     
  6. Thyme
    Thyme is another culinary favorite of mine. It pairs well with Rosemary in many dishes and has an affinity for the respiratory system. Refreshing and uplifting, thyme stimulates the thymus gland, a significant part of our immune system, and is also well suited for coughs, sore throats, and related complaints. I like to infuse it in olive oil or honey with garlic and a few other culinary herbs and take it when I've been around people who are sick to boost my immune system and help me stay healthy. The freshly made tea, tincture, and essential oil are all employed in various cleaning formulas.
     
  7. Basil
    Pesto, pizza, caprese salad... Basil has so many uses in the kitchen that it's almost silly not to grow it. It's a beautiful plant and the more you use, the bushier it seems to grow. It's uplifting and antispasmodic. I've seen it included in formulas for the digestive system and for supporting restful sleep. The essential oil is well suited in blends for focus and concentration. It's sometimes included in herbal hair rinses to promote hair growth and bring balance to oily scalps.
     
  8. Oregano
    I love to include antioxidant-packed Oregano in Mexican food dishes and things like quinoa or rice. It's sometimes included in skin care formulas and is also known for its value in remedies for the digestive system. A potent antimicrobial, it's used in natural 'antibiotic' type preparations and is also employed for its anti-inflammatory properties in formulas used to address painful and inflammatory conditions. The herbal infused oil is said to be effective at keeping creepy crawlies away (among many other things), though I haven't personally tested this yet.
     
  9. Hawthorn
    Ah, Hawthorn. If I had to choose an herbal best friend, it would probably be this plant. The berries, flowers, leaves, and twigs are used in herbal medicine as a heart tonic, bringing balance and strength to even the healthy heart, but especially to the heart with some sort of ailment. If I could only use one herb for the rest of my life, it would probably be this one (but oh, how I would miss the flavorful others!). It works excellently on both physical and energetic planes and, because it is considered a tonic herb, should be used consistently over time for best results. It grows as a shrub or tree and can be employed in herbal teas (and other herbal medicine forms) and in culinary preparations (the berries are perfect for jams). I like to combine it with Hibiscus and Milky Oats for tea.
     
  10. Aloe vera
    If you're not in a sunny, warm growing zone, Aloe vera can be grown indoors, potted up on a sunny windowsill. The fresh juice/gel are used internally for all sorts of digestive complaints and externally for all manner of skin issues. A highly versatile first aid plant, I think everyone ought to be growing it. (Though it should be avoided by nursing mommas and women who are pregnant.) Freshly harvested leaves are squeezed into morning smoothies and green drinks, slathered onto acneic skin, and used in skin-healing creams. Its rare flowers (usually produced once per year after the plant reaches maturity) are a delight as well.
     
  11. Plantain
    Chances are you won't need to actually cultivate this plant. It's probably trying to spring up in your garden pathways and through cracks in the pavement right now. Well known for its skin healing abilities, it's also employed for a variety of digestive and lymphatic complaints. It's a drawing herb that can be used to draw out splinters and is also valuable for irritated, inflamed skin. I've written about it in more detail here.
     
  12. Dandelion
    Another tenacious herb that won't need to be cultivated if you allow it to grow when it appears, Dandelion is an herb supreme for for the liver and kidneys. The entire plant is used medicinally and its leaves are high in vitamins and minerals. It's used as a food herb as well, often included in dishes where a bitter green would be suitable: stir-fries, soups, salads, etc.

Other favorites to consider: Parsley, Cilantro, Sage, Garlic, Ginger, Turmeric, Pepper (the trees are so beautiful), Rose, Hibiscus, Feverfew, Red Clover, St. John's Wort

WHICH HERBS ARE YOU GROWING IN YOUR GARDEN THIS YEAR?

Let me know in the comments section below this post. If you're interested in purchasing organic herb seeds (or veggie seeds) for your garden, click here to read about some of my favorite seed sources.

Much love,
Erin