So I noticed that it had been awhile since the last Herb Series installment – slap me on the wrist! This time around we’ll look at thyme, and I solemnly vow to keep the “thyme/time” puns to a minimum. With that out of the way, let’s explore this very common little herb that has more interesting uses than being sprinkled on chicken.
I have been waiting for awhile now to talk about rosemary. I want to try to maintain an objective position as often as I can, but I cannot deny my fixation; this is absolutely my favorite herb. Even if it didn’t lend a tasty earthiness to recipes, the green pungent fragrance alone would be enough for me to want to be surrounded by it everyday. But enough of my not-so-secret love – let’s look at all the interesting points of this refreshing (and tough) little herb!
It’s that time again gang, and with the onset of spring, I thought about featuring an herb that, for whatever reason, I equate with the season: lemongrass. With its subtle, citrusy flavor and bright green color, I can’t help but start thinking of warmer temperatures and more sunshine.
Cymbopogon citratus, or common lemongrass, is also referred to as citronella grass, fever grass and (in the Philippines) tanglad. It is – obviously – in the grass family, and like its many uses, it also has many varieties, and each variety has its own place of origin. The common variety is found in Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian maritime countries. The plants can grow to around six feet tall and will last up to three to four years if cared for properly. Once mature, the grass can be harvested every three to five months, and is propagated by separating the bulbs at the base. Lemongrass is an excellent companion plant for such items as tomatoes and broccoli, acting as a natural pesticide for both plants. It should be noted however that physical barriers of some sort are helpful, as the roots of the plant can spread out and take over the field. However, it does store well, keeping about two to three weeks in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator or several months in the freezer.
So for the second installment of my ongoing series on herbs, I’m bringing out a green with worldwide acclaim. Whether you call it cilantro, coriander, or prefer not to think of it at all (more on that later), this citrusy, zesty little herb has a lot going for it.
Coriander is native to most every region that surrounds the Mediterranean and some parts of southwest Asia. And while it is nearly impossible to determine when it began to show up (either wild or cultivated), there is significant archaeological evidence that shows it was being grown by the ancient Egyptians, as well as the Greeks, who used it not only in their cuisine, but also in perfumes. It was not until around the 1670s that it was brought to North America by British settlers, and became one of the most commonly grown herbs in the colonies. The leafy bright green plants can reach up to 1 – 2 feet in height, and generally require well-drained soil and a consistent warm summer climate to thrive. It has a bright, citrusy flavor that some people liken to oranges, although I have always leaned more toward the lemony-essence school of thought. And fresh cilantro is usually best stored in the refrigerator, either in a sealed plastic bag or wrapped in a damp paper towel, and for best results should be used as soon as possible.
For many centuries, herbs and spices have been integral to the development not only of gastronomy, but human civilization as a whole. Some once held a value equal to (or even greater than) gold, and many have long been used not only in cooking, but as tonics, tinctures and teas for the curing of various illnesses. This week I’m looking into a fairly well-known herb that I have personally used in my own kitchen for a very long time; oregano.