By JOYCE ARLEEN CORSON
SYRACUSE — The lone scent of one herb, such as sage, can immediately bring occasions to mind such as family gatherings at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Blending two herbs or more together, such as basil and oregano, is a familiar aroma of pizza or pasta such as lasagna. Cilantro, onion and basil bring appetite teasers such as salsa for party openers. Herbs definitely trigger the appetite.
It would be difficult for me to choose a certain herb as my favorite because adding the full spectrum of food preparation brings together not only herbs but other flavoring entities including spices and outstanding vegetables such as onions, celery and garlic.
The process of blending these enhancing ingredients such as marinating and heat brings out the best in flavors. It is often said, “We are like tea leaves and don’t know our own strength until we are in hot water.”
The winter savory in my garden, a perennial herb, has its origin from the Mediterranean Valley. It has long been an outstanding herb plant for me. It is robust Satureja Montana and lines the path to my herb garden. The leaves are flavored with fiery pepper if eaten from the plant, which can become a small shrub. It self-seeds and I can find it regularly growing many places in my garden. I use it when cooking pulses or dried seed such as beans and peas. Pulses are very high in protein and fiber and low in fat. It responds well to transplantation.
Summery savory or sweet marjoram often referred to as wild oregano, is an annual and when cooked gives off a spicy aroma. The family of savory includes Mother of Thyme, French thyme and the many cousins. I especially enjoy golden thyme, or Golden Marjoram, a decorative edible perennial that brings true yellow color to the herb garden. Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum” is also a robust creeper and compliments the winter savory. It blooms mid summer with clusters of soft mauve or white flowers.
One more sustainable herb, perennial peppermint, Mentha spicata “Tashkent” is dependable for flavors or garnish. These plants from the mint family are long enduring and can be invasive. Their blossoms are essential for the pollinators and often are found growing in the wild. Pennyroyal, Menta pulegium also squaw mint, self seeds and springs up along pathways, known for repelling mosquitoes.
If all of this talk about herbs and spices sounds Latin or Greek, it is likely so because earlier earth dwellers spoke these languages, thus naming them in their dialect or linguistic phenomena. Linnaeus is often recognized with naming and using the rules of botanical nomenclature.
Try searching the grocery store for a ready prepared salad dressing or season mix such as Knorr or Spartan, and follow package directions. An often used recipe for preserving fresh herbs is called a pesto recipe. These recipes being made with fresh ingredients should be used immediately, refrigerated or frozen for future use. Herb paste can be purchased as well.
Epicurean recipe for Pesto:
1/4 C fresh basil leaves
1/2 C olive oil
1/3 C pine nuts
1/4 C freshly grated parmesan cheese
Combine first four ingredients in blender until a paste is formed
often push down basil
1/4 C freshly grated pecorino Sardo or sheep parmesian cheese
1 T Kosher salt
Add last two ingredients and top with 1” of olive oil