An Herbal Column By– Miss Jess

I hope this article finds all of you enjoying this period of winter.  As our herbs sleep, I see it as a good time to catch up on some reading  and reflecting on the past and future gardening seasons.  It is also a good time to do a bit of cooking with the fruits of our summer  labor.  It’s always nice to experiment with making dishes to spotlight a particular herb.  Today we are going to explore a few of those. 
We start off our journey with a visit to fennel.   The seeds of a common fennel plant can be used for both medicinal and culinary cures.  Fennel as we may remember is very good for calming  digestion.  It is often used in savory dishes.  These include sausages and soups.  Fennel pairs well with beef, lamb, fish and vegetables like tomatoes beets and cabbage. Did you know that you can also sacrifice the bulb of the plant for a slightly sweet anise tasting side dish?  Fennel bulbs are similar in appearance to celery, with a sweet flavor.  The bulb can be roasted, sautéed or braised. It can also be added to a salad raw to give it some crunch.  Common seasoning for fennel are, garlic, salt and pepper, or lemon.
Next we turn our attention to rosemary.  I use rosemary and lemon medicinally to keep myself focused. Did you know that the two together are a wonderful addition to fish and lamb?  It lends a  brightness to seafood, soups and many cosmetics.  I’ve often taken fresh fish fillets, slices of lemon and a few sprigs of rosemary, wrapped them into a foil packet and grilled them. Not only is the
fish cooked moist, but also very aromatic upon opening.  I also make a  spread, not unlike hummus using white kidney beans, chopped rosemary, and garlic.  It tastes just like mash potatoes and much lower in calories!  In addition to using rosemary on its own, it is one of many herbs included in a bouquet garni and herbes du province.
Lastly we look to a personal favorite, lavender.  Lavender has so uses  medicinally!  It can be used to induce a state of calmness in an individual, sleep and sooth the skin to name a few.  Lavender can also be used in tea and to flavor jellies and baked goods.  I’ve made shortbread cookies using lavender infused sugar or sprinkling of the fresh flowers on top.  To make the infusion, i take a jar of sugar and add a handful of lavender.  I seal it tight and allow it to “age”.
So, pull out those cookbooks or experiment on your own.  Dig out those seed catalogs and before you know it, we’ll all be back in the garden  experimenting with our herbs in their live form.

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