Garden, Plant, Cook!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

August 29th - More Herbs, Less Salt Day!

Dear Folks,

One of those ubiquitous national holidays which are sometimes hilarious (National Gorilla Suit Day! January 31st),  And, no one will worry about "National Chocolate Day" - chocolate is an herb, but many are wonderful reminders of special things or like today's post - think healthier reminders.

The challenge for many folks over the last 60 years (post WWII) is the replacing of the herbs and spices from the kitchen garden with manufactured meals where they added a whole-lot-of-salt to enhance the flavor.  And salt does a great job of lifting the flavor out of basic foods:  meats, vegetables and starchy foods like rice, pasta and potatoes.

We have taken a good thing (salt) and turned it into a bad thing (poor health in the general population).

Enter Herbs and Spices.

In honor of More Herbs, Less Salt Day I would like to suggest you do a challenge taste test with friends and family.   Baked or boiled potatoes, 3 ways.

1)  Plain
2)  Sprinkled with the tiniest squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkled with finely chopped rosemary, thyme, or marjoram, you can use dried.
3)  Tossed with just a hint of olive oil or melted butter or a combination of the two fats and a sprinkle of salt.

Taste test in that order.  The salt sample needs to be last because it would flavor the other samples if done first.   Use apple slices to 'clean the pallet' between samples.

The robust flavors of these kinds of herbs "lift" the flavor of starchy foods giving you the maximum flavor of the potato.

Do you know why celery and celery seed are used in many savory dishes?  Because both contain sodium, and the flavor enhances the food taste giving it the 'flavor of being salted'.

Here are some herbs and spices that contain natural sodium along with high to trace minerals and vitamins.

1 teaspoon of each contain the noted amount of sodium, plus.

Parsley fresh 1 mg - high in vitamins and minerals
Celery seed    3 mg - high in minerals
Celery fresh - 2 mg - vitamins and minerals
Fennel seed - 2 mg - high in minerals
Coriander seed - 1 mg - high in minerals
Cumin seed - 4 mg - high in minerals

Sodium in types of salt:
Fine Sea Salt (with anti-caking agent)  1 teaspoon = 2,360 mg
Kosher Coarse salt 1 teaspoon = 1,920 mg
Pink Himalayan small grain would be approximately the same as Kosher but with added minerals if unprocessed.

A low sodium diet recommends no more than 1 teaspoon equivalent of the sea salt, or as low as 1,400 mg per day.

So the real way to reduce salt without reducing flavor is to FIRST season with herbs and spices.  THEN taste.  You will find you need to add far less salt or no salt to enjoy the real flavor of the food you cook.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Edamame -- Grow and Eat!

Dear Folks,

Do you like Edamame?  I love it!  Besides being a super protein plant source, I love eating a bean that is more nutty than 'beany' in flavor and because of that it makes for a great addition to so many recipes.  Salads, pasta, etc.  I even used it in a vegetarian stuffed pumpkin recipe for Thanksgiving.

The other neat thing about this soybean is that it can be grown here in late spring into early/mid-summer when a lot of other favored veggies can't take the heat.

I planted seed on June 6th and harvested this plant on August 24th.  I was testing in a large pot because the critters got my plants last year before they even got going.

Some points about edamame.  I grew "Envy" Botanical Interests non-GMO.  I planted 3 seeds and one plant came up.

Soybeans ripen all at one time on the bush so it is best to plan on planting successively.  I got 4 ounces of weight in the pod off the one bush.  Some of them were not really large enough to be useable.

Edamame is harvested 'immature' meaning you want them fresh 'green bean' style, not matured and dry.

Just like the frozen kind, these boiled up in 5 minutes and were ready to pop out (bar-food style) for eating.  I did use salted water, but you don't have to if you want to control the salt.

Uses For Your Edamame:
--Make hummus, fun additions include artichoke hearts, capers, olives or roasted peppers - serve in cucumber cups.
--Cold grain or pasta salads become a whole meal with edamame
--fresh eating, I'm sure the children would enjoy popping straight into their mouths - I do :-)
--add to stews and soups at the last minute before serving, just to warm them


One of the things I do regularly in the garden is allow favorite items to reseed in place.  The plants that come up are the most vigorous.  Taking that one step further, how can this natural cycle be improved upon?  By choosing to let certain plants go to seed, selecting the healthiest or most hardy for reproduction.   Horticulturists and gifted amateurs have been doing this for centuries, resulting in wonderful and NATURAL selection for subsequent sowing.

One of the continuing dilemma's in the desert garden is the fact that cilantro and tomatoes do not grow at the same time -- outside of a greenhouse.  There are several 'slow-to-bolt' varieties available, but what if you could grow your own better seed?

Check out this very simple process and give it a try, not only with cilantro, but any crop you enjoy but would like to enjoy more or longer or earlier in the season.  It takes patience, 2 years at a minimum, but you would be on your way to creating a new stronger variety - name if for yourself - you have the right to do so as long as you start with heirloom seed (hybrids are usually already patented).

I confess to not pulling weaker plants and some of them obviously will go to seed.   After this reminder of just how simple the process is, I'm going to pay more attention and selectively encourage healthier plants in my gardens.

Grow better seed the horticulture way.  Click here

Look for my post on "More Herbs - Less Salt Day"

I'm off to a family reunion, back posting and blogging later.

Have a wonderful day,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady