Hang on just a little longer, moms. I promise the craziness of these final weeks of school will pass and summer will sweep in with its lazy days and family projects.
Your summer budget may not allow for a Tuscan get-away or a wine country tour, but you can bring a bit of culinary magic to your home, just the same. Grow a simple, kitchen herb garden with your family over the summer months and enjoy money-saving flavor while creating a fun memory.
By this time next week, a pile of size 11 shoes will be stacked by my back door. That’s my sign that my son and his posse have returned to catch up on all that’s happened while he’s been away at college. Child #2 will be lugging her earthly possessions home the following week and the binge watching and face masking until the break of dawn will commence.
My husband and I have gotten use to a quieter, more orderly, but also very empty nest since the two of them left for school. Our family has made quite a few changes since last summer, including moving to a drastically downsized home.
Along with our smaller nest came a much smaller gardening space. We traded a large yard with little direct sun for a small concrete slab that gets generous heat and light. I must confess I’m a bit relieved to have an excuse not to maneuver heavy pots of soil, and instead have opted for a mini garden I can keep near my sink and transport outside when needed.
Herbs take kindly to our busy summer schedule. Most love direct heat and sunlight and will spring back from erratic watering. That means we can enjoy a spontaneous weekend trip with our home-from-college kids and not worry about returning to shriveled plants.
Just between you and me, I’m also hoping having yummy herbs in arms reach will encourage my young adult kids to try some new recipes. I have visions of meal prep as a family activity. Check out some delicious recipes from a few of my food blogging friends.
Although I’ve given seeds a good college try, they’ve required too much babying for my schedule. I’ve learned to stick with already potted, hardy selections and watching them grow. I’ve listed some sure winners along with some tricks I’ve learned along the way.
Commonly used in pasta dishes and red sauce, basil is also the main ingredient in pesto. Make sure to plant several small plants together and stagger harvesting the leaves among all of them or you’ll have some sad, bald patches until new sprouts come in.
Easy Thai Basil Chicken from Asian Test Kitchen puts a colorful twist on this hardworking herb.
My daughter’s favorite, the spunky chive packs a punch of flavor in a tiny plant. If you’re looking for some subtle zest without onions or peppers, chives are your friends. They can be added to any dish, but scrambled eggs and omelets are our favorites.
Harvest chives by simply cutting the desired amount with a pair of kitchen scissors and slice them right into your dish or skillet.
I can’t wait to try Healthy Spring Pea and Asparagus Pasta from The Banana Diaries!
For all practical purposes, this is a weed. Like a stray cat, once you make friends with a mint plant you’ll never get rid of it. I recently started a cute little pot of mint only to find a large patch growing in our new backyard.
The fun of mint plants is the endless variety. Hybrids are infused with lemon and other fun flavors. Do a little research and find one you love.
If you have southern roots, as I do, you’ll know about mint in ice tea. But a few mint leaves also adds instant panache to summer desserts, ice cream and salads.
Here are two really original recipes for the humble mint:
Watermelon Radish & Mint Summer Salad from Lunch With Leah
Mint Raita from Simmer to Slimmer
A cousin of our trusty mint, oregano is known for versatility. Oregano adds deeper flavor to Mexican and Middle Eastern dishes such as rice and cous cous, as well as it’s traditional flavor in pasta sauces.
Oregano is very hardly and you’ll most likely have an abundance of it. Put some cut oregano on a cookie sheet in a very low oven and you’ll be able to stock pile the dried herb for winter cuisine.
This little sweetie is a great choice for kitchen gardens. It’s like the kid who prefers to stay inside and help you cook while all the other children run around outside getting sweaty.
As long as it’s sitting by a sunny window and given a bit of attention now and then, rosemary will class up potatoes, meats and soups with its fragrant, tidy leaves. Harvest them by cutting one branch and snip or strip them from the branch. You can also toss the whole branch in a soup or sauce for flavor and remove before serving.
Try this recipe to throw together any combination of herbs you like!
Grilled Olive Herb Flatbread and Whipped Feta Spread by Tikkido
I’m giving you permission to take a few minutes, right now, to dream of summer kitchen fun. Soon your life will settle down just a bit and you’ll be able to spend some extra time taste-testing these recipes and dreaming of your retirement in Tuscany.