Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Potted Herbs for Summer Salads

It's one of those things that we all experience: when the hot and humid days of summer are upon us our appetite seems smaller. We stop craving heavy soups and meats. And we move on from those winter comforts, that land us on the couch, to lighter fare; clean and fresh foods that are more suited to swimming, sporting and wearing short shorts.

At our place, cooking is very seasonally based. Both Chris and I have a tendency to cook for the time of year and the weather outside. Chris probably more so, since I always get hung up on salads. But we both definitely love a good pumpkin pie or butternut squash soup in the cool days of fall, and in the spring we start to gravitate more towards veggies, beans and salads.

Lately, when I've been out walking and running errands, I can't ignore the shelves full of fresh potted herbs that the grocers and florists have on display. The sidewalks in my neighbourhood look like a regular country garden nursery! The summery fresh scents of mint and basil won me over and I had to bring some of the little herbs home with me.

My favourite thing to make in the kitchen is a good salad, it sounds boring, I know, but there are so many great combinations of vegetables, beans, fruits and herbs. Okay, now I sound even more boring! But for me, having fresh herbs on hand, literally, right on my kitchen counter, is a real treat. And in Canada I can only pull it off a few months out of the year.

So here is how I prepare my plants to last a summer.

Once you've had the fun of choosing which herbs to bring home, you'll also want to grab some additional supplies: 

-potting soil
-pebbles or rocks
-a selection of pots 
-a small spade

 If the pot you choose does not have a hole and saucer for drainage, simply place a layer of rocks in the pot bottom. The rocks will create a space for excess water to drain into and this will prevent the soil and roots from molding. 

Cover the rocks with a layer of soil.

Remove the plant from it's container and place in the prepared pot. 

Add more soil to fill the pot. Gently pack the soil down. 

Any container or pot will do, provided that it has some form of drainage and is large enough for the herb to flourish.

To remove the plant from it's original plastic container, turn it upside down, hold the plant at it's base and squeeze the container to loosen the plant.

Terracotta or clay pots are porous, which makes it almost impossible to over-water your plants. 
Good news for a black thumb like me! 

I purchased my clay pots from the Dollar Store, the white metal pot is from Ikea, and my other planter is vintage. 

Be sure to give your herbs a good watering when you have finished potting them.

 When 'harvesting' your herbs for cooking, do not pull off individual leaves. You want to clip off whole sections of the plant and trim from the top down. Pinch the stalk where it meets the leaves, then snap it off. In this way you will harvest the vertical growth and cause your plant to bush out and grow thick, full and leafy instead of tall and weedy. 

A reproduction atomizer like this one is great for gently misting delicate herbs with a bit of cool water as they soak up the warm sunlight, but of course, you can also use a plain old spray bottle!

I still need to get my hands on a little basil plant since we cook with basil all the time around here. But for now I have enough spearmint to make as many cups of fresh mint tea as I like! 
Happy Planting!

Signs of spring...
Our neighborhood is in bloom, and I thought I would share some pictures. Hoping that all is well and warm where ever you are! 

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