Clear skies. Low 53F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph..
Clear skies. Low 53F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph.
Updated: May 16, 2022 @ 4:03 pm
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Fresh herbs from the garden.

Fresh herbs from the garden.
This past Tuesday, I presented “The Culinary and Medicinal Uses of Herbs” for the “Gettin’ Dirty at the Library” monthly series. I’m not completely comfortable speaking in front of large groups, but I didn’t faint or cry, so I’m marking it as a win! Being the presenter, I wasn’t eligible to win any of the door prizes — herbs — so that was a bit of a bummer. But I digress.
After the presentation, I had a few folks come up to me and ask if I would be presenting this anywhere else, because they either wanted to see it again or knew someone who would like it. Unfortunately, this was a one-time thing, but I thought, “Hey, put it in a column!” … so here are the high points on the culinary side of the presentation.
Flavor: Notes of evergreen, pine, sage, pepper, mint, lavender and citrus. It is a sturdy herb that holds up to heat. Can be added in the beginning of the cooking time. The longer it cooks, the stronger the flavor.
Pairs well with lamb, beef, pork and chicken, as well as roasted potatoes and other root vegetables. It also does very well in savory baked goods, such as focaccia and rosemary-parmesan crackers. One of our Master Gardeners makes a Rosemary Pound Cake that is incredible.
Most common are Sweet and Genovese basil, which are used primarily in Mediterranean and Italian cuisines. Thai, Lemon and Licorice basils are more pungent varieties and featured in the Southeast Asian cuisines of Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan.
Flavor: Not actually sweet in the buttery sense. Not bitter, but pungent with a peppery taste and a hint of anise. There are a few herbs that have that slight anise flavor, which is often compared to the taste of licorice.
Unlike Rosemary, it is a tender herb that should be used fresh or stirred into sauces at the end of cooking time.
Pairs well with tomatoes, garlic, mozzarella cheese and olive oil, so not surprisingly, it is sprinkled on the top of bruschetta and stirred into spaghetti sauces. Less obvious, it works well in a refreshing Watermelon-Feta Salad as well as with other fruits, including strawberries, apricots and peaches. It has a true love affair with lemon! Use it as an accent with lemonade, sherbets and granitas or pureed into a mixture of olive oil, lemon and black pepper for a zesty sauce for chicken, fish or roasted vegetables.
Flavor: Cross between parsley and tarragon with a sweet, light anise flavor.
It is a tender herb, so it should be added at the end of the cook time. It is significant in French cuisine and is part of their widely used “Fines herbs”: a combination of chervil, parsley, chives and tarragon.
In a classic combination, eggs get a kick from tarragon, so it is no surprise that the lighter chervil adds a bright tap to the morning omelet. Fines herbs, or chervil alone, often are used in chicken dishes and sauces to accompany fish. It is also an ingredient in the increasingly popular Green Goddess Sauce.
The most widely used varieties in cooking are Common and Lemon thyme. You may come across Wooley, Wild or Elfin thyme, but they are more suited for the rock garden than the crock pot.
Flavor: Thyme is robust and hardy both as a plant and in its flavor profile. Common thyme has a woody, herbal taste with a hint of rosemary and lavender. Lemon thyme owns the taste of its citrusy-lemon fragrance. Unlike most herbs, both fresh and dried thyme have the same basic flavor. When cooking, use 1/3 the amount of dried as you would fresh.
Thyme is very diverse in its use. It is delicate enough to be used with cod or salmon, green beans and baked tomatoes, but it also stands up to beef, pork and chicken. Thyme has the superpower of being able to ease the powerful characteristics of some dishes. It tames the gaminess of venison, lightens the thickness of cream sauces and cuts the richness of lamb. It pairs well with orange and makes a zesty vinaigrette.
Not all sage varieties are culinary. White sage is burned and used to relieve a room of anxiety or evil spirits … or something like that. Common sage, salvia officinalis, is used most often in cooking.
Flavor: Pungent with an earthy taste with hints of citrus and pine. The grayish-green fuzzy leaves of this herb are unappealing eaten raw. Fresh and dried sage have the same basic flavor; however, when dried it becomes a little more bitter and loses its bright green color.
When substituting in a recipe, seven medium-size fresh sage leaves is equal to two teaspoons of rubbed sage.
Sage is a component of the Italian culinary staples of Saltimbocca and Gnocchi with browned butter. Home cooks and chefs alike have been adding sage to stuffing/dressing (depends on if you’re from around here or not) and when making sausage since the beginning of stuffing and sausage. Sage butter over butternut squash or pumpkin ravioli is a lip-smacking combination, and it pairs well with eggs, mushrooms and in frittatas.
The Limestone County Master Gardeners next “Gettin’ Dirty at the Library” presentation on Rain Gardens will be June 14th from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Athens-Limestone Public Library. This event is free. For more information on upcoming events and presentations, check out the new face of our Facebook page – Master Gardeners of Limestone County, Alabama. Until next week, happy gardening.
Kipp Irland, a member of the Limestone County Master Gardeners, can be reached at kippirland@hotmail.com. Visit https://mg.aces.edu/limestone for more information on the Limestone County Master Gardeners.
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Billy Wyatt Turner Sr. 74, of Athens, passed away May 14. Service will be 11 AM Wednesday at Spry Funeral Home. Visitation will be Tuesday from 6-9 PM. Interment will be in Ripley Cemetery with Military Honors.

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