I had lofty gardening goals. My mom told me not to get disappointed if things didn’t work out as planned. I told her all I wanted was my kale to grow.
Let’s just say my garden is not as prolific as Angela’s.
I know the summer has only just begun, but the only thing I have harvested from my garden has been herbs. Since they are in pots, on my back porch, does it really count as my garden? ;) (Of course it is, but you know what I mean!)
I can grow mint and basil.
Last year, somehow, I used mint in so many recipes, that I picked my plant clean and it never bounced back. I thought it was a weed, a perennial at that, but it didn’t even come back for a second year (my garlic chives did, though!). Fair enough, my cousin, who also got a portion of the same plant from my mom, also did not get her mint to return a second year. So it isn’t just my black thumb. ;)
I used this as an opportunity to try different varieties of mint. Richters Herbs sells over 40 different kinds, ranging from the wacky like Marshmallow Mint and Cotton Candy Mint to Peppermint and Swiss Mint. We sampled each one before narrowing in on English Mint, Moroccan Mint and Chocolate Mint. My cousin replaced hers with Mojito Mint!
For basil, I know the problem of the flowering basil and thus am really pleased with my Pesto Perpetuo basil that won’t flower. Just luscious leaves! We also planted some Lesbos basil which has a savoury note and not as pungent as the traditional Genovese basil. My favourite, though, purely by how I acquired it, is my prolific Genovese basil. Remember the 300g of basil I bought when I made the delicious Asparagus, Strawberry and Basil Salad with Mosto Cotto? Since the bunch of basil included the roots, I planted a bunch of the plants into my pot and they have flourished!
Most of my herbs are doing well! The oregano, thyme (English and French varieties), rosemary, Vietnamese coriander, lemon verbena, parsley and cilantro… Even the lemongrass looks bushy! The Thai basil isn’t looking too hot, though, but I didn’t really have any culinary masterpieces picked out for it since I don’t like its anise flavour.
We have some green tomatoes and a few snow peas are beginning to show up, too, but my kale is still tiny. So is my rainbow Swiss chard. I swear my kale is still 6 inches tall and has seemed to have hit a slump in growth. Stuck at 6 inches for the last month. While baby Red Russian kale would be delicious, I only have 4 leaves on each plant! ;) Hopefully as the summer progresses, they will be revived. ;)
In an effort to use my bountiful basil crop, without resorting to the typical pesto (yet), I found this delicious lentil soup with veggies and basil in The Natural Vegan Kitchen. It is slightly different than the recipe posted online here and my adapted recipe is below.
I seem to have an affinity for lentils and carrots, and this soup did not disappoint even though it was a minor component. I don’t often cook typical Italian, but the hint Italian flavours of basil, oregano and thyme were lovely in this soup beefed up with sweet potato and cabbage. Of course, the full cup of fresh basil is what brings this soup out of the standard Italian fare. Scrap soup, I mean stew, even after adding another 2 cups of water. I like my soups hearty, though, so no complaints from my end. :)
What are your favourite recipes with basil? This is what I have enjoyed previously:
Blueberry Mango Quinoa Salad with a Lemon Basil Dressing
Asparagus, Strawberry and Basil Salad with Mosto Cotto
Creamy Zucchini and Basil Soup
Summer Vegetable Pasta Salad with Lemon Basil Almond Pesto
Saffron Marinated Paneer Cheese with Fresh Basil, Cashews and Pomegranate Seeds (not vegan, substitute paneer with tofu)
Spanish Lentil and Mushroom Stew
Asparagus and Chickpea Stir-Fry with Hoisin Sauce
Luscious Lentil and Basil Soup
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup white wine or vegetable broth
1 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 cup green cabbage, diced (or more, or none)
3 cups sweet potato, cubed
1 cup carrots, diced (2 carrots)
2 cups green or brown lentils, rinsed
3 bay leaves
4 cups vegetable broth or spring water, or more
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp tamari or soy sauce
2 tsp umeboshi or balsamic vinegar
1 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1. Heat oil with some water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, basil, oregano, thyme and a pinch of salt. It is sticks to the bottom, deglaze with some white wine, vegetable broth or water. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the cabbage, sweet potato and carrots and cook 5 minutes more.
2. Add the lentils and toss to coat. Add the vegetable broth and bay leaves and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, until the lentils are tender. You may need to add more broth (I added at least 2 more cups of water). Remove bay leaves. Consider pureeing a portion of the soup.
3. Stir in the tamari and vinegar. Add basil and stir well. Allow the warm soup to wilt the basil. Garnish with more basil.