From the Kitchen of Debra Loder, RDN – Wickenburg Community Hospital
I love to garden. There is just something about the miracle of life when a tiny dry seed springs forth with the addition of soil, water, and sunshine. Gardening here in Wickenburg, AZ can be tough. It seems that most years I do not get started early enough so by the time my plants start thriving, along comes the “dry heat” and things start struggling. But I continue to buy bedding plants and seeds and other necessary supplies in anticipation of sweet cherry tomatoes, tender zucchini, and crisp cucumbers. Probably my favorite section of the garden is my herb bed. For me, herbs seem to be the easiest plants to grow. They do well in the garden or in pots on the patio. They even thrive indoors in a sunny window. And herbs add so much flavor to our meals.
Just recently, I made a salad with only romaine lettuce and a handful of cherry tomatoes. It looked pretty dull until I thought to go out and pick a few herbs. I picked some fronds of dill, a handful of Italian parsley, and a few basil leaves. That was probably one of the best salads I have ever eaten. Fresh herbs add excitement to salads, sauces, and even desserts. A handful of fresh basil livens up a jar of pasta sauce, a few sprigs of dill add amazing flavor to a simple poached fish fillet, and a few mint sprigs turns a glass of iced tea or lemonade into a special treat.
Besides being packed with flavor, most herbs are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Mint has been used to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome while parsley may offer anti-cancer properties. Herbs are easily grown from seeds and young plants are available spring and summer from your local gardening center. Whether you grow herbs for their flavor or for their nutrient content, I encourage to experiment and have fun. Grow some parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme but don’t forget about tarragon, cilantro, oregano, dill, and my favorite basil! Happy Planting!