Written by Sara Dixon – Herb Society Member
Are you ready to start thinking about herbs for your ‘Herb Larder’? Sitting comfortably? Let us begin…
You are going to imagine that, like me, you never have all the ingredients you need when you open one of those super fancy recipe books that seem to pervade the bookshops now. If, like me, you don’t use supermarkets, or you insist on buying seasonally, or you are just, also like I am, disorganised… But always hungry and always want to cook.
I am going to introduce you to two herbs:
Garlic Chives, and Fennel. Because they are great to have in your herb larder.
Garlic Chives. They really do taste garlicky! I use them because I do not always have garlic to hand. I hate getting garlicky fingers from peeling and chopping. And if a recipe calls for garlic AND onions, that is two unwieldy smelly bits of prep to do. And many of my recipes do include garlic and onions. Garlic Chives – come on down, as they say. The flavour is a combination of onions and garlic. Easy to grow. Easy to cut. Easy to chop. NO smelly fingers and hands. And, actually, no garlic breath. Add at the last minute as Chives are one of those herbs that loses strength of flavour when cooked. How can you tell the difference (without tasting for the garlic) between Chives and Garlic Chives? Chives are tubular with purple flowers. Garlic chives have flatter stems with white flowers. 2 ingredients in one.
Fennel. NEVER plant Fennel near Dill. They kill each other. Welcome to the gentle world of herbs… Fennel is easier, generally, to grow from seed than Dill. But it does depend on your soil, your climate, and your prowess with sowing seeds It is tall. Looks frothy (quite nice in a flower arrangement). And tastes like aniseed if used raw. The strength of the aniseed goes a little bit if cooked but not hugely. There are SOME herbs which do lose their aniseed taste when cooked, and you are just left with a sweet flavour, (more on those in a later blog), but if you love liquorice sweetness, Fennel is your herb. I find it better raw than cooked as I love a punch of aniseed in my fish. Yes, I do mean punch. The flavour really packs a punch.
How might you use your Garlic Chives? I use mine in a herb salad. You can use all sorts of herbs in a salad. Garlic Chives always go in mine. I find lettuce boring so all my salads involve only herbs. Garlic Chives are great sprinkled on top of a tomato sauce just before serving. Or, my favourite, on a baked potato with masses of butter…
How might you use your Fennel? Well, if you are a tad lazy like me, take some fish (try salmon). Heat your oven. Pop your fish in a casserole dish, or on top of some foil, and then either put your Fennel on top, add a bit of your favourite oil, and bake it for about 15 minutes (check after 15 and cook for longer if you like your fish well done), OR put your Fennel underneath the fish so that all the oily juices flow into the Fennel and then you can pour that back on top of the fish when serving. Fennel is lovely sprinkled on top of berries in Summer.
So, a bit of labour/ingredient saving using your Garlic Chives. And a bit of ‘I really can’t be bothered to cook anything fussy but want something sweet and quick’ using your Fennel.