About four years ago, we added a new activity to Red Wagon Plants, growing herbs for grocery stores and a couple of distributors and restaurants. We called it "Lady Farm" amongst ourselves because we wanted to debunk some of the stereotypes of local farming and also because we were (and are) all women running it. The "Lady Farm" name has stuck internally, but our herbs are sold under the "Red Wagon Herbs" brand. Today, while harvesting with Samantha, Sarah, and Lily, it occurred to me that while I may still be shedding a tear or two about the election, I am really proud that we have been able to start this venture and keep expanding it each year. Our "Lady Farm" involves growing crops that are not heavy to lift, most of the tools and deliveries fit handily in the back of my car, and there is very little machinery required. While I know all of this plays into gender stereotypes, I am happy to have a farm activity that I can do into my dotage, and that each day of harvest is an immersion into aromatherapy. And frankly, we know we are not hurting anyone and we are maybe even bringing a little joy to someone's kitchen. While we haven't achieved Global Matriarchy yet, we have settled into a nice groove with Lady Farm, and for that I am grateful.
Here are a few things I like to do with herbs around this time of year....
Herb Salts Grind herb leaves in a mortar and pestle with coarse sea salt. Pour into cute jars, make a tag or label, and bravo to you making a perfect little hostess gift. Herbs to try: rosemary, thyme, sage, savory, and lavender. Try just doing one herb at a time, and if you do a mix, stick to classic combinations. Use herb salts on steamed or braised vegetables, any grain or potato dish, roasted meats, poached fish. Pretty much anywhere. Even to garnish a dressed green salad.
Herb Butter Let a stick of butter come to room temperature until slightly softened. Finely chop parsley or sage or rosemary or thyme. Mash the finely chopped herbs into the butter, add a few pinches of salt, and a teaspoon or so of lemon zest. Scoop into a dish, cover and refrigerate; or roll into a log with plastic wrap and freeze. I like to slather herb butter onto cooked winter squash, or finish a pasta dish with it, or toss with hot rice, or add to a baked potato, or top a piece of fish with it right before sending it under the broiler, or elevate the humble steamed vegetable. Herb butter is a great thing to have on hand. You can make it in bigger batches, and pull out the frozen log as needed, just slicing a piece off as you go.
Herb Stock When making any kind of broth or stock (chicken, beef, vegetable), I always add handfuls of herbs for added flavor and depth. It is okay to leave the herbs in there for hours, they won't be too strong. Your whole house will smell divine and it is a great way to use the stems and stalks that might otherwise get discarded.
Roasted Vegetables with sage, thyme, and rosemary. I drizzle olive oil, sprinkle sea salt, and crumble dried rosemary, sage, and thyme over carrots, parsnips, squash, turnips, and onions that are slated to roast at about 400F for 45 minutes. This is the easiest fall and winter side dish. And nice enough for the holiday table.
Herbal Face Steam Try placing a few sprigs of sage or rosemary in a large bowl, fill with a quart of two of boiling water, and sit with your face above the bowl, a towel over your head. This is a great way to clean your pores, clear your sinuses and lift your spirits.
Herb Bouquets Leave herbs in a small vase with about an inch or two of water on your kitchen counter. They smell great, and will be a visual reminder to use your herbs. Do not let them linger and wither in the fridge, they deserve a seat at the table.