As spring approaches I prepare to perfect my herb garden planting as many perennial culinary herbs as I can fit into corners of my flower garden or containers placed in empty spots so my thoughts turned to the old fashioned kitchen gardens. The following is one woman’s ideas on using her herbs to prepare an entire dinner. In addition to those discussed in the quote, the author also discussed growing and using tansy, marjoram, basil, balm, rosemary, clary, lavender, dill, fennel, angelica, anise, caraway, coriander, chervil, cumin, horehound, lovage, marigold, samphire, borage, rue, and winter savory.
“To prepare a dinner of herbs in its best estate you should have a bed of seasonings such as our grandmothers had in their gardens, rows of sage, of spicy mint, sweet marjoram, summer savory, fragrant thyme, tarragon, chives, and parsley. To these we may add, if we take herbs in the Scriptural sense, nasturtium, and that toothsome esculent, the onion, as well as lettuce. If you wish a dinner of herbs and have not the fresh, the dried will serve, but parsley and mint you can get at most times in the markets, or in country gardens, where they often grow wild.
Do you know, my sister housewife, that if you were to have a barrel sawed in half, filled with good soil, some holes made in the side and then placed the prepared half barrel in the sun, you could have an herb garden of your own the year through, even if you live in a city flat? In the holes at the sides you can plant parsley, and it will grow to cover the barrel, so that you have a bank of green to look upon. On the top of the half barrel plant your mint, sage, thyme, and tarragon. Thyme is so pleasing a plant in appearance and fragrance that you may acceptably give it a place among those you have in your window for ornament.
The Belgians make a parsley soup that might begin your dinner, or rather your luncheon. For the soup, thicken flour and butter together as for drawn butter sauce, and when properly cooked thin to soup consistency with milk. Flavor with onion juice, salt and pepper. Just before serving add enough parsley cut in tiny bits to color the soup green. Serve croutons with this.
For the next course choose an omelette with fine herbs. . .added to it minced thyme, tarragon and chives. . .
Instead of an omelette you may have eggs stuffed with fine herbs and served in cream sauce. Cut hard-boiled eggs in half the long way and remove the yolks. Mash and season these, adding the herbs, as finely minced as possible. Shape again like yolks and return to the whites. Cover with a hot cream sauce and serve before it cools. Both of these dishes may be garnished with shredded parsley over the top.
With this serve a dish of potatoes scalloped with onion. Prepare by placing in alternate layers the two vegetables; season well with salt, pepper, and butter, and then add milk even with the top layer. This dish is quite hearty and makes a good supper dish of itself.
Of course you will not have a meal of this kind without salad. For this try a mixture of nasturtium leaves and blossoms, tarragon, chives, mint, thyme and the small leaves of the lettuce, adding any other green leaves to the spicy kind which you find to taste good. Then dress these with a simple oil and vinegar dressing, omitting sugar, mustard or any such flavoring, for there is spice enough in the leaves themselves.
Pass with these, if you will, sandwiches made with lettuce or nasturtium dressed with mayonnaise. You may make quite a different thing of them by adding minced chives or tarragon, or thyme, to the mayonnaise. . .
Whether this ‘dinner of herbs’ appeals to the reader or not, I venture to say that no housewife who has ever stuffed a Thanksgiving turkey, a Christmas goose or ducks or chickens with home-grown home-prepared herbs, either fresh or dried, will ever after be willing to buy the paper packages or tin cans of semi-inodorous, prehistoric dust which masquerades equally well as ‘fresh’ sage, summer savory, thyme or something else. . .”.
Blissful meals and Joyful Gardening!©
Source: Kains, Maurice Grenville. “Culinary Herbs”. New York. 1920.