I’m harvesting the first baby greens from my garden, just to thin out the rows, and they are very tasty.
As well, I notice that some of the herbs are just about ready to harvest, before they begin to set buds and flower, while the leaves are tender and full of flavour.
This is the perfect time of the year for fresh thyme, oregano, chives, tarragon and parsley, so take the opportunity to snip fresh young herbs into all sorts of dishes, for every meal of the day.
If you plan to dry some for the winter, now is also the ideal time to harvest them, before their strength is sapped by production of flowers.
Oregano is actually more flavourful dried than fresh, and thyme is just as nice, as are rosemary and sage. Tarragon dries well too, but parsley and chives are better eaten fresh from the garden.
Some herbs, like basil, do best preserved in an oil bath and tarragon makes a delicious vinegar.
Mediterranean cooking requires lots of fresh herbs and garlic, tempered with lemon and wine, to give meat and even vegetables that distinctive fresh flavour.
The hot, dry summers of the Okanagan are ideal for growing your own Mediterranean herbs because the climate is so similar. Most don’t even require much supplemental water so they’re very drought-tolerant options to add to your garden. Thyme crawls over my rock wall, softening the hard edges of that garden, while the sage makes a lovely purple splash when it’s in bloom.
Herbs are beautiful as well as delicious, and we’re only just discovering some of their health benefits.
Learn about even more dishes that are enlivened with fresh herbs or make good use of other spring vegetables in my book, Jude’s Kitchen, available wherever books are sold, including Codfather’s Seafood Market in Kelowna, where you could pick up some great fresh fish and scallops as well.
Spud Salad with Herbs
Spuds make a good backdrop for lively flavours like bits of bacon and some fresh young herbs from your garden. This is perfect to take as your contribution to a pot luck supper or on a picnic with a cold chicken leg.
1 lb. (454 g) young potatoes
1/4 lb. (113 g) meaty bacon
4 green onions
1 garlic clove
3 tbsp. (45 ml) white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. (30 ml) olive oil
1 tsp. (5 ml) honey
salt and pepper, to taste
fresh thyme leaves
Scrub and dice young potatoes such as Warbas or red Pontiacs, steam or boil, and drain and set aside in a serving bowl. Don’t overcook. Beat dressing ingredients together. Before the potatoes cool, pour the dressing over them and gently stir until all the potatoes are covered.
Meanwhile, dice and cook the bacon, drain and set aside to cool.
Drain off the bacon fat remaining in the pan except for a drizzle and chop the green onions and add, cooking over medium heat for just a few minutes, until limp.
Mince the garlic and add, just before the onions are cooked. Add to potatoes and combine.
Mix in the crisp bacon dice and top with minced fresh herbs—your choice or a combination of several.
Seared Scallops & Micro Greens
This is quick and simple to cook, and makes excellent use of the thinnings from the lettuce row in the vegetable garden, plus it looks very elegant and tastes terrific.
It could be an appetizer with a single large scallop or a main meal with two or three and a little wild rice pilaf on the side. The Intrigue Winery 2012 Riesling was a good pairing with this, with its lively acidity, nicely balanced with fruit flavours.
6 sea scallops
coarse sea salt
freshy-ground black pepper
freshly-ground Szechwan peppercorns
2 tbsp. (30 ml) quartered hazelnuts
1 tbsp. (15 ml) balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. (15 ml) walnut oil
1 tbsp. (15 ml) olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. (30 ml) apricot preserves
Quarter hazelnuts and toast lightly in a frypan over medium-high heat for just a few minutes. Set aside to cool.
Prepare the rest of the topping in a little jug with a spout and when the nuts have cooled add them to it.
Rinse and dry the baby greens, using whatever’s available: different lettuces, Chinese greens such as bok choy or mustard greens, kale, herbs such as parsley or cilantro…
Smear serving plates with a spoonful of apricot preserves. I used one I made last summer from our apricots, with less sugar added, and the tartness was delicious with the sweet scallops.
Lightly season the scallops with salt, pepper and something spicy like a little ground Szechwan peppercorn.
Heat a cast iron frypan or other heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat and add a drizzle of grape seed oil and a pat of butter. When it’s good and hot, add the scallops, cooking them for a couple of minutes or until browned and caramelized before turning carefully with tongs to do the same on the other side. Spoon any extra melted butter over top as they finish cooking.
Arrange the scallops on the smear of preserves, re-combine the topping and pour a little drizzle of it over top. Arrange micro greens around the scallops on the plate.
Serves two for a meal; six as an appie.