Herb Gardening

By Caryl Clem:

Learning to cook in the 1950’s provided little exposure to the sensation of fresh herbs to flavor your food dishes. Collectible today are the orange and green tins from A&P storing cinnamon, sage, marjoram and all the common spices of that era. My eternal gratitude to the Italian chef in the 1960’s who introduced me to fresh basil, garlic, rosemary and oregano at the neighborhood store. After eating the meal we prepared, my mind set about spices shifted, now I was suspicious of any that came in a can or jar.

Fresh herbs you just picked have unbelievable flavor with health benefits.  Many herbs contain immune fighting vitamins and heart healthy antioxidants. If you love a variety of flowers blooming through the summer in your yard, consider herbal beds. Purple ruffle basil has deep purple/ red leaves. Basil comes in over 8 types, ranging in flavors of licorice, anise, and citrus with a peppery bite. Another Mediterranean favorite, purslane has yellow flowers with a piquant lemony flavor. Borage has dazzling blue flowers with a cucumber flavor. Perilla used in Korea, Japan, and Vietnam has a cinnamon edge with a cumin/citrus bite. Mrytle has orange blossom flavor leaves. Chives have purple button top flowers. The array of different leaves and blooms is attractive many naturally attract bees and birds. Herbs are thoroughly explained in “Herbs and Spices, the Cooks Reference” by Jill Norman.Culinary opportunity herbs offer include plant origin, flavors, growing conditions, decorative appeal describing blooming, with recipe advice.

Traditional favorites found in stores around the Chicago area are rosemary, basil, sage, parsley, dill, cilantro, mint, oregano, marjoram, and thyme.  All of these herbs except cilantro and mint love well drained soil and sun. Mint is an aggressive plant; I have it in its own territory by a window well. Cilantro does better in the shade. To keep a supply of cilantro all summer, keep planting seeds every 2-3 weeks. If you use cilantro often, try Rau Ram from Asia with a citrus more peppery bite. Marjoram is like a baby sister to oregano, same family but its flavor weakens the longer it is cooked. Another partial shade herb is Angelica from Russia and Scandinavia with yellow flowers, popular to use with fish described as a juniper, anise, and celery mix. A book recommended in an article on gardening in Chicago by the Chicago Tribune referenced, “Homegrown Herb Garden, A guide to Growing and Culinary Use”by Lisa Baker Morgan and Amy McCormick.

Warmer days ahead should include growing fresh herbs for your kitchen. When temperatures will average 60 degrees or higher during the day and no lower than 45 degrees at night, your herbs will flourish. Herbs are resilient requiring little maintenance. You can have it all, colorful beauty, flavor and healthy cuisine in your own yard.  Enjoy your inside/out herbal spice shelf.

Exploring Native American cuisine

Caryl Clem:

Authentic Native American cooking varies from region to region, recipes adapted to what the surrounding environment supplied.  Traditional cooking consists of four phases since the Native Americans were forced from original homelands under the Dawes Act as groups escaped government control forming new communities in new territories. Historically cooking techniques and methods fall into the pre-contact era before men from Europe were exploring, first contact with settlements, after Indian Removal’s “Trail of Tears” mid-1800’s reservations given rationed food, lastly emergence of Native American owned restaurants featuring indigenous dishes during the last 25 years.

The top chefs from 566 recognized tribes are publishing cookbooks, opening catering businesses, food trucks and restaurants. Red Mesa Cuisine, operated by Kiowa Nation, offers recipes from all generation.  Travel from the past and back at your own dining table. Mouthwatering choices include plank broiled smoked salmon or bison, marinated bison served with Cajun style sauces, Succotash,  blueberry cornmeal mush, wild berry glaze, acorn bread, and fry bread. During the forced containment of the Navajo at Bosque Redondo during 1864-68, the Native Americans created a food staple from the rationed flour known as Fry Bread. Starting as a humble food stretcher to accompany every meal, its popularity spread from coast to coast. Now Fry Bread rivals the lasagna, potatoes, noodles, or rice to earn a place of honor during any culinary feast.

If you are a road warrior blazing asphalt trails, famous Native American cuisine can be found in Albuquerque NM,  Seattle WA,  Denver CO,  Colorado Springs CO,  Santa Fe NM, Minneapolis MN,  Phoenix  AZ ,  Geyersville California, Washington D.C. to name a few. The oldest cooks in America are the new “in” must have taste. Stopping to dine ranges from a Smithsonian museum buffet style restaurant or luxurious hotel while savoring the “harvest”.  For the hands on, do it yourself readers, the following cookbooks were on multiple cites as favorites by the cookbook buying consumers. Bon Appetite!!

THE SIOUX CHEF’S INDIGENOUS KITCHEN BY SEAN SHERMAN AND BETH DOOLEY

THE MITSITAM CAFE COOKBOOK BY RICHARD HETZLER

 MODERN NATIVE FEASTS: HEALTHY, INNOVATIVE, SUSTAINABLE CUISINE BY ANDREW GEORGE JR.

 WHERE PEOPLE FEAST: AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’S COOKBOOK BY DOLLY WATTS AND ANNIE WATTS

ORIGINAL LOCALINDIGENOUS FOODS, STORIES, AND RECIPES FROM THE UPPER MIDWEST BY HEID E. ERDRICH