Let's get some of that salt out of our diet. And while you're improving your health, give yourself a pat on the back for the good taste you've added.
When invited last week to give a talk to a group of ladies at Belfair Country Club, I could not have been more pleased when I learned that the subject was herbs. One of the joys of living in the Lowcountry is that we can grow herbs all year long. And I'm not meaning just a few, but rather a potpourri of herbs -- some of which you may be unfamiliar.
What fun it was knowing I could bring samples of those herbs to pass around. Anyone guessing the species would get a prize. I ruled out parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme as being too easy to identify. My passer-outer was Eleanor Fell, a member of the Hilton Head Island Herb Society -- and known as the grower and keeper of an original and beautiful garden.
One of the eight herbs was a no-brainer -- ginger. Only two other herbs were familiar to the group, and they received a prize of the good luck nut: the shiny buckeye from our buckeye tree.
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Would you be able to identify these useful, not so common herbs? They are: cardamom, stevia, lavender, marjoram, lemon balm, lemon verbena and turmeric. Bet I got you on turmeric.
Cardamom has an exotic image -- it is perhaps one of the lesser known and used species from the East. It is often used here in sweet breads and cakes. Stevia leaves, when dried, are used as a sugar substitute.
Lavender doesn't like the Southeastern hot and humid summers. If you can get it through July, you can probably count on it to live for several years. I grow it in a pot in the shade. You want the variety L dentata known as French lavender. Dry it and use it in potpourri or in the bath.
Marjoram is my favorite herb. It is known for its versatility. I use it in meat, vegetable and egg dishes.
Lemon balm's flavor makes it a candidate for the teapot, in drinks and in salads. Lemon verbena has a strong flavor and can be used as a substitute for lemons.
Turmeric is a spice-and-dye plant. It's used in bread and butter pickles and is an ingredient in curry powder and American-style mustard. It is considered a Southern herb and needs to be covered if a frost is anticipated.
Another herb that we didn't take to Belfair is mint. Easy to identify, mint has been maligned for its growth power. "Takes over," is the descriptive phrase often used. Grow in a pot or two, if there's someone in the house who is partial to minty drinks. When cooking, add chopped mint to vegetable dishes, rice bowls, fruit or vegetable salads, and soups. Mint is great with lamb dishes.
In my opinion, rosemary is heavy on smell and taste, sometimes masking the flavor of the dish that's being prepared. Rosemary does, however, come into its own in my house around the holiday season. It's wonderful with all fowl, from turkey to duck to Cornish hens. Place rosemary sprigs under the skin of the bird with slathers of butter, and place a few more branches in the roasting pan.
Sixty-year master gardener and environmentalist Betsy Jukofsky has spent three decades on Hilton Head Island learning the peculiarities of Coastal Lowcountry gardening.
- Goodbye, natives? Reason Xeriscape Garden on Hilton Head Island is so important
- Some lessons on the South's most well-known drink: tea
- Palms are our kind of trees