Herbs and My Garden

Basil Pesto

During the winter months I appreciate my homemade Basil Pesto.    Each Spring, I plant eight to ten Genovese Basil plants.  (also known as sweet basil)   This is an annual plant and grows quickly in Northeast Ohio.  I usually get two crops if I leave 2-4 leaves of growth at the plant base when harvesting the first time.    Depending on the weather, I usually harvest late July and late September.  

There are many varieties of Basil:  Purple, Greek, Cinnamon, Lemon,  Thai.   But for my taste, Sweet Basil works best for pesto making and adding fresh to salads, and homemade pizza with mozzarella and ripe tomatoes.    Basil is a member of the renowned mint family, which, when used in cooking, stimulates digestion and is a beneficial antioxidant.  



  • 3 Cups Fresh Basil Leaves 
  • 1 1/2 cups Chopped Walnuts
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, peeled
  • 1 Cup Olive Oil 
  • 1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese (optional) 
  • Can salt and pepper to taste.    
  • Directions:    Use a Food Processor and place the ingredients in order of:  garlic cloves, walnuts.   Process 10 seconds.   Add 1/2 cup Olive Oil, process 10 seconds.   Add rest of Olive Oil and Parmesan Cheese.   Process 15-20 seconds.    Check the texture of pesto, it should be a moist paste.   Add Olive Oil if needed.    
  • Store in small 4 oz mason jars or freeze in ice cube tray.    The jar pesto is good for a few days; that's why I usually freeze the pesto so the portions are similar (about 2 Tbsps.) and last for months in the freezer.     Wrap the ice cube tray in plastic wrap.   

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How my garden did 2016

This summer I started a garden at my community garden center.   I live in a community when a portion of the property is set aside for gardening, including an area for organic gardening.   I have a plot 20'x10' and put in 4 garden plot beds.  Or I should say, my husband did - Thank you George.  

I tried to grow tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, green peppers, cucumbers, bok choy, butter lettuce, red skin potatoes and kale.    I had wonderful results from yellow squash, green peppers, cucumbers, butter lettuce and kale.   My tomato crop could of been better, but in August when my tomato plants really needed me, I was off on a 2 week vacation.   Wow, did I come home to a mess.  I ended up juicing my remaining tomatoes and freezing them for another day.   The yield on potatoes was about 8 but they did taste good.  The bugs feasted on the bok choy, it was ugly.  And the zucchini never really grew.  

So next Spring my plan will be to repeat my successes:  Tomatoes (hybrids next time), yellow squash, green peppers, cucumbers, butter lettuce and kale.  I will be adding a bed of flowers next year - Zinnias and a Monarch Butterfly Mix.  I love cutting these bright flowers in the August-October months.   

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My 2016 Garden

My 2016 Garden is growing nicely this year.   The lettuces are ready to be harvested and there are about a dozen tomatoes started.   I have two green pepper plants and each one has one pepper.   I also have a friendly leopard frog who has decided to live under the walking boards between the garden beds.    To my utter surprise the potatoes are growing.    I bought the seeding potatoes in April and kind of forgot about them for a month.   This would of been okay, but I left them on my front porch planters where the hot afternoon sun shines.   The little potatoes looked pretty wrinkled, but a planted them always.   TO MY GREAT SURPRISE, the potatoes are growing like weeds. 





Early Summer Oregano

How fragrant new oregano can be in the early summer weeks.   The time to harvest is when the herb has not started to flower and the leaves are soft and supple.   My Mom helped me strip the oregano leaves and the leaves were spread out in a pan to dry.   I always place a towel over the pan and stir the leaves up a bit every other day.   The oregano dries in about 10 days.   I crush up the leaves with my hands or if I have lots to process, throw into a food processor for about 5 pulse turns.   If you want your oregano to be finely chopped, use a food processor to get the finer chopped texture you want to cook with.   



My first garden in 9 years

It took a few years, but I managed to get back to gardening.   I live in a community called Greenwood Village and they have a community garden.   You can yearly rent garden plots 10'x10'.  It is all fenced in and shared by many other gardeners.  So I'm making new friends and planting vegetables.   I'm not sure how well it will all turn out, but golly, I love it!   This season I've planted:  2 types of lettuce, kale, cucumbers, green peppers, tomatoes, and 3 zucchini plants.   These plants need a lot of water and sunshine and the garden community has both.   






French Tarragon

Last fall I purchased French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) from the Western Reserve Herb Society Fair.   The fair is held the 2nd Saturday in October.   I had wanted to add Tarragon to my herb garden, however, the plant did not look too good.   I was assured by the Herb Society Member that the Tarragon would grow again in early Spring and instructed NOT TO CUT THE STEMS - - PLANT IT AS IT WAS.   Well, she was totally correct.   This early Spring the tarragon is growing and looking good!    


The picture is shared by the chamomile plant on the right.

I plan to use the Tarragon in food preparation and to make Tarragon Herb Vinegar.    I can take it to a local food swap and use the vinegar in a salad dressing.

  Herbed Vinaigrette Dressing 

  • 1/3 Cup Tarragon Vinegar
  • 1/3 Cup Olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp Basil leaves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • Directions:   In jar with tight-fitting lid, combine all dressing ingredients; shake well.   Cover; refrigerate to blend flavors.  Yield:  2/3 cup


Thyme on my roast beef

The other day, I baked a Mustard and Herb-Rubbed Beef with Winter Vegetables and it turned out delicious.   The December weather in Ohio is not too cold yet, temperatures are in the 40's, but turning on the oven to cook beef and vegetables makes the house feel warm.  

The reason why I picked this recipe was to use two herbs from my herb garden:   thyme and garlic.   I always double the sauce on all my recipes.    Doubling the sauce is advice my dear mother-in-law Peg shared with me and it is a cherish memory from her.   

I followed the time directions of 90 minutes at 350*F. but it could also be done in 80 minutes.   The recipe is based on a 2 lb. roast, but I cooked a 3 1/2 lb. roast and it turned out great.   



  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 (2 lb.) boneless eye-round roast, trimmed
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 2 pounds small Yukon Gold Potatoes, scrubbed and halved
  • 1 pound carrots, cut on diagonal into 2-inch lengths
  • 1 pound parsnips, cut on diagonal into 2-inch lengths
  • 1 onion, cut into wedges 

Prep: 25 minutes     Roast: 1 hr 30 min     Serves 8

  1. Preheat oven to 450*F.  Spray very large roasting pan with non-stick spray
  2. Stir together thyme, garlic, mustard, oil and pepper in small bowl.   Place  beef roast in prepared roasting pan.   Rub half of herb mixture on top and sides of beef. 
  3. Stir water into remaining herb mixture until blended.   Combine potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and onion in large bowl. Add herb mixture and toss to coat evenly. Scatter vegetables around meat.
  4. Put roast in oven and reduce temperature to 350*F.  Roast, stirring begetables occasionlly, until vegetables are tender and instant-read thermometer inserted into center of roast registers 145*F for medium, about 1 hour, 30 minutes. Transfer roast to cutting board: let stand 10 minutes. Thinly slice across grain into 24 slices. 

With the herbs, vegetable and beef drippings, I made some brown gravy.   Wow, was it the perfect touch!  


Donna J. Payerle    DJ Cards and More  


Fall and Spring are busy herb times.   Not that Summer is a lazy time especially when the chamomile is blooming, but Fall herbing offers it's last fragrance and favors for the season.   My fall herb garden yield shared parsley, thyme, rosemary, stevia and sage.  

The drying methods used were simple:

  • cut and trim* 
  • rinse with water and dry with kitchen or paper towel
  • place in clean dish; glass, metal, plastic or wood
  • cover with a kitchen towel
  • check daily or every other day and stir herbs to dry them evenly
  • when dry; if needed, crush or finely chop 
  • store in glass jars; label 
  • *some herbs stay on the branch, some are removed from branch 

Parsley - one of my most favorite herbs.   It is so easy to dry, store and cook with.   I grow flat leaf parsley.  I remove the leafs from the stalks.   See the picture below with several trays ready to dry.   This will take 10-15 days to dry.  When dry, I crush it and place in glass jars.   I fill several jars and use them for 'bread & butter' gifts, to cook with, or just share my friends and family.  


Sage - Harvesting sage in the spring gives you a mild, warm flavor and harvesting sage in the fall gives a strong tannin flavor.  (The smell reminds me of Vicks Vapor Rub.) Since I harvest sage in the spring and fall, I mix the spring with the fall to reduce the tannin flavor.   I use sage with Chili dishes and with Pork dishes. 

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Stevia - This is a new herb for me.   If you've ever tasted Stevia, you know it is extremely sweet.   A natural, no calories, sweetener.   After the leaves dry, I plan to grind the leaves and use as a sweetener in tea.   I've read that grinding the leaves allows the strong sweetest to be enjoyed.     

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Donna J. Payerle   DJ Cards and More 




Last summer I planted a little Fennel seeding and it grew a little and had a lovely licorice favor.   I did not know much about it and mostly overlooked it last year.   Well it was not to be overlooked this year!   The fennel grew back and by mid-June was over 6 feet tall.  This fierce growth was intimidating so it caused me to learn more about it.  The fennel type is Foeniculum vulgare; which have feather like leafs which have a sweet aniseed favor.   



It filled up with yellow flowers which the yellow-jackets and wasps enjoyed very much.  


From what I have read, this type of fennel does not produce a bulb for cooking.   The cooking bulb is from the Florence Fennel.    I'm in the process of trimming the seeded flowers as they grow yellow and light brown for food seasoning.  (I do not want hundreds of fennel plants in my lawn and neighbors' next year!)  When I'm finished gathering the seeds, I'm going to dig down and see what the fennel bulb looks like.   If I learn that it cannot be used in cooking, I might just place it back in the ground and see what happens next Spring.  

IMG_1880     IMG_1881    The cut fennel seeds are placed in a brown bag to hold them while they finish drying.  With a little bit of careful luck, I should have lots of seeds and share some as gifts this fall.   

IMG_1894    Fresh fennel can be sprinkled on fresh fruit and honey to enhance the favor.   I'm also adding it to salad greens to kick up the salad just a little.   The quantity used should never overwhelm the food, but help a guest enjoy it more.   

August 28, 2015  DJ Cards and More



Chamomile - It's Blooming

During late Spring and early Summer in northeast Ohio, the Chamomile blooms.   This is a fast growing annual herb and brightens a herb garden with it's sunny smile.   The time to pick Chamomile is when the flower is blooming.  Just break off the blooms, spread it in a glass or plastic container and cover with a light-weight cloth.   The fragrant herb is used for teas and is well known for it's calming effect and relief from insomnia.  

In the summer I make sun tea.  And sometimes I add a few mint leaves.   After a day in the sun, I strain the herbs out and place the tea in the refrigerator to cool.   Very refreshing iced tea.