Saturday, May 19, 2007

And here's another good reason to garden!

From Joy of Cooking: About Herbs

"Confucius, a wise man, refused to eat anything not in season. Everyone who has tasted the difference between food served with fresh rather than dried herbs knows how wise he was. Few herbs can be bought in a fresh state at market, but the most important ones can be easily grown in a small sunny plot. We know, for we have grown and used all the culinaries in this section. Therefore, we beg you to exercise your green thumb at least on those whose evanescent oils deteriorate or almost disappear in drying. Chervil, borage, burnet and summer savory suffer the greatest losses. And those mainstays - chives, tarragon, parsley and basil - can never in their dry form begin to approach the quality of their fresh counterparts. Even the flavor of sage when fresh can be so delicate as to be almost unrecognizable."

A few comments from the Frog Logger:

1. Twenty-five hundred years later, thanks to the Slow Food activists and the growing awareness of the importance of local, seasonal eating, we are finally catching up to the wisdom of Confucius!

2. I am reading from the original Joy of Cooking, a copy so worn that the cover is gone and I can't find the copyright date. So the statement that few fresh herbs can be found at market is thankfully out of date. Modern shoppers now can choose from a world of fresh herbs at even the most rural supermarkets. Of course packaged herbs are often not so very fresh; you'll find your freshest, highest quality herbs at a farmer's market, or in your own back yard - which leads to #3.

3. I love reading Joy of Cooking, even if I have no intention of actually cooking! The writing often reflects an elegance of style that transcends the rather everyday setting of "a cookbook". How often do you find food writers who gently "beg you to exercise your green thumb at least on those whose evanescent oils deteriorate "in drying"? Such a cordial and sweetly compelling invitation to garden! And the use of "evanescent", one of the "most beautiful words in the English language" certainly adds to the charm of the sentence. Erma Rombauer, the beloved author of the original Joy of Cooking, wants us to grow and appreciate fresh herbs, and she tells us why most convincingly in the final two sentences.

4. We find that the most widely used herbs - chives, tarragon, parsley and basil - have no hope of ever approaching the "quality of their fresh counterparts". And so we start to wonder just what we have been missing. And the clincher comes, again gently but so deftly, as we are informed that sage, a rugged tasting herb generally relegated to Thanksgiving turkey stuffing, "when fresh can be so delicate as to be almost unrecognizable." I'm intrigued and convinced!

5. If you too are now determined to grow some fresh herbs for yourselves, come see us at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market. Growing seedlings for culinary herbs has been one of our passions for years. We have tons of varieties - perennial and annual, eight different varieties of basil, and lots of good ideas about how to use these flavorful little friends. Erma will be glad you did!


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