Fresh herbs are one of life’s great pleasures, with the variety of flavors, textures and scents they offer both in the garden and on our plate. I recently taught a class for the Herb Society of America’s local Chattahoochee Herb Guild chapter, and they chose the topic of Herbal Drinks and Snacks. Making up Snacks from the Herb Garden sounded like lots of fun!
We started with Herbal Drinks. I used many of my favorite Shrubs and Syrups as drink concentrates and served them over these beautiful Floral Ice Cubes. The only real ‘trick’ for making these is to use water that has sat still for a while so that it doesn’t form bubbles that would make the ice cubes cloudy. We used borage flowers, nasturtium petals, viola and pineapple sage blossoms for a colorful ‘water garden’ effect!
I have never used pineapple sage as an herb before, so I steeped some of the fruity, fragrant leaves in some concentrated apple juice to serve alongside my other syrups and shrubs. We made a Blackberry and Lemon Balm Shrub during the class which was a big hit with everyone as well!
Snacks From the Herb Garden
When I first started researching this class, I came up with a long list of possible herbal snacks. I like to incorporate as much food history as possible when I’m developing menus, an that helped a great deal in developing my list for this one! We started with Victorian Tea Party snacks, with white bread finger sandwiches spread with butter, slices of Persian Cucumber and crunchy fresh Watercress. I also served sliced melon with a chiffonade of fresh basil and mint for a light and refreshing starter.
Among the other recipes that we tasted were some favorites I’ve already posted here like Tart of Spring Greens and Hogmanay Seed Cake. We made “Party Pic-A-Unes” which is an herb-flavored Chex Mix recipe from the mid-20th century that featured Old Bay Seasoning Mix, and we made interesting popcorn flavors including Rosemary, Garlic and Parmesan and Cardamom, Cinnamon and Salted Sugar. We made a pesto using fresh Sorrel leaves and fresh Dill that was delicious, especially served alongside some slices of Manchego cheese and Asian pear.
One of my favorite seasoning blends to make up is my Dilly Dip. I keep a jar of it on my herb shelf and sprinkle it into scrambled eggs, on top of fish, or mix with a blend of sour cream and mayo to create a fast and delicious dip for crudite.
This is a great all-purpose herb blend that adds flavor to a variety of springtime dishes. It makes a great dip flavoring, is lovely sprinkled over fresh broccoli just before steaming it, goes great in eggs or on top of fish. If you are avoiding salt, omit it and increase the garlic and onion powder just a bit. The dried dill weed and parsley should be bright green and fragrant.
3 tbsp. dill weed, dried
3 tbsp. parsley flakes, dried
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. dried onion flakes
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
Mix and keep in an airtight jar. Shake the jar to evenly mix the ingredients immediately before using. Add 1/2 -1 tsp to a couple of scrambled eggs, sprinkle a teaspoon over a piece of fish, or use approximately 2 tablespoons of dilly dip mix to 2 cups of sour cream/mayo mixture (or straight mayo, or yogurt, or even blended tofu!)
Epityrum – Chopped Olive Relish
This ancient Roman relish is a beautiful marriage of fresh herbs and what we might think of as an olive tapanade. The use of a whole fresh fennel bulb gives the spread a lighter taste than one made primarily of olives, and the other herbs give a fantastic fresh depth of flavor. We don’t use rue anymore because it can have some serious health side-effects, but you won’t know it isn’t there with all of the other intense flavors going on! This is great as a small smear on top of cheese, vegetables or bread.
Here is the original from “Cato the Censor, On Agriculture 119” (2nd Cent. BCE)
“How to make green, black or mixed olive relish:
Remove stones from green, black or mixed olives, then prepare as follows: chop them and add oil, vinegar, coriander, cumin, fennel, rue, mint.
Pot them: the oil should cover them. Ready to use.”
2 lb pitted mixed black kalamata and green Manzanilla olives, well drained (or other olive mixture of your choice)
1 – 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 whole fennel bulb, cored and roughly chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh fennel Leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaved Italian parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 tbsp. coriander seeds, ground
- Chop herbs coarsely.
- Grind coriander seeds.
- Mix olives, herbs and seeds with vinegar in a large mortar and pestle or a food processor.
- Drizzle in the olive oil and blend until the mixture smooths to a spreadable consistency.
- It ages well in the refrigerator and is better after at least a day to rest, but it is also delicious and ready-to-eat as soon as you make it!
Many thanks to Chris and Isia at Crack in the Sidewalk Farmlet for having such great herbs and flowers to work with, Geri Laufer for the inspiration and some of the ice cubes, Chef Cheryl Delish for the fantastic pictures, and as always, Cook’s Warehouse for having fantastic facilities to hold fun culinary learning events!