Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Kitchen Gardener Cook

First the Holiday Happenings:



Everywhere ones looks at both of the Homestead Gardens stores is holiday magic. Many of us just go there to feel part of the festivities, immersed in the spirit of celebration and joy we can feel a sense of wonder. It's best to take time and wander through all of the vignettes, nooks and crannies. The holiday festivities begin formation right around September although the specially hand-painted European ornaments have been ordered well in advance.



When I saw this article in Organic Gardening I found it to be a stellar idea to pass along for holiday gift giving. You'll see it below and learn that those herbs can keep going inside. Individual herb plants and herb container gardens are available year 'round at Homestead Gardens. I would be thrilled if I received a lively fresh herb plant bundled in festive packaging. So here are the green guys which fare best inside. A nicely packaged fresh herb along with a special recipe for its use pulls it all together.

10 Herbs to Keep Inside for the Winter

10 Best Herbs for Indoors
You can grow herbs indoors this winter and add that just-picked taste to your meals, even when snow is drifting up against the kitchen window. You don't even need special lights—herbs fare just fine in a bright window.
Here are the best herbs for growing on windowsills and the smart techniques you need to keep them happy and healthy until you can plant outside again.

Start basil from seeds and place the pots in a south-facing window—it likes lots of sun and warmth.

A perennial that grows well in containers all year long. Place the pot in an east, or west, facing window, but be sure it does not get crowded—bay needs air circulation to remain healthy.

Dig up a clump from your garden at the end of the growing season and pot it up. Leave the pot outside until the leaves die back.
In early winter, move the pot to your coolest indoor spot (such as a basement) for a few days, then finally to your brightest window.

Your best bet is to start with a tip cutting from an outdoor plant. Place the pot in a south-facing window.

You can start this herb from seeds or dig up a clump from your garden at the end of the season.
Parsley likes full sun, but will grow slowly in an east, or west, facing window.




It grows best in a south-facing window.
Start with a cutting of rosemary, and keep it in moist soilless mix until it roots.

Take a tip cutting from an outdoor plant to start an indoor sage.
It tolerates dry, indoor air well, but it needs the strong sun it will get in a south-facing window.

A dormant period in late fall or early winter is essential for tarragon to grow indoors.
Pot up a mature plant from your outdoor garden and leave it outside until the leaves die back.
Bring it to your coolest indoor spot for a few days, then place it in a south-facing window for as much sun as possible.
Feed well with an organic liquid fertilizer.

You can start thyme indoors either by rooting a soft tip cutting or by digging up and potting an outdoor plant.
Thyme likes full sun but will grow in an east, or west, facing window.

Cannellini, Carrot and Fennel Soup

Serves 6
Soups are some of the best dishes for those inside herbs. Rosemary was used here but exchange it for your favorite. Of course, bay leaf and parsley fit in all of the recipes. This is the kind of soup you make to use up many of the vegetables from the holiday--Did you notice the sweet potatoes? Certainly the fresh herbs you are growing inside should find their way into this recipe. It’s thick, slightly sweet from the veggies and soul warming. You may want to dust it with shreds of Parmesan cheese as you serve it.

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium bulb fennel, trimmed fronds reserved, thinly sliced
4 medium carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced (if desired)
8 cups vegetable broth
2 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
1 14 oz can Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 large cloves garlic, minced

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the fennel and cook for 3-4 minutes, until soft. Stir in the carrots, celery and parsnips and cook another 10 minutes and then add the broth. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the carrots are very tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the mashed sweet potatoes, beans, rosemary, garlic and heat until all are warm. Taste and then add salt and pepper.

Serve topped with Parmesan, if desired.

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