Guest post by Amanda Bullat MS RDN CD; 21 Acres Nutrition & Culinary Education Coordinator
What’s one of the simplest ways to add farm-fresh flavor to your meals? Add a few leaves or sprigs of your favorite seasonal herb. Herbs can be one of the easiest crops to grow, especially for those of us with limited growing space. If you have a window and you have a box that will hold dirt and a little water, you can have a thriving herb garden YEAR-ROUND in your windowsill.
In my private practice, Alpine Nutrition, as well as in the culinary classes at 21 Acres, I recommend using herbs in a variety of ways. Fresh herbs provide meals and snacks with delicious flavor without having to add more of the common flavor enhancers (aka sugar, fat, salt). By reducing the amount of salt and sugar in recipes, our bodies are more likely to maintain healthier blood pressure and blood sugar levels. In addition to vitamins and minerals that many plant foods provide, herbs also have volatile oils that lend antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits to our diets.
The recipes used in the 21 Acres culinary classes typically highlight herbs growing in the campus beds including: parsley, sage, chives, rosemary, mint, tarragon, basil, cilantro, thyme, borage, and sorrel. We use hardy herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and sage in making roasted root veggies or sustainably raised meats. We’ll toss softer herb leaves from parsley, mint, cilantro, basil, and chives into salads or herb pesto. Since the 21 Acres Kitchen doesn’t use lemons (haven’t figured out how to grown enough of those in WA yet!), we’ll often use sorrel as a citrus replacer for a tangy flavor in recipes.
Below is a delicious example of using fresh seasonal herbs is this recipe from Chef Michaela Skloven, one of the talented culinary instructors at 21 Acres.
Special note: Join 21 Acres at Get Squashed! on Saturday, September 23rd for a free, fun, family-friendly community open house. This is a culminating event for 21 Acres marking a year of activities and events celebrating an important milestone: We’ve been serving the community for more than five years as a nonprofit education center offering a full campus of engagement opportunities. More than fifteen years ago, we worked to secure the 21 acres as part of King County’s Agriculture Preservation Program. Now the property will be farmed for perpetuity. We hope that you consider the campus first and foremost when you’re looking for a special place to connect with agriculture and to find like-minded people who are committed to climate action.
Marinated Cucumber & Green Bean Salad with Fresh Herbs
- 1 1/2 pounds cucumbers
- 2 pounds green beans
- 1/2 Tbsp. honey
- 1 Tbsp. salt
- 2 Tbsps. white wine vinegar
- Grape seed oil
- 1 large or 2 medium spring onions or 1 bunch green onions including the white part close to the roots
- Fresh herbs including: mint, basil, tarragon, sumac
To make the beans: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with plenty of salt (salt like the sea!). Prepare an ice bath, and when the water boils, blanch the beans for 1- ½ minutes until just cooked through. Immediately plunge them into the ice water and allow to cool completely.
Break or cut the cucumbers into 1 inch irregularly shaped pieces and put them into a mixing bowl. Toss the cucumbers with the sugar and salt, then transfer them to a colander. Put the colander into the mixing bowl to allow the cucumber juice to drain into the bowl. Let the cucumbers sit for 20-30 minutes. In the meantime, thinly slice the onions and pick the herbs. Toss the cucumbers, beans, onions, and herbs with the oil and vinegar. Check the seasoning. Garnish with a sprinkling of sumac.
Amanda Bullat is a registered dietitian nutritionist with a master’s degree from Bastyr University and a background in intuitive eating, integrative nutrition, and sustainable food systems. You can find Amanda supporting clients through her private on-line nutrition counseling practice, Alpine Nutrition, and hosting culinary classes at 21 Acres, in Woodinville.