Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fall Flavors With Jami from Slocal

by Jas Faulkner

Many novice kitchen gardeners see the cooler months as a time to wind down the garden and subdue the flavor profiles that make summer so vivid.  Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.  Fall gardens offer a tremendous amount of satisfaction both in terms of the spiritual and psychological benefits that come from gardening and the healthy boost that comes from eating locally and with the seasons.

According to  Jami Anderson from Slocal Foods, the bright notes herbs can add to your Fall cooking:

Jami:  As we approach the cooler months, look for cilantro again as it bolts and goes quickly to seed during the summer heat. A second harvest of dill and fennel will also be available soon since any planted in the spring will have since run it's life span. Herbs with continuing availability until the cooler weather hits are basil, lemon balm, mint, oregano, parsley, purslane, sorrel, tarragon and thyme. These will die off for the winter but oregano, thyme, sage, winter savory & rosemary will keep going somewhat during the coldest months. 

Many fledgling gardeners and localtarians want to find ways to keep things growing all year long.  Sometimes even the owners of the prettiest raised beds on the block suffer from a secret shame known as Brown Thumb Syndrome.  Buried in their compost piles are the bodies of violets, orchids, and yes, even cacti  that they or someone else couldn't pass up.  With those dessicated bits of decay in mind, many forgo fresh herbs in the winter.  Should sufferers from BTS reconsider bringing plants inside for the colder months?  How hard is it to tend a kitchen garden in the kitchen?  

Jami:  Herbs will grow only a large as the container you plant them in so plan your pot size accordingly for the amount of each herb you wish to use regularly. Make sure you have a sunny window that gets at least 4-6 hours of sunlight daily, more is preferable. Our customers have had success growing basil, cilantro, dill, fennel, oregano and rosemary when they start with strong, well-established seedlings and don't under- or over-water them. If you are looking to use large amounts of these herbs for pestos & such, you may want consider growing them outside as a window garden usually yields only enough of an herb for accent and flavoring.

Of course this means that space is a big concern.  Never fear!  Herbs can be stored in a variety of ways.  Drying and freezing are two of the easiest methods:

Jami: One way to get that fresh taste once winter arrives is to freeze your fresh herbs and thaw when needed. Wash, pat dry and freeze in freezer bags. They won't be the same texture or color once they thaw but the flavor will be there. You can also suspend them in olive oil and freeze in ice cube trays. This preserves the structure of the herb a little better and cuts down on some of the color change.

You can dry any herb you wish by either spreading it out on a mat, hanging it upside down out of direct sunlight, or drying it in a dehydrator or oven set to a very low temperature. To decrease the chance of mold, strip the leaves from the stems and discard the stems unless you are hanging the herb to dry. Herbs that taste better by freezing are basil and chives although you can freeze most other herbs as well. Experimentation is the key for determining which method you like best for your taste preferences.

Flavor and texture combinations between Summer and Fall are distinctive.  While canning and freezing are a great way to cut food costs once the days get shorter, it's still a good idea to incorporate seasonal produce into the household menu.  How to apply all of this?  Anderson shares some of her favorite combinations and applications:

Jami: Garlic dill pickles - hands down, my favorite! One of our customers gave us a jar of peach preserves she made by adding some of our lemon verbena leaves during the canning process - exceedingly tasty! Russell teaches a canning class twice a year which has been a great laboratory for recipes he is developing and he is working on a pickle relish recipe right now and I'm working on the perfect pickled egg. All customers get a free recipe with any herb purchase at our booth which features the herb in various dishes, both fresh and preserved, and the combinations are endless. 

The ENFM runs through the end of October.  Does that mean Jami and Russell go on an extended vacation?  Not by a long shoot of cilantro!

Jami: We have a website at where we post herbs and other produce we currently have available. Customers can email us from the site to request herbs and we'll hold them back separately at the booth on Wednesdays (we sell out of some herbs every week so this is a wise thing to do.) Customers can also request large quantities needed for catering, parties, etc. This service is available year-round and customers can either pick up what they want at our local garden in east Nashville or we will deliver large herb orders placed during the non-market months (November - April.)

Look for our fresh, organic and locally-grown herbs at the ENFM Slocal booth along with the herbal tea we brew fresh every week. Herbs are sold by the stem AND by the bunch now!  For more information on Slocal Foods, visit their website at or call  615-480-5347.

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