Bouquet garni

IMG_9318A bouquet garni is a bundle or sachet of herbs that you assemble and add to something you’re boiling or stewing for a prolonged period of time like a soup, stock, or stew. The bundling or sachet allows you to remove the herbs quickly and easily once what you’re making has enough flavour – not unlike a tea bag. French stocks in particular strive to be crystal clear, and so the bouquet garni is key in helping to achieve this.

Ingredients:

What you include in a bouquet garni will depend on what you’re making, but generally, thyme and bay leaves are used as a base. Other herbs that can be added or asked for in a recipe include:

  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Tarrgon

Some recipes also ask for certain vegetables like carrots, celery, and onions to also be included in the bouquet garni. For those recipes, it’s better to use a sachet method as the vegetables can break down over the course of cooking. Some also wrap everything up inside a few layers of leeks that have been halved lengthwise and tie it together.

Preparation:

Assembling a bouquet is very easy. There are two main methods:

1) Stack and bundle your herbs together and tie it tightly together with a string

2) Place them into a tea bag or cheese cloth and tie that tight with a string

Voilà, You’re ready to go!

Garlic scapes

It’s summer, and a great season for garlic scapes. Garlic scapes, also called green garlic, are the flowering tops of “hard-neck” garlic (the Rocombole variety of garlic, in case you’re interested). They don’t flower, but end up forming smaller bulbils that will grow more garlic, if you plant them. A lot of gardeners cut them off though, because the stalks keep the garlic from growing larger, plumper bulbs – the part we’re most familiar with eating – and take several years to really get to the point of a large enough bulb to eat. Lucky for us though, because they’re delicious.

Depending on how long they’ve been left on the stalk, garlic scapes can be very tender (if cut early) or a little harder and stronger in flavour (if cut later). You know how long the stalks were left on the garlic by how curly they are. The curlier they are, the longer they were left on the stalk.

The taste is still very garlicky, but slightly “greener” in flavour. A delicious addition to soups, salads, pasta, risotto, and basically anything you’d normally put garlic or scallions in.

You are most likely to find scapes from a local grower or grocer that carries local seasonal produce. They also last in the fridge for a long time and a little goes a long way.

June edibles

Basil sprouts

For many small space dwellers, the idea of a garden is a sad, lofty idea. I succumbed to the magic of the plant world when I grew my first bean plant in the third grade. A little cliché? Perhaps. But there’s something oddly gratifying about seeing a delicate stem slowly poke its head through the soil after weeks of anticipation.

This was no exception when I decided to grow basil and pansies from seed. All it took was a growing kit to call my name and determination was reignited in me to start some summer edibles. The hard part was, of course, the growing part. I had cared for an orchid for several years, but that had come ready-to-go with full blooms from the garden centre. The kit instructions were simple enough and straightforward, but I had questions. What is germination? Do the seeds need light or darkness to germinate? Sprinkle the seeds across the top or mark off rows? Suddenly, I had made growing very complicated. I finally decided on a mixed method. By and large, I followed the kit instructions guided by the swirl of gardening research that was swimming in my head.

I’m proud (and relieved!) to announce, that despite my misgivings, both the basil (picture above) and pansy seeds have sprouted. With a bit of luck, I may be able to harvest some leaves and blooms in another 6-8 weeks. Here’s to the beginnings of a small space “garden”!