The most rewarding feeling, while selling herbs, fruits and vegetables at NYC farmers’ markets, is when a customer walks away excited about a their purchase, especially if it’s something they have never tried before.
But before this happy end result, a quick Q & A between the customer and me typically unfolds.
It goes something like this:
EXT. Grand Army Plaza, Park Slope Brooklyn—under the tent of an organic farm stand.
Customer: Inquisitive but confused, “What is this?”
Me: Wearing cutoffs, t-shirt, Converse and a money belt, “It’s Anise Hyssop!”
Customer: “Oh. How should I use this?!?”
As savvy as the typical farmers’ market consumer is, the lesser-known herbs like anise hyssop, lemon balm or marjoram, leave many a consumer befuddled.
So, I have compiled my answers below.
Here Are Six Awesome Ways to Use Herbs:
1. Make Sun Tea:
Get creative—pair herbs like, lemon balm with mint, or sage with anise hyssop.
Recipe: Rinse off herbs and place in a large container. Fill it up with water, place the lid on top and set it out in the sun for an afternoon (the longer you leave it out the stronger it will be). Pour over ice and enjoy! Keep fresh in the refrigerator.
Catnip is not just for cats! Nepetalactone, the chemical that attracts cats, actually repels mosquitoes and flies.
Recipe: Take 2 cups catnip and one cup of rosemary—cut into strips. Gently massage the herbs just enough to release the oils and place in a two-quart jar. Pour in 2 cups of oil (almond, coconut). Place lid on top and store in a cool, dark area for one to two weeks. Give the jar a gentle shake every day. When you are ready to use, strain the oil and place into a clean jar. To use, rub into skin. Keep fresh in the refrigerator up to six months.
3. Make Compound Butter:
This is a great way to use herbs that you have a lot of before they go bad. You can create some fun combos like, lavender/ginger, or ginger/chive. Try a savory mix like marjoram/basil/thyme or rosemary/sage.
Recipe: Take a stick of butter and set in a dish at room temperature. Once it has melted, squish is up with a fork. Now add your herbs and mix. Take out a piece of wax paper and place butter mix in the center. Bring one side of the wax paper over the butter and then roll the butter mix into a cylinder shape. Close off the ends with rubber bands or twist-ties. (It will look like a piece of hard candy.) Spread it on bread, use in a stir-fry, or place a pat on top of steak, salmon, or baked potatoes—anywhere you would use normal butter. Keep it in the freezer for long-term storage.
4. Make Pesto.
Have you ever noticed how much you get in a bunch of herbs? A lot! Making pesto is great when you have a lot of herbs, especially basil, parsley or cilantro.
Recipe: In a blender or food processor, place 3-4 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds, one to two gloves of garlic and blend/process for 10 seconds. Add in 2-3 cups of herbs, one-quarter cup of high quality olive oil, and three-quarters of a cup grated of parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste and blend/process until it is a thick sauce. If it is too thick, add more oil. If it is too thin, add more cheese. Serve on baguette slices, mix in with hummus, or on pasta. Keep fresh in the refrigerator.
Pair herbs, like chamomile and sage or lavender and sage. Mix in savory, it will cut the sweetness a bit.
Recipe: Place a handful of herbs into a pint jar and add honey until it is almost full. Place the lid on top and let honey steep for one to two weeks in the sun or just keep on a shelf. Turn the jar over to re-distribute herbs. Strain the herbs out when you are ready to use. Use as you would regular honey.
6. Make Fruit Compote:
Balance out the sweetness of the fruit with a savory herb like marjoram or thyme.
Recipe: In a sauté, bring one-quarter cups of maple syrup or infused honey and half a teaspoon of vanilla to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and stir. Then add one and a half cups of mixed berries (remove all stems). Heat until the fruit breaks down and turns soft. Serve hot on top of pancakes, parfaits and oatmeal. Keep fresh in the refrigerator.
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Photos by Monica Johnson
Ed: Brianna Bemel