Sunday, May 8, 2011

Herbs in the Garden - Cook's Best Friends

Camp Chef by WET River Trips

Tendrils of lemon thyme, or Thymus Citriodorus peeked out of the mulch. The little herb garden was coming alive after what seems to be a very long winter. Early May and California is unpredictable with 90 degrees in the valley a couple days ago and today, we are cloaked in storm clouds on Mother's Day.

I pulled weeds today. Mother's Day. I wanted to care for the garden, as the children are older now with their own busy lives. Cool weather is perfect for pulling the weeds from the still soft and moist soil.

A small herb garden with a few tomato plants is all I need. Chives, thyme, oregano, rosemary, basil, sage and Italian parsley are the essentials. I stopped growing the giant Beefsteak and Early Girl tomatoes a few years ago after I discovered the Super Sweet cherry tomatoes and the little orange heirlooms. The small German-variety orange heirloom, mellower in acid and also very sweet, are given an honorable spot at the corner of the partitioned garden. The plants are beautiful in full fruit and very decorative.

Chefs and home cooks that have an access to a true herb and/or eating garden bring the freshest flavors to their kitchen. The ingredients are the highlight; the herbs enhance everything. If you are a serious foodie, you will want your kitchen ingredients to reflect your passion about food. Adding a simple bit of lemon thyme to your eggs at breakfast will elevate those scramble eggs to another level. Adding a bit of fresh cherry tomato will turn the egg dish into a lunch omelette with an added salad. (Don't forget to add fresh chives and basil to that salad, too!)


large seasoned frying pan or omelette pan
chopped fresh herbs (lemon thyme, chives, parsley &/or your favs from your garden)
olive oil to cover bottom of pan
pat of butter
1/4 cup of finely diced onion (or less; to your liking)
10 cherry tomatoes cut in halves (approx 20 sliced halves)
clean glass or ceramic bowl
6 - 8 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
whisk or fork

Heat pan to medium high heat. Add olive oil w/ a small pat of butter. (The butter is for flavor only; use less if you can.) Add onion and caramelize until onion is translucent and the edges are browned. Add tomatoes, cut side down. Turn heat down to medium or less. Mix eggs in a clean glass or ceramic bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add lemon thyme and chives. Mix well with a small whisk or fork. Check the tomatoes in pan. They should be limp and the skins should be wrinkled. Stir until a loose tomato sauce forms. Cook until sauce is the consistency of a thick tomato sauce. (You can pull out the tomato skins if you want, but I just keep them in for added roughage. Besides, this is home cooking and rustic.) Add eggs. Stir once. Let eggs set. Stir again. Let eggs set. Stir again. Repeat this process slowly until the eggs are a soft, tender consistency. Sprinkle the eggs with your favorite grated cheese. I add freshly grated parmigiano cheese and a bit of fresh chopped basil and Italian parsley. Fold over carefully into a large omelette. Cut into four servings.

  • Add breakfast potatoes on the side for a hearty breakfast.
  • Or, add a side salad of fresh greens, tomatoes and herbs for a light lunch or dinner.

  • add sliced fresh mushrooms and cook along with the tomatoes.
  • add cooked crumble bacon and mix in with the eggs or just sprinkle over the eggs.
  • place one portion of the omelette on top an English muffin along w/ cheese; grill lightly until melted.
  • add flaked cooked leftover salmon to the omelette before you fold over.

Use your imagination and use those fresh herbs. If you don't have much room in the yard or you are an urban dweller, you can still grow a small pot of herbs near a bright window. You will be surprised at how many little herbs will grow in such a small container. And, look at garden centers and foodie markets; you will find many vendors are now selling potted herb gardens ready for your kitchen use.