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Flavorful Herbs Enhance Summer Dishes

Herbs fresh from the garden add layers to taste to both cooked and raw foods.

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flavorful herbs enhance summer dishes

The thought of summer cuisine often brings to mind flavorful grilled steaks and chicken, light tasty sauces and delicious fresh fruits and vegetables. Using herbs to further enhance these savory favorites is an easy and enjoyable project.

Basil
Basil is a great addition to summer salads and makes a tasty garnish for fish, chicken and vegetable dishes; it's also a key ingredient in pesto sauce. To properly harvest fresh basil, simply pinch off a small sprig, stem and all, just above a set of leaves. Gradually removing sprigs in this manner helps keep the plant healthy and encourages new growth.

Oregano
A traditional companion to tomatoes, oregano is one of the main herbs in many spaghetti-sauce recipes; it's also great for sprinkling on pizza . But don't stop there. In addition to adding this herb to cooked fare, use it with fresh foods as well. For example: Slice up a dozen or so fresh garden-grown tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil and dust with newly harvested oregano leaves for a mouth-watering treat.

Dill
Dill actually has two parts that are used for cooking: the seeds and the weed. The seeds are used primarily as aesthetic accents since they don't add as much flavor as the weed. Dill weed makes a great flavoring for grilled fish: simply tear it into small sprigs and sprinkle on the fish prior to grilling.

Lavender
A popular ingredient in potpourri and aromatherapy, lavender boasts a number of culinary uses as well. This fragrant herb makes a delectable garnish for fresh fruit salad.

Mint
It's common knowledge that mint and chocolate make a great team (think mint-chocolate-chip ice cream), but have you ever thought of garnishing your homemade chocolate treats with fresh mint sprigs from your herb garden? This taste experience is one you won't soon forget.

Rosemary
A favorite of chefs the world over, rosemary is one of the most versatile herbs in the garden. In addition to its many traditional uses, it also makes a perfect basting brush for applying olive oil to meats or fish on the grill. And yet another great rosemary tip: Choose a sturdy stem (not too short), clean off the most of the leaves up to one end and use it as a skewer for small cubes of meat or veggies.

Thyme
Besides providing a sturdy, traffic-resistant groundcover in the yard, thyme also makes a delicious complement to an array of foods. Clip a few sprigs off the plant and toss them into a marinade before adding it to meat.

Lemongrass
For instant lemon chicken, what better to use than lemongrass? The plant's scented leaves can be tucked under or wrapped around chicken as it roasts to yield a delightful lemony flavor.

Tip: Wish you could grow an assortment of flavorful herbs, but just can't find the space? Try this: a hanging herb ball. Buy a ready-made ball of sphagnum moss at your local garden center, then plant small portions of your favorite herbs in sections all over the surface. Hang in an area with sufficient light and mist frequently to keep the herbs hydrated. Then just harvest and enjoy.

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