Posts made in December, 2012

Rosemary-Ginger Cocktail

Posted on Dec 13, 2012 in Drink This, Recipes | 1 comment

1.5 oz vodka .25 oz ginger liqueur (see note) 1 lemon wedge Sprig of rosemary   For the most rosemary-ish possible cocktail, pour the vodka into a cocktail shaker and muddle (crush) the rosemary, then cap it and let it sit for an hour or two.  This only works if you start early, so otherwise, combine the vodka, ginger liqueur, juice from the lemon wedge, and most of the rosemary in a cocktail shaker, muddle, shake vigorously over ice, and strain into a cocktail glass using a fine mesh strainer to keep out the herbal bits.  Garnish with the rest of the rosemary sprig.  (Note: Add more...

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Cilantro

Posted on Dec 13, 2012 in Plant This | Comments Off on Cilantro

The trick with cilantro is to keep it from blooming.  Once it blooms (this is called ‘bolting’), you can forget about harvesting any leaves.  So keep it watered, grow it in the shade, and look for varieties that are bred to resist bolting, like ‘Santo‘.  Cut back an entire stalk to harvest it, rather than snipping off individual leaves, and pinch off the flowers if they do bloom.  If you see a thick central stalk emerging, that’s the one you want to cut back. If you’re growing cilantro for the fruit, which is what botanists call those round seedpods,...

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Basil

Posted on Dec 13, 2012 in Plant This | Comments Off on Basil

I confess that I have never mastered the art of keeping a year-round supply of basil going in my garden. I have, however, been successful with a number of strategies that, if implemented together, might just work.  So give this a try. First, think of basil plants as a kind of long-lasting grocery store item rather than something you buy from the garden center once a year.  In other words, plan on picking up basil plants whenever you see them throughout the year to replace the one that might be on its way out. Second, choose the right variety.  The giant, fragrant ‘Genovese’ is...

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Lemon Verbena

Posted on Dec 13, 2012 in Plant This | 1 comment

Not lemon balm or lemon mint.  Lemon verbena.  This is a little woody shrub that only barely tolerates our chilly maritime winter, but if you can nurse it through one winter, you’re set.  I love lemon verbena because it adds a bright citrus sparkle to drinks without making it overly acidic the way lemon juice does. You’re looking for Aloysia citrodora, and you can probably find a small one in a four-inch pot at the garden center or farmer’s market.  If you live inland and get warm summers, it’ll reach 6-8 feet after a couple of years. Give it some room or be prepared to cut it...

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Spearmint

Posted on Dec 13, 2012 in Plant This | Comments Off on Spearmint

Indispensable in mojitos and juleps, and generally useful in any drink that combines fruit and alcohol, mint adds a little botanical complexity to what can otherwise taste like a juice box for adults. Look for spearmint, not peppermint or any other kind of mint.  Grab ‘Kentucky Colonel’ if you can; it produces large, fragrant leaves and isn’t quite as invasive as other mints.  Keep it in a pot against the house where it gets some protection from frost and you’ll probably have mint all year long. ‘Mojito Mint’ is another good variety to try–according to the catalog copy, it...

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Grow Your Own: The Heart of Agave Tequila Garden

Posted on Dec 12, 2012 in Drunken Botanist Plant Collection | Comments Off on Grow Your Own: The Heart of Agave Tequila Garden

Tequila!  I could go for some right now.  So of course, the folks at Log House Plants also put together a collection of plants based around the flavors in tequila. They’re a wholesale nursery, so they’re growing the plants for sale at retail garden centers and gourmet grocery stores on the West Coast.  Look for them in your local indie garden center/grocery store, or order them online from the Territorial Seed Company, who has joined in this effort and put together a great collection of cocktail-friendly plants and seeds.     Here are the plants in our Heart of Agave Tequila...

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Nasturtium

Posted on Dec 7, 2012 in Plant This | 2 comments

Peppery flavor, pretty flower, a good garnish if you’ve got room in the glass.  It’s ridiculously easy to grow from seed, and you get more interesting varieties that way.  Just give them good rich potting soil, moderate water, and cut them back if they get too leggy.   This is an annual; the first frost will kill them off and you can start a new batch the following spring. If you’re short on space, look for mounding as opposed to climbing/trailing cultivars. Territorial offers lots of options; I like the dramatic ‘Night and...

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Calendula

Posted on Dec 7, 2012 in Plant This | Comments Off on Calendula

Calendula, also called pot marigold, grows easily from seed. It’s even easier to pick up a pack of them at the garden center. They are also very cold-tolerant:  they’ll bloom all winter in our mild climate. Colors range from yellow to pink to dark orange.  There’s even a variety called ‘Citrus Cocktail.’  The flavor, by the way, is slightly peppery, which won’t work in every drink. This is not the kind of flower you want to float in a drink—it’s too hefty for that.  The individual petals make a nice enough garnish, but a drink with a handful of petals floating in it starts...

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Viola

Posted on Dec 7, 2012 in Plant This | Comments Off on Viola

For sheer decorative purposes, nothing beats pansies and Johnny jump-ups. They are so absurdly easy to grow that there is almost nothing to say about them, except this:  they do need regular water, so make life easy on yourself by buying a potting soil intended for hanging baskets.  Ask about this at your locally-owned, independent garden center, which is staffed by people who actually know something. They will point you to one or two potting soils that you’ve probably overlooked a hundred times.  These specially-designed soils contain coco fiber and hold water much better than ordinary...

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Borage

Posted on Dec 7, 2012 in Plant This | Comments Off on Borage

People say that borage leaves taste like cucumber, but if that’s the flavor you’re after, why not just eat a cucumber? Use the leaves if you want—some people pick small, young leaves for salads or cook them with other greens—but it’s the flowers I’m interested in.  The dazzling bright blue color isn’t found in many flowers, particularly edibles, and the fact that they hold their color when frozen means that you can do a very elegant little ice cube trick with them:  Fill ice cube trays halfway, freeze, and then set a flower on each half-cube of ice. Refill with water and...

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