Library notes: Learn more about versatile herbs
By Marissa Creamer
Rowan Public Library
There’s something about fresh basil leaves tossed on a takeout pizza and a sprig of mint in your iced tea that can make a simple meal seem special.
The addition of fresh parsley, chives and marjoram makes a basic omelet seem elegant, and fresh dill brightens all kinds of salads, sauces and vegetables. Even if you don’t have much time to cook, there are so many ways to use fresh herbs to enhance your meals.
Although you can buy fresh herbs at the grocery store, they are so easy to grow you should really consider devoting a small space to an herb garden. Using herbs you’ve grown yourself provides the freshest flavor and makes you feel a connection to the earth.
Herbs adapt readily to growing in containers, so anyone can cultivate an herb garden. They add such color and fragrance to your garden that they are a pleasure to grow even if you don’t use them in the kitchen.
For a good overview of herbs, take a look at “The Complete Herb Book” by Jekka McVicar. This comprehensive guide includes a colorfully-illustrated section arranged by botanical name that includes information on common names, propagation, cultivation, maintenance, harvesting and medicinal and culinary uses. A nice feature is the “container growing” notes for each herb.
The history and lore of the herb provides interesting information such as this tidbit about lady’s mantle: “The crystal dew lying in perfect pearl drops on the leaves has long inspired poets and alchemists, and was reputed to have healing and magical properties, even to preserve a woman’s youth provided she collected the dew in May, alone, in full moonlight, naked, and with bare feet as a sign of purity and to ward off any lurking forces.”
On a more practical side, McVicar also provides general details on growing herbs, with specific designs for themed herb gardens, including aromatherapy, salad, medicinal, potpourri and natural dye gardens. A number of recipes are included, as well as instructions for making herbal oils, vinegars and preserves.
If you need ideas for using your herbal bounty, turn to “The Herbfarm Cookbook” by Jerry Traunfeld. Known for his herb-inspired menus, the James Beard-Award-winning chef offers such tempting recipes as Seared Sea Scallops with Carrot-Marjoram Sauce; Roasted Tomato and Herb Salsa; Lavender, Walnut, and Honey Slipper Breads; and Cinnamon Basil Ice Cream.
In addition to innovative recipes for a full range of dishes and beverages, Traunfeld offers invaluable, detailed information on growing, harvesting, storing and cooking with specific herbs. He shares from his personal experience, discussing each herb as if it were an old friend, and his enthusiasm is infectious.
Comparing dried basil to fresh Genovese basil, he says: “The flakes are insipid and lifeless, but the complex layering of mint, clove, anise, and cinnamon scents that waft from the fresh sprigs is so enticing you’ll want to bury yourself in them.” Traunfeld provides numerous ideas for using your herbs in the kitchen, including using the stems of celery-flavored lovage as straws for a bloody Mary. Concise charts detail growing requirements and provide guidance in appropriate food pairings.
Another great resource for information on growing herbs and all kinds of edible plants in containers is “The Bountiful Container,” by Rose Marie McGee and Maggie Stuckey. For these and many other books about growing herbs and cooking with herbs, visit Rowan Public Library.
Computer classes: Classes are free. Sessions are 90 minutes long. Class size is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis. Dates and times are subject to change without notice.
Headquarters ó Monday, 7 p.m., Power Point: Beyond the Basics; Thursday, 2:30 p.m., Open Office Up Close: Writer.
Children’s: Summer Reading Program begins. This week’s featured artist is Flow’s Circus with circus art and magic. Storytellers, educators and entertainers will make “Be Creative” a fun-filled summer. For more information, call 704-216-8234. Children must be the minimum age listed by May 1.
Space is limited to 20 for 1- and 2-year-olds. Please call the nearest library location to pre-register.
Headquarters: Tumblers (12-24 months) Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m.; Dancers (2-year-olds) Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.; Singers (3- to 5-year-olds) Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m.; Artist (rising first- through fifth-graders) Tuesdays, 2 p.m.
East: Tumblers (12-24 months), Mondays, 10:30 a.m.; Dancers (2-year-olds), Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m.; Singers (3- to 5-year-olds), Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.; Artist (rising first- through fifth-graders) Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m.
South: Tumblers (12-24 months), Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.; Dancers (2-year-olds), Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m.; Singers (3- to 5-year-olds), Mondays, 10:30 a.m.; Artist (rising first- through fifth-graders), Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m.
Teen program: RPL’s program for teens, Express Yourself @ Your Library, will kick off Monday for rising sixth- through 12th-graders. Skill Toys Workshop will be the first scheduled event which will include Japanese Kendama, juggling and more. Because class size is limited, registration is required for this week only. Please call the library location nearest you to register. Teens can attend any of the other programs without registration.Headquarters, Monday, 5:30 p.m.; South, Tuesday, 5:30 p.m.; East, Wednesday, 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday Night at the Movies: All movies are at 6:30 p.m. All movies are rated G, PG or PG 13; some movies are inappropriate for younger audiences. Children should be accompanied by an adult. Free popcorn and lemonade.
June movies are anime features selected by the Rowan County Anime Group.
Tuesday, “Sakura Wars. The Movie”; June 30, “Howl’s Moving.”Displays: Headquarters ó Rowan Arts Council, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College; South ó Ireland by Diane Brideson; East ó stained glass by James Brady.Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second language.