For me, summer is time for barbecues, lemonade, iced tea, homemade ice cream and cooking with fresh garden herbs! Not only are they beautiful and aromatic, fresh herbs also add flavor without adding calories, fat or salt.
Native to India, Africa and Asia, basil gets the royal treatment in France where it is sometimes called "l'herbe royale." Basil is famously used in Mediterranean dishes such as pasta sauces, pesto and ratatouille. Harvest basil until the first frost, and add fresh basil towards the end of the cooking process so that its flavor is not lost.
An emblem of courage to the Greeks and a remedy for melancholy to the Romans, this herb is now widely used to flavor marinades, meats, soups, stews and casseroles. Humans aren't the only species attracted to thyme; bees have as deep an affection for it as we do. Harvested thyme can be used immediately; dried by tying and hanging in a warm, airy place; or frozen it in airtight container.
The Romans made great use of mint's clean, fresh scent by putting it in their bath water and making it into perfumes. Mint can be harvested almost as soon as it comes up in the spring. Young tender leaves and stems have more flavor than older ones, which tend to become woody. Mint tea has been used to treat headaches, heartburn, indigestion, gas and sleeplessness. Of course, it's not just medicinal. Mint also is used in sauces and as a flavoring for yogurt and ice cream, and in salads, rice, meat, fish and vegetable dishes.
This recipe for Freshly Brewed Iced Mint Tea is the perfect way to cool down on a hot summer afternoon.
Freshly Brewed Iced Mint Tea
- 3 teaspoons fresh mint leaves, crushed
- 1 cup boiling water
- Honey or other sweetener, to taste
- If you have a tea infuser, place the crushed fresh mint leaves in the infuser and submerge into boiling water. Steep to taste. Or, if you don't have an infuser, place crushed fresh leaves in a teapot and add boiling water. Steep to taste. Pour through a strainer to keep leaves out of the cup.
- Add honey or other sweetener to taste.
- Let cool slightly and pour into glass filled with ice. Makes 1 serving.