When it comes to life’s pleasures―and food is surely one of them, my life is far richer when there is an herb garden planted nearby. I’ve learned it doesn’t have to be much, but there is something hugely fulfilling about kneeling amongst fresh herbs and gathering a supply to complement my cooking.
The smell of the earth combined with the scent of freshly cut herbs restores me. I love the perfume left behind on my skin from the oils of their bruised leaves. On my kitchen sink, a small vase of herbs further inspires me; it brightens the space and continues to welcome all who enter.
When I’ve lived in cold climates sage and rosemary were enough to sustain me. In tropical locales, basil and perhaps cilantro were often my regulars. Now, in a moderate region, I’m very fortunate to have a well rounded supply of oregano, chives, rosemary, summer and winter savory, English and lemon thyme, and purple and yellow sage. A few of the tougher ones survive winter’s rain and snow, while fragile chives and some of the thyme, hunker in and return again when it warms up.
Recently the thyme, savory, and oregano began going to seed. It was time to do a quick thinning and cut them back before they became too leggy and awkward. While I was at it, I cut everyone back and brought the residual crop inside to dry. I laid it all out on sheet pans for a couple of days to begin the process―then moved it all to a large bowl and lightly covered it to further dry.
This herb blend has become a real staple in my kitchen. It may vary slightly depending on amounts and varieties used, but it is always surprisingly similar. The winter savory, sage, and rosemary give it deep aromatic complexity while the thyme, summer savory, and oregano balance and brighten it. Amazingly, all these unique elements seem to come together and create a distinct flavor and scent.
I’ve always been a big herb salt fan and it didn’t take me long to figure out it was time to make my own. Since then, herb salt has become a regular and recognizable part of my cooking. I have resorted to regularly creating a similar blend with kosher salt. I jazz it up a bit for gifts and special occasions by including unique grades of sea salt such as pink Himalayan or a fleur de sel.
This herb salt blend has become my standard for sprinkling on eggs, pizza and in mixed salad dressings. When roasting, it is my go-to seasoning for chicken and fish.
I wish you could smell my latest batch of herbal salt. There’s a slight whiff of pine trees and desert trails, lush floral notes, and lilting wafts of citrus. It is crazy that a jar of herbs and salt could anchor me to the land and resonate of the hills and valleys that surround me.
Yes, it's true, though; my herb salt blend actually does provide an identifiable sense of place.