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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Spring means fresh herbs

Although much of the country is still covered with snow and experiencing cold weather, the first day of spring is just around the corner.

When I think of spring, I think of planting new flowers and fresh herbs in the garden. During the winter, most of us buy the packaged fresh herbs in the produce department to make our savory meals taste sensational. These herbs have probably been grown in greenhouses in various parts of the country, cut and packaged and then shipped to your favorite market. It’s the most practical way for supermarkets to offer fresh herbs to shoppers.

But in the spring, as you wander through your produce department, be on the lookout for fresh potted herbs (aka living herbs).

The living herb business has come so far. I remember back in the 1980s, Frieda’s worked with a couple, John and Mary, who were doing something very innovative at local farmers markets. They grew an assortment of fresh herbs in 4-inch pots and assembled them in tote baskets containing eight pots. We sold them to our local supermarkets. It was a successful, but short-lived venture.

Now there are growers all over the country who have built quite a business on growing pots of living fresh herbs. They usually grow and ship these herbs in their local area, as many herbs are a bit too delicate to ship cross country.

Some of the more sophisticated growers have developed a retail display system, with signage, shelving, and even a watering system, so that when you walk into your produce department, the display is eye-catching and inspiring.

When you see this mini-display of fresh herbs, I hope you’ll imagine how easy it will be to have a “home garden” right in your kitchen! Many of these potted herbs are not meant for replanting into gardens -- they are meant to grow on your kitchen counter, so you can clip as you need.

Want to make an authentic caprese salad with fresh basil, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella? Pull a few leaves off the plant on your counter! Actually fresh basil plants are the No. 1 selling fresh potted herb in the country. As we get closer to summer, you may find large displays of fresh basil in small pots near the tomato display.

Nothing tastes as good as fresh herbs added to a dish at the last minute. In addition to fresh basil, you should be able to find mint (spearmint and peppermint), dill, chives, tarragon, chervil, oregano, sage, marjoram, thyme and more.

Here’s one of my favorite caprese salad recipes.

Enjoy!
Karen

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