The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 09.29.04


First, drag a speckled toad by a hind leg…

I know you are thinking about your garden and the upcoming first frost. I am.

I've been thinking it's time to put it to bed for the winter. I've got lots of herbs and herb seeds to think about and perhaps you do, too. While I've never been classified as having a green thumb, I do appreciate those magical people who successfully produce fresh vegetables and, more importantly, fresh herbs for the table.

The thing is, it's now time to use and save what you've produced if you've not already done so.

Nothing adds flavour to a dish more than a handful of fresh herbs or herbs you've produced yourself. Begone the wintry, dried-up, stale contents in little bottles on that dusty shelf.

Sprinkle that pasta and marinate to your heart's content with your bounty. Make your salads more succulent and do your body and spirit a favor with a handful of herbal blends. Add pizzazz to a pizza and replace salt with herbal spice.

Hungry yet? Before you harvest anything you might want to try a little trick that I came across and I classify as an old wives' tale. It just might work.

Drag a speckled toad by a hind leg around your herb garden and your herbs will taste more flavourful than ever.

If there is a hedge around the garden; then if you stand still as a mouse beside it on an autumn eve, you will see the king of the elves and all his court go walking by.

Hey, I'm a believer, aren't you?

Here is a list of what goes with what when using herbs.

  • Soups take well to chervil, bay, tarragon, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, and savory.

  • Garlic, oregano, rosemary, and sage enhance poultry.

  • Beef loves chives, cloves, cumin, garlic, rosemary, marjoram, and savory.

  • Lamb does well with mint, oregano, basil, and thyme.

  • Pork takes coriander, cumin garlic, ginger, hot pepper, sage, and thyme.

  • Fish goes great with chervil, dill, fennel, parsley, tarragon, and thyme.

  • Salads are improved by the addition of fresh basil, chives, garlic, parsley, sorrel, and tarragon.
Here is how to store fresh herbs.

Tie stalks together in a tight bunch and wrap herbs in wet paper towels tucked into a plastic bag, leaving the end open to the air. Keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

If you dry them at the end of the season (now) simply tie small bunches of each herb together and put them, heads down, in a brown paper bag to air out in a cool, dry place. Don't touch for a few weeks until completely dry.

Microwave tip: put a single layer of herbs between three or four sheets of paper towel and microwave on high for two minutes until they are dry. Add on a few more seconds as needed.

I have previously suggested replacing salt in recipes with herbs and here are a few ideas on how to make your own salt free flavour picker-uppers.

Salt-free herbal spice

2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon each dried basil and oregano
1 teaspoon lemon rind
Put ingredients into food processor and whirl. Store in a jar and add a few grains of rice to prevent herbs from clumping.

Fresh salt substitute

3 tablespoons chopped basil
2 teaspoons each of summer savory, marjoram and sage
2 teaspoons celery seed
1 teaspoon thyme

Place in food processor or blender and whirl until combined. Use in marinades or sprinkle on everything.

My favourite way of using herbs is to add them directly to the barbecue. I soak dried and fresh herbs and place them on whatever meat I'm barbecuing at the time. Sometimes I toss them directly onto the coals to add a smoky fresh flavour to everything. I close the lid and the resulting flavour that these herbs impart can't be beat.

Got more herb ideas? E-mail