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The Bookshelf: A Taste for Herbs

Taste for herbs coverReview by Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

When author Susan Goetz of Tacoma, Washington, experienced health issues she eliminated from her diet many foods that triggered sensitivities. To keep things interesting, she turned to herbs and started making her own mixes from seasoning blends to cocktail infusions.

That led to her popular presentation Seasonings from the Garden that she gave garden clubs and at the Northwest Flower and Garden show in Seattle. “I was excited to share uses for herbs. I love the diversity of an herb lover’s garden … food, natural skin care, aromatherapy, all that good stuff.

Now Goetz offers the results of that personal journey in a new book A Taste for Herbs: A guide to seasonings, mixes and blends from the herb lover’s garden (St. Lynn’s Press, 2019). The 190-page book is a culinary-herbal masterclass wrapped around 100 recipes. It’s suitable for the novice and experienced herb lover alike.

a taste rosemaryGoetz explores the science of taste before launching into two key areas 1) Grow — growing/harvesting/preserving and 2) Create — creating culinary products. These are further organized into components.

In Grow, Goetz details general horticulture habits and culinary uses of her 20 favorite herbs. She goes on to catalog complimentary culinary components including spices, vegetables, fruits, roots, and flowers. And, she explores preservation techniques.

The gold mine comes in Create. Here recipes range from herbal salts and rubs to infused oils, vinegars, and spirits. Glossaries discuss different salts, vinegars, sweeteners, and more.

Goetz has a hard time choosing a favorite recipe. “Right now citrus herb pepper is one of my go-tos,” she says. “I use it on everything that I would use salt on and I use it two or three times a week in scrambled eggs in a mug (page 102) for my morning protein hit. The salsa mix is one I use a lot too.  I like avocados mushed up as a side and I use the salsa mix to season them.”

taste for herbs jars“I just made a batch of cucumber mint water a few days ago. We’ve had a mild winter and I have some stray mint in the garden. I like to have a jar of infused water in the fridge when I have  fresh herbs available,” she continues.

“I could easily say my favorite recipes come with the season. When I have basil in the garden, then pesto would my frequent recipe. As soon as the chives start popping up, I like to make them into an herb-oil paste to sauté with.”

One of the more interesting seasonings is a peppercorn rose salt to be used with cream cheese or sour cream for a veggie dip. Goetz says her favorite type of everyday salt is a slightly coarse French Grey Sea Salt.

“I like its mild flavor. It doesn’t have too much ‘saltiness’ that competes with the herbs,” she says, adding “I am a bit obsessed lately with smoked salts, but they have their special moments in cooking and not for every day.”

Keeping all these salts, seasoning, rubs, and liquid potions organized can be a challenge. Goetz uses small canning jars to ease the problem. “I use the little 4-ounce size jars for small batches and the 8-ounce (half pint) for bulky mixes,” she says. “The mouth of the jar is the same size, so they can be stacked for space saving.  I can easily stack two or three high and still see the labels. I do honey infusions in wide mouth jars, for ease of dipping in the honey and for the ability to stack them too.”

For more ideas consult the well-illustrated book. It’s available from Amazon, St Lynn’s  Press, Barnes and Noble and as signed copy via her website

taste for herbs SueAn award-winning garden designer, writer and speaker, Susan Goetz is also author of The Herb Lover’s Spa Book by Sue Goetz (St. Lynn’s Press, 2015, $18.95). Among her many accolades for innovative horticulture and urban lifestyle design, she has been named Educator of the Year by the Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association; received Sunset magazine’s “Western Living Fresh Ideas” award; and Fine Gardening’s “Best Design” award.  You can find her at thecreativegardener.com.