The not so secret ingredient in the French kitchen and other garden victories

seed harvest

It’s been a great year in the garden. I’m thankful to report this because it always seems like it’s a battle against just about every pest under the sun. I’m still learning about the soil, trying to enrich it with compost or companion planting to give everything a natural boost, but still, sometimes I just lose it with frustration when something new has eaten the raspberries, or trying to figure out why the rhubarb that didn’t grow more than an inch in height last year (huge successes this year! YES!) 

One exciting moment was when the first poppy started breaking ground. I planted these purple beauties two years ago and the “poor soil” loving flower didn’t give me anything to call home about. Nothing at all last year. I only got two flowers this season but I kept every seed and you can bet I’ll be sprinkling them around to make the yard look a little more cheery next year… or maybe two years from now… guess we’ll have to wait and see. There have also been loads of cherry tomatoes, garlic, beautiful rosemary, chives, several varieties of mint and lavender and lots of irises and lilies among others.

Then there’s the other French phenomenon, the first time I saw them in the grocery store I was almost shocked anyone would buy them. The bouquet garni is a French staple and now that I’m more acquainted with the food here, I have come to understand they’re little workhorses in the French kitchen. In the years that I travelled back and forth to Canada I would tuck a little pack of them in my suitcase for my soup making so I wouldn’t be making one last minute for a recipe (if you’re visiting France – it’s a tasty and useful little souvenir to take home.) It’s a great way to add flavour to your soup stocks or I like to add them to Puy lentils to make them a bit more interesting. 

When our thyme plant exploded this year (*tip if you’ve got leafhoppers – I planted a little geranium next to it late last year to keep them from attacking and it seems to have kept them under control) I had so much of it, I didn’t know what to do with it all, still, it was time for a haircut. We give all of our herbs a fairly aggressive cutting before they go to seed and while we are sometimes scared they won’t come back they only get better every year, and actually, I think it’s already ripe for a second harvest.

I placed it all loosely over a clean linen towel in the kitchen to dry. I started trying to strip each little stem of the leaves but I soon realized I’d be sitting at the table for days trying to accomplish the task when I remembered that we had a jar of bay leaves from a friends tree in the cupboard. I pulled out the kitchen twine and starting making some homemade bouquet garni. 

Next year hopefully I’ll try to plant a bay plant in the garden (in the pot they never seem to survive here) and see if I can’t keep the entire production all coming from our own garden but if you’ve got an exploding thyme harvest, grab some bay leaf, kitchen twine and scissors and get to it! You won’t regret it.

Any great ideas coming from your kitchen/garden you’d like to share? Leave a comment below.

bouquet garni

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