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Video: Green And Spicy Crops In Your Beds
How to grow and cook spicy plants
For thousands of years, aromatic herbs and spices have been used in cooking. In the last few centuries, they have become the subject of active trade and were probably among the most expensive goods. To obtain spices, new continents were discovered and foreign countries were conquered.
Suffice it to recall at least the fearless Vasco da Gama, who tried to find a sea route to the cherished India, but never got there. And the founder of the Mughal empire, Babur, once said: "If my compatriots had the same skill in using spices as the Hindus do, I would have conquered the whole world." And when today we grow many of the spicy plants in our own garden, it is difficult for us to imagine all the adventures and secrets that surrounded them in previous centuries.
Spices and aromatic herbs can transform the most common and easy-to-prepare dishes into exquisite and exotic dishes. Even regular potatoes can be flavored with many different combinations of ingredients. Spices and herbs are an integral part of the culinary secrets of many peoples of the world, emphasizing the main flavor of the dish and speeding up digestion. For example, Jewish cuisine uses garlic as its main seasoning. The Russian tradition requires dill to be served. And in Armenian cuisine, about 300 species of wild herbs and flowers are used for cooking.
Gradually, a new word even appeared in the culinary vocabulary: seasoning. The famous Croatian lexicographer Bratoljub Klajic in his Dictionary of Foreign Words gives the following definition of this word: “Seasoning is a mixture of various fragrant herbs, salt and other ingredients that improve taste”.
It seems to be delicious, but still something is missing …
It is in the correct selection of spices and herbs that help to reveal the hidden flavors of conventional products that the magic of creating inimitable flavor and aroma ranges lies.
Naturally, everyone decides for himself which spices to use and which ones you can do without. It all depends on tastes, preferences and … health. Of course, there is a classic version: pepper of all colors and types, cinnamon, ginger, bay leaf and cloves. There are also exotic spices that for a long time were completely inaccessible to us, such as nutmeg and nutmeg, turmeric, star anise or saffron.
But along with all these spicy curiosities, it has now become available to grow a wide range of spicy plants not only on your own plot, but even in an apartment on the windowsill (fortunately, buying seeds is no longer a problem). Of course, it is very problematic to grow turmeric or a cinnamon tree here, except in a year-round heated greenhouse, but even without them, the choice is quite large. Moreover, spicy herbs from your own garden may well replace a variety of spicy exotics, and make your dishes completely unique. In addition, the greens from the garden are always the most delicious and aromatic, and therefore should become the basis for the spicy filling of dishes.
True, when experimenting with spices, you should not forget about four important rules:
- The taste of very hot food is extremely deceiving, so if it seems to you that the soup is not salted, and the sauce is completely tasteless, let the contents of the test spoon cool and then it will already become clear whether there is really something missing.
- When using any new spice, proceed very carefully, adding it little by little - otherwise, instead of a great culinary masterpiece, you can get a completely inedible "explosive" mixture.
- It is believed that none of the spices should prevail in the flavor bouquet of the dish; the best results are usually achieved through the harmonious combination of various aromatic herbs and spices. Although this statement is rather controversial, because everyone has their own taste.
- Do not store the spices for too long - the crushed spices lose their piquancy after a few weeks (therefore it is better to grind them immediately before use), uncrushed spices can be stored for two to five years, but only in a dry, dark and well-ventilated place.
"New" remedy for depression
Using herbs and roots as a seasoning for meat, fish and vegetable dishes not only helps to diversify the range of flavors, but is also very beneficial for health. Trace minerals found in spices such as sage or basil have a beneficial effect on the digestive process. Essential oils of thyme, fennel, sage, garlic, cloves have a strong disinfecting effect.
In addition, it has long been noted that many spices have an exciting effect on people, have a beneficial effect on mood, health and well-being. For example, with the approaching Christmas and New Year holidays in Russia, it was decided to bake special "winter" ones - with the addition of cinnamon, anise, poppy seeds, cloves and cardamom - pies and cookies. And this is not just a tradition. Research has shown that many people in our climate are prone to depression in winter. The reason for this is the lack of sunlight and heat, which are important mood stimulants. And the named spices contain substances that reduce fatigue and increase tone, which is especially important in winter.
How to collect, dry and store herbs
Some of the herbs we grow can be harvested throughout the growing season, such as parsley or sage. True, in any case, you should, of course, wait until the leaves grow well. Others - only at a certain stage of development, when they acquire the most pronounced aroma and taste. It can be before flowering, for example, lemon balm, at the time of flowering - thyme or savory, or after the seeds ripen - caraway, anise or coriander.
However, regardless of the timing of the collection of a particular herb, you should be extremely careful during this entire process, remembering that the less damage the leaves and stems of plants have, the more they will retain their exquisite aroma.
You need to dry the collected plants only in the most suitable conditions for this. The attic is ideal for these purposes. When choosing a drying room, remember that it must be dark and well-ventilated. At the same time, plants with small leaves are tied into small bunches, and large leaves are laid out on a horizontal surface. Aromatic plants, which use seeds (coriander or caraway), are also hung in bunches, which, after drying, are immediately threshed. Since most gardeners do not have any special devices for threshing, you can simply rub the ends of the shoots with seeds with your hands. This is not so difficult, because the amount of spices required for a family is not so great. After threshing, it is necessary to sift the seeds through a suitable sieve in order to get rid of trapped leaves and other debris.
Immediately after the end of the drying process (after about 5-7 days), the herbs should be placed in hermetically sealed containers, preferably opaque ones. Containers for cereals and flour are perfect for this purpose. You can, of course, use glass jars, but you will have to keep them in the dark.
Despite all the precautions, you will have to accept that some of the herbs (parsley, lemon balm) will lose their aroma during the drying process, although others (the same dill) will retain it almost completely. But you can't do anything here …
Can spicy plants be frozen?
Those lucky ones who have spacious freezers can freeze some spicy herbs, such as dill and parsley (that is, those herbs that are added to dishes in large quantities). Before freezing, the grass should be washed, dried and chopped very finely, and then placed in small bags (only specially designed for freezing or milk) and sent to the freezer. It is easy to get such a bag as needed. Then the required amount of greens is taken from it (there is no problem here, because the contents of the package do not represent a solid monolith, but crumbles perfectly if the grass is dried before cutting). After that, the bag is immediately put back into the freezer.
Frozen herbs can be added not only to hot dishes (boiled, stewed, etc.), but also to salads. It turns out much tastier than buying imported dill and parsley in winter at exorbitant prices, extremely suspicious taste and with a complete lack of aroma.
How to make a spicy aromatic vegetable oil
With the help of vegetable oil, aromatic substances can be extracted from herbs and thus preserved. This flavored oil is useful for dressing salads. Dill, lavender, thyme or rosemary are used as aromatic plants that are excellent for this purpose.
Try to make such oil for salads with the usual dill for the first time, and you will immediately feel that it is very convenient and also delicious. To do this, it is enough to put 3-4 handfuls of chopped dill on 1 liter of oil, then insist the oil for 2-3 weeks, strain (you may not need to filter, but then you should fold the whole branches of plants, and not chopped) and use. If you want to add other spicy plants to the oil, then you need to take very little of them - about one handful per 1 liter of oil.
What is flavored vinegar and how to make it
It is possible to extract aromatic components from plant materials not only with the help of oil, but also with ordinary or apple cider (which is much more beneficial for the body) vinegar. Here, too, everything is very simple. Spicy herbs are washed, dried well, cut and placed in glass jars (you can also put in bottles, but it is difficult to put the grass in them, and it is even more difficult to extract it later). Then all this is poured with vinegar, slightly shaken to remove air bubbles and sent to a dark place to infuse for 3-4 weeks. At the end of this process, the resulting aromatic vinegar is filtered and poured into suitable containers. This vinegar is used mainly for dressing salads or sauces.