Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gifts From the Garden: Herbs

It's that time of year again, the holidays are upon us!  If you are looking for a thoughtful hostess gift, something for a cook, or just want to dress up your own holiday table, consider creating gift baskets, pots, centerpieces and place settings using herb plants.

Here are a few ideas:

1.  Herb Centerpiece (pictured above) - using a hollowed out pumpkin, decorative pot, or plastic lined basket, fill container with potting mix.  Plant container with assorted herbs and edible flower plants such as pansies or calendula.  Insert tall candle and decorative flair such as a Thanksgiving or Christmas figure/sign and bow.  Cover exposed soil with bagged moss if desired.

2.  Herb Place Cards - Using mini pumpkins, gourds, small pots or mugs with seasonal graphics, fill with potting mix and plant with a single herb.  Write guest's name on a place card and attach to bamboo skewer.  Insert skewer in soil.  Add decorative bow.

3.  Herb Recipe Hostess Gift - create a small version of item 1 including three or so herbs from a favorite recipe, ie:  Dill Dip (see recipe below).  Print recipe on decorative recipe card and attach to bamboo skewer by using a hole punch to punch a hole at top and bottom of card, thread skewer thru hole and insert skewer into soil.

4.  Ethnic Themed Herb Containers - create an Italian, Mexican, Japanese or any other ethnic cuisine herb pot by choosing herb plants used in those recipes.  Include a recipe book for an extra special gift.

My favorite herbs to use for these projects are parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme (sounds like a song!), dill, oregano, basil, chives and cilantro.  But you can use any that you like.

Note:  If pumpkins or gourds are used, be sure to place on moisture proof plate before placing on a table so that table surface is not damaged by moisture.  Pumpkins and gourds will only last a day or two before beginning to decompose.  But don't throw out your creation:  remove ribbons, etc. and plant the entire pumpkin/gourd into the garden.  The pumpkin/gourd will decompose in the soil while the herbs will continue to grow!  If you use containers that have no drain hole, remove herbs after your holiday event and plant in the garden or a container that has drainage holes.

Here's a dip recipe I use a lot during the holidays:

Dill Dip

1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon each chopped dill, parsley and chives
1/2 tsp dried mustard
2 tablespoons crumbled bleu cheese

Stir all ingredients together.  Chill for one hour or more to let flavors blend.
Serve with chips, crackers or veggies.  Also makes great topping for baked potatoes.

Enjoy the holidays!  Remember gardening reduces stress!

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