Many a blog ago, I waxed on which herbs were essential for a kitchen herb garden. I chose my personal favorites, the six I cant do without: basil, sage, parsley, thyme, oregano and rosemary.
This week, I sheared a few inches off my chives and tossed them into scrambled eggs and over new potatoes, quinoa and couscous. Because chives take no effort, theyre underappreciated, Ive decided. I got my plants at a Garden Club of Durango perennial plant sale always the day before Mothers Day. Every year, members divide theirs and sell them to the public for a song. I think this years sale is at Rotary Park. Watch for publicity in the weeks ahead, and be there by 9a.m. Its not just about chives. Youll find every perennial that grows in the area, already acclimated to this climate.
Im also watching my French tarragon (Artemesia dracunculus) push its way through the soil. This is true French tarragon, the only one thats suited for culinary purposes. Dont take a division from a neighbor gardener unless they can vouch for you that you are growing French and not Russian tarragon, which has a woody, almost bitter flavor. No Béarnaise sauce is complete without French tarragon.
About a year ago, I ran the Ore House tarragon chicken recipe in a tribute to Durangos first steak house. I doubt if they serve tarragon chicken now more than 30 years after it first appeared on the menu. But if you havent served this elegant comfort food at home, youre missing a treat.
Buy a starter plant of tarragon and get it established in a sunny, well-drained location. Unless you are at 9,000 feet, its hardy. Your tarragon will grow 36 inches tall with ugly legs, so it will need staking if you choose to not pick it. Like zucchini, it begs to be given to your friends. If they arent cooks, tell them to use sprigs to flavor distilled white vinegar. Theyll be converts in no time.
Finally, dont forget that you can hang branches for drying. Shear the leaves from the stem and add tarragon to recipes year round.
Just as theres a preferred variety of tarragon, savory, too, must be selected with care. Select summer savory, Satureja hortensis, not the winter variety. Summer savory is much more delicately flavored. You can easily start this one from seed. I cant think of a bean, pea or lentil recipe that doesnt benefit from adding savory. Its great in soups, too.
Next week Im going to write about cilantro and mint the renegades of my modest kitchen garden. Cant live with them, cant live without them.