Top 3 Herbs for the Holidays
By Rob Sproule
Christmas is a feast for the senses. Its sights, sounds, tastes, and smells make it singularly special.
But while we know what Christmas looks and sounds like, what does it smell like? Its spices are earthy, familiar and crisp, and its cooking herbs are savory and comforting.
While many of the Holidays’ classic spices aren’t feasible to grow indoors””a giant, cinnamon tree in the living room, anyone?””its herbs are readily available and thrive indoors. Here are a few of my favourite classics:
The king of herbs! While you’ll see rosemary trees stocking store shelves in December, its real fame comes from its dense, comforting flavor.
Use it with soups, stews, roasts, and other dishes that infuse the home with warmth and goodness. It needs to be cooked; heat releases flavor from the leaves and stem.
Rosemary sprigs are popular in holiday decorating. Their evergreen form blends nicely with the Christmas tree and cedar wreath. Use sprigs for napkin holders, to accessorize candles, or just form them into fragrant little wreaths of their own.
Whether it’s a goose or a turkey, Christmas puts fowl at the center of its festive menu. Pretty much any recipe for cooking a beautiful, big bird puts sage front-and-centre, whether that’s blending with onions for the stuffing or infused into savory butter.
Like rosemary, sage is a Mediterranean herb that likes life dry and sunny. Keep it on the windowsill and pinch the young, flavourful growths regularly to bush it out.
Besides its culinary prowess, sage is a potent anti-inflammatory and soothes the stomach and intestines. It can be infused into honey for a sweet, medicinal tonic for that seasonal sore throat.
Not all classic, Christmas herbs are savory and earthy. Peppermint and Christmas have been tied together for centuries, since the flavour was added to bent “shepherd’s hook” candy sticks started to circulate in 17th century Germany.
The distinct flavour, at once sharp and joyful, extends way beyond candy canes. Cakes, biscotti, cookies and little kisses are all popular.
A centuries old British hybrid between water mint and spearmint, peppermint is a stout little plant (without red and white stripes) that has become naturalized across the globe. It has potent medicinal qualities and, thanks to its water mint heritage, needs consistently moist soil.