Elizabeth A.S. Brooke

Crafting, traveling and everything in between.


National Herb Garden, National Arboretum

The National Herb Garden is wonderful! Of all the gardens we visited at the National Arboretum, this one is my favorite. I loved the medicinal herb gardens, especially the Native American Herb Garden. We learned how different tribes used plants we are very familiar with, such as cardinal flower, large-flowered trillium and purple cone flower.

National Herb Garden

This is an example of the signs found in the Native American herb garden. The signs tell how the herbs were used by differen tribes.

This is an example of the signs found in the Native American herb garden. The signs tell how the herbs were used by different tribes.

Cardinal Flower

Cardinal Flower

There were also gardens featuring plants for dying, brewing and perfuming. Colonial gardens featured herbs and vegetables. I took pictures of lots of peppers. The park’s website says it has 50 varieties!

Peppers!

More peppers!

And more peppers!


Ranch Dressing

I’ve taken to making salad dressings from scratch. Our favorites so far are honey mustard (me), blue cheese (Chris) and poppy seed (both).

I hadn’t, until recently, been able to find a ranch dressing recipe. I tasted a friend’s dressing last summer and liked it, but she used a pre-mixed spice mix from Penzey’s. Not what I was looking for, but I kept that open as an option since I was already aware of Hidden Valley’s mix and liked it. (Penzey’s is a great source for spices, by the way.)

Then in the June 9 feature section of News & Record, the newspaper I work for, I found a ranch recipe! And it is so easy! I can’t believe I couldn’t find a recipe before now.

Basically, you take whatever fresh herbs you have on hand and throw it in a bowl with buttermilk (or substitutes), mayo (or salad dressing/Miracle Whip), lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.

Since we’re participating in a community supported agriculture (CSA) program this year, we already have a bunch of herbs on hand. I added dill, loveage, parsley and oregano.

Here’s the recipe:

Ranch Dressing

1/2 cup buttermilk*
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp. finely chopper mixed fresh herbs
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 garlic clove
salt
pepper

Mix all the ingredients together and serve! That easy.

* Some buttermilk substitutes are yogurt or 1 tbsp. lemon juice with enough milk to make one cup. Let the milk mixture sit for a few minutes before using.

I used vanilla yogurt, which turned out to be too overpowering. The vanilla competes with the herbs so next time I’ll use plain yogurt or the milk/lemon juice trick.

I also never use mayonnaise since I don’t like it that much. I grew up on Miracle Whip (salad dressing) and prefer it. Plus, it’s lower in fat. 🙂

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Here are some products from Amazon:





Note: I am an Amazon Associate and select products that are related to blog posts or that I personally recommend. For this post, I do recommend Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix if you don’t want to make your own dressing from scratch. My grandma has used it for years and it’s delicious.

Though I haven’t tried the Williams-Sonoma cook book above, I do have the Williams-Sonoma Mexican cook book and it’s easy to use and has good recipes. So, it might be worth checking out the one above too.


CSA bounty

This year, we’re participating in our first ever CSA — community supported agriculture. And today is the first box of the year. So excited!


Here’s what we’re going to get today — Broccoli raab, kale, oregano, lovage and green onions.


We’re splitting a share with another couple so we’ll only get a box every other week. Which is fine. I heard each week is loaded with goodies, which would be too much for just two people (although I could freeze or can most of them).


Splitting the share also helps out the pocket book. I wasn’t looking forward to paying $480 in just a couple of months. The farmer was willing to work it out with us so we could spread the payments out. But we split the share, cutting the cost to $240 so we were able to pay that by the April 1 deadline, which helps the farmers too. (The cost includes a deposit).


The farm is Groundswell Farm in Galax, Va., and is owned by Sara Fennell and Greg Korbler and their two young boys.


A bonus, a friend said both Fennell and Korbler are trained chefs so they’ve promised to share cookbooks, recipes and ideas with the group. That’s good because I don’t know what some of the items planned for this year are. Here’s what we can expect throughout the year (dates and veggies could change):


Summer Session (July 9 – Aug. 27):
basil, beets, broccoli, cabbage, chard, cucumber, dill, eggplant, fennel, lettuce, melons, parsley, peppers, potatoes, snap beans, summer squash, tomatoes
Fall Session (Sept. 10 – Oct. 29):
arugula, beets, chard, kale, leek, lettuce, napa cabbage, parsley, radish, red cabbage, rutabaga, spinach, turnips, winter squash

I can’t wait to try these veggies out and to eat healthier this year!