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Creative Culinary Uses for Plants

By: Michele Lesica, Horticulture Director | 10/04/2018

The Idaho Botanical Garden recently hosted a new event called Bitters, Botany and the Big Screen, in collaboration with Red Feather Lounge and the Sierra Club.  Participants of the event were able to experience three custom cocktails crafted with native plants.  Prickly Pear Cactus, Sagebrush, Rose Hips, and Elderberries were used to create these delicious drinks.  After hosting this event we were excited to share some more creative culinary uses for plants, especially herbs.

An Herb – a plant or plant part valued for its medicinal, savory, or aromatic qualities – can be utilized in many different ways.  Herbs can be incorporated into cooking, made into teas, or used for healing salves.  Submerge in salt or sweeten for dessert.  Try deep frying them for garnish.  Freeze in ice cubes to flavor water.   Infuse in butter, oil, or vinegar to create salad dressings or marinades.  Use fresh basil, parsley, cilantro, tarragon, mint, and dill in salads.

One of the most commonly used herbs, Basil, has a variety of uses.  Pesto, a mixture of basil, olive oil, and pine nuts or sunflower seeds, is a delicious way to utilize Basil.  Pesto can be put on a pizza or spread on bread and eaten with a fresh tomato and mozzarella.  Refrigerate in a glass jar or freeze in ice cubes for individual servings.

Rosemary has a great flavor that can be incorporated into many dishes—but have you ever used a full rosemary stalk as a barbeque skewer?  The leaves can be left on or taken off.  The woody part of the stem is great for skewering seafood or vegetables.

Lemon Verbena (pictured below) smells like a lemon drop.  It is an annual in Idaho but will grow rapidly throughout the season.  The leaves are a potent lemon and can be candied or dried on screens for use in teas or desserts.

The possibilities for herbs are endless!  If you enjoy using herbs we highly recommend starting an herb garden.  An herb garden can be simple or ornate.  Many herbs are perennials, so they’ll come back year after year and can easily be incorporated into existent perennial gardens.  If you’re looking for inspiration, peruse the Herb Garden at the Idaho Botanical Garden, as well as herbs planted throughout our Vegetable Garden.