August Herb Blurb – The Last True Month of Summer

It’s here, the last true month of summer. Savor these last weeks by putting some fun things to do on the calendar. Go for a swim, have a picnic, attend an outdoor concert, check out the mountain views and wildflowers and take a nap in the hammock. School days and cool days are fast approaching.

The farmers markets bring us a bounty of plums, peaches, melons, peppers, tomatoes, green beans and so much more. Let sweet peach juice dribble down your chin, roast up some delicious sweet corn and make a cheesy, nutty pesto from fresh herbs.

Upcoming Classes

Herbal Pantry
Denver Botanic Gardens, Tuesday, August 8, 6-8pm, $39 members, $44 non-members,
info here
Wondering what to do with all those fragrant herbs languishing in your garden?
Learn how to preserve your herbal harvest in elegant vinegars, herb, herb seasoning blends, marinated cheeses, robust pestos and spicy salsas. Turn your daily fare into something special. Go home inspired with new ways to implement the healthy and delicious flavors of your herb garden or farmers market bounty. Generous sample tastings, recipes, and growing and harvesting tips included. Get that winter pantry started! Demonstration class.

Colorado Foodways: A Celebration of Local Food
Denver Botanic Gardens @ Chatfield Farms, Saturday, August 12, 5:30 -8PM, $39 member, $42 non-member.
info here
Chatfield Farms annual celebration of Colorado history, music and food featuring local chefs, tours and live music. Traditional Colorado dishes with regionally sourced ingredients are presented during this strolling supper on the farm. Participants can tour the organic vegetable and lavender fields, explore the historical Hildebrand Ranch house, take a wild edible walk, and hear a talk on water conservation by local water harvesting and conservation expert, Avery Ellis. This year, guests can also enjoy a tour of the riparian conservation and restoration efforts in process at Chatfield Farms by research and horticulture staff. Food and beverage tastings are included. This event sells out quickly.

Food Preservation Boot Camp
Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield, Saturday, September 30, 9 am -4:30 pm, $120 non-member, $108 member, info here

Part I:Drying & Freezing, Morning Class
Turn your garden or farmers market bounty into a ready-to-use pantry full of flavorful dried or frozen veggies, fruits and herbs. Get an overview of the best freezing and drying techniques. Fun and easy to process, compact dried and/or frozen food is perfect for long storage, high nutrient value and concentrated taste. This preservation method is ideal for camping, school lunches, small storage spaces, and quick, tasty meals. Beginner level course, all levels welcome. Recipes and generous tastings provided. Instructor: Susan Evans, Clinical Herbalist, Chef, & Owner of Chrysalis Herbs

Part II: Fermentation, Early Afternoon Class
Join Chef Elizabeth Buckingham for this tasty and informative beginner-level class where well discuss the basics of fermentation, its health benefits, and how you can safely and deliciously ferment at home. Whether you’re interested in fermented pickles, kimchi, kombucha or sauerkraut, this class will have you ready to make your own incredible house made fermented foods! This is a beginner-friendly course. Generous tastings and recipes included. Instructor: Chef Elizabeth Buckingham, A Moveable Feast Colorado

Part III: Boiling Water-Bath Canning, Late Afternoon Class
This beginning canning class will teach the new/beginner home canner the basics for boiling water bath canning. We will cover equipment you need, recipe sources, food safety, and we will make 2 different items for your pantry. Generous tasting and recipes will be provided. Instructor: Kathy Lee, Owner of Modern Gingham Preserves

Fun Things to Do
Loveland 34th annual Sculpture in the Park
More than 2000 sculptures featured next to Lake Loveland. August 11-13.
info here

Breckenridge Festival of Arts 
A mix of music, dance, film, visual arts and entertainment up in the mountains. August 11-20. info here

Palisade Peach Festival
Experience all things peaches on the western slope. August 17-20, Entertainment, food, farm dinners, kid activities and all things peaches. info here

Colorado State Fair
The big guy at the Pueblo fairgrounds with a rodeo, carnival, top name acts and the usual big fair fare. August 25-September 4. info here

Free Days
Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield Farms – Tuesday August 1
Molly Brown House – Tuesday, August 1
Denver Art Museum – Saturday, August 5
Denver Museum of Nature and Science – Sunday, August 6, Monday, Aug 28
Denver Botanic Gardens, Tuesday, August 29

Terrific Tomatoes
Tomatoes were not widely eaten in the US until the late 1800’s. Belonging to the nightshade family they were considered poisonous. Today we know that tomatoes contain Vitamin C, A, iron and potassium along with lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant which helps in preventing cancer. You will absorb more lycopene from cooked tomatoes than raw.
Farm fresh tomatoes will soon be nothing more than a memory. Before that sweet juicy flavor retreats for another year make the most of it with recipes sure to complement those end of summer meals. Once we’re back to store bought, try cherry tomato varieties which give more of that fresh tomato taste in the off season.

Herb of the Month – Mint
Growing mint? By now I’m guessing you have a bumper crop that seems to be overtaking the garden, yard and has an eye on the neighbors parcel. Yes, mint can be invasive but if you keep it in a pot or give it its own space to dominate, it can be controlled. It is a wonderful digestive herb, helping to soothe indigestion and rumbling tummies. It smells delicious and is delightful in teas, salads and desserts.

Ginger/Lemon/ Mint Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • ¼ cup fresh ginger root, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
  • Peel from 2 washed lemons, white pith removed as much as possible (a grapefruit spoon is great for this) and cut into thin slices.

Bring sugar, water, ginger and lemon peel to a boil. Cover, turn down heat to low and simmer for an hour.  Stir in fresh mint, cover, turn off heat and let sit overnight. Strain, bottle and keep in the fridge.

Lemon/Ginger/Mint Fizz or Cocktail

  • 2 tbs lemon/ginger/mint syrup
  • Juice of ½ lemon or lime
  • Seltzer
  • 1 oz. of vodka or light rum (optional)

Pour syrup and citrus juice in a glass, add seltzer, alcohol if using, stir, top with seltzer and ice.

Recipes of the Month
With the dog days of August arriving and the bounty of summer overflowing it’s time for easy, cool dishes for picnics and patio dining.

Prosciutto Wrapped Plums or Peaches
From my upcoming cookbook, The Herbalists Happy Hour.
Ripe plums or peaches halved, pits removed, cut into a little larger than bite size wedges.

  • gorgonzola, goat or blue cheese
  • milk
  • Prosciutto slices
  • Balsamic reduction (recipe follows)
  • Thyme and chopped chives for garnish

Preheat oven to 350. Add a small amount of milk or cream to cheese of choice and mash until creamy enough to spoon onto the fruit wedges. After adding the cheese, wrap the wedge with prosciutto. and roast in oven for about 8-10 minutes on a greased baking sheet until heated through. Serve warm, drizzled with balsamic reduction and topped with fresh thyme and chopped chives.

Too much trouble?  Cut the fruit in quarters, skip the cheese or not, wrap with prosciutto and serve. Still quite tasty if not as impressive.

Balsamic Vinegar Reduction
Add 2 cups of balsamic vinegar to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to a simmer until it is thickened and reduced to ½ – 1 cup, depending on how thick you want it. This will concentrate the flavor. Cool and bottle. Usually takes about 15-20 minutes.

Gazpacho
With juicy, ripe summer tomatoes available it’s time for delicious gazpacho.

  • 3 cups ripe summer tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, chopped
  • 1 sweet red bell pepper (or green) seeded and chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1-2 tbs chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh chives
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tsp sugar or honey
  • salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 6 or more drops of Tabasco sauce to taste
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 cups tomato juice

Combine all ingredients in blender. Blend to desired consistency. Place in non-metal, non-reactive storage container, cover tightly and refrigerate overnight, allowing flavors to blend. Toppings can include sour cream, chives, shredded cheese and croutons. You could also mound cooked shrimp or crab to ritz it up a notch.

Greek Salad with Lemon and Oregano

  • 1 cup peeled cucumber, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1/4 green or red bell pepper, stem, seeds and ribs removed, cut into thin slices
  • 1 cup tomatoes cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives
  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup good quality olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 sprig oregano, leaves minced
  • ½ cup crumbled feta
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced basil leaves (optional)

Combine lemon, olive oil and oregano, whisk or shake until blended. Toss cucumbers, pepper, tomatoes, olives and onion together. Lightly dress with the lemon dressing, season with salt and pepper to taste and top with feta and basil.

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