We are getting ready to launch a tea room at my place of employment, which explains all of my tea related posts and tea room visits that are helping to pad my backside. In an effort to tie a narrative with the food we will be serving, I dragged myself to the herb garden we have on site, a beautiful specimen of, not just common herbs like tarragon, thyme and rosemary, but fruit trees, caper bushes, Mediterranean fig trees and other wonders that can only inspire when writing a menu. There is so much that I frequently forget all that is to be found.
It’s a sunny and chilly ( for Californian standards) morning and it’s pleasant to walk on the sunny side of the garden. It’s early enough that no one is around, not even the gardeners who turn a blind eye when, come September, I can be found semi dangling from one of the fig trees, stealing the juicy fruit. I notice that a few, tiny apricots have made their appearance and some stunted apples are still hanging on for dear life.Further down the path I see two greens whose names I am familiar with but I can’t really say I ever cooked with them or even know exactly what their uses are – Lovage and Borage.
Both plants are indigenous to the Mediterranean area (borage is actually from Syria but took hold in the Mediterranean basin) and both were known in ancient times for their medicinal properties. Borage has been frequently used to calm hot flashes of menopausal women and I guess I should do further research on its rate of success for when the time comes…Shame on me for not knowing that lovage and borage are prevalent in the North Western Liguria region of Italy.Words on a screen tell me that lovage is related to celery in flavor and in Germany it’s actually called the Maggiplant as its taste apparently resembles the Maggi bouillon cube Germans are so fond of.
Borage has a fresh “cucumbery” taste and it’s frequently added to salads while its beautiful blue flower is one of the few really edible flowers and used for cake and dessert decorations. It tastes like honey which beats the pretty edible pansies that merely taste like grass on a good day.After all this reading up on unknown herbs I might be enticed to take another trip to the garden, early in the morning, and taste for myself. Away from the gardeners’ prying eyes who will be thinking the mating ducks living nearby had a middle of the night hunger pang.