Saturday, April 7, 2012

A visit in the garden of Eden | The Herb Garden

My heart belongs to the mountains and now, herbs. I was inspired to cook because of my fondness to herbs. It is the very reason why Eden Nature Park never failed to amuse me. My recent visit to that mountain resort was worth it: I have seen an organic garden and the other thing that almost blown me away was the rows and rows and rows of herbs…the first time I saw herbs grown organically in volume. Wow. Good thing the last pitstop was just near the garden, and the moment we stopped, I didn’t waste a time---off I went to the organic garden with so much excitement. I literally separated myself from the pack. While they were busy taking pictures probably for facebook, I was busy on the herbs. I examined carefully each plant one by one, since it was already an opportunity to observe those herbs in real life than in books and photos. I pinched a leaf, rubbed and took a moment to register each and every aroma of the herbs to my memory. I tasted some. I enjoyed the feeling of doing it. Ahhh...I love this place! I couldn’t imagine myself thinking of these herbs used in my recipes!

So much for that.

I’d like to share to you the photos of those herbs. Honestly, I learned something from that garden and I will tell you what:

1. Dill versus Fennel - Dill and Fennel are always mistakenly confused from each other, probably because of the leaf formation. However taking a closer look will spell a difference:

Further, a blog Gardening Airy Fairies had clearly made distinction between the two:

Dill (Anethum graveolen) - Dill is found in Mediterranean regions and western Asia. Dill resembles fennel, but is shorter, with a single, easily uprooted hollow stem, grey-green leaves. Its leaves have a strong parsley-caraway smell. A pungent, cooling, aromatic herb that calms and tones the digestive system, controls infection, and has a diuretic effect. Both seeds and leaves are used in cooking, especially in Scandinavian cuisine, with eggs, fish, seafood and potatoes.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) - Fennel is found in Mediterranean Europe and Asia, on wasteland and in dry, sunny places. It is a sweet, aromatic, diuretic herb that relieves digestive problems, increases milk flow, relaxes spasms and reduces inflammation. Fennel leaves and seeds are often used in fish and other local Mediterranean dishes.

2. Coriander/Cilantro versus Parsley - Personally, I always had difficulty telling which one is different from the other. At the supermarket, before I will buy one, I always smell first to distinguish one from the other.

First and foremost, lets distinguish the two using Tagalog or local terms: Coriander is Wansoy and Parsley is Kinchay  or Kintsay in local dialect.  Cilantro is the Spanish term for the Coriander leaves.

Second, actually both of them came from same botanical family Apiaceae, a member of the carrot family, the reason why we cant really distinguish one from the other. Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is an annual herb while Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a biennial herb. This website further distinguishes one from each other.

All parts of the coriander (leaves, roots, stem, seeds) are used in cooking either as garnish, key ingredient or as a powder, while only the leaves of parsley are chopped and used as garnish.

When it comes to flavor, coriander leaves are a bit off and soapy (I likened this one to a taste of cockroach though I never tried one!), while its seeds have warm, nutty and spicy flavor (though I havent tried one). Parsley are much milder and is common in middle eastern, European and American cooking. Coriander is used most by Mexicans in their salsas, guacamole and chillies and is referred by Chinese as 'Mexican Parsley'.

If you are a lover of Asian cuisine, expect more of the Coriander sprinkled as garnish or mixed as a main ingredient.

3. Common Chives versus Garlic Chives - these two are often mistakenly construed as the same with each other in most groceries here in Cebu. Please observe carefully the two photos below:

Both these two herbs came from the same family Allium, the family of onion (  Common Chive is Allium Schoenoprasum, the smallest edible species of onion. The Garlic Chive is Allium Tuberosum, has strap-shaped leaves. Both of these chives have flowers and this can also be used in cooking and garnishings.

The difference between the two is the taste. Garlic Chives or also known as Chinese Chives have a delicate garlicky flavor ( and are used extensively in oriental cooking. Chinese used it to make their dumplings, and most Koreans used this in their dishes. The Garlic Chives are good choice for those who don't want a full garlic flavor, while the common chives are best for those who don't want a full onion flavor.

4. Basil: How many varieties can you name? - when I started collecting herbs, what I have were the basics: like the Italian sweet basil for my pasta which you can buy it now in most grocery stores in Cebu, the most common lemon basil (or sangeg in our local term) for everyday cooking, holy basil and thai basil for dishes that is something or somewhat like  'asian'. Then my list was added with the coming in of purple basil and dwarf basil given to me by a friend. I got 6 varieties in my potted garden.
I did not know that Thai Basil is also called Siam Queen Basil.

And this is my first time to see a cinnamon basil. I love cinnamon, as well as basil. What more if you can have one plant that has two most-sought qualities? It's like hitting 2 birds in one stone. How I wish I can have this one on my garden soon. I'm already thinking of putting  this in cold beverages, or probably in baked goodies. 

5. Tarragon - it was my first time to see french tarragons in bloom! It has tiny bright yellow flowers. The three-petaled flower system plus a bunch of undeveloped petals at the tip makes this herb unique. The colors makes your mood light and bright!

6. Rosemary - I have rosemary at home, given to me as a gift last year by my officemates. It was 4 inches tall that time when it was given to me, and now after more than half of the year, it grew to almost 12 inches tall, yet not that lush. It looked thin and small.

When I saw Eden Park's rows of rosemary, I conclude that this herb is not that easy to grow.
7. And lastly, Thyme - This is my first time to see a Thyme! It looks like an ordinary weed to those eyes not particular on this herb. It has tiny leaves in cluster in every joint. I have not tried to grow this one at home. I have used only the dried and bottled version of this herb.

Thyme has a strong flavor, and is best cultivated in hot and sunny locations. It prefers well-drained soil. It can be grown through cuttings or dividing the rooted sections.

These are just some of the herbs grown and propagated in the organic garden of Eden Nature Park.

There's none like that here in Cebu. That's why I just cant imagine the delight in my eyes when I saw these herbs.

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