As I write it is a beautifully bright but chilly day at the end of April. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been out in the garden clearing up and getting ready for a fresh growing season. A few herbs have survived the wet winter. My parsley and marjoram are flourishing but the rosemary and thyme are looking a little sad. I think they are in need of some warm sunshine, as am I!
In our small garden plants we can eat jostle for space with ornamentals. Over the years I’ve had a go at growing a variety of plants with varying degrees of success. Now I focus on edible plants which are hard to find in the shops or expensive to buy.
Alongside fruit bushes, strawberries and herbs are flowers to be eaten. My favourite are nasturtiums for their bright colourful flowers and peppery tasting leaves. At Span Art’s Big Plant Sale last year I bought a jostaberry (a blackcurrant/gooseberry cross), rhubarb plant and some raspberry bushes. This year we look forward to harvesting the first fruit.
I also grow vegetables I like to eat when they’re small, usually beetroot and courgettes as I love the raw tender young veg sliced into salads. Another bonus of growing them is being able to use other parts of the plant which are often removed before they get to the shops. Beetroot leaves work well in place of spinach. Courgette flowers are edible with a buttery flavour – stuffed and deep fried they’re a real delicacy.
Hopefully as you read this it is a perfect summer’s day. Even if not, this issue’s recipe should bring some sunshine into your kitchen, as it did to mine on a chilly April day.
Salsa Verde will brighten up many recipes. I first ate it with fried halloumi and am now addicted! This green sauce balances well with many fish dishes and livens up potato salad or mash. Drizzled over orange butternut squash soup it looks and tastes so good. Whilst as a dip for raw crunchy vegetables it really zings.
This recipe is, as always, a starting point. Use whichever soft green herb is in abundance/cheaper, add more/less of any ingredient to suit your taste. I usually make a large batch and freeze leftovers in small containers for another day when I need a blast of brightness on my plate.
Salsa Verde recipe
1 large bunch of parsley/coriander/marjoram/a mix – washed, tough stringy stalks removed, the rest roughly chopped
1-2 teaspoons mustard (I use a mellow French/wholegrain)
1 lemon/lime – juiced
1-2 tablespoons capers/green pitted olives – rinsed
1-2 garlic cloves – peeled and roughly chopped (optional)
2-4 tablespoons of oil (one you like the flavour of, I use olive/rapeseed)
salt and pepper
Put the herbs into a food processor/blender/container for a stick blender.
Add half the lemon/lime juice, 2 tablespoons of oil, half the mustard, half the capers/olives, half the garlic (if using) and blitz for a minute or two. You may need to stop and move the leaves around to get them all to the blender blades.
Adding more oil &/ some water may also help it blend to a sauce if it seems dry. The consistency can be between a dip to a pouring sauce, depending how you want to eat it, add more oil/water as necessary.
Taste the sauce, season with salt and pepper and add more lemon/lime juice, mustard, capers/olives and garlic to your taste. Blitz again to combine. The sauce should be herby with a kick from the other ingredients.
This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.