Herbs and certain edible flowers are fun and easy to grow indoors year-round, and can enrich the taste of your cooking. And, while drinking your morning coffee each day and treating yourself to Oakhurst cream you can look over at a sunny windowsill and enjoy watching your plants and herbs mature into food for your family. These indoor gardens can also be a great way to teach responsibility and natural sciences to younger children.
A great resource on cooking with herbs is Craig Claiborne’s Cooking with Herbs and Spices (paperback available on Amazon and maybe by request at your local bookstore).
You may think it’s complicated to start your own indoor garden but it’s really not. In fact, you don’t need a lot of gardening experience, equipment, or even time to get started. What you do need is a window that gets a lot of natural sunlight (at least six or seven hours). This space could be in any room, though it is not recommended you keep potted plants in bathrooms (too much moisture). You’ll also need a bag or two of potting soil, seeds, a few planters (different sizes depending on what you are growing i.e. rosemary needs more space than basil). No fancy equipment or special tools needed and gardening gloves are optional! And you can even repurpose an Oakhurst one-gallon milk container and use it as a container for your garden (just make sure to punch holes in the bottom for drainage into the plate underneath).
For creative ideas on building window boxes (inside and out) Storey Publishing’s Window Boxes: Indoors and Out by James Cramer and Dean Johnson is a wonderful resource.
Before you start planting, be sure to read the directions on each seed packet to find out how deep they should go in the soil. If you are a beginner, here’s a good way to start: fill the pot with two or more inches of soil, place the seeds on top and cover them with a half-inch (again, read the instructions for specific amounts) of soil and then water. You’ll want to water once a week. And as you continue to monitor your herbs and flowers you’ll find your indoor garden does not require the same commitment as an outdoor one.
If you do create outdoor herb gardens each summer we have a great article to share with you from Organic Gardening. It talks about how to transplant certain herbs (i.e. oregano and thyme) from your summer garden to indoors.
Our indoor garden includes Rose Geranium and following is a delicious recipe using this wonderful plant. Rose Geranium is a plant used for flavoring in many old-fashioned recipes (for flavor and scent) and in perfumes! You can find Rose Geranium seeds online and in most gardening sections of hardware and garden supply stores. To learn more about how this plant can be used in your kitchen visit: http://researchingfoodhistory.blogspot.com/2009/09/rose-geraniums.html
Rose Geranium Cake
Recipe by Deborah Gideon of Bee Blossom Botanicals www.beeblossom.com
12 Rose Geranium leaves
1 c. (2 sticks) butter
1¾ c. sugar
6 egg whites
3 c. sifted cake flour
4 t. baking powder
½ t. salt
¾ c. Oakhurst milk
½ c. water
2/3 c. unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
2 cups confectionary sugar
1 t. vanilla
6 rose geranium leaves
Rinse and dry the geranium leaves. Wrap 6 leaves around each stick of butter. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and chill overnight.
The next day, unwrap the butter and remove the leaves. Place the butter in a mixing bowl; rinse the leaves and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
Add the sugar to the butter and cream until light. Add the egg whites, 2 at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together. In a separate bowl, mix the milk and water. Alternatively add the flour and milk mixtures to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat until smooth after each addition.
Arrange 6 of the geranium leaves on the bottom of each cake pan. Spoon the batter over leaves. Bake until the cake springs back when touched in the center and has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to finish cooling. Gently remove the leaves from the bottom of the cake and discard.
Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. In a bowl, cream the butter well. Beat in the egg yolk, and then gradually add the sugar, beating constantly. Stir in the vanilla. Chop the geranium leaves very fine by hand or in a food processor and stir into the frosting.
When the cake layers have cooled completely, fill, and frost.
My notes: The frosting was very skimpy. I would double the amount to be able to cover the cake adequately. Also, I would eliminate the yolk in the frosting, as it seems to me unnecessary (butter cream frosting is fine without it), and I noticed an “eggy” flavor in it after the cake was a few days old.