Growing your own herbs (from seed) should be part of the gluten-free lifestyle!

As a foodie I am strongly in favour of using fresh herbs in my cooking. The flavour of fresh basil, oregano and thyme in a pasta sauce is far superior than the flavour of the same sauce made with dried herbs. There is nothing wrong with using dried herbs, everyone relies on them from time to time when they just cannot find what they are looking for at the grocery store, but you really cannot compare flavour of the the fresh living plant to that of irradiated dried flakes.

The problem with dried herbs in the gluten-free kitchen is the possibility that they have been poisoned with wheat, barley, rye, spelt or other nasty grains. Although high-quality herbs can be found that are guaranteed to be gluten-free, the cost per bottle is high. A cheaper, tastier and healthier option is to grow your own herbs.

The benefits of growing your own herbs speak for themselves:

  1. Low Cost: a package of seeds is only a few dollars, and even if you don’t compost yourself you can buy quality compost at a reasonable price.
  2. Nutrition: Fresh herbs have huge quantities of vitamins and minerals compared to dried herbs. They also have many medicinal properties that are lost when companies dry and irradiate their herbs. Even when fresh, the nutritional value of plants quickly lessens once picked. How long have those herbs been in the produce aisle?
  3. Grow for flavour: commercial growers grow varieties that last longer in the fridge and are more disease resistant. The best tasting herb might not be the one that lasts the longest on the shelf.
  4. Variety: when you buy basil in the store you have one variety (maybe two if you find a store that has Thai basil), but when you grow the plants yourself have options. Many, many options. My favourite fresh herb and seed supply company Richter’s carries 43 varieties of basil. FORTY-THREE! We’re you aware that there were that many types of basil? They all have different flavours and smells. They’re all wonderful!
  5. No waste: when you buy a bunch of herbs at the store do you always use the entire bunch, or do you only use half or a third and watch the rest wither away in the fridge? When you grow your own you only take what you need from the plant, and the plant will continue to grow even after you pick the leaves — so you will have more herb next week to do as you please. No withered leaves!
  6. Dry your own: if you plant too much, you can always dry it yourself. Now you have gluten-free dried herbs in your pantry.
  7. Carcinogen free: I promise you that you’ll feel so much better knowing that your food was not sprayed with huge quantities of carcinogens (aka pesticides/herbicides).
  8. Cleaner air: house plants, even herbs, help clean the air in your house! Many of the air born junk is then processed by plants into wonderfully harmless plant products.
  9. Lower your in pact on the environment: how much waste do those greenhouses create growing your herbs? How many chemicals end up in the environment? What about pollution from transportation? Growing chemical-free and local
  10. Pretty: many herbs are absolutely breathtaking! Ever seen purple ruffles basil? You really could make it into a centrepiece.
  11. Always gluten-free!

Because I am so convinced of the benefits of growing your own herbs I am going to blog about this topic once a week. Each week I’ll cover a new topic! Next week I will discuss where and how to buy herbs seeds. Stay tuned!

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Vegetable Stock- a step-by-step method

the bare min Yum! Vegetable stock. Canned vegetable stock cannot even begin to flavour your food as well (or as cheaply) as homemade stock. It is so versatile and so easy to make that I honestly don’t know why anybody would buy the stuff in cans. You don’t have to go running to the store to buy vegetables to make vegetable stock. USE WHAT YOU HAVE IN THE HOUSE! You can even use vegetable scraps to make the stock. Carrot tops, ends of celery, broccoli stems etc. can be frozen and then pulled out to make your stock. Yes, I know those items also make excellent compost, and if you’re an avid gardener (like me!) you will just go to the store and buy vegetables to make stock in order to make sure that your Summer harvest tomatoes are well fed. My point is you don’t have to throw anything out, you can use scraps, you can usually just use what you have in your fridge.

That being said, there is a bare minimum of ingredients you need to make a reasonable stock. I do realize that the more types of veg you put in your stock, the richer it will taste, but you can still make veggie stock that is far superior to anything canned with a few simple ingredients. The picture (above) illustrates my point. To make a vegetable stock all you need are three carrots, three stalks of celery, a garlic clove, a sweet onion (but any type of onion will do), enough water to cover the cut up veg, a cutting board, a knife and a stock pot. There are no seasonings like salt or pepper in a stock. You are going to use this stock to make another recipe, that is why it is a stock — it is never served on its own! If you add salt/pepper/other spices you have made a broth. Yup. Salt and pepper are really the only difference between a vegetables stock and a vegetable broth. This is not true of chicken/beef/pork broth stock. Animals stock is made from bones where animal broth is made using the whole carcass (or pieces of carcass) meat included. But I digress, you really want to know how to make stock! (more below the cut)

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