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Jessica’s Garden: All About Herbs

pesto chicken pot pie
Pesto Chicken Pot Pie

This past weekend, I had the honor of participating in Behnke’s Herb Weekend. I had a wonderful time by spending a sunny and beautiful Saturday afternoon at the nursery meeting lots of fellow gardeners. I had the opportunity to demonstrate a few of my favorite ways to incorporate homegrown herbs in daily cooking.

Herb gardening is one of my favorites. After a long winter, I’m always itching to get my hands in the dirt. But even planting early, it takes months to see a pepper, squash or tomato. Herbs are quick; they are always the first thing ready to harvest and bring some homegrown back into your food.

One of my favorite herbs is basil, it’s fresh and distinct, but also an herb that appeals to the masses. I demonstrated two ways to use this versatile herb- Basil, Parsley and Walnut Pesto, and Basil and Edamame Hummus. I make large batches of the pesto throughout the season because it freezes well in jelly sized mason jars for later and Winter use.

Once defrosted, the pesto will generally keep for a week or so in the refrigerator. I substitute walnuts for the traditional pine nuts for two reasons; cost, and I truthfully do not notice the difference. I also use a portion of parsley in the recipe because it’s generally abundant and stretches the recipe yield.

Pesto is versatile and easy to use. In our home, we enjoy it in pasta, homemade pizza, as a dip, or as an extra flavor in a chicken pot pie gravy base. One of my summer grilling favorites is butterflying chicken breasts, liberally coating on both sides with fresh pesto, stuffing with roasted red peppers and fresh mozzarella, closing and securing with toothpicks and grilling to perfection. The Basil Edamame Hummus is a bright and flavorful, but simple and delicious dip, perfect paired with pita chips for serving.

Herbs add a tremendous amount to a dish. They add bright flecks of color and distinct and individual flavors to your cooking. I’m continually amazed at how herbs can be incorporated. They can be preserved by drying and also by canning. One of my favorite jellies that I have made is Basil Jelly; an almost minty and sweet jelly that is delicious served as an appetizer with cream cheese on whole wheat crackers.

Herbs can be savory and sweet and sometimes at the same time. Every year, I try a few new herbs and experiment with new ways to use them. The options are limitless.


Basil & Edamame Hummus
Recipe Courtesy of Cooking Light Magazine

In Food Processor, combine : 2 Cups Steamed and cooled Edamame

2 Tbsp Plain Yogurt
2 Tbsp Pine Nuts
½ Cup Fresh Basil Leaves

Pulse ingredients together about 10 pulses

Add: ¼ C Water
2 Tbsp Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
½ tsp. Lemon Zest
Salt & Pepper to taste

Process until smooth and creamy. Serve with pita chips

Note: Walnuts can be substituted for pine nuts in this recipe


Basil, Parsley & Walnut Pesto
From the Kitchen of Jessica Crawford

1 Cup Basil; loosely packed leaves
1 Cup Parsley; loosely packed leaves
1 Cup walnuts
¾ Parmesan Cheese
¾ C-1 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Garlic Cloves; peeled and coarsely chopped
Zest of 1 Lemon
Juice of ½ Lemon
Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in food processor except olive oil. Attach lid and begin pulsing food processor while simultaneously adding olive oil. Keep adding oil until mixture moves freely and is well chopped and incorporated. Will likely need periodic scraping. Recipe makes a large yield; leftovers can be frozen.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hi Vicki

    I’m not sure how that ingredient managed to get left off the list, but I generally use about a cup of walnuts because I like a coarser textured pesto. For looser pesto, reduce the amount of nuts. Thanks for reading!

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