Bring Out the Zest Foods! Bring Out the Zest!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Zest of Meyer Lemons
No -- this is not garden prose about a jar of mayo. However, it is a catchy jingle from my childhood, so why not steal it? If you've come here looking for original thought, you are going to be sorely disappointed. This posting, by the way, is an actual ripoff of someone else's great idea!

Hey, if it works, why not?

My friends -- I cannot take credit for this little invention that the wife that is Venus and I are putting together using fresh ingredients grown in the Bird Back 40. Nope, credit goes to Jenn Hammer, creator and author of Jenn's Gardening Spot blog. You think I'm the only Sacramento gardener who blogs? Hardly. However, I am the one that screws up the most. Thus, my claim to fame.

If Life Gives You Lemons: Zest!
One of Jenn's latest posts involved the use of lemon zest to make a special herb rub mixture that, I must admit, sounded more than just a bit tasty. She claims it's good on chicken, fish, just about everything. And, after looking at her ingredient list, I'd believe it. That post leaves you drooling on your keyboard. It's THAT good.

It suddenly dawned on me the other day that I had tons of Meyer Lemons still hanging on one of two Improved Meyer Lemon trees in the Bird Back 40. I also had a large bush of rosemary which I'd recently cut back and shaped a bit (rosemary grows like a weed in the Sacramento climate). In fact, I really don't need to grow rosemary. Easily half of the public landscaping in North Natomas is that very popular herb called rosemary. Once you know what you're looking for? You'll see it everywhere.

Bird Herb Bed Springing Back to Life
Then, of course, there's Bird Herb Bed: Six feet long and two feet wide, it's packed with just about every herb under the sun. Oregano? More varieties than I can count. Thyme? Of course! French Sorrel? Are you kidding? Majoram? By golly, you betcha! Sage? I couldn't dig that stuff out if I tried. And this doesn't include the five varieties of basil currently growing indoors, just waiting for the day they can be set outside in the warm California sunshine.

Venus planted the herb bed about four years ago, reserving little spots here and there for seeds or starter plants. Since then? It's just all grown together and produces a boatload of herbs every spring and summer. We'll grab handfuls of the stuff and grind it up in the food processor, then cram as much as we can into an empty beer can. After filling that can with a little bit of wine? You have the perfect cooking utensil for one of our favorite meals: beer can chicken.

Rosemary Bush
After looking at what Jenn had done, I knew I could duplicate this tasty herb-blend recipe on a much wider scale, involving far more herbs, all grown straight from the backyard garden. We always grow far more than we need, which means we're always dragging tomatoes, herbs and other vegetables into work to give away to friends and co-workers.

Why not make up a spice blend, jar it, and give them away as Christmas gifts? Paired with a bottle or two of our moderately famous Roasted Garlic, Pepper and Heirloom tomato salsa and/or freshly prepared dill pickles, we think it's a gift that some family members might enjoy.

Of course -- what do we do with all those lemons once they've been zested? I'm a huge believer in this tried and true bit of advice: If life gives you lemons? Make something you can mix with tequila! Or, something along those lines.

We'll allow the zest to dry through the warm summer months, along with the rosemary, oregano, majoram, sage, basil and whatever other spice pops up unexpectedly (dill weed anyone?). We'll use a spice mill to grind up the rosemary, which doesn't grind easily even when dry. The food processor can handle the rest.

The end result? If you believe Jenn Hammer (and I do) -- the end result will be the most delicious and zesty spice rub known to mankind. And this is the reason why we grow at home.

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