By the time the holidays and cold weather come around, the garden is dormant and sometimes even covered in snow. However, I can still find something to use from my garden, namely the herbs I harvested before the frost could get them. These tasty herbs are perfect for some of my favorite holiday dishes to share at events with friends and family.
Sage is a perfect holiday herb. It pairs really well with the rich flavors of the season. When it’s fresh, my favorite thing to do with sage is to fry the whole leaves in butter until they get crispy. I pair them with pasta and plenty of parmesan cheese for a simple and delicious meal or side dish.
During the holidays I usually have some fresh sage left. Over the years, I have found it to be one of the easiest herbs to grow. It seems to persist into fall and winter longer than others, leaving me with fresh leaves at least for Thanksgiving.
For holiday dishes, my favorite pairing for sage is any type of winter squash. If I have some fresh sage to use, I’ll put it in a marinade to make crispy, roasted pieces of butternut squash.
Another way I like to use sage—dried or fresh—is in a compound butter. I whip it up with softened butter and a little bit of minced garlic. It tastes great on many holiday dishes, but my favorite is to melt it into a cooked half of acorn squash.
My mint plants don’t last as long as the sage so by the holidays, my supply is all dried. This takes nothing away from its flavor though. In fact, for many dishes I prefer the taste of dried mint.
As a vegetarian, I don’t prepare or eat all the traditional holiday dishes. While I still enjoy many of the vegetables, like winter squash, I have to come up with alternatives to the turkey, ham, and other meats served this time of year.
A favorite for me and my husband, who is also a vegetarian, is grilled or friend halloumi. Halloumi is a salty, briny cheese that is always cooked to eat. It pairs wonderfully with dried mint. Sometimes I simply scatter the cooked cheese with dried mint. I have also made dressings with dried mint to drizzle over halloumi.
Another tasty and hardy dish for vegetarians during the holidays is cooked lentils. They pair well with mint. I like to use tomato paste for a richness and just a little bit of red pepper flakes to add heat.
Lavender, like mint, isn’t what most people think of for a holiday herb, but it should be. I first started growing lavender simply because I enjoy the intoxicating scent. For a few years, I never used it. I just enjoyed it in the garden.
Eventually, I learned how versatile lavender is and that you can use both the flowers and the leaves. I collect the flowers before they open and dry them for later. The dried flowers are great as a tea. For holiday dinners, I add them to cookies or muffins. I have also made a syrup with lavender flowers, which is great for making special cocktails.
The leaves of lavender can be used any way you would use rosemary leaves in cooking, another favorite herb of mine. My favorite way to use the dried leaves is when making roasted potatoes. I also enjoy it in a salad dressing.
I love growing herbs in the summer and enjoying them fresh throughout the season. It’s particularly satisfying to be able to keep using them well into winter and to bring something special to holiday meals.