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Preserving Flavors Of The Season: Mint, Verbena, Garlic

container of mint pesto and other ingredients

Asian-Inspired Mint Pesto

The word "pesto" comes from a mortar and pestle, as you grind up your ingredients into a paste, but life is much easier these days with food processors.

"People think of pesto as being basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil, and garlic," Chef Orr said. But there's no reason you can't use other herbs in your pestos!

A jalapeno pepper in the pesto? If you're not fond of too much heat in your food, like me, Chef Orr suggests cutting out the white membrane and the seeds before adding it to your food processor. "That's where the dynamite is!"

This easy and tasty recipe can be used on top of vegetables, smothered on a filet of fish, or you could add it to some stewed zucchinis and tomatoes.


Simple Syrup Using Lemon Verbena

Salsas, pickled peppers, pestos… Another way to preserve the flavors of the season is to make flavored sugars and simple syrups.

A simple syrup is equal parts sugar and water. Make this syrup your own by using lemon verbena and some lemon zest. You can also use fruit juices to create unique tastes.

You can make simple syrups with any number of different herbs, including rosemary, lavender, and sage.

Soak the herbs in some water, and let it come to a boil. Then, let the herbs simmer in the water for 10-15 minutes.

Create a simple dessert with your simple syrup: sliced strawberries, vanilla ice cream, and the lemon verbena syrup. A refreshing treat to end any meal!

Garlic Scapes Into Garlic Salt

From sweet to salty!

"To me they kind of look like little goose heads." Chef Orr is talking about the garlic scapes he picked from his garden. And what better thing to make with an overabundance of garlic scapes but garlic salt to last you all year long.

Garlic scapes are the stems of the garlic plant, the thing that would turn into a flower if left alone. Breaking off the scapes allows the garlic plant to strengthen its bulb, so you're helping out the plant in the process. You can cook them like scallions (in stir fries, in pestos, etc.).

Garlic scapes do not have the same heat as regular garlic cloves or a mature garlic plant would have. So, you can use those chopped up in stir fries and eat the whole thing and not worry about over-cooking them.

They also tend not to "repeat on you," (you don't burb them up a lot!) whereas the whole gloves of garlic people sometimes have a hard time digesting, especially when it has that little green heart in it – the germ.

This recipe couldn't be any easier. Roughly chop 10-12 garlic scapes. Add the garlic scapes, along with 2 pounds of kosher salt, to the food processor. Then, run the processor until you no longer see chunks of garlic. Spread the garlic salt on a cookie sheet, and then bake it in a 250-degree oven.

"You don't want to put it on too high of heat or you'll lose that great green color," Chef Orr warned.

Once the salt has dried out in the oven, pulse it in a food processor once more. Put the salt in jars and enjoy it as seasoning for your food throughout the winter.

Weekly News Updates

Climate change has been in the news lately, with Democrats in the Senate pushing a climate bill out of committee in spite of Republican boycotts. Well, NASA made climate change news recently because it is about to lose its satellite that has been monitoring the Earth's polar ice caps since 2003.

The satellite has been replaced with a mission called Ice Bridge, which consists of a DC-8 airplane taking photographs over Antarctica. It's not really as thorough as the satellite because it can only scan small areas at a time, but it's better than nothing while NASA readies a new satellite for orbit around 2015.

Carrots in Space

Tuskegee University recently conducted a study to find the best way to grow hydroponic carrots in space. The reason is that astronauts need FRESH vegetables during their stay at the International Space Station. The researchers focused on carrots because they have the highest content of carotenoids -- which help to off-set the elevated levels of radiation astronauts can experience in space.

Pigs and Fumes

If you've ever passed a pig farm on the highway, you know how noxious those fumes can be. And that stench you're smelling isn't only unpleasant, it's also an environmental hazard. That pig poop releases greenhouse gasses and pollutes the underground water supply.

The New Scientist writes about a team out of Denmark that's working on keeping the pig manure from wreaking havoc on the land by converting it into electricity. They're comparing 14 different methods – and one of is anaerobic digestion. That's when they use bacteria to 'digest' the manure. The microbes leave behind methane gas after their feast, which is then captured and used to fuel gas turbines.

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