Herb of the Year for 2023: Ginger ( (Zingiber officinale). Named by the International Herb Association
Flower of the Month for September: Aster
September is Better Breakfast Month
September’s Feature: Pick a Peck of Perfect Pestos
September 7. National Acorn Squash Day. Squash is the short form of the Narragansett askutasquash. With corn and beans, it was a Native American staple food.
September 8. Our planet isn’t always kind. Today in 1900, the Galveston Hurricane, the deadliest (some 8,000+ fatalities) in American history.
September 9 Today in 1850: California became a state. The state flower: the California poppy, long used as a sedative.
September 14 In England, the traditional time for the hops harvest.
September 15 Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish new year.
September 16 National Guacamole Day: “Guacamole” derived from two Aztec words—ahuacatl (avocado), molli (sauce). . Here’s all you need to know about this interesting fruit.
September 20 National Punch Day (No, not that kind. Be gentle.)
September 23 The Fall Equinox and the first day of autumn.
September 26 Johnny Appleseed’s birthday.
September 28. St. Michaelmas Eve. Traditional: a blackberry dessert
September 29. International Coffee Day. And yes, coffee is an herb. But you knew that, didn’t you?
Pesto (the Italian word for something that’s been pounded) has been around since the Romans (at least). The word showed up in this country in a 1928 newspaper recipe for a parsley pesto added to minestrone soup, but didn’t become A Thing until the 1970s—about the same time that food processors became available to do what used to be done with a mortar and pestle and lots of elbow grease. It’s traditionally green, although some folks like it red. If you’re a purist and love your pesto green, it’s the classic basil recipe you’re looking for:
Basically Basil Pasta
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 large cloves garlic
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
Dump everything into your food processor and process until it’s finely minced. With the processor running, dribble in the oil and process until . . . well, until it’s pesto. Add the cheese and process just long enough to mix it in. Makes 2 cups.
But don’t stop there! Basil isn’t the only green that makes delicious pesto. Here are some variations to experiment with:
- Substitute any green you’ve got hanging around the fridge or the garden: romaine, spinach, kale, arugula, carrot tops.
- Include other leafy green herbs: dill, parsley, mint, cilantro, lemon balm, oregano.
- Most nuts work just fine: pine, pecans, cashews, walnuts, almonds. So do cooked white beans.
- Bitter? Counterpunch with lemon juice or vinegar.
- Change up the cheese: Romano, Asiago, shredded cheddar, or crumbled feta or goat’s milk cheese are tasty substitutes for Parmesan
- Choose another oil: a lighter olive oil, avocado, sunflower, canola.
If you really want to go rogue, go red:
1 cup sundried tomatoes
1 cup roasted red bell pepper
1/2 cup basil or mixed basil, parsley, oregano
2 tablespoons nuts
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup cheese
1 teaspoon salt
Make it the same way you make green pesto.
Not Just for Pasta!
Pesto’s perfect with pasta, of course. But there are plenty of other ways to use your pesto, green or red. Try it on pizza or on a salad. Spread it on a sandwich and on fresh hot bread or rolls. Slather it on a baked potato, a serving of veggies, chicken, or pork chops. Stir it into soups, offer it as a dip. It’s the very best way to use those extra greens and herbs.
- Read about the Galveston Hurricane in China Bayles’ 21st mystery, Widow’s Tears.
- Celebrate Rosh Hashanah with foods that symbolize prosperity, fertility, abundance, productivity: apples dipped in honey, challah (egg bread), pomegranates.
- Bake this delicious rosemary-flavored apple cake in honor of Johnny Appleseed (your cast iron skillet is perfect for this). Then take the kids outdoors and plant an apple tree in your backyard.
- While you’re at it, plant a hops vine. Looking for a vigorous, reach-for-the-sky herbal vine for your garden? Consider hops. Hops have played a crucial role in the evolution of beer. Antibiotic and anti-inflammatory, the fruit has been used in salves and wound compresses. Hop flowers (folk name: “good night flowers”) have a mild sedative action and are brewed in sleepy-time teas and used to treat digestive upsets. And the green tips of the vine (“hops shoots”) can be cooked and eaten as asparagus. What more can we ask of a vine?
- Make a pitcher of punch. The word derives from the Hindustani “panch,” or “five,” for this traditional 5-ingredient drink: alcohol, lemon (or other fruit), sugar, water, and spiced tea. For a galaxy of stellar party punches, check out this collection of 30 drinkable recipes.
- Learn how blackberries became the traditional Michaelmas treat and what the devil had to do with it. And don’t those dumplings look delicious?
- Visit my new Substack project, Place & Thyme, where we can share more of our community interests. Subscribe (it’s quick, easy, free), and you can be a part of whatever we’re doing. Love to have you join us there!