When I was a kid growing up on Vancouver Island, my family always kept a herb garden. Herbs are easy to grow, especially in a temperate rainforest. They don’t like extreme cold or extreme heat and for the most part like moist soil.
There are perennial herbs such as rosemary, sage and thyme, biennial herbs such as parsley, and annual herbs such as basil and coriander. Every dish from my childhood contained some type of herb: rosemary on beef, tarragon on chicken, sage on turkey, lemon verbena on salmon, basil on tomatoes.
The food from my childhood has had a significant influence on the food we serve at Richmond Station. We still stick to the classics but have also found new favourites: dill flowers on trout, Mexican marigold in a butter sauce on zucchini, bronze fennel on fresh cheese.
Herbs don’t just add another dimension of flavour to a dish; they add a sense of freshness as they are the green leaves of a plant. They are medicinal. They also add something priceless: they are beautiful to admire. The contrast of little red veined sorrel on a slice of venison stands out. A parsley, dill and chervil salad on top of a chowder takes a plain-looking dish to the next level.
Herbs are available year-round in a grocery store, but nothing compares to freshly picked. Buy herbs that are bright and not browning at all. They will keep well wrapped in a damp towel in a sealed container in the fridge, but if you can grow them yourself, just step outside and pick as much as you want when you need them!