Herbing it up: Chives, tarragon and savory

Many a blog ago, I waxed on which herbs were essential for a kitchen herb garden. I chose my personal favorites, the six I canít do without: basil, sage, parsley, thyme, oregano and rosemary.

This week, I sheared a few inches off my chives and tossed them into scrambled eggs and over new potatoes, quinoa and couscous. Because chives take no effort, theyíre underappreciated, Iíve decided. I got my plants at a Garden Club of Durango perennial plant sale Ė always the day before Motherís Day. Every year, members divide theirs and sell them to the public for a song. I think this yearís sale is at Rotary Park. Watch for publicity in the weeks ahead, and be there by 9a.m. Itís not just about chives. Youíll find every perennial that grows in the area, already acclimated to this climate.

Iím also watching my French tarragon (Artemesia dracunculus) push its way through the soil. This is true French tarragon, the only one thatís suited for culinary purposes. Donít take a division from a neighbor gardener unless they can vouch for you that you are growing French and not Russian tarragon, which has a woody, almost bitter flavor. No Bťarnaise sauce is complete without French tarragon.

About a year ago, I ran the Ore House tarragon chicken recipe in a tribute to Durangoís first steak house. I doubt if they serve tarragon chicken now Ė more than 30 years after it first appeared on the menu. But if you havenít served this elegant comfort food at home, youíre missing a treat.

Buy a starter plant of tarragon and get it established in a sunny, well-drained location. Unless you are at 9,000 feet, itís hardy. Your tarragon will grow 36 inches tall with ugly legs, so it will need staking if you choose to not pick it. Like zucchini, it begs to be given to your friends. If they arenít cooks, tell them to use sprigs to flavor distilled white vinegar. Theyíll be converts in no time.

Finally, donít forget that you can hang branches for drying. Shear the leaves from the stem and add tarragon to recipes year round.

Just as thereís a preferred variety of tarragon, savory, too, must be selected with care. Select summer savory, Satureja hortensis, not the winter variety. Summer savory is much more delicately flavored. You can easily start this one from seed. I canít think of a bean, pea or lentil recipe that doesnít benefit from adding savory. Itís great in soups, too.

Next week Iím going to write about cilantro and mint Ė the renegades of my modest kitchen garden. Canít live with them, canít live without them.