Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fresh Herbs from Lee Burbage of Island Thyme Herbs in Charleston, SC









The Marion Square Farmers Market in Charleston, SC is one of the best Farmers Markets I have ever been to. The quality of the products is a reflection of the vendors love for their work.

Today I am featuring one such vendor, Lee Burbage of Island Thyme Herbs. Lee sells fresh herb plants at the market every Saturday, and provides cuttings to dozens of local chefs. 

Lee accidentally discovered his green thumb one day and hasn't stopped growing herbs since. When I asked him the secret to his beautiful flavorful and fragrant herbs he really couldn't tell me. He just knows the tricks to make them happy. 

I visited his little herb farm aka backyard to see if there was more to it than he acted. It's a very small space, but I know that if I were an herb I would love to hang out back there. 

The most important fresh ingredient in any chefs hands is undoubtedly herbs because of the aromatics. The sense most connected to memory is smell so it stands to reason that more aromatic dishes vastly improve your enjoyment and memory of a dish. They oils burst open and fill your whole mouth and nose with flavor.

When you buy herbs in the store the sugars dissipate so rapidly and the oils dry out so the aromatics are lacking. Then you throw the herbs over the heat, or chop them and they are supposed to release there essential oils but they don't.

Lee let me sample little bits of each plant and I was blown away by the strength of flavor in each herb.  Before trying his herbs I had no idea how much sweetness herbs have. I sadly have to purchase all of my herbs from the grocery store unless I'm lucky enough to harvest from my mothers garden.

The cool part about the fresh herbs is that their flavor changes as they age and flower. Lee showed me the "tenderloin" of the fennel, the most succulent and sweet piece that has more sugar and is more tender than the regular fronds we use when we think of fresh fennel.


I have banned myself from plant ownership because I feel so bad for having killed so many. But if you are capable of growing herbs I highly suggest picking up a few plants from Lee. Make something delicious with them. 


The Oregano was spicy, like biting into a fresh black peppercorn.

You can see the brown frond in the fennel is actually the fresh shoot which Lee calls the "tenderloin".





Basil

In Charleston shrimp grow on plants.



A Swallowtail Caterpillar Munching on Parsley


Flowering Rosemary
Citronelle


Lee rigs up palettes with wheels for moving the herbs around his patio



Island Thyme Herbs/Burbage Farms

Organic Herbs and Plants
Lee Burbage
(843) 318-6239