30 Aug 2023

Preserving the Summer Garden With Bouquet Garni de Provence Ice Cubes

It’s already late summer, which means that herbs that we planted in our summer garden have been in full bloom for a while, and we have been using them in all kinds of ways: herbal infusions, tinctures, decorations, herbal salts, adding them to meals and salads, and making other herbal preparations of all kinds… but what if there is something else we can prepare to preserve that summer abundance for the upcoming colder months? Something that would infuse our kitchens with fresh herbal aroma even in December? The answer is a bouquet garni

A summer garden bouquet garni is a bundle of fresh herbs, typically tied together with a string, commonly used in soups, stocks, and casseroles. Originally coming from French cuisine, the bouquet garni is now used around the world. While there’s no fixed recipe, traditional French versions often consist of thyme, bay leaf, and parsley. Other optional herbs may include basil, oregano, chervil, rosemary, peppercorns, savory, and tarragon. 

supplies to make a bouquet garni

Have you ever wondered why foods in certain restaurants taste so delicious? Well, many times the answer is in the stock. Professional kitchens use all kinds of stock to make risotto, to braise meats or veggies, in stews, in soups, in sauces, in glazes—everywhere! And why is this? Because it adds to the depth and flavor of a dish like nothing else. A good stock is made with plenty of good ingredients: vegetables, proteins, and of course—herbs. Each component brings something to the full picture of a great stock base, and herbs play a big role here. 

The herbs in an aromatic bundle of a summer garden bouquet garni are one way to enhance the flavors of dishes during cooking, infusing them with the essence of the herbs. You simply can’t cook a classic boeuf bourguignon (beef stew braised in red wine), a French onion soup, or coq au vin (chicken braised in wine) without adding a bouquet garni at some point. 

This particular summer garden bouquet features provencal herbs such as curly parsley, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and tarragon, hence the name, bouquet garni de Provence. This aromatic bundle smells like a sweet herby and wild provençal field. 

piles of herbs on a round wooden cutting board

Bouquet Garni de Provence

Curly parsley (Petroselinium crispum), a herb widely used in culinary applications, is native to Europe and the eastern Mediterranean. It boasts various beneficial compounds, including volatile oils like myristicin and apiole (making up approximately 20% and 18% respectively), flavonoids, phthalides, coumarins (such as bergapten), and vitamins A, C, and E. Additionally, curly parsley is a rich source of iron. The flavonoids present in parsley offer both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, contributing to its health benefits (Chevallier, 2021). 

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), a cultivated version of wild thyme found in southern Europe, is now grown globally. This herb boasts remarkable qualities as both an antiseptic and tonic, making it highly valuable in traditional and modern herbal practices. Thyme is particularly renowned for its respiratory benefits and is often used for various respiratory issues. It may also be helpful in the aging process by guarding against the breakdown of fatty acids in the brain (Chevallier, 2021). 

cutting herbs off a plant

Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus), a popular, tasty, and much-adored herb, originates from southern Europe. Throughout history, it has been revered for its ability to enhance and fortify memory. Additionally, rosemary is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, benefiting the inner linings of blood vessels, and promoting cardiovascular health. It is also beneficial in aiding a return to health from prolonged stress and chronic illnesses. These beneficial properties along with its appealing taste and aroma make it popular amongst herbalists and chefs alike  (Chevallier, 2021). 

Oregano (Origanum vulgare), is native to Europe and naturalized in the Middle East, was highly esteemed by ancient Greeks and considered a panacea in medieval times. This potent antimicrobial culinary herb grows best in coastal chalky soils;  it possesses strong antiseptic properties, combating bacteria and fungi effectively. A valued herb for both culinary use and herbal preparations This antimicrobial herb is tasty in soups and on top of roasted veggies and pizzas (Chevallier, 2021). 

Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus), originally from western Asia and the Himalayas, tarragon is a popular herb worldwide, used for culinary purposes and grown in herb gardens. Apart from its culinary uses, tarragon is known to aid digestion, has a mild sedative effect, and may assist with menstrual issues such as delayed menstruation. Its mild sedative qualities are the reason for its traditional application in promoting sleep and relaxation (Chevallier, 2021). 

bundles of summer garden herbs in a silicone mold

Why Freeze the Bouquet Garni?

Storing food at temperatures below 0°F / -18°C is an effective method to inhibit chemical and biological reactions that would otherwise lead to nutrient loss, flavor deterioration, and color changes in fresh fruits and vegetables. By freezing produce promptly after harvest or purchase, you can ensure the best preservation of nutrients and overall quality. Locked in frozen water, the herbs are not exposed to oxygen and thus the nutrients in the fresh herbs will be preserved. 

summer garden bouquet garni ice cubes in a mold

How to Prepare and Use 

Bouquet Garni de Provence Ice Cubes


This method is simply very handy when it comes to stock cooking— grab an icy bouquet garni and add it in the last 30 minutes of your stock-making, ensuring that it delivers maximum flavor from your summer garden into your meals. 

Ingredients

Fresh herbs: choose from thyme (Thymus vulgaris), oregano (Origanum vulgare), parsley (Petroselinium crispum), rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus), tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus), and sage (Salvia officinalis)
Natural, uncolored rope

Directions
  • Take 1-2 sprigs (7 cm/3 inch) of thyme, oregano, parsley, tarragon, and rosemary, plus 1-2 sage leaves for each bouquet.
  • Tie your bouquet garni de Provence very tightly with a natural uncolored rope (unless you are aiming for Bridget Jones’s blue soups!).
  • Put each bouquet in a silicone mold and cover with filtered water. 
  • Freeze overnight. Transfer the icy cubes to a zip top bag, label with contents and date, and store in a freezer for up to 6 months. 
  • When ready to make a stock, add 1 icy bouquet garni (for 2-3 L of stock) in the last 30 minutes of cooking. Remove and compost/discard the bouquet after use. 

summer garden bouquet garni ice cube on a wooden spoon over a pot of herbs

In Closing,

Whether you have a summer garden full of blooming herbs or simply can’t take your eyes off the lush herbal abundance while visiting a weekend market, don’t be shy—grab those precious aromatics that seem to be calling your name. Make a bouquet and smell it—is it a pleasant aroma? If so, be sure to add some to your soups and stews. It will enhance the finished meals and make you feel like you did that extra step to make your life a little extra delicious—and that is a valid reason for the time spent! 

Preserving the Summer Garden With Bouquet Garni de Provence Ice Cubes | Herbal Academy | The herbs in an aromatic bundle of a bouquet garni are one way to enhance the flavors of dishes, infusing them with the essence of the herbs.

REFERENCES 

Chevallier, A. (2021). Encyclopedia of herbal medicine: 550 herbs and remedies for common ailments. Dorling Kindersley.