Herbs For Summer Fruits
What is the taste of summer? Cool watermelon, juicy and refreshing; pineapple, sweet and tart; slivers of golden mangoes and the honeyed fragrance and flavour of sweet melons. How lucky are we to have such a cornucopia of summer fruits and herbs to enjoy during the festive season instead of hot, stodgy puddings!
Besides the tropical fruits, there are berries, grapes, sumptuous cling peaches and many more. They are naturally good for us, containing vitamins such as A, C and E, as well as fibre and minerals like zinc, phosphorus, magnesium and folic acid.
According to the health experts we should eat two pieces of fruit (different colours and types) a day. How easy is that?
Turning fruit into a special dessert is where culinary art comes into play, with the aid of herb-infused syrups, sorbets, smoothies and sauces.
Pineapple sage is a showy garden herb with bright red flowers that attract birds and butterflies. It needs plenty of sun and moist, fertile soil that drains well. Water and fertilise regularly. It will also perform well in a large container. Keep it in shape by trimming it in spring or after flowering, but don’t cut into the old wood. It needs regular watering, especially in containers, as it wilts easily but will revive quickly after watering.
Tip from Phyto-Force: Pineapple Sage
These herbs are a favourite to include in a stuffing for Sunday’s roast chicken, together with rosemary and thyme. But pineapple sage has great medicinal benefits too: it helps to reduce stress and anxiety, LDL (bad) cholesterol, high blood pressure, high body heat, and assists digestion. Add a couple of leaves to your drinking water daily.
Mint is available in an array of flavours. Besides the popular garden and spearmint, there is apple mint, basil mint, chocolate mint, eau de cologne mint (with a citrus flavour), ginger mint, mint julep, pineapple mint and peppermint. All mint has the same basic requirements: rich, moist soil and partial sun. Most mints are creeping and should be trimmed to control their spread. Water regularly so that these herbs don’t dry out. Cut this herb back to ground level should it suffer from rust.
Sweet basil is in plentiful supply by December. A midsummer herb crop, it does best when planted in a position that receives morning sun and afternoon shade. Water regularly and fertilise monthly with a liquid fertiliser to promote lush leaves. Remove the flowering tops or the plant will go to seed. Basil also grows well in pots. Other varieties that go well with fruit include purple basil, lemon basil and basil ‘Dolce Fresca’ (with a milder lemon flavour).
Fruit Salad Plant
Fruit salad plant, also known as pepino melon, bears egg-shaped fruits that turn apricot with purple markings when ripe and exude a honey-like fragrance. The flesh is crisp and lightly sweet. Slice and use to flavour cold drinks, or add to salads and fruit salads. The plant has a slightly drooping habit so needs to be supported. Plant in full sun in well-composted soil and water regularly. It can be grown in a large pot and will need daily watering. Prune back straggly plants by half. Fertilise twice a year. The green fruit is poisonous.
The Best Herbs for Sorbet
Nothing beats a sorbet on very hot days or evenings, and what could be more intriguing than a bright green, perfumed basil sorbet? Serve it with fresh fruit, with a shot of vodka, or mix in other fruit like pineapple or watermelon.
To make a basic basil sorbet, heat 2 cups of water and 150g castor sugar in a pot over a low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil then turn down the heat to medium so that the mixture simmers for three minutes. No need to stir. Remove and cool completely. In a blender, whiz together the cooled syrup, 3 cups of lightly packed basil leaves and 1 tablespoon of lime or lemon juice, until the mixture is smooth. Strain and freeze for two hours until the edges start to set. Beat or blend the mixture to break up the crystals. Return to the freezer. Do this every hour, six more times. Remove from the freezer 10 minutes before serving.
Variations in Herbs
For a pineapple and basil sorbet, blend pineapple chunks and basil herbs, adding the cooled syrup and lemon juice. Then whisk 1 beaten egg white into the mix and freeze, stirring once an hour to break down the ice particles.
Watermelon with basil elevates sorbet to a different level. Puree and strain 8 cups of watermelon chunks. Puree a cup of basil leaves with 1 cup of pureed watermelon, then add the mix to the rest of the watermelon. Stir in 2 tablespoons of lime or lemon juice, 2 tablespoons vodka and 1ó cups of cooled syrup. Freeze and stir over six hours.
Summery Herbs for Fruit Sauce
Mint comes in so many flavours that it is a must for fruit desserts. This fruit sauce, flavoured with mint and rosemary, can be served with grilled apricots and ice cream, with a papaya salad, or meringue topped with whipped cream.
To make: Wash, hull and dice a punnet of strawberries, In a bowl, mix them with 1/4 cup castor sugar, 1/2 teaspoon orange zest, 3 tablespoons squeezed orange juice, 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves, and 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves or 1 teaspoon chopped sweet basil (optional). (Recipe: Chowhound)
Cheers! Cocktails with pineapple sage-infused syrup
Herb-infused syrup is the base of so many cocktails, punches and fruit desserts. Pineapple sage is a delicious dessert herb with pineapple scented and -flavoured leaves.
To make: Combine equal parts sugar and water (e.g. 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water) in a small pot. Heat and stir until the sugar dissolves, and then bring to the boil. Add pineapple sage leaves to the boiling syrup. Take the pot off the heat and let the herbs steep until cool. Strain and store the syrup in the refrigerator. It stores well for about a week.
Even simpler, use an infusion of chopped pineapple sage leaves as the base for a tropical fruit cooler. There is no need to make a syrup because the recipe calls for papaya and guava nectar.
Bring 1 and a 1/4 cups of water to the boil. Remove from the heat and steep 3 tablespoons of chopped pineapple sage leaves in the boiled water for 10 minutes. Strain and add the sage liquid to 1 and a 1/2 cups fresh orange juice, 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, 1 cup papaya nectar, and 1 cup guava nectar. Chill in the refrigerator for several hours, and add 250ml sparkling mineral water just before serving. Garnish with sprigs of pineapple sage.
Smoothie With a Difference
Tired of the usual fruit smoothies?
For a smoothie with an unusual flavour, make one with the fruit of the fruit salad plant. Chop up one or two fruits (peel first if the skin feels tough), and peel and chop an orange into small pieces. Put both fruits into a container in the freezer.
Once the fruit has frozen, pop into a blender and whiz up. Add a glass of milk and blend again. Add herbs for extra flavour such as one or two mint leaves and a teaspoon of honey. Add ice cubes for a colder drink.