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Mint Basil Lemonade Blog

Basil and Mint Infused Lemonade

By Lyndsey Bridgers, Marketing Director

The summer sun has us daydreaming of ice cold drinks and relaxing in the shade with family and friends. One of our favorite refreshers this time of year is a chilled glass of lemonade. You can whip up a nice infused simple syrup to give your lemonade a little more flavor. And it’s a great way to use some of your garden-grown herbs!

Basil Fresh Herbs

To begin, select your herbs (typically about a cup total if you’re using greens, such as basil, cilantro, mint or rosemary) and combine them with a cup of sugar and a cup of water into a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Then, turn off the stove and let the herbs steep as the mixture cools, about 30 minutes. Once it’s cool, discard the herbs.

Mint Basil Lemonade Blog

Meanwhile, juice your lemons. I used a citrus press, but you can also squeeze them by hand, cut-side up to prevent the seeds from dropping into your cup. Add your lemon juice and water to the simple syrup and stir to combine. If you have the time, refrigerate your lemonade so it stays nice and cool once you add it to your iced glasses!  

Mint Basil Lemonade Blog

Herb Infused Lemonade Recipe

Ingredients (makes four servings)

  • 2 cups of fresh lemon juice (from about 12 – 15 lemons)
  • 2 cups of water
  • Herbed simple syrup

Herbed simple syrup

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • ½ cup fresh basil, washed and stems removed
  • ½ cup fresh mint, washed and stems removed

Place your sugar, water, fresh basil and mint into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Let simmer for ten minutes. Remove it from the heat and let the simple syrup cool while the herbs steep. Once it’s cool, remove the herbs and pour the simple syrup into your serving pitcher.  

Juice your lemons and add the juice to the simple syrup. Mix in your water and add ice or set the lemonade in the refrigerator to chill as the flavors combine.

Serve in a chilled glass with lemons, basil and mint and enjoy!

Watermelon Gin Cocktail Blog

Watermelon Cucumber Gin Cocktail

By Lyndsey Bridgers, Marketing Director

There is nothing as delicious as perfectly sweet, chilled watermelon on a hot summer day. This thirst-quenching fruit always accompanies a delicious spread of grilled hot dogs, hamburgers and casseroles at my family’s Fourth of July cookout. To celebrate the Fourth of July this year, we’re whipping up one of our favorite cocktails using sweet watermelon and garden-grown cucumbers and basil.

I started by juicing my watermelon. I used a citrus press (mostly because I already had it out for making lemonade), but you can also use a blender and then strain it with a mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a jar. Afterwards, prepare your glass by running a lime wedge around the rim and rolling it in kosher salt. Set the glass aside.

In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, add your lime juice, elderflower liqueur, cucumber and basil and muddle using a muddler or a wooden spoon. Then, pour in your watermelon juice, gin/vodka and ice and shake vigorously.

Add ice to your glass and strain in your cocktail and top with a lime wedge, cucumbers and sprig of basil. And enjoy!

Watermelon Cucumber Gin Cocktail Recipe

Ingredients (for two cocktails)

  • 1 ounce of lime juice (from two limes), with one wedge reserved  
  • 2 ounces of elderflower liqueur
  • 2 ounces of gin (or vodka)  
  • 6 ounces of watermelon juice (about three cups of cubed watermelon)
  • 6 slices of cucumber
  • 6 basil leaves, plus two small sprigs for garnish
  • Kosher salt

Run a lime wedge over the rim of the glasses, then roll the rims in the kosher salt and set aside.

Add the cubed watermelon to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour the mix through a fine strainer or cheesecloth draped over a glass to separate the juice from the fiber of the fruit

Watermelon Gin Cocktail Blog

Add the basil leaves, 4 slices of cucumber, lime juice and elderflower liqueur to a cocktail shaker and muddle. Next, add your watermelon juice, gin and ice and shake until cold. Fill your cocktail glasses with ice, then strain the cocktail into the glasses. Garnish with sliced cucumbers and the basil sprigs and enjoy!

Looking for more garden fresh drinks for summer parties? Try out our herb infused lemonade!

Rosemary, Orgegano and Basil, Herbs

Easy to Grow Herbs

David Yost, Merrifield Plant Specialist

Herbs are a great way to take the plunge into growing your own edibles. They have a wide variety of uses, are easy to grow and fit very well even in small gardens! By establishing a herb garden on your patio, windowsill, or balcony you can reap the benefits of its fresh flavors and aromas all summer long.

Whether you are growing herbs indoors or out, it’s best to place them in a location where they will receive at least 6 hours of sunlight each day.

The following are some of the easiest types of herbs to grow:

Basil

A fast-growing herb, basil is a favorite among gardeners of all levels. Known for its rich peppery flavor and fresh aroma, it makes a great addition to pizza, pasta, salads and sauces. Basil does not need quite as much sun as other herbs and likes to be kept moist. When growing basil, be sure to prune the flowering tops to allow new leaf growth.

Chives

In addition to great flavor, chives have beautiful blooms. The leaves give a light spring onion flavor. This is probably the easiest herb to grow! To harvest it, simply cut at the base of the plant, one to two inches above the soil,  as if trimming grass and bring your fresh cut chives right to the kitchen. Do not cut more than a third of the plant off at a time to allow healthy regrowth.

Mint

Mint gives off a strong aroma and flavor that can be used in appetizers, entrées, desserts and cocktails. Try adding it to homemade tzatziki or steeping to make tea. Mint is an aggressive spreader, so you will want to plant it separately from your other herbs in a pot or container. To harvest mint, cut the stems up to one inch from the ground or just pick the leaves as you need.

Rosemary

Delicious fresh and dried, rosemary brings wonderful flavor to your meat and poultry dishes all year long. This herb is drought tolerant and requires little maintenance, making it a great option for gardener’s who travel frequently or have a tendency to neglect their plants. There are many varieties of rosemary. Look for winter-hardy varieties such as Arp Rosemary, Trailing Rosemary and Salem Rosemary. When gathering rosemary, pick the new, fresh growth at the top of the plant, leaving the old stalk alone.

 Oregano

Oregano is a great choice if you love cooking Italian food. This herb’s flavor is strongest during the summer, and it is very to grow at home. You can harvest oregano leaves as you need them. The leaves have the best flavor flavor right before the flowers bloom in the summer.

Lavender

Lavender’s vibrant color and lovely scent will make your herb garden pop. This versatile herb can be used in baking, cooking, teas, candles and even in a variety of home remedies. It is very easy to grow, just plant it in well-drained soil and your lavender will flourish. When harvesting, treat it the same as rosemary, leaving the old stalk alone and cutting off newer growth.

Thyme

Thyme is great to use when cooking meats and vegetables. This low-maintenance herb thrives when you let it be and allow nature to take its course. Collect thyme leaves as you need them, although they will be packed with the most flavor in the summer just before the plants bloom.

Eight Tips for Growing Herbs

If you’ve never grown an herb garden, we urge you to try it. There’s nothing quite like the wonderful aroma of lavender in potpourri. Or the delicious taste of spaghetti sauce seasoned with homegrown basil and oregano.

If you’re new to growing herbs, Merrifield Garden Center is a great place to begin. You can browse through our huge selection of these easy-to-grow plants and choose the ones you enjoy the most in your kitchen. And we’re always available and eager to answer your questions.

Here are eight tips to successful herb gardening:

1. Provide lots of sunlight

Most herbs thrive in six hours or more of sun per day. An exception is basil, which prefers a little shade.

2. Plant in well-draining soil

Because herbs are a harvestable crop where you want to grow as much as possible, soil and drainage are very important. If you’re planting herbs in the ground, add VoleBloc or PermaTIll to the soil to improve drainage and, if necessary, add lime to adjust the soil pH. If you’re planting them in container, use Merrifield Potting Mix.

3. Fertilize lightly

For most herbs, fertilizer should be used sparingly. One application of Plant-tone in the spring should be sufficient. There are some exceptions, such as basil, which should be fertilized about once every four to six weeks with Neptune’s Harvest.

4. Plant similar herbs together

When planting herbs in containers, be sure to mix herbs with similar sun and soil requirements. For instance, rosemary, thyme and lavender all prefer to be kept slightly dry, while parsley, bail and Vietnamese coriander need consistent moisture.

5. Pick the right variety of basil

One of the most popular herbs is basil, which comes in many different flavors, sizes, shapes and textures. Genovese sweet basil is the classic flavor for pesto and other Italian dishes. Thai basil is spicy. And lemon or lime basil add their own distinct flavor to your dishes. A popular, new variety is boxwood basil. It looks adorable – like a miniature boxwood – and its tiny leaves pack a strong scent. Pinch basil often throughout the year to remove flowers and keep the plants full.

6. Keep quick-spreading herbs separate

Mint and its close relatives (lemon balm, horehound, catnip) should be planted in their own container. Mint is a hardy, perennial plant that can spread rapidly through the entire garden. Because it travels by way of an underground stem, it’s best used in a container. Mint should be kept moist and pinched frequently to remove flowers and keep the plants full and bushy.

7. Plant in the appropriate season

Cilantro grows best when temperatures range between 50 and 70 degrees. When the temperature begins to warm up, cilantro starts to bloom and will no longer produce flavorful leaves. This makes it a great choice for fall gardens.

8. Make your herbs last past their growing season

To enjoy homegrown basil throughout the year, Merrifield Plant Specialist Steve Gable likes to put basil leaves in a blender with a little water. Then he divides the mixture into an empty ice cube tray and freezes it. That way, he can pull out individual servings of basil whenever he needs it.

Herbs look great in the garden, too. Some herbs, such as lavender and bee balm, feature colorful flowers, but most others create interest with their gorgeous, aromatic foliage.

Growing herbs will provide years of enjoyment as you learn about the plants, explore different recipes and share the results with friends and family at the dinner table.