Monday, August 1, 2011

Herb Jungle

As long as I can remember, I have always wanted an herb garden. In San Diego Nick and I joked that we weren't having kids yet because we couldn't even keep plants alive. In fact, I used to buy potted plants, enjoy them for a few weeks, then watch them turn brown and wither away. Sad! Moving to Guam marks the first time I've lived somewhere (in the last 10 years) that actually has real garden space and good growing conditions. There's ample sunshine, abundant rain, and only two seasons to worry about (rainy season and less rainy season).

I started our herb garden by picking up starter plants as I'd find them. A few weeks after planting the first bunch of oregano, basil, rosemary and dill, we started catching on that keeping the garden going wasn't going to be a problem. And a few weeks after that, when the dill plant (which started at 12" high) was taller than I am, Nick appropriately renamed the space to Herb Jungle. We have to prune every other week!

Right now we have oregano, parsley, a dill tree, rosemary, sage, mint, and three kinds of basil (Thai, Caesar & sweet). The only things that have failed miserably are cilantro (which died) and tomatoes (which grew like crazy but never dished out any tomatoes... lame). We also have a habanero pepper plant that keeps Mexican night crazy spicy. So yeah, I am pretty much in herb heaven here.

Fresh coconut from our tree out back
A lot of people complain about the food here on Guam, and with good reason. Most of our food is shipped in from the States or Mexico... 9,000+ miles away. Meats are mostly frozen and produce has traveled a ridiculously long way, often losing much of its flavor and nutrients. And despite the fact that things grow so well here, there isn't a big farming or local growing community. You can get local produce from farmers markets, but honestly, I don't want or know how to use half the stuff they sell (bitter melon anyone?), though I've been trying more and more of it recently in an attempt to buy fresh and local. And there's only so many dishes you can put coconut, mango & banana in before it all starts to taste the same.

So that's where our herb garden has given me the upper hand here in making good food. The best meal in Guam (besides meat on a stick!) is when you make a trip to the Fish Co-Op for fresh caught ahi tuna, mahi mahi, marlin and snapper. The fish is so unbelievably fresh, all of it sashimi grade, and paired with a variety of herbs from the jungle, and there's just no reason to go out to eat. Here we have a fresh wahoo fillet baked with parsley, lemon & onion, with a side of mango salsa rice simmered in fresh coconut water from a coconut I tripped over while mowing the lawn. Nick hacked into it and bam, fresh coconut juice. Not bad for a 20-minute Tuesday night meal!

Since there isn't a lot of farming, there aren't a lot of places to buy fresh flowers either (one of the things I miss about Trader Joe's that no one can ship me here). So instead, I have started making bouquets with the herbs and flowers from around our house. The flowers certainly bright up my 1970s era kitchen, and the herbs make the kitchen smell fresh.
Hibiscus, dill, oregano, basil bouquet 

Nick can eat a whole one of these in one sitting
 Before I go (to the grocery store actually... this post has made me hungry), I'm going to leave you with one of our all-time favorite dinner recipes I discovered out here in Food Network Magazine. It's a winner every time... and it only takes 20 minutes start to finish. Enjoy!

Prosciutto & Goat Cheese Pizza


  • 1 (10-ounce) fully baked, thick pizza crust
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 (3-ounce) package thinly sliced prosciutto (deli section)
  • 1 ounce soft fresh goat cheese, coarsely crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Lay pizza crust on a foil-covered pizza pan or cookie sheet. Spread sauce evenly over pizza crust. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over crust, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Arrange prosciutto on top of cheese. Sprinkle goat cheese over prosciutto. Bake until prosciutto is crisp and cheese is melted, about 12 minutes. Sprinkle basil over pizza. Cut pizza into 6 slices and serve.

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