Monday, March 31, 2014

Treating a Last-season Cold with herbs

Late season colds can really ruin your ability to enjoy the spring weather we are finally getting.  Sometimes the best way to exist through a cold is to diminish the congestion.  I have two remedies for congestion.

An herb-based tea featuring cayenne pepper will clear the sinuses very quickly.  You can obtain our Work Cure tea or make your own using this recipe:

Work Cure Herb Tea
            3 t. peppermint
            2 t. thyme
            1/8 t. cayenne
            (If you double or triple this recipe, don’t double the cayenne)

Combine ingredients and use 1 tsp. per cup of hot water.  Drink over the course of a day, rather than as your morning brew.

You can also make and Antiviral Spray with eucalyptus.  It will remove airborne viruses and the eucalyptus will open the nasal passages.

Antiviral Spray
30 drops eucalyptus essential oil
4 ounces distilled water

Place both ingredients in a fine mist spray bottle and shake well before using. Use the mist often when feeling congested or when exposed to colds and viruses. Keep a bottle handy to spray on pillow, hands, and phones, especially an office or desk phone others are using.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Weekend recipe - Cabbage and Spinach Soup

It is still not warm enough to garden, but it is March and we did buy way more sourdough bread and cabbage than we could eat in one weekend, so here is something to try if you still have cabbage left from St. Patrick’s Day!

Cabbage & Spinach Crockpot Soup 

1 shredded Cabbage
1 package of frozen spinach
4 carrots
1 clove of garlic, smashed or minced
2 tomatoes
1 cup of water
fresh ground Black Pepper
½ tsp. celery seed

1 tsp. dried Tarragon
1 tsp. dried Savory

Place all ingredients in slow cooker (crockpot) except the last two herbs.  Cook for 8 hours on LOW.  In the last 20 to 30 minutes before serving add the tarragon and savory.  Serve hot.

Variation: add noodles or pasta or even wantons to this soup to give it more substance.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Herb of the Week - Pesto Basil

Many people, even those new to herbs can recognize a basil plant.  In fact that is why I used it in my logo when I redesigned my labeling during  2013.

However, choosing which basil to grow in your garden is sometimes more daunting than one would realize.  Just go to any sizable garden center and they generally have more than one kind of basil, and if you look in a seed catalog your are likely to find dozens. Seeds of Change has 11 varieties of basil available.  So how do you choose?
I have done posts on some basils in the past.  Most specifically Cinnamon BasilLemon Basil and Holy Basil.  I have also waxed poetic about purple basil, although I have never done it as an herb of the week...
Cinnamon Basil

Today I want to focus on Pesto or Italian Dinner Basils, so for the
                        Herb of the Week I choose Pesto Basils.

Basil's scientific name is Ocimum basilicum. The three Basil varieties that I recommend for Pesto are all of this species, but are slightly different varieties.

Basil Genovese

The first Pesto Basil I recommend to grow is Basil 'Genovese.'  This one is very popular and you can find the variety in most garden centers as a seedling or you can plant it from seed. Basil 'Genovese', sometimes just labeled Sweet Basil, is one of the most popular herb plants. It is the perfect plant for authentic Italian basil flavor and aroma. 

Genovese Basil is important to Italian cuisine and traditionally was a symbol of love throughout Italy. When women were preparing for courtship, many would place a potted Genovese outside of their door to signal suitors that they were receptive to their calls.

A hugely popular culinary herb, the tall and relatively slow-to-bolt stems on this basil plant bare dark green leaves about 3" long.  The e
dible, aromatic foliage yields abundant leaves with authentic Italian basil flavor that is perfect in a pesto sauce. Easy to grow in containers or outdoors, this classic basil has mildly spicy flavor and sweet fragrance fantastic for seasonings, salads, garnishes and pesto. Basil is also a fantastic companion plant and natural pest repellent.

It can grow up to 24 inches in height and takes about 68 days to reach maturity, but since you are pinching the tops to make it bushier starting as soon as it has 5 leaves, you can begin eating it long before the plant reaches maurity.

Basil Napoletano

Next we have a basil often called Lettuce Leaf Basil or Basil Napoletano.  Napoletano has crinkled leaves that can reach up to 5" long. The large mild-flavored leaves are delicious when used to wrap fish or chicken, on tomato and mozzarella sandwiches, or added to cold pasta dishes. Plants are slow to bolt, allowing a longer harvest period, and will get as tall as 24". Grow plants in pots on a sunny south-facing windowsill indoors our outside where they get plenty of sun.  Pinch back to keep them more compact and to encourage more leaf production.

Napoletano has fast germination.  If you plant it outside after the soil has warmed, you can see sprouts in 5 to 7 days.  You should wait until 1 to 2 weeks after average last frost, and when nighttime temperatures are warm. Basil is very sensitive to frost.  If you want to start it inside you need to do so 6 to 8 weeks before planting outside or around the beginning of April.  Don't plant outdoors until your nighttime temps are above 50 degrees.

Plant your Basil Napoletano seeds in groups of 4 spaced about 6 to 12 inches.  Thin the plants when they reach 2 inches in height so there is one plant every 6 to 10 inches.

Basil Pesto Perpetuo

Finally I have a basil I just recently fell in love with, Basil, Pesto Perpetuo.  It is a variegated basil that does not flower, so it is a serious hybrid basil.  You can get the plants (only) from Territorial Seed Company, if you order by May 1. The reason I love this plant is not because it makes great pesto, but because it is variegated.  I love a variegated plant and this one is also culinary which makes it special.  However, it is a hybrid that produces no seed, so  it will only be around as long as people buy it and its hybrid production is continued.

Known as Ocimum basilicum citriodorum,  Basil Pesto Perpetuo is a superb culinary plant, but its light lime green leaves with a thin line of  cream variegation on the leaf margin makes it an eye-catching gem. Mixed in with other Basil plants it will be striking.  A columnar plants it can grow up to 48 inches tall, so keep it clipped back. the beauty and flavor of this basil will earn it a prominent place in your herb garden. You grow it from plants you acquire from the breeder.

Set starter plants of this patented basil in the ground after last spring frost date. Plants are very sensitive to frost. Pesto Perpetuo is best grown in moderately rich, humusy soil with medium moisture and good drainage.  As with all basil plants it needs full sun. They thrive in warm, sunny, sheltered sites and do have some tolerance for light afternoon shade. Consistent and regular moisture throughout the growing season is required. Pinch out growing tips to encourage bushy growth. 

For culinary purposes, leaves are used either fresh or dried to flavor a variety of food preparations, including not only classic pesto sauce, but also vegetable dishes, meat dishes, stews, soups and marinades. Fresh variegated leaves are attractive as garnishes. Fresh leaves may also be frozen for later use. Dried leaves are often used as an ingredient in potpourris. 

Harvesting and Using

Whichever of the three basils you plant,  harvesting is about the same. Basil should be harvested before the plant flowers or to keep the plant from flowering. The leaves have more flavor when harvested in the morning. The young, top leaves taste the best, and should be used fresh; the older leaves may be used for vinegar and pesto. Cut a few stems but never more than 1/3 of the plant. Wash stems, gently shake dry, and strip the leaves off the stem. If there is any chance of temperature dropping to 32° F, harvest crop immediately; basil is very frost sensitive.

As with most varieties of basil, they love the sun and cannot tolerate cold. If you are keeping it indoors to extend its growing season, make sure it gets lots of light and adequate, but not excessive water. Pinch the flowering tops down to the first set of leaves, or first node, to prolong its usefulness in the kitchen.

Pesto Recipe

I posted a traditional pesto recipe along with preservation instructions for freezing it in a previous post in August 2010.  However I will share with you here another favorite pesto recipe.

Fresh Basil Pesto 
Mаkеѕ аbοut 2 cups

2 1/2 cups packed fresh basil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons freshly grated Romano cheese
2-3 tablespoons butter, softened

Wash the basil in сοld water, and dry with paper towels. Place the basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and process until smooth, scraping down the bowl once. Place the mixture into a bowl, and fold in the grated cheeses and butter by hand until thoroughly collective.

It is now ready to serve as a topping on fresh vegetables, as a pottage on cooked chicken or pork or as a sauce on pasta.  If using over pasta, thin the purée with some of the cooking liquid before you toss with the pasta.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Weekend Recipe -Banana Bread Oatmeal

I have been experimenting with Carrot Cake Jam (trust me when it jells right, I will post the recipe!) so when I located this version of a favorite breakfast of mine, I was just so on board.  
Twice a month I teach a licensing class for the State of Illinois.  The class is 20 hours and runs from 7:30 AM to 6:30 PM.  It is a long couple days for both my students and myself.  I am not a big fan of breakfast, at least making it myself. So when I found this quick microwave recipe that was both nutritious and a wonderful collection of morning flavors, I was hooked.  Try it -- You'll like it!
Banana Bread Oatmeal 
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup water or milk (I use milk for the extra calcium and creaminess)
3/4 tablespoon brown sugar
1 large, ripe banana mashed

Sprinkle of ground cinnamon (I use Cinnful Dessert Blend from the Backyard Patch!!)
Sprinkle of ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt (optional)
Low-fat vanilla yogurt (optional)
Pecan halves (optional)
Banana slices (optional)

Combine oats, liquid, and spices in microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 2-3 minutes, stir and add more liquid if necessary. Then, while oats are still hot, stir in mashed banana. Top with a dollop of low-fat vanilla yogurt, banana slices, pecans, and extra spices if desired.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Herb Plant Diseases

According to Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs (Rodale Press, 1988) there are several diseases you need to worry about with your herbs.  I tell you this now, because if you begin shopping in the nursery soon, you want to check plants for signs of these issues to avoid buying diseased plants.

  1. Damping-off (Rhlzoctonia solani and Pythium debaryanum). This disease kills seedling roots, leaving them water-soaked and looking shriveled. Provide warm, well drained seed beds to manage this issue.  May affect sweet marjoram and sweet basil, especially the hybrids like purple and lemon basil.

  2. Root rot (Rhizoctonia solani). This fungus causes rotted, yellowish brown to black roots and underground stems. Outer layers of the root will slough off, leaving a central core. Check new nursery plants by popping them put of the pot before purchase.  If you happen to have this in the garden, then control it by rotating plants every three years and provide with good drainage. Promptly remove the diseased plants. May affect lavender, oregano, rosemary and sage.

  3. Powdery mildew (Erysiphe cichoracearom). This fungus forms white, powdery mold on the upper surfaces of leaves and petioles; foliage then wilts and browns. Promptly remove the diseased plant. May affect bee balm, lemon balm and yarrow.

  4. Downy mildew (Phytophthora spp.). Leaves will wither and die after this fungus takes hold. It forms yellow spots on the upper surface of leaves and violet-gray mold on the undersides. To defend against it, don't crown plants; cultivate only when plants are dry; and rotate your plants every three years. May affect calendula, coriander. tarragon and basil.  

  5. Anthracnose (Leaf spot) (Colletotrichum spp.). You can see this fungus on mints and scented geraniums.  It looks like a water-soaked spot on leaves and stems of the plant.  Elongated tan cankers may also form on stems. Rotate plants every two years afterward and don't cultivate when wet. Promptly remove the diseased plants. May affect foxglove, mints and violets.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Weekend Recipe - Creamy Herb Dressing

Today (Saturday) I am at the UIC forum in Chicago for the Good Food Festival.  A day filled with workshops on how to create your own good food.  Topics from preserving and fermenting to seed saving and herb harvesting are all on the plan.

I will be presenting three times (2 different programs) in the Mini-Workshops sections - the first is in the Make Your Own segment where I will demonstrate Herbal Infusions (like vinegars and sugars) and later in the day in the Preserve It section on Harvesting and Preserving herbs.

As part of my presentations I want people to use the herbal creations they make so I have included recipes among my handouts.  This is one of the recipes I share after teaching how to make herbal honey and herbal vinegar!

This is an awesome dressing that you can make different each time by changing up the vinegar or the honey or even changing the herbs included in the dressing.  It will work on any greens you want, including kale, spinach, lettuces, arugula or any other combo of greens. With warm weather approaching, can't you just imagine this on a plate of spring greens?

Creamy Herb Dressing
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
3 tablespoons mixed-herb white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced
1 tablespoon complementary herbed honey
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. For a more emulsified dressing, blend all ingredients except oil, then slowly drizzle in the oil with the blender running. Cover and chill for several hours before using to allow flavors to blend.  Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Herb of the Week - Short herbs for a border

A garden blogging friend of mine just pointed out the importance of smaller shorter plants in the edge of your landscape border.  You can read her entire blog post here.

Her post got me to thinking, in this year of garden planning (since it is snowing here again!!!) what small attractive herbal border plants do I know.

Here are a few suggestions for the herbal border (your Herbs of the WEEK!):

Chives are a cluster and clumping plant and they ere are varieties that grow less than 12 inches high.  If spread along a border they actually make a great break between larger plants and the pathway.

Lambs ear is a popular border plant.  With large show and snowy colored leaves it is a perfect border plant.  They do get taller when the flower, but that is not until late fall.

Another plant that is short and colorful is calendula.  As a border plant you can grow them closer together to get the foliage effect and once they are blooming keep them trimmed and they will bloom all season.
Here is calendula along a brick border, nice contrast
Speaking of flowers Nasturtiums make a nice cascading border and they cam be grown from seed making them an inexpensive choice if you have many linear feet.

Curly Parsley is not my favorite herb to grow for culinary reasons, but as an attractive plant, it does win some praise.  Using the bright green as a border is perfect and then at the end of the season remove it because although it is a biennial, it gets a very tall stalk the second year and will be out of place in the border.

Corsican Mint is a very low growing herb that you can use as a border, or right in the path.  Because it is a mint, you can walk on it without damage so allowing it to encroach on the path is not an issue.

Thyme is my favorite for a border plant.  I grew 17 feet of thyme plants just at the grassy edge of my first herb garden for many years.  I learned that a hard border is better near thyme, though otherwise you end up pulling blades of grass from the thyme, which is very tedious.

So think creatively about what you place along your border and use this short edge to create a great contrast to taller, leafier or just plain different plants in the main beds of your herb garden.

Seriously, I am sure we will be able to plant this year... really...

This is what the herb garden looked like last week and will again tomorrow.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Herbed Cornmeal Pancakes - Weekend Recipe

Pancakes and waffles are my husband and my favorite breakfast food, especially with a side of bacon!  I strive to find pancake recipes he can experiment with and this was one of my favorites.  The robust flavor of cornmeal makes these a great recipe to make in the winter.

Mix the dry ingredients together ahead of time and place in an airtight container, then on the day you want to serve them, add only the liquid ingredients.  It will save you time and mess.  It also makes a great gift idea too!  Serve these with a real maple syrup to bring out the natural cornmeal flavors. Makes 9 5-inch pancakes.

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2  Tbls. sugar
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
½ tsp. savory, thyme or marjoram (I like a mixture of thyme and savory together)
1 cup milk
5 Tbls. unsalted butter
2 large eggs, beaten
Vegetable oil

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.

Combine milk and butter in a small saucepan and warm over low heat until butter melts. Let cool to lukewarm, then beat in eggs.

Pour wet mixture over dry ingredients and, using a wooden spoon, combine with a few swift strokes. Don’t try to work out all the lumps, they will take care of themselves in the cooking.

Heat a griddle or skillet over medium heat until hot enough to make a few drops of water bounce. Lightly oil griddle using a brush or paper towel.(You may need to re-oil the griddle between batches of pancakes.) 

Spoon enough batter onto griddle to make 5-inch rounds. Cook until bubbles on the surface break and edges begin to look dry, about 2 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook until bottoms brown, about 1 more minute. Continue until all pancakes are made. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

What are we up to Now? - Backyard Patch schedule of events

I am coming out of winter hibernation and venturing out to do garden events, lectures and shows.  In the next few months I will be all over the place.  Here is the schedule:

March 8 - Hoffman Estates Loyal Parents Craft Show - Hoffman Estates High School, 1100 W. Higgins Rd., in Hoffman Estates 10 am to 3 pm

March 11 - Community Education Class in District 128 (Vernon Hills, IL) Green Clean - Household Uses for Herbs Tuesday 3/11, 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm  (class id 3981)

Description: Cooking with herbs is often seen as the only use for them. This program will point out the numerous ways herbs can be used in your household outside of the kitchen. Learn to create moth repellents that will not repel your nose, find out all the possible cleaning uses for an herbal vinegar, create mixtures to disinfect the bathroom without harmful chemicals, make your own laundry soap, learn to repel ants, fight fleas, and make household chores more aromatic with items like iron waxers and air deodorizers. Each participant goes home with skills, recipes and a special sample. 

March 15 - Good Food Festival - Demonstration programs on preserving herbs and infusing herbs.  See the link for times and tickets.

making herb vinegar

Mondays in April - Lectures on various topics at the Heritage in Des Plaines, lunchtime start.

April 27 & 28 - Garden Clubs of Illinois GCI Annual State Convention-Renaissance North Shore Hotel - Northbrook (meet my husband who will be watching the booth for me on Monday!)

May 6 - Community Education Class in District 128 (Vernon Hills, IL) Container Gardening with Herbs Tuesday 5/6, 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm (class id 3972)

Description: Container gardening is more popular today than ever. It is a boon for people with little time, small yards or apartments and condos. This program includes using imaginative containers, soil mixes, supplying nutrients, and basic gardening practices to create a container garden to enjoy all summer. Each participant will prepare and take home a 12-inch pot with 2 herb plants. Material fee of $17 is included in the tuition. 

May 9 & 10  - Men's Garden Club of Villa Park Plant Sale - you can see me on Friday giving advice on herbs to shoppers, or you can just shop for Mom (her day  in May 11 this year!) The sale takes place at The Lion's Club Recreation Center 320 East Wildwood, Villa Park IL  60181

May 17 - Gardenology in Geneva, IL - I started my love affair with herbs in Geneva, IL but have not been back there selling my wares since the first year of the French Market in Geneva, more than a decade ago.  I am looking forward to this event located on Third and State Streets in downtown Geneva, where I will be doing a demonstration with herbs (as yet undetermined) as well as having a full selection of herb items. Come rain or shine.  I will be there! Admission is free! Runs from 10 am to 3 pm.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Seeds at the Chicago Botanic Gardens - Herb of the Week

On Feb. 23, I went to a lecture by Ken Green of Hudson Valley Seed Library at the Chicago Botanic Garden.  They had a seed swap where I picked up three or four varieties of Nasturtiums and some other seeds.

The selection of herbs was lacking but I had a great time jockeying for seed anyway.  The lecture, however, was actually my highlight.
Chicago Botanic Garden Seed Swap Volunteers giving advice

I attended the lecture 2 years ago when they had Diane Ott Whealy of Seed Savers Exchange and enjoyed the idea of saving seed and discussions of biodiversity.  This year the lecture took a different tone as there was a focus on paying attention to where your seeds come from and recognizing that asking if the seeds are Genetically Modified (GMO) is not the key to getting to the root of where your food comes from.

Ken Green and Lisa Hilgenberg (CBG horticulturist)
Ken Green was a down to earth guy whose focus to provide a mission-based business and be a socially aware entrepreneur is evident in everything he says.  A former librarian he created the first seed library where a person could "borrow" seed and plant and grow the seed and then return that seed and more to the library for others to try in the future.  There are now hundreds of seed libraries across the nation.  His focus slowly changed from sharing seed to preserving seed and how to create the best techniques for growing seed that is true to variety and the best example of a particular plant for his growing season.  He was also interested in the biodiversity of seed grown say in California, and its ability to grow in the colder climate and shorter growing season of his native upstate New York.  This
Photo courtesy of Hudson Valley Seed Library
focus on farming to produce good seed makes his garden much different than mine.  Now as an herb gardener I do not focus on seed, heck I cut the flowers off at every opportunity, so even the images of his garden looked off to me.  They focused on luscious seed heads and very little foliage.

What I loved about his presentation is that he linked seeds to stories and art.  That the "history" of a seed is not about the day it was introduced or the historical setting it became popular in, but rather the personal story of the seed itself.  Who used it, how they used it, who hybridized it or did simple selection to craft the best seed.  In his example it was a bean for making baked beans, and how a community used those beans in every social situation in a town by making and serving the baked beans, with a recipe from someone else and seasonings from another person was a wonderful narrative of the importance of seeds in everyday life. These stories of how someone decided to choose a seed that looked like that or grew that style of plant is of importance to the history of our culture as any other historical situation.  At this point he tapped into my inner museum curator who often lays dormant these days and made my decision to grow herbs that much more interesting!

He also spoke of seeds as art.  The "Art" is not just the wonderful way that Hudson Valley Seed Library solicits original art to place on their seed packets, but seed as a catalyst for thinking about seed as an artistic expression.  For example if you saved seed from a plant or flower because you loved the way it looked or tasted, you are preserving and passing along your aesthetic -- your art.  He gave a quote by Elizabeth Murray:   "Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas."

He said something early on in his talk that I found extraordinary, many people have no idea that the foods they eat once originated from seeds.  Now I have known that in some cases there is a disconnect between say "cow" and "ground beef," but I never through there was one between seed and plant or vegetable.  Could that be because I was introduced to seed so early in my life that I knew you could grow flowers and vegetables from seed, that I grew my sweet corn, peppers and tomatoes as a child from seed I picked out myself from the bins at the feed store in town.  I never gave a moment's consideration to the fact others did not experience what I had.  This gave whole new meaning to the one seed program I knew about and promoted in Chicago.

Now back to the underlying theme of the lecture.  Know where your seed comes from.  In other words do not ask "Does my seed company sell Genetically Modified seeds?" (almost all do not.)  But rather does the purchase of these seeds from this company benefit companies that will use the "seed money" to create GMOs that will be used by those who place food in my food supply.  This is a tougher question and requires being a more informed consumer.

Ken Green with shoppers talking about his seeds

He asked those of us there from the blogging community to consider, who do we recommend for our readers to use as a seed company and have we done our homework about those companies?  Because consumers will rely on those of us who give advice to have done our homework so they can spend more time planting and less time researching.  Look for a new post on recommended seed companies from me very soon!

Among his final questions was - "Which story do you want to grow?"  This has sent me off on a wonderful journey of thought that I believe will make this gardening season a whole new adventure.  

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Mid winter Minestrone - Weekend Recipe

I posted this recipe back in January on my Facebook page where I generally do an herb tip or recipe every other day or so.  If you want to see those posts when they happen, please like the Backyard Patch page on Facebook.  

That is also the best places to find out where we will be appearing (craft shows, lectures, events, etc.)  Speaking of events -- We are providing 3 demonstration lectures at the Good Foods Festival at the UIC Forum in Chicago on March 15th.  If you are in or near the City of Chicago I'd love to see you.  Here are the details - Good Foods Festival.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 pound slice pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
3 celery stalks, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
3 to 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated
1 large or 2 medium red onions, chopped
salt & pepper
1 ounce dried porcini or mixed wild mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup soft sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups water
1 small bunch of purple or green kale, washed and dried
1 cup semolina or whole-wheat ditafini or other short cut pasta
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
2 Tablespoons herb blend of choice
        (or mix together tarragon, savory, basil, marjoram, oregano and thyme)
Pecorino Romano cheese, grated or shredded, to pass at the table

Place a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat with the olive oil. Add the pancetta to the pot and cook until crispy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, bay leaves, garlic, and onions to the pot, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the veggies are tender, 7 to 8 minutes more. Add the mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, stock, and water to the pot, and bring up to a boil.  Chop the greens, then add the kale, pasta, chickpeas and herb blend to the soup pot, and cook until the pasta is al dente. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Discard the bay leaves. Ladle the soup into shallow bowls, top with the Pecorino Romano, and serve.
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