Garden Lifestyle

Perfect Plant Pairings

Just like pairing wine with food, vegetables can be matched with their most compatible herbs

Tomatoes and basil are a perfect pairing in the garden. Photo: Jodi Torpey

It was while I was getting ready to plant a packet of basil seeds with my ‘Sungold’ tomatoes that it hit me. I’ve been planting my garden for years by matching vegetables with herbs just like pairing wine with food.

I always add a few basil plants to my containers of tomatoes to improve their taste. But I also plant basil because I use it in so many of my tomato recipes, from pasta primavera to tomato and basil soup to a simple plate of sliced fresh tomatoes drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

This favorite pairing of mine works so well together, I started thinking about other vegetable and herb combinations I always plant in the garden.

Whenever I plant cucumbers for pickling, like ‘Miss Pickler’ or ‘Bush Pickler’, I make sure I plant dill and garlic for kosher dills. Fennel is planted to make sweet gherkins.

Cauliflower couldn’t be made into the pickled condiment escabeche without the herbs oregano, marjoram, and thyme.

I make sure there’s a pot of Italian parsley growing on the patio to use with easy-to-grow Italian paste tomatoes, like red pear or ‘Roma’. This combination, along with a little oregano, makes a flavorful garden-fresh tomato sauce for pasta or pizza.

Another popular combo is tomatillo planted with cilantro to use in a variety of Mexican food dishes, including salsas and sauces. The cilantro can also double in use as coriander once the herb goes to seed.

Sage is planted to pair with celery for fresh summertime stove-top stuffings, tasty chilled soups, or salads with mixed greens.

Oregano is the herb I seem to use most with zucchini, especially when mixed into this recipe:

Stuffed Zucchini Grillers

4 small to medium fresh zucchini
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
½ cup fresh tomato, seeded and chopped
1½ teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 can condensed tomato soup
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

1. Cut off stem end of the zucchini and cut zucchini in half lengthwise.
2. Scoop out seeds and pulp to make a ¼-inch shell; reserve pulp.
3. Sauté onion with garlic, tomato, and chopped zucchini pulp in a skillet until soft.
4. Add oregano, parmesan cheese, ¼ can of soup, and salt and pepper.
5. Place each zucchini shell on a piece of heavy-duty, nonstick aluminum foil.
6. Scoop stuffing mixture into shells.
7. Spoon remaining soup over the top of each stuffed zucchini.
8. Fold foil into individual packets, and tightly pinch the sides.
9. Place on medium grill for 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove packets from grill, open carefully, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, and return open packets to grill for an additional three to five minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serves 4–6.

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