Add some extra flavor to your garden with herbsOne of the essential parts of a garden is the addition of the many different types of herbs that can be intermixed among the many other plants growing in harmony. Some people grow herbs in the garden for the color of their leaves, others grow them for their scents, but many of us grow them for their use in cooking.
By: John Zvirovski, Sun Garden Editor, The Jamestown Sun
One of the essential parts of a garden is the addition of the many different types of herbs that can be intermixed among the many other plants growing in harmony. Some people grow herbs in the garden for the color of their leaves, others grow them for their scents, but many of us grow them for their use in cooking.
There are numerous gardeners who have a separate garden in the yard strictly devoted to growing herbs for use in the kitchen. I like to plant them sporadically throughout the garden to make for a more diverse planting in which to enjoy both the scents of the herbs themselves along with the many floral aromas.
There are numerous types of herbs that can be planted in the garden, but the most commonly planted herbs are chives, parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage, basil, oregano, dill and marjoram. The most popular of these herbs would be the many selections of basil.
Herbs prefer a sunny location in well-drained soil that is not too high in organic matter. They can also be grown indoors during the winter months under the same conditions. Usually a west or south window is best for the proper lighting. What better way to enjoy fresh herbs in the kitchen throughout the year, than to have them right at your fingertips.
Basil is an annual herb and is available in many different types, such as the large, lime green leaves of the sweet or Genovese basil or the deep purple leaves of the purple ruffles or dark opal basil. The spice globe basil is a compact plant with small spicy leaves and cinnamon basil is called the Mexican spice basil. There is a flavor to satiate anyone’s appetite for the flavor of basil.
Basil is used in many Italian dishes and can be used in the ever-popular pesto creation. Usually this consists of fresh ground basil leaves, ground pine nuts, garlic, parmesan cheese, and olive oil all blended together to create a wonderful spread for dips or to be used as a sauce in pasta dishes.
Parsley is another common herb frequently planted in the garden and is known as a biennial. It produces useful leaves the first season and goes to seed the second season. Not only does it have great leaf character for texture in the garden, but it also serves as a terrific garnish for dishes and works well chopped in potato dishes, salads, and many types of meats. For years I used to wonder why restaurants always used these leaves to garnish plates around the meals, then I heard that parsley acts as a pallet cleanser and freshens your breathe when eaten after a meal. A natural breath freshener is definitely the best way to go!
Sage is another annual herb that has come up a second time around if it is given enough protection. It has silvery gray leaves and is used often for salad dressings and bread stuffing.
Oregano is another annual or perennial depending on conditions and varieties. This is commonly used in pizzas and tomato sauces.
Rosemary is a pungent herb used in the cooking of poultry and other meat dishes. It is also an aromatic herb that is used in potpourris or to just scent the air with a fresh planting.
Thyme is used in many soups, poultry dishes and slow-cooked beef recipes. It is a low-growing plant with numerous small leaves that can be used fresh or dried.
Chives are a very popular perennial and produce large amounts of usable leaves throughout the season. They have the mild flavor of onion and can be used in most any types of cooking. An added plus in the garden is its purple clusters of flower heads that bloom in June. Try to remember to pluck them off after they have faded or you will have new seedlings throughout your garden very quickly.
All herbs can be used fresh throughout the growing season, but if you are not growing them in the house, the fall season is the perfect time to harvest the leaves to dry and preserve for the cold winter months. I typically wait for the day before a frost and pull all the annual herbs to hang from the rafters in the garage till they are dry. Perennial herbs should not be dug up, but instead harvest the stems for drying. Once the leaves are completely dry, crush them into an air-tight container for later use.
Herbs have also been used fresh in bottles of vinegar to be used for many purposes down the road. The longer the fresh herbs remain in the vinegar, the more flavor is extracted from them and enters the liquid. Some people strictly use bottles of herb vinegar for decorative purposes.
Not only are herbs used for culinary purposes, but in many cultures, they are used as a spiritual and medicinal element also.
As you can see, herbs have a high rate of use both in the garden and in the home. They do not use much space to grow and sure pack a punch of flavor when they are ready to harvest. Try mixing a variety of herbs into your garden next year and reap the flavors of the season.