The springtime brings new warmer weather, entertaining on the deck and fresh, light meals. April also brings the planting season for your culinary herbs. Home cooks do not need a vast, huge English herb garden that can become to large to maintain. Here are my six favorite varieties that I am growing this year and cannot wait to incorporate them into my dishes all summer long.
Basil – this year I am growing sweet and Italian, but one is all you really need.
Key in Mediterranean cooking, essential to Italian Pesto and very popular
in American cuisine. It can lose much of its flavor in long-cooking dishes, add
a fresh flavor to dishes by mincing and adding just before serving.
Chives – as by choice, I prefer garlic chives. Fresh chives can be snipped with kitchen
shears to the desired length. Both the green stalks and the lavender flowers are
edible. They need to be added towards the end of cooking are a tasty addition
to any salad.
Oregano – one of my favorite spices, it is generally used in highly spiced dishes.
It has pungent flavor and aroma, which requires a bit more caution when in use.
Goes extremely well with tomato-based dishes and is a familiar pizza herb.
Parsley – slightly peppery, fresh flavored, it is commonly used as a garnish.
There are over 30 varieties of parsley but I chose curly-leaf parsley, for its
versatility and milder flavor. It is a great garnish for almost anything.
Sage – intensely aromatic and slightly bitter, it is fantastic in game stuffing at
Thanksgiving. Also commonly added to dishes containing pork, cheese, beans
and poultry. Sausage makers use it frequently to flavor their products.
Tarragon – very aromatic with a distinctive anise-like flavor. Widely used in French
cooking, including chicken, fish and vegetables. It is best in a classic Béarnaise
sauce. Be careful, its assertiveness can dominate a dish and must be used
All of these herbs are easy to grow. Remember you are growing seasonings for your food, therefore, using the best soil possible. I grow my herbs in containers where I have added potting soil and nature’s helper for great water absorption, improving drainage and aeration. This year I did not grow from seed, but instead from 4” plants already with established roots.
To plant, position the seedling in the hole so that it is the same depth as it was in the container. Fill in around the roots with soil. Tamp gently with your fingers and add more soil if necessary. Label, and water the new plant with water.
In order to reap the fullest potential of the herbs, you need an abundance of leaves; therefore, you must take care of the plants. Watering, weeding, fertilizing, and controlling pests will be the biggest factors in your herb garden. These six herbs can bring luscious spiciness to your kitchen and so rewarding when your dish is a success with the flavors you have cultivated.
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