Sunday, March 13, 2016

Winter Garden Planning

This will be the first full season at my new home and I cannot wait to plant the gardens there.  I have seeds and plans and drawings and photos and a set of directions for making accessories for the garden my husband has not even seen yet!

But if you are thinking about growing a culinary herb garden in your yard this year, you might want to consider some of these.
basil bed at the Western Reserve Herb Garden
Basil, an annual, is one of the most popular herbs, you can use it in salads and to craft pesto sauce.  It has large fleshy leaves an a tall habit.  It is a companion to tomatoes so you can plant them together in your garden.  They need lots of sun and water so don't deprive them of either,  Harvest the leaves and stems often and you will be rewarded with a bushy plant that will produce all summer long.

Sage is an woody shrub that's been used for centuries. It is commonly thought of as a holiday accompaniment to poultry. Yet, it offers far more. Sage works well in heavy soups and stews, adds flavor to root vegetable dishes and even makes a great addition to breads and muffins. The anti fungal properties make it good for tea and for bath items as well.

Thyme is a low growing sub-shrub, that, according to Cole Canyon's Mason: "Goes well in everything. I use it as I would salt and pepper." Have it for breakfast with your eggs or use it to create a savory soup stock.  Make an herbal vinegar with it and enjoy the flavor all year round.  Lemon varieties will give you crisp bright flavors for Spring and summer salads and dressings.

thyme bed

Rosemary is an evergreen shrub, native to the Mediterranean. It is a well-known accompaniment to roasted potatoes and poultry. Rosemary can also be baked into any bread, cracker or pizza crust. You'll want to grow this in a pot, either submerged or above ground, so you can bring it in to winter over.

Oregano and Marjoram are cousins with a similar flavor and use.  They each have a pleasant aroma has even led to its use as a breath freshener. Marjoram works well in a fresh salad and with any recipe that calls for oregano. Legend has it that Aphrodite used marjoram to heal a wound from Ero's arrow, but instead of curing her pangs of love, the sweet herb only increased her passion. Oregano is a staple in pasta dishes but the gentle flavor must be added at the end of cooking or it is lost.

Chives is a succulent, that is an early riser in the garden.  Once you plant it you will love the fact it is the first to pop out in spring and flowers with the most wonderful purple flowers that taste like onion.  You can use the flowers to craft vinegar and the green stems are tasty on salad, and in dips and sauces.  Just remember to cut the entire stem when you harvest.

chives in bloom

If you want to sow seed directly into your garden I suggest cilantro and Dill.  These two different herbs go to seed very quickly when it gets warm so you can start early and sow a new crop every couple weeks to have an unending supply.


Dill is sweet and puckery, perfect in sauces, dressings and salads and the seed can be used to make pickles.  It grows tall so give it a background role.
cilantro at the nursery

Cilantro bolts in warm weather and once it starts to make seed it can no longer be used to make your summer salsa.  But save those seeds as they are coriander and the spice is tasty in baked goods.

Once you start using fresh herbs in your favorite recipes, you’ll never want to go back to use only dried herbs again. You’ll be hooked for life.

This list of the most common herbs used and guidelines for what foods they go best with is a great start, but do not let this deter your imagination from some of the more exotic and just as easy to grow herbs that you can also cook with, like lemon balm, holy basil, lemon verbena, Mexican oregano, flavored mints, etc.  If you want a list of exotic herbs, try this one: Exotic Herb to Grow

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