Do You Have An Organic Herb Garden?


The seventh annual HerbDay will take place Saturday, May 5, 2012

Basilattractive annual, about 18 inches tall with light-green, fairly broad leaves. The flowers are small, white, and appear in spikes. There are several species of cultivated basil, one having purple leaves.

  • Basil grows easily from seed planted after all danger of frost has passed. Pinch stems to promote bushy, compact growth. Avoid lush growth as it may reduce the flavor.
  • Green leaves can be picked about 6 weeks following planting. It is best to cut leaves for drying just before flowers open.
  • Spicy-scented basil leaves are one of the most popular of all herbs used in cooking. Cooks favor basil for tomato dishes in either fresh or dried form.

Chives small, dainty, onion-like plants that grow in clumps reaching about 10 inches in height. They are a hardy perennial with decorative, light purple flowers.

  • Chives demand little care other than dividing when they become overcrowded. They are easily propagated by division or from seed and make attractive border plants.
  • Cut fresh leaves for use as they grow.
  • Chives are used to impart a delicious, subtle, onion-like flavor to foods.

Dillpopular annual, has bluish-green stems that contrast with finely divided, yellow-green, plume-like leaves and yellowish flowers. Dill grows about 2 to 3 feet high.

  • Dill is easily grown from seed sown in the garden in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Sow the seed where you want it to grow as it is difficult to transplant. Stake tall plants.
  • For best results, pick leaves just as flowers open. Pick seeds when they are flat and brown.
  • Both the leaves and seeds of dill are popular for flavoring pickles, sauerkraut, and beet dishes. It can be combined with garlic and pepper to produce a highly flavored Mediterranean or East European pork roast (often cooked over a spit outdoors).

Marjoramusually grown as an annual, is one of the most fragrant and popular of all herbs. Its growth habit is low and spreading, and it reaches a height of about 8 to 12 inches. It has small, oval, gray-green leaves that are velvety to the touch.

  • This plant can be easily grown from seed or cuttings. In colder climates, it is best treated as an annual or kept overwinter as a pot plant. Its color makes it an attractive border plant.
  • Sweet marjoram leaves can be used anytime. Cut the leafy stems at flowering and dry for future use.
  • Sweet marjoram leaves, fresh or dried, can be used as a flavoring in cooking.

Oreganoalso called “wild marjoram,” is a hardy perennial that has sprawling stems which can grow to 2 feet tall. This plant is much coarser than sweet marjoram and smells more like thyme. It has small pink or white flowers.

  • Oregano grows well in poor soil and can be propagated by seed or division. Thin plants 10 to 12 inches apart. Stimulate foliage by cutting back flowers. Replant when plants become woody in 3 to 4 years.
  • Use fresh leaves as needed. Preserve leaves by drying.
  • Oregano leaves are used extensively as a flavoring on pizza. Sprinkle leaves over lamb or steak rubbed with lemon juice. Add to other Italian-type sauces.

Parsleya hardy biennial that is usually treated as an annual. It is popular because of its much-divided, sometimes curly leaves which have a characteristic flavor and smell.

  • Parsley grows best in moist, well-drained soil, with full sun.
  • Cut parsley when the leaves are of suitable size. Leaves can be used fresh or dried.
  • Parsley is one of the most familiar of all herbs and is used for both garnishing and flavoring. It is relatively high in vitamins A and C and iron.

Rosemarya hardy evergreen shrub in areas where winter temperatures stay above 5oF (-15oC). In the Northeast, however, this perennial should be taken indoors and kept as a pot plant during winter. The narrow leaves have a leather-like feel and a spicy, resinous fragrance.

  • Rosemary grows best in well-drained, sunny locations in lime-rich soil. It can be propagated by cuttings or grown from seed. Pinch the tips to direct growth.
  • Use fresh leaves as needed.
  • Rosemary is a popular flavoring for meats and dressings or as a garnish on large roasts.

Sage a woody, hardy perennial plant with oblong, wooly, gray-green leaves that are lighter underneath and darker on top. Sage grows 2 to 3 feet or more in height and has a tendency to sprawl.

  • Start from seed or cuttings. A slow starter, sow seed indoors and transplant. Plant sage where it will receive full sun. Space plants 2 to 2 1/2 feet apart. Plants eventually become woody and should be renewed every 3 to 4 years.
  • Pick the leaves before or at blooming. Cut back the stems after blooming.
  • This aromatic and slightly bitter herb is noted for its use in stuffings for poultry, rabbit, pork, and baked fish. It also can be used in sausage or meat loaves.

Tarragonan herbaceous perennial that grows to about 2 feet tall. It has multi-branched growth with narrow, somewhat twisted, green leaves.

  • Tarragon will grow in full sun but seems to do better in semishade. It can be propagated from root cuttings or by division. It needs protection in winter in cold climates. Make new plantings every 3 to 4 years.
  • It is best to use fresh young leaves and stem tips. Flavor is lost when tarragon is dried.
  • Tarragon leaves have a distinctive flavor similar to anise and are used in salads, marinades, and sauces. Leaves yield flavor to vinegar when steeped.

Thymea low-growing, wiry-stemmed perennial that reaches about 6 to 10 inches in height. The stems are stiff and woody and leaves are small, oval, and gray-green in color. The lilac flowers are borne in small clusters and the leaves are very aromatic.

  • This plant grows best in light, well-drained soil. Thin plants 8 to 12 inches apart. It is best to renew the plants every few years. Propagate with cuttings, divisions, or by direct seeding. Thyme is an attractive edging plant or a spreading plant among and over rocks.
  • Cut leafy tops and flower clusters when first blossoms open and dry.
  • Thyme is widely used as a seasoning. It goes well in gumbos, bouillabaisse, clam chowder, poultry stuffings, and slow-cooking beef dishes.

HerbDay

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