Good for the body, good for the soul, gardening is the United States’ most popular outdoor leisure activity...


 
Chives

It will come as no surprise to you to know that these onion like herbs are members of the same family as onions, leeks and garlic.  Their name comes from the Latin, cepa (onion), that became cive in French.  There are native varieties that grow around the world.  Chives have been cultivated in China since 3,000 B.C. but were introduced to Europe by way of Marco Polo in the middle ages.  By the 16th century, no European herb garden would be complete without them.  Doubtless most Americans are familiar with this perennial via sour cream covered baked potatoes.


Chives grow hollow, slender green leaves that look like grass.  The dense clumps are 12"-18" high, and in late spring they produce flower heads clustered on the ends of stems (the flowers are edible too).  Since they do not have underground bulbs like onions, their flavor resides in their leaves.  They are a perfect plant for a beginning gardener because their drought tolerant nature makes them easy to grow.  Although they are hardy Zones 3-9, in winter they make good container plants and transfer well to a sunny window.  To harvest them, simply snip the leaves with scissors 2" above the ground (don't pull the plant up from the ground).  Freshly harvested chives can be stored for later use in the freezer in plastic bags.  Clumps should be divided every three years and leaves pruned back after flowering to promote new growth.  Chives are plagued by few diseases or insect pests.  They make excellent companion plants to carrots and are said to improve their flavor.

Culinary Uses
Besides sprinkling them on your baked potatoes, chives can be used in soups and egg dishes. Garlic chives are especially good in oriental cuisine.  Their flower heads make a festive and tasty addition to salads.  Chives taste best raw, so if your recipe calls for cooking them, add them at the last moment.  Also try blending them with butter or cream cheese for a delicious spread.


  

  Recipes for Chives

Herbs de Provence Lemon-Chive Mayonnaise
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbl. chopped fresh chives
1 tsp. herbes de Provence
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Combine ingredients and use as an elegant spread for your favorite sandwich (tastes especially good with salmon or crab cakes).

Herbes de Provence
is a dried herb blend typical of the Provence region of south-central France. It may include rosemary, thyme, savory, oregano, Basil, sage, marjoram, fennel, mint, and lavender blossoms. Crush the dried Herbs in the palm of the hand to release their flavor.



Chive and Dill Sauce
1 1/2 Tbl. Dijon mustard
3 Tbl. white or herb vinegar
1/3 cup of olive oil
1/3 cup of dill
1/4 cup of chives
Chopped leaves from 3 or 4 tarragon sprigs
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Mix vinegar and mustard together in a bowl.  Whisk in the olive oil, then stir in the herbs.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  This sauce works well with steamed asparagus, artichokes, cauliflower, and as a marinade for chicken and fish.  It can also be used as a dressing for your green, leafy salads.


Scalloped  Pasta with Garlic, Ginger and Chives
1 lb small, fresh bay scallops
juice of half of a lemon 
1/4 cup of unsalted butter 
1 tsp. olive oil 
1 large garlic clove -- peeled & finely chopped 
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger 
1 Tbl. fresh chives 
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. of your favorite pasta

Rinse the scallops under cold, running water;  drain and then toss them with the lemon juice.  In a medium sized skillet, heat butter and oil until it sizzles. Add scallops, garlic and ginger.  Cook briefly for 2 to 3 minutes, turning scallops over once.  Toss with cooked pasta and remaining ingredients.


Basil

 Basil
Basil is certainly one of the most popular herbs.  The plant's name comes from the Greek word "basileus," meaning "king."   The camphor scented African Blue has medicinal uses in its native land.  In the United States it is valued as an ornamental plant.  The East Indian basil has a very strong clove scent and is used for chutney in India.

In addition to culinary uses, many basils are attractive ornamental plants that can be useful in the landscape and flower garden. The Purple Ruffles, Dark Opal, and Lemon basils are attractive as well as delicious. The petite Spicy Globe basil is attractive in borders.

Harvesting of basil leaves for fresh use should begin just before the plant blooms, taking leaves as needed. Pinch the flower buds as they develop to keep the plant bushy and promote leaf production. Take the first cutting just before the flower buds open, leaving at least one node with two young shoots.  Keep pinching the flower buds and continue harvesting leaves right up until frost.  To have a constant supply of plants at the peak of flavor, some people plant successively smaller batches of basil throughout the season, discarding the older plants as they become woody.  Here's a tip: save the woody stems from the plant to burn in your fireplace or woodstove.  They smell great. 

The conditions at the time of harvest have a significant effect on the flavor of your basil. Try to cut the leaves on a hot, sunny day, at mid-morning when the highest concentration of flavorful oil is present in the leaves. Handle the harvested leaves carefully. Bruising will cause them to release their essential oil and turn black. If you immediately cover the leaves with paper towel, the oxidation process will be reduced.

If not used fresh, basil is best stored in oil, vinegar or frozen in an oil paste. Blend as many basil leaves as you can in ½ cup of olive or other oil.  Store in the refrigerator or freeze in small containers for future use.  You can also try freezing basil in a water puree.  Place the basil leaves in a food processor with a little water.  Pour the liquid into ice cube trays to freeze; when frozen, pop the basil cubes into plastic bags.

If you want to dry basil, do not dry it in the oven, outside in the sun, or in the microwave. Leave the leaves to dry between sheets of paper towel. Branches hung to dry in bunches will look great, but will quickly loose flavor.

In addition to the popular pesto and tomato dishes, basil is used with meat, fish, poultry, pasta, rice, cheese, eggs, a variety of vegetables, and in Thai cooking.  It blends well with garlic, thyme and lemon and can be added to soups, stews, and pizza.  When using fresh basil, add it to dishes after they've been cooked.  This way, it retains both its color and flavor.
  


  

  Easy Basil Recipes

Perfect Pesto 
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 or more garlic cloves
2 cups fresh basil leaves, hard-packed
½ cup fresh parsley, hard-packed
¼ cup lightly toasted pine nuts
½ cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor, and puree. Use immediately for best flavor, or freeze in small containers for later use. If you are going to freeze the mixture for more than three months, you might leave the garlic out to prevent bitterness. Use with pasta, rice, fish, vegetables, and in soup.

*Recipe from Southern Herb Growing by Madalene Hill and Gwen Barclay, with Jean Hardy

 

Grilled Tomato Halves with Cheese and Basil
3 large firm, ripe tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon (or more to taste) grated Parmesan (or other variety) cheese
salt and pepper to taste
small basil leaves for garnish

Brush tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on an oiled grill, cut side down, 4-5 inches over hot fire. Grill 4-5 minutes. Turn tomatoes using a wide spatula and sprinkle with basil and cheese. Cook 4-5 minutes longer or until tomatoes are tender but still hold their shape. Remove from grill and garnish with basil leaves.

*From The Natural Gourmet
  

  Basil Links
Growing, Selecting And Using Basil

Fabulous Foods Ingredient of the Month: Basil

  

  Basil Books
Basil

Basil, an Herb Lover's Guide

All About Herbs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Herbs : Their Culture and Uses

Southern Herb Growing

The 20-Minute Vegetable Gardener: Gourmet Gardening for the Rest of Us


Cilantro (Coriander)

Cilantro
(Coriander)

This genus has two species and is thought to be one of the world’s oldest cultivated herbs occurring in a variety of cultures and across at least three continents – Asia, Africa and Europe.  It is referred to several times in the Old Testament and is mentioned in a number of other ancient texts in Sanskrit, Greek and Latin languages. Coriandrum has been used in Chinese cooking and medicine since AD600. Seeds from the plant have been found in the tombs of ancient Egypt.  The herbs name “coriandrum” is derived from the Greek “ koriannon” which is a bug that is alleged to smell like the foliage of the coriander plant. I have always rather enjoyed the fragrance of cilantro and wish that all the bugs in my garden would smell quite so good! 

  

The species Coriandrum sativum (cilantro, Chinese parsley, coriander) is a pungent hardy annual with leaves that are lobed and dark green  but becoming more finely divided  up the flowering stems. The flat topped clusters of white sometimes mauve tinged flowers produced in summer are followed by spherical, ribbed, pale brown fruit that have a fruity but not quite citrus smell when ripe.  The plant likes well-drained fertile soil but tends to bolt in warm dry spells or if overcrowded so it is one of those herbs you may like to plant at intervals to ensure a good crop of leaves throughout the summer. 

With Coriandrum you get two plants in one, in that both the leaves and the seeds are harvested for culinary purposes; additionally, the roots are used in Thai cooking. The leaves are harvested when young and may be frozen whole since they do not dry well. The seeds are collected when ripe and left to dry for 2 or 3 days in a light airy space. When completely dry, store in a tight stopped jar. Subsequently the seeds may be used whole or ground. Both the leaves and seeds are rich in volatile oils and therefore both have a number of medicinal uses.

Culinary Uses
Ground Coriandrum seeds are an important ingredient in curry powder, curries, pickles (wonderful in pickled chilies!), baked foods and a range of sauces and sausages. Leaves are used to flavor soups, salads, pulse dishes and of course Asian foods.

 

  Recipes for Cilantro (Coriander)

Chinese Fish soup with Cilantro
This is a light but very fragrant soup which tastes wonderful.

Three quarters of a lb. of fish (bass, cod, carp, sole etc.  that has been filleted)
1 good handful of fresh cilantro finely chopped
2 slices of ginger root 
4 cups of strong chicken stock
3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of salt
Half a teaspoon of pepper
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
1 egg white 

Season the fish fillets with salt on both sides and rub in the cornstarch. Put the chicken stock in a pan and bring to the boil, shred the ginger and add to taste. Check the stock and add salt if needed.  Lower the heat.

Whisk the egg white. Cut the filleted fish into one or two-inch pieces. Dip the filleted fish in the egg white before adding to the stock three or four at a time. Bring the soup to a boil again and then gently simmer until the fish is tender.

Add the wine vinegar, pepper and chopped cilantro and gently stir.  Check the seasoning and serve hot.

Cilantro and Couscous Salad
A marinated uncooked Couscous is a very textured salad that goes well with most grilled meat, chicken or fish dishes. You may, of course, add whatever interesting ingredients to the salad that you find tempting;  I just happen to like the combination listed below. 

Half a pound of couscous
2 Red Peppers
2 good handfuls of chopped cilantro
1 red onion
1 medium hot fresh chili, deseeded and chopped
2 tomatoes deseeded and diced (Try Sunnyboy Heirloom tomato plants for a wonderful taste)
a quarter of a clove of garlic finely chopped
juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of good olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Half a pint of cold water
Lemon and olive oil dressing (see below for recipe and quantities.)

Toss the couscous in a bowl with the lemon/oil dressing and add the water. Stir and leave to infuse for about 20 minutes. Grill the peppers whole until blackened all over and then place in a bowl whilst hot and cover with Saran wrap to steam. When cool, peel, deseed and finely chop. Finely chop the red onion and add to the chopped peppers. Add garlic, tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil and cilantro, drizzle with olive oil, stir and season to taste. Stand for 15 minutes and then stir in with the marinated couscous.

Lemon and Olive Oil Dressing
Take: 

5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
I teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon of salt 

and  mix all together


French Tarragon

   

 French Tarragon

Artemisia is a genus of about 300 species of annuals, biennials and perennials. A. Dracunculus (French Tarragon) was used medicinally to treat poisonous stings and bites and consequently gained the name dracunculus – little dragon. 

This fragrant plant can grow up to 3ft high and spreads by underground runners. It has upright, branched stems and the leaves are shiny and narrow. The tiny greenish white flowers do not open fully or produce viable seeds in cool climates. Artemisia dracunculoides (Russian Tarragon) is hardier, sets seeds more readily but has a greatly inferior flavor and not an herb that I would use for culinary purposes.
 

 
  New growth on Tarragon

French Tarragon needs a sunny, warm summer, a mild winter in well-drained soil. It will need protection from cold or frost in a sheltered spot or covered by leaves or mulch. Shade, heavy frosts or waterlogged conditions will produce a very poor outcome for the plant.  However it has the virtue of growing well in containers and may be brought in doors in the winter to ensure that you have one of the best culinary savory herbs available.

It is probable best to freeze the leaves when harvesting because drying tends to lead to a loss of that wonderful, subtle flavor.

Culinary Uses
It is delicious in buttery sauces like Béarnaise and Béchamel and enhances the flavors of mild flavored vegetables like squash and artichokes. The leaves maybe used to greatly improve the flavor of raw green and vegetable salads. Tarragon vinegar (made by steeping the fresh herb in white wine vinegar) has a number of uses but is especially good in French vinaigrette. The herb may also be added to mustard to equally good effect.  French Tarragon is a classic herb with chicken but is also excellent added to egg, fish or other roast meat dishes.

 

  Recipes for Tarragon

Veal in a Tarragon Cream Sauce
This is a very rich dish best served with rice or pasta and a green salad.

4 veal escalopes or scallops
6 or 7 sprigs of French Tarragon
Juice of half a lemon
One and half cups of heavy cream
Three tablespoons of butter

Remove about 15 leaves from the French tarragon and reserve. Slowly heat the cream in a pan with the sprigs of tarragon and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, cover the pan and allow the herb/cream to infuse for about thirty minutes, stir now and then. 

Melt the butter in a skillet and when very hot cook the veal very quickly - 2 minutes on either side will be more than enough.  Remove and keep hot.

Take the tarragon infused cream and pour it through a strainer onto the skillet and stir well, getting all the juices mixed in with the cream. Add salt and black pepper and one tablespoonful of the fresh lemon juice. Check for taste adding more pepper, salt and lemon juice if needed. 

Put veal in serving dish. Pour the cream mixture over the veal and scatter and decorate with the reserved tarragon leaves.

 
Tarragon Fish Salad
Make sure the hake or halibut is really fresh and cook it on the day you buy it and you will have a sumptuous light main course or you can have smaller portions as a first course.

1 pound of hake or halibut
6 scallops
6 jumbo shrimp
Half a pound of shrimp
1 green bell pepper
Half of one English cucumber
1 Romaine lettuce
Juice of 2 fresh lemons
Virgin olive oil to sauté shrimp

  
Tarragon Dressing
Two thirds of a cup of buttermilk
Half a cup of ricotta cheese
4 tablespoons of chopped tarragon
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
A few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice 

Place the fish in a pan and barely cover it with cold water. Bring to the boil and poach it very gently. When cooked cool in pan then drain the fish and remove all skin and bones. Make large flakes of the fish and pour the juice from one lemon over it. 

Poach the scallops in the same water as the fish for four minutes, drain and keep moist with lemon juice. Peel the shrimp and quickly sauté in the olive oil . Leave to cool.

Wash and cut the lettuce into strips, deseed the pepper and peel the cucumber. Cut cucumber and pepper into small, thin strips.

Assemble the salad by covering the lettuce with the pepper and cucumber slices and put the hake or halibut in the center. Scatter the shrimp and sliced scallops on top. Pour the herb dressing over the salad and mix well before serving. 

To make the herb dressing - puree the cheese, buttermilk, drops of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste in a blender. Stir in copped tarragon.

 

Lemon Verbena
 

 Lemon Verbena

Lemon Verbena has its origins in Chile and Argentina, where it grows much taller than the 2-4 feet it will reach in the US.  Spanish explorers brought this citrus-scented herb back to Europe with them, and it is now produced commercially in France. This tender perennial has been used medicinally, for cooking, in perfumes and in potpourri.  For fragrance, Lemon Verbena is an herb of choice.  Try putting a few leaves in your vacuum cleaner bag to blow a pleasing scent throughout your house.

Lemon Verbena smells so sweet and lemony, you'll want to plant or pot it close to your favorite sitting spot outside.  It is grown in Zones 7-8, but can be potted and brought indoors during winter in colder climates.  The spiked and delicate flowers are white or a pale lavender color and bloom in summer.  Its whorled leaves are pointed, 3"-4" long and glossy.  Make sure it gets six hours of sunlight a day; it may go slightly dormant inside, but will rebound the next spring.  Do not place outside until after last frost date.  Lemon Verbena prefers lots of sun and well-drained soil.  Pruning will help this woody herb to bush out.  Cut or pick the leaves as needed and store in an airtight container.

Culinary Uses
The leaves and flowering tops of Lemon Verbena can be used whenever you want to add a lemon flavor without the tartness.  It goes well with poultry, marinades, fresh fruit, and beverages like teas and alcohol (see recipe below).  It can be used like a bay leaf in soups or stews or even placed on top of a fish fillet.

A cup of it before bedtime can have a sedative quality; just steep on tablespoon of fresh leaves in hot water for 5 minutes.

 
 
Recipes for Lemon Verbena

Lemon Verbena Cake
1 2/3 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup butter flavored Crisco
2 drops lemon extract
2 cups cake flour
1/4 cup fresh chopped Lemon Verbena or leaves or 2 Tbl. crushed dried leaves
5 eggs

Cream together the sugar and Crisco until well mixed. Add the eggs 1 at a time, mixing for one minute after each. Add dry ingredients gradually, scraping down the sides. Add the flavoring and the verbena leaves. Pour into a Bundt pan, which is well coated with the shortening and floured.

Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until golden brown (test with a toothpick). Remove, set on a cooling rack for 15 minutes, turn over onto plate.


Fresh Herb Liquer
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/4 cup water
2 cups (firmly packed) leaves and tender stems of lemon verbena (can add rose geranium, apple mint, or lemon balm to the mix)
1 liter or vodka

Combine sugar and water, bring to a boil, and stir until sugar is completely dissolved.  Pack herbs in a large glass container.  Cool syrup to lukewarm and pour over herbs, then add vodka.  Cap and store in a cool, dark place at least one month, shaking occasionally.  Strain and decant into bottles.


Mint
  

 Mint
Mint stands for cheerfulness and stimulates the brain, said the ancients.  "Mint" is derived from the Latin word mente, meaning "thought."   The vigorous and fragrant perennial requires rich moist soil.  Because it is vigorous it can become invasive and so all mints should be contained in their own pot, tub, or bed. Since the plant produces no seed, mint makes more of itself by sending out underground runners (stolons).
  In the peppermint and spearmint plants, the oil is stored in glands on the underside of the leaves. The sunnier your growing location, the more oil the plant produces. 

 

  

Culinary Uses
Mint lends itself well to a variety of culinary uses.  Fruit cocktails are enlivened with mint as are dressings for green salad. Mint gives a special zest in sauces for fish and in sauces and jelly for lamb. For an interesting touch to pea soup, try adding some fresh mint. Fresh mint goes well with carrots, peas, or chopped cabbage.  In preparing apple sauce, jelly, or vinegar, use fresh mint.  In beverages, a generous handful of fresh mint can play a leading role in mint tea or the traditional Southern Mint Julep.

Around the world, mint is put to daily culinary use. Mint tea is often associated with exotic Morocco. Tea was introduced there to the local coffee-drinkers only in the middle of the last century by British merchants who sold large quantities of tea in Tangier and Mogador.  In the Arab world, mint finds a special place in the traditional, and healthful, cracked wheat salad called tabouleh. 

Recipes for Mint

Moroccan Mint Tea
1 tsp. green tea per person
1 tsp. sugar per person, or one teaspoon of honey.
1
generous handful of mint

Pour  boiling water carefully over the mixture.  Let steep three minutes.  Strain and serve in glasses.
  

Mint and Sage Herb Tea
1 tsp. dried mint
1 tsp. dried sage

Place herbs in teapot and pour two cups of boiling water over them.  Let steep for five or ten minutes, strain, and flavor with honey and lemon.


 Mint Julep
In a traditional Mint Julep cup place a generous handful of MINT. Taking your time, crush the mint thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Enjoy the rich mint fragrance while adding sugar to taste.  Add a splash of fine Bourbon and continue mixing briefly to blend the ingredients.  Place ice cubes in the cup and add fine Bourbon to taste.  Add branch water to taste. Stir slowly.  Taking your time, enjoy the beverage and especially the rich mint flavor.


Minted Country Romaine Soup
1 stick unsalted sweet butter
1 chopped medium onion
2 Tbl. flour
4 cups chicken stock, broth or bouillon
4 cups chopped romaine, or other types of lettuce (a medium head including outside leaves)
1 tsp.of chopped fresh mint
1 cup whipping cream
salt and white pepper
For cold soup: 1/2 cup sour cream

In a three-quart saucepan, melt butter and gently cook onion until transparent, about five minutes.  Do not brown. Sprinkle in flour and  blend with a whisk until smooth.  Gently cook for two minutes. Add stock slowly and whisk to blend.  Bring to a low boil and add romaine and fresh mint. Cook until romaine wilts, about five minutes.  Transfer in batches to a blender or food processor and mix till smooth. Return to saucepan, stir in cream, and season with salt and white pepper to taste. Can be served hot or cold. Finely chopped fresh mint for garnish.  For cold soup, refrigerate for four hours at least and then whisk in sour cream and serve in chilled bowls.  (6 to 8 servings)  

 

 Herb Books for Your Reading List
Mint (from The Herb Library Series)
Growing and Cooking with Mint

A Sprig of Mint: Twenty-five Classic Recipes

 
Oregano

     

Oregano
The origins of this herb come from the Greek--Oros (mountain) and ganos (joy). This name was probably derived by the spectacle that the many native varieties of oregano make on the Greek mountainsides. Lore has it that Greeks and Romans would crown couples with the fragrant sprigs of oregano during wedding ceremonies--the herb was thought to have the power to dismiss sadness. Oregano has recently been rediscovered as a medicinal herb--it has antiseptic qualities and has been used to treat allergies, ulcers, and a slew of other maladies.

 

  
Oregano belongs to the mint family, and is a relative of marjoram and thyme.  Of the many varieties of oregano and the many herbs used for their oregano like qualities, Greek Mountain Oregano is one of the most popular for seasoning.  It has the heady, musty, pine scent without the high sweet pitch of sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana). Native to Greece and Turkey, this oregano can grow up to two feet in height if not pruned.  It is hardy to Zone 3, though it will not tolerate boggy, wet footed soils.  It is not particular about soil conditions as long as it is well-drained (do not plant in clay).  This oregano has small white flowers with rounded dark green leaves less than 1" long.  Its cluster habit is dense, and its flavor and fragrance nicely pungent.  The foliage stays green and harvestable all through the winter, taking on a leathery and somewhat shabbier appearance--pungent nonetheless.  Oregano will attract honey bees, so it can be a good companion to your other plants.  Take up a few offspring of from oregano and place them in your window box. Keep your kitchen scissors handy; you'll be snipping off the tender new growth more often than you think.

 

 Oregano Recipes

Mushroom Oregano Omelet
2 Tbl. fresh oregano, chopped or minced in the food processor
4 Tbl. sautéed mushrooms
3-4 Tbl. grated jack cheese
2 eggs
1 small splash of milk
1 Tbl. butter

Beat eggs well, add milk and beat some more.  Melt butter in hot omelet pan.  When the butter is melted add the egg mixture.  Cook until almost completely firm.  Sprinkle mushrooms, oregano, then cheese on top.  Fold or flip omelet closed, cook a couple more minutes (careful not to burn the eggs at this point). Serve immediately with toast and your favorite jam.

 

Roasted Chicken Breasts w/ Herb Leaves*
6 boneless chicken breast halves, skin on
1 1/2 cups wild rice
12 oregano leaves
12 small basil leaves
12 sage leaves
12 thin slices of fresh ginger (dime size)
3 garlic cloves, each cut into 4 slices

Sauce
1 tsp. chopped oregano
1 tsp. chopped basil
1 tsp. chopped sage
1/2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbl. soy sauce
1 Tbl. melted butter
1 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
1 1/2 Tbl. butter

Begin cooking wild rice in water for 45-60 minutes or according to package directions.  Carefully lift the skin of each chicken breast half way from the meat, and place two each of oregano, basil, and sage leaves and slices of ginger and garlic under the skin.

Combine all sauce ingredients and heat.  Bake chicken for 30 minutes at 375 F, basting with sauce two or three times during cooking.  Toss the wild rice with butter and serve with chicken.

*Taken from The Herb Companion Cooks

 

Tuna Steak with Oregano Basting
Marinate tuna in olive oil, red wine, garlic, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and chopped oregano.

Grill over a hot fire. Make a basting brush with several small branches of oregano (leaves left on). Brush steak as it cooks with a little of the marinade. Cook approximately 4 minutes per side. Serve with garlic whipped potatoes, and grilled Mediterranean vegetables.

 

 Oregano Books
Growing and Using Oregano

The Instant Ethnic Cook: An Herb & Spice Blend Cookbook

The Cure is in the Cupboard: How to Use Oregano for Better Health


Parsley

 Parsley

Parsley is a biennial herb whose usefulness in this country has often been limited to garnish pieces on the salad bar.  Fortunately for all of us, it's making a comeback in the kitchen.  This plant originated from the Mediterranean region over 2000 years ago.  The Greeks fed parsley to their horses to increase their courage and to give them strength for winning races.  It also made for a tasty breath freshener after one too many garlic cloves.

Although parsley can overwinter in zones 5-9, to make the most out of its culinary properties, it's best grown as an annual.  The first year its energy goes into making leaves, the next into making seeds.

If left in the garden to flower, it will grow 16" tall stems with clusters of yellow-green flowers atop them. Most of us are most familiar with the curly-leaved parsley, whose taste is stronger and more bitter than its flat-leaved cousin (pictured above).  While its culinary value is undisputed, the dense, fern-like leaves also make an excellent edging or border plant.


Culinary Uses
Parsley can be used dried or fresh, and it goes well with eggs, stews and soups. Fresh parsley especially has a positive nutritional value, as it is a good source of a source of calcium, thiamine, riboflavin, potassium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, niacin, chlorine, phosphorus, sulfur, and magnesium.  Cooked parsley loses most of the above nutrients when heated.  A few sprigs of parsley make a soothing tea that aids in digestion.

 

Recipes for Parsley

Mediterranean Salad
2 cups of parsley
1/2 cup of basil
chopped chives to taste
1 large, perfectly ripe tomato
1/4 cup black olives
sprinkling of pine nuts
sprinkling of feta cheese

Toss and serve!


Parsley Pesto
3 cups packed fresh parsley leaves, preferably flat-leafed (about 3 bunches), rinsed and spun dry
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted until golden and cooled
1/3 cup olive oil

Blend well in a food processor. Pesto may be made 3 days ahead and chilled. Cover its surface with plastic wrap. Try it with lemon-pepper pasta.

 
Tabbouleh
1/2 cup chikcen stock
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup couscous
1/2 cucmber
2 Tbls. tomato peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
1 tsp. fresh basil
1 loosely packed cup of parsley
1/3 loosely packed cup of fresh mint
salt
mint sprigs and cucumber for garnish

Combine the stock, water, half the lemon juice and 1 tbls. of the oil in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, and stir in the couscous. Cover the pan, remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Mix together the cucumber, tomato, scallion, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt in a bowl. Add the couscous and herbs.  Chill.  Eat and enjoy.

Rosemary   

Rosemary
Rosemary is closely associated with the Christmas Season.  It is referred to in the Bible and in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, "There’s Rosemary, that’s for remembrance."  Since it was often found growing by the sea, it was named "dew of the sea" by the Greeks and Romans who first made use of it.  Christians later associated it with the virgin Mary, in part because of the "mary" in its name, but also because Mary is said to have placed her cloak over the plant--instantly giving the light blue flowers their color.  Greeks used a sprig of rosemary braided into their hair to help them remember important facts for tests.  Brides and grooms used rosemary in their wedding ceremonies to remember their parents' love for them (and to remember their own fidelity).  In our country, rosemary is used for seasonal topiaries and makes its appearance in homes almost as often as the poinsettia.

  
Today, herb gardeners have so many varieties of rosemary to choose from: simple erect forms of various heights and bloom colors varying from pale blue, bold blue, pure white, to pink--as well as many prostrate forms excellent for hanging baskets or ground covers.  Rosemary is a member of the mint family, and it is related to herbs it often compliments: oregano, basil, and marjoram.  

Rosemary has medicinal qualities--chemical compounds called quinones make it a cancer prevention plant.  Rosemary has also been used in the treatment of fatigue and neuralgia.  The sedative, diuretic, aromatic, antispasmodic and antiseptic properties of this herb make it an oft used choice with herbalists.

In your garden, you'll find that rosemary is a natural insect repellant.  You can propagate rosemary through either its seeds or its cuttings.  To help a hardy species over-winter, you can place a wire cage around your plant, fill it with leaves, and uncover when spring approaches.

Rosemary is an excellent herb for cooking.  It seasons meat such as roast lamb and chicken, and vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, string beans, onions, carrots, and peas.
  

  

Recipes for Rosemary

Rosemary Glazed Carrots*
12 long, thin carrots--peeled but not cut
1/4 to 1/3 cup rosemary honey (steep several sprigs of fresh rosemary in a light-flavored honey for a week or more)
2 Tbl butter
Sprig of fresh rosemary

Cook carrots in boiling water to cover until they are tender but firm.  Meanwhile, warm the honey and butter just enough to melt the butter and allow thorough blending.  Drain the water from the carrots and toss them in the honey mixture.  Mince a small amount of fresh rosemary and sprinkle it lightly over the dish.

*Taken from The Herb Companion Cooks
  

Rosemary New Potatoes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbl minced fresh rosemary
1 tsp coarse salt
1 lb tiny new potatoes, scrubbed and blanched

In a mixing bowl, combine olive oil, rosemary and salt.  Soak about 6 wooden skewers in water to cover for at least 30 minutes.  Heat a charcoal, gas, or stovetop grill. Thread the potatoes on the skewers and brush them with the olive oil mixture.  Grill until the potatoes are crispy brown, about 12 minutes, turning them halfway through.  Serve right away.

 

Broiled Salmon with Rosemary
4, 4 oz. salmon steaks or 1 lb. salmon tail piece, filleted and skinned

Marinade
1 Tbl cider vinegar
4 garlic cloves
2 Tbl light soy sauce
3 rosemary sprigs
6 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl lime juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix the marinade ingredients and pour over the fish in an ovenproof dish.  Cover and marinate for 2 hours.  Pour off the marinade and cook under the broiler for 10-15 minutes, turning once.
  

Lamb Cutlets with Tomato Relish
8 lamb rib chops
2 Tbl dark soy sauce
1 Tbl olive oil
1 garlic clove minced
2 Tbl garlic wine vinegar
2 rosemary sprigs

Tomato Relish
4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 Tbl soft brown sugar
4 tsp red wine vinegar
2 scallions, sliced
1 Tbl horseradish sauce
1 Tbl dark soy sauce
1 Tbl chopped fresh rosemary

Trim the excess fat from each lamb chop.  Scrape the bone clean with a knife.  Place the lamb in a shallow baking dish.  Mix together the soy sauce, olive oil, garlic, garlic wine vinegar, and rosemary, and pour over the lamb.  Cover and marinate for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, place the relish ingredients in a pan and simmer gently for 5 minutes.  Remove the lamb from he marinade and broil for 15 minutes, turning until cooked through.  Reheat the prepared tomato relish until hot and serve with the broiled lamb.
  

  Herb Books for Your Reading List
The Big Book of Kitchen Gardens: A Guide to Growing Vegetables & Herbs

The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Medicine

The Complete Vegetable & Herb Gardener: A Guide to Growing Your Garden Organically

Sage

 Sage
 
A bushy perennial, sage probably originated in Syria before spreading throughout the world via trade routes.  Medicinally, the Greeks and Romans used sage to help calm the nerves and aid in digestion (especially of meats).  Its Latin root means "to cure," and it has been advocated for everything from warts to epilepsy.  Native Americans used sage in smudge sticks for purification rituals.  Sage has even been used in some

cultures as an aphrodisiac.  In our culture, it's most popular use is in stuffing for poultry.

This easy to grow, robust plant can be propagated by seed or by cuttings.  Plant herbs 2 feet apart in fertile, well-drained soil, and pinch off growing tips after flowering.  Stems will become woody, but they can be pruned back within a few inches of the soil.  Sage makes a good companion plant to cabbages and carrots.  This aromatic herb helps repel the white cabbage butterfly and the carrot fly.  It also attracts bees.

Culinary Uses
Pineapple Sage or Salvia elegans goes well with fruit and cheese.  This tender herb has scarlet flowers and a fruity-minty flavor.  It makes an excellent tea.  Salvia officinalis, or common sage, is used in salads, sausage, and pasta (see our recipe below).  The leaves are delicious when fried in butter  (try adding them to your mashed potatoes!).  The flavor of sage tends to intensify as it dries, so when substituting dried for fresh sage, it's best to use less.  Sage also works well in an herb butter and flavored vinegars and oils.

Try using sage in your flower arrangements.  Its wonderful scent and long-lasting leaves make it a wonderful addition.

 

Recipes for Sage

Mint and Sage Herb Tea
1 tsp. dried mint
1 tsp. dried sage

Place herbs in teapot and pour two cups of boiling water over them.  Let steep for five or ten minutes, strain, and flavor with honey and lemon.


Sage Butter Pasta
1 lb. pasta of your choice
8-10 fresh sage leaves, minced
5 Tbl. of butter (for the health-conscious, you can also substitute olive oil)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
freshly ground black pepper
parmesan cheese

While pasta is cooking, heat butter (or olive oil) in a skillet until is begins to bubble.  Add garlic and sage leaves.  Cook until butter turns golden (not brown).  Toss pasta with sage-butter sauce and top with fresh pepper and parmesan.


Sage Vinegar
Flavored vinegars are easy and inexpensive to make, plus they are delightful to receive as a gift!  Here's one featuring our Herb o' the Month.

1 jar good quality 5% acidity cider vinegar
sage (either 1 cup fresh or  1/2 cup dried)
parsley (either 1 cup fresh or  1/2 cup dried)

Heat the vinegar (not to boiling) and pour it over the herbs.  Let it steep for about a week--taste test to tell when it's ready.  When ready, strain the vinegar through a coffee filter into an attractive bottle (an empty wine bottle will work), and cork the bottle.  The bottle can be sealed by wrapping a 4" ribbon around the cork and dipping it into melted wax.  Label and enjoy!

Thyme

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a worldly plant; Although this member of the mint family is sold as an herb, it is actually a subshrub. When you cut your thyme back at the start of the season, be sure to leave a lot of the woodiness--the plant will need it to regenerate new growth. Thyme 

grows in just about any kind of soil, but it prefers gravelly, well-drained soil.  Mulch it with a pea gravel or sand mulch. It is an ideal landscaping plant for a rock garden or for those areas of your yard where the soil is rocky. Any of the praecox subspecies articus will work well for this.  If you use dry mortared bricks for walkways or a patio, replacing a few here and there with thyme plants makes for a lovely effect.

Of course thyme is also one of the most popular culinary herbs to grow. In fact, most of commercial oregano sold in stores is really oregano-scented thyme (note the bottles which call themselves "Oregano" and those labeled "Greek Mountain Oregano"--THE oregano). The best known variety for the kitchen is the Narrow-leaf French. Leaves for cooking can be harvested by clipping sprigs from the plant. When cooking with fresh leaves, crush them between your hands before adding them to your dish. To dry the herb, harvest just as the flowers begin to bloom in early summer. Again, remember to leave some woodiness (at least 2" of stem above the soil) so your thyme will grow back. 

Thyme works well as a companion plant in your garden. Honey bees love its flowers, and its aromatic qualities drive many insect pests away. Plant it near your cabbages to deter the cabbageworm. Thyme can easily be propagated by allowing the runners to take root. Once they have, simply cut them from the main plant and move them wherever. 

Thyme is also useful medicinally. It has been used to aid digestion, preserve food, as an antiseptic--even as a part of the ancient process of mummification in Egypt. The thymol extracted from its leaves has been used in cancer research, and some studies have shown that it strengthens the immune system.

  Recipes for Thyme

Thyme and Scallion Corn Muffins
1 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup all purpose flour
¼  cup sugar
3 Tbl. fresh nutmeg thyme or common thyme
1 Tbl. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup milk
¼ cup melted butter
½ cup chopped scallions

Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine the first seven ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, milk, and butter together and add the scallions. Fold the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, and continue to fold gently until the mixture forms a batter. Divide the batter evenly into a greased 12-muffin pan, or put it all into an 8" greased baking pan. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the crust is slightly brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve at once.
  

New York Strip Steak w/ Thyme and Rosemary Salsa
1 medium tomato, diced
¼ cup red onion
2 shallot cloves, minced
1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 Tbl. fresh thyme, minced
1 Tbl. fresh rosemary, minced
1/8 tsp. salt
1 Tbl. melted butter
2 eight oz. New York strip steaks, well trimmed
2½ Tbl. dry red wine
2½ Tbl. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. red hot sauce

Combine the first seven ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Place the butter and steaks in a heated skillet and cook over medium heat, turning after 5-7 minutes. Continue cooking until steaks reach your desired degree of doneness. Remove them to warm serving plates, saving the pan juices in the skillet.

Add to the juices the tomato mixture, red wine, vinegar, and red hot sauce and sauté over moderately high heat for 3-5 minutes, or until the tomato and onion are soft. Remove from heat and spoon the salsa over the steaks.
  

Warm Spring Salad with Thyme and Feta Vinaigrette
1 large, fresh beet, peeled and cut into 2" long matchsticks
12 asparagus stalks, halved
1 large carrot cut into 2" long matchsticks
1 cup Thyme and Feta Vinaigrette
4 or 5 leaves on lettuce (leaf or romaine)

Place the beet matchsticks in boiling water to cover and boil 6-8 minutes or until soft. Drain and discard the water. Place the asparagus in a boiling water to cover and boil for 2-3 minutes. Drain and discard the water.

Toss together the beet, asparagus, and carrot in mixing bowl. Arrange the mixed vegetables on a bed of lettuce and spoon the vinaigrette over them. Serve warm as a first course or as a side dish.

Thyme and Feta Vinaigrette
½ cup olive or vegetable oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbl. Dijon style mustard
2 Tbl. fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 Tbl. fresh marjoram, minced
1 tsp. honey
½ tsp. white pepper
1/8 tsp. salt

Place all ingredients in a jar, seal tightly and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Use immediately or refrigerate (up to 2 weeks).
  

  Herb Books for Your Reading List
Growing and Using Thyme

Beautiful, Easy Herbs: How to Get the Most from Herbs--In Your Garden and  in Your Home

Your Backyard Herb Garden

Sweet Violet

 Sweet Violet

People from around the world have the pleasure of watching native violets bloom in the spring;  their vibrant purple hues can be found from field to forest; there are even violets that grow in the arctic and Antarctic regions. Two of the more widely cultivated species are sweet violets and Parma violets. The hardy Sweet violet has naturalized in North America.

The word "violet" takes its history from the Greek myth surrounding Zeus and Io. Zeus loved the maiden Io (her Latin name is "Viola") and pursued her. To save her from his wife's jealousy, he turned Io into a white cow and caused violets to grow up from the earth so that she might eat a food that befit the king of the gods' mistress. The Greeks and Romans were very fond of violets; they even made wine from violets. Starting in around 1750, the French began to grow beds of this popular flower, which before had been harvested in the wild. The commercial cultivation of violets contributed to the growth of the perfume and confectionary businesses in Europe.

Viola odorata are perennials who will begin blooming in spring and last until the weather gets hot. Violets have a deep and strong root system; they reproduce both by rooting runners and, to a lesser extent, by seed. Their dark green, glossy leaves are heart shaped and grow in rosettes near the ground. Their flowers are very fragrant and make a wonderful nosegay. Given their size and spreading habit, violets make an excellent edging for the border. They also are pretty in a pot.  Sweet violets are ideal for a bed underneath deciduous trees and shrubs, for there they receive sunlight in the spring and some shade in the summer.

Culinary Uses
Most are familiar with the
violet flower as the edible part of the plant; candied violets are often seen adorning cakes and pastries.  The leaves, however, are mild tasting greens which can be enjoyed in a salad or steeped as a tea.  One half cup serving of them can provide as much vitamin C as three oranges.  (NOTE: Sweet violets are edible, but other violets may not be--be sure you know what you're eating!)

 

 
 Recipes for Violets

Crystallized Violets

23 oz. gum arabic
1 1/2 cups distilled water
24 + fresh violet blossoms
1 Tbl. clear honey
16oz white sugar
3  1/2 oz caster sugar

In a double pan, dissolve the gum arabic in 1 cup of water. Cool. With a fork, dip the violets into the mixture, coating all surfaces. Dry on waxed paper for 2 hours.

In a small pan, bring white sugar, remaining water and honey to boil, and cook --but don't stir-- until it reaches 240F degrees on a sugar thermometer. Remove from heat and allow to cool till lukewarm.

Dip each blossom in the cooled syrup, drain and place head down in the caster sugar. Dust the blossoms thoroughly with sugar, and leave to dry until hardened, then store in an airtight, moisture-free container.

 

Spring Violet Salad
(from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's website)

8 cups mixed salad greens, torn into bite-sized pieces
8 sprigs of fresh chervil, torn
8 lemon balm leaves, torn
10 violet leaves, torn
Chopped chives, bronze fennel and watercress to taste
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
40 violet flowers

Toss salad greens, chervil, lemon balm, violet leaves and herbs in large salad bowl. Whisk oil, vinegar and honey in small bowl until creamy. Drizzle over salad. Top with violet flowers. Yield: 6 servings.


Violet Jelly
(from Judy in Arizona)

2 cups violet blossoms (no stems, pesticide-free)
1 lemon
1 pkg. powdered pectin
4 cups sugar

Snap off heads of violets; discard stems. Place blossoms in shallow bowl for 1/2 hour (insects will leave). Rinse blossoms in cold water. Put blossoms in quart jar and cover with boiling water. Put on lid and let infuse for 24 hours. Next day, it will look awful, like bits of lettuce floating in blue dye (but never fear). Strain out blossoms. To 2 cups of the infusion, add the juice of 1 lemon and 1 package pectin. Watch the color come back! Bring to a boil; add 4 cups of sugar and bring to a hard boil again for 1 minute. Pour into glasses and seal.

 

Easy to Grow Herbs for the Landscape

Easy to Grow Herbs for the Landscape
By Dr. David Tatum and Norman Winter, Extension horticulturists, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences; Mississippi State University Extension Service.

The value of herbs has been known for centuries. They have been used as flavorings in foods and as medicines for ailments. In addition to use in medicine and in culinary art, herbs are being used as ornamental plants in the landscape. Herb gardens add interest to any landscape, with a wide array of characteristics such as form and aromatic or unusual foliage. Herbs are used as borders, accent plants, and hedges. Further selection is based on whether the growing site is sunny or shady.

Starting an Herb Garden
Most garden centers offer a broad selection of herbs for immediate planting in the landscape. Select healthy, vigorous-growing plants. The roots should be white to greenish white. Be sure not to plant the herb any deeper than where it was growing in the container. Planting too deep may cause the roots to rot.

Choosing a Planting Site
Most herbs thrive best in well-drained soil, with a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.8 for optimum growth. The growing area should be tilled to a depth of 8 - 12 inches. Although herbs are somewhat drought tolerant, adequate soil moisture is required for normal growth. Annual herbs require higher available soil moisture than perennial herbs. Increase the water-holding capacity of sandy soils by adding a 2-inch layer of organic matter such as compost, sphagnum peat moss, or pinebark. Till the organic matter thoroughly into the soil. Heavy clay soils should be amended with compost, or pine bark or beds should be constructed to provide internal drainage. Amendment materials modify soil structure and texture.

Fertilizing
A proper nutritional balance is important for proper growth. Over fertilization causes succulent, or weak, growth. Succulent growth dilutes the concentration of essential oils, thus limiting the flavor and aroma of the herbs. On the other hand, inadequate fertilization will limit growth, resulting in a stunted and weak plant. Use a complete fertilizer containing a 1-2-2 or 1-2-1 ratio, such as 5-10-10 or 5-10-5. In early spring, fertilize perennial herbs using about one-fourth to one-half of the amount of nitrogen used on vegetables. Annual herbs benefit from a light application of a complete fertilizer after each harvest.

Mulching
Mulch with pine bark, straw, or wood chips establish only herbs that tolerate moist conditions. Such mulches may rot plants that require drier conditions. You may use an inorganic mulch, such as pea gravel, around plants requiring a drier condition.

Pruning
Prune tender herbs to remove dead tissue in early spring, before growth begins. Prune herbs valued for their young foliage regularly during the growing season to encourage fresh, young growth.

Harvesting
To obtain foliage with the maximum amount of oil, harvest in the early morning, after the dew has dried. As the sun warms the foliage, the oil becomes diluted by internal water movement via transpiration. To allow adequate time for regrowth of perennial herbs, do not harvest rigorously after late summer.

 

Herb

Height 

Description

Culture

Anise
(Pimpinella anisum)

20"-24"

Serrated leaves; small white flowers. Low, spreading, slow-growing annual.
  

Likes moderately rich soil and full sun. Space 6-8 inches in rows 12-14" apart.

Basil
(Ocimum basilicum)

20"-24"

Leafy, light-green foliage; white or lavender flowers. Fast-growing annual.

Start seeds indoors in early April or seed in early spring. Space 12". Prefers protected, sunny location.
  

Borage
(Borgo officinalis)

20"-24"

Coarse, rough, hairy leaves. Produces light-blue flowers in drooping clusters.
  

Seed directly in early spring. Space 12". May germinate slowly.

Caraway
(Carum carvi) biennial

12"-24"

Carrot-like leaf with small creamy-white flowers.

Seed directly in spring; locate in full sun. Space 6".
 


Chervil
(Anthriscus cerefolium)

28"

Similar to parsley; light-green, lacy leaves. Flowers are small white clusters.
  

Sow seeds in moist, partially shaded location. Space 6".

Chives
(Allium schoenoprasum)

12"-18"

Dark-green clumps of tubular, grass-like leaves, forming a fluffy lavender pom-pom flower in mid-to-late spring.

Thrives in rich, well-drained soil. Easily propagated from division; seeds germinate very slowly. Divide every 3 years.
  

Coriander
(Coriandrum sativum)
  

36"

Large, coarse plant with white flowers.

Sow seeds in full-sun area; thin to 10 inches.

Dill
(Anthum graveolens)

24"-36"

Tall plant with feathery green leaves. Open, umbrella-shaped flower heads.
  

Seed directly; thin to 12". If seeds mature and fall, they may come up again next year.

Fennel
(Foeniculum vulgare)
 

36"

Fine, feathery leaves with broad, bulb-like leaf base.

Sow in early spring; thin to 12".


Lavender
(Lavandula spp.)

12"-36"

Shrubby perennial with silver-gray foliage and fragrant lavender flowers during midsummer.

Easily started from seed; very fragrant aroma from leaves and flowers. Prefers slightly alkaline, well-drained soil.
  

Lemon Balm
(Melissa officinalis)

24"

Spreading plant with yellowish-green, heart-shaped leaves. The leaves give off a lemony aroma when bruised. Spikes of small white, yellow, or pinkish flowers bloom from summer until fall.
  

Easily propagated from root cuttings in spring or fall; requires sandy, moist soil. Pinch tops to maintain a full, compact plant.

Parsley
(Petroselinum crispum)

5"-6"

Curled or plain dark-green leaves.

May be slow to germinate. Seed in early spring. Space 6-8".
  

Parsely
(Petroselinum spp.)

10"-24"

Several varieties, including curled, Italian, or French parsley, are available. Even though parsley is a biennial, treat it as an annual. It produces a rather compact plant, forming long, bright-green leaves. Curled parsley makes an excellent seasonal border.
  

Sow seeds each spring; slow to germinate. Favors well-drained soil.

Peppermint
(Mentha x piperita)

12"-24"

Spreading, bushy perennial with small, highly fragrant leaves; oval-shaped, light-green leaves. Purple flowers are borne in clusters on long spikes.
  

Easily propagated by seed or division. Can be a nuisance unless spreading roots and stems are confined.

Rosemary
(Rosemarinus officinalis)

24"-36"

Narrow, gray-green, hairy leaves; lighter green stems. Flowers are in various shades of white to deep blue.

Rather slow to germinate--propagate from cuttings. Requires well-drained soil in sunny location. Tolerates drought.
  

Santolina
Lavender Cotton (Santolina chamaecyparissus)

18"-24"

A compact perennial with silver-gray, coral-like foliage; forms brilliant yellow flowers in June and July. Musky aroma.
  

Propagate by seed or cuttings. Performs well in poor, dry soil in sunny location.

Savory, Summer
(Satureja hortensis)

18"

Small gray-green leaves with purple and white flowers.
 

Plant this tender annual after danger of frost. Space 6-9"

Sweet Marjoram
(Marjorana hortensis)

12"

Fine-textured plant with white flowers.

Start seedlings in shade. Mature plants will grow in full sun. Space 8-10".

Thyme, Lemon
(Thymus x citriodorus)

6"

Trailing growth habit; golden green, highly fragrant leaves. Excellent for rock gardens and paths. Tolerates drought.
  

Sow seeds and thin; easily propagated by division.

Violet, Sweet
(Viola odorata)

6"-8"

Fragrant perennial with heart-shaped leaves. Sweet, deep-violet or white, fragrant flowers form in March through May.

Propagate by root division in late spring. Thrives in rich, well-drained soil. Usually requires 2 years before flowering.

 

Herb Garden Notes


Echinecia

 


Location

This is the first factor to consider when starting an herb garden.  Most herbs like full sun and well drained soil.   When placing your garden make sure it receives as much direct sunlight as possible.   A minimum of six hours will help to ensure healthy plants.  Remember that winter wind will kill more plants than temperature.  The use of windbreaks such as building walls, hedges, and other garden features will help to protect plants and create a microclimate in which you will be able to grow plants tender to your area.

Soil Preparation

The next important factor in good herb growing is preparing the soil.  The make up of the soil will determine the health of plants and the amount of harvest.   A great place to start is with a soil test, which can usually be sent to a local extension agent or university.  This test will help determine the soil's pH and fertility so that proper amendments can be made to achieve optimum growth.   We recommend preparing a bed to a depth of 18 to 24 inches by adding organic matter.  Adding humus into the soil will loosen compacted clay  soils and create good drainage.  Gypsum is also effective in breaking up clay particles.  In sandy soils, humus will help to retain needed moisture. 


Herb Table


Soil amendments such as compost, peat moss,  and well composted manure will improve the soil's structure and friability.  Perhaps the best solution for the herb garden is the raised bed, which ensures good drainage and warms up faster in the spring.

 

Drying Herbs (and more!)

Preserving Herbs, as described by the American Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Gardening: The main methods of preserving herbs are drying and freezing. In addition, a number of herbs are suitable for flavoring vinegars, oils, or jellies, and a few may be crystalized (candied) for decorating cakes and desserts. Store dried herbs in dark glass containers, because exposure to light speeds the deterioration of their aromas.

Air-Drying
Do not wash herbs because this may encourage molds to develop. Dry herbs by hanging them upside down in a warm, dry place away from direct light. Alternatively, place leaves, flowerheads, or petals in a single layer on a rack covered with muslin, netting, or paper towels. Leave them in a warm, dark, well-ventilated space until crisp. 

Microwave Drying
For microwave drying, wash the herbs, pat them dry, then place in a single layer on paper towels. Microwave them for two to three minutes, checking every 30 seconds and rearranging if necessary to ensure even drying. Cool, then crumble and store as for air-dried herbs.

Drying Seedheads
Cut seedheads in summer or early fall as they turn brown, then place them in a paper bag or hang them upside down and cover them with muslin to hold the seeds as they fall. Keep them in a warm, dry place to ripen; remove the seeds when dry and store them in jars or bags. Seed to be used for sowing should be kept in a cool, dry, frost free place.

Drying Roots
Most roots are best used fresh, but some may be dried and ground. First wash the roots thoroughly, then peel, chop, or slice them, before spreading them out on absorbent paper. Dry them in either a cool oven or at 122-140F(50-60C) in a dehydrator until brittle, then crush or grind them before storing.

Freezing
Many soft-leaved herbs such as parsley and basil retain their color and flavor better when frozen than when dried. Pack whole sprigs into labeled plastic bags and freeze them; they crumble easily for use once frozen. For long-term storage, blanch them before freezing by dipping them first in boiling water, then in ice water. Pat dry and freeze. 

Freezing In Ice
Herbs may be frozen in water to form ice cubes. This is a good way of preserving borage flowers and mint leaves to use as a decorative addition to drinks, and the ice also protects the herbs from damage during storage. Herbs for cooking should be chopped before freezing because this is difficult to do once they have thawed. Place the ice cubes in a sieve and drain the water before use. 

Making Herb Oils and Vinegars
Many herbs, such as French tarragon, thyme, oregano, and lavender, may have their flavors preserved by being steeped in oil or vinegar. To make flavored oil, loosely fill a clear glass jar with the fresh herb, add a flavorless oil such as safflower, and seal. For a sweet oil such as lavender, use almond oil as the base instead. Leave the jar in a sunny spot for two weeks, shaking or stirring daily. (For a stronger flavor, replace the herbs and repeat the process.) Strain and bottle, adding a fresh sprig of the herb for identification. Basil leaves may be preserved by being packed in oil; the leaves themselves may be used in pasta sauces and other cooked dishes and the oil in salad dressings. Herb vinegars are made in a similar way, using wine or cider vinegar, but the herbs should be lightly crushed before steeping. Warm the vinegar, pour it over the herbs, and proceed as above.

 Return 

Vegetable Planting Guide

To use this guide, simply write in the date of your last spring frost underneath the "00."  Then, fill in the dates after that frost in the columns to the right in 10 day increments.  Do the same for the dates before your last spring frost in the columns to the left of the "00."  If you do not know your last frost free date, contact your local extension office at Clemson University

This guide is based upon a 200 day growing period, but the growing period or frost free days for your area may be different.  Be sure to check on the date of your area's first frost in the fall!  If your growing season is shorter, you might need to start some plants indoors and transplant them to the garden after your last spring frost.  Knowing this date will also help you harvest the last of your tender crops before they freeze.

Note: this page is best viewed from a screen setting of at least 800 x 600 (the bigger, the better!).

Legend:

+ = Planting Period # = Plant and Harvest

O = Harvest Period

-  = No Action


Number Of
Growing Days

60 50 40 30 20 10 00 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120 130 140 150 160 170 180 190 200

Planting Date

                                                     
Asparagus + + + + + O O O O O O O - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Beans, Bush - - - - - - + + + + # # # # # O O O O O O O - - - - -
Beans, Pole - - - - - - + + + + + + + O O O O O O O O O - - - - -
Beans, Lima - - - - - - - - + + + + + + - O O O O O O O O - - - -
Beans, Wax - - - - - - + + + + + + # # # O O O O O O O - - - - -
Beets - - + + + + + - O O O O O O - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Broccoli* - - - + + + + + - - O O O O O O - - - - - - - - - - -
Brussel Sprouts*+ - - - + + + + + - - - O O O O O O O - - - - - - - - -
Cabbage* - - + + + + + - O O O O O O - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Chinese Cabbage* - - - + + - - - - - O O O O - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Carrots - - + + + + - - O O O O O O - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Cauliflower* - - - + + + - - O O O O - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Chard, Swiss - - + + + + + + O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O
Collards + + + + + - - - O O O O O - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Cucumbers - - - - - - + + + - - O O O O O O O - - - - - - - - -
Eggplant* - - - - - - + + + - - - - - O O O O O O O O - - - - -
Leeks - + + + + + - - - - - - - - O O O O O O O O O O O O O
Lettuce, Bibb - - + + + + + - - O O O O - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Lettuce, Leaf - - + + + + + O O O O O - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Muskmelons - - - - - - + + + + - - - - O O O O O O - - - - - - -
Mustard - + + + # O O O O O - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Okra - - - - - - - - + + + + - - - - O O O O O O O - - - -
Onion (set) + + + + # # # # # O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O
Peas, Garden + + + + - - O O O O O - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Peppers* - - - - - - + + + - - - - O O O O O O O O O O - - - -
Potatoes - + + + + - - - - - O O O O O O O O O O O O O O - - -
Pumpkins - - - - - - + + + + - - - O O O O O O O O O O O - - -
Radish + + # # # # O O O O - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Rutabaga - - Fall Plant Only - - - - - - - - - -
Southern Pea - - - - - - - - + + + + + - - O O O O O O O O O - - -
Spinach + + + + O O O O O O - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Squash, Summer - - - - - - + + + + + # O O O O O O O O O - - - - - -
Squash, Winter - - - - - - - - + + + - - - - - O O O O O O O - - - -
Sweet Corn - - - - - - + + + + + + - O O O O O O O O - - - - - -
Sweet Potato - - - - - - + + + + - - - - - - - - O O O O - - - - -
Tomatoes - - - - - - + + + + - - O O O O O O O O O O O - - - -
Turnips + + + + O O O O O O O - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Watermelon - - - - - - - + + + - - - - - O O O O O O - - - - - -