Growing Useful (and Holiday) Herbs

Posted on Nov 14, 2013

Pots of Herbs


In pots, as part of the vegetable garden, or the landscape, growing your own herbs is a great way to add fresh full flavor to your holiday meals (and any meals) and save money doing it.  The trick is to choose which herbs that you will actually use.  An acre of borage (which it seemed like we had at our new fixer-upper) won’t do you much good.  However, if you know what they’re good for, growing the right herbs can bring delicious fresh flavor to your home cooked meals.

Before you plant them, look for a spot that’s mostly sunny and won’t get too much water since herbs taste best when not watered too often. In warmer climates basil and dill are annuals that you replace in their seasons while rosemary and thyme stick around and are at their peak of flavor if kept fairly dry. In cooler climates growing herbs in the warm months and storing them for later use is a great way to keep them available year round or they can be grown in a green house and some even do well in a bright window.

One of the most used herbs is Rosemary. It does well outdoors in warmer climates, but a small plant can be kept near a bright window in cooler climates as well.  It has an upright habit best kept in a ball shape to keep it from falling outward by pruning it  lightly 2-3 times a year.  There is also a weeping variety that spills nicely over walls and out of pots. Both types do well in ground or in a pot and are fairly drought tolerant. In fact the best flavor comes from the keeping the plant a bit on the dry side.


Rosemary closeup


Rosemary is terrific with chicken and other savory meets as well as in bread. Stems can be used as a garnish or striped of leaves except at one end and used as a skewer for appetizers or for roasting vegetables on the grill. A recent variety “Barbecue” has straighter, more even stems cultivated specifically just for that!  I love rosemary in my tomato and spinach frittata.  It’s delicious on pizza and in pasta sauces.  For and incredibly delicious twist, try adding fresh rosemary to your holiday mashed potatoes!

More useful herbs you can grow include chives ( the flowers are edible), lemon thyme, lemon verbena, borage (edible flowers), sage, oregano, tarragon, mint, sweet marjoram, bay, and all kinds of parsley.  If you have a spot you can protect from frost, then you can still grow basil for a while, too. Keep these a little on the dryer side since too much water dilutes the flavor of most herbs.


Of course, the most useful herbs are the ones you use regularly.  Perhaps you have favorites not listed here.  A great way to make them easy to use is to plant them in a pot close to the kitchen.  I like to mix a variety of herbs, since I never use a lot of any one thing.  Simply arrange 3-5 plants in a pot with the tallest in the middle or in the back, any filler-types like parsley next to that and anything that trails or spills on the edges.  I like to add an edible flower as well, just in case I need a splash of color for a salad or as a garnish and it helps to make the pot pretty.


Pot of herbs


Always plant anything you plan to eat in organic soil and only use organic products on them. Have a small scissors handy so you can take what you need without damaging the plant and you’ll have plenty for the next time!


herb sign


What’s your favorite herb?  How do you like to use it? I’d love to hear from you.

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