From garden to plate.
COLUMN: ROOTS OF WISDOM
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme are immortalized in song, but what about basil, oregano, chives, lovage and a dozen other herbs that could and should be found in your garden as well as in your pantry. Whether your plantings are attractively ornamental or practical and functional, herbs should be included.
Urban locations often impose restrictions on the kinds and amounts of plants we can grow. We may be required to carefully select from those plants that offer multiple dimensions. An herb like thyme can function as a groundcover between stepping stones. Its low spreading habit of growth helps to keep down weeds, provides a carpet of flowers in June and July, and the foliage emits a heavenly fragrance when trod upon.
The plants require little in return. Give them a sunny location with well-drained soil. Choose from silver-edged, golden-edged, gray-wooly leaved, or the more common green-leaved Mother-of-Thyme.
Thyme can be potted and grown on a sunny windowsill and harvested with kitchen shears for a winter treat. Thyme can be a component in a mixed pot, urn or window box of various herbs that are conveniently located by the kitchen door or the barbeque grill. Thyme has as many design uses in the landscape as it does in the salad, the pot, or on the grill.
It is not only a variety of thymes that await your selection, you should explore the world of basil. Choose from among large leaf, small leaf, micro-leaf, purple leaf, green leaf, lemon leaf, lime leaf, Italian, Mexican, or Thai. Basil plants are usually neatly formed, productive in growth and take kindly to being harvested for use in salads, soups and sauces.
What would life be without chives, walking onions, or French shallots? Do you make use of the king of the Allium family - garlic? If so, which do you prefer, Italian, German, or Spanish? Do you make use of the lush foliage of dill before the seed heads form? Do not wait to use the seeds to make dill pickles, use the snipped foliage in salads. Careful. Not too much. Your goal is to provide a hint of flavor to the lettuce, spinach and beet leaves.
Have you tried growing coriander, chervil, or fennel? They are not grown as often as they should be. Chervil is one of the fine herbs found in every French cookbook. Chewing fennel seed sweetens the breath.
Coriander is a member of the parsley family and may be better known to you as cilantro. Coriander is the seed and cilantro refers to the stems and leaves of the plant. For most of us the world of parsley is divided into flat-leaved Italian or the curly-leaved parsley often used as a garnish.
Had enough yet? We could continue our list with the various mints, sages, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, summer and winter savory and some of the two dozen or so scented geraniums. If you wish to increase the pleasure from growing your own vegetables and enhance your eating pleasure, grow and use herbs!