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Tender herbs as greens and garnishes.

Tender herbs as green and garnishes For a quick perk-up for summer meals, try growing mild, tender herbs as garnishes or green. The five discussed here are mild enough to eat almost as freely as lettuce. Mince leaves into salads or vinaigrette dressing, sprinkle them over fish, let them wilt quickly in a soup, or tuck them into sandwiches.

These vigorous growers can produce a lot in little space. Plant in full sun near the coast, in partial shade inland. You can start harvesting small quantities of leaves as soon as plants are 4 to 6 inches tall and robust looking; as they get larger, you can cut fistfuls.

Young leaves are mild and tender, best for use in generous amounts as greens. Mature foliage is tougher and more potent, holding up longer as garnishes that are mainly for eye appeal.

Five simple, effective taste teasers

Chives. Ankle-high tubular leaves and lavender flowers have a mild oniony taste that gets stronger in hot weather. For an ample supply, plant six to a dozen or more clumps from 3-inch pots, or sow seeds. A row of plants makes a decorative border.

Cilantro. Light green, lacy leaves resemble parsley but are more tender--with a flavor and aroma that people either love or hate. If you like cilantro, use it by the fistful in the ways you would use parsley. Chinese, Indian, and Mexican cuisines all rely on this herb. Plants produce, bolt to seed, and die in a short time, so sow seeds or replant every four to six weeks for a continuous supply.

Dill. Lush, feathery growth 3 to 6 feet tall provides voluminous greenery to use decoratively as well as for flavoring fish, vegetables, salads, and other dishes. Seeds are also flavorful. Sow or replant dill every four to six weeks to keep a fresh supply of tender leafy growth.

Fennel. Its feathery growth resembles dill, but the flavor and aroma are more like anise or mild licorice. One small plant from a nursery's herb section is usually ample; it will rapidly grow to 6 to 8 feet. Harvest moderately when young, hard and often as the plant matures. To encourage more foliage and prevent self-seeding, cut back almost to the ground when flower buds form. If you let seeds scatter, thick-rooted plants can become quite bothersome. For variety, look for the bronze-leafed kind instead of green.

Parsley. The more you have, the more you'll tend to use. Plant 6 to 12 nursery seedlings for fast results and harvest all summer; or, for a spring crop, sow seeds when weather gets cool in fall. Encourage dense, lush foliage by cutting off seed stalks as soon as you notice their stems getting thicker and taller.
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Date:Jul 1, 1988
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