While most of my garden lies dormant for the winter, I’m still picking fresh herbs to use in my cooking. Last year I planted thyme, oregano, rosemary, basil, and sage in large pots, and this fall I hauled them into a sunny spot indoors. The plants are thriving.
As I snipped some rosemary for last night’s dinner, I started thinking—while my in-ground herb garden is spacious, I only have room for a limited number of pots. So, which herbs do I consider essential? And which cultivars do I like the best?
Let’s start with oregano (right), thyme (above), and sage. These perform well both outdoors and inside over the winter, provided the container is large enough. While you can buy special varieties of all of these, I find the fancy cultivars aren’t as hardy as the plain, old originals. Since my goal is gourmet, I don’t care if the leaves aren’t silver, or gold, or even tri-colored. I started all of these from seed (indoors under lights), and found it fairly easy, with plenty of plants for my own use and to share.
My tarragon came from a friend who was dividing her plants. I stuck it in the ground and it has flourished with minimal input on my behalf. I haven’t yet tried it in a pot, but plan to do so next spring. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Rosemary is not hardy in my garden, even the so-called hardy varieties. Since I don’t want to replace my plants every year, I always grow this in a container. Drought-resistant and attractive, it fills the pot by the end of summer. In past years, I’ve had some trouble with aphids indoors. A non-toxic soap spray took care of the problem.
Cilantro has to be used fresh, so I always include this in my garden. Leave some to self-seed—I planted cilantro when we first moved here 18 years ago and have enjoyed the abundant descendents ever since. (If you don’t want volunteers, just harvest the seeds. You probably already know them as coriander, used in Indian cooking.)
This year I trialed a new variety, Delfino, that was supposed to be very slow to bolt. Surprisingly, in my garden it bloomed and went to seed several weeks ahead of the “Large Leaf” variety I had grown for years. Now I notice that Pinetree Garden Seeds has yet another new variety for 2012, Caribe. I guess I’ll have to do another trial. Good thing we love cilantro!
I use parsley as an ingredient, not a garnish. Most of my crop ends up in tabouleh, mixed with mint, cucumbers, tomatoes, cracked wheat, lemon juice and olive oil. The curly types are attractive, but for best flavor, grow one of the Italian flat leaf parsleys. My favorite variety is Prezzemolo Gigante D’ Italia.
The last two herbs I always grow are basil and mint. I’ll cover them in a future post.