Herb Gardening

Herbs are wonderful things - they bring out the best in food when used correctly and many of them are also used for medicinal purposes. Because herbs can affect people differently, you should discuss the use of herbs with your doctor if you plan to use them for medicinal purposes.

Growing herbs is not difficult - they need good soil, sunlight, watering on a regular basis and fertilizer on a bi-weekly basis.

Our list of herbs is not all-inclusive. It targets the herbs that K Drive Greenhouse provides to our customers.

Basil: Annual. Basil is likely one of the most popular culinary herbs, and sweet basil the most widely-used. A close relative to mint, basil has a floral, anise and clove-like flavor and aroma. Basil flower buds should be removed as soon as they form as they can affect the flavor of the leaves. Basil is used in soups, stews and meat dishes, but also adds wonderful flavor to egg dishes and herb butters.

Catnip: Perennial 4-8. It is grown mostly because house cats and butterflies love it. The plant is drought tolerant and deer resistant. It can be a repellant for certain insects, including aphids and squash bugs. Catnip oil has been found to attract the beneficial insect known as lacewings which eat aphids and mites.

Chamomile: Perennial 4-9. Chamomile has been used as a traditional medicine for thousands of years to calm anxiety and settle stomachs. In the U.S., chamomile is best known as an ingredient in herbal tea and is touted for its antioxidant properties. NOTE: If you are allergic to ragweed, you may not be able to tolerate Chamomile.

Catnip: Perennial 4-8. It is grown mostly because house cats and butterflies love it. The plant is drought tolerant and deer resistant. It can be a repellant for certain insects, including aphids and squash bugs. Catnip oil has been found to attract the beneficial insect known as lacewings which eat aphids and mites.

Chamomile: Perennial 4-9. Chamomile has been used as a traditional medicine for thousands of years to calm anxiety and settle stomachs. In the U.S., chamomile is best known as an ingredient in herbal tea and is touted for its antioxidant properties. NOTE: If you are allergic to ragweed, you may not be able to tolerate Chamomile.

Chives: Perennial 3-9. A member of the onion family that sports beautiful purple flowers, chives prefer sunshine and moist, fertile soil. Mulch will help maintain moisture and keep the weeds down. If the flowers ripen, they will scatter seed and take over your garden! Toss chives into a dish at the last minute, as heat destroys their delicate flavor. Thinly slice them to maximize their taste, or use finely snipped as a garnish.

Cilantro: Annual. Rather you know it as cilantro, coriander, or Chinese parsley, this herb is one of the most versatile. Cilantro adds distinctive flavor to salsas, soups, stews, curries, salads, vegetables, fish and chicken dishes.

Dill: Annual. Dill thrives best in the sun. Use it to flavor fish, lamb, egg dishes, soups and potato salad. Seeds are used in pickling recipes and vinegar.

Fennel: Perennial 2-10, May self-seed. In the Celery Family. Fennel is widely cultivated, both in its native range and elsewhere, for its edible, strongly flavored leaves and fruits and its anise flavor. The three different parts of fennel-the base, stalks and leaves-can all be used in cooking.

Lavender (English): Annual. NOTE: Hidcote Blue Lavender is a tender perennial North of Zone 6. Lavender demands two things, full sun and extremely well drained soil. If drainage is an issue, consider growing it in raised beds. Most lavender is used to scent potpourri or sachet mixtures, or as a calming ingredient in some soaps and lotions. It may also be used in beverages and with pork, fish or chicken dishes - if you decide to experiment, use it sparingly! To harvest, cut stems of lavender just as the flowers start to open. It is at this stage that the spikes will have the strongest scent. Hang in small bunches in a cool, dry, dark well-ventilated area to dry.

Lemon Balm: Perennial 5-9. Lemon balm is often used as a flavoring in ice cream and herbal teas, both hot and iced, often in combination with other herbs such as spearmint. The leaves, which have a mild lemon aroma, are used to make medicine. Lemon balm is used alone or as part of various multi-herb combination products.

Lemon Grass: Annual. Lemongrass is native to India, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. It is widely used as an herb in Asian cuisine and as a medicinal herb in India. It has a subtle citrus flavor and can be dried and powdered, or used fresh. Lemongrass oil is used as a pesticide and a preservative.

Lemon Verbena: Annual. Lemon verbena leaves are used to add a lemon flavor to fish and poultry dishes, vegetable marinades, salad dressings, jams, puddings, Greek yogurt and beverages. It also is used to make herbal teas and sorbet.

,Marjoram: Annual. A milder, sweeter member of the Oregano family, marjoram is cultivated for its aromatic leaves, either green or dry, for culinary purposes. Whether used as an essential oil, powder, fresh leaves, or dried leaves, Marjoram has many uses with numerous health benefits.

Mint: Perennial 3-11. It is extremely versatile and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. Mint is most often used in veal, pork and lamb dishes; as well as in beverages and jellies. Mint can be invasive. Planting it in a contained area makes it easier to curb this tendency.

Oregano: Annual. Oregano and marjoram are so similar in looks and flavor that they are often confused. Oregano, however, has a more potent taste and aroma; marjoram is sweeter and more delicate. Oregano is most often used in tomato based soups and sauces, pizza, and Mexican cuisine.

Parsley: Annual. No kitchen should be without parsley. It's the workhorse of the herb world and can go in just about every dish you cook. Parsley's mild, grassy flavor allows the flavors of other ingredients to come through. A BONUS: Parsley has a cleaning effect on your palate and your breath.

Rosemary: Annual. Rosemary does best as a container plant rather than being planted in a garden. Keeping the plants cool and placing them on pebble filled saucers filled with water helps to increase humidity around the plant and reduce foliage damage. Rosemary has a warm, slightly bitter taste that gives wonderful flavor to soups, sauces, fish, pork, lamb, poultry and game. Remember to use it sparingly as an accent to food as the flavor can be overpowering.

Sage: Perennial Zones 5-10. Pineapple Sage is an Annual. Native to the northern Mediterranean coast, where it's used frequently in cooking. Americans associate it with turkey and dressing. Use it with discretion, as it can overwhelm a dish.

Stevia: Annual. Stevia is perhaps unique among food ingredients because it's most valued for what it doesn't do. It doesn't add calories. Unlike other sugar substitutes, stevia is derived from a plant. It is an alternative to artificial sweeteners with no added calories, no side effects, and very little aftertaste.

Sweet Grass: Annual. Sweet grass has a sweet, long-lasting aroma that is even stronger when the grass has been harvested and dried and is then moistened or burned. Just as the sweet scent of this natural grass is attractive and pleasing to people, so is it attractive to good spirits.

Tarragon: Annual. Dried tarragon has a very short shelf life; and fresh tarragon isn't always easy to find, but you'll love the bittersweet, peppery taste it imparts. Heat diminishes its flavor, so add tarragon toward the end of cooking, or use it as a garnish. Remember to use sparingly. Tarragon is often used to flavor oil, vinegar and marinades

Thyme: Perennial 5-10. Thyme comes in dozens of varieties; however, most cooks use French thyme. This herb pairs well with many other herbs-especially rosemary, parsley, sage, savory, and oregano. Because the leaves are so small, they often don't require chopping. It's flavor and fragrance hold up well to long, slow cooking.

Fresh-picked Herbs

  • Wash herbs just before using; pat dry with a paper towel.
  • Freshly picked herbs will stay fresh in the refrigerator for approximately 5 days if loosely wrapped in a damp paper towel, and then sealed in a zip-top plastic bag filled with air.
  • To store herbs bouquet-style: Place, stem down, in a jar adding water to cover 1 inch of the stem ends. Enclose in a large zip-top plastic bag, and change the water every other day. Most herbs will keep for up to a week this way.

Drying Herbs

  • Tie sprigs or branches into small bunches, as large, dense bunches can develop mold and discolored leaves. Hang the bunches up to dry, leaves downward, wrapped loosely in muslin or thin paper bags to keep out dust and to catch falling leaves or seeds. Do not use plastic bags because of mold development. Allow 7-10 days to dry, depending on the size of the branches and humidity. They're completely dry if the leaves sound like crisp cornflakes when crushed.
  • You also can air-dry the seeds of herbs such as fennel, parsley, caraway and coriander. Seed heads tend to ripen unevenly, so once most of a head is brown, harvest it with about 2 feet of stem (or as long of a stem as possible). Bundle 4-5 stems together, then cover the heads with muslin or a paper bag and hang them upside down.
Storing and Using
Use this process for all drying methods. Crumble the dried herbs with your fingers (discard the hard leafstalks and midribs) and store in small, airtight containers. If you use clear glass containers, store them in a dark place so the herbs don't lose their color.

Fresh Recipes Using Herbs

Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe Prep time: 10 minutes Yield: Makes 1 cup.
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Step 1 Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add the garlic and cheese and pulse a few times more.
Step 2 Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Serve with pasta, or over baked potatoes, or spread over toasted baguette slices.

Caprese Salad
3 vine-ripe tomatoes, 1/4-inch thick slices
1-pound fresh mozzarella, 1/4-inch thick slices
20-30 leaves (about 1 bunch) fresh basil
Extra-virgin olive oil (or a simple balsamic reduction) for drizzling
Coarse salt and pepper
Layer alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella, adding a basil leaf between each, on a large, shallow platter. Drizzle the salad with extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Fresh Tomato Salsa Recipe Makes approximately 3-4 cups.
2-3 medium sized fresh tomatoes (from 1 lb. - 1 1/2 lb.), stems removed, finely diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeño chili pepper (stems, ribs, seeds removed), finely diced
1 serrano chili pepper (stems, ribs, seeds removed), finely diced
Juice of one lime
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: oregano and or cumin to taste

1 Start with chopping up 2 medium sized fresh tomatoes. Prepare the chilies. Be very careful while handling these hot peppers. If you can, avoid touching them with your hands. Use a fork to cut up the chilies over a small plate, or use a paper towel to protect your hands. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after handling and avoid touching your eyes for several hours. Set aside some of the seeds from the peppers. If the salsa isn't hot enough, you can add a few for heat.
2 Combine all ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Taste. If the chilies make the salsa too hot, add some more chopped tomato. If not hot enough, carefully add a few of the seeds from the chilies, or add some ground cumin.
Let sit for an hour for the flavors to combine.
Serve with chips, tortillas, tacos, burritos, tostadas, quesadillas, pinto or black beans.

Chocolate Covered Mint Leaves
To make chocolate covered mint leaves, melt your favorite chocolate in a microwave or double-boiler. Brush the melted chocolate on fresh or frozen mint leaves, and place on a wax paper to dry

Lemon-Butter Sauce with Chervil
Juice of ½ lemon (about ¼ cup)
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 8 pieces
3 tablespoons minced fresh chervil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. In a small saucepan, heat lemon juice to boiling.
2. Quickly whisk in cold butter, one piece at a time, creating a fully emulsified sauce. When you’ve added all the butter, you should have a rather thin and creamy sauce.
3. Whisk in chervil, along with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately over poached white fish, sautéed chicken breasts, steamed prawns or crunchy zucchini matchsticks.

Chervil-Chive Butter
To make spreadable herb butter, simply beat fresh, chopped chervil and chives into soft butter, then chill.