Dreaming of summer herbs

Focus on new culinary aromatics

Kelly Heidbreder
Kelly Heidbreder

Do you see those big white lumps in your back yard? Those are your compost piles and tilled spots in your vegetable garden now covered with a thick blanket of snow. Every gardener knows the potential that lies underneath and it is never too soon to make a plan for spring.

You already know the best place to grow things in your yard. No problem there. But you might need some nudging when it comes to trying new things. Sometimes it is even better to try some old things. This week, I want you to focus on planting more herbs in your garden. 

Culinary garden

It is pretty popular to be a Foodie. According to Webster’s Dictionary, a foodie is a person keenly interested in food, especially in eating or cooking. So, it is really chic to have a culinary garden outside your back door so you can clip some fresh herbs to use for your newest recipe.

If you are looking for the right herbs to include in this corner of the garden, start with borage, lavender, lemon verbena, and sage. Borage leaves look like stars and are fun to throw in a salad. They taste a little like a cucumber and are really pretty frozen in ice cubes for a summer party.

Lavender is really beautiful and versatile. This little evergreen shrub will throw off a beautiful aroma in your garden and add a unique twist to some of your recipes. Lemon verbena has pretty foliage and is great for that fresh lemonade, or toss some of the leaves in a salad for a tangy bite.

Sage is an easy herb to grow with unique grey-purple foliage, greenish-yellow foliage or green and white foliage. Sage is a common ingredient in any Italian dish. 

Go-to list of herbs

I have a short list of go-to herbs that are essential for a culinary garden. One herb I just can’t live without is the chive. I love to clip fresh chives into almost any dish. The spiky straws have a slight onion taste with a hint of garlic. You can even eat the pretty pink flowers.

Basil is another common herb in many recipes. Thai basil has variegated dark green and white leaves have a strong taste of anise or clove. These are great for oriental dishes. Purple basil is very frilly. The deep plum-colored leaves have ruffled edges. You see purple basil in the bags of salad in the grocery store. So you don’t need to spend your hard-earned money on the fancy mix of salads if you plant some of this basil in a corner of your garden.

Oregano is another herb that is very aromatic and is a common ingredient in Italian cuisine. Toss some parsley in the garden for recipes and garnish. Italian broad leaf parsley has pretty variegated foliage. Curley parsley is the one you commonly see on the side of your plate It has really frilly green foliage. It looks nice on the plate and is a common ingredient in Middle Eastern dishes. 

Sweet stuff

Every gardener will try mint once or twice in his or her backyard farming career. It can be pretty aggressive, so if takes over the whole garden, you might have only tried it once. Spearmint and peppermint are very hardy plants, so give them some room to spread out. If you want to keep them in line, plant them in a container instead of directly in the garden. Mints are great additions to many recipes, a nice addition to a salad, and fun to freeze in ice for a summer party. 

Time to doodle

Now that you are making your list, you can start doing some doodling. Draw the outside dimension of your plot. Then use a ruler to divide it for your favorite herbs. Think about color combinations and heights of each plant. The shorter ones belong on the outside edges. The taller plants can go toward the center. Have fun with the shapes. How about a quilt pattern or a circle instead of a square. You have a couple months to play around with your ideas so have some fun on paper before we start to grow those seeds.

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