Herbs: Planting, Tips & Varieties and a few Herb Recipe’s!

Some of the herbs in our Kitchen Garden.  As you can see I use lots of ‘containers’… An old drawer holds my oregano, several pots partly burriered have basil, old wooden tool box houses parsley and others planted around.

The end of the month… we are already through one third of this year… I certainly cannot believe how fast time keeps moving on.  Our farms winter market is over ~ 21 weeks have flown by and now the regular season farmers market which will consume the next 29 weeks our lives begins… Gardening and farming will soon take up much of each day.  I love this time of year and the feeling of exhilaration that comes along with it.  In the next few entries here at Dragonflies, I will be focusing on Herbs. We will be able to start putting out all those goodies in the gardens, decorating our porches and patios and adorning our flower beds with boundless blossoms… my favorite time of year!

Now to touch on Herbs, one of my favorite subjects in the world of gardening.  I have mentioned in earlier entries about our Kitchen Garden and the herb part of it, here is a photo of one end of it in mid-spring when basil’s and the more tender annual herbs have been put in. As you can see I use many types of containers to hold the herbs including an old wooden drawer for oregano, party buried pots for basil’s, an old wooden tool box for parsley.  There is thyme, lemon grass along with several other herbs planted directly in the ground around the containers.
I am going to break this up into four sections over the next couple entries;  Planting, Varieties, Tips and of course
Cooking with.

You may be wondering where do I put herbs? I don’t have an herb garden or I don’t even know how to cook with herbs. Well as you will come to learn herbs are a gardener’s best friend… they are both easy to grow and use. Once you get started you’ll wonder how you ever did without them.  So first lets break down this section into a couple groups as well: Where to Plant and What to Plant!

*Where to Plant:
  Well, here again you have several choices which include right in with your regular veggie garden if you have one; you can create an Herb Garden separately, in your kitchen garden; or you can incorporate them in with your flower beds.  I have all of the above and so can you!  As you will find out, herbs are great friends with both veggies & flowers, they are not just yummy they are natural enemies & deterrents to several bad bugs that want to eat your good stuff!
~In my Flower Beds I incorporate a hedge of purple basil; we use them for both culinary uses as well as in bouquets- we let some of them bloom out for this reason… absolutely stunning in bouquets!  I also use thyme off set with creeping phlox along the rock border of several of my flower beds; they can be snipped through the season for kitchen use and then a few left to bloom after the phlox has finished it’s show.
~If you want to have a separate section for herbs in your Garden rather than intermingling, then I would recommend using Raised Beds at one end to put them in.  Also, I would focus on one bed for your perennial herbs such as oregano, chives, sage, tarragon and thyme; another for your true annuals such as basil, savory, marjoram and lemon grass; and yet another if you can for your biennials such as parsley and fennel.  If you have rosemary, be sure to pot up and bring in the house; although it is a hardy annual, if you live in Zones 5 or lower it will not survive our freezing temperatures.
~In our Gardens and Fields I use herbs right along side of many of the veggies we grow.  As an Organic produce farm I believe in and practice completely companion planting.  Here are a few everyday ones for you to use:
  ~dill with carrots or cabbage- the dill confuses carrot rust flies, which lay their eggs on carrot roots and may deter cabbage pests as well.
  ~Basil with tomatoes will keep tomato horn worms at bay- not to mention it is believed that they encourage one another  to grow!
  ~Chives with roses to discourage insects and diseases- any allium member for that matter.
  ~Most any type of mint planted near cabbage or tomatoes to ward off the white cabbage moths, aphids and flea beetles.
  ~Oregano enhances the flavor of beans in the garden and repels insects that bother broccoli.
  ~Sage enhances rosemary, deters cabbage moths, carrot flies, flea beetles, and slugs.
  ~Plant thyme next to tomatoes where its flowers will attract bees for pollination.
Go to the previous blog post to see many ideas of companion planting with herbs.
We also have a Kitchen Garden which has yet another separate herb section. This is used primarily for our everyday cooking.  With us growing produce for farmers market and our CSA we need to have a little something that’s just for us and where we don’t have to walk out to the field or hoop house. 

What To Plant:  You may be a bit of a challenge simply because there are so many varieties of each type of herb.
There are several basic culinary herbs that I will recommend and some tips on each, along with a couple that your pets will appreciate as well.  I am not planning on going into the world of medicinal herbs simply because I am not knowledgeable enough to feel comfortable telling people how to use them.  I am completely for the use of them and I would highly recommend educating your self in this area.  I will say though that we eat a lot of raw garlic in flu season!
*Basil will never treat you wrong! In my opinion the number one most important herb- although I have a biased opinion because I love Italian cooking… so maybe my opinion doesn’t mean diddly right here!
There are many types of basil’s and you may seem overwhelmed when you go to purchase your plants.  The tried and true is Genovese for the truest Italian cooking.  I once purchased a variety called Italian Pesto, it is comparable to Lettuce Leaf which is so named because of the very large leaves. Greek Dwarf is a tiny leafed perfectly mounded basil, used in many Italian dishes- the leaves make it a challenge.  If you like to cook with fish and/or chicken then try lemon and lime varieties; if you are into Thai cooking get a Thai Basil- yes that is what is called- it is anise flavored; Cinnamon basil is also available.  If you want both culinary and for bouquets arrangements try Purple Ruffles or Red Rubin, both stunning when in bloom and the leaves are very similar to a Sweet basil. 
*Parsley is my tied for second staple herb.  I use this in many potato dishes, chicken soup and of course pasta sauces.
*Thyme, oh how I love thyme… Any time we are grilling there is a bowl of Olive Oil with fresh thyme leaves soaking and infusing the oil to be brushed onto summer squash, eggplant, chicken and fish and of course pizza crust just before the sauce goes on… yummy!
*Oregano is a must have if you are creating pasta sauces and salsa too!
*Sage is an herb that we use in our Artisan Sausages that Neil creates- main staple to our famous Breakfast Sausage.
*Fennel is also all about our sausage, except this goes into our wonderfully yummy Italian sausages… not overly fennel flavored, just the right blend.  This is also for those fish lovers, fennel and butter brushed onto fish just before grilling.
*Rosemary is not one of my favorites, but many people use it on fish & chicken and in potato dishes as well.
*Marjoram is what I will use in exchange for thyme occasionally if I feel like a little something different.
*Tarragon, again great in Olive Oil for grilling fish & chicken.  Also yummy on beef roasts.
*Chives of course are another staple to the kitchen garden cook… baked potatoes smothered in sour cream and topped with fresh snipped chives, tossed into a salad or thrown in with radishes (see the last blog for a yummy Chive & Radish Dip).
*Cilantro is another must have for us fresh salsa lovers.  Good in any Mexican dish.
*Dill, certainly not least, but this one is reserved most often for canning those yummy pickles.
Again, this is just the basics to help you get started, so have fun and be adventurous, you can always find a recipe!

Here are some yummy herb recipe’s to get you started in the kitchen! Have fun…
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Fresh Chive Topper 
Use on baked potato, scramble eggs or anything else you like sour cream on!
Blend all Ingredients:Blend all ingredients:
8 oz container sour cream1 c or 8oz container  Sour Cream
1/4 cup shredded cheddar or Colby cheese
2 Tbsp. melted butter
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped chives

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Fresh Basil Dressing 
1/2 cup wine vinegar
 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
 1 cup olive oil 
6 Tbsp. fresh basil leaves, minced
 salt & pepper to taste. 
Combine all and serve over fresh garden salad.

Thyme Grilled Vegetable

16 baby potato– about 1 quart
1/2 c chicken broth
1/4 c Olive Oil
2 tbsp fresh Thyme, minced
1/2 tsp salt
3 large peppers, sliced– use different colors to make it pretty!
2 c sliced onions

In an un-greased 9×13 inch baking casserole, combine the potatoes, broth, oil, thyme & salt.  Grill, covered over medium heat for about 25 minutes.
Stir in peppers & onions.  Grill 25-30 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender.

Happy Day,