Monday, April 29, 2013
My Favorite Herbs and What They're Good For
And now a poem about herbs:
I love herbs.
It's one of those things that makes me a nerd(s).
Wow. If that has inspired you like it inspired me, here's some more stuff about herbs.
My number 1 favorite herb to grow.
Basil. It just is. It's pretty. It's easy to sow from seed. It's great in pots or garden beds. I love to eat it. I make pestos like a crazed woman and then I freeze them in ice cube trays and eat it all year long. It flowers and attracts bees. It could go in a bouquet if you wanted to (and I've done this before). I just love it. If you have trouble with slugs getting it, surround it with cracked egg shells.
My number 2.
Rosemary. It smells like heaven to me. I could just rub it all over myself and be happy. I love to cook with it and the dried just doesn't compare for me. I grow it in a pot so I can bring it in in the winter since it usually dies in a deciduous area if left outside.
After that I fall apart and have trouble choosing, but here's a decent list that I've kind of sort of ordered according to preference.
Chives. Perfect garnish or stir fry or potato anything. I haven't had success with seeds so I recommend a start. They come back year after year. They taste amazing. They have pretty flowers. Perennial.
Dill. Easiest herb to grow if you're looking for that. Great with fish, soup, salad, summer vegetables. Annual, but reseeds itself like a beast.
Parsley. Pretty as a garnish. Tasty as an herb. Biennial (grows the first year, then grows and goes to seed in the spring of the second year).
Sage. Thanksgiving will never be the same for me without fresh sage. It's very pretty, there are tons of varieties. And it tastes much much better than its dried counterpart. Lots of beautiful varieties to choose from. Perennial.
Thyme. Ditto the Thanksgiving thing. It's not so pretty (well, some varieties are, but the main kind I grow is just kind of gangly), but it sure tastes good with chicken, soup, and a lot of other foods. It's easy to dry because the leaves are small, so you can save some over the winter. There are many many varieties. You can get it tiny and creeping or bigger and flowering. Perennial.
Cilantro. I love this herb so much fresh that it's embarrassing, but I'm not always successful at growing it from seed (alas). That said, it's really easy to grow from seed for most people, so don't ask me what my problem is. Annual, but often reseeds.
Stevia. Must be grown from a start. I use this in smoothies instead of sugar during the summer and love it for this purpose. Also, when I am pregnant and chew the leaves, the taste it leaves in my mouth is awesome when everything else I eat when pregnant leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. I don't know why this is but because of it stevia holds a special place in my heart. Annual.
French Tarragon. I think tarragon can be pretty good dried, but it's even better fresh. Perennial.
There are others that I love for different, non-food reasons.
Scent and attract bees/butterflies:
Lavender (scent and attracts bees/butterflies). If you live in a deciduous area, be sure to get a hardy variety; others will die overwinter.
Bee Balm (beautiful blooms and attracts bees and butterflies)
Cone flower (i.e. echinacea) (pretty, attracts bees/butterflies and bugs)
Lemon Balm (lovely scent, great border plant or one you can stick in pesky open spaces that you don't know what to do with because it grows easily anywhere, attracts bees/butterflies after flowering)
Ground cover potential or rocky border potential:
Creeping thyme is my favorite looking, but not strong enough to grow well in our wet, then dry paths.
Winter Savory (great by rocks, also tastes great in pasta sauce)
Thyme (lots of different varieties so you'll have to ask your garden people for the lower growing types. I have one called caraway thyme that is not so low as the creeping thyme, but is much hardier, spreads better, and is still reasonably low for a ground cover)
Oregano (golden is good for this. It can get tallish later in the summer. you can weedwhack it or tromple it or something, but I like it)
Teas or garnishes:
Mint (Tea, ice cream, also so lovely in cold drinks--even water--delightful). My favorite mint is chocolate mint, but I love them all. Be careful with growing mint as it is invasive so put it in a pot.
Chamomile (Tea--you use the flowers of chamomile, not the leaves)
Lemon Balm (I don't use this in tea. I think it tastes like spinach, but other people successfully use it and have it taste like lemon. Maybe I let mine get too old or something.)
Two years ago I wrote a post about herbs with more detailed info. So read if you are an herb nerd, read on.