Growing and Using Herbs in Cooking
Plant herbs in a sunny spot with soil that drains well. Soil with pH between 6.5 and 7.0 is preferred. Can grow most herbs in pots. Choose unglazed terra cotta or wooden containers. If using planters, mix potting soil with perlite (5 to 1).
When taking cuttings for propagation, cutting should be three to five inches long and cut just below a node. Most herb cuttings should root in two to four weeks.
As a general rule, harvest mid-morning to early afternoon. Wash in cool water and spread on towel, patting gently to dry. If drying, place in a dark, well-ventilated room on cheesecloth or netted screens, or hang in bunches, for three to four days where temperatures are between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Alternatively, spread herbs on cookie sheet and into 125 degree oven for a few minutes. Store dried herbs in an airtight container.
Basil: Annual. pH of 6.0. Harvest before flowering if drying. Strip the leaves from the stems before drying. Use fresh in tomato and pesto sauces, and in pastas, rice, and green salads. Good with meats such as veal, lamb, fish, and poultry as well as cheese, stews, and soups. Nice addition to teas and vinegars.
Chives: Perennial. Water regularly, and cover roots with mulch. pH of 6.0. Snip to harvest (don’t pull), use scissors to cut leaves into small pieces. For a mild onion taste use the blossoms. Use in salads, cheese and butter spreads, dips, soups, fish, and omelettes.
Lemon Verbena: Grows well in warm climates, moist soil, grow in containers in colder climates and winter over inside. Harvest leaves and use them fresh or dried. Strip the leaves from the stems before drying. Fresh is nice with cooked rice.
Idea: Boil in water for tea.
Mint: Perennial. pH of 6.5. Propagated by cuttings (or seeds, except with peppermint). Can grow in partial shade. Water frequently. Aggressive spreader so advise growing in pots or sunken clay tile or having some sort of restriction. Harvest when in full bloom to take advantage of essential oils. Keep stems in a glass of water or refrigerated. Strip the leaves from the stems before drying. Goes well with lamb, pork, fruit salads, vegetables, candies, and chocolate.
Idea: add chopped mint to water in ice cube tray and freeze. use in teas.
Oregano: Perennial (annual in winter climates). pH of 6.8. Propagated by root divisions, cuttings, or seed directly in garden and leave uncovered to germinate. Used in tomato sauce, breads, roasted meats, and fish. Harvest sprigs once plant has grown to at least six inches in height.
Rosemary: Perennial. Prefers slightly acidic soil. Can be propagated from cuttings or by layering. Harvest throughout the year. Use sparingly as it’s full of flavor. Use the leaves, stems, and flowers in cooking. Nice complement for chicken, lamb, fish, beef, pork, game, and veal. Also nice in teas, jams, butters, stuffing, stew, breads, crackers, lentils, cream soups, potatoes, roasted vegetables, cheese, and eggs.
Idea: Place a few sprigs under or on top of meat when roasting or grilling.
Tarragon: Choose French Tarragon for culinary use. Perennial. pH of 6.9. Propagated by stem cuttings or division. Cut back plant regularly to control, and divide every three to four years. Harvest twice a year; the first time being six to eight weeks after planting. Strip the leaves from the stems before drying. Used to flavor vinegar, pickles, herbal butter, shellfish, pork, beef, poultry, many vegetables, and rice. Fresh leaves can also be used in salads, tartar sauce, and French dressing.
Thyme: Perennial. Can propagate by cuttings, division, layering, or seed. Start by seed indoors and move to garden in spring after all danger of frost is past and the soil has warmed up. Harvest in midsummer and at the end of season. Leaves and sprigs used in clam chowder, meats, herbal butter, vinegar, vegetables, cheese, eggs, and rice. Also used in tea.
Idea: Treat guests with a bundle of herbs from your garden.
Additional recommended reading:
Homemade Herbal Flavored Vinegar Recipes
Making & Using Flavored Vinegars
Growing & Using Basil
Growing & Using Tarragon
Growing & Using Garlic
Growing & Using Rosemary
Growing & Using Oregano
Growing & Using Chives
Grow 15 Herbs for the Kitchen
Growing & Using Sage