Herb Tips/Tricks

Herb Tips/Tricks

So, back in December/January, I ordered these herb collections from Burpee: Savory Blend Herb Collection Culinary Classics Herb Collection Cooks Cupboard Herb Collection Basically, these are three different collections of six herbs each which you preorder, then Burpee grows them for you and they ship them out when the planting time is right for your zone. I got mine yesterday and am very excited about them. There are a few herbs in the collection that I've never used (sorrel, lovage, borage, spicy saber basil), so I not only get to learn to grow them, but I also get to learn to use them. I've spent much of the afternoon researching some basic growing tips and recipes for them, and thought I'd pass it along in the event that it is helpful to others. Also, I'd certainly welcome any additional tips or corrections to what I have here. I'm in Zone 6b (Nashville, TN). Summerlong Basil: Spicy Saber Basil: Thai Basil: - Annual - Plant basil in fertile soil in a spot that gets direct sun for at least 6 hours per day. - Pinch the tip from the center shoot of basil after it has grown for 6 weeks to force side growth and prevent early flowering. - If flower stalks develop, simply snip them off. - Needs a steady supply of moisture and warm soil temperatures to produce well, so you have to play a balancing act with mulch. In cool areas, delay mulching until the soil temperature has reached the mid-60s. Where summer really heats up and soil loses moisture quickly, you can add mulch sooner. - Basil is programmed to initiate flowering when it has six pairs of leaves on a stalk. For maximum production per plant, cut it back to two leaves per stem, and don’t let it grow past four pairs. You can harvest the entire plant about every three weeks, and at the end of the season there will be 12 to 24 lateral branches. - The later in the day you harvest basil, the longer it stays fresh. In a perforated bag kept at around 60°F, it will keep for 10 to 14 days. In contrast, refrigerated basil lasts two or three days. You can also store stems in a vase in your kitchen, close at hand for cooking. - Although some folks insist that the flavor is better if basil isn't fertilized, grows and looks better if it's fed at planting time, and again during the season, perhaps after a heavy picking. Supplemental irrigation can double yields, Simon reports. Marjoram: - Annual/Perennial? (Check zone) - Set out seedlings in full sun in slightly alkaline soil that's rich in organic matter. - Place plants about 6 to 8 inches apart - Pinch back stems to maintain a bushy growth habit. Parsley: - Biennial; best to start new plants each year because the leaf flavor is not as good in the second season. - Plants do well in sun or partial shade, and prefer a rich, moist soil. - To harvest, cut entire leaves from the outer edge of the plant as you need them. At season’s end, you can cut the entire plant for storage. To dry parsley, tie stems together and hang them in a shady, warm, well-ventilated area. Once thoroughly dried, crumble the parsley and store it in an airtight container. To freeze, remove leaves from stems, rinse, and pat them dry before placing in a zippered freezer bag. - To keep fresh parsley crisp and flavorful, place stalks in a glass of water and store it in the refrigerator. In cold regions, pot a few plants in the fall to place in a sunny window. Sage: - Perennial - Full sun exposure and well-drained soil. - Set plants or thin seedlings to stand 24 to 30 inches apart. - Young plants need a steady moisture supply until they start growing vigorously - Each spring, prune out the woodiest stems and spent flower stalks. Stop harvesting early in the fall to encourage the plant to harden off for the winter. - Harvest lightly during the first year to allow this perennial plant to become established. In the following couple of years, you may be able to harvest an entire plant two or three times. When harvesting, leave a few stalks in place to allow the plant to rejuvenate. Rosemary: - Perennial to Zone 9 - Full sun, but in the warmer climates they will accept some light shade. - They thrive in a light, well-drained, average garden soil with a pH range of 5 to 8. - During the growing season, pinch back growth tips two or three inches to promote bushy plants; cut back hard only in early spring to allow the new growth time to mature. - Gardeners in cold-winter areas can successfully grow rosemary indoors in a container with a fast-draining potting soil. Bring the plants indoors at least several weeks before your area's first frost date. Feed the potted rosemary regularly with fish emulsion and provide good air circulation to ward off harmful mildew. English Thyme: - Perennial - Thyme thrives in full sun and light well-drained soil. Space plants 9 inches apart. - Where winters are very cold, mulch the plants after the ground freezes with a light mulch such as pine needles. - Trim the plants a bit in the spring and summer to maintain a neat growth habit and prevent the development of too much woody growth. Spearmint: - Perennial - Mint can be terribly invasive, particularly in rich, moist soil. To keep it from overtaking your yard, confine it to a bed with edging of metal or plastic. Bury edging to a depth of 14 inches around the perimeter of the mint patch, or simply grow the plants it in pots. - Choose a sunny location with moderately fertile, humusy soil. Use a light mulch to retain moisture and keep leaves clean. - Once plants are growing vigorously, you can harvest young or mature leaves. - Don’t be afraid to cut the plants back frequently to promote fresh growth. Lovage: - Lovage is a very old herb with properties perfect for today's healthy lifestyles. It's unique flavor, which is a combination of anise and celery, can be used as a salt substitute, plus it gives extra flavor to vegetarian soups and stews as well. You can use it much like you would celery or parsley, but with a lighter hand since it does have a stronger flavor. Lovage works well in potato and tomato dishes, or anything in the starch category. Every part of the plant is edible! - Lovage is not a small, delicate plant. It will grow to about 6 foot after the first year, so you want to have a nice northern corner of the garden set aside for it. One plant is enough for a family. It can take partial shade and does better in soil that is fairly fertile and not too dry. - Cut stems from the side, and chop to use in recipes. - Lovage Butter Ingredients: 4 tablespoons of butter 1 tablespoon of minced lovage Salt & Pepper to taste Melt the butter in a small pan and add the salt, pepper, and lovage. Heat gently for 3-5 minutes. Serve over vegetables. - Egg Salad with Herbs Ingredients: 6 large eggs 3 green onions thinly sliced 2 tsp. minced lovage 2 tsp. minced parsley 1 tablespoon snipped chives 1 cup light or regular mayonnaise to taste salt and pepper (optional) Hard boil the eggs, them place in a bowl of cold water to cool. Peel them, place in bowl and mash. Add the green onions and herbs, then add chives, mayonnaise and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Serve on bread or on a bed of lettuce. Sorrel: - Perennial - Produces best in a rich soil, but will grow in any well-drained soil, and can be planted in sun or partial shade. - Should be kept moist, so water well during dry summer months. - Will grow into fairly sizable clumps, anywhere from 16” - 24” high. - The leaves may also be used in omelets and other egg dishes, or as a meat tenderizer. - To harvest the plant, simply pinch or cut the leaves off with a knife. - The smallest leaves are the most concentrated in flavor. Fennel: - Perennial - Fennel grows best in full sun with plenty of water and good drainage. Spaces plants 1 foot apart and remove spent flowers to reduce number of volunteer seedlings. - Soil should be rich, light, well-drained and well-dug, with a pH of 6.5 to 7.0 - Cut plants to ground after frost. Greek Oregano: Italian Oregano: - Plant in full sun and well-drained soil after danger of frost has passed, spacing plants or thinning seedlings to stand 8 to 10 inches apart. - Trim plants back before flowering (approximately 5 to 6 weeks after planting) to stimulate a dense growth habit. - If you allow some of the flowers to produce and drop their seed, you can keep your oregano patch fresh and vigorous. Remove 3- to 4-year-old plants to keep the bed quality high. - Unlike some herbs, dried oregano leaves keep their flavor well in storage. Hang harvested sprigs in an airy, shaded location until the leaves crumble easily, then store in an airtight container. You can also freeze fresh sprigs in zippered plastic bags; press as much air from the bag as possible. Lavender: - Plant lavender in a sunny place in well-drained soil. - Add a light application of organic fertilizer to the planting hole. - Place plants no deeper than they were growing in the containers. - Mulch around but not on top of the plant with 3 inches of organic compost. - Water well until the soil is completely moist. - Do not water in summer - lavender is tolerant of dry soil. - Cut off flower stems to the base when in full bloom to use for sachets or indoor arrangements; use bypass pruners or scissors. - Cut off old flower stems and shear lightly - cut off 2 to 3 inches of leaves - after flowering to neaten the plant; use bypass pruners. Chives: - Most soils, partial shade or full sun. - Simply dig up the clump of bulbs in March or October, carefully separate them into individual bulbs and replant with the tips of the bulbs level with the soil surface. They thrive on this method of propagation, because it relieves the congestion in the bulbs. - Chives are perennial evergreen plants, and keep their leaves in most winters. In colder winters, the leaves may die back completely, but don't despair - their roots are still alive and they will begin new growth next spring. Dill: - Annual; reseeds itself - Produces a strong taproot like its cousin the carrot; does poorly when transplanted. - Thrives in rich, loose soil and full sun location. - Start harvesting the fern-like leaves about 8 weeks after planting. Pinch off the outer leaves close to the stem. - Most flavorful just when flower heads are opening. Borage: - Annual - Helps to improve the flavor of tomatoes when grown nearby. - Grow borage in full sun for best results, though it will do fine in part shade. Like most herbs, it's not fussy about pH, but it needs fertile, well-drained but moisture-retentive soil. - Weed regularly, water during dry spells, and cut plants back in late summer if they start looking too leggy. - Clip off leaves as you need them for salads or tea. They have a refreshing, cucumberlike taste that blends especially well with eggs, either in salads or omelettes. - Use the edible flowers, fresh or candied, as garnishes for salads, drinks or pastries. - Propagate by seed. (Leave some of the flowers on the plants; they'll self-sow readily.) - Borage seeds are a source of gamma lineolinic acid (GLA), which is used to relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. - Borage is an invaluable ally of strawberries, tomatoes and squashes in particular because its flowers attract bees necessary for pollination.
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