Saturday, June 12, 2010

Herbs in My Garden

When we moved into our new home two years ago, I threw caution to the wind and planted a vegetable garden. I didn't know what I was doing, but the previous owner had installed raised garden beds complete with soaker hoses hooked up to the sprinkling system, and so it was easy. Well, it seemed easy.

That's the thing: anyone can garden. But not everyone can do it well.

I don't do it well. But I still enjoy what we get. Using potting soil and having a sprinkling system really do a lot for someone without a green thumb.

Each year, I've tried some new things, and gone with old-standbys as well. And each year, I've incorporated some herbs into my plans.

That first year, it was basil, cilantro, and lavender, all from seed. Not that I planned on using the lavender, but it brought back fond memories of trips to Provence. The basil did well, despite my lack of any kind of knowledge...and the cilantro grew, but, as is typical, it went to seed very quickly. And the lavender didn't even come up. Meh. C'est la vie.

Last year, I opted to skip the lavender and cilantro, but planned MORE basil than the previous year because I had enjoyed it so much. I also planted dill because I'd seen so many recipes that called for it, and I planted oregano because I figured if I had enjoyed basil that much, maybe I would also enjoy oregano, another Italian staple. The oregano didn't come up, and the basil was Italian basil, which has a more anise-y taste, so I didn't like it as well as I had the previous year. And the dill...well, I was pregnant last summer, and dill did not agree with me. I couldn't even walk past it without feeling nauseous. It came out real quick.

This year, we've had a cold spring. So, in lieu of basil seeds, I opted for seedlings. I thought this would give me more harvesting time and that I might actually get enough to make pesto. That was all I planned on. It was all I had ever enjoyed I was being conservative.

But then, I was at the nursery looking for flowers with a friend, and spied their herbs. I smelled all of them, including a delicious chocolate mint. But I was mesmerized by a lemon thyme. So I bought it. I do things like that. Sometimes they're irresponsible. Sometimes, they're serendipitous. This one was the latter. I've already used it a few times (including in minestrone), and loved it.

So. I planted my basil (sweet basil, this time...not Italian) along with my tomatoes and peppers and everything else. And a few days later, they died.

They died!

Basil, which I can start from seed and not kill (which is really saying something, I think) died when I transplanted it.

So, off to the nursery I went. I could NOT do a summer without basil. This time, I talked with the nursery worker and asked her what I should do to ensure that the ones I bought that day didn't die. She told me, and I figured I'd be set. I selected three different varieties of basil this time, because this nursery had a bunch of varieties. I selected regular ol' sweet basil, some lemon basil, and a dwarf bush basil that looked really productive (I had pesto in mind).

THEN, I overheard another nursery worker telling someone they were having a sale on herbs--buy three, get one free. I was already buying three, so I might as well pick out something else, right?

I thought really hard about that chocolate mint. I really did. But, the only thing I could conceivably use it for would be ice cream (which I would love to make, honestly) but that would be it. And I would do that what, once? Yeah, maybe next year.

I overheard (yes, I did a lot of eavesdropping that day...) another worker telling someone about this really popular variety, an herb called Barbecue Rosemary (the picture is up above). I smelled it, and it smelled sublime. I couldn't put my finger on it. But it smelled delicious. So I grabbed one and headed out.

So far, the only thing I have used has been the lemon thyme, but I'm really looking forward to trying some new herbs this year, especially the lemon basil and the rosemary. They'll definitely be appearing here as I use them.

What are your favorite herbs to grow and cook with?


  1. I put some lemon basil leaves in my green tea and I bet it would be great in iced tea too. You can make a great chicken marinade with lemon basil too. Good luck!

  2. Thanks for the tips, Marzipanmom! I'm really excited for it; I think the lemon overtones will really add a nice flavor component to anything I already use basil in, like Caprese Salad. Yum. Can't wait!