Growing Herbs by Byron Chitwood
According to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 1: a herb is a seed producing annual, biennial or perennial that does not develop persistent woody tissue but dies down at the end of a growing season. 2: a plant or plant part valued for its medicinal, savory or aromatic qualities. For this article, we will stick with the savory and aromatic qualities.
There are many different herbs, so many in fact that if they were all listed by name in this article, the list would have to be continued for weeks in order to meet the word count of 500 per article was followed. The National Herb Garden has about 2,000 different herbs growing at any one time. This article will contain information on just a few that are easy to grow and are great in most forms of cooking.
Basil has about 200 different varieties ranging from Sweet Basil to Chocolate. Sweet basil can be started from seed, propagated from a cutting or purchased from a nursery. If you have planted it in an area before and let it go to seed, no doubt some of the seeds will survive the winter and come back as volunteers as soon as the soil temperature and moisture are right. Either dig a few of the small plants and transplant them or thin out the volunteers to a manageable number and let them grow right where they are. Basil is good in most culinary dishes but is especially so in tomato based recipes such as Italian ones. I have said it before and will say it again, when you can tomatoes, if you add a few sprigs of basil per pint of tomatoes, you will never can them any other way. Usually, just a few basil plants will supply all the basil that you need for cooking purposes. During the growing cycle, keep the flower heads cut off to maximize production of the desirable shoots and leaves. Basil can be grown outdoors or in pots in the house.
Dill is another great herb and is best known as an herb that is used in making dill pickles. Dill is easy to grow and has the same tendency to reproduce just like the above mentioned self seeding of basil. If you are a real aficionado of dill pickles and can your own, plant a greater number of dill plants than you would for basil. Unfortunately, dill plants do not always mature when cucumbers do. You can always harvest dill and store it in vinegar for use later. Also, dill can be dried by cutting the plants at the base and hanging them in a dry area which is out of the weather.
Rosemary is another herb that is easy to grow. Just get a few cuttings from one of your friends and propagate as follows: remove about half of the leaves on the cutting by stripping them off to the bottom of the cutting. Stick the bottom half in the ground or in a container of potting soil. Roots will eventually form and they can then transfer to a preferred garden spot.
There are many books on growing herbs. My favorites are “Southern Herb Growing” by Madalene Hill & Gwen Barclay and “Parks Success With Herbs” by Gertrude Foster and Rosemary Louden. Herbs are easy to grow and add a lot of zest to home cooking and they are good landscape plants that require minimal care and water.