Archive for the ‘Herbs’ Category
Customize an herb garden to your favorite cuisines: Four garden plans for cooking Italian, Asia, Tex-Mex, and French foods
by Esther Sung
Don’t underestimate the power of fresh herbs. Usually only small amounts are required when cooking or baking, but even in limited quantities herbs add big flavors and heady aromas, all without the extra calories or fat. And when a dish needs to go from plain to sprightly and elegant, nothing does it better or faster than a flourish of fresh herbs.
Sal Gilbertie is one man who knows all about the allure of herbs, culinary and otherwise: Author of Herb Gardening From the Ground Up: Everything You Need to Know About Growing Your Favorite Herbs (Ten Speed Press) and owner of the well-respected. Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens in Westport, Connecticut, Gilbertie has more than 40 years of gardening experience. “People are recognizing flavors and tastes in herbs because they’re growing their own,” he says. “Homegrown herbs have a lot more essential oils in them, compared to the fresh ones in grocery stores, which are basically diluted.” And as anyone who already gardens will know, growing herbs is a very convenient and affordable way to meet your cooking needs.
Love to cook French food? Focus on raising some French tarragon, chervil, and sweet marjoram. Can’t get enough of pan-Asian flavors? Grow some saltwort, lemongrass, and perilla. Gilbertie’s garden plans for Italian and Tex-Mex cuisines are also featured here.
A few words of advice from Gilbertie about herb gardening:
- It’s economical and more fun to grow most herbs from seed, according to Gilbertie. But he concedes that “some herbs should really only be started from seed, like dill and coriander,” because transferring the plants may cause them to go to seed faster than expected. Exceptions include tender perennials such as rosemary, thyme, and lavender, all of which take longer to grow and are better off bought as young plants.
- Overcrowded plants are unhappy plants. The garden plans provided are merely guidelines but they do take into consideration each plant’s rate and pattern of growth: Speedy cilantro grows mostly straight up, whereas rosemary is slow-growing and bushy, spreading out as it matures. Give your herbs appropriate amounts of space and sunshine, and they’ll thrive.
- You don’t need a lot of land to have a lush, prolific herb garden. Container gardens can be just as abundant. They also add a landscaping element to your outdoor space, whether it’s a stoop, patio, or deck. And if you cook outside often, the herbs can be strategically placed close to grills, pits, and stoves for easy access.
Photo: Wendell Ward/Flickr