Growing HerbsGrowing herbs is fun; using them is a joy, whether you're using them for cooking or for fragrance or for medicinal reasons.
We have herbs year-round at Woodland Gardens, though we do not have as wide a selection in the winter because some simply don't like being in the greenhouse. In the summer you can expect to find a wide variety - for instance, we don't just have mint, we also have chocolate mint and chewing gum mint (the selection always changes).
This page includes links to fact sheets on choosing and growing herbs, as well as some ideas for using herbs grown and sold at Woodland Gardens.
Click on any of the following links for very informative tips about choosing, planting, and growing herbs.
- "Growing Herbs in the Home Garden" - U. Illinois Cooperative Extension
- "Growing Herbs" - Purdue University Cooperative Extension
- "Growing Herbs for the Home Gardener" - N.C. Cooperative Extension
- "Growing Herbs in the Home Garden" - Cooperative Extension Northeast States
- "Growing Herbs Indoors" - Missouri Cooperative Extension
Make an Herbal Vinegar
1 cup fresh herbs for every 2 cups good-quality or favorite vinegar.
No need to heat vinegar.
Put herbs in very clean jar. Pour vinegar over herbs. Cover jar tightly. Leave jar in dark place at room temperature for 8 weeks. Taste. If you want more flavor, add more herbs and steep another 3 weeks. Strain and fill sterilized jars. Store in a cool, dark place.
From Sara's Superb Herbs (www.superbherbs.net)
Basil (annual in Zone 5)
1. Chop leaves, sprinkle on sliced fresh ripe tomatoes, top with olive oil or favorite dressing. Yum!
2. Chop leaves finely, mix with olive oil to make thick paste. Freeze in small amounts to use in winter as you wish.
3. Make basil pesto for a sauce on hot pasta or as a dressing on a pasta salad.
4. Make basil vinegar. It's a great gift!
5. Basil freezes well. Roll washed leaves into tight, sausage-like rolls, and freeze.
To use, just unwrap, slice off the amount you need, refreeze. Easy!
Chives (perennial in Zone 5)
1. For a delicate onion flavor, try minced chives. They're good with just about any vegetable, as well as with poultry or fish.
2. Add minced chives to salads or to herb omelets.
3. Chives make a delicious herb butter or a good raw vegetable dip when mixed with cream cheese.
4. Don't forget minced chives as a garnish, such as on a cold creamy soup in summer, or with baked potatoes and sour cream, or in a potato salad.
5. The flowers can also be eaten or used as a garnish.
Chives can be frozen (but when thawed, they'll be limp and good only in a cooked dish).
Make an Herb Butter
Herb butters are a delicious way to add the full flavors of fresh herbs to dishes.
Use them on sandwiches or to add zest to meat, fish, and veggies, especially mushrooms, onions, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini. To make: beat 4 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs into 8 oz. soft butter till smooth. Beat in juice of 1 lemon; add salt and pepper to taste. Chill (or freeze for winter use).
Using the above recipe, combine oregano, thyme, parsley with basil. Beat in some olive oil, minced garlic, and parmesan cheese. Spread on Italian bread and broil until lightly brown.
Make herb cheeses by substituting soft cheese for butter.
From Sara's Superb Herbs (www.superbherbs.net)
Sweet Bay (bay leaves) was named the Herb of the Year (2009) by the International Herb Association.
The mature leaves can be used fresh, but when dried, the oils are more concentrated. Hang the leaves in bunches in a warm, dry place to dry. They should retain their flavor for about a year in storage. Bay leaves are an essential ingredient of the herb mix 'Bouquet Garni'. The somewhat fennel-like sweet, spicy flavor is released slowly, so the whole leaves should be added to dishes that cook over a period of hours – unlike most herbs which give off their flavor in a short cooking time and should be added at the end of cooking. The leaves are also quite tough and should be removed before the dish is served – and therefore are normally not chopped up. This herb is typically used in stews, roasts, casseroles, and soups with a relatively long cooking time, and also for pickling and in marinades. The dried leaves can also be used to make an herbal tea.
From U. of Wisconsin, Dept. of Horticulture.
Cilantro (annual in Zone 5)
1. Cilantro is the name for the fresh herb. Coriander is the name of its dried seed.
2. Cilantro is the spicy herb found in South American, Chinese, Asian cuisine.
3. Cilantro is an essential herb in salsa. Make your salsa from scratch, or jazz up some store-bought salsa with minced cilantro to taste.
4. Use it in an herb butter.
Cilantro is best used fresh. Many people say it doesn't freeze or dry well. But save the seeds. They're best when ground to bring out the most flavor.
Dill (annual in Zone 5)
1. Dill is particularly suited to fish and salmon dishes.
2. Dill is also well suited to cucumber salads.
3. Try mixing dill with sour cream or yogurt and adding some onion, vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. Makes a good dressing for sliced cucumber or a dip for raw vegetables.
4. Saute sliced zucchini or summer squash and sprinkle it with minced dill.
5. Learn to make pickles - even dilled green beans!
Though dill is an annual plant in our zone, its seeds will drop and start new plants for you next year.
THE 2010 HERB OF THE YEAR - chosen by International Herb Society
Make Herbal Oil Pastes
A thick blend of fresh herbs and olive or canola oil. Useful for sauteing, baking, soups, tossing with hot pasta, or making pesto or hummus.
Olive oil is best with basil, cilantro and parsley. For mint (for making brownies), lemon balm or lemon verbena (for pound cake), use canola oil.
To make: Chop fresh herbs in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle. Add enough oil to form a thick paste. Freeze in small amounts (even ice cube trays) for future use.
Horseradish (perennial in Zone 5) was named the 2011 Herb of the Year by the International Herb Association.
It's easy to grow - in fact, it spreads vigorously, so you want to be careful where you grow it.
Here's a large collection of Horseradish "tales" from the American Herb Society as well as growing tips and recipes. Lots of good reading!
Parsley (annual in Zone 5)
1. Curly parsley is a great garnish. Flat-leaf parsley (also known as Italian parsley) has the most flavor.
2. Parsley is full of vitamins, high in chorophyll—a natural breath sweetener.
3. Make it into an herbal oil paste or an herb butter for use in winter.
4. Parsley freezes well. Roll washed leaves into tight, sausage-like rolls, and freeze. To use, just unwrap, slice off the amount you need, refreeze. Easy & good all winter long.
5. Parsley is good with just about every food. Just try it!
Joanne's Parsley Pesto
2 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
black pepper to taste
Put all ingredients into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth and well combined. Taste and adjust ingredients as desired. Serve with hot pasta.
Rosemary (annual in Zone 5)
1. Put stems on the coals on your barbecue grill or use thick stems as skewers.
2. Minced rosemary is great on lamb, pork, and chicken. Try combining it with minced garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and rubbing the meat with it before cooking.
3. Try combining it with freshly squeezed lemon juice, garlic and oil, and using as a marinade for chicken.
4. Make an herbal vinegar or an herb butter.
5. Garnish your dinner plate with a sprig of rosemary.
Though rosemary can't stay outside in the winter, it can be grown indoors.
Al's Rosemary Roasted Vegetables
1/2 pound carrots
1/2 pound parsnips (optional)
1/2 pound turnips (optional)
2 large yellow onions
1/2 pound beets (optional)
1/2 pound white russet potatoes, unpeeled
1 head garlic
4 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary needles
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel and trim the carrots, parsnips, turnips, onions and beets. Cut into similar-size cubes. Cube potatoes. Divide garlic into cloves, peel, and cut in half lengthwise. In a very large bowl, toss all the vegetables with the oil, salt, and pepper. Spread them on large sheet pans, one layer deep. Roast for 20 minutes. Add the rosemary and toss thoroughly. Return to oven and cook until beets and parsnips are tender, about 20 more minutes. Serve hot, topped with a light drizzle of olive oil and more pepper to taste.