In high hopes that it will not snow or sleet until next winter, it's time to crack open those seed packs and get planting. As we all know, I have the black thumb and tend to kill anything I try to grow in my backyard. However, this time I've done some research and thought I would share some of the wisdom I've gained with all of you.
I started my research in the most likely place, Better Homes and Gardens, and found some great information and tips on herb growing. What I really like about growing your own herbs is how convenient it is to make supper by pulling flavors for it fresh from your own backyard. Growing up in a family that grew what they ate, I appreciate the satisfaction of partaking in something that you helped create.
First things first, let's talk herbs. Which ones should we grow? What do we do with them?
Photos courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens
Interesting Factoid: According to studies, research shows that compounds in basil oil have potent antioxidant, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties, and potential use in treating cancer.
How it grows: To sum it up in one word-WATER! Basil needs lots of water. This is the best time to plant it if you are growing it in the ground instead of a pot. It needs to be planted after winter to avoid the frost and in warm soil where it can get full sunlight.
Uses: Keep in mind, Basil is a sweet herb, as opposed to Oregano which is a little bitter. Basil is used for general seasoning of just about everything and in pesto sauce. Basil can be eaten raw in a caprese salad. Basil can act as a cure for many common things. You can read more about that by clicking here, in this article called "10 Great Uses for Basil."
Interesting Factoid: Rosemary is said to improve the memory. It is also high in iron, calcium and vitamin B6.
How it grows: Unlike Basil, Rosemary doesn't need or take kindly to "waterlogging." It grows well in an open, sunny place, where the soil can drain efficiently.
Uses: Because of its look, Rosemary is used in landscaping for aesthetic purposes, but it is also a wonderful culinary herb. Rosemary tastes great on chicken, vegetables, and in soups, stews, and stuffing. Rosemary, along with Basil, is also a good herb for infusing olive oil (but that's another blog for another day-wink).
Interesting Factoid: Ancient Egyptians used Thyme for embalming.
How it grows: Thyme grows best in a hot, sunny place with well-drained soil and is generally planted in the spring. (Perfect timing!)
Uses: Thyme is great on vegetables and pot roast. It is also one of the main ingredients in herbes de Provence. Thyme is also used (in oil form) to treat acne, fungal infections, and in all-natural hand sanitizers.
Interesting Factoid: Mint was originally used to treat stomach and chest pain.
How it grows: Mint thrives near large bodies of water and grows like wildfire, so one plant is sufficient if you are just growing it for you and your family. Mint can also grow in full sun.
Uses: Besides freshening the breath, Mint can still be used to treat stomach and chest pain. Mint settles your stomach so it's great in tea and other beverages or after meals. Mint is used to flavor all kinds of foods like jellies, ice cream, syrups, and cocktails.
Interesting Factoid: Oregano is part of the Mint plant family. Hippocrates used Oregano as an antiseptic, as well as a cure for stomach and respiratory ailments. American Soldiers brought Oregano back from Italy after WWII, referring to it as the "pizza herb."
How it grows: It prefers a hot, dry climate and grows in fairly dry soil in full sun. (Makes sense why it comes from Italy, if you are familiar with the climate there.)
Uses: Oregano is great on roasted vegetables, meat, and fish.
Interesting Factoid: Parsley attracts butterflies.
How it grows: Parsley grows best in moist, well-drained soil in full sun and germination can take 4-6 weeks.
Uses: Besides simply garnishing a dish, Parsley can be used in soup, on vegetables and meat, and in many Middle Eastern dishes like tabbouleh.
Interesting Factoid: Fennel seeds are said to improve eyesight.
How it grows: Fennel and Dill will actually cross pollinate if placed too close to each other, so keep these kids separate. Fennel can grow up to five feet tall and grows well in full-sun and well-drained soil, yet should be watered often.
Uses: Fennel seeds are used as a spice, but you can also flavor and bake Fennel or munch on it raw. In our family, it is a tradition to chew on Fennel after a large (Italian) meal because it helps with digestion.
Interesting Factoid: In ancient Greece, Dill was used to make fragrance and athletes spread essence of Dill all over their body as muscle toner.
How it grows: Dill likes heat and sunshine in well-drained soil.
Uses: One of the most common uses is pickling, but it is also used in soup and on fish.
Well my friends, this is my research so far. I am looking forward to joining forces with my sister this summer to plant a garden and keep a small green house (more to come on that). I hope this info helped you and got you excited about your gardening this year.
Special thanks goes out to Better Homes and Gardens, Wikipedia, Organic Growers, and Burpee for the photos and information.
If you are an avid gardener or have some tips for the rest of us, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you!