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Growing your own herbs can be a fresh way to add some flair to your garden and dinner plate. In your garden, herbs are bee-friendly accents to flowering annuals and perennials and also add some nice aroma to your outdoor experience.
In your kitchen, herbs can add that fresh touch to just about any meal. Growing herbs in containers gives you the best of both worlds. Many herbs planted in containers can be brought in when the temperature drops, and placed by a sunny window where they can continue to spice up your life while snow covers the ground.
Before using for any culinary purpose, wash herbs to remove dust and any insects, then dry completely. Cutting back spent flowers on herb plants prevents self-seeding and makes plants bushier. Letting things flower may change the flavor of some herbs but many pollinators appreciate these smaller blooms. So, cultivate according to your goals in mind. **Although Phelan's offers herbs year-round, availability of specific varieties will vary depending on time of season and sales.**
Uses: Some culinary uses for basil include sprinkling over salads, sliced tomatoes and pizza. Basil combines very well with garlic and is a must for Italian cooking. Basil, combined with crushed garlic, breadcrumbs, lemon peel, beaten egg and chopped nuts makes an interesting stuffing for chicken.
Notes: Basil prefers hot weather, full sun, average to fertile soil and regular watering. The name is said to be an abbreviation of Basilikon phuton, Greek for “kingly herb,” and it was thought to have grown around Christ’s tomb after the resurrection.
Varieties: African Blue, Holy/Tulsi, Italian (Sweet, Large Leaf, Genovese), Lemon, Thai, Opalescent (Purple types)
Uses: A pet green for amusing your cat
Notes: Cat grasses are starts of grasses such as rye, barley, oat, or wheat. These are typically used inside for indoor cats as outdoor pets already have access to grass. They should be placed near a sunny windowsill for best plant health. If your cat likes to eat a lot of it instead of nibble, you may find that re-seeding your cat grass keeps a fresh supply coming.
Uses: Making your cat happy
Notes: Catnip grows well in average soil in full sun to part shade-drought tolerant
Uses: Commonly used as a sleep aid or stress reducer. Most often made into tea.
Notes: Grow in full sun in well-drained soil. Will re-seed readily.
Uses: Culinary uses include anywhere you'd like to add a mild onion flavor...omelets, scrambled eggs, salad, and soups. They can be mashed into soft cheeses or sprinkled onto grilled meats. Add to sour cream as a filling for baked potatoes.
Notes: Chives prefer full sun and rich, moist, well-drained soil, but are more tolerant of wet heavy soil and shade than most alliums. Used in China as long ago as 300 B.C., but were not cultivated in European gardens until the 16th century. The West first heard about chives from Marco Polo.
Cutting Celery (Apium)
Uses: Never heard of this herb? Just clip the leaves and add them to any recipe for which you would use stalk celery such as : soups or stews. It won't add the bulk that typical stalk celery offers, but it will supply celery flavor.
Notes: Prefers moist soil and part to full shade outdoors. Makes a nice windowsill herb indoors.
Cilantro / Coriander (Coriandrum)
Uses: The seed portion, coriander, has such culinary purposes as using the ground seed in tomato chutney, ratatouille, frankfurters, curries and also in apple pies, cakes, biscuits and marmalade. Add whole seeds to soups, sauces and vegetable dishes. The fresh lower leaves, often called cilantro, are popular in Mexican cuisine and can be added to salsas, salads, vegetables and poultry dishes.
Notes: Can be grown in sun, part sun or shade in any type of soil. If you are primarily using this plant for its leaves, planting in shade will slow bolting/seed production. Conversely, if you want to harvest the seeds primarily, grow it in full sun. Native of southern Europe and the Middle East and was popular in England until Tudor times. When they left Europe, many early settlers headed to America brought coriander seeds, as did Spaniards heading to Mexico.
Uses: Fresh dill weed (leaves) and dill seeds are commonly used to flavor soups and pickles. Also used by some for gas relief.
Notes: Dill likes full sun and loose, fertile, well-drained soil amended with compost. Although it is an annual here, it will readily re-seed. So, once you plant dill, you are likely to have it return each year from seed. Archaeological evidence suggests it's earliest cultivation was on the Neolithic lake shore settlements in Switzerland. Dill twigs have also been found in the tomb of Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep II.
French Tarragon (Artemisia)
Uses: A great addition to lasagna, chicken, fish, and eggs. French Tarragon is also an important component of Bearnaise sauce and Slovenian Potica.
Notes: French Tarragon likes full sun and well-drained soil and needs extra water only during very dry periods. Since many garden pests dislike the taste of Tarragon, it's a great natural alternative to pesticides. One of the four Fines Herbs, French Tarragon is an herbal mainstay of Mediterranean cuisine
Uses: An anise-flavored herb that adds zing to soups, stews, or stir-fry. Seeds, leaves, and roots can all be used. Seeds can be chewed to help with stomach upset.
Notes: Grow in full sun in well-drained soil preferably.
Uses: Many gardeners use this plant to attract bees. Others use it as an ingredient in cough syrups.
Notes: It is native to many grassland and prairie type settings in dry sandy or rocky areas. It can spread readily if allowed to go to seed...to avoid this, cut it back to 3" above ground once it has finished flowering. Prefers full sun and poor soil. Be careful not to over water. Medicinal use of this herb is said to go all the way back to the Roman empire for respiratory ailments.
Uses: Lavender can be used to add a floral and slightly sweet flavor to many dishes. It is also used in teas for its soothing aroma or as a fragrance for many herbal body care products and crafts.
Notes: Lavender is a slow growing, pest free plant that likes full sun and well-drained, sandy soil. If you do not have well-drained soil, consider adding grit to your hole at time of planting to aid in faster draining as lavender will not survive in boggy soil. Lavender was said to be one of the holy herbs used in the biblical temple to prepare the holy essence. In Roman times it was used to scent bath water and soothe the skin.
Lemon Balm (Melissa)
Uses: Some chefs add the fresh leaves to vinegar, wine, teas and beers. It is also chopped and added to fish and mushroom dishes, or added to soft cheeses. As a medicinal plant, lemon balm has been used as an aid to the digestive tract, winter illnesses, and to strengthen the immune system.
Notes: Lemon balm likes rich, moist, well-drained soil in morning sun, shade or full sun (with added moisture).It is a member of the mint family and thus an aggressive spreader. Deadheading to prevent seed formation helps keep it in check. Native to central Europe and was used by the Greeks 2,000 years ago. Thought to attract bees, sprigs were placed in empty hives or planted near residences to stimulate honey production.
Uses: Culinary uses are plentiful in Asian cooking and others. Heat from the summer sun will concentrate the oils of this plant to intensify the flavor. Use it in teas, soups, rice or anywhere you'd like a hint of citrus flavor. As a medicinal, some use lemongrass as an anti-inflammatory and to support a healthy digestive tract.
Notes: As a tropical plant, lemongrass is a perennial ONLY in very warm climates. Treat it as an annual in Colorado or grow it in pots outdoors and then bring them in to overwinter. It will grow in full or part sun or shade. Water regularly for best results. Makes an excellent container plant...keep potting up so that it does not become root bound. People have been using lemongrass for over 5000 years to flavor meals and for medicinal purposes.
Lemon Verbena (Aloysia)
Uses: The leaves of this plant are dried for tea or simply enjoyed in the garden for their fresh lemony fragrance
Notes: Even if you don't choose to make your own tea with lemon verbena....it is a gardening favorite as a scented plant. Lovely for a sensory garden as rubbing the leaves gives a heavenly lemon scent. A tropical plant, that performs well in a container. Enjoy it outside during the summer but bring it in before all danger of frost. Native to South America where is was used to flavor teas.
Uses: Mint leaves are used in teas, beverages, jellies, syrups, candies, and ice creams. Mint extracts are used as flavorings in breath fresheners, drinks, antiseptic mouth rinses, toothpaste, chewing gum, desserts, and candies.
Notes: Mint is an aggressive spreader that needs to be controlled-likes all conditions from sun to shade, little water to plenty of water. Plant in container and then plant the entire container underground to help control root spread. Mint descends from the Latin word mentha, which is rooted in the Greek word minthe, personified in Greek mythology as Minthe, a nymph who was transformed into a mint plant.
Varieties: Apple, Berries and Cream, Citrus, Chocolate, Mojito, Peppermint, Spearmint, Strawberry
Oregano, Greek (Origanum)
Uses: An important culinary herb used for its warm, aromatic, and slightly bitter taste. Dried leaves are more pungent than fresh leaves. Oregano is mostly used for flavoring meat such as mutton/lamb and is a staple in Italian cooking.
Notes: Likes well drained soil in full sun. Not drought tolerant Hippocrates used oregano as an antiseptic, as well as a cure for stomach and respiratory ailments.
Parsley: Curly and Italian Flat Leaf (Petroselinum)
Uses: Parsley is a widely used culinary herb today, valued for its taste as well as its rich nutritional content. Cooking with parsley enhances the flavor of foods and other herbs.
Notes: Parsley prefers moist, well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter and part shade to full sun. Native to central and southern Europe. The Greeks associated parsley with the Herald of Death, and used the leaves to decorate tombs. The Romans consumed parsley and also used the unique leaves for garland and decoration purposes.
Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)
Uses: Crush the leaves of this plant for a lovely pineapple scent. Many people use this plant to attract hummingbirds later in the season as they are drawn to the deep scarlet red tubular flowers that bloom in summer.
Notes: Likes moist soil in a sunny or part sun location preferably protected from wind. VERY tender and can only be grown outside once all danger of frost is gone.
Uses: Found in traditional Mediterranean cuisine. Rosemary is known for it's highly aromatic flavor and is often paired with potatoes, poultry, and breads.
Notes: Rosemary grows best in well-drained, slightly moist soil in full sun. Native to the Mediterranean region. Rosemary derives its name from Latin rosmarinus meaning dew of the sea, because it was said to only need the moisture of the sea breeze.
Uses: With a slight peppery flavor, sage is used to flavor fatty meats, cheese, stuffing, and sauces.
Notes: Sage can tolerate poor soil, but needs good drainage to thrive which makes it good for containers. A large family of over 750 species, is widely distributed throughout the world. The Greeks discovered and used sage for medicinal purposes. Considered sacred, the Romans utilized this herb in special ceremonies.
Varieties: Common/Garden Sage.
Seasonally, we sometimes offer ornamental types such as purple, tri-color, or golden sage.
Scented Geranium (Pelargonium)
Uses: The edible leaves and flowers are used as a flavoring in desserts, cakes, jellies and teas. Varieties of Scented Geraniums are known to have similar scents to citrus, mint, pine, fruit, and roses. They grow well indoors, blooming over the winter and are easy to train into small "trees." The first species of Scented Geranium was likely indigenous to South Africa. It's believed that it was brought to South Holland by ships that stopped at the Cape of Good Hope.
Varieties: Citrus (Mosquito Plant)
Uses: Stevia is a natural sweetener. The leaves can be eaten fresh or added to teas and foods.
Notes: The genus Stevia consists of 240 species of plants native to South America, Central America, and Mexico. First researched by Spanish botanist and physician Petrus Jacobus Stevus, who gave the plant his name.
Uses: Thyme is often used to flavor meats, soups and stews. It's especially tasty as a primary flavor with lamb, tomatoes and eggs.
Notes: Thyme grows best in full sun and light, well-drained soil. Ancient Egyptians used thyme for embalming. The ancient Greeks used it in their baths and burnt it as incense in their temples, believing that thyme was a source of courage. It was thought that the spread of thyme throughout Europe was thanks to the Romans, as they used it to purify their rooms and to "give an aromatic flavor to cheese and liqueurs"