Tag: herbs

Pizza Sauce Herbs

Pizza recipes are as diverse as the people who eat them. Variations in sauces, toppings and crust styles make this dish infinitely customizable. A little trick I’ve learned that enhances the flavor is adding fresh herbs. I either scatter herbs on the crust before adding the sauce and toppings or toss a few over the top after the pie is finished baking.

Grow Together

Basil – A tender annual, basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow. Plant basil after the soil has warmed in late spring. Give the plants full sun, plenty of water and fertilize every 2 or 3 weeks. Harvest regularly and pinch off flower spikes so they don’t produce seed and you should be able to harvest right up to the first frost.

Oregano – Plant oregano where it can spill over a wall, into a path or over the edge of a container. Give full sun; in the South it needs afternoon shade, very well-drained soil and a moderate amount of fertilizer. The flavor is strongest just before it blooms, but you can snip the leaves at any time.

Thyme – Thyme prefers full sun and well-drained soil and grows well as a ground cover or in a rock garden. Fertilize several times during the growing season. You can begin harvesting the first year by snipping sparingly until the plants have gained some size.

Flat Leaf Parsley – Also known as Italian parsley, this parsley has flat, serrated leaves and a slightly spicier taste that curled parsley. Grow in full sun or part shade in moist, well-drained soil. Harvest the mature outer leaves regularly to increase production. Use in containers or as an edging for beds and borders.

Marjoram – Sweet marjoram is a low growing plant that makes a nice ground cover or edging. Plant it after the danger of frost is past in full sun to part shade in well-drained soil. Harvest leaves as needed. Marjoram keeps its full flavor after it is dried.

Go Together

When the summer harvest is coming in and I have plenty tomatoes and fresh herbs, I like to cook a pizza with this simple sauce.

Ingredients

Homemade Pizza Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 6 plum tomatoes, peeled and minced
  • 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed

Directions

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until tender.

Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Simmer on low for 30 minutes to an hour.

Brush your pizza crust with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh herbs. Remove bay leaf and spread sauce over herbs. Add meat or cheese if you wish and bake. Alternatively, wait to add the fresh herbs until after the pizza is done. This will help keep their flavors bright.

Mixed Flower and Herb Garden

HerbsI am a notorious multi-tasker, constantly juggling as many activities as I can manage. However, recent studies have shown that multi-tasking is not the most effective way to get things done so I’ve been trying to be more focused. It’s a lot harder than I imagined!

Although I’ve been cutting back on my multi-tasking, it’s a characteristic that I still admire in a plant. This is why I love herbs so much. They are the ultimate double-duty plants, beautiful in the garden and useful in our homes.

There are culinary herbs for cooking; fragrant herbs for potpourris, and medicinal herbs for good health.

Try this raised herb garden design that
features both the beauty and function of herbs.
All you need is room to build an
8 foot by 4 foot raised bed in an area
that receives at least 5 hours of sunlight.
Plan of Mixed Flower and Herb Garden
Download a printer friendly plan of the herb garden design.
Adobe Acrobat Reader Required.

Sometimes the practical qualities overshadow the aesthetics herbs have to offer – their interesting forms, colorful blooms, and fragrance all add intriguing dimensions to a garden’s design. Just a few examples are the striking red flowers of pineapple sage, the round, lavender blooms of chives, and the tiny, white flowers on creeping thyme.

Caring for your Herb Garden
Soil – Herbs don’t require a rich soil, but it must drain well. Raised beds and containers are ideal for satisfying this requirement. A good soil blend is equal parts topsoil, sand and compost. If your soil is already sandy, just add the topsoil and compost.

Water – Most herbs need 1-inch of water a week. Lavender, artemisia, sage, and thyme can get by with less.

Fertilizer – Don’t over feed your herbs. An application of manure in spring and a mixture of fish emulsion diluted to half strength in mid-summer will provide all the extra nutrients they need.

Harvesting – Don’t be afraid to use your herbs. Cutting leaves and stems will make the plants a lot thicker and fuller and more productive. Harvest early in the morning, when the essential oils are strongest before the sun warms the leaves, releasing the oils.

Deadheading – Some herbs require deadheading the blooms to keep the plant productive. Basil and mint both benefit from having their flowers pinched back before they mature.

Clean Up – After the first killing frost in autumn pull up annual herbs such as basil. In spring cut back dead stems on perennial herbs like artemisia and mint. Also in spring prune overgrown herbs by removing about one-third of the plant before new growth begins.

3 Easy-to-Grow Herbs

If you are thinking about growing some of your own food for the first time, I encourage you to start with herbs. The plants are the perfect combination of beauty and function so you can plant herbs anywhere in the garden. Mix them with flowers, grow them along paths, by the kitchen door, or plant them in containers both indoors or out. They are also extremely easy to grow. All most herbs really need are average soil, good drainage, consistent moisture and sunlight.

Three versatile herbs to try are rosemary, onion chives and basil.

Rosemary

Rosemary is an aromatic evergreen and has become an indispensable kitchen herb. It is a tender perennial evergreen with a shrubby form that hails from the Mediterranean region.

Growing Rosemary

Rosemary is an easy herb to grow when you understand a little bit about its background. A native of the Mediterranean, it prefers a warm, sunny and dry environment.

It is not cold hardy throughout the country; most varieties will not survive below 15 to 20°F. Don’t let this keep you from growing rosemary. This herb is ideally suited for container gardening. Keep a pot outside your kitchen door or plant it, container and all, in the garden. Just lift it out of the ground when temperatures begin to drop in autumn and bring it indoors.

When you bring rosemary inside for winter, put it in a sunny window (south facing is ideal) and take care not to overwater it. The roots can easily rot. An occasional misting helps if it gets too dry indoors.

Uses for Rosemary

You can cut rosemary stems at any time. The fragrant blooms are edible too. In the kitchen, I love to use rosemary to season roasted chicken. I use the stems as basting brushes and as skewers. Its evergreen foliage is an asset in the garden. Rosemary is available in several forms including upright, prostrate and trailing so it can serve as an accent, low hedge, ground cover or cascading element for containers.

Onion Chives

Onion chives are a grassy looking perennial with onion-flavored leaves and purple blooms. The mild onion flavor is a tasty addition to any savory dish. Use the flowers in salads. Plants are perfect for containers!

Growing Onion Chives

In the spring, plant chives about four weeks before the last frost; or plant in fall in mild climates. They need well-drained soil amended with compost. Chives are not finicky and tolerate neglect, but will do best if you don’t completely ignore them. Water and fertilize occasionally with an all-purpose liquid plant food and divide crowded clumps every two to three years. If you harvest the leaves often, fertilize every few weeks.

After the first killing frost in autumn, cut the plants back to ground level. They will return the following spring. In sub-tropical climates they are evergreen, but you can cut them back anyway to refresh the foliage.

Uses for Onion Chives

You can harvest chives almost immediately after planting. Cut the outer leaves about ½-inch from the ground. If you cut at mid height, it will leave an unsightly stub. Chives need some foliage to stay energized, so do not cut too much at one time during the growing season.

Chives are a mild-flavored relative of (and great substitute for) onions, garlic and shallots. Their clump-forming habit makes them excellent to use as an edging and they produce an exceptionally showy flower for an herb. It’s also an easy herb to grow indoors over winter.

Basil

Basils are a favorite annual for summer. Cooks like an assortment, from the tiny-leafed spicy globe and boxwood types to the
cinnamon-spiced Thai, to the big leaves of Italian classic sweet basil.

Growing Basil

Set your plants out about two weeks after the last frost when the days are warm; basil can’t stand cold weather. When planting, add plenty of organic nutrients from compost, blood meal or cottonseed meal to the soil. Basil is not a heavy feeder, but because you’ll harvest often and it is continuously replacing the harvested leaves, feed every couple of weeks with an all-purpose, liquid plant food. Most grow about two feet tall, but the little-leafed ones are shorter.

Basil needs well-drained soil and full sun, but appreciates afternoon shade in the hottest climates. Water deeply during dry spells. Plants in pots dry out faster so water them more often. Watering is very important because drying stunts growth. Avoid splashing water on the leaves to prevent leaf spots and sunburn. In fall you can bring potted basil inside. It is quickly killed by the first cold.

Keep plants pinched and they will stay fresh and productive until fall.

Uses for Basil

Begin pinching off leaves as you need them when the plant is 6 to 8 inches tall. Remove the lowest leaves first. As it grows, harvest by pinching the tips too, to keep flowers from forming and encourage branching. Never cut the plant back into the hard woody stems; it will not re-sprout.

One of my favorite summer dishes is sliced tomatoes seasoned with salt, pepper and basil. In the garden, basil works to control pests. The aromatic oils repel thrips, mosquitoes, slugs and flies. Basil blooms are beautiful in cut flower arrangements.

10 Clever Herbs

Broaden your approach to gardening by growing easy-to-care-for herbs that you can use in your home. Plant exotic culinary herbs like coriander for enhancing Mexican or Thai dishes and cumin for Indian and Middle Eastern food or simply plant herbs that you use already in your everyday meal preparation. You can save lots of money on room sprays and other scented products for the home by growing fragrant herbs like lavender that you can cut and turn into wreaths, potpourris and sachets. And you can even make your own tea from dried herbs like thyme. Most herbs thrive in full sun and require at least five to six hours of sunlight every day.

Grow Herbs in One of Three Ways

  1. Tuck herbs in among vegetables or flowers in your garden if you want to grow lots of varieties.
  2. Plant herbs in a sunny window box if you’re limited on space in your garden.
  3. Choose just one favorite and pot it up in a container for a beautiful accent in the garden or home.

 

10 of my Favorite Herbs and Ways to Use Them

Add the cream and green leaves of pineapple mint to chopped green and fruit salads or use it to garnish summer drinks.

Pineapple Mint

Substitute golden sage for any recipe that calls for dried sage. When using fresh herbs in place of dried, double the amount called for in the recipe. This plant’s fresh leaves make a tasty addition to dressings for roast chicken or turkey.

Golden Sage

Garnish light summer meals with the petite leaves and delicate blossoms of thyme.

Thyme

Flavor desserts like cakes, sorbets and ice cream with lavender or use the highly fragrant foliage in potpourris, wreaths or lotions.

Lavender at Bonny Doon Farm

Perk up grilled chicken with the drought tolerant rosemary. The spiky leaves have a distinctive taste and it is often added to roasted potatoes or used in herbal wreaths.

Rosemary in Bloom

Grow Thai basil in containers; its flowers make dramatic addition to a culinary bouquet. Or use the leaves to top your favorite pasta dish.

Thai Basil Blooms

Spice cakes and puddings with the range of fragrances (from lemon and lime to ginger or nutmeg) of variegated scented geranium leaves.

Scented Geranium

Use chives leaves and blossoms in your favorite dishes; it is a mild-flavored relative of onions, garlic and shallots.

Chive Blooms

Let the bright greenish-yellow flowers of dill develop into dill seeds and them in pickles and vegetable salads.

Dill Flowers in the Garden

Try the fragrant foliage of pineapple sage, which looks good all season and smells faintly of pineapple, on pizza, foccaccia, gnocchi or pasta.

Pineapple Sage

Learn about growing Chinese Garlic Chives in the video below!

 

Herbscaping with Columnar Basil

You don’t need a lot of space or time to grow basil, especially columnar basil. Columnar basil grows up to 3 feet tall and 18 inches wide with small leaves and a compact form. The tall, narrow form is well suited for small spaces and containers. It’s a beautiful plant that makes a great temporary "evergreen." Plant it in a pot right outside your door for a fragrant accent that’s easy to access for recipes or use it as a seasonal hedge or border.

Greek columnar basil has a rich flavor with hints of cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. It’s a perfect companion to an entryway or patio – every time you brush the leaves you’ll get a whiff of the wonderful scent! It typically doesn’t flower, which means you’ll have a season-long supply of leaves that taste great in Italian and Asian cuisines.

Columnar BasilAs with other basils, it likes moist, well-drained soil and full sunlight and should be planted from one to two feet apart. Wherever you grow it, this aromatic herb is sure to add an element of style to your garden and a fresh kick to your kitchen.

Learn more about columnar basil and growing basil on BonniePlants.com.

Basil 101

As soon as the soil warms in late May I’m out planting basil and plenty of it because I use a lot of fresh basil during the summer in both recipes and cut-flower arrangements. I love the rich, spicy flavor with just a trace of mint and clove.

Like its cousin mint, basil is easy to grow. It will thrive in garden beds, containers or even on a south-facing windowsill indoor.

There are plenty of choices of scents and flavors when choosing which kind of basil you want to grow in your garden. Some examples are lemon, anise, cinnamon, Purple Ruffles, Dark Opal, Thai, Italian Genovese and several smaller varieties including Spicy globe, Dwarf Creek and Boxwood. Each variety offers something a little different: foliage color, aroma, size or flavor. Basil also makes excellent container plants and is easy to tuck into your flower borders. The green or purple foliage can offset flower colors and the fragrance will be welcome. Plant the dwarf varieties about 6-8 inches apart and large varieties about 12-18 inches apart in the garden. Plant several in a large container and keep it right by the kitchen door.

Basil Planting Tips

  • Basil likes the heat and will sulk in cool weather. Wait to plant until you have daytime temperatures above 70 degrees and night time temperatures above 50 degrees. Even light frosts can cause the leaves to blacken. In the fall use row covers to extend the life of basil or do a complete harvest before it gets chilly.
  • Basil requires 6-8 hours of full sun per day.
  • Plant basil in rich soil with plenty of organic matter to hold moisture and improve drainage.
  • Make successive plantings every two to three weeks at the beginning of the growing season. This will provide an endless supply of fresh basil until the first autumn frost.

Basil Care Tips

  • Mother Nature usually provides enough water for basil but water deeply weekly during dry spells. Plants grown in containers dry out faster so they will need to be watered more frequently.
  • Mulching will help retain moisture but make sure the soil is warm before applying mulch.
  • Top dress the soil around your basil with compost once or twice during the growing season or use an organic liquid fertilizer at half strength.
  • Rotate basil to a new growing spot each year to prevent fungal diseases.

Harvesting Basil

  • You can begin harvesting basil at any time by snipping fresh leaves as needed.
  • Harvest whole stems by cutting just above a pair of leaves. This will produce two stems in its place.
  • Harvest often to keep the plant full and productive.
  • Pinch back flowers to keep the plant from going to seed. This will also prevent your plant from becoming woody and lose flavor.

Basil Use and Preservation

  • Basil is best fresh, but you can preserve the leaves through drying or freezing in ice cubes.
  • Basil blends well with garlic, thyme and lemon and adds a snap to mild vegetables like zucchini, summer squash and eggplant.
  • Use basil in salads along with romaine, mint, onions and cucumbers.
  • Try adding shredded Thai basil to a stir fry right before serving.
  • For a quick side dish sprinkle sliced tomatoes with salt, drizzle them with olive oil, slip a few basil leaves between the slices and chill for one hour.
  • Basil goes well with green beans, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and spinach.
  • For something sweet make a dessert syrup using 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup lime juice and 1/4 cup water and bring to boil. Place in a blender with 3/4 cup of basil; puree, strain and pour over fruit salads or add to cocktails.
  • The best ways to store basil are in oil, vinegar or as a frozen paste.
  • Basil can also be dried and stored in a tightly closed container. Good drying combos include basil, thyme and Italian flat-leafed parsley, or basil, oregano and thyme. The flavor of dried basil is very mild so be sure to adjust your recipes accordingly.

Growing Basil

I am trying to grow some basil for cooking but the leaves are turning brown and black. I have checked and I have found no bugs and I do not over water or under water.

Basil is one of my favorite summer herbs and it is a snap to grow if you get the conditions right.

It is a tender annual that should be planted after the last frost date in your area. Cold temperatures will cause the leaves to blacken and turn to mush. Depending on when you set your plants out, this may be the cause of your problem.

The key to growing basil is to giving it plenty of sun (6 to 8 hours) and well-drained soil. Mother nature usually provides enough water for basil but water deeply weekly during dry spells. Plants grown in containers dry out faster so they will need to be watered more frequently. Avoid splashing the leaves when watering.

Basil requires very little fertilizer. I apply fish emulsion or a 05-10-05 fertilizer diluted to half strength once, maybe twice during the growing season.

For the best flavor and to promote a bushier plant, keep the blooms pinched back. And remember the more of those delicious leaves you harvest, the more the plant will produce!

Fungal problems may also cause black or brown patches to form on leaves, especially if you are experiencing a wet spring. Make sure your plants have plenty of good air circulation and treat them with a commercial fungicide that is safe to use on foods.

Cool Season Herbs

Herbs are among my favorite plants in the garden. More than just a “pretty face” not only are herbs fragrant and colorful, but they are also useful in so many ways, from culinary seasonings in the kitchen to aromatic decorations throughout the house. As signs of spring begin to emerge in the garden, I look forward to welcoming the return of my perennial herbs and to planting my favorite annual varieties.

While herbs such as basil or dill require warm temperatures to thrive there are a few varieties that can withstand a late frost so I don’t have to wait much longer to plant them.

Nasturtiums: These happy open-faced flowers with big round leaves thrive in cool spring temperatures. Both foliage and blooms have a peppery taste that I enjoy adding to salads and sandwiches. They come in an array of bright colors including these ‘Alaska Mix’ nasturtiums with variegated foliage.

Parsley: I use curly parsley as a garnish and flat leaf parsley in recipes when I want a stronger flavor. Both varieties grow well in loamy garden soil that is rich in nitrogen and in areas that get full sun to part shade. Parsley can even take some snow and cold temperatures if lightly mulched.

Johnny Jump Up: These delightful little flowers are some of the first blooms in my spring garden. Back in the 19th century the juice of the plant was often used as the main ingredient of love potions. While I can’t profess their effectiveness in that way, my other herbs seem to be quite happy to grow next to them.

Bronze Fennel: This tall, graceful plant with beautiful bronze-brown feathery foliage has an intense licorice fragrance and flavor. I enjoy it as an ornamental filler in flower arrangements and for its soft texture in the garden.

Cilantro: The foliage of cilantro is an herb commonly used in Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. The seeds of this plant are called coriander, which is another herb used in cooking. The plant grows best in cool, sunny spring weather. Once soil temperatures get hot, it will bolt and go to seed.

Arugula: Arugula is an herb often mistaken to be lettuce. Its leaves have a peppery mustard flavor with a tangy bite that really spice up salads, soups, vegetables, and meat. Arugula thrives in the spring along with other leafy greens.

Chives and Garlic Chives: Both chives and garlic chives are easy-to-grow perennials that are relatives of onions, garlic, and shallots. They have grass-like foliage that grows about 12-18 inches high. Later in the season the plants display showy flower heads. Whenever I want to use the herbs to enhance the flavor of a meal, I just trim a few leaves with scissors. The plant rebounds quickly so I can harvest more.

German Chamomile: This fast growing annual will reseed itself, so it can become a bit of a nuisance if you don’t want it to spread. However, in the right setting, the way it pops up unexpectedly can be fun. The plant produces cheery little flowers with an apple-like fragrance. You are probably most are familiar with its contribution as a nighttime tea.

Thyme: The pungent scent of thyme comes from the oil in the small oval leaves of this popular herb. It thrives in full sun and dry conditions. There are many wonderful varieties including lemon thyme and others with variegated leaves with either gold or silver highlights.

Preserving Fresh Herbs

It seems that the end of summer is when my herb crop is at its peak. This is perfect for me because it means that I have plenty of my favorite seasonings to save to use through the fall and winter. 

Freezing Herbs
Just chop the leaves of your favorite herbs, such as basil or Italian parsley, and put 1 teaspoon into each cube of an ice tray and fill with water. After the cubes have frozen, pop them out and put them into a ziplock bag for easy storage. Then when you want to add the fresh taste of herbs to your favorite soup recipe, just drop in a few of these pre-measured cubes and let the flavor melt in.

Drying Herbs
Gather the herbs in the early morning, then wash them and pat them dry. Gently remove leaves from stems – herbs such as basil tend to bruise easily.

Place the leaves in a shallow basket for air-drying. If you’re drying herbs with small leaves such as rosemary or oregano, it’s best to use a holder with a tighter weave, like cheesecloth stretched over a frame.

Cover the leaves with newspaper to keep them from drying too quickly. The drying process usually takes three to four days. Once a day, shake and redistribute them so they dry more evenly.

Once all of the moisture is driven from the leaves, just crush or crumble them and then store them in labeled, airtight jars in a cool dark place.

Herbes de Provence

Herbes de Provence is an essential ingredient in my summer kitchen. The flavor is a natural fit with so many of the dishes of the season. Mixed with olive oil, Herbes de Provence is perfect for roasted chicken or potatoes. I love to sprinkle it over homegrown tomatoes with salt, pepper and a little feta cheese.

This herb blend originates in Provence, France, down in the southwest near Italy. It is an assortment of herbs that reflect the traditional, native herbs commonly used by cooks from this region. Common herbs are thyme, fennel, sage, summer savory, rosemary, coriander, basil, anise, mint and tarragon. Lavender is sometimes added to the blend, especially here in the U.S.

Traditional cooks in the region don’t have a “mix”. Instead they use the herbs as needed to suit their tastes. Spice wholesalers are responsible for the dried blends commonly found in stores.

Herbes de ProvenceYou can easily prepare Herbes de Provence with the herbs growing in your garden. During the summer months use them fresh as a bouquet garni for soup or stew. The traditional French bouquet garni is a small “bundle” of herbs tied together with cotton string or put into a sachet or tea strainer and added to the recipe. This method makes the removal of the herbs much easier before serving the dish. It is usually comprised of parsley, thyme and a bay leaf but you won’t stray from tradition if you just use what you prefer. Herbes de Provence are also delicious chopped and sprinkled over any number of fresh veggies.

Be sure to prepare a dried blend at the end of the growing season to use during fall and winter.

My Herbes de Provence recipe includes sweet marjoram, thyme, sweet basil, rosemary and lavender. In addition to tasting great, these herbs are some of the easiest to grow. Here are a few tips to help you do just that.

Sweet Marjoram

A low-growing plant, marjoram will make a nice edging along a walk or border. It likes full sun but will also grow in some shade in well-drained soil. Harvest marjoram as needed; it keeps its full flavor when dried. It is good in salads, vinaigrettes and butters. When used in cooking should be added shortly before serving.

Thyme

A good plant for edging and ground cover, thyme’s small leaves are full of flavor. Liking full sun and well-drained soil, it needs little care. Pinching back by 1/3 in spring will help keep it bushy. Remember to never pinch the stems back into the old wood. Harvest thyme at any time and strip the leaves from the stem to store. The tiny leaves dry very fast. Use it in beans, meat stews and sauces or add to butter to use on breads.

Sweet Basil

A pretty plant coming in different colors and sizes, basil is definitely a warm-weather plant. It likes full sun and moist soil and could definitely use some afternoon shade in the hotter climates. Don’t plant out too early as they are very sensitive to cold temperatures. Basil can be harvested continually by pinching the leaves from the stems and pinching the tips of the plant to keep the plant branching and producing more leaves. Keeping the flowers pinched off will keep the plant growing and producing until frost. Use fresh with tomatoes, in soups, salads, sauces and of course, pesto.

Rosemary

An easy plant to use in borders and beds because of its evergreen quality, rosemary likes full sun and light, well-drained soil. The small blue flowers are both pretty and edible. Harvest leaves just prior to the blooming stage, hang in bunches to dry and strip the leaves from the stems to store. Use it with lamb, pork and chicken as well as in soups and stews, vegetables and sauces. It also makes good marinades.

Lavender

A beautiful plant grown primarily for its flowers and fragrance, lavender can withstand heat and drought fairly well. They like full sun with good air circulation and a very well-drained soil. They bloom in the summer and deadheading will promote continued bloom until frost. Harvest lavender stems at any time. The flowers will keep their fragrance for months when you harvest just before they open. Gather them into a bunch and hang them upside down to dry. Fresh flowers may be used in sauces, marinades and desserts.