Meet Herb

You know, it doesn't seem to matter how much time they spend outdoors, most herbs will eventually end up indoors in one way or another. Whether in their entirety or in bits and pieces, somehow they just seem to migrate into the house.

Every few days throughout summer I make a point of doing up a mixed sauté. It's an ever changing mixture of vegetables and herbs fresh from the garden that always seems to begin with onion and garlic stir fried in oil and then augmented by snow peas, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, red peppers, cauliflower florets, carrot slices, Swiss chard stems, the list is as endless as the harvest from your garden. The final additions are minced basil, savory, celery leaf, tarragon, lemon thyme, fennel leaves, and perhaps a splash of soy. When served over rice or pasta it's wonderful.

To preserve this "fresh from the garden taste" even in winter, some herbs, like rosemary, do well in containers and treated as potted plants; or you may find you want to preserve them in any of a variety of ways. Over the next couple of months we'll be exploring the various ways of moving herbs indoors, whether it be bringing the plants themselves in to continue growing or preserving them.

A thriving indoor herb garden depends, first and foremost, on good lighting, such as you would get from a large south-facing window or sunroom. You'll have better luck with annuals if you reseed them into containers in late summer for growing throughout the winter. Perennials should be potted all summer and then the whole pot can be shifted inside in fall. Following is a quick rule of thumb:

Basil: rather than digging it up, consider reseeding in mid-August directly into the container. Use an 8 - 10 inch pot and seed around the edge of the container, then thin as they develop to leave yourself five well spaced plants which should yield nicely throughout winter if the light conditions are at their best.

It's also a good idea to reseed other annuals such as chervil, dill, coriander, and summer savory.

Parsley: because of its long ranging roots, this one can't be restricted to a small container, you need to put it into at least a 12 inch pot. If you are digging it up from the garden in fall, be careful to keep as much of the root intact as possible. Some of the foliage will die, but it will soon grow again and continue to sprout throughout the winter. Fertilize it once a month for optimum growth.

Tarragon, thyme, oregano, mint or savory can all be set in large pots in the spring and left outdoors for the summer. They can be left outdoors till early December simulating a sort of winter rest period for them before they come indoors to continue the growing season.

Chives and other Alliums: sometime in September or October, fill several 8 inch bulb pots with garden soil. Close enough so that they rub together, push into it single shallot bulbs, cloves of garlic, multiplier onions and even cloves of wild leeks. Setting different ones into the same pot makes for an interesting harvest. Set the containers into someplace that is uniformly cold (between 35 and 40 degrees) the fridge or garage will do nicely and if it occasionally dips below freezing, no harm done. Early in the new year, bring the containers slowly into a warm bright place, simulating the slow change to warmth that spring brings. Snip the new growth for use in salads, omelettes, sauces, herbed butters and herbed cheese.

The more tender herbs such as rosemary, sage, bay, ginger, lemon verbena and the scented geraniums have to winter indoors or they will not survive. Best to keep them pot grown year round and just shift them from the outdoors to the indoors and back as the seasons change. Rosemary does particularly well indoors because it adapts better to lower light than most others. Make sure that the room is not excessively hot or dry, a misting twice a week will keep the foliage fresh.

Well . . . that's it for another month. Next month we'll look at some preservation methods.

Keep smiling . . .


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