Perennial herbs are coming up beautifully in my garden and we’ve been enjoying fresh oregano, chives, and French tarragon in our meals. I’ve also begun sowing annual seeds both indoors and out in the garden. With herbs on the brain I have compiled a resource guide that includes many of the best articles on growing, preserving, using, and eating herbs and edible flowers from this site.
I hope you will try growing some delicious herbs this season.
Spring is happening here in Toronto. Flowering bulbs and hardy perennials are popping up in my garden quickly now and the local corner shops have begun hauling out carts full of plants to tempt us. Right on schedule, emails about basil have come flooding in.
“Hi there, I bought a basil plant a few weeks ago. I swear I’ve been doing everything right but it’s going all brown. Is it dying?”
“I only water it when the soil is dry. What am I doing wrong?”
It’s not you, it’s the plant. No, really. Of all of the herbs I have ever grown — and I have grown a good many — basil is consistently the most finicky of the lot and the hardest to get going. Don’t get me wrong, a lush basil crop is easy enough to grow mid-season when it is sunny and warm and nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50°F (10°C). The plant is surprisingly amenable to life in pots and even though I have been experimenting with basil since the start of my gardening “career” and have grown as many as 22 varieties in one season, I am still amazed by the exceptional variety of forms, colours, and flavours available. This is a fantastic herb, and my second favourite food crop to grow besides tomatoes. Judging by the questions I receive about this plant, I think it’s one of your favourites, too.
‘Cinnamon’ basil. A really pretty variety that is delicious as a tea, in deserts, or made into delicious ‘Cinnamon’ basil jelly.
Here’s a homemade holiday gift from the garden that there is still time to make. It took me about an hour and a half to make the caramel slab and I’ll probably be cutting and packaging individual caramels until the second coming, but it will have been worth it. To say that these are gorgeous and addictive is an understatement. The best way to savour them is to put one in your mouth and let it melt slowly. They’re buttery, sweet, and salty with just enough lavender and a taste of honey. I can’t get these packaged, wrapped, and out of here fast enough because I CAN’T STOP EATING THEM.
‘Doone Valley,’ a variegated creeping thyme with a lemon scent/flavour is seen here growing in my Dry Bed in and around red semperivum and a Silver Brocade Artemisia (Artemisia stelleriana).
I’ve been growing thyme (Thymus spp.) for about as long as I’ve been gardening and I over that time I have tried every variety you can think of and in a multitude of widely varying growing conditions. From raised beds to hard, clay soil, and from big planter boxes to the tiniest pots, I have put this plant through its paces to see what it will withstand. I have grown it out in the blazing sun and tucked it underneath the shade of rose bushes. I have crammed it into tight spots between rocks, and pampered it with rich, nutritious compost.
I have never had thyme as full, bushy, and glorious as I do in this garden.
The quest to preserve what remains of the fall garden bounty continues at a fevered pitch. I used to complain that I didn’t have enough green tomatoes at the end of the season, and now… let’s just say, Be careful what you wish for.
One nice way to use up the last of the herbs is to make herb-infused salts. I’ve written glowingly about them in my books — they’re use in the kitchen is endless. We use them as rubs, to flavour roasted veggies and potatoes, to season eggs, as an aromatic baked salmon crust, and as a finish on just about everything.
Sage and rosemary are common culinary companions, but I didn’t think to make a salt of it until I came across jars in a local Italian greengrocer. I initially thought that the strong, resinous herbs would limit the salt’s potential, but we keep a jar of it next to the other salts and I have found myself turning to it far more often than I imagined.
I taught a group how to prepare this particular mix in my Banking the Bounty workshop last month and recently made up a huge batch at home to give to friends as holiday gifts. I’ve provided instructions for a small batch, but it is easily multiplied.
p.s. You’ll love the way your kitchen smells as you make this.