Since most herbs
grow well in full sun to part shade, choose a spot for your garden
that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. Make sure there is
good drainage and easy accessibility. When planning your garden, take
into consideration the height and sizes of herbs; shown below.
Herb Heights and Sizes:
Small: 1- 1 1/2 feet or less in diameter and less than 1 foot tall
Parsley, Chives, Cilantro, Fern leaf Dill (other dills grow to 3'
tall), Cuban Basil, Thyme
Medium: 2 feet to 4 feet wide, less than 2 feet tall
Marjoram, Basils (except African Blue), Tarragon, Savory, Thyme,
Chocolate Mint and Peppermint
Short but Large: 4-6 feet wide, less than 1 foot tall
Oregano, Spearmint, Orange Mint
Large: 4-6 feet wide and tall
African Blue Basil, Rosemary, Lavenders, Sages, Lemon Verbena,
Laurel (This is actually a tree but it makes a great central point
of interest to your herb garden (whether potted or planted in the
ground). It grows very slowly but will eventually reach 15-20 feet
Harvesting and Storing
optimum time to harvest herbs is in the morning, after the dew has
evaporated, prior to the sun warming their leaves. Handle the
herbs gently without bruising or injuring the leaves and stems.
The distinctive oils that give herbs their aromas and flavors are
volatile and can be destroyed if injured. Select just enough herbs
to be used, dried or frozen, the same day. Herbs should look
healthy, fresh and clean, with out any type of discoloring.
Since the flavor and aroma of herbs deteriorates quickly after
picking, be prepared to use them immediately. If you must store
them for a few hours, keep them in the refrigerator in a plastic
bag that is perforated and can breath. When you are ready to use
them, wash the herbs gently under cool, but not cold water and pat
dry between paper towels.
herbs is an easy way to store them for longer periods of time.
Clean the herbs delicately, blot them dry, and remove leaves from
the stalks. You can freeze them whole or chopped, packing into
freezer safe bags or airtight containers. Chopped herbs that are
to be used in soups or stews can be spooned into an ice cube tray,
covered with water, and frozen. When you are ready to use the
herbs, just remove what you need from the tray and add to the pot.
Most herbal flavors and aromas are released by heat. Although
fresh herbs are usually preferred, dried versions can be used.
When possible, grind whole spices in a grinder or use a stone
mortar & pestle just prior to using for enhanced flavor. Toasting
or dry roasting whole spices in a dry skillet over medium heat
before grinding will bring out even more flavor. A good rule of
thumb is to substitute 1 tsp of crumbled, or 1/4 tsp
powdered, dried herbs for each tbs of fresh herbs called
with Fresh Herbs
When using fresh herbs in cold dishes, they should be at room
temperature. When preparing a dish that requires a lengthy cooking
period, you can use a small, tied bunch of fresh herb sprigs. This
bundle is generally known as a bouquet garni and customarily
contains parsley, bay leaf, and thyme. Herbal combinations can
also be minced and added to a meal immediately upon completion of
cooking, and as a garnish before serving. This French practice is
referred to as fines herbs. It contains chopped fresh chervil,
parsley, tarragon, and chives. This blend is good on mild flavored
cuisine like salads, scrambled eggs, and dishes containing poultry
There are no
hard and fast rules when cooking with fresh herbs. Start to
experiment using small amounts to see what you like. Here are a
few ideas that will help you get started:
Try not to
mix two very strong herbs together. Try mixing one strong and
one or more with milder flavors to complement both the stronger
herb and the food.
weaker the flavor of the food (like eggs), the less added herbs
are required to get a nice balance of flavor.
are more concentrated than fresh, and powdered herbs are more
concentrated than crumbled. Each herb is slightly different but
a starting formula is: 1/4 tsp powdered herbs is equaled to
3/4 to 1 tsp crumbled or the equivalent of 2 to 4 tsp
fresh herbs, chop the leaves very fine because the more of the
oils and flavor will be released.
sparingly with the amount of an herb used until you become
familiar with it. The aromatic oils can be less than appetizing
if too much is used.
extended cooking times reduces the flavoring of herbs, so add
fresh herbs to soups or stews about 45 minutes before completing
the cooking time. For refrigerated foods such as dips, cheese,
vegetables and dressings, fresh herbs should be added several
hours or overnight before using. Note: Fresh Basil is an
exception. If you add it to salad dressing overnight or longer,
it becomes bitter.
hot sauces and picante, add finely chopped fresh or dried herbs
directly to the mixture.
butters and cream cheeses by mixing 1 tbs of finely
chopped fresh herbs to 1/2 cp margarine, butter, cottage
cheese, low fat yogurt or cream cheese. Let it set for at least
an hour to blend the flavor; then taste test on a plain cracker
or a melba round. You will gain a great feel for the dimensions
of what the flavor will be good with by taste testing in this
Flavor vinegar for use in cooking
and in vinaigrette