If you are a regular reader of this column, you know that I love to grow and use herbs. Herbs are easy to grow, beautiful, fun, and rewarding to use. Most of them are as easy to grow as common vegetables. Whether you use them in formal herb gardens or interplanted with your vegetables or landscaping, you can always find space in a garden for a few herbs.
Botanically speaking, an herb is any plant that dies back to the root each year. But by horticultural or culinary definition, an herb is a plant that is used as an ingredient for health, flavor, or fragrance.
Most of us routinely use herbs when cooking. Even an average cook knows how to use sage when stuffing the Thanksgiving turkey, chives on a baked potato, and garlic on garlic bread. But, you haven't really tasted any of these dishes until they are made with fresh herbs directly from the garden. My Grandma Kinsel always insisted that stuffing just wasn't stuffing without "fresh" sage!
Consider herbs for your garden this year. For those of you without a garden, many herbs grow well indoors, too. Here are a few more facts about herbs.
- Culinary experts classify herbs into two groups: robust herbs and fine herbs. Robust herbs are added while food is being prepared or cooked, while fine herbs are eaten uncooked in salads or sprinkled over a cooked dish.
- Use less dried product by weight or volume, but experiment with fresh herbs to adjust quantities.
- Italian seasonings include such herbs as basil, oregano, fennel, flat-leaf parsley, and garlic (or garlic chives).
- Mexican assortments would contain cilantro (coriander), basil, Chile peppers, and tomatillo.
Herbs are available as seed or transplants. All the annual herbs come easily from seed. Perennial plants such as rosemary, thyme, and sage are most successful when grown from plants or rooted cuttings. Once started, herbs experience relatively few problems from insects or diseases. Many of the strong odors and tastes of herbs have evolved to ward off or discourage insects.
If you would like to know more about growing and cooking herbs, attend our upcoming Four Seasons Garden Series program on Herbs on Tuesday, April 8th at 1:30 p.m. at the Extension offices in Peoria and repeated on Thursday, April 10th at 7:00 p.m. at the Extension office in Havana. The program is broadcast statewide using distance technology. Pre-registration is available online at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/fmpt or call 309-543-3308309-543-3308