Let’s Grow Herbs!

With my apologies to those of you still having winter in May…Let’s grow fresh herbs!

Henry invites you to take a small tour of the patio. He’s very diligent about checking out each and every pot – mostly to see if it provides a tasty snack or better access to the palm overhead.

Fresh herbs are an amazingly easy way to spruce up almost any dish. Thankfully you can buy a wide variety of herbs packaged in the grocery store but many people don’t realize how easy it is to grow your own.

You don’t need a big garden either. I have very little sun or space in my current yard for a garden so I have all my herbs in pots on the patio.

Come take a look!

THYME is one of the herbs that I throw in almost everything from soups and sauces to salad dressings. This is standard thyme (also called English thyme) but you can also get flavored plants as well. Lemon thyme is my absolute favorite and will be joining the patio pots after the next trip to the garden center.

One of the great things about thyme is that when it is fresh and tender, you can just toss the sprigs into your recipes without even stripping the tiny leaves off the stems. It adds a nice bright flavor and is one of the herbs that I think is DISTINCTLY different and better fresh than in dried form. Dried thyme always tastes like turkey dinner to me while fresh is much more light and grassy. Easy Skillet Chicken with Herbs, one of my favorite recipes, uses lots of fresh thyme and rosemary.

Speaking of grassy, TARRAGON is another of my favorite herbs. With its very mild, slightly anise flavor, tarragon is great added to salad dressings or sprinkled on top of grilled or sautéed vegetables. One of my favorite uses for tarragon is very simply added to boiled new potatoes with butter.

Although I used dried tarragon in the recipe for Chicken with Tarragon Vinegar, using fresh tarragon makes a huge flavor difference. If you make Herb Roasted Chicken, you’ll use tarragon, thyme, and rosemary to make the best bird you’ve ever eaten.

Over on the other side of the patio in a very sunny area, I have a little collection of pots (and, of course, an orange cat).

Henry is sampling the mint. The small pot in front is my sad, decimated SAGE plant. It gave up its leaves for a good cause, Pork Chops with Tomatoes & Sage. At the end of summer when the sage is huge, I cut it back and hang the leaves up to dry so I have plenty of sage to make my mom’s Bread & Sage Dressing for Thanksgiving.

This ROSEMARY bush is at least 6 years old. I can leave it outside all year round here in Florida, but even when I lived in the frozen north I would bring my rosemary inside to a sunny spot for the winter. Rosemary is another herb you can easily dry on your own when your plant is getting wooly bully and out of control.

Rosemary is great in so many recipes. It is a sturdier herb than some of the leafy ones so it can withstand much higher cooking temperatures of grilling and roasting so it’s often associated with meatier dishes. One of my favorite recipes for rosemary is Fig & Rosemary Pork Tenderloin, but it’s also wonderful in baked goods like this focaccia. At least once a week, I grab a big bunch of rosemary and toss it with vegetables (potatoes, zucchini, bell peppers, and onions) and a little olive oil. Plop them in the grill basket and go!

Here is my OREGANO pot hosting a groovy yard art bird made from forks and spoons. When I’m gathering up rosemary for grilled veggies, oregano often goes in there too. It’s a staple in spaghetti sauce and other pastas. Fresh oregano has a strong flavor so a little goes a long way. If you haven’t tried Chicken with Spicy Roasted Tomatoes, you’re missing one of the easiest and tastiest chicken dishes around and the primary reason I grow oregano.

MINT! You’re going to need it for Mint Juleps and Mojitos but also for salads like Tabbouleh and Couscous with Peas & Mint. I often toss a handful of mint leaves in a regular green garden salad for a little extra zip!

I always have at least 3 BASIL plants going because I seem to use it the most. You can’t make a Caprese Salad without it. Once you get a big basil plant really rocking by the end of summer, you can make a big batch of Pesto. Make extra and put it in small containers in the freezer. There is nothing better in mid-February when it’s gray and ugly outside than pulling out some bright green pesto from the height of summer.

(There is a basil recipe coming tomorrow that is going to blow your mind.)

Even though I’m pretty sure there is not enough sun for them in their current location, I have 2 tomato plants in pots this year. I might have to sneak them around to the front of the house and disguise them behind a knockout rose so they can bask in the sun. Florida is weird for tomatoes. Don’t get me started about the ones in the store…

Speaking of Florida and growing weird things, imagine how surprised we were to find THIS PINEAPPLE in our garden! The people who lived here before us planted the top off a pineapple and every other year we get one or two pineapples. They’re amazingly sweet if you can get to them before the critters do. I had no idea that you could just lop off the pineapple top and put it in the ground but here’s all the proof I need. This little guy is currently about the size of a very prickly baseball.

I’m very excited to have a new lemon tree in the yard this summer! So far, we have planted a lime tree (which I love), a tangerine (which needs to get busy) and now a lemon tree. We also have a huge grapefruit tree that is taller than our house. It’s showing its age so we figured we’d better plan ahead for some new citrus. I’ll keep you posted…there are teeny, tiny little lemons on this little guy right now.

That’s the tour of herbs, cats, and sundries.

Herny says so long. He’s off to eat the palm!

What’s growing in your garden?

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17 Responses

  1. I envy you your rosemary plant. I haven’t had much luck bringing a rosemary inside. It seems to miss the outside and slowly gets brown. But I do have a nice bay leaf tree that stays inside during the winter and goes on the front porch in the summer. As last year’s Mother’s Day gift, my family promised to build me a new herb garden. I’ll send you pics when it is done.

    I also make herbed vinegar with my herbs. Another thing about pesto. You can make it with other herbs besides basil. I’ve made oregano (because I have lots and lots of oregano), thyme (a pain due to the little leaves), lemon thyme (the only pesto that I didn’t like. I guess not every green herb can be used), and sage (fantastic on pork).

    1. Oooh, a bay leaf tree is another great idea! I think I’ll be making a trip to the garden center. I always look for excuses to go there since they have the most adorable black kitten who I would steal in a minute. I go visit and carry her around so much that people often think I work there. 🙂

      Great idea about vinegars flavored with herbs. Pesto too! I made arugula pesto that was to die for. Can’t wait to see your herb garden. I’m sure it will be fabulous and contribute to my ever growing garden envy!

  2. Claudia, thank you for posting the lovely pictures of your very healthy looking potted herb collection! In addition to mint, basil, parsley, thyme, dill, chives (regular and garlic), and rosemary, I now have a potted French lavender plant (a gift from one of my students). Never had success with lavender before, but this one is growing like crazy. Did some culinary research and found that lavender can be used like rosemary. I believe it is found in the mixture known as herbs de Provence. You are also supposed to be able to use the flowers in salads. I love cooking with fresh herbs and add them to everything. I tie sprigs of rosemary and thyme with twine and throw them into my pressure cooker when I make bean soup. I wish cilantro would grow in our hot Florida summers, but I only have luck with it in the cooler months.

    1. Chives! I need chives! I also have a lavender plant that I’m hoping will succeed in spite of the humidity. I had great success growing it up north. I bought some dried lavender at the Spice & Tea Exchange in Winter Park (LOVE that store!!!) that I’m going to use for lavender creme brulee. I’ll keep you posted.

  3. I LOVE HENRY!!!!! He is so cute and friendly to share his patio with us.
    I want a lemon tree. Thank you for that….never thought about one until you mentioned it. 🙂
    Your herbs all look great. I’ve only got rosemary, cilantro, basil and parsley. My parsley is going crazy and the funny thing is, I don’t even like parsley. So why did I plant it? Oh, you probably don’t have an answer for that. pffft.
    Can’t wait to see the recipe that is going to blow my mind; such a tease!

    1. I bought a Eureka Lemon which is supposed to be the closest to the lemons you get in the grocery store. Most of the lemons I’ve found are Meyer Lemons which I like but are not the same. I’m pretty sure the neighbors already think I’m crazy, but just wait until I get to go out and pick lemons and should “Eureka!”

    1. I wish I could grow lettuce – especially arugula! Too hot here and I don’t have a good spot for a vegetable garden. I had big gardens in both Minnesota and Michigan. I miss them big time!

  4. Thanks to you, I am now singing… “Lemon tree, very pretty, lemon tree, very sweet…”
    Sadly, they don’t grow here.
    However, you might have convinced me to start an herb garden. And by “me” I mean my husband. I’m not the gardener around here, I just give orders… erm, suggestions. 😉

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