Herbs: Are You Going To Scarborough Fair?
I’m sure you remember the famous Simon & Garfunkel version of the old English ballad Scarborough Fair. It contains the refrain “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme” which was also the title of their well received 1966 album. These famous lyrics immortalized these four widely grown herbs for a whole generation of folks.
There are dozens of cultivated herbs beyond these four, many of which are used for their culinary delights, others for more medicinal or holistic uses. Many are used for their therapeutic characteristics. All of them are easy to grow and offer the home gardener opportunities to expand their culinary horizons. Here are some examples:
- Basil – A very popular warm weather annual; member of the mint family. Several plants will produce a sufficient harvest for an average family. Great with any tomato based recipe. Medicinal uses include digestive tract and nervous system treatments. It has both antioxidant and antibacterial properties.
- Bay leaf (Bay Laurel) – Woody perennial shrub; leaves fresh or dried are used for culinary flavoring in many cultures. Like basil, it has many medicinal properties and contains powerful essential oils.
- Borage – A warm weather herbaceous self seeding annual with “mild cucumber” flavored foliage. It has beautiful blue flowers that attract pollinators and beneficial insects. It is a great companion plant for tomatoes, strawberries, and various squash varieties.
- Chives – Culinary perennial related to onions. Flowers are edible and attractive to bees and butterflies. Excellent companion plant when used as a border and it repels many unwanted insects and animals.
- Cilantro / Coriander – In America it is a well known leafy annual used as a garnish and flavoring and is frequently added to Mexican recipes. It produces seed referred to as “Coriander,” which is also widely used in cooking. Both have a myriad of culinary and medicinal uses.
- Dill – An aromatic annual, herbaceous fern like plant related to celery. It has incredible medicinal properties that impart numerous health benefits and is widely known for its tangy culinary characteristics.
- Fennel – A perennial, fern-like herbaceous plant related to carrots. The Anise like flavor of its greens and seeds make it popular world-wide and frequently used in making sausage. Fennel also has numerous medicinal attributes.
- Garden Cress – AKA pepper grass is a cool season annual, grown for its delicate peppery flavor. It’s also grown for salad sprouts or micro greens.
- Lemongrass – Tender perennial, fragrant, lemon scented herb widely used in Asian cooking. It has many therapeutic uses in aromatherapy and essential oils. Lemongrass also has many medicinal uses in Eastern cultures.
- Marjoram – Tender perennial with fragrant leaves and flower. Culinary uses include various dressings and seasoning for meats.
- Mints – One of the most popular herbs with dozens of varieties available within the family. It’s an aggressive perennial so care must be taken in planting. Mints are used for a myriad of culinary purposes. They are frequently added to beverages, jellies, and salads. They have many medicinal uses. Some varieties are an excellent repellent for insects.
- Oregano – Tough, hardy perennial that has many culinary uses as well as medicinal and therapeutic properties. It’s nutrient dense because it contains many vitamins and minerals. Its foliage is very fragrant and aesthetically handsome making it an excellent boarder plant for any garden.
- Purslane — Succulent like herbaceous annual with mild flavor and crunchy texture. Tastes similar to spinach or watercress often used in salads and sandwiches. Unfortunately, it has been viewed as a weed; it should be looked upon as a highly nutritious, delicious, edible addition to any herb garden.
- Tarragon – Perennial herb related to sunflowers. It has been cultivated for its medicinal properties as well culinary uses for hundreds of years. It’s exceptional in soups and as a seasoning for meat dishes. It is one of the important ingredients in French Béarnaise sauce. Therapeutically, it’s an excellent antioxidant and has natural blood thinning properties that help prevent the clumping of blood platelets; good for circulatory health.
Herbs are thus a wonderful addition to any garden. They’re easy to grow, thrive when given plenty of sunlight and require little maintenance. Most prefer well aerated sandy loam soils and they’ll grow in a wide soil pH range. They tend to resist most insect problems and when given enough room and air circulation, they’re disease resistant too. Come in and visit us to see our fine selection of Van Putte grown herbs to add to your garden. We’ll turn you into a herbalist before you know it!
Written by: Rick Stecher, Garden Center Manager
Success with your gardening Naturally!