When people think of Edible Gardening they typically think about tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables. Herbs, however, are great crops that can be used almost immediately upon planting in cooking, teas, and potpourri. With such a large variety available to grow in the summer months, the possibilities are endless, and you’ll be saving some money from having them available to use right in your garden or on your patio.
Much like other plants, there are herbs that are both perennial and annual in our area. Some of the best perennial herbs for Hinsdale (Zone 5) are chives, lavender, mint, chamomile, oregano and tarragon. A lot of perennial herbs, however, can be quite invasive when planted in the ground. To prevent them from invading space, plant the herbs in a sunken container or in an area you don’t have to mow or maintain.
You can also incorporate herbs into your container planters. Using a tri-color sage or lemon variegated thyme not only adds some color and texture to your planters, but they add great smells too.
Another way to garden with herbs is to create a container herb garden. Strawberry jars and window boxes make great herb planters. Another advantage of having your herbs in a container is that they can be placed on your patio or deck, and closer to the kitchen. This makes snipping a few fresh sprigs of oregano for your pasta much quicker.
Creating a container garden also allows you to use annual herbs that you may need for your cooking. Some of these annual herbs that are culinary necessities are dill, basil, thyme, cilantro, parsley, rosemary and sage. All of the herbs mentioned can be planted together in a container, leaving some space to give them room to grow. While these herbs grow well here in the summer, they will need to be brought indoors for the winter or bought new each spring.
Once you have your herbs planted, you can begin using them in your cooking. Simply cut off how many leaves the recipe requires, and rinse the leaves off. To chop herbs for cooking, its easiest to simply snip them with a pair of kitchen shears or clean scissors. There are types of herb scissors that you can purchase at kitchen supply stores, but simple scissors work, too.
Here’s a few of our favorite recipes using herbs at Vern Goers Greenhouse:
Nicole’s Pico de Gallo: Fresh salsa made to enjoy at summer barbecues.
3 Tomatoes ● ½ cup chopped onion ● ½ cup chopped cilantro1 tsp salt ● 2 tsp lime juice ● 1-3 chopped serrano peppers●Directions: Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl. Chill at least one hour before serving.
Kim’s Mojito: A refreshing summer cocktail using spearmint or Mojito Mint
1oz White Rum ● 4 mint leaves ● 1 Tsp sugar 1-2 lime wedges ● Club Soda●Directions: Place the mint leaves, sugar and limes in the bottom of a glass. Muddle together. Fill the glass with ice. Add rum and top off with soda. Mix well and enjoy!
Dan’s Stuffed Chicken Breast: A great combination of fresh herbs makes this easy chicken dish delicious and quick to make.
2 oz crumbled feta cheese ● 1 Tbsp snipped parsley ● 1 Tbsp snipped basil ● 2 tsp snipped thyme or oregano ● ¼ tsp paprika ● 1 clove minced garlic ● 4 chicken breast halves ● ½ cup dry white wine
Directions: In a small bowl, combine the feta, parsley, basil, thyme or oregano and garlic. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Cut slit horizontally into the meaty side of each chicken breast. Stuff with the cheese & herb mixture into the slits. Arrange chicken pieces in a 2 quart baking dish. Pour wine over chicken and sprinkle with paprika. Bake, uncovered, in a 375 degree oven for 40-45 minutes.