Category Archives: herbs

Herbs Support Pollinators Too

anise hyssop

Anise hyssop (Agastache) is a pollinator magnet.

As you peruse the seed catalogs and plan your garden for 2022, keep the herbs in mind. There is sage advice that gardeners must plant native plants to support pollinators. While that is not bad advice, I have noticed that the culinary herbs I grow in my Virginia garden, the majority of which are not native to this country, attract bees, butterflies, and moths.

I have a few native herbs such as bee balm (Monarda) and hyssop (Agastache), which I grow for tea and edible flowers. But most of my culinary herbs, my garden staples, originate from abroad. Rosemary and lavender are from the Mediterranean area, lovage and salad burnet are from Europe, and oregano and savory are from the Middle East.

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Growing Ginger for Gingerbread

gingerbread menWhen we think of gingerbread, we think of breads, cakes, and little edible men. But what is gingerbread really? Where does the “ginger” come from?

The term “gingerbread” is from Latin “zingiber” via Old French “gingebras,” referring to preserved ginger. The term “Zingiber” is derived from Greek “zingiberis” which comes from Sanskrit name of the spice “singabera.” Continue reading

Roselle: A Tropical Herb to Try in the DC Metro Area

flowerThe first time I grew roselle in my Virginia garden, I was full of angst as the summer ended with no flowers in sight. Although I know roselle is a tropical plant, I did not know it is photoperiodic. In other words, roselle is a short-day plant which means that fall’s short days and long nights encourage the flowers to form. However, here in the DC metro area, the October frosts will truncate this tropical plant’s life. That year I only had a few flowers in September and the plant died in October before I could get a good harvest. I have since learned that it is best to grow an early maturing strain in order to get a good harvest. Continue reading

Fall Is the Time to Plant Garlic

garlic in bowl

Chesknok Red, a purple-striped hardneck garlic

As fall approaches, thoughts turn to garlic. Growing your own garlic is easy and the cloves are tastier than what you purchase in a grocery store. Typically, garlic is planted in October in the Washington DC metro area but I have planted as late as Thanksgiving Day.  You may find “seed” stock (the garlic you buy to plant, not the garlic you buy in a grocery store to eat) at independent garden centers, farmers markets, online seed companies or specialty garlic companies. If garlic at your favorite seed company is sold out, try a company that specializes in garlic because they have more inventory. Continue reading

Taking Care of Your Herbs in the Fall

anise hyssop

Anise hyssop (Agastache) is a bee magnet.

As we enter the fall season our thoughts turn to saving the plants we can and knowing where to cut our losses. Many people who have been growing herbs, especially in containers, are wondering how to overwinter them for next year. On Facebook, they are asking questions such as: Will the herbs make it over the winter, should they be removed or cut back, can they be saved somehow for next year? To answer these questions, there are three things to consider. Continue reading

Lovage: The Striking Edible Perennial

Years ago, I was interviewing a long-time member of my local herb club for our newsletter. I asked her what her favorite herb was and she replied, “lovage.” I was surprised, Lovage is hardly a popular herb in this country. But she explained that lovage had many uses in the kitchen and was a good salt substitute.  Ever since then I have been interested in growing and using lovage.

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Lemon Eucalyptus: Like a Bowl of Fresh Lemons

lemon eucalyptus plant right after I purchased in beginning of May, before I planted outside

A few months ago, I was at a farmer’s market in Alexandria, Virginia, when a particular plant caught my eye. It was a lemon eucalyptus plant (Corymbia citriodora). It was about 10 inches high in a plastic container. I love lemon scented herbs – I think I am subconsciously collecting them. The seller told me it was from Australia and was not hardy here in Zone 7 so it would have to be brought indoors in the fall. Continue reading

Support Pollinator Week: Plant Herbs in Your Garden

anise hyssop

Anise hyssop or Agastache is a pollinator magnet.

This week, June 21-27, is Pollinator Week. Pollinator Week is an annual event celebrated internationally to support pollinator health. It is a time to celebrate pollinators and spread the word about what can be done to protect them. Here in the United States, people are often told to plant native plants to support pollinators. While that is not bad advice, I have noticed that the culinary herbs I grow in my Virginia garden, the majority of which are not native to this country, let alone Virginia, attract bees, butterflies, and moths. Continue reading

Growing Cilantro From Seed in the Summer

cilantro

Cilantro in early spring

I love cilantro and I plant it every year. It is easy to grow from seed although one can find small plants at local nurseries. Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is a member of the carrot family. Because of its tap root, it is best to sow seeds directly in the garden bed or in a container. Often called Chinese parsley, the leaves do look like parsley but if you rub the foliage you will smell a citrusy/woodsy scent.

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Lemon Verbena: Queen of Lemon-Scented Herbs

lemon verbenaKnown as the queen of lemon-scented herbs, lemon verbena has the clearest, sharpest lemon scent in the world of herbs. Lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) is a tropical plant that we grow as an annual in the mid-Atlantic area. Native to South America, the Spanish brought the plant to Europe where it was primarily used in perfume. In fact, lemon verbena is mentioned in the famous book/movie, Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Scarlett O’Hara’s mother Ellen used lemon verbena as her signature fragrance: “The faint of lemon verbena surrounded her, floating gently from Eleanor Butler’s silk gown and silken hair. It was the fragrance that had always been part of Ellen O’Hara, the scent for Scarlett of comfort, of safety, of love, of life before the War.” Continue reading