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.
chives coming back in early March
Chives are a great addition to the garden, any garden, does not matter what is growing already, add chives. These perennial herbs are great landscape edibles; they come back year after year. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are narrow, foot tall plants that can be tucked in between ornamental shrubs and flowers. Continue reading
parsley in January 2016
Parsley is one of those easy to grow landscape edibles that adds beauty to your garden and flavor to your cooking.
Here in Northern Virginia, parsley can stay green above ground in the winter.
Parsley is a biennial, it produces foliage the first year and flowers the second year. I have set aside a small area in the ground I call the parsley patch. There are enough plants so that some are in the first year (when I want to harvest foliage for the kitchen) and some are in the second year (when I want them to flower, develop seed, and drop the seed to the ground to create new plants for next year). Just for extra luck, I also scatter seeds every spring. This way I can harvest fresh parsley year round.
Parsley likes organic matter, moisture, and morning sun or dappled sun. My plants are in the ground but parsley can be grown in containers and window boxes for the summer. I grow flat leaf or Italian parsley, which is best for culinary purposes. There is a curly leaf type that is best used as a garnish.
curly parsley in summer
To harvest parsley, cut outer, older leaves at the base, leaving the core or inner, younger leaves. Cut with scissors (don’t pull) and put in a large bowl of cool water for about 20 minutes (to wash the foliage and drown any bugs). Pat dry and cut the leaves and stems into small pieces with scissors or a knife.
I use parsley for my bean stew, roasted vegetables, roasted potatoes, pasta, and salads. I have used leaves for garnish for holiday dinners and plates of fruit. In addition to its flavor, parsley has high levels of vitamins A, C, and K, plus a high level of chlorophyll that freshens your breath!
Today’s “You Can Grow That” falls on July 4. “You Can Grow That” is a collaborative effort by gardeners across the nation to encourage others to grow something by posting about a plant on the fourth day of the month. Because today is Independence Day, I chose to write about hyssop, a popular colonial herb. Hyssop, Hyssopus officinalis, was introduced to the Americas by John Winthrop, Jr., in 1631. It is documented that he brought hyssop seeds, along with other herb seeds, from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It is also documented that Quaker farmer and America’s first botanist, John Bartram, grew hyssop in Philadelphia. George Washington grew this herb at Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s records mention hyssop at Monticello. Bernard McMahon, a Philadelphia nurseryman, included hyssop in his list of kitchen herbs in his book, The American Gardener’s Calendar, published in 1806.
Traditionally, hyssop has been grown for medicinal and culinary qualities. Hyssop tea helps with chest congestion. As an antiseptic, hyssop has been used to heal wounds. The leaves have a menthol taste and can be used to flavor green or fruit salads, make tea, or used in preparing meat or game dishes. Flowers are used as a garnish or in salads. The leaves and flowers can be used fresh or dry (they dry well). Hyssop also is used in perfumes, liqueurs, and wines and as a strewing herb.
Today, hyssop is popular as a landscape edible and beneficial plant for pollinators. Hardy to zone 3, it is a perennial in my Virginia garden which is partly why it was so popular with the colonists. It comes back year after year and seems to be deer and pest resistant. I certainly have had no problems with mine. Hyssop has dark green, lanceolate leaves that are opposite to each other on the stem and each pair is at right angles to the one above, giving a whorled appearance. The plant is bushy if left to grow to its height of 2 to 3 feet but can be clipped to be a border plant. Mine rewards me with purple flowers from June through August but there are white flowered and pink flowered types as well. The flowers are small but many on a stem, which can be cut for flower arrangements.
Hyssop can be grown in full sun or morning sun to afternoon shade, in well-drained soil, with little or no fertilizer. It is easy to grow from seeds, cuttings, or division and usually the large nurseries will carry it in the herb section in the spring to early summer.
Posted in Edibles, Events, herbs, landscape edible, You Can Grow That!
Tagged colonial, Fourth of July, herb, hyssop, Independence day, landscape edible, pollinators
You can grow lemon balm. One of the easiest herbs to grow, lemon balm is a perennial bush grown for its lemon scented leaves. Lemon balm thrives in morning sun and afternoon shade in my Virginia garden and comes back in the spring, reaching about 2 feet tall by early summer. Hardy to zone 4, lemon balm co-exists well with other plants in the garden, serving as a beautiful green “landscape edible” but also as a pollinator plant. Its botanical name, Melissa officinalis, refers to the bee attracting white flowers (“Melissa” is Greek for “bee”) and long-serving medicinal qualities (“officinalis” refers to historical medicinal value). Actually, lemon balm’s medicinal value dates back over 2,000 years but for my family I tend to focus on lemon balm’s culinary uses. Fresh leaves add lemon flavor in baked goods such as pound cake, muffins, scones, and cookies; fruit salad; sorbets; butters; cheese; and fish and chicken dishes. Plus, the leaves’ wrinkly texture provide visual interest as a garnish in fruit salads, drinks, and desserts.
Out of all the herbal teas, lemon balm tea taste most like black tea, without the caffeine. I use the dried leaves for hot or iced tea either alone or as a base to which I add more pronounced fruity flavors from other plants. In the spring and summer, I pick the leaves as I need them or shear the entire plant down. The plant revives quickly and a second shearing can be done before the fall.
Lemon balm is easy to grow from seed but also cheap to buy as a small plant. If a friend has it, get a stem cutting and root it in water. As a member of the mint family, lemon balm roots easily but this species is not as invasive as mints because it spreads by seed instead of runners. Mine has never spread but I have used it to make great gift plants.
You Can Grow That is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage others to grow something. Visit http://www.youcangrowthat.com/blogs/ for more entries on the fourth of the month.
Parsley is one of those easy to grow landscape edibles that adds beauty to your garden and flavor to your cooking. Here in Northern Virginia, parsley can stay green above ground all winter long (I took this photo in January 2016).
I always use parsley fresh, not dried, partly because I have several plants in my garden, year round. Since it is a biennial, I sow seeds every spring to ensure that I have plants. Mine are Italian Gigante from Renee’s Garden which is a type of flat leaf or Italian parsley, best for culinary purposes. There is a curly leaf type but that is best used as a garnish. Parsley can be grown from seed or can be bought as a small plant from the local nurseries in the spring/summer. Sometimes, if a plant begins to flower before I am able to harvest the leaves, I let it flower and set seed so the seed can drop and germinate next year. I started growing parsley years ago and now have a string of plants just beneath the deck, in a place that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. Parsley likes organic matter, moisture, and morning sun or dappled sun. My plants are in the ground but they also can be grown in containers and window boxes.
To harvest, cut outer, older leaves at the base, leaving the core or inner, younger leaves. Cut with scissors (don’t pull) and put in a large bowl of water for about 20 minutes (to wash the foliage and drown any bugs). Pat dry and cut the leaves and stems into small pieces with scissors or a knife.
I harvest leaves for my bean stews, roasted vegetables, pierogis, pasta, and salads. I have used leaves for garnish for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners and on plates of fruit.
Known for vitamin A, C, and K, parsley’s high level of chlorophyll also freshens your breath!
You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage others to grow something. Click on the logo to read more posts.
chives coming back in early March
Chives are a great addition to the garden, any garden, does not matter what is growing already, add chives. These perennial herbs are great landscape edibles; they come back year after year. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are narrow plants, about a foot tall, so they can be tucked in between ornamental shrubs and flowers as long as they receive full sun. In my Virginia garden, my plants are already poking through the soil in early March and I can’t wait to cut the leaves for scrambled eggs, chive butter, and mashed potatoes.
To keep up with my family’s demand for fresh chives, I have several plants so after I cut the leaves back on one, I leave that plant alone until it rejuvenates and then harvest the leaves of another plant. Usually we are harvesting the leaves so often we do not see the pink, clover-like flowers but the flowers themselves are edible and pretty in a wildflower-country-garden-way.
In the spring, I divide my current clumps to create more plants, both for the garden as well as for friends. Chive can be grown from seed but it may take a while for the plants to mature to harvest so it is best to buy a few small containers in the spring and tuck them in different places in the garden (near the door so you can pop out with scissors before dinner). I always wash the foliage of course before eating but I have never seen pests.
To make chive butter, simply let the butter come to room temperature, stir in chopped chives to taste, then refrigerate in a container. This can be done with soft cheeses as well. Chives can be preserved in the freezer, dried, or in ice cubes. Chives also can be used in herbal vinegars. Fresh minced chives add green to potatoes, soups, and rice dishes. Really, chives are so versatile in the kitchen and so easy to grow in the garden, there is no reason not to have them in your garden.
variegated sage in May with purple flowers
Most people know about sage, it’s that dry, gray, crumbly herb you use when you make stuffing for Thanksgiving stuffing. True enough, the plant is an herb but it also adds beauty in the garden. Re-think culinary sage (Salvia officinalis) as a landscape edible: drought tolerant, pest resistant, and full season interest! Sage plants grow like small woody shrubs, up to a few feet tall, and their leaves remain all year long in my zone 7, Virginia garden. Sage plants are usually grown for the leaves, but the summer brings small, purple flowers, attracting pollinators for the rest of the garden. Both the leaves as well as the flower spikes can be cut for flower arrangements. Leaves can be solid green, variegated with cream or yellow, gray, gray/green, blue/gray, purple, or tricolor (pink, green, and white leaves). As the year progresses, the tone of the color seems to change with some cultivars – this one in the photo seems to change from light green/yellow variegated to a gray/cream color by September. No matter what the color, all the leaves are edible. You can pick leaves when you need them without altering the shape or you can take a branch from the back and strip and dry the leaves for cooking or tea. Sage plants prefer full sun and well drained soil on the dryer side, think Mediterranean. Although you can start the species from seed, check out the many cultivars that are available now for the full spectrum of foliage interest. You can grow sage as a small shrub for your landscape!
variegated sage in September, changing from light green to gray
variegated sage in April with light new growth