The Budding Gardener

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PLEASE PASS THE HERBS

By Michelle Thompson

My raised bed garden is just big enough to keep me busy this time of year harvesting some vegetables and keeping on top of the watering. 

There is a portion of my garden I often forget about, because it is so low maintenance.  It’s when they become overgrown that I realize I need to start utilizing the herbs in my garden better.

 An herb is a plant with leaves or stems used for flavoring food.  Most herbs require full sun and many are easy to grow in our area.  Common ones include bay, basil, chives, cilantro, dill, fennel, lemon balm, lemon grass, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme.  Herbs can be used in cooking, crafts and teas.  They can be very fragrant.

If you have ever grabbed a sprig of rosemary the scent remains on your hands for a while. Herbs can be great pollinator plants.  Bees flock to my basil when it flowers, it is a favorite herb in my garden.

There are many types of basil. 

The most common is sweet basil; other types include purple (less sweet), lemon basil, Thai basil (licorice flavor) and cinnamon basil. 

It was after a friend gifted me with some homemade pesto that I started growing basil.  Pesto is simply fresh basil leaves, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and parmesan-Reggiano cheese (optional) blended together into a yummy paste.  Pesto can be spread on a crostini or sandwich, used as a pasta sauce or add sour cream for a dip.

When preparing caprese salad, my useful five bladed herb scissors quickly create thin strips of basil, which I sprinkle across sliced tomato and mozzarella.  Other uses of basil include, top whole leaves onto pizza, blend into sauces, puree into soups and chop it up into salads. 

Basil can be grown in 12”- 18” containers with plenty of water that drains well. Keeping the basil stems pinched through the summer encourages the production of new leaves and prevents the plant from flowering and producing seed.  Cut stems will keep fresh in water for a few days like a cut flower.  Leaves can be frozen (best flavor preservation), dried or used in making flavored vinegars or oils. 

When the first frost is predicted harvest your basil as it will turn black in cold weather. 

For additional information on herbs go to aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/vegetable/files/2013/09/EHT-079.pdf.

Michelle Thompson is a Galveston County Master Gardener and is a member of Heritage Gardeners of Friendswood. She served as HG President 2018-2020.

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