As a Dietitian and a Master Gardener, you can imagine how excited I get this time of year when contemplating the endless dreams of what to plant! As an extension of my last blog on gearing up for your seasonal garden, I thought I would concentrate my focus this time on year around gardening, with perennial herbs participating as an actual part of your landscape vs. growing in containers, raised beds or designated garden areas.
Listed below are my recommended must have edibles in the landscape.
Rosemary: This is one of my longtime favorite edible plants. I have at least five bushes surrounding my patio and trailing into the front yard landscape. Because this tasteful herb is so versatile in a wide range of foods, I love to simply step outside my kitchen door, prune fresh cuttings, and use daily when cooking. Rosemary compliments well with beef, pork and poultry as well as potatoes and various vegetables which are particularly tasty when roasted. Rosemary branches can even add character to fresh cut flowers when making table arrangements!
Rosemary plants are hardy and available in many different varieties, so it is easy to choose a size and color that best fits a sunny location for your landscape needs. Not only is this a delightful culinary herb, it also has year around interest with its fragrant evergreen piney needles and long narrow sword like branches that provide a wonderful display of beautiful white, pink purple or blue flowers each spring
Bay Laurel Tree Another favorite and regularly used herb in my landscape. And yes, it is a tree! I planted mine along the partial shaded west side of the house in a semi protected location about 12 years ago and found once it grew 10+ feet tall, I needed to prune it annually. Bay leaves give fantastic flavor when preparing soups, stews, pickling brines, sauces, marinades, and poultry and fish dishes.
Sage is one more mainstay in my repertoire. This herb like rosemary adds wonderful flavor to beef, pork, poultry as well as soups and stews. As with most herbs, the newest foliage is the sweetest and most flavorful. The older, woody growth is excellent when cooking on the BBQ. If winters are not too harsh, or if it is planted in a semi protected location, this herb can add year around interest to your landscape, as it comes in a variety of colors and sizes. If it does get hit with adverse weather, it should still rebound year after year each springtime.
Thyme is a classic garden herb. The culinary uses for this wonderful aromatic herb are practically endless, and commonly added to meats, soups, salads, breads, and even jellies. Drying fresh thyme from your garden is easy and gives quick access during winter months. It also adds great flavor to meat, poultry and vegetable dishes.
Oregano This herb is actually stronger in flavor when dried vs fresh. It is highly used in Italian cooking and can be used as a flavor enhancer when preparing numerous meats, poultry, vegetables, soups and stews.
Chives Of course what is a garden …or meal without chives? Chives provide excellent flavor to meat, fish, poultry, eggs, salads, soups and stews. This goes dormant during the winter, but reappears quickly in spring. It also self seeds easily, so you may notice additional plants the following year. Their large purple or blue blooms are eye catchers in the spring and early summer.
Parsley This herb is actually a biennial plant, meaning it puts most of its energy into foliage growth the first year, followed by flowers and seeds the second year, then dies off. This is another herb that reseeds year after year. Two popular varieties are flat leaf and curly parsley. Either can be added directly to food for seasoning, or used as colorful garnish.
Remember, herbs make a beautiful landscape for year around interest and use. For more ideas on edible gardening, visit OSU demo gardens February-November at Benton County Fairgrounds or attend weekly lectures to learn more.