I cannot describe how passionate I am about herbs. I created our Potager Garden not only because my daughter Taylor wanted a 'kitchen' garden, it was also because of the warm, cozy feeling you get when you say 'Potager'. I love meandering along the garden path, my leg brushes gently across the herbs overflowing out of their imaginary confines... and then the delicious scent wafting up to me... I can't help but pluck a few leaves off, rolling them between my fingers to get the oils moving and then breathing in that aroma... a bit of heaven on earth in the garden. I believe that is why God created the very first place to be a garden filled with herbs and all pleasant things to eat. I think there is a gardener in everyone, even if that thrill hasn't reared itself yet... how can anyone not just 'feel' different in a garden? Last summer Neil and I were in Columbus, Ohio and I was so blessed with being able to walk through the gardens of the Conservatory there... they even had a Farmer's Market going on! As I walked through their Potager I slowed down to take in all the beauty... the cherry tomatoes hanging abundantly, the Okra blooming, Rainbow Swiss Chard flourishing... the trellised dwarf apple trees, grape arbors abounding... it was a feast for the senses. Before that experience, I'd only dreamed of going to a Conservatory in photo's that I had seen from friends and in magazines... it exceeded my greatest expectations.
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Herbs... once I get started it's hard for me to stop. So I decided to grab some of my seed catalogs and spend some quality time with them. I started into one of my favorites, Richters (www.richters.com) . Although they are located in Canada, and shipping can be a bit on the high end, this is one of the best catalogs out there for herb varieties with very in depth descriptions. They sell not only seeds, but plugs and potted plants as well! I have always had much success with all of the above from them.
The other day I gave a listing of a few of my favorite varieties, and as I got thinking, it might be nice to include a few more.So lets start with Lavender
- I included a couple Lavender recipe's in my previous post! I love lavender as much as I love Basil. Although I don't use lavender in the kitchen as much as basil, I do have it in just about all my perennial gardens. There are 30 varieties in Richters catalog alone! Like I said, incredible variety!
*=Cold Hardy zones ranging in between 4-9- be sure to read labels and descriptions for exact zone hardiness!Richter's list the four main groups of Lavender which include:
English*, Folgate*, Hidcote*, Lady (6-8) I've had some success in a very sheltered area with winter coverage of mulch, Lavance, Loddon, Melissa*, Munstead*, Pink Perfume*, Provence*, Jean Davis or A.K.A Rosea*, Sachet*, Twickel Purple*Lavandin Group:
Fred Boutin*, Gros Bleu, Grosso*, Provence*, Seal*, SuperFrench Group:
French, Kew Red, Purple Ribbon, French Long, FragantOther Lavenders:
Ferleaf, Spanish Eyes, Spanish, Goodwin Creek, Spike, Sweet
The main varieties that I have stuck with are Hidcote, Munstead, Provence and Grosso.
Grosso is what I grow in my cut flower garden. It is wonderful for bouquets with it's long sturdy stems and large violet flower heads... and oh, the aroma is heavenly!
Basil is my staple herb all year! I dry my own through the summer so I am never without during the winter months. Again, Richters list 46 varieties! You will be hard pressed to find a better selection... and if you do I WANT TO KNOW ABOUT IT.... please & thank you
Lavender is an Annual and really doesn't do well brought in during the winter months... it's an 'annual' for a reason. Although you can certainly give her a head start in the house by seeding some right NOW! Yes you can- just don't over due it and plant an entire package of seeds... just take about 10 seeds and you should get at least 70% germination success. Once they sprout and grow about 3 inches tall with at least 4 'true' leaves, go ahead and transplant into larger, roomier pots. Let the plant get at least 6"-8" tall before you start plucking off the leaves. Also, be sure to take leaves off just above a 'node', that is what will make your plant get nice and bushy. Once the warmer weather comes, I don't recommend transplanting again, just be sure to put them in large enough containers that you can keep them in through the warmer months.
Here is Richter's list seperated in the groups as they have them. an * next to it means these are the varieties that I grow and have very good success with.Sweet Group:
Medinette, Napaletano, Sweet*, Nurar F1Genovese Group:
Genovese*, Compatto FT, Dolly, Edwina, Emily, Gecofure, Marian, Martina, Envigor, Superbo, Bush*, Greek Bush*, Purple Bush, Spicy Globe*, Globette, Green Globe, Pistou*, MarseillesPurple Group:
Ararat, Dark Opal*, Osmin, Rosie, Rubin*, Purple Delight, Purple Ruffles*, Red Genovese (this is a new one that I am planning on trying this year!)Other Specialty Group:
Indian, Anise*, Cinnamon*, African Blue, African Spice, Lemon*, Pesto Perpetuo*- my favorite, Lime*, Sacred- Green or Purple, Oriental Breeze, Spice, Thai*, Queenettr Thai, Siam Queen Thai*, West AfricanOthers that are not listed here that I use
: Lettuce* and Large Leaf*- these are my next favorite's after Pesto!
I love Pesto. Each summer when my herbs are in full swing I get my blender out and start making itin large batches to put in the freezer for the cold winter months. I put it in 1 cup freezer containers so our family can enjoy all winter long. But if you didn't do that, you too can enjoy by using dried herbs!
Here are a few really yummy alternative's to regular pesto, give'em a try!
I've given options for both fresh and dried herbs. This way you can enjoy this year round!
2 cup fresh basil or 1/2 cup dried
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves or 2 Tbsp. dried
6 garlic cloves, peeled or 2 Tbsp. minced dried
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup pecans
1 1/2 cup extra virgin Olive Oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor, blend thoroughly. Oh so good!Olive Pesto
This is super yummy on homemade pizza or to use when grilling fish!
3/4 cup Calmati Olives, pitted
1/2 cup fresh parsley or 2 Tbsp. dried
1 cup fresh Basil leaves or 1/4 cup dry
2 shallots, peeled
2 garlic cloves, peeled or 1 tsp. minced dry
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. pepper
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor, blend thoroughly.Lemon Balm Pesto
This is superb on grilled or oven roasted fish, potatoes or used as the base for a salad dressing.
2 cup fresh lemon balm leaves or 1/2 cup dried
3 to 4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled or 1 Tbsp. minced dry
1/2 cup extra virgin Olive Oil
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor, blend thoroughly.Sun-Dried Tomato and Roasted Garlic Pesto
Yields 1 cup
This is delicious with any type of pasta or used as an appetizer spread on toasted sourdough or flat bread.
1 whole head of garlic
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup sun dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil
1/3 cup packed fresh flat leaf parsley or 1 Tbsp. dried
2 Tbsp. garlic chives or scallions, chopped
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
Slice the top off the head of garlic and place the garlic in a small baking dish. Rub the garlic with 2 tsp. of the olive oil. Bake the garlic in a preheated oven at 325 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, or until soft. Let cool, then squeeze the garlic pulp from its papers skin into a bowl. In a blender or food processor, place the roasted garlic, sun dried tomatoes, parsley, and garlic chives or scallions; process until finely minced. Add the remaining oil and the cheese; process until well blended.
Transfer to a small bowl and cover. Refrigerated until ready to use.