Q. How do you use all those herbs you grow?
A. Dill is good in any mayonnaise based salad—potato salad, tuna salad, macaroni salad, etc. I use it in a great cucumber salad and also in my own homemade tartar sauce and deviled eggs.
Basil is good in anything with tomatoes. Throw the leaves of red basil leaves whole in a salad for color as well as taste. When using basil in long cooking items like marinara, be sure to add another sprinkle fresh at the end, just before serving. And anyone with a basil plant needs to learn how to make pesto, the ultimate basil sauce.
Rosemary goes with poultry, pork, and lamb. Sage goes with poultry, pork and beef. Thyme is good with chicken and beef. Tarragon is good with veal and chicken, particularly chicken salad. Use chives when you want a mild onion flavor but not the sharpness of a raw onion. Parsley goes just about anywhere, and not just for garnish.
At Thanksgiving, think of Simon and Garfunkel when you season your bird: “parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme,” but I usually leave rosemary out of the dressing. And the best potatoes you will ever eat are small red potatoes, steamed about twenty minutes with butter, salt, and pepper only, and finished with a heaping handful of mixed chives, parsley, and dill. That will get you started using herbs, and you can experiment to discover more.
Q. How do you take care of herbs?
A. Generally speaking, herbs do not like wet feet, so use well-drained soil. During our recent drought years, I have never gone wrong by watering several days a week, and fertilizing at least once a week with a liquid fertilizer for house plants or vegetables. Better soils might not need so much.
When you harvest, cut the thickest stems near the bottom. In fact, cut chives at ground level to insure continued growth. Most of the time you only use the leaves. With rosemary and thyme, pull backwards down the stems to remove the leaves easily. If the stem is so tender that it breaks, then just chop it along with the leaves. For other plants, the leaves will easily pull off.
As a general rule, don’t let your herbs bloom. Pinch the buds off as they appear, as well as any leaves or stems that get past their prime and turn yellow. Blossoms will take away from the leaves and will turn some herbs bitter.
Now what is all that advice worth? Well, if you don’t live in Florida, it is not worth as much as if you do. If you live in South Florida, it might not be worth much either. For you to be sure my advice will work for you, we have to live in the same place. I am in Zone 9 on all those gardening maps, a zone unto itself. We have frosts and freezes fairly often in December and January, and even as late as April or as early as November. On the other hand, once the nighttime temperatures stay above 72, which can happen in early June, the tomatoes stop setting their blooms, and by late June tomatoes and melons may boil in the afternoon sun.
We all understand that you should think about where you get your advice. I use the Union County (Florida) Extension Office. If you live anywhere else, you shouldn’t. As many questions as I get, it seems to me that many people are anxious to receive advice on this subject. Why aren’t we that smart with spiritual things? I think the answer is a five letter word—pride. How much sense does that make? Wouldn’t it be a shame if that kept us from finding help with things much more important that growing and cooking with herbs?
Consider for a moment, the young teenager who was told that she would give birth to the Son of God. Think about the difficulties she was about to face—perhaps the most difficult ones of telling her parents and her betrothed husband that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit; even if they believed her, the rest of the community could still count to nine and Gabriel was not likely to visit them all. Where did she immediately turn for support and advice? She went to her older, wiser relative Elizabeth, herself a mother-to-be under miraculous and difficult circumstances. She had already dealt with whispers for six months and became an example of reward after long endurance. They shared faith in a common destiny, evidenced by continuing miracles, including the silence of a miraculously stricken Zacharias. Even at her young age, Mary was wise in choosing to whom she would turn for advice.
On the hand we have Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, who, instead of listening to the older wiser counselors who had been there with his father, listened to his young hot-headed friends and wound up losing the majority of his kingdom for it, 1 Kings 12:6-11.
God knew we would need help as we lived our lives. That is one reason he set things up as he did—families with older generations to help the younger, and churches with the wisdom of elders and older brethren. Look for people who have more knowledge of the scriptures than you do. Look for people who have had success, who have come safely through the same trials you are facing, who, in other words, live where you do. God has given us ample help if we will only take advantage of it, so much, in fact, that ignorance will be no excuse. It will simply be a mask for pride.
Aged women likewise be reverent in demeanor, not slanderers nor enslaved to much wine, teachers of that which is good; that they may train the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sober-minded, chaste, workers at home, kind, being in subjection to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed: the younger men likewise exhort to be sober-minded…likewise, ye younger, be subject unto the elder. Yea, all of you gird yourselves with humility, to serve one another: for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble, Titus 2:3-6; 1 Pet 5:5.