Rich, flavorful herbs can make any dish more appetizing and tasty and will draw even more guests to the kitchen.
Fresh herbs can be grown in many ways. One local horticulturist recommends planting them in the ground in your vegetable garden. They also can be planted in containers.
It's also important to plant only the herbs that you'll use. For example, for Italian cooking, plant oregano and parsley. To grow herbs for their calming scent and use as potpourri, lavender and lemon verbena are good choices.
Jenny Addie said herbs typically used in cooking -- basil, parsley, thyme, dill, rosemary -- are among the most commonly grown.
"You want to grow ones that you'll actually use in your cooking," said Addie, of Green Thumb West, adding that the location of growth is important.
Addie also said herbs grown closer to the house will be used more than those grown in a garden in the back of the yard.
"You want to be able to see them," she said. "You don't want to have to go out to the back nine to get them."
Herbs should be planted in a sunny location with good drainage. Most herbs like to dry out between watering.
If herbs are growing inside, they will need a lot of light. That's why it's recommended that herbs be grown in a garden or container outside, so that they benefit from natural sunlight daily.
Harvesting herbs should be done in the early morning when the dew has dried, but before the heat of the day. The herbs should be harvested when the "oils responsible for their flavor and aroma are at their peak," according to the University System of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service.
It is common to dry or freeze herbs for future use. To freeze herbs, rinse them quickly in cold water, shake off the excess water and chop them coarsely. The chopped herbs can be transferred to ice cube trays, where they can be frozen and stored for future use.
The University System of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service Web site offers details on how to dry herbs. Clean, dry herbs should be bundled by the stems and hung upside down in a warm, dry place such as a closet. Herbs also can be dried on a screen or in the microwave.
The herb is properly dried when it is brittle and crumbles easily. Separate the leaves from their stems and package the leaves in containers with tight lids. Glass or hard plastic containers are recommended. Avoid crushing the leaves until the herbs are ready to use so full flavor is preserved.
If stored properly, many herbs can be kept for up to a year.
According to Addie, some herbs have to be planted each year, while others are perennials and will "last forever." Among the annual herbs are basil and dill. Thyme, tarragon and rosemary are considered perennial herbs. Parsley is a biennial and has to be replanted every other year.
Herbs can be planted with any vegetable, although Addie suggested not planting them with roses or other plants that will require insecticide spraying.
"Herbs can make a garden look gorgeous," said Addie.
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