Herbs, which are easy to grow either indoors or outdoors, can add zing to a bland recipe or an alluring aroma to a home.
Harlem resident Tom Blalock is learning more about herb planting from his wife, but said he has planted rosemary, dill, basil, chives and garlic in the yard, while an old enamel wash pot serves as a container for his mint plants.
"I have outside containers of oregano, mint, dill, chives and am just starting some sage," he said.
Like many gardeners, Blalock is learning the ins and outs of herb gardening. He's learning what to plant where to ward off pests and wildlife and has a tip or two to pass along.
"I planted the basil between tomato plants to keep the tomato hornworms and corn earworms away, along with some zinnias to keep deer away," he said. "I know that's not an herb, but perhaps interesting. No pests yet."
Gardener Ginny Allen plants herbs throughout her flower beds. She said many of her herbs come back each year.
"Herbs like to be cut and trimmed," she said. "If not trimmed, they get leggy by the end of summer."
While Allen keeps her herbs in the garden, she said some gardeners will plant herbs in pots and bring them inside during the winter.
Among the types of herbs that Allen grows are marjoram, oregano, thyme, tarragon and mint. In addition to their many uses in the kitchen, Allen says that many of the herbs add interest to flower beds.
"Tarragon has pleasing yellow flowers in late summer," she said. "Lavender can be used as a flavoring, and dried seed pods used in sachets."
For Allen, placement of the herbs is key.
"It's nice to have them near the kitchen door if you use them frequently for cooking," she said.
Blalock has planted most of his herbs with specific dishes in mind. For instance, he plans to use the basil in tomato sauces and the chives as an onion substitute. Dill is used to season fish and garlic will be used in Italian food.
"I had these uses in mind when I planted them," he said, adding that oregano will be used in chili and pasta, and rosemary with lamb and stews.
There is little effort required in preserving herbs for later use.
According to Betty English, the Family Consumer Sciences agent for Columbia and Richmond counties, drying is the easiest way to preserve herbs. Herbs must be left in a well-ventilated area until all moisture evaporates. The best time to preserve herbs is just before the flowers open. Herbs should be gathered in early morning after the dew has evaporated.
To find out more about planting and preserving herbs, visit the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service Web site at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/ and search for "herbs" under the publications heading.
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