Herb gardens save money, taste great
Even if you have limited space, limited knowledge and a limited budget, it’s possible to have a successful herb garden.
Even better, for those who love to cook, it’s possible to grow an herb garden that saves a substantial amount of money, since herbs at the grocery store can get pricey and are often sold in quantities that result in too much waste.
“Most herbs like poor soil,” said Dr. Carl Hochmuth, advanced master gardener with Colorado State University Tri-River Area Extension.
Although the mantra repeated by master gardeners about local soil is, amend, amend, amend, herbs aren’t that particular. In fact, many herbs, like sage, parsley, oregano, chives and mint, will be more aromatic and flavorful if grown in poor soil. Other herbs, like basil, grow better in amended soil.
Some herbs are perennials, which means they’ll grow from year to year without replanting, while others are annuals, which means they’ll complete their life cycle in a single season. Some herbs which are perennials elsewhere, like rosemary, may die due to cold winter temperatures in the Grand Valley. Other herbs which are technically annuals, like dill and parsley, may re-seed themselves in the same patch of ground the following year.
It’s possible to grow herbs in an existing flower or vegetable garden. It’s also possible to grow them in pots. Many herbs have a tendency to spread and take over, which means that confining a particular herb to a pot may be a great idea, unless you don’t care that a flower bed becomes a mint and parsley bed in just a few years.
Although most herbs do well in our climate, a few can’t take the heat. Cilantro, which makes such an excellent ingredient in fresh salsas, has a tendency to bolt long before the tomatoes ripen. Dill often goes to seed long before the cucumbers are big enough to pickle.
Pick it and allow it to dry for use later.
If you’re growing herbs for cooking, make sure your herb garden is near the kitchen. If you have to hike a quarter-mile every time you want a sprig of parsley, you probably won’t use much parsley.
If you’re growing herbs because they’re pretty and smell good, you might want your garden or your pots of herbs in a prominent place that will allow you to enjoy it whenever you’re outside.
4 C basil leaves
3/4 C shredded parmesan cheese
3/4 C shredded Romano cheese
4 - 6 cloves of garlic
3/4 C olive oil
1 C pine nuts
Toast the pine nuts under the broiler until brown, about 1 minute under high heat. Put all ingredients in the food processor and process until it’s a thick, paste-like consistency.
Use with pasta, as a pizza sauce, on sandwiches, in Italian quesadillas, in wraps or as a starter for a salad dressing. This can be doubled, with extra pesto stored in small containers in the freezer. Allow it to defrost slowly — defrosting in the microwave will cause the cheese to melt & coagulate.
(adapted from the Macheesmo cooking blog post, “Mint Pesto.” Retrieved on March 29, 2012 from http://www.macheesmo.com/2010/05/mint-pesto/)
1 1/2 Cups loosely packed fresh mint
1/2 Cup loosely packed flat leaf parsley
2 Tablespoons pine nuts
3 cloves garlic
1/3 Cup Parmesan cheese
1/3 Cup olive oil (maybe a bit more)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Put all ingredients in the food processor and process until thick and paste-like.
Note from Penny: I have not made this particular recipe, but with a herb garden that’s continually overrun with mint and parsley, it’s the first recipe I’ll be trying once the mint appears.