Keep your garden growing with winter herbs

November 5, 2010

By Contributor

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Shakespeare wrote “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.” May I humbly add that it is also very good with roasted chicken and in a savory pot pie?

Summer’s end does not have to mean the end of the simple joy of plucking a branch of rosemary, a stem of fresh thyme, parsley, or a few aromatic bay or sage leaves.

Varieties of four garden herbs available at Newcastle Fruit & Produce include Italian parsley, golden sage, Tuscan blue rosemary and lemon thyme. By Greg Farrar

Many favorite herbs can be potted and grown in a sunny spot near a patio or porch door, and whisked inside for a day or two when the temperature dips below 32 degrees. It is best to remove saucers outdoors during the winter to help prevent root rot.

Another handy method is to place potted herbs on sunny windowsills. Grown inside or out, a minimum six hours of sun — when it shines — is required.

I personally find that the outdoor herbs have a more intense flavor and pungency. Grouping plants indoors increases the humidity surrounding them. Sixty to 70 degrees is in their comfort zone, and a10-degree drop in temperature at night is fine. Water them when the soil is dry to the touch, and forgo the fertilizer until spring.

Consider the following options not only for culinary use, but also for their ornamental appeals.

Hardy evergreen sages

Salvia officinalis “icterina” — Leaves mottle a lovely soft green and gold.

Salvia o “purpurascens” — Leaves tinged purple and violet

Salvia o “tricolor” — Gray-green leaves splashed cream and pink

Thymes

Thymus “aureus” — Golden-lemon thyme with a bright, citrus fragrance

Thymus “vulgaris” — Common thyme. The most aromatic.

Sweet bay — Laurus nobilis. Leathery, rich green, redolent leaves. Often included in the bouquet garni for soups and stews. Excellent topiary.

Rosemary — Rosemarinus officinalis. The variety “arp” is the most cold-hardy. “Tuscan blue” sports rich, green leaves and bright blue flowers.

Parsley — Petroselinum crispum. Actually a biennial with a two-year life span. The Italian or flat leaf form has the best flavor.

Having our favorite herbs close at hand through the winter helps to keep us in touch with the rest of our gardens!

Molly Lavelle is a certified nursery professional and designer at Newcastle Fruit and Produce Co.

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