This bulletin is written for those who like to garden or to embark on adventures in cooking. Most of the herbs are easily grown, but they must be understood. The beginner's herb garden need not contain more than half a dozen plants of each of a few kinds, yet it may provide enjoyment and economy out of all proportion to the effort involved. To lessen the expense, two or three neighbors may divide seed packets or each may plant three or four kinds and share the young plants.
It is not difficult to become expert in preparing appetizing dishes from inexpensive materials with herbs, and the experience grows more pleasurable with repetition and familiarity. The beginner will readily become acquainted with the characteristic flavors of herbs used separately and in combinations and can soon handle them with skill, economy, and satisfaction. The cooking suggestions offered in this bulletin cover mainly the herbs and herb combinations to use with specific foods and directions for drawing out and improving herb flavors.
Savory herbs are flavoring agents and, like spices, are used in cookery to season, enrich, or otherwise alter the flavor and odor of certain foods to make them more pleasing to the taste. Parts of the plants-leaves, fragrant seeds, fruits, buds, barks, and roots-have been used for this purpose since ancient times. Most of the spices-black pepper, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice-are derived from tropical plants. Savory herbs are aromatic plants the various parts of which posses pleasing odors and tastes. These plants grow in different parts of the world and have long been considered essential in the preparation of foods both in the home and in public eating places of European and Latin American countries. Many of them are adapted to a wide variation of soil and climatic conditions.
In the past the United States has been almost entirely dependent on foreign sources of supply for these important flavoring agents, though many of the plants are well adapted to our soil and climate. Since colonial times if has been the custom in various sections of this country to grow some of these herbs in the home garden. Because of their importance on the preparation of foods in the home, no garden should be considered complete without at least a few of those most commonly used. A scarcity of imported herbs and resulting high market prices have stimulated production in this country by both home gardeners and commercial concerns.
Most of the savory herbs can be grown in any section of this country in sufficient quantity for home use. Attempts to grow them in marketable quantity, however, should be undertaken only in localities where cultural conditions are most favorable. Since relatively small quantities are required to supply the demand, any widespread culture would result in a surplus. Results of small-scale commercial plantings in the Southwestern States indicate that a few of the herbs, including anise, caraway, coriander, dill, fennel, and sweet marjoram, may be grown successfully as winter crops in that region.
What Herbs To Grow
About a dozen kinds of herbs will be needed to begin with, in order to use the flavors singly and in blends.
Herbs For The Beginner
Suggested selections for the beginner include the six herbs named by the French "les fines herbes,"sweet basil, chervil, sweet marjoram, thyme, rosemary, and tarragon. Included also are those indispensable mixers chive, parsley, summer savory, and several other favorites with very characteristic flavors-that can be used singly or in judicious blends. As an aid to their use in blending with foods they are divided into the following groups:
Herbs strong enough for accent:
Mint (peppermint and spearmint)
Thyme (English or French )
Herbs especially good in blends:
Herbs To Be Added Later
Selections from the following group of no less important herbs may be added, a few at a time, as the gardener becomes familiar with their culture and as culinary uses expand.
Mints (other species and varieties)
Parsley (Italian broadleaf)
A great deal of interest and pleasure can be derived by the person who plants a few well-chosen herbs for the first time, as he soon becomes familiar with their forms and growth habits and learns to use them to best advantage in seasoning the various foods.
Location And Preparation Of The Herb Garden
In addition to furnishing a variety of flavors for use in the kitchen, the savory herbs, because of their ornamental
In general, one short row or only a few feet of row of each of the annuals or half a dozen plants of the perennials will supply enough herbs for the average family. Herbs will grow on any soil or under any system of fertilizing and manuring that is suitable for growing vegetables. The soil should be well prepared long enough in advance of planting to allow for settling. Since perennials remain in the same location for several seasons, best results may be obtained by adding well-rotted manure or compost and commercial fertilizers high in phosphorus to the soil before planting. A mulch of straw or stable litter applied late in fall will prevent winter injury and will aid in starting early spring growth.
Special consideration should be given to the location of a few of the savory herbs that are sensitive to soil-moisture conditions. Sage, rosemary, and thyme require a well-drained moderately moist situation; celery, parsley, chervil, and the mints give best results on soils that retain considerable moisture but have good drainage. The majority of the herbs, however, may be grown with success under a wide range of soil conditions.
The annuals and biennials ordinarily are grown from seed sown directly in the garden early in spring, while the perennials generally are better started in coldframes or window boxes from seed or cuttings and the plants reset in the garden at the proper time.
A few plants, as sage, lemon balm, and rosemary, can be propagated best by stem cuttings. Stems from the latest growth or the upper part of the older stems make the best cuttings and usually can be rooted easily late in summer or early in fall. With a sharp knife the stems should be cut into 3- to 4-inch sections, each containing a set of leaves or leaf buds near its upper end. The terminal and the intermediate sections root equally well. The leaf area should be reduced by about two-thirds by removing the larger leaves and allowing only the buds and young leaves to remain on the upper third of the section. To prevent wilting, the cuttings should be placed in water as soon as they are removed from the plant.
Other useful herb information: Neem | Astragalus | Coltsfoot | Arrowroot | Fenugreek | Chlorella | Amla
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