Our forebears relied on herbs to protect their health, preserve and flavor their food, and to add a dash of panache to their homes. You can rely on Heirloom Country Gardens to put you in touch with the knowledge and lore you need to grow still valuable herbs such as these:
BASIL (Ocimum basilicum)
Basil grows into an attractive, bushy, 1- to 2-foot-tall plant with large, shiny green leaves, making it attractive enough to include in an ornamental border. Just brushing against the foliage produces the aromatic fragrance that makes one want to head into the kitchen and start cooking.
A Bit of History
Native to India, Africa, and Asia, basil is thought to have made its way to the Mediterranean area via Alexander the Great, who collected it around 330 B.C. Basil was said to produce a scorpion in two days if you placed the leaves under a rock in a moist place.
This aromatic herb thrives in full sun and rich, well-drained soil. Encourage branching by pinching off the tops of the plants once they are established.
If you tend to a herb garden, you almost certainly grow Basil. Basil herb is one of the most popular herbs in both the garden and the kitchen.
LAVENDER (Lavandula angustifolia)
Lavender forms a small, 1- to 3-foot shrub with silvery, narrow foliage and long spikes of purple-blue flowers in early summer. Pick the flowers when the buds are just beginning to open; dry them on trays or hang them in small bunches.
A Bit of History
The Romans and Greeks added lavender to their bath water, and the botanical name Lavandula is derived from the Latin “to wash.” Lavender was also used to flavor jellies, vinegars, and stews. William Turner (c. 1508-68), the Father of British Botany, recommended quilting the flowers into a cap for comforting the brain. Today, lavender is a prized plant for perfumes, potpourris, soaps, and dried floral wreaths.
When planting a kitchen herb garden, make sure there is access to a sunny window and that containers are the appropriate sizes. Grow herbs in a kitchen garden and remember to switch them out.
Lavender needs full sun, alkaline soil, and good drainage. Allow the soil to dry between waterings to discourage root rot. Cover plants with pine boughs for winter protection. In areas where the foliage dies back in winter, prune back hard in early spring.
Incredibly aromatic and held up better than any other lavender. If your searching for culinary lavender you can’t go past this.
SAGE (Salvia officinalis)
Sage is an aromatic herb that can reach 2 to 3 feet in height. The oblong, velvety, thick, gray-green leaves are attractive in dried herb wreaths. Sage flowers in summer, with half-inch purple blooms arranged in whorls on the flower stalk.
A Bit of History
Sage was considered a sacred herb by the ancient Romans and specially appointed sage gatherers dressed in white and made sacrifices of bread and wine before gathering sage. In colonial America, sage was the most commonly grown kitchen herb to flavor foods (especially those that were beyond their prime), but it was also considered a useful medicinal herb for a number of ailments, including gastrointestinal upsets and mouth ulcers.
Choose a planting site with full sun and well-drained, moderately rich soil. Start seed indoors eight weeks before your last frost date. Set the seedlings outdoors when they are about 3 inches tall, after your last frost date. Cut back established plants by about half in spring to keep them bushy and vigorous.