By Jessy Yancey
Planting a culinary herb garden is one of spring’s simple pleasures. Whether you have a well-tended garden plot or just a few pots on a small patio, growing fresh herbs is convenient, cost-effective and easy, too.
Parsley, for example, thrives in our state’s sunny weather, as it requires about six to eight hours of direct sunlight. However, you can even grow it indoors, if needed. Indoor-grown parsley may be a little less leafy but should be fine as long as you provide it with good lighting and drainage. Snipping its stalks near the base of the plant, starting on the outside, will result in new growth.
Basil also needs plenty of sunlight and well-drained soil conditions. You can grow it in the ground as a companion plant alongside tomatoes, which helps both plants flourish and even makes them taste better. Alternately, keep it in a container that can be moved into sunny areas throughout the growing season. Make sure you keep your basil trimmed, cutting off the flowering shoots at the top to increase your yield and keep the plant flavorful.
Rosemary, on the other hand, features several varieties that are cold-hardy and can survive Tennessee winters. Other rosemary varieties can be brought inside during the coldest months with good air circulation. Be careful not to over-water the drought-tolerant rosemary. Cut it back in the early spring to encourage new growth, but just trim it occasionally for the rest of the year. When cooking with rosemary, chop coarsely to release its flavorful oils.
Each of these, along with other herb garden favorites such as sage, thyme and tarragon, can be dried by being hung upside-down or frozen in small zip-close freezer bags. You can even combine the fresh herbs with a bit of water or stock and freeze in ice cube trays for easy supplements to soups or skillet suppers.
When following recipes, remember that dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh. A good rule of thumb is that typically one teaspoon of dried herbs equals about one tablespoon of fresh herbs.
Speaking of recipes, here are our herb-inspired culinary creations – Herb Pasta Primavera, Sicilian Heirloom Carrots, Herb-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin and Rosemary Goat Cheese Muffins, plus a bonus recipe, Rosemary Citrus Shortbread Cookies.