November 28, 2008

Evergreen Herbs for Gardens and Cooking

On a cold November day, I go out in the garden to cut fresh herbs for the kitchen. Sage, rosemary and thyme are evergreen here in my zone 7 garden.

On frozen mornings, I wait until the early afternoon to harvest my herbs. I place the stems of rosemary and sage in a glass of water on my counter until time to prepare the evening meal. I often store these herbs in the water up to a day in advance.

Sage leaves are great for poultry, stuffings and dressings for poultry. Sage provides a nice flavor for autumn dishes that also include butternut squash or pumpkin. Sage officinalis grows in zones 5-11 to a height (in bloom) of up to three feet in full sun with well-drained soil. Just one sage plant in my garden is now about three feet wide in its second year of growth.

I use rosemary for roasted vegetables, roasted chicken, Tuscan beef stew, Italian sauces and breads. Rosemary and lemon work well together for roasted chicken. Rosemary and tomatoes for the Tuscan beef stew. In zones 6 and colder, rosemary can be grown as a container plant. Rosemary grows best in full sun with well-drained soil. As with many herbs, it benefits from trimming.

Thyme grows right by my front steps in a micro-climate that is protected from frost. The thyme stays fresh and fragrant into the cold months. Because of this convenience, I pick the thyme right before preparing a meal. I like to use thyme with rice to add just a little flavor. Thyme grows in zones 4-9 in full sun or part shade.

Aside from the culinary uses, rosemary, sage and thyme are great garden plants. All three bloom, with sage providing the biggest color show in mid-April. Cascading rosemary has been blooming for several months now in my cottage garden. The rosemary bloomed off all spring and summer as well.

Thyme makes a great, low groundcover and spreads rapidly. Upright forms of rosemary work well mixed in a border with perennials and shrubs while cascading rosemary works well on slopes and above retaining walls. Sage is a nice edging plant and provides soft leaf textures among perennials. However, it can be short-lived and has to be replaced every few years.

These herbs are also great for container gardens on decks, terraces or balconies. All three of the culinary varieties of these perennial herbs are deer and rabbit resistant as well as drought tolerant. For the best varieties for your zone, check with your local nursery.

Story and photos by Freda Cameron

Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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