Early spring is a difficult waiting game for us gardeners. Rainbow gardens is filling up with fresh spring herbs, tempting tomatoes and other spring veggies, plus there are pops of gorgeous color every which way you look. But the weather is toying with us, a warm and sunny day is followed by a week of cold, windy weather! We can only say we feel your pain and are just as ready to plant as you! Hopefully this is our last week of cold, but until it passes, you might want to take a look at all the fun that is in store for you. Today’s blog is all about discovering new herbs to plant this spring.
Remember that herbs are terrific in a garden designated just for them, but they also make great additions mixed in with your perennial and annual gardens. If you plant some herbs interspersed with your veggies, they will bring in the pollinators to help pollinate your vegetables.
Herb Varieties to Explore
If asked to provide a list of herbs, I’m sure we could all feel comfortable naming a few. Basil, Thyme, Oregano, Mint, and Parsley are a few that usually top the list. But did you know that even in your favorite common herbs there is a huge variety of flavor and color to choose from? That’s what I love about gardening, it seems that know matter how long you have been doing it, there is always a surprise around the corner.
BASIL: When you start listing the basil varieties available, you may begin to feel a little like Bubba from Forest Gump listing all of the ways he can cook shrimp…. Sweet basil, Lemon or Lime basil, Cinnamon basil, Thai basil, Purple Ruffles basil, Pistou basil, Spicy Globe basil, African Blue basil (a favorite pollinator-attractor), etc…, I think you get the picture. All these varieties have the delicious base basil flavor but each variety’s flavor and scent will be tweaked just enough to give you something extra special.
Cinnamon basil is a sweet basil that is a yummy addition to apple pie fillings, Pistou basil is a compact, mounding basil that is delicious and also cute and tidy in gardens, Thai basil (a more assertive flavor than sweet basils, is used as a condiment in Thai and Vietnamese dishes, Amethyst basil carries the flavor of the common variety of the herb but has an amazing purple color, and Lemon or Lime basil add a pop of citrus flavor without the acidity to your dishes. These are just a few varieties of this favorite, warm weather herb. You’ll have to come to Rainbow Gardens to see all of them.
SAGE: Sage is a beautiful herb that has a sweet and savory flavor that pairs well with pork, chicken and pasta dishes. different varieties have a beautiful assortment of colors and textures. A few of my favorites of this herb include: Tricolor sage, in my opinion, the most beautiful of all the sages, with three colors of green, cream, and purple, Pineapple sage is a hummingbird favorite with a fruity scent and scarlet red flower spikes that arrive in fall, Berggarten sage has fat, downy leaves with a flavor as good or better as common Garden sage, and Golden sage boasts bright, variegated, yellow and green foliage that bring a sunny feel to your herb garden.
THYME: Time to tell you about all the herb thyme. We love the diminutive form of thyme. Looking at it, there’s no wonder why this herb is often chosen to inhabit our fairy gardens. Some choose to use these herbs as groundcovers for areas with light foot traffic or between rock pavers. The scent that rises up from a brush with the leaves of thyme is heavenly. Many, including me, prefer to use this herb for cooking.
Here is just a smidgeon of the captivating selection of thyme we have to choose from: Elfin thyme is mainly used as a delightful ornamental whose leaves are even more tiny than regular thyme, Faustini thyme is delicious used in Mediterranean dishes, French thyme is the herb that many chefs believe has the best flavor for cooking out of all of the thymes, Golden Lemon thyme has beautiful golden-edged leaves and a zesty lemon flavor. Lavender thyme is wonderful when used for sachets (some find the lavender scent too strong for cooking. Orange thyme gives a fruit salad a citrus twist.
OREGANO: This herb is a strong specimen. I’ve had it in the center of my vegetable garden for years and it comes back each year just as strong as the year before. I allow this one to produce tiny flowers that the bees love visiting. This offers me instant help for pollinating the veggies that surround it.
Let’s see a few of our interesting options for these herbs: Golden oregano produces yellow-lime colored leaves giving you a wonderful contrast to your darker green herbs. Variegated Cuban oregano has colorful foliage that resembles coleus and would look great mixed into landscape beds. Hot & Spicy oregano has the flavor combination of common oregano blended with the heat of a mild chile pepper. Cretan oregano contains a flavor will make you think you’ve been transported to Greece. Will all these variety options, you can choose the perfect herbs to suit your taste!
Once again, these are all just a whisper of some of your options for herb selections, we didn’t even touch the mints, rosemary, or lavender. Oh, I feel like channeling Bubba from Forest Gump again, but I shall restrain myself for another time. I hope you’ve been inspired to search past the norm and try a new herb variety. Herbs grow wonderfully here in San Antonio, and they give you a long season of interest. They can be nestled in between vegetables in your garden, given a plot all to theirselves, or easily grown in pots and whiskey barrels. However you plant herbs, just plant them. They are an easy way to add healthy flavor to any culinary dish and the recipe possibilities are virtually endless. Forget the roses, stop and smell the herbs!
~ The Happy Gardener, Lisa Mulroy