Herbs: Attractive and useful for Fallbrook gardeners
Thursday, May 29th, 2014
Issue 22, Volume 18.
For those who enjoy cooking, fresh herbs provide endless possibilities to enhance dishes with significant flavor. However, even those who have no desire to be creative in the kitchen can benefit from the interesting nature of herb plants in the landscape or on the patio.
Whether one has ample space to fill or just likes to have a few pots on the patio, herbs can be a perfect solution.
In this area’s mild, Mediterranean climate, herbs that grow easily include:
• Sweet Marjoram
Rosemary bushes, which thrive in the Mediterranean climate, are easily visible in Fallbrook landscapes, because they are beautiful, ornamental plants. In addition, the zest this herb can bring to mundane recipes is remarkable.
An interesting thing to note about rosemary is that it prefers less attention than too much.
The short, narrow green leaves with what appear to be a white underside or striping, are sturdy. The stems of the rosemary plant are woody and strong, and can extend from one to six feet tall. Because they are truly Mediterranean plants, they are tough and can take wind and salt spray, or heat if provided moderate water. Over-fertilizing and over-watering can be detrimental to this easy-to-grow plant.
Rosemary should be pruned regularly to encourage new, healthy growth.
Health tip: Rosemary is known as "brain food." It improves circulation overall, but especially the blood flow to the brain. It helps improve concentration and also has anti-inflammatory assets than can help lessen the severity of asthma attacks and more. It also aids digestion.
In food: Add rosemary leaves to poultry, roasted game, seafood, cheeses, dressings, marinades and more for distinct flavor.
Sage is another herb plant that does not like to be over-watered and is commonly found throughout the Fallbrook landscape.
Plants grow from one to three feet tall with leaves that are two to three inches in length.
The key to successfully growing sage is to plant it in areas that are not heavily watered (like next to a lawn). It will not prosper if the soil is continually wet. It does, however, like afternoon shade.
In pruning sage, one should cut just above where new growth emerges and not down into old, woody growth.
Health tip: A great antioxidant, sage also has a proven lab record of improving memory. Even small, regular uses can improve memory function.
In food: Add sage to poultry or game stuffing, gravies, marinades, pork, soups, stews, and more.
One of the most pungent plants, basil is referred to by some as the "king of herbs." It’s bright green leaves grow on plants that range from six inches to two-feet tall. It is in the annual family.
Basil does not like the cold weather, it thrives when the weather and soil are warm, so it’s best to wait until early summer to plant it.
To help nurture a well-balanced plant, one should cut back the stems to just above the first set of leaves when plants have developed three pairs of leaves. Pruning should be done often so that flowers don’t begin forming. When a stem has again developed four pairs of leaves, its best to cut each stem down to just above the first set. One can continue cutting plants back throughout the warm months of summer.
Health tip: The flavonoids in basil offer protection from cellular damage due to their antioxidant effect. They also act as an antibacterial and are helpful even against certain antibiotic-resistant strains. An easy way to get regular benefit of this is to add chopped basil leaves to homemade salad dressings.
In food: Basil is delicious when chopped in Italian sauces, or blended with olive oil into a pesto sauce. It also complements fresh fish, marinades, salads, and soups. Slice fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese, top with chopped basil, and drizzle with vinaigrette or olive oil for a tantalizing caprese salad.
The oval, gray-green leaves on the marjoram plant are a nice complement to other landscape colors. Plants grow one to two-feet tall and like soil that drains well.
Another herb that prefers little to moderate water, marjoram can be productively grown in a container inside or outside.
This plant attracts butterflies and other beneficial insects, so they make great companions to other plants that suffer from invasive pests. It gives off an enticing fragrance.
Marjoram does not like cold weather. It is advisable to cut plants back to four inches in height in late spring, summer, and fall.
Health tip: Sweet marjoram is known to have an effect on lowering cholesterol and increasing circulation. It is also a digestive aid and has anti-inflammatory properties. It also serves as a good anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-septic.
In food: Sweet marjoram is delicious in cheeses, rice, pasta, poultry, vegetables, sauces, soups, gravies, and much more.
Also labeled a Mediterranean herb, the leaves of the thyme plant are small and pungent. Thyme likes a somewhat dry soil and a sunny location.
Stems on a thyme plant grow up to one-foot tall. The plant does bloom with white to purple flowers in late spring or early summer. It’s best to cut it for culinary purposes before the flowers appear. The stems can be drawn together and cut back to about six inches tall.
Since thyme does not get very tall, it is best planted along the edge of a garden. It is considered a perennial plant.
Health tip: Thyme is known to promote brain health. Its antioxidant benefits include providing protection for brain cells from damage. It is also used medicinally to treat respiratory conditions. It is considered to have antiseptic properties. Some report it is helpful to calm a stomach ache.
In food: Thyme is popular in dishes featuring poultry, tomato-based sauces, soups, casseroles, breads, stews, vegetables and more. It blends very well with other Mediterranean favorites such as garlic, olive oil, and tomatoes.
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