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Herbs are easy for first-time gardeners
As we continue to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve read that our eating habits are changing. The options for eating out have been limited as we practice social distancing.
This is the perfect opportunity for gardeners of all abilities to grow vegetable gardens.
Now, I’m not advocating trying to produce all of your own food, because that would be difficult if starting from scratch. And we do need to support our local restaurants as much as we can. But it is a good opportunity to try growing things at home.
The easiest and best plants to grow are herbs. They’re also perfect for growing in containers. Home-grown herbs can brighten up any meal, whether it’s home-cooked or takeout.
Today, I want to tell you about some of my favorite herbs.
For the beginning gardener, common or sweet Italian basil is most likely the basil of choice. It’s versatile in the kitchen and pretty nonthreatening for the novice. The large leaves of this Genovese-type basil are aromatic. It is perfect for pesto or tomato sauces.
The bright-purple leaves of Amethyst resemble the broad, flat leaves of Genovese basil and have the same taste, with a touch of licorice spice. This herb is a great ingredient for purple basil mojitos. After muddling the basil with lemon juice, the leaves surrender their purple color and turn the drink a pretty, pink-amethyst color.
Basil looks like a delicate garden plant, but it actually is a tough plant for hard times and has been recognized as a Mississippi Medallion winner. Purple Ruffles has deep-purple leaves that are very fragrant. Uses include fresh garnish or color in salads when used as baby greens. And who can resist red basil pesto?
A couple of good heirloom choices are the Thai basil varieties Quenette and Cardinal, which have exotically delicious cinnamon and licorice flavors and aromas. Both have beautiful, bright-green foliage that contrasts with the dark-purple stems. These plants are so similar, I believe they are both common names for the same variety.
Basil care is really easy. First, be sure to deadhead the flowers. While they are attractive on their own, flowering halts leaf production. Be sure to keep the containers consistently moist. And for the best flavor, harvest basil sprigs in the morning when the essential oils are at their peak. Place them in a small vase or jar until ready to use for dinner.
Remember, the garden isn’t cancelled or closed just because we are practicing social distancing.
Support your local garden centers. They are essential to our well-being and have a great selection of vegetable, herb and flowering plants that will make your time spent sheltering in place a lot more tolerable.