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Herb Gardening Part 2 – Annual Herbs

on May 2, 2014

Annual herbs, like their perennial counterparts, are easy to grow and maintain.  They do great in containers or in the ground; they’re tasty; they’re even pretty.  If you’re new to herb gardening, this is where to start.   Here are a few to consider:

 

Basil is my favorite!  It tastes so good with fresh tomatoes, but is so versatile, you can use it in pretty much any dish.  Need a quick meal?  Chop some fresh basil, cook it with ground beef, and add some cooked rice.  It’s so good – and easy.  The basil adds amazing flavor. You can also add a bunch of chopped basil to some olive oil to make your own pesto!  To keep it producing all summer, just use it often.  Cutting it back (make sure to pinch off the flowers when they start to bloom) makes it produce more!

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Dill is another of my favorites.  It is wonderful with cucumbers and with cooked carrots.  Make sure to cut it back when it starts to put on its umbrella-like blooms, or it won’t produce as well.  Also, watch out for caterpillars.  They can strip a dill plant in a few hours.  At the end of the season, let your dill go to seed and dry out, then cut it down and throw the whole plant back in your garden.  It will reseed itself the next season!

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I grow cilantro specifically because I like to use it in my homemade salsa.  Fresh cilantro is also great on taco salads.  Here’s the thing, I have trouble keeping it from going to seed.  It always goes to seed about mid-season, and, unlike other herbs, it becomes unusable and unsalvageable.  If anyone has a tip to keep it going all season, clue me in!

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Fennel is very similar in appearance to dill, but does not taste or behave the same.  It grows to be huge – about 4 ft high!  I have honestly never used fennel in recipes.  I plant it in my butterfly garden (a garden with plants that butterflies and caterpillars are drawn to) because caterpillars – the same ones that eat my dill – love it.  In fact, I often remove the little offender from my dill and transfer it to my fennel.

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Fennel

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Bronze Fennel

Butterfly

These little boogers turn into beautiful Swallowtail Butterflies

 

 Parsley is a unique herb in that it is a biennial herb – it comes back the second year.  Its mild flavor makes it great in salads, red sauce, chicken, etc.  It is easy to grow, but it, too, is susceptible to caterpillars.

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Nasturtium is also unique.  It is an edible flower!  Both the flower and its leaves have a peppery taste and are amazing in salads (it also makes salads really pretty!).  Nasturtium has very pretty flowers and grows easily and rapidly.  It is also very hardy.  Even if you’re not into eating flowers (it freaks my husband out a little), this is a great flower to plant in pots and have on your porch  because it requires so little attention.

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There are so many herbs, and the ways to use them are endless!  But if I had to choose just a few, I would pick oregano, basil, and rosemary – they’re my favorites, and the ones I use the most.  Find your favorites, and start your herb garden.  Now is the perfect time!

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