If you have an herb garden and live in a mild climate, as we do, your perennial herbs have been up for awhile and it’s almost time to plant the seeds for the annuals.
If you have an herb garden and live in a cold climate, like we used to, your perennial herbs are starting to come up and it’s almost time to plant the seeds for the annuals.
Regardless of what type of climate you live in, if you live in the northern hemisphere and want an herb garden, now is the time to plant it – or, at the very least, to plan it.
When we lived in the Vendée I had the herb garden of my dreams, with white gravel paths and enough herbs that at least half ended up on the compost pile.
Here my garden is significantly smaller, about 36 feet by 3 feet, but it still gives me more than enough fresh herbs all summer long and enough for the freezer to last the rest of the year. And there is still room for a few flowers.
When I lived in Minnesota I had a ‘Square Foot’ Garden which was roughly half the size of the one I have now. It was 7 by 7 feet (about 2.3 by 2.3 meters) and kept me happily supplied with a variety of herbs all summer long.
Here is what you can plant in 7′ X 7′ garden – with a 1′ path down the middle for easy access.
Divide your garden into 1′ squares – you’ll have 3 rows of 7 squares on either side of your path.
Basil: 3 – 4 varieties in one complete row of 7 squares, 4 plants per square, 28 plants total
Chives: 4 plants in 2 adjoining squares, 2 plants per square
Garlic Chives: 4 plants in 2 adjoining squares, 2 plants per square
Thyme and Lemon Thyme: 3 plants total, centered in 2 X 3 square area
Marjoram: 2 plants in 2 X 2 square area
Oregano: 2 plants in 2 X 2 square area
Parsley: 1 curly, 3 flat in 3 adjoining squares
Rosemary: 1 plant in 2 X 2 square area
Summer Savory: 3 plants 2 adjoining squares
Tarragon: 1 plant, centered in 2 x 2 square area
Sage: 1 plant, centered in 2 X 2 square area
Plus 1 empty square for something else!
Oh yes, the mint: Keep it in a pot….. please! It sends out runners that will soon engulf your house, neighborhood, city….
Of course, depending on your space you can make your garden long and skinny like mine or L-shaped or whatever suits your fancy – the planting principles are the same.
With a garden like this you will always have fresh herbs to add to your cooking: a pinch here; a handful there, without having to pay outrageous supermarket prices.
Like this lovely risotto….
2/3 cup Arborio rice (or other rice specifically for risotto – Carnaroli or Vialone Nano)
1/2 cup (4oz, 125ml) dry, white wine
2 1/4 cups (18oz, 500ml) chicken stock
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tbs butter
1/2 cup (2oz, 60gr) Parmesan cheese – freshly grated
Heat chicken stock and keep hot over low heat.
Sauté onion in butter in a medium saucepan for 5 minutes, until tender. Add rice and sauté, stirring, for 2 – 3 minutes until rice has white center. Add white wine and stir.
When wine is almost absorbed add a 1/3 cup of stock and stir. (No need to stir constantly but do stir from time to time.) When stock is almost absorbed add another 1/3 cup and continue adding 1/3 cup at a time and stirring.
Before the last 1/3 cup is added taste a few kernels of rice. They should be just ‘al dente’ – slightly resistant to the tooth but fully cooked. If more stock is needed add it a tbs at a time and waiting until almost completely absorbed. At this point risotto will be thick but not stiff – there will still be visible liquid and it will not hold it’s shape on a plate.
Add the Parmesan and all of the condimenti, stir well, pour into a bowl or risotto platter and serve immediately.
It will continue to absorb liquid and the leftovers (if any) will be quite stiff. The risottos that we have eaten in northern Italy have all been served in soup plates (flattish bowls) and eaten with a spoon – not a fork.
6oz (175gr) asparagus, cut to 1 inch (2.5cm) lengths
6oz (175 gr) turkey cutlets, cut into bite-size strips
3oz (90gr) cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tbs fresh, snipped garlic chives
1 tbs fresh, snipped chives
1 tbs fresh, snipped marjoram
2 tsp olive oil
While risotto is cooking, heat oil in medium skillet. Add onion, asparagus and sauté until tender. Add turkey and sauté until cooked through. Cover and keep warm until needed for risotto. Add tomatoes and herbs directly to risotto to finish.
As to tending your herb garden, water it, weed it and enjoy it. After the herbs blossom, cut the blossoms off and cut the herbs back to encourage fresh growth. Repeat.