The Herb Garden; Risotto with Asparagus and Spring Herbs

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….

Asparagus and Herb RisottoRisotto with Asparagus and Spring Herbs

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.
Start condimenti.
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.


10 thoughts on “The Herb Garden; Risotto with Asparagus and Spring Herbs”

  1. Very nice post. I agree about the mint, it seems to have taken over, wins the battle against the nettles and is bushing up into the alleys.

  2. 😉 ooooo herbs! I just picked my first basil leaves this morning! I also picked the first lush new growth on the rosemary this morning. Now I feel rich! Anytime I can pick fresh herbs – saving $$$$ from buying in the store – I feel very rich! That risotto looks so very good.

  3. Beautiful gardens, and risotto! I can not imagine cooking without fresh herbs. We had a hard winter this year, and my 5 1/2 foot Rosemary, took a beating! I cut back the dead wood, fingers crossed some of it will still be alive. Another 4-6 weeks before we will see Basil…can hardly wait!

  4. Lucy, I love mint – but always lose control of it… breaks out of the pot or something. I think I’ll plant it in the lawn and mow around it.
    Thanks Belinda… I do love my herb gardens.
    Tanna, no basil for me yet. Can’t plant it until we get back from Italy. The seedlings need to much care.
    Ina, I could never keep my rosemary when we lived in Minnesota….
    Betty, thanks! I did all the work myself and was rather proud of it… Hated to have to leave it (But it really was too big)
    Claire, but it’s so easy to cook yourself!
    Kate, that’s when I start using lots of sage – it seems to hang on til the bitter end….

  5. The Risotto with Asparagus and Spring Herbs looks and sounds great, I will give it a try. If you want to get a jump on the planting next year, or want to use fresh herbs year around,no matter your climate, try starting an indoor herb garden.

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