Fall into Herbs
It’s The Right Time To Replenish Plants Lost To The Heat
Herbs are plants that are used as flavoring agents. The common herbs used in cooking are referred to as culinary herbs. Mild or savory herbs impart a delicate flavor to food while the stronger or pungent herbs add zest to foods. These herbs are attractive and varied so their ornamental value is also important.
Herbs can be used in flower beds, borders, rock gardens or corner plantings. Some herbs are annuals while others are perennial or come up year after year. You can locate annual herbs in your annual flower garden or vegetable garden. The perennial herbs should be located at the side of the garden where they won’t interfere with next year’s soil preparation.
This is a sampling of the many herbs that benefit from fall planting in this area.
Basil – This is one of the easiest of all herbs to grow. It is a rather strong herb, but one that is delightful when chopped fine and mixed with butter. Basil is quite tender so at the first sign of frost you can expect to lose it.
Many varieties and flavors are available: Sweet Green Basil, Lemon, Cinnamon, Licorice, Globe, Purple Ruffled, Japanese Sawtooth, Holy, Cuban, and Thai. Not all are used in cooking. Basil is the herb to use in all tomato dishes. Add fresh chopped leaves to vinegar, crushed garlic and olive oil to make an excellent dressing for sliced tomatoes. Add to pork, roast chicken, scrambled eggs, eggplant and squash dishes. It is easy to grow from seed.
Chamomile – This herb makes one of the best of all herbal teas to calm the nerves. There are two varieties: English and German camomile. The dried blossoms of either can be used to make tea. Add lemon and sweeten with honey to hide the bitter taste. It is easy to grow from seed available at nurseries. Use the tea as a hair rinse.
Catnip – This is an interesting herb to grow, especially if you have cats. The cats like to roll all over the catnip as well as any surrounding plants, so you’ll probably find it’s best to grow in a hanging basket. Although it is sometimes used to make a calming tea for humans, catnip’s main attribute seems to be known only by cats. It is best grown from transplants.
Chives – The smallest member of the onion family, chives are easily grown from seed or transplants. Use as you would onions. It is the perfect topping with sour cream for baked potatoes. Add to cottage cheese, omelets, sauces and as a garnish.
Coriander (also known as Cilantro or Chinese Parsley) – This herb is well-known in this area from its use in Mexican cooking. The leaves have a very strong, clean flavor. Use only young leaves. The seeds have a flavor similar to orange and are used in pastries, sausage, cooked fruit, and in pickling spice and curry powder. It is easily grown from seed and can sometimes be found growing wild in this area.
Dill – One of the easiest herbs to grow from seed, dill will easily become a weed if seed heads are allowed to dry on the plant. Use in pickling, add to cottage or cream cheese, most vegetables, fish; the dried seed can be added to bread dough for a caraway-like flavor. Add to vinegar used to make salad dressings. The large green caterpillars that love to eat dill will turn into swallowtail butterflies, so plant enough for you and them.
Lemon Balm – A member of the mint family, it can be started from seeds, cuttings or roots. Once established, it will spread and self-sow, so give it plenty of room. Use the fresh or dried leaves to make cold or hot teas. It’s a good addition to fish dishes.
Marjoram – This is a woody cousin of oregano with a more delicate, sweet flavor. Its several varieties and forms include Sweet marjoram, Winter marjoram, Pot Marjoram, and Creeping Golden Marjoram. All forms can be used in cooking. Use marjoram in any dish you would use oregano or sage. Add to roasts, stews, stuffing and spaghetti sauces, and roast pork and chicken. It is best grown from transplants or root cuttings.
Mints – Mint comes in an almost endless variety of types: Peppermint, Spearmint, Mint-the-Best, Applemint, Grapemint, Watermint, Orange Bergamont Mint, Pennyroyal Curly Mint, Pineapple Mint, and on and on. Spearmint and peppermint are most commonly used as culinary herbs. Use them to make hot and cold teas, and a sauce to serve with roast lamb.
Mint is one of the hardiest and easiest herbs to grow. All mints appreciate moisture and do best where they get afternoon shade. A good place to plant spearmint is at the base of a downspout. Grow from cuttings, roots or transplants. Most mints are tough, hardy plants for this area.
Oregano – The name oregano is given to several unrelated plants that share the same or similar flavor. Two are the most common two in this area: one is the oregano used in Italian or Greek cooking which is a low spreading plant, Origanum vulgare. The other is a bushy shrub we call Mexican Oregano, Lippia graveolens or Lippia palmeri. Both are available in local nurseries. The native common Doveweed is an excellent substitute for oregano. Oregano is a basic ingredient in Italian and Mexican cooking. It can be used to season all meats, stuffing, soups, spaghetti sauce and pizza. Leaves are best used dried.
Parsley – This is without a doubt the most used and least-eaten herb in the world. Millions of pounds are used as a garnish and promptly thrown away, which is a shame because parsley is loaded with vitamins and minerals. It is excellent dipped in a batter and deep fried. Brown with butter and garlic for a sauce to baste grilled meats. Parsley comes in two forms, the flat leaved or Italian parsley, and the curled or French parsley. Seed is slow to germinate, but worth the wait. Parsley can have problems with root maggots in this area. Parsley is a biennial, producing leaves the first year and flowers the next.
Rosemary – A hearty, tough plant that thrives in our hot dry climate, rosemary comes in many forms, from a bush that grows up to four feet tall to a low-growing groundcover variety. The fragrance is rather strong, but rosemary is typically used with many meat dishes, especially chicken. Cut sprig of rosemary to dip into barbecue sauce and then brush it on chicken.
Sage – This is another herb that doubles as a durable landscape plant in this area. Very drought-resistant, it can be killed by overwatering. Sage is best started from transplants or cuttings, but can be started from seed. There are many varieties of sage available, including Garden, Golden, Blue, Pineapple, Tri-color and Clary. All can be used in cooking. Sage leaves should always be dried before using. Sage is a must in stuffing for poultry. Roast it with pork, add to butter and saute chicken in it. It goes well in egg and cheese dishes. Try a little crumbled dry sage over a bowl of blackeyed peas. Dried leaves will keep their flavor for years.
Thyme – With over 400 species available, this herb is another valuable plant to use in beds, rock gardens and as landscape accents. Varieties available locally include Common, Woolly, Mother-of-Thyme, Lemon, English, Silver and Golden. Thyme goes well in most meat dishes, poultry, fish, soups and vegetable dishes. Add a pinch of thyme to a tablespoon of honey and add to drained cooked carrots and onions. Thyme is a key herb used to make Cajun gumbo. Thyme, along with sage, rosemary, marjoram and oregano should be considered the basics of every herb garden.
© Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M System