CULINARY HERBS NOT ONLY TASTE GOOD AND ADD FLAVOR TO FOODS BUT CAN ALSO ADD COLOR AND INTEREST TO YOUR GARDEN AND LANDSCAPE DESIGN.
Following are a few herbs that thrive in the Texas climate plus enhance the pleasure of your outdoor living space. Consider using herbs throughout your landscape and have the bonus of adding flavors in the kitchen!
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is an evergreen perennial with a piney aroma and flavor. Upright rosemary makes a bold statement in the garden and needs plenty of room to expand as it can grow to be a four to five-foot shrub. It can also be planted as a hedge to conceal utility equipment or compost and work areas. There is also a creeping or prostrate variety that will trail down a wall or ledge. Both have pretty blue or pink flowers that begin to bloom in the fall and will add color to the winter landscape. Rosemary likes lots of sun but will tolerate some shade. Once established, additional watering is generally not needed. Be sure to take rosemary sprigs into the kitchen to add flavor to foods high in fat such as pork and lamb. Add it chopped to potatoes, rice, stuffing, stews and soups.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum and p. neapolitanum) is a biennial, meaning it has two growing seasons. The first is the plant’s green and flavorful time. This is the time to harvest the tender green leaves and use in salads, egg dishes, cream sauces, stews and soups. The curly (crispum) makes an attractive bright green border around a vegetable, herb or flower garden. The plants will grow to about twelve to 18 inches and do best if the leaves are harvested regularly. Flat leafed (Italian) parsley is the variety preferred by professional chefs. Parsley responds to seasonal changes so if grown in the spring and summer it will set seed in the fall. If you plant seedlings in the fall for a cool weather crop, they will set seeds in the spring responding to the change to warm weather. In Texas we tend to treat parsley as an annual and replant each season. Once the plant set seeds the leave’s flavor becomes bitter. Herb growers and wildlife enthusiasts allow the more mature plants to remain in the landscape as they are a host plant of the beautiful, black swallowtail butterflies.
Chives, onion (Allium schoenoprasum) is a perennial that generally dies back in the winter after a hard freeze. The hollow green leaves have a delicate onion flavor. Add the chopped leaves to soups, salads, creamed based dips, omelets and baked potatoes. The pretty, blue spring flowers add zing to green salads and dips. Plant seedlings or seeds in early spring in full sun or part shade. Chives make a good border plant and are a companion plant for roses and tomatoes as a deterrent to black spot and mildew.
Chives, garlic (Allium tuberosum) is a perennial used similarly to onion chives but has flat leaves and mild garlic flavor. Plants produce white flowers in early fall that attract bees and other pollinators to the garden. Be careful to harvest the seeds before they turn black and scatter. They will reproduce merrily if not controlled.
Thyme (Thymus spp.) varieties come as low growing, compact shrubs, about 12 inches round, and creeping varieties that grow flat as a ground cover. Thyme species come in many varieties and flavors so if you are planting for landscape appeal be sure to research for your space. Plant the shrub varieties along walkways and as border plants. Plant creeping around stepping stones and in between stones in a patio. The essential oils release a delightful scent when stepped on. Thyme reportedly benefits eggplants, potatoes and tomatoes when planted near by in the vegetable garden. In addition, gardeners recommend planting thyme to repel cabbageworms and whiteflies.