U of I
Extension garden article
Fishburn, University of Illinois Extension
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[September 09, 2013]
SPRINGFIELD -- As a group,
culinary herbs are my favorite garden plants. They are easy to grow
as they require little care, have few insect and disease problems,
and generally prefer moderate fertility levels. In addition, they
add fragrance and beauty to the garden. Many herbs, such as
lavender, sage and purple basil, are very ornamental and combine
nicely in flower or vegetable gardens.
Throughout the growing season, herbs need some attention including
weeding, watering and harvesting. Most established herb plants don't
need additional watering; however, when rainfall is less than 1 inch
per week, additional moisture may be needed. The key is to avoid
overwatering. Weeding takes persistence. Harvesting of herbs can be
done throughout the growing season.
Here are a few harvesting
Pruning herbs gives you leaves for flavoring food and promotes
compact, bushy plants. Most herbs that will be used for cooking
should be harvested just as flower buds appear. This is when the
plants have the most volatile oil for the best flavor. For the most
concentration of oils, harvest early in the morning, just after the
dew evaporates, before the sun is hot. Scissors or pruning shears
work the best for trimming plants.
Annual herbs grown for their leaves, such as basil, summer savory
and sweet marjoram, should be cut back, leaving approximately 6
inches of stem and leaves. Cut back stem to just above a leaf or
pair of leaves. Most annual leafy herbs don't survive frost or
freezing. So, if frost is predicted, remove as much of the plant as
you desire for preserving.
Dill and cilantro/coriander are annual herbs grown for leaves and
seeds. If growing for seeds, allow the plant to mature before
harvesting. Collect seed heads as they turn a light brown. Place
seed heads upside down in a paper bag. Allow to dry for about 14
days and shake seeds off stems before removing stems from the bag.
Prune leafy perennial herbs such as sage, rosemary, thyme and
oregano by removing one-third of the top growth at a time. Avoid
heavy prunings of perennial herbs after the beginning of September.
In the fall, plants that will overwinter need to start shutting
down. Heavy pruning will promote new growth, which keeps a plant
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Herbs are best fresh; however, most can be dried or frozen for
later use. Before preserving herbs, wash them to remove dirt and
Here is a great way to enjoy a combination of fresh herbs:
Fresh Herb Spread
2 sticks unsalted, low-fat
margarine, room temperature
1 tablespoon chopped fresh green
1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Use kitchen scissors and chop herbs fairly fine. Blend all herbs
and lemon juice into margarine with a spoon. Don't use electric
mixer, food processor or blender unless you like spread to be green.
Make this spread a day or two before using so flavors will blend.
Makes 16 tablespoons.
Serve on bread or crackers.
Nutrient analysis per 1 tablespoon serving: 50 calories, 6 grams
fat, 0 grams cholesterol, 1 gram carbohydrate, trace sodium.
[By JENNIFER FISHBURN, horticulture
University of Illinois Extension, Logan-Menard-Sangamon Unit]