Not that kind of herb. Happy belated 4/20/20. The other kind of herb—the cooking kind.
Let’s start here: I’m a recreational lover of gardens. I know where you thought I might be going with this. I’m not. Nope, keeping it to family-cooking-home-friendly, edible herbs. Wow, see how I can keep getting myself into trouble here with word selection? Let’s rephrase: natural herbs with which we frequently flavor foods whilst cooking. Same page? OK. Good.
Starter Ideas For Culinary Herb Gardens
I see pots (holy smokes, it never ends!!!) like this one, and I want to fill them. I see plants like this one, and think about how good they smell and taste and I start dreaming of roasted potatoes with rosemary. I see gloves like these and think, wow, you are pretty, you encourage me to get outside and do a little work. And I see tools like this and I swoon; I love all tools and projects, I just especially appreciate garden tools. I am not a professional gardener; I’m just gaining years of experience in my lifelong loving of all gardens and specifically, of herbs.
Notes On An Herb Garden 1: Wait for it.
My middle child is named Cecilia Seton, middle name after a dear friend that was lost too soon, Mary Seton Corboy. Seton The Elder used to take Ceci on her hip, walk her through the urban farm, and pick up dirt-dirty, farm-fresh radishes, take a bite, and then offer a bite to almost 2-year-old Ceci, who would lift her curls from her face, and also, take a bite, then they’d nod in approval to one another. And then they’d move on to whatever was next in chasing then 3-year-old AJ around the farm, while I waddled behind, pregnant with Grace, moving slower than the pack, also picking not-yet-clean-vegetables out of piles of harvest for a snack. I liked the snap peas and the asparagus best—with dirt on them. Seton and Ceci had such a sweet beautiful relationship—from the get-go, for the whole run of it. Mary Seton was a living legend, and her legend and her many life lessons (taught to others), live on in all the lives she touched. I know they do in ours.
I learned in time, to listen to Seton.
Every year we’d have a short conversation the minute we had a few of those tease 60-degree days in April, and I’d want to start planting gigantic container gardens everywhere I could. I’d ask, “Now?” And she’d say, “Not yet. Soon. May, first weekend in May. 40+ degrees three nights in a row.” She’d then mutter something under her breath behind The New York Times we were co-reading in her living room, something about “how many times do I have to tell you this?” but in words that may be inappropriate to print here.
It was, in fact, usually the first week in May that 40+ degree nights, three in a row happened in Philadelphia. She knew. I should have. There are places in the world where you can be gardening before then. Philadelphia, is not one of them. You can prep, sure. And you should. But plant? Listen to Seton — first weekend in May. Wait for it. It’s real soon. I hear you Seton. I’m listening, always, and better.
Notes On An Herb Garden 2: Manageable Projects Are Better Projects
I remember the day my friend Colby bought a house with a bit of land, and promptly had her teenage daughter and a one of her friends help her construct giant raised beds — 10 of them. And then she filled them, planted them and grew them. And would show up at my back door with PILES of tomatoes soon thereafter…every…day. The first time, it was an amazing gift. By day three, I didn’t let her in. By the end of a month…well, let’s just say, this year I’m already researching the best recipes for salsa and how to jar it….And planning on perfecting homemade marinara, from grape tomatoes, because I know we’re going to learn the tomato harvest lesson all over again, just because we can.
Just picking the tomatoes became a full-time job, and eating them all became all of ours. Colby is like that — she sees big, thinks big, and goes big. And then, we manage the harvest of her big ideas. Clearly, not the worst-case scenario….but I dunno, maybe one raised bed, and a few different kinds of plants, start small and scale up? I dunno, too practical for some dreamers I suppose. Knowing her as I do, I’ll continue to research jarring and marinara perfection, and be ready for more summer harvest this season.
Notes On An Herb Garden 3: Growing Culinary Herbs For Our Kitchens Is Some Kind Of Wonderful!
Many plants like attention, they like to be clipped and pinched and picked and cut back—every day. How great of a situation is it when the plants that need that most, are also the ones whose clippings we can use every day, cooking in our own kitchen, every actual day? It’s a win/win. And freaking delicious to cook with fresh herbs.
So here’s a quick post, on my favorite useful, manageable project: The Herb Garden. Because it’s manageable, useful, can be contained to a container, can be indoors or outdoors, and NOW….now is a good time to get one started. We can always add to it as we go.
1/ A Proper Garden Tool Kit » I might be known to impulse garden…it’s a lot of bare- (freshly, properly washed) hands work. However, I do love when the tools are at the ready, and this set is seriously cute. It has everything you need all in one, organized easy-to-tote place, and does make for easier work.
2/ Pretty Gloves » This one is usually an afterthought for me. When the dirt is so deep in my so-dry-and-already-wrinkled-hands that three showers can’t get it out, is when I typically think, hmmm…I should have worn gloves. Wear gloves, or just pop a scrub brush for your hands in your next cart too.
3/ Bay Leaf Plant » Use them fresh, or dry them and add to soups, stews and sauces when it’s chilly, and those meals are super-important! Plenty of good opportunities for soups and stews, all year round!
4/ The 3 Greats Starter Set » It just sold out. OK fine. If you want a starter set of kitchen herbs, heres’s a great one. Yes, that’s from seed. Yes seeds grow quickly. Look at your kids. Or…the 3 greats, if we need starter plants right now, (for air purification specifically) are Eucalyptus, Lavender and Mint, if you click on their names, you can start your own set. These are the times of trying new things. We’re doing that here.
5/ Thyme » Cut it back at the end of the season, and yes, it’ll come back, thyme and thyme again. Giggle. And tastes so good with chicken. Just saying, from the girl that doesn’t even love chicken. Thyme makes it delicious.
6/ Rosemary Or Rosemary from here (better price) » Best herb ever! Just let it do its thing, and it’ll grow into a gigantic beautiful bush. The Irish in me has never met a potato I don’t love, and they all taste better roasted with fresh rosemary!
7/ Oregano » Smells so amazing, and mixes well with the basil, thyme and rosemary, on fish, chicken and meat on the grill!
8/ Italian Parsley » You’ll love it. It’s good for you in detox green smoothies. It’s great to cook with, AND….the caterpillars love it too. If they come, just let them. Caterpillars become butterflies. Totally worth the front row seat for that lifecycle event viewing.
9/ Basil » One and done, plant it, pinch it, eat it, love it, it’s not coming back. But it will give you better harvest if you pinch it back to it’s last sprout regularly.
10/ Pebbles » Drainage is the secret to keeping most plants alive. It lets the water out. So they go in the container first, then the dirt goes on top of them.
11/ Dirt » Necessary for gardening. And who doesn’t need a little extra dirt just about now?
12/ Tabletop Trough Planters » Comes in 3 finishes, is usually on sale, especially now, and is tabletop ready for indoors or out. I particularly love trough planters (long rectangle ones) for spacing herbs—the ones that grow up, go in the back, like bay leaf. The ones that grow over, go in the front, like thyme. It will layer and fill well with mixed herbs.
13/ Outdoor Bigger Trough Sized Planters » I mean, if you have the space, go a little bigger. These are actually the size I usually use for our herb gardens. Leave a little space, the plants fill it in time.
14/ Round Planters » The most efficient, and the easiest to move into the best sun when you need to sun chase. And they are just gorgeous as the plants grow and fill!
OK, I’m going to go plant my own rosemary and thyme. It’s time for that. We’re starting there around here, if you want to be with us together apart.
PS: Follow along with me on Pinterest for more Home Inspiration and other random distraction via pretty visuals. xo A