In this article I will write about my top four herbs – parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme. All of these herbs grow well in full sun and most, other than rosemary, will grow fine in light shade. They all do well in moderately moist soil, so water well but then let the soil dry a bit before the next watering. Also, while all of these herbs except thyme prefer a lower pH soil, they will all do well in the soils in our area.
Parsley, Petroselinium crispum, is often used to brighten up a dish. It can be used as a garnish to create visual appeal, or as a flavoring to brighten up the taste of the dish. Being a semi-hardy biennial, parsley often overwinters, but the best flavor is from plants that are new for the season. Growing parsley from seed can be slow, due to tough seed coats, but you can try soaking the seeds in water overnight before planting. Harvest by cutting off the older, outer leaves close to the ground, which encourages new growth, rather than just cutting off the tops, which often makes the plant less productive.
There are a number of varieties of parsley, including Italian flat leaf, curly, Hamburg and Japanese. If you happen to see a bright-colored caterpillar eating your parsley count yourself lucky and don’t kill it because it will turn into the black swallowtail butterfly.
Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, is quite versatile and is used in meat as well as vegetable dishes, breads, soups and stews. For years, rosemary overwintered quite well here, resulting in plants easily 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide. However, in the last four to five years, overwintering the plant has been more difficult, with rosemary often suffering some winter kill. As such, it’s probably a good idea to cover the plant with straw or leaves before cold weather hits.
While there are some pests that can bother rosemary, such as spider mites, scale and mealybugs, I rarely see them causing any real problems. You can find a variety of types of rosemary, some used for cooking and others used more for their visual appeal, in the landscape.
Sage, Salvia officinalis, has a variety of uses, from culinary to aromatic, medicinal and decorative. It might be best known as the herb used in poultry stuffing, but it can be added fresh to salads and used with eggs, soups and a wide variety of other dishes. Sage, being in the salvia family, has square stems that can be downy or hairy, as can the leaves. There are many varieties of sage. The common garden sage is a good choice for culinary use, but there are others, both large and small with various colorings. I grew the tricolor sage for about nine years before it gave out, and my common sage plant reaches a height and width of more than 3 feet most years.
Thyme includes a variety of species, and the common thyme, Thymus vulgaris, is a very small perennial evergreen shrub and definitely my favorite herb. I have multiple plants throughout the garden and take cuttings year-round to use when cooking. In the winter I will dig through the snow and clip off some sprigs. While the leaves at that time of year look darker, the flavor is still great.
Thyme is an herb that actually likes a more alkaline pH, which works well for this region. There are a multitude of types, both culinary and ornamental, and another culinary type I grow is Thymus citriodorus, which includes lemon thyme, which has a great lemon scent and flavor.
All of these herbs grow well in the garden but can also grow well in containers if you watch your watering. They all have their own unique look, which brings visual pleasure to the garden, can be rubbed between the fingers for delightful scents and excel at adding flavors to your meals. Consider trying these and all the other herbs I have written about and, of course, there are still more types to grow and enjoy.
Thought for the day: “Parsley – the jewel of herbs, both in the pot and on the plate.” —Albert Stockli.
Have an idea you’d like Mike to consider writing about? Want more information about these topics? Call the Utah State University Extension Grand County office at 435-259-7558 or email Mike Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.