Fresh summer herbs…yum! One of my greatest joys is being able to grow, harvest, and enjoy herbs straight from the garden. My herbs are doing very well this year! I have already savored them fresh sprinkled on a big, juicy tomato and in a garden salad. I have also made pesto with dried herbs mixed with olive oil. So tasty!
Last week our family went to the beach. I was a little uneasy about leaving my herbs and gardens for a whole week. I have put a lot of heart and care into my garden, and I have already been rewarded with a small harvest. Luckily I have a sweet neighbor with a very green thumb who tended to them while we were away, so I really had nothing to worry about!
This rusty, old yellow wagon has been perfect for holding my potted herbs. When it gets too hot, I just roll the wagon to a shadier area. This has allowed me to keep some of my herbs from bolting too soon. I was able to move the wagon down to my neighbor’s yard which made it even easier for her to watch over them.
We had gorgeous beach weather on vacation, but there was a lot of rain in KY while we were gone. I returned home to find even lusher and greener plants!
Early on the Sunday morning before vacation I spent some peaceful time in the garden enjoying my herbs and inspecting them carefully. They smelled and looked so good I decided to harvest some for lunch.
I snipped enough lemon thyme, two varieties of sage, three kinds of basil, oregano, and rosemary to make herb roasted chicken.
These herbs taste delicious fresh in a garden salad, but I wanted to dry them for my Italian herb roasted chicken.
I washed the herbs by rinsing them off, then soaking them for a few minutes in a bowl of cool water mixed with a bit of white vinegar. I dried them gently with a paper towel, soaking up as much water as possible. Then I placed them on a pizza pan and dried them in the oven at 200 degrees for about an hour.
After the herbs were dry I let them cool for a few minutes. I stripped the thyme leaves from the stems by hand (opposite direction of growth) then discarded the stems.
Next I simply crushed the herbs by hand with the back of a spoon. It was fast and easy! I didn’t measure because I didn’t realize I would be doing a blog post at the time, but one dinner plate full of a mix of fresh herbs provided more than enough to season 4 chicken breasts.
This herb mixture is SO GOOD!
Here are the herb plants I used for my mixture, as well as a few other plants that I am growing:
This two year-old lemon thyme is growing great in a large pot in a sunny area. Although the lemon scent isn’t as strong as it’s first season, the woody herbal thyme scent is still amazing!
Style Tip: Add cute herb markers to your garden! Purchase them inexpensively at dollar stores, or use your creativity to make your own. For example, paint stones or rocks with chalkboard paint and write the plant species in chalk pen.
This oregano is on it’s third year growing in the same pot and same original soil, which proves how hardy it is. Earlier in the summer I cut back woody stems and fertilized the soil. I also removed any unhealthy stems or leaves. Because it had a fungal disease the first season, I don’t use it for cooking now, but I still enjoy it’s beautiful foliage and fragrance in the landscape.
My edible oregano is growing nicely in a pot beside sweet basil and rosemary on the yellow wagon. I did have the oregano in the same pot with the basil, but they have different moisture requirements so I recently separated them. Basil is considered a “friend” of tomatoes, so I have placed it in the yellow wagon next to my potted “patio” tomatoes which are so easy to grow. I have enjoyed quite a few already!
Burpee (Non-GMO) “Patio” Tomato
Rosemary is my favorite herb! I adore it’s smell, taste, and pine needle-like foliage. I often diffuse rosemary essential oils as well. I love oven roasted, garlic-rosemary red potatoes for the holidays especially, but I am crazy about cold, red potato salad with rosemary-garlic infused olive oil. Recipe coming in time for Labor Day picnics! Be sure to check back soon!
Onion chives are used in so many recipes and they are so easy to grow! I recommend garlic or onion chives for beginning herb gardeners. They will grow very well in pots. Almost too well! Choose a large pot for best results. In zone 6 (Kentucky) chives are a hardy perennial which will be one of the earliest herbs to return in the spring. Transplant potted chives directly to the ground in the fall and you will have chives for years!
Style tip: Add whimsy to your garden with vintage salt and pepper shakers or small figurines. These little Chinese salt and pepper shakers were too cute to pass up at a yard sale for fifty cents! They add some color and interest while I impatiently wait for pretty purple chive blossoms!
Sage is a favorite herb for most all gardeners. It is hardy and tasty! This year I tried two new kinds of sage. The variety above has maintained near perfect leaf shape, and has had steady growth with very few signs of pest damage or disease. I will be harvesting and drying lots of it for holiday stuffing and winter meals. Bonus: Bugs hate sage! Throw a bundle in your camp fire or fire pit while you are burning it and keep away those disease carrying mosquitoes!
Purple Sage and Purple Spicy Globe Basil
This pretty sage has a purple center and bits of purple throughout the leaves. It smells wonderful and is an interesting specimen plant in mixed containers of herbs and annuals. Here I have paired it with purple spicy globe basil.
I placed my purple sage and purple globe basil next to my ornamental black pepper. The combination of various shades of purple foliage and dark black berries makes a stunning statement on the patio.
There are many different varieties of mint and all are easy to grow. Chocolate mint has a true chocolate aroma. The smell is amazing and taunts me as I can nearly taste my favorite Girl Scout Cookies- “Thin Mints.” I can no longer eat them due to food allergies and high sugar content, but this mint makes a wonderful and tasty tea at least! NOTE: THIS PLANT WILL DRAW MANY HONEYBEES! YAY!!! Save the bees please!
Any kind of mint can be invasive so choose a spot wisely. I wanted to use mine as a ground cover so I didn’t mind it taking over in a small garden bed outside our back door.
Next to Rosemary, Lavender is favorite! To my dismay I have never been extremely successful growing it, but this year I have several plants growing in containers and they are doing pretty well. I have a large pot by my back door and I absolutely can’t resist rubbing the leaves between my fingers every time I pass by. Oh the heavenly fragrance!
For now I have snipped a very small bouquet to hang in my kitchen from the pot rack until I have more to harvest. I love lavender tea and lavender and thyme infused oil in recipes so I really hope it starts taking off soon!
This evening I am going to pick more lemon thyme since it is growing best. Yesterday I picked a small bundle and it is now hanging to dry alongside my lavender. I love the look of herb bundles drying in the kitchen. A little touch of Provence!
If you have only grown herbs for their beauty I encourage you to snip off just a bit of your plants and try the oven method for drying them. You can even dry them in the microwave if you are impatient, but they will lose some of their nutritional value. Still, they will be fresher than store bought herbs, and free if you grew them yourself!
Did you grow any herbs this year? I would love to know how they are doing and how you use them in recipes! I look forward to your comments!