Herbs for a Spaghetti Garden
Herbs are one of the delightful pleasures of life. They add flavor to
your food, scent to the air and beauty to your garden. In colonial
times, no home was complete without an herb garden for the lady of
the house to use in her kitchen, and it wasnt unusual for those
herb gardens to be separated by use savory herbs, tea herbs,
medicinal herbs. Thats a tradition thats made a comeback
in many modern gardens.
One of the more popular types of kitchen gardens is a spaghetti
garden. Oregano, basil, garlic, bay and parsley are such easy to grow
plants that its a pity for anyone to use dried and bottled
herbs if they have a sunny patch of ground or a window-box. A few
square feet of garden space can easily yield all the herbs that
youll need for delicious Italian meals. Theyre even easy
enough to grow in a sunny window for year round use.
Bay leaves add a piquant hint of spice to stews, soups and especially
spaghetti sauce. The bay laurel is a small tree that grows slowly
about a foot per year making it eminently suitable for
growing in a container. Unless you live in a mild climate zone (where
the temperatures dont drop below 25 degrees in the winter),
youll do best to keep the tree in a pot and bring it indoors
during the winter.
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Basil is an annual, but it seeds itself so easily that Ive
never had to buy another after planting my first year. There are many
varieties of basil, but all grow fast and require frequent pinching
back to keep them from growing leggy and tall. To harvest: when the
plants have reached about 6-8 inches tall, you can begin harvesting.
Simply use your thumb and forefinger to pinch off the top 1/3 of the
plant, just above a leaf intersection. Be sure to pinch off any
flower buds before they go to seed. Six to eight plants will provide
enough basil to make pesto for the entire neighborhood.
Garlic is possibly the easiest plant in the world to grow. Simply
break apart a clove of garlic (yes, right from the grocery store!),
and plant the cloves about 4 inches apart, 2-4 inches deep in light
soil. Water lightly, and watch them grow. Harvest when tips of leaves
turn brown do NOT let them flower. To harvest: dig up the
bulbs, and use them. In the interests of keeping a fresh supply
going, plant one or two cloves from each bulb!
Parsley is easily the most used herb in the world. It comes in both
flat (Italian) and curly varieties, and complements the flavor of
everything from delicate sauces to hearty stews. Its often used
as a garnish on plates, or chopped and added to soups, dressings and
salads. It adds vitamins and color, and subtly brings out the flavor
of other ingredients in the meal. The parsley plant is a biennial,
flowering in its second season. It prefers a little shade on a hot
sunny day, and should be kept well watered to avoid wilting and
drying. To harvest: pinch back woody older stems all the way to the
base, allowing new leaves and branches to grow.
A perennial ground cover plant, oregano is a prolific grower that can
send out shoots that grow up to six feet in a single season. If
encouraged with pruning and bunching, oregano can grow into a small
border plant. It prefers light, thin soil and lots of sun, so keep it
on the south side of your garden. Harvesting can start when the
plants reach 4-5 inches. Simply pinch back as you would basil. The
young leaves are the most flavorful part of the plant, and are
actually considerably stronger dried than fresh. To dry, lay the
harvested leaves out on newspaper or drying screens in the sun until
the leaves crumble easily. Dried oregano will retain its flavor for months.