Growing an Italian herb garden
An Italian herb garden planter or outdoor herb garden sounds marvelous, doesn’t it? Basil, oregano, sage, garlic, parsley, fennel, rosemary – to name a few, these are all the great flavors that make Italian cooking, well, Italian…
Basil: a very well known Italian herb has a strong, pungent, sweet smell. There are many varieties of basil: sweet basil, Thai basil, lemon basil, to name a few. Italian cuisine uses mainly sweet basil and it is used in dishes mainly fresh. Not only is basil a great flavorful herb, it is also useful to plant in your home herb garden for two other reasons: (1) if planted near tomatoes and peppers, it seems to improve their flavor; and (2) basil is also know to repel mosquitoes and flies in your garden.
Oregano: another staple Italian herb, oregano is known for its generous use in tomatoes sauces, like spaghetti. It is a perennial herb, with purple, decorative flowers, which sprout at maturity. Once it reaches maturity, Oregano is at its most flavorful and should only be harvested then.
Sage: is a small perennial herb, used in many dishes, from salads to meats. It has a peppery flavor – it is typically sautéed in olive oil to a crisp, then tossed with pasta. The most flavor is found in new shoots of this herb so care should be taken to keep the plant trim, which will also encourage new growth. Its flowers are blue to purple color and this herb is best harvested after bloom.
Garlic: one the most well known Italian herb and most widely used in Italian cuisine. Definitely a must have in an Italian herb garden! Cloves can be planted directly outdoors or in containers with enough depth and will grow easily with little care. The bulbs are harvested and can be used fresh right away. Other uses include freezing the bulbs or pickled and refrigerated.
Parsley: one species of this herb is also known as Italian parsley. It is a green, biennial herb. Grown indoors, in deep pots, it will require at least five hours of sunlight. Parsley can be a relatively difficult herb to grow. It is great in soups and has been used as garnish in many dishes.
Fennel: is very aromatic and flavorful herb. Its seeds are widely used in Italian sausages, enhancing the flavor. It is a perennial plant; to savor its flavor, it should be divided and replanted every few years. It should be noted that the plant loses its flavor as it matures and should be harvested at the peak.
Rosemary: a native of the Mediterranean region, it grows as a large shrub with little blue flowers. A woody, perennial herb is beneficial to a garden by attracting bees. It is pest resistant, easy to grow, and has an unmistakable fragrance – great in meat dishes.
While there are many options for an Italian herb garden, considering how you will use these herbs in your cooking is the first step. Also to consider are your specific growing conditions, for your indoor or outdoor herb garden. These herbs make a great addition to landscaping, adding aroma and color. Imagine strolling through your herb garden, enveloped by the smells of these beautiful plants, almost like being in an Italian village.