Got Herbs?

By Gardennia nutii

I grow a lot of herbs. They are fragrant and beautiful, and gathering herbs for a meal satiates the “gatherer” part of my instinctual needs. I’m sure most of our readers grow herbs, the popular ones being basil, chives, sage, rosemary, thyme and oregano. These are all great—essential in fact—but I thought I’d highlight a few herbs I wouldn’t be without that are a bit off the beaten path:

Vietnamese coriander (Persicaria odorata): I love coriander (a.k.a. cilantro), but growing the variety commonly found in the store (Coriandrum sativum) has proved difficult for me because there is only a short window in which to harvest, and I’m not organized enough to sow seeds more than once. I discovered “Vietnamese coriander” about five years ago and now I wouldn’t be without it. It’s a perennial and available for harvest about seven months of the year, or year-round if you bring it indoors during the cold months. It’s more pungent than the store variety (so be careful not to use too much of it in your recipes) but whenever you need that wonderful coriander flavor, it’s there for the picking.

French Sorrel (Rumex acetosa): A sprawling perennial herb that grows approximately 6-10 inches tall, I use it as a ground cover. The leaves are a beautiful light green and small white/green flowers appear in long stocks in the summer. It prefers moist soil and full to part sun, but that is it; once it’s established I do nothing but harvest it for about seven months of the year. I typically throw the fresh new greens into salads and soups where it adds a wonderful lemony flavor.

Lovage (Levisticum officinale): This perennial tastes like celery but with a hint of anise. Try leaves and stems in fresh salads, stews and soups, and dried seeds in soups, casseroles and sauces. You can harvest any part of the plant as needed, but leave the central stem for continuous growth. It’s very easy to grow, but does require full to part sun and well-amended soil. After the first year, it can grow 3-6 ft tall, so take that into account when planting.

While we’re on the subject of herbs I thought I’d share a bit of good news with all of you: N & M Herb Nursery, Inc. just opened an outlet at 11702 Feller Road, NE, Hubbard, Ore. The outlet is open Thursday – Sunday from 9:00am to 5:00pm from May 6 to July 4, 2010. So instead of searching for their wonderful herbs at farmers markets or specialty sales, we can go right to the source!

Do you have a favorite herb? Let us know!