Herbs! Finally



It was back in ’05 that I started lusting after an herb garden, thanks to the guy who taught herbs to my Master Gardener class.  In what was clearly the best lecture of the bunch, Jim Adams shared his passion in his usual low-key way and I got the bug.  He’d spent years as curator of the National Arboretum’s Herb Garden and had just started a much-needed make-over of the grounds at the British Embassy.  That’s Jim at the embassy when I visited him soon after he took over the gardens.

And below you see my brand new first-ever herbs looking happy on my deck.  On  the left are Greek oregano, fernleaf dill, and chives.  On the right, rosemary, cinnamon basil and lemon basil.  Not shown are the Cilantro and spearmint.

I think they’re all lovely!  I’m tasting them and getting suggestions about how to cook with them, dried or fresh, and I’d love to hear your ideas, too.

So why did it take me four years to give them a try?  Honestly, because I don’t cook, and to grow herbs is to impel the grower to use the damn stuff.  Quite a switch for an ornamentals-only, kitchen-averse kind of gardener.  I’m expecting nothing short of a grand transformation in my relationship with food.




  1. good for you to try new things! there are so many ways to use them but if you don’t cook that could be tricky. chives can be used in scrambled eggs and potato salad and salad dressings. you could grow mints and use them in iced tea or make mint juleps! you can chop herbs and freeze them in ice cube trays and then just pop herb iced cubes in soups for flavoring. if you have any questions comment on my blog and i will answer specifically. i happen to have enough chives right now to supply the entire country!

  2. Oven roasted potatoes are super easy. Chop fresh rosemary and garlic. Mix in bowl with cubed potatoes, olive oil and a touch of salt. I use garlic salt. Bake in oven til slightly browned. I prefer the Yukon Gold type potato, but any will do. Or have Michele ship you a box of her fresh home grown potatoes.

  3. I have fallen hard for herbs over the last six months as I have planned and planted gardens. I’m installing an edible landscape of almost entirely herbs at my workplace, which happens to be a restaurant. Beautiful and useful – what more could you want?

  4. Oh, Susan! So glad you have herbed yourself. I cannot imagine my life without them…then again, I love to cook 🙂 At least half my tiny terrace is dedicated to hoibs.

    Simple? Bake a potato: slice it open. Put a pat of sweet cream butter in it. Salt and pepper generously, snip a LOT of fresh chives over. Eat.

    Drink? Cocktail shaker, 3 parts good white rum, 2 part fresh lime juice, 2 Tbsps powdered sugar, 1 sprig spearmint: shake the bejesus out of it with ice, strain into tumbler, add chilled bubbly water. Drink.

  5. Once you use that oregano and basil fresh, the dried stuff will never match up. I cut the leaves with sharp scissors and add to nearly any pasta, but the flavor of fresh parsley, oregano and basil in stuffed shells is delish!

    Marie, I’m going to have to try that rum drink, sounds refreshing and summer-y!

  6. Though cooking is the best way to use fresh herbs, they do so much more for the garden that everyone should be growing them regardless. Growing any of the basils will greatly increase the number of bees to your yard – mostly bumblebees which aren’t as prone to sting in case you are allergic. I swear that Lemon Balm and Cat Mint repel mosquitoes so I always rough them up while I’m down there weeding, and the best of all of them is Lemon Verbena which can be used a million ways in the kitchen but is such a wonderful plant to smell as you walk by it in the garden that I plant it along every pathway just for the pleasurable scent.

    Once you’ve had Rosemary Potatoes there’s no going back.

  7. I have been trying to lose weight for a long time and one thing that is supposed to help is to add more herbs for flavor instead of fat. The idea is sound in principle, until you figure out that herbs give up even more flavor when cooked in oil/fat.
    I do love my herbs though. Especially the ones I grow for herbal teas.

  8. Susan, I know you cook about as much as me. I like to grows herbs though as they really are pretty, hardy, and love brushing my hand over for the smell. Occasionally, I’ll bundle up a bunch as a gift — esp. my lavenders. Always popular with hostesses and those that actually do cook. Looking at the steep grocery store prices for a bundle of chives or cilantro, I can see why.

  9. So that’s why you are so thin, you don’t cook! Obviously, you don’t eat much either! Listen, who says you have to cultivate an herb garden for yourself.
    My mantra is:
    Every gift is from the garden. Next time you want to give a “hostess gift” snip some fresh herbs, (include some colorful ones like lavender too) and make a beautiful and fragrant bundle. Done-

  10. layer slices of summer tomato, fresh mozzarella,snipped basil(I use scissors) sea salt and ground pepper- repeat, eat. no cooking involved
    Snipped basil yummy on watermelon

  11. I’d always wanted a giant herb garden, and this year I’ve begun one. I’m excited about the results and expanding it each year.

    Your plants look really nice, and I love the pots being so close to the door and easy to grab.


  12. Use the mint for fresh tea. Beats dried any time.

    All commenters are correct–rosemary and potatoes are a killer combination. Rosemary is also awesome with lamb and chicken. I love rosemary on a pizza with bacon and onions. And roasted deck-grown tomatoes sauteed with lots of garlic and rosemary and extra virgin olive oil and thrown over spaghetti is the greatest dish known to man.

    Lemon basil is wonderful sprinkled over roasted vegetables.

    But plant a big pot of Genovese basil, too, for pasta pesto–a wonderful meal any non-cook can make in 10 minutes flat.

  13. I began to grow herbs in the early 90’s after cooking from Deborah Madison’s cookbooks.

    One of my faves: slice eggplant into 1/3″ rounds, fry in olive oil and drain on paper towels. Place on plate. Sprinkle with chopped (not pressed) garlic, minced basil, a few drops basalmic vinegar, S and P.

    Dill is delicious in tuna sandwiches.

  14. I grow lots of herbs, many more than I could possibly eat. I love mixing different colors and textures into large containers. I have found that growing vegetables and herbs has led our family to eating more vegetables and herbs. I love fresh dill in scrambled eggs. Surely you scramble an egg or two every once in a while? And nothing tastes better with rosemary than lamb!

  15. I’ve been growing herbs since I was a kid. When I moved down to the DC area, I was lucky to live a short distance from Tom DiBaggio’s first herb place. Shout out to Tom D and all his folks!

    Mint is good for rumbly tummies. Just pick some leaves, rinse well and pour hot water over them.

    Rosemary spears make nice skewers for the grill.

    I’ve been able to snip off oregano well into fall and early winter and it greens up quickly in the spring, as does rosemary. Thyme is also very hardy.

    For the non-cook, I stronly recommend buying a few scented geraniums for your porch or deck. Brushing up against them gives off a lovely fragrance.

  16. I will share the secret family chip dip recipe with you, because I know you won’t tell anyone. This is impossible to screw up – it multiplys easily when the crowd does and you will have to beat people back with a stick so you can eat some, too.

    In a mixing bowl, combine softened cream cheese, a splash of milk (the size of the splash depends on the texture of chip dip you like), and a pinch or two of salt. Mix with a hand mixer, and then fold in as many chopped or cut-up chives as makes you happy. Goes great with chips and those mint juleps!

  17. Don’t let the cooking part prevent you from growing herbs…you can enjoy them even if you never use them. I have a jungle of them in pots on my deck. while I do occasionally actually cook with them, mostly I just like to go out and smell them! (My husband thinks it’s hilarious)

  18. Tarragon – easy to grow and delicious. A quick and easily company worthy dinner is diced tomatoes, black olives and tarragon mixed together and then poured over chicken and baked covered until the chicken isn’t pink. This is fast and only company good if the tarragon is fresh.

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