Garden Spaces: Culinary Herbs for a Planter

| April/May 2009

  • Illustration by Gayle Ford

All of the following herb plants are readily available at garden centers.

Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum). An indispensable annual herb that is at its best when fresh from the garden. Harvest stems before flowers open to obtain best flavor and maintain bushy growth.

Red-leaf basil (O. basilicum). Varieties include ‘Dark Opal’, ‘Purple Ruffles’ and ‘Red Rubin’—all provide beautiful leaves for both garden and kitchen. Or try a spicy Thai basil, such as ‘Siam Queen’.

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum). Pink pompon flowers and mounds of strappy leaves have an oniony flavor. Or try garlic chives (A. tuberosum), which have white flowers.

Sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana). The sweet-flavored leaves of this tender perennial complement poultry, vegetables, soups and dressings.

Peppermint (Mentha ×piperita). Control its aggressiveness with regular harvesting. Use peppermint in summer teas or fruit desserts. Before buying, taste the leaves to ensure you get a flavor you like.

Greek oregano (O. vulgare ssp. hirtum). Gotta have a good oregano for tomato dishes, eggs and poultry. It won’t get as rowdy in a planter as it can in a garden, but divide it after three to five years.

Curly parsley (Petroselinum crispum). Another staple for garden and kitchen, its frilly leaves are as useful as they are decorative. The plants are biennials grown as annuals (you’ll need to replant it each year). Tolerates some shade.

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