- Author: Erich Warkentine
An overflow crowd of master gardeners and interested members of the community gathered at the Community Garden on Sunday, March 24, 2019, to hear Alison Collin speak about herbs. Alison covered a wide range of topics, including growing needs of culinary herbs and aromatic varieties. The high points of her talk are summarized below.
Technically, an herb is a plant that doesn't produce a permanent woody stem; however, in common use, an herb is a plant that has culinary, aromatic or medicinal properties. Herbs can be annual (one season of growth), biennial (two seasons of growth with flowers in the second year), or perennial (ongoing growth, some lasting many years).
Herbs can be used in many different ways. Not only are they great for cooking and providing welcome fragrances, but many have been used in medicine. In every case, however, Alison cautioned the audience to know their herbs before use since many traditionally used herbs are now known to have detrimental side effects such as liver damage, increased bleeding times or alterations in blood pressure.
It is also important to time the harvest of your herbs carefully. Pick herbs for leaf harvest before flower stems are developed since this is when the leaves contain the highest concentration of oils. For example, she related the story of harvesting mint which was passed its first bloom and had lost all of its fragrance. Similarly, she cautioned about the need to pinch off flowers from basil, to keep the basil producing new edible shoots for as long as possible before it dies.
One of her helpful tips was that mint grows so vigorously that it can take over the garden; therefore, she suggested that those who wish to grow mint do so in a container.
For more information about growing and using fresh herbs, see:
- For more information about drying your own fresh herbs, see:http://sonomamg.ucanr.edu/Food_Gardening/Additional_KG_Articles/Drying_Herbs/