Italian Herb Garden

An Italian herb garden offers the herb gardener a new realm of possibilities.  Italy is home to many of the most well known and flavorful herbs in the world.  Famous in many respects for its herbs, Italian cuisines can be drawn strait from your very own Italian herb garden.  We’ll take a look at some of the herbs that are a must for you to have.

Basil is essential to Italian cooking.  Not only does it add flavor to many Italian dishes, but it is useful in the garden when grown next to other plants.  For example, planting basil next to tomatoes and peppers will actually improve their flavor.  Basil also serves as a bug repellant, discouraging many mosquitoes and flies from venturing near your home.  Italian pesto is my favorite food to make with basil.  However, it is so expensive at the store!  I grow about 20 basil pants just to keep up with my pesto cravings.

Parsley, though not used exclusively in Italian cuisine, is somewhat harder to grow than basil.  Before the invention of breath mints, people would eat raw, fresh parsley after eating to remove the bad breath that often follows a delicious meal.  So, the tradition of serving parsley on a small dish following the meal led to what we see it used for today:  as a garnish on a variety of meals.

Both flavorful and decorative is the old classic, oregano.  A fully mature plant will grow little purple flowers that are quite pretty.  Beyond their beauty, though, these flowers serve as your indicator on when to harvest the plant.  Basil is most flavorful when it has flowers growing on it.

Fennel is famous for it’s use in Italian sausage.  Actually, it’s the seeds that are used.  Something to note about fennel is that it tends to loose it flavor the older or more mature it gets.  So, every year, this perennial herb should be divided an transplanted every few years in order to enhance its flavor.

Rosmary is like basil in that it is a great one to plant alongside other garden vegetation.  Because it grows into a large shrub with little blue flowers, it tends to attract honey bees.  Although it is a considered to be a tough evergreen that comes back every year, it can tend to be sensitive to the frost.

Did you know that your Italian herb garden MUST include garlic?  It simply would not be complete without this wonderfully useful herb.  Upon planting the garlic cloves, they will thrive without needing much attention at all.  Once harvested, they can be stored and used at a much later time after being placed in the refrigerator.

Sage is another herb that is used in a lot of Italian cuisine – especially meats and salads.  Keep your eyes out for new shoots; they contain the most flavor.  If you wait too long, these shoot will get wood-like.  Trimming sage frequently will encourage new growth.  The best time to harvest sage is after it blooms.

This is a pretty good list of herbs for your Italian herb garden, but you really need to decide for yourself what you should use.  There are many others you could pick as well.  Consider growing conditions especially – can you provide the correct environment for each kind of plant to thrive?  However, once you find the right mix for you, you can create your own miniature Italian countryside in your own back yard.  The landscaping options are endless in their potential creativity.  But hey, pretty garden aside, you can head out any time to pick something for your next dish!

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