No Such Thing as a Green Thumb
By Joy Scott
Texas Master Gardener
Many of the common cooking herbs that are popular with home gardeners originated in the warm, sunny areas of the Mediterranean region. Consequently, there are several culinary herbs that are easy to grow in Culberson County. If savng money is one of your goals in gardening, growing fresh herbs Is a good choice. Comparing the retail grocery store price for fresh herbs to what can be grown in a home garden or landscape, it’s a sure bet to grow culinary herbs. And including the fresh herbs in your cooking makes your food tastier and healthier.
Perennial culinary herbs that are well suited for growing in Culberson County include: Mint, Rosemary, and Oregano. Rosemary remains evergreen throughout the year, whereas Mint and Oregano usually die back during the cold months and establish new spring growth from their root systems. Mint is best grown in a container, due to its tendency to spread. If all conditions are favorable, Mint can act like an invasive species and spread rapidly to places where it is not wanted. It is extremely easy to propagate from a root division, rooted stem cutting or can be grown from seed. Rosemary can be utilized as a landscape plant as well as a culinary herb. It is extremely hardy, low maintenance and easily grown from a rooted stem cutting. Rosemary can also be grown from seeds. Oregano can also be grown from seeds, or from a root division. More information about recommendations for growing landscape herbs can be found in the Texas AgriLife Extension publication “Herbs for Texas Landscapes”. This can be found at https://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/asset-external/herbs-for-texas-landscapes/
Cilantro is an annual culinary herb that thrives during the cooler months of the year. It Is usually not a good bet to try and grow it during the warm season, because cilantro usually does not thrive in the hotter time of year. Typically, during late September or early October is a good time to direct seed cilantro. It grows well during the cooler months and can usually hold up to the deep cold spells to provide fresh cilantro until it warms up in the spring. As cilantro matures it quickly shifts its energy into making seeds. The leaves quickly become smaller as the plant prepares to bloom and develop seeds. It is quick and easy to save the seeds of the cilantro plant to use in cooking, or to dry and plant in the coming fall.
Basil is an easy herb to grow from seeds, during the warm months. The seeds of basil will not germinate in cool soil. The best time to plant basil is usually during late April or early May. There are a vast number of different types of basil that can be grown, depending on your personal tastes and preferences. Lettuce Leaf Basil is a variety that has a mild flavor and large leaves. I have found it to be an excellent addition to fresh salads. Thai Basil has a much stronger flavor, with a tinge of heat. The striking purple leaves of Thai Basil can add a lot of visual interest to a presentation. However, when cooked, Thai Basil loses its purple color. Sweet Basil and Genovese Basil are often used as a name for the same type of basil plant. This variety is an excellent choice for making pesto. Basil is an herb that truly benefits from regular and consistent pruning. Emerging flower buds should be removed often to keep Basil producing leaves. Basil is not able to withstand much cold and usually turns black at the onset of the first deep cold. It is easy to collect and dry the seeds of Basil, to use in growing new plants. Basil plants are readily available wherever bedding plants are sold. They can be easily transplanted to a larger container or a location that receives at least six hours of sun a day.
Parsley is classified as a biennial plant because it usually lives for two years. It is winter hardy here in Culberson County and favors cooler growing conditions, so it is best to plant Parsley in the fall. Parsley can be grown from seeds or transplants. It is available in different varieties, with Flat Leaf Parsley and Curley or Ruffled Parsley being the most common. Parsley is used to add a touch of color and visual interest as a garnish, but is also a source of Vitamins A and C.
Growing herbs is a worthwhile and rewarding activity. They have the potential to make the home landscape more visually interesting, as well as make food taste better. Herbs are high in vitamins, minerals and many other nutrients. Centuries ago, the emperor Charlemagne was quoted as saying “Herbs are the friend of the physician and the pride of cooks.”