Herbs don’t take a lot of attention, providing you keep them happy. Here’s how:
- Keep ‘em under control: Most herbs need well-drained soil, full sun and firm boundaries. To prevent rambunctious herbs from taking over the garden, plant invasive plants, such as mint, in pots.
- Keep ‘em trimmed: Don’t hesitate to cut herbs early and often. Frequent cutting encourages lots of leaves, not seeds.
- Keep ‘em natural: Never use pesticides, fungicides or synthetic chemicals on culinary plants. To keep your herb garden organic, augment the soil with well-rotted manure in spring and fall, and fertilize in the summer with manure tea.
- Keep ‘em dry: Herbs need water, but moisture can lead to mildew and rot. To wet the roots without encouraging disease, water herbs in the morning so the sun can dry the leaves.
Harvesting your herbs
Cut only healthy, insect-free stems. The best time to snip is mid-morning, once the dew has dried, but before the sun has wilted the leaves. Then rinse the leaves lightly—you want to remove obvious dirt, but you do not want to wash away the plant’s natural oils, which carry the flavour.
Brewing herbal tea
Herbal infusions require more leaves than green or black tea, so don’t skimp or you’ll end up with bland water. For each cup of boiling water add one tablespoon of fresh herbs or one teaspoon dried. Place leaves in an infuser (many loose-leaf tea pots come with one) or loose in the pot, straining it as you pour.
With fresh herbs, gently crush the leaves before brewing. Whether using fresh or dried herbs, cover the leaves with freshly boiling water and let steep three to five minutes. Want iced tea? Double up on the herbs then dilute the steeped tea with equal parts ice and water.