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The Winter Garden: Kitchen Herbs

February 15, 2010

For me, winter conjures up images of braised stews, simmering chilis, and roasted root vegetables. Nothing is more satisfying than one of these stick-to-your ribs meals when the wind is blustering outside. Sometimes though, you want a taste of something fresh and bright. Kitchen herbs hint at the promise of spring and happy green things, and little could be more simple than keepimg a pot of tender herbs in a sunny window.

On My Sill

My favorite herb happens to be rosemary, which gives off a heady pine scent when the leaves are bruised between the fingers. Its upright character reminds me of a Christmas tree. A sprig or two of fresh rosemary brings to life a pan of root veggies roasting with a fair drizzling of olive oil and sea salt.

Basil is another herb I currently grow, and no herb says summer to me more than basil. My favorite dish in summer is sliced vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fragrant basil topped with oil. Different fare is more appropriate in winter, however. Finely chopped basil added to the end of cooking time to a simmering creamy tomato soup hints at the coming heat.

Parsley is the most used herb in my kitchen. Although it doesn’t get used as frequently in my cooking; I use it almost every night to garnish a plate of roasted chicken, creamy mashed potatoes, or any other dish in need of a little color. It gives a spark of green and flavor to a season without the bold hues of summer.

Caring for Kitchen Herbs

Herbs are surprisingly easy to grow. Mine do well on our east facing kitchen windowsill, where they get lots of sunlight and it’s easy to remember to water them once a day. I purchased my plants at the grocery store, but you could easily buy some from a home improvement store or start your own from seed. I turn mine when I remember, so that the plants do not get misshapen.

If it dies, it is very inexpensive to purchase another or start more from seed. If the plant gets too big for its pot, it can easily be transplanted to a new home in the garden, provided that the threat of frost has passed.

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