A garden of essential herbs

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Nothing is more pleasant than going to the terrace or the garden to pick a few sprigs of fresh herbs to add to our cooking. Here is a range of essential herbs to incorporate into your favorite dishes.

Chive

Chives, one of the easiest herbs to grow, can self-seed throughout the garden. It is a perennial, family of onions, whose seedlings can be easily shared. Sheltered from pests and diseases, chives grow in almost all types of soils that are well exposed to the sun. Use a flower pruner to cut the stems at the base of the plant. The white or mauve flowers can be eaten in salad or used to decorate an entrance. Once flowering is over, remove the withered flowers to avoid seeding and overgrowth of the plant.

Dill

Dill is an easy-to-grow perennial that can self-seed, unless you harvest all the seed capsules to complement your marinades and condiments. From the same family as parsley, carrots and parsnips, she likes the sun and well-drained soils, rich in organic matter such as compost. In addition to seeds that are frequently used for cooking or preserving, you can try fresh or dried leaves to give a more subtle dill fragrance that goes great with fish or seafood.

Rosemary

In very mild winters, rosemary can survive the cold season. In most parts of Canada, this relatively hardy perennial can be planted outdoors each year, or grown in pots and sheltered during the winter season. It is more difficult to grow rosemary from seed than other herbs. This plant likes warm, sunny places and well-drained soils. Sometimes, in the spring, your plants will produce light blue flowers.

Sage

This bitter-flavored plant is a perennial woody species that usually reaches 60 cm in height. There are, however, smaller varieties. Sage enjoys full sun in well-drained soil. Excess soil moisture can, however, rot the roots. For planting in containers, there are many foliage varieties of two or three colors, including a particularly elegant purple and green specimen. Sage enhances the sauces that accompany meats and goes well with poultry, sausages, pork, soups and sauces.

Basil

This annual plant is essential for lovers of fresh tomatoes and good pasta. This is the main ingredient of most pesto recipes. Basil is a fragile annual that fears frost. Gardeners can choose from a wide variety of varieties, some with beautiful purple foliage. The flowers and the flower buds are edible. However, you will want to delay as much as possible the flowering because it slows the growth of the plant. Basil basks in full sun but can dry in hot weather. It grows well in pots or in isolated beds.

Parsley

Parsley, a biannual plant that grows as an annual, is essential for garnishing salads, soups and many other dishes. There are various types, including parsley, flat parsley or fern leaf parsley. This last variety has a more pronounced flavor than the others. Parsley grows well in the sun, although it needs shade for part of the day. Add compost or organic matter to the soil to provide the necessary nitrogen for good foliage growth and work the soil well before planting. Like dill and other plants in the carrot family, parsley has long roots and does not like compacted or stony soils.

Thyme

Thyme can be ornamental or edible. So choose a culinary variety to grow in pots or to incorporate in the herb garden. This slow-growing, evergreen perennial will be at its best in full sun, in ordinary garden soil. In winter, however, its survival depends on good soil drainage. You can plant, for decorative purposes, variegated types with golden and green or silver and green foliage and particular scents such as lemon or orange. Thyme is popular for flavoring sauces, vinegars, soups, stews, meats and fish.

Oregano

Indispensable for Italian cuisine, oregano is a robust and invasive perennial. You can, however, control its growth by weeding or by growing it in pots. Oregano enjoys full sun in well-drained soil. To enjoy it at its best, harvest shoots or leaves that are still young and tender. Remove the flower buds as soon as they appear to prevent leaf bitterness. Those looking for a somewhat original plant can obtain a variety of oregano with shiny golden foliage, sweet flavor, ideal for garnishes or salads.

Lavender

Lavender is not just used to make soap and sachets. This plant has a unique scent, which is found in various types of teas and in the preparation of sweets such as chocolates and cookies, and is also used for cooking meat. Lavender likes sunny, hot and dry places but does not support winter humidity. The soil should not be too fertile because excessive fertility lowers the content of essential oils that give the plant its scent and fragrance. If lavender is a perennial shrub, you should know that some varieties are not very resistant to cold and should therefore be grown in pots or treated as annuals.

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