Date: December 30, 2019 | Story: Tiffany Adams | Photography: Rett Peek | Styling: Lauren Cerrato |
Add flavor from the garden in the dreariest of months by caring for your herb plants—indoors and out
Much like the rest of nature, outdoor herb plants need a rest during the winter months. “They need a dormant period—just like the trees and shrubs,” says Sharon Reed of Little Rock’s Cantrell Gardens. She notes that in order for them to thrive again, these plants must take a break following the heat of the summer.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy fresh herbs on even the bleakest days of the winter season. Even the plants that remain outdoors may look “tired” but many can still be used, Sharon says, while some may be rooted indoors. “Perennials do not like the continual heat of the house, so it’s best to leave them outside uncovered.” She suggests this route as opposed to trying to start individual pots of herbs indoors, noting the pottings often fail to thrive unless they are in a bay window or grown with a plant lamp.
Read on for tips on four frequently used herbs. >>>
Rosemary trees are often a popular holiday gift. However, Sharon notes they are “very tender in their first year” and do not like below-freezing temperatures. If you received a rosemary tree this season, aim to get it in the ground or into a container early in the spring. From there, it can produce the abundance rosemary plants are characterized by and you can clip fresh sprigs through an Arkansas winter. You can also bring large clippings of rosemary indoors and keep them fresh in a vase of water.
Unlike some herbs, cilantro may be thriving in your garden in the winter. “Cilantro actually does best in Arkansas in the winter months,” Sharon says. “I have gone outside on New Year’s Day and cut fresh cilantro to use for a dip.” Maintain its regular upkeep and continue using clippings from the outdoors throughout the season.
Sharon says thyme planted in the ground or in a pot outdoors will begin to “look tired” in the winter months. You can expect it to lose its leaves, but that doesn’t indicate it’s dying. Clip the best-looking leaves for use, or to get peak freshness, use the freezer method described below.
Different from the other herbs discussed here, basil can be rooted in water. Sharon advises taking clippings before the plant begins to flower in late summer or early fall. Place in a vase of water in a warm, sunny window throughout the winter months. “It can get leggy, so you’ll need to continue cutting, but you can pick the leaves off and enjoy fresh basil all winter,” she says.
ON ICE >>> If you don’t want to chance clipping herbs in the winter, take Sharon’s advice to create a stash of your favorites in the freezer. Simply clip the herbs, chop them, and place a ½ teaspoon in each section of an ice cube tray. Add water and freeze. When you are ready to use, drop cubes into a soup or sauce while it’s cooking or thaw and drain for use in other dishes.
Looking for a recipe to make good use of your herbs? See All Fired Up for two delectable sauces.