An Italian herb garden is a beautiful addition to the home. Italian herbs have many different purposes and blend together perfectly to provide many wonderful flavors for cooking.
The hallmark of any Italian herb garden is fresh, leafy basil. Basil grows best in full sun and will grow to be about 12-24 inches tall. Basil leaves should be picked from the top of the plant to prevent it from flowering; flowering basil will damage the herb’s flavor. Basil plants tends to grow taller and wider with each picking. Fresh basil is perfect to serve with fresh sliced tomatoes and mozzarella, drizzle with olive oil or a little balsamic vinegar and you have the perfect summer treat.
Rosemary has a strong fragrance that is closely associated with Italian cooking. It can be used in many homemade breads and adds flavor to a variety of meat dishes. Rosemary will grow best in full sun and can grow to be three to four feet tall under the right conditions. Rosemary is known to attract bees to the garden, making it a beneficial plant to grow near flowers, vegetables, or other herbs. It also can be used as a natural way to repel mosquitoes in the yard. A clipping of rosemary can be placed in a glass container and filled with olive oil to create a fragrant, delicious dipping oil for breads. While generally only the small leaves are used in cooking, both the leaves and stems are edible.
Oregano produces oval-shaped leaves that can range from green to purple to silver in color. Oregano can be used in many pasta dishes. Fresh oregano is the perfect addition to homemade tomato sauce. Some types of oregano will grow vertically, while others will spread out along the ground. It requires full sun to thrive and the stems will grow to be over two feet in length. Clip the whole stem, but only use the leaves.
Parsley is a common Italian herb that is often used as a garnish. It has a fresh taste that goes well with many different dishes. Parsley grows best in full sun, but can tolerate some shade if need be. Both the stems and leaves of the parsley can be eaten and enjoyed. Parsley is a natural digestion aid and can help to settle the stomach and freshen the breath following a meal.
The idea of growing garlic can seem intimidating, but garlic is extremely easy to grow. Garlic can be grown from the fresh garlic cloves that may already be in your kitchen. Each individual clove will grow a garlic plant when they are planted upright about an inch under the soil. Each individual clove can yield up to twenty garlic bulbs. Garlic grows best in full sun and can even protect surrounding plants from pests. Fresh, homegrown garlic can be used to make a delicious garlic bread or in a wide variety of recipes.
An Italian herb garden will brighten the yard and the kitchen all season long. When the weather turns cold, the herbs can be dried indoors or frozen for use during the winter months, allowing you to enjoy your Italian herb garden until its time to begin planting once again.