Indoor Herb Care – Winter Edition...

After the past few frosty weeks, fresh herbs on the windowsill are a welcome sight in the home of a gardener with an itchy green thumb. Whether you’ve transplanted them from your garden or are eyeing some at the grocery store, we have a few tips for you to keep them in the best shape while they grow indoors throughout the next several months. Type of pot and soil Make sure your pot has a drainage hole at the bottom. If your decorative pot does not have a drainage hole, pot your herb plant in a plastic pot (with a drainage hole) that is slightly smaller than the decorative pot. Place this inside the decorative pot, and keep an eye on the water level so your plant roots aren’t sitting in water. If you’ve transplanted your herbs from outdoors, use lightweight potting soil to fill out the pot. A good potting soil will contain expanded perlite in addition to organic material. Perlite allows for better drainage and air flow around roots that are confined in a pot. Light  Right now in Chicagoland the days are not only growing shorter, but the sun is also positioned lower in the sky. This means that plants have much less light available, so you can expect them to grow more slowly. Be sure to put your plants in south or west facing windows where they can get at least six hours of light per day. If this isn’t an option, you might consider inexpensive grow lights to supplement. A 60-watt incandescent plant & aquarium bulb installed in a clip lamp 10″ inches above the plants will help during the darkest days of winter. If you are using a compact fluorescent bulb, you can position it just a few...

A sweet way to use herbs...

Running out of ideas for ways to use your excess herbs? Try making herbal simple syrups! Simply combine 2 parts sugar and 1 part water (example: 2 cups sugar and 1 cup water), and bring just to a boil in a sauce pot. Turn the heat off, and add 2 large handfuls of fresh herbs (just tear the leaves with your hands to release the flavor, no need to chop). Cover the pot and steep for 15-20 min, until the flavor is strong enough for your liking. Pour syrup through a strainer (discarding the herbs) and store in a covered container for up to 6 months in the refrigerator. Use them to flavor iced tea, lemonade, cocktails, or even serve with ice cream or as a glaze for cake! Good herbs for simple syrups: lavender, mint, thyme, basil, lemon verbena, and...

What’s in my garden?...

Before you start clearing out your plot this spring, make sure you aren’t removing plants you may actually want to keep. After a long winter, herbs like sage and thyme might look dead, but as perennials they should start springing back to life within a few weeks. Here’s a quick guide to what we’ll typically see (and what many of you will want to keep) in the garden.  ...

Chives!

Do you have chives in your garden? It’s harvest time! Chives are a member of the onion (allium) family and grow perennially (they come back year-to-year). Often chives are one of the first signs of spring as they can tolerate cold weather and, if you planted them last year, they’ll come up when they are ready! To harvest chives, you can cut the outer stems at the bottom with scissors or a knife, and add to a variety of dishes for mild onion flavor and vitamins A and K. Harvest up to a third of the plant at a time so there is enough energy to generate new growth, and you’ll have chives for the rest of the season! Recipe ideas: Toss chopped chives in with your scrambled eggs or omelets Sprinkle on top of a baked potato for a pop of flavor Throw the purple chive flowers into a salad as a substitute for onions- they’ve got a great mild onion flavor! Toss a handful of chopped chives into cornbread, muffin, pancake, or scone batter before baking to make a savory treat Try substituting chives for basil , and ricotta for Parmesan cheese in your favorite pesto recipe for an onion-y twist on classic pesto!...

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