This year at Maloca, we started a new communal herb garden. The old one was invaded by mint and lemon balm, which are fighting for the territory. The new garden has better diversity, thanks to one of our members who generously donated some seedlings. We also transplanted some plants from different areas of the garden. At this time of year, most herbs are in full growth and we need to make the most of it. The more often you harvest your herbs, the more they produce. If you can’t keep up with eating your herbs fresh, dry some for the winter. All you need to do is cut some fresh stems with leaves and bunch them with twine. Just leave the bunches upside down in a dry space for a couple of weeks and you’ll be able to keep the dried herbs for a really long time.
In our “old” herb garden, we have some lemon balm. A member of the mint family, lemon balm expands quickly and is very productive. As its name tells us, lemon balm has a lemony taste and is delicious in iced tea. Dried, it can be used in tea all year around.
We chose to transform a bed that used to be an individual plot into a communal plot because of the beautiful garden sage bush. The opportunity to share sage with all our members is the main reason we created this new garden. Sage has woody stems at the base of the plant, but grows fresh stems which are easily snipped by hand. Fresh growths are fragrant and contain higher concentrations of oils. Your hands will smell like sage after every harvest. Sage is good with meat and fish and can easily be dried and crushed to season most meals.
Chives grow pretty much everywhere at Maloca. We tried to relocate our healthy plants in the new herb garden, and they did well in their new home. Chives are in the same family as onions and garlic. The leaves and flowers are edible and taste like onions. You can season every meal with chives, either fresh or cooked. You can also make pesto when you have a good amount of chives. Watch out for onion breath, though!
Oregano is another invasive herb. It grows roots when the stems reach back down to the ground so oregano will run everywhere. We have oregano growing in our grass paths. Old stems become woody, so try to harvest fresh growths often. Fresh oregano is primordial in Italian cooking.
Cilantro (or Coriander) is an herb that is both enjoyed for its leaves and seeds. In cooking, cilantro is the name of the leaves and coriander is the seeds. It looks like parlsey, but taste different (more fresh, less strong). Cilantro is used fresh in Asian and South American cooking. It can be dried, but will loose its fresh taste. Harvest the leaves often, especially when the weather is dry because otherwise the plant will go to seed and the leaves will turn bitter. You can eat the flowers as well. When you leave the flowers on the plant, they will produce seeds that can be easily stored and crushed when ready to use. If your cilantro produce seeds and they fall on the ground, you will probably have new plants next year.
Basil is an annual herb that is associated with Italian cooking. Basil is really sensitive and can be hard to grow. We lost some of you plants during the frost, but our lemon basil survived. You will need to pinch the top of the plant to induce lateral growth and more leave production. Do not let your basil flower of it will become bitter. Pinch the flowers and eat them is salad. Harvest basil leaves right before you use it as it won’t keep for very long.
Parsley is a hardy annual herb that do better in cool weather. Parsley has its peak of productivity in September, but you can cut some of the bigger leaves throughout the summer. It can tolerate frost so you can harvest it until the end of fall. Parsley is better fresh, but can be dried. I would rather make pesto with my parsley that drying it.
Catnip is a volunteer plant at Maloca as it grows everywhere just like our other weeds. Also a member of the mint family, catnip runs wild. Your cat will also go wild when it smells this fresh herb. For humans, catnip is good in tea when dried.