Posted by: A Part of the Solution | February 22, 2012

Herb Garden Layout, Part 4

We already have a template for the outer rings of the labyrinth herb garden. This will make laying out more of the herb garden possible this year. Last year, we were stymied by the long, wet spring. We were behind in planting our primary crop of tomatoes and peppers. By the time we were detailing people to the herb garden, the season was late and the odds were long. Still, lots of basil and plenty of hot peppers made their way out of the herb garden. I have high hopes for this year’s endeavor.

The two rings of the labyrinth in from the Mars plants will be set aside for the culinary herbs belonging to the Sun in traditional western herb lore. The herbs of the Sun like a warm soil, some protection from the wind, and good drainage. These herbs are all over the culinary uses map. But they have one thing in common: they have strong, distinctive flavors.

First up is Angelica. Angelica is almost unknown to American moderns. But the stalks feature, candied, in many old baking receipts. The leaves and seeds of the Angelica plant are often used in flavoring gin and traditional complex liqueurs like Chartreuse. With the rise in mixological virtuosity, Angelica will surely become popular with artisanal bartenders.

Bay trees are subjects of the Sun in the old herbals. I plan to acquire four or more. In this climate, they won’t ever get bigger than a nice example of patio topiary. They will have to live in pots and come in for the winter–they are a Mediterranean tree and cannot withstand prolonged hard freezes. In our growing zone, these evergreens will shed their leaves in autumn if they aren’t harvested before the hard frosts come. But the fuss is worth it. The flavor of a fresh bay leaf has little in common with the dessicated matter found in jars on the shelves in the baking aisle of the supermarket.

Rosemary and Rue also belong to the Sun. Like the Bay trees, this pair of herbs are perennials. Rosemary has enjoyed popularity in the kitchens of the world for millennia. Rue has fallen out of favor in more recent centuries, but it still has a place in traditional foods from around the Mediterranean. It’s distinctive odor and attractively shaped yellow flowers also give Rue a place in invigorating pots pourri.

Despite the prohibitive price, I will obtain and plant (and over time propagate) a sufficiency of Saffron Crocus for some portion of the Sun rings out in the herb labyrinth. They look just like any crocus, but their stamen are powerhouses of flavor–and their delicacy contributes to the herb’s reputation for costliness. It will be lovely to put by locally grown saffron every fall.

Lovage belongs to the Sun as well. It has a strong, distinct flavor of celery. This is vital. Celery barely comes to maturity this far north. Those charming bunches take up a lot of garden real estate, without producing much in the course of the season. But Lovage springs right up. And every one of its many leaves is intensely celery-ish. More, it’s a sturdy perennial and will only have to be planted once.

The herbs and trees of the Sun are not so popular in daily cuisine in this part of the world as they are in some. And they’re not so popular in modern times as they have been in the past. But each of these bright flavors is indispensable to the well-rounded folkways kitchen, as well as pleasing the eye and the nose as they grow so abundantly.

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Responses

  1. So excited to see a culinary revival of plants I have only read about in old cookbooks. Can’t wait to see them in person!

    • Yup. that’s kind of the reason I’m putting them into the ground. It’s time we reclaimed our heritage.

  2. (*psst*…saffron crocus blooms in the autumn. Just sayin’)

    • Perfect. I was wondering how come it’s cold weather dishes taste best with saffron in.

  3. …and YAY! Glad to hear the herb garden is going to have another go! Bad luck last year. I’ll be braiding and chanting for suitable weather.

    • We can use all the braiding and chanting we can get.


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