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 Garden Club of Taos

Kitchen Gardens- Growing of Herbs & their Uses  


With unexpected time on hands this Spring, it presents an opportunity for projects.

How about starting an Herb Garden? If you have one already, add a new herb, or replace some tired species with new plants?

Kitchen Gardens was the theme of my presentation at the Los Jardineros April 2020 meeting. The following is the condensed version of the presentation. I’m offering Kitchen Gardens-Growing of Herbs & Their Uses right here.

I hope to inspire you to start, enhance or revamp an Herb Garden. A slide show featuring small and large gardens is below and will be a visual for you to enjoy and contemplate. How to grow and use herbs follows. A few recipes showing off herbs are part of this presentation as well.

If you have any questions whatsoever, feel free to send an email to:

The use of herbs dates back to prehistoric times. At first, herbs were collected strictly for medicinal purposes. The use of herbs and spices with antimicrobial activity in cooking started at about the same time. Is is part of an ancient response to the threat of food-borne pathogens.

The value of herbs for medicinal purposes declined with the discovery of modern medicine.

Today, the presence of herbs in gardens, and their use in cooking, is ever growing. I’ll focus on growing and using fresh herbs. For medicinal use details and information, I refer people to the Taos Herb Shop and Rob Hawley, the herb expert.

             I have used fresh herbs for as long as I can remember. However, my youth was spent in a big city apartment, where my only gardening consisted of watering my mother’s Geraniums in the window box. Growing herbs myself didn’t start until the 1960’s.

My husband and I, had just moved into a small rental house on a busy road in Central Vermont. A day later a friend stopped by, handed me a carboard box and said, “Here, you’ll need these.” What I found where rooted cuttings from her herb garden. At that time, fresh herbs were a rarity, especially in rural Vermont. My friend Jackie pointed to a small L-shaped area next to the front door, ‘They will do just fine right there.’ And they did.

When we moved to a larger home, the herb plants moved with us. A couple of years later we bought a house on a remote country road. I dug up the established herb plants again and my first projects was finding the ideal spot for ‘my’ herbs and established a Kitchen Garden.

Now I usually say, ‘Rosemary, sage and thyme started it all.’ More herb varieties were added. I found how simple it is to grow herbs and enjoyed using them in abundance.

If you do not count weeding and watering, herbs are trouble and maintenance free once the plants are established. They thrive in any soil conditions. Herb gardens can be tiny, large and formal, herbs mixed with the vegetables, or consists of a many different sized containers.

This slide show highlights the endless variety of Herb Gardens.

The size of Herb Garden you want to have depends of course on your location. A close second is the choice of herbs you’ll want to include. Whatever size would ideal for you, make sure the location gets 4 to 6 hours of sunshine. Ideally, an Herb Garden would be as close as possible to the house for quick access. But, I have friends who do not cook much. They just love the decorative aspect of an Herb Garden. Naturally, herbs can just as well be included in the vegetable garden.

Speaking for myself, the small pots that are usually recommended for indoors, would not do. One recipe asking for basil or thyme, would leave me with an empty pot.

I have always grown herbs in the garden. Rosemary and Bay Laurel are the exceptions. They are not hardy in cold climates, where I mostly lived. Those two herbs have always been grown in containers and moved indoors for the winter. I also always grow a good size container with parsley and basil in addition to having them in the garden. Those containers move indoors and are my winter supply when fresh herbs are needed.

When adding new plants, loosen the soil. work a general fertilizer into the soil, I use Osmocote – a slow release kernel, and soak the plant and surrounding area well. All garden centers carry a variety of fertilizers and you can choose your preference. 

This goes for the established garden also – loosen the soil around the plants, sprinkle fertilizer all around, work it into the soil and water gently. You’ll have plentiful herbs until Fall.

Last, but not least, it is very simple to dry herbs to carry you through the winter. Herbs can simply be dried outdoors in the shade, laying on a table or hanging in bunches on a wall, i.e. If you have a Dehydrator, all the better. The herbs will dry faster, and you’ll be ready to fill herb jars in no time. These small bottles also make wonderful gifts.

Now let’s get to a closer look at a variety of herbs.

All About Herbs

Use of and Growing


Essential herb for Italian food, especially with eggs, tomatoes, pasta, chicken, fish, and shellfish.

Annual – In addition to the herb garden, grow Basil in pots and move indoors come Fall.


Bay Leaf

Good with meat and/or bean stews, game, pot roasts; adds unusual note to rice pudding and custards.

Essential for the herb bundle bouquet garni, used in many recipes.

Perennial – not hardy in northern climates. Grow in pots and move indoors.


Young leaves are wonderful in salads-both green and fruit-with string beans, in fruit drinks and teas. Blue flowers are sweet tasting and a very pretty garnish.




Excellent in green salads; with fish, shellfish, chicken, eggs, cream, peas, string beans, and tomatoes.

Essential for ‘fines herbs’.




Use in cream soups and sauces; with fish and shellfish, cheese, salads and eggs.

Chives are at their absolute best not cooked.

Prolific Perennial


Use whole seeds for pickles and ground for baking. Cilantro is an essential herb for Mexican, Latin American, and Asian cooking. Use with rice, dried beans, fish, shellfish, poultry, vegetables, salsas, and salads. Add the fresh herb at the last minute before serving.

Perennial – also self-seeds, you’ll find it all over the yard in addition to the garden every Spring


Both seeds and herb are used for pickles. Use seeds with rice and fish dishes and fresh dill leaves with eggs, fresh cheeses, yogurt, seafood, chicken, cucumbers, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, and beets.



Use in almost any fish, meat, poultry, egg, or vegetable dish, and in tomato sauce.



Use in Middle Eastern yogurt and grain dishes (tabbouleh), salads; with peas, beans, corn, and potatoes; in jellies, fruit salads, desserts, and iced tea.

Perennial – very invasive. Grow in separate area.



Use with fish, meat, poultry, dried beans, cheese, eggs; in vegetable soup; with tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, summer squash, and eggplant. Essential herb for Italian, Greek, and Mexican cooking.

Perennial. Large sprawling plant – grow separate of herb garden.


Parsley enhances almost all type of foods, either in the dish itself or sprinkled on top just before serving.

Did you know that the decorative sprigs of parsley on plates were there as a breath freshener?

Hardy biennial – annual in our area. In addition to growing in the garden, grow parsley in a container and move indoors.



Best with game, poultry and meats, especially grilled lamb. Add judiciously to mushrooms, roasted potatoes, stuffing, olive oil breads and buns, and ripe melon.

Perennial – not hardy here. Grow in a pot and move indoors.



Silver-green leaves make sage a decorative garden plant.

Excellent and best known for poultry stuffing. Use judiciously with chicken, duck, goose, pork, sausages, cheese, eggplant, dried bean stews and soups.



Europeans call savory the bean herb for its special affinity for limas, string beans, lentils, and dried beans. Also excellent in meatloaf and meatballs sausages; with poultry, cheese, eggs, cauliflower, tomatoes, and onions.



Stevia is a natural sweetener. The plant is part of the sunflower family and is native to subtropical and tropical regions in the Western hemisphere. While it’s a perennial plant it is not hardy here. Still, you can add stevia to your garden for the summer. It is grown for its sweet leaves. Stevia can be used and as a sugar substitute



Best with chicken, veal, fish, shellfish, eggs; in mayonnaise and salad dressings; with tomatoes, mushrooms, and carrots.



Essential herb of the bouquet garni as well as fish and clam chowder, sausages, potatos, and stuffing. Excellent with fish and shellfish, poultry, tomatoes, beans, eggplant, mushrooms, potatoes, and summer squash.


Larger Plants to grow in Separate Areas

If you have a large herb garden, only Juniper would need a separate space

 Bee Balm

Gaining renewed popularity as a culinary herb, Bee Balm makes a wonderful addition to pizzas, salads, breads and any dishes that are complimented by the herb’s unique flavor. Minty and slightly spicy, Bee Balm makes a great substitute for Oregano.



The strongly flavored leaves of fennel are similar in shape and use to dill. The bulb can be sautéed, grilled or eaten raw. Fennel bulbs are used for garnishes or sometimes added to salads.

Fennel is native to the Mediterranean region and does best in dry soils near the ocean or on riverbanks.

Annual in this area


Garlic is a beloved ingredient for cooking. However, did you know that there’s more to garlic than just its incredible flavor? Garlic is revered for a multitude of benefits. The list of benefits is impressive, you can easily find more on the Internet. I’ll just mention one: We’ve traveled extensively in Mexico and benefited from their use of Garlic as an Antibiotic


As food, juniper is most well known as a foundational flavoring of gin. Juniper berries have often been used when cooking meat to tenderize and moderate “gaminess”. Strong spice berries, use in marinades for fish, game, poultry, pork They are also used in beef dishes, stews, sauerkraut and choucroute

                                                 Perennial – large bush - grow in separate area.                    


Excellent for sachets and potpourris but also good added judiciously to Herbes de Provence, fruit salads, and iced tea.




Lemongrass has a strong lemon flavor and is used mainly in Oriental cuisine.. You can brew it in tea as well as use it as an herb seasoning.

Annual in this area. Grow indoors year-round. It is a much smaller plant when grown indoors.

Kitchen Garden Recipes

A sampling of recipes that highlight herbs.

The recipes are from Heidi's cookbook Why Add Water When Wine Will Do.

Basil – Pesto


2 cups basil leaves

3 cloves garlic

½ cup pine nuts

1 cup parsley sprigs

¾ cup grated Romano or Parmesan Cheese

½ to 1 cup olive oil

Mix all well in a food processor and store in the refrigerator

Cilantro – Ceviche


     Scallops are perfectly suited for ceviche. I serve it mostly on special occasions as an appetizer or a main course.

½ pound bay scallops, fresh or frozen

1 lime, juiced – more may be needed - and zest finely grated

1 scallion – sliced thinly on the diagonal

⅛ teaspoon hot pepper flakes

2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced

In a serving bowl mix all ingredients, cover and refrigerate. Let the flavors mingle for at least 3 to 4 hours. Some limes do not yield much juice, be sure scallops are covered.

4 appetizer servings

Garlic – Roasted Garlic Spread

Roasted Garlic

An appetizer for garlic aficionados.

2 large garlic heads

Olive oil

Preheat oven to 3500F.

Remove most of the garlic’s outer skin. Cut top ¼ off the pointy end, exposing garlic.

Pour enough oil into a small baking dish to cover the bottom. Put garlic, cut-side down into the dish. Cover lightly with foil, leaving a few gaps to let moisture escape. Bake for approximately 30 minutes. Garlic should be soft and light brown, but not burnt.

Put each garlic cut-side up on a plate with several toasted baguette slice on the side.

Garlic cloves readily pop out of the skin and easily spread on toast.

2 servings

Dill – Cucumber Salad

German Cucumber Salad

The secret to a crunchy cucumber salad is to prepare it ahead of time.

2 medium to large cucumbers, peeled and sliced very thin

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup sour cream*

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 small onion, quartered and sliced very thin, or 1 bunch scallions cut very thin diagonally

Freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced

Mix cucumbers and salt in a non-corrosive bowl, cover and let sit for at least 1 hour.

Drain off any accumulated juices.

Mix sour cream and lemon juice and add to the bowl, along with the sliced onions and ground pepper.  Blend all and let sit for about 30 minutes, longer if possible.

Add dill, blend in and serve.

(* Yogurt can be substituted.)

4 to 6 servings

Herbs de Provence

Blend equal parts of the following herbs, usually dried:








Make enough for several uses.

Bouquet garni

The bouquet garni is a bundle of herbs usually tied together with string and mainly used to prepare soup, stock, casseroles, various stews and some roasts

The traditional combination is parsley, thyme, and bay leaf.

You can also add other herbs such as rosemary, basil, chervil, peppercorn, and tarragon.

Rosemary – Rosemary Bread

Italian Rosemary Bread

A favorite for dipping or toast.  Any leftovers make wonderful croutons.

3¾ teaspoons active dry yeast

1 cup warm water

1 cup buttermilk

cup olive oil

¼ cup fresh rosemary, finely minced

1 tablespoon salt

6¾ cups all-purpose flour


Coarse sea salt

In a bowl stir yeast into water and let stand until foamy.

Add buttermilk, oil, rosemary and salt and blend.

Add flour gradually. When the mixture gets stiff, transfer to a floured board. Knead until all flour is incorporated and dough is smooth and elastic.

Transfer dough into a deep, oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled, approximately 1½ hours.

On a floured surface divide dough in half.  Shape each into a ball and put on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal.  Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 4250F.

With a sharp knife or razor blade make an asterisk on top of loaves and sprinkle lightly with coarse salt.

Slide baking sheet onto a rack in the middle of the oven. Quickly throw 5 or 6 ice cubes into the oven to create moisture.  Repeat again in 5 minutes.  Bake the loaves for about 50 minutes or until bottoms sound hollow when tapped.

Cool completely before slicing.

Makes 2 loaves

Tarragon – Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad Tarragon

The salad is simple to make ahead and the recipe easily multiplied. Use only the best and freshest ingredients available, including organic chicken, for simply delicious results.

4 boneless chicken breasts

1 cup yogurt, drained

½ cup heavy cream

¼ cup mayonnaise

2 celery ribs, cut into thinly crosswise

4 artichoke hearts, cut into eighth

1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350F.

Arrange chicken in a baking pan and cover with yogurt. Bake for 20 minutes, 25 if breasts are large. Remove and set aside to cool.

Take chicken out of the dish, with some yogurt left on the meat, and shred chicken into bite size chunks.

Mix cream and mayo well, pour over chicken, add celery and tarragon, mix again. 

Add artichoke hearts, salt and pepper and gently blend into the mixture.

Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours.

Taste again before serving.

Do shred instead of cutting for a more attractive presentation.

4 to 6 servings

The recipe can be prepared and refrigerated 1 day before serving.  For a better taste experience, remove the dish from the refrigerator an hour before serving to take off the chill.

Thank you to Heidi Smith, a member of Los Jardineros, for this wonderful information on growing a kitchen garden.  If you have questions for Heidi, you can email her at

These are some other resources for kitchen gardens from presenters from previous years.

Some Favorite Books

Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener's Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting  -  R.J. Ruppenthal

The Kitchen Garden Grower's Guide: A practical vegetable and herb garden encyclopedia  -  Stephen Albert

McGee & Stuckey's Bountiful Container: Create Container Gardens of Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, and Edible Flowers  -  Rose Marie Nichols McGee & Maggie Stuckey

The Vegetable Gardener's Container Bible: How to Grow a Bounty of Food in Pots, Tubs, and Other Containers  -  Edward C. Smith

Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long  - Eliot Coleman & Barbara Damrosch

All New Square Foot Gardening  - Mel Bartholomew

Links to Some Web Articles

Figuring How Much to Plant in Your Vegetable Garden

Succession Planting

The Most Profitable Plants in your Vegetable Garden

Here's a blog with wonderful recipes for your abundance of veggies!

A very basic when-to-plant guide

Very early spring (as soon as ground can be worked): onions, peas, spinach

Early spring:  lettuce, beets, carrots, radishes, dill, cilantro, cabbage, broccoli, celery, kale, potatoes

After last frost date:  beans, corn, melons, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, eggplant, basil

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