Herbs de Provence: Perfection at your fingertips

perfection at your fingertips

An herb garden can be a special place of delights on a bright sunny day. You can watch hummingbirds feeding on the bright red firework-shaped blooms of bee balm, bees lazily buzzing soft pink blossoms of thyme and indulge your sense of smell as your fingers caress fragrant rosemary.

You can have all the flavors you desire at your fingertips by planting herbs in containers or flower boxes.

Growing your herbs near the kitchen is ideal. What could be easier than opening your kitchen window and snipping your homegrown rosemary or French thyme for your next chicken or vegetable dish?

Herbs de Provence is a delightful mixture of specific herbs. The name comes from the region of Provence, France.

Provencal cooks and gardeners alike have a readily abundant supply of fresh herbs growing in their backyards and have grown up enjoying the subtleties that the flavor of these herbs lend to the wonderful fresh vegetables and fish available in the region, prepared from recipes handed down through the generations.

When growing these delightful herbs in containers, bear in mind the differences in the two types of herbs: soft annuals and woody perennials.

Annuals like basil, marjoram and summer savory need to be kept a little more on the moist side and may require more watering and attention.

Woody perennials such as French thyme, Greek oregano and fennel are actually drought-tolerant. They do require a good soaking from time to time, but must be allowed to dry out between waterings.

The exception is rosemary, that is an annual here but should be treated like the woody perennials.

I recommend potting mix instead of garden soil, as garden soils are heavy. Fertilizer should be used minimally. Follow recommendations on the tag / label. Most herbs are naturally disease- and pest-resistant, but you may experience whiteflies on the soft basil.

Read the label on all products used to control pests or diseases on plants, even if it says organic. The label is the law.

To keep herbs producing all season, pinch back tops in early summer to promote fullness and use fresh herbs often. If you keep your annuals and woody perennials separate, it will ease in clean up at the end of the growing season, and you won’t disturb the roots perennials when you clean out containers and dispose of spent annuals.

Here is a recipe for Herbs de Provence; you also can make it with your fresh dried herbs. But remember dried herbs are often twice (or more) potent than fresh cut herbs.

Herbs de Provence

1 tablespoon thyme

1 tablespoon rosemary

1 tablespoon summer savory

1 tablespoon basil

1 teaspoon lavender (optional added in France for the tourists)

1 teaspoon tarragon

1 teaspoon marjoram

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon fennel

Mix together. Store it in an airtight jar and refrigerate.

This recipe may be adjusted to suit your taste. Herbs de Provence is wonderful for flavoring meat, poultry, fish and vegetables. Add it to your dish just as the cooking is being completed or the delicate fragrance may dissipate.

Fuller is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.


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