If you have a summer herb garden, it’s always a disappointment when cooler weather sets in and your fresh herbs die down. Now you need to rely on dried herbs as the next best thing to enhance your menus. Or do you? With a south-facing window and a little TLC, you can have a thriving window herb garden throughout the winter. Sure, you may not have the full complement of fresh annual herbs, but many herbs, given the right care and a sunny, warm environment will provide a bounty of delectable additions to your everyday winter menus. Here we have seven herbs you can sustain in a window herb garden, without too much effort, enhancing a variety of dishes with that just-picked taste.
1. Parsley: yes, parsley is readily available in the supermarket year-round. However, there’s a world of difference between freshly picked parsley, both in taste and nutrition, from a bunch that’s traveled hundreds or thousands of miles before reaching your store. If your garden parsley has already gone to seed, it’s not too late! Buy a bunch and snip off the freshest tips, leaving as much stem as you can. Dip the cutting in a rooting hormone powder (available at any nursery) and set the cutting in a small pot of sandy soil. It will root within a week or two and begin sprouting new leaves. During this rooting period, spray the cutting, in its pot, with a fine mist to keep it moist. Allow the plant to grow to a sufficient size before you start snipping. Snipping will then encourage new branches.
2. Rosemary lends itself well to cold weather menus. It’s perennial and is easy to propagate using the rooting hormone method. You might also be able to purchase a small pot of rooted rosemary at the nursery. Rosemary is one of the most versatile herbs, a valuable addition to the window herb garden. Add rosemary to roasted potatoes, beef and fish dishes to equally good effect.
3. Sage is another easily propagated herb. Just one fresh leaf will produce an entire plant. Using a sharp knife, make small cuts along the veins of the leaf. Dust the cuts with rooting hormone and watch that plant go to town. Again, it’s important to spray the cutting periodically, to encourage a healthy root system. Every cook knows the value of sage in any poultry dish, such as that Thanksgiving turkey!
4. Mint can overtake a garden in short order during the summer. Before that renegade patch retires in the fall, you can take a cutting for your window herb garden, with great success. Dip the stem end of the cutting in rooting hormone powder and before long, you’ll have a pot full of fresh mint for a nice leg of lamb or a mint julep.
5. While basil is a traditional summer annual, you can successfully grow it in your window herb garden, with just a little TLC. You can propagate it in a couple of ways. Buy a fresh package of basil leaves at the supermarket and cut the veins of a single leaf, as you would for sage. You can also take cuttings from an existing plant and root it with rooting powder. Basil may be a little trickier than other herbs, so you may want to start several to ensure success.
Once you’ve got viable plants, you’ve established a window herb garden that sees you through the winter. Enjoy!