If you have considered growing herbs at home but don’t know where to start, I would recommend starting with an Italian herb garden. This will allow you to raise some of what you probably already use. Plus, you’ll be well prepared to experiment with those Italian recipes you’ve been staying away from because you didn’t have the ingredients! It’s no surprise that some of the most adventurous herbs in the world come from Italy. And these are put to good use in some of the most attractive dishes that man can make. Having your own Italian herb garden will at least take away a few excuses!
Your Italian herb garden will certainly include basil. And surely you have used, or at least had, basil in various recipes. Basil is even often brushed over meats. However, in addition to being widely used in recipes, it’s a great thing to grow in your garden. Planting basil next to peppers and tomatoes enhances its flavor. Perhaps you have heard of the concept of companion plants. Well it works. And basil also does a good job of keeping flies and mosquitoes away.
Parsley would like to be another centerpiece of the Italian herb garden. You’ll find used parsley everywhere, in Italy and beyond. Few people really realize how parsley was used in the past. It’s not unusual to find a piece of parsley next to your plate at a restaurant. Most of us just overlook it, or maybe even wonder why they bother. It may even be a bit of custom or tradition for the restaurant. It used to be that parsley was routinely chewed after a meal to freshen breath. These days, people are more likely to simply pop a piece of gum or take a breath mint.
I’m sure your Italian herb garden will contain oregano as well. Oregano is an amazing herb that is even used for medicinal purposes. It is quite a strong and soulful herb that is normally used in its dried form. However, it can be a nice addition to your Italian herb garden, producing pretty purple flowers when it grows. The truth is that a great piece of advice is to wait until the oregano has flowered before harvesting it. If you do this, it will actually offer the best flavor.
You may not have even heard of fennel, but there’s a good chance it’s in your Italian herb garden kit, too. Ironically, even if you haven’t heard of fennel, I bet you have eaten it. If you’ve eaten Italian sausage, you’re likely familiar with the tiny seeds it contains. That comes from the fennel. If you grow some fennel, just keep in mind that fennel, unlike oregano, actually loses flavor as the plant matures. Also, since it is a perennial plant, it really needs to be divided and replanted every few years to preserve the flavor.
Rosemary is a classic. In fact, I wonder if it could be an Italian herb garden without rosemary. This can grow into a bush if allowed to. It produces blue flowers, which is useful for attracting bees for pollination. Although it is a hardy perennial, it can be sensitive to frost.
Sage is also an Italian staple and is popularly found on meats and salads. The young growth of the plant is what is used, as old growth and an unpruned plant simply become woody over time. Finally, add garlic to the list for good measure. You may not consider it a staple in your Italian herb garden. However, it is commonly used in a wide range of recipes. In addition, it is very easy to grow. Also, it can be frozen or even preserved, if not kept in the refrigerator.