Winter can be a frustrating time for urban farmers looking to grow herbs with frosts, shortened daylight hours and the bone-chillingly wet winter days. Growing herbs in the winter will require more care and effort but there are herbs that can thrive and yield a successful harvest. Growing fresh food should be possible - and successful! - 365 days a year.
Hopefully, this post can introduce you to some herbs that can survive the harsh cold weather and thrive with proper care.
Chervil is one of those special herbs that prefer less sunlight and the cold conditions that winter brings. So, what is Chervil you may ask, Chervil looks like a slightly paler, more delicate, and more finely shaped flat-leaf parsley, but with frillier, thinner looking leaves. Sometimes bunches of chervil will have leaves that are quite tightly closed, almost flower-like. Avoid chervil with actual blossoms attached to it—that usually means the herb will have turned a bit bitter. Chervil is one of the herbs used to make fines herbs (the others are parsley, tarragon, and chives), a delicate herb blend used extensively in French cooking. Chervil is particularly delicious with eggs—either added to an omelette or sprinkled on scrambled eggs. It can also bring a fresh kick when added to lightly dressed salads.
Parsley is a plant that should not be underestimated. Parsley is a much more resilient plant than you can imagine, in extremely cold weather they can hide under the ground to remain safe and fruitful. If there's one under-appreciated herb out there, it's parsley. For many, their only encounter with parsley is the curly, bitter sprig on the side of their plate at restaurants. Native to Europe, parsley is a very attractive plant that is generally grown as a culinary herb but often wasted as a garnish or plate decoration. Considering it adds more freshness than flavour to dishes, it is best used fresh and added at the end of cooking, giving home cooks all the more reason to grow their own. It’s commonly used to elevate the flavour of dishes like soups, salads, and fish recipes.
Thyme can be a stressful herb to grow. Thyme is more at home and grows best in the colder months. It makes a great bushy pot plant and improves when you pick more of its leaves. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a low-growing, woody perennial that performs especially well in somewhat dry, sunny conditions. A beloved Mediterranean herb, it holds its taste in cooking and blends well with other flavours of its native region, such as garlic, olive oil, and tomatoes. Thyme (pronounced "time") is used in a number of cuisines, including European, British, Mediterranean, African, Latin, and Central American, regional American, and the Caribbean. Fresh and dried thyme is commonly available in the refrigerated product section at the supermarket—use the de-stemmed leaves or add it to dishes whole. The thyme plant is robust and hardy and will proliferate in your home garden during growing months or in an indoor planter year-round.
We have all heard about Rosemary, which is a perennial herb, meaning that it can be grown all year long and sturdy enough to survive the icy cold temperatures. This is an herb that flowers throughout the year. This is one of the more affordable potted herbs that you can pick up in the plant nurseries, supermarkets of weekend markets. Rosemary is perfect with the heartier meats like lamb or beef and stands up well to the more pungent flavours like garlic. Rosemary is one of those wonderful herbs that makes a beautiful ornamental plant as well as a versatile culinary seasoning. Its Latin name, Rosmarinus officinalis, means "dew of the sea," and rosemary is most closely associated with the cooking of the Mediterranean region. In warm climates, rosemary can be planted at any time.
Mint is a strong herb like thyme. Those of us that has grown one of the many varieties of mint, then you don’t need to be told to grow it in its own pot as mint has a bad habit of taking over the entire garden, it is known to be invasive if you give it half a chance in the right conditions. This can be one tough resilient herb that will continue to grow throughout the colder months One good mint plant will supply you with all the mint leaves that you will need.
Oregano is known as a very robust winter herb that grows well in the colder months because of its ability to withstand frosts. The more that you harvest oregano the bigger and stronger it grows. Possibly one of the most recognized herbs in the cook's garden, oregano is easy to grow and adds plenty of taste to food. It fantastic when cut fresh from the plant and can easily be dried for long-term storage. The leaves of the oregano plant are very small and a dark green colour. It is a perennial in many zones and the stems can become woody over the years. Oregano produces tiny white, pink, or purple flowers which are very attractive to pollinating bees. Oregano is an aggressive plant that likes to spread, and a bush of oregano can grow quite large if you allow it. The stems can also grow up to 60cm high and will often lay down on the ground, particularly when the plant is young or in the shade. For these two reasons, it is best to give your oregano plants plenty of room in the garden. Oregano is a satisfying herb for any gardener. It is easy to grow and care for, as long as it does not remain wet for too long. Oregano grows very well in partial sun, making it a good choice for an indoor garden as well.
Basil is an extremely popular winter herb that is used for flavouring and seasoning. There is countless varieties of basil out there to choose from It has a unique aroma that fills the garden with a fresh, spicy scent that I can’t get enough of, and it lends dishes a subtle peppery flavour in all kinds of cuisines, from Italian to Thai. Like most herbs, it’s also healthy for you. As if that wasn’t enough to recommend it, growing basil isn’t as challenging as some edible plants. This tropical native is happy to grow outside, inside, in the ground, in pots or even in a hydroponic system. Harvesting is simple, too. You can pluck the leaves when you want to use them, and it will keep sprouting new ones. In fact, basil is so easy to grow and so useful around the house, I think it’s an essential plant for any garden (or windowsill) to have. There are dozens of varieties to choose from, each with unique flavours and uses. This guide will help you pick the best for your home and make it thrive.
Sweet basil is probably the type most people associate with basil. It has large, smooth leaves that are bright green.
Thai basil as the name suggests, this is the type often found in Thai cooking. It has a distinct licoricey aroma and adds aniseed and clove flavour to dishes. Its leaves are more robust than Genovese basil so it can stand up to cooking in things like soup. There are several types of purple basil, all featuring beautiful dark purple leaves and lilac flowers. The leaves smell sweet and lend nicely to vinaigrettes and salads.
Lemon basil is an old-fashioned heirloom variety that has an intense lemon flavour that goes nicely with fish or chicken. The plant features narrow, elongated leaves and lemon-scented white flowers.
Greek basil also known as globe basil; this is an heirloom variety native to Southeast Asia. It has small leaves on compact, dome-shaped plants. It only gets about 8-inches tall, making it ideal for container growing. There are many more to choose from and I have only covered a few in this article.
Chives are perfect for salads or snipped into various other dishes, it can also be added as a garnish to all sorts of creations. Chives would have to be one of the easiest herbs to grow during the winter months because it only needs a couple of hours sunlight a day to be happy Chives are perennial, hardy species of onion (Allium schoenoprasum), whose small, slender, hollow leaves, chopped fine, are used for flavouring salads, stews, and soups. Handled like onions, the small oval bulbs multiply rapidly, form clumps, develop abundant foliage 15 to 30 cm high and small round heads of tiny lavender flowers. As both foliage and flowers are attractive in appearance (though onion-scented), the plants are often used for edging flower beds; but unless the flower-heads are cut or the seed is gathered promptly, self-sown seedlings may prove to be troublesome weeds. For best results, the clumps should be divided every second or third year. Chives are known as one of the easier culinary herbs to grow, which is what makes them perfect for the beginning herb gardener. They are easy to grow from seed and since they are perennial, they will return year after year.
Coriander is an annual herb growing to 50cm. Aromatic plant with bright green leaves that are used fresh in salads or cooked in soups, sauces, and chutneys. The dried seeds are used whole or ground as flavouring in both sweet and savory dishes. Coriander also has medicinal uses. Also known as "Chinese parsley" and "Cilantro". Attracts bees. It is a soft plant growing to around 30 centimetres in height, up to 50cm in height when flowering, and a spread of around 15–25cm. All parts of the coriander plant are edible with the fresh leaves and stems (before flowering), roots and dried seed most commonly used in cooking. Coriander maybe a once a very year herb within the carrot family. it’s additionally referred to as Chinese parsley, dhania, or cilantro. All components of the plant are consumed, however the recent leaves and also the dried seeds. Coriander leaves are crucial ingredients in several foods, like chutneys and salads, salsa, guacamole, and as widely used as a garnish for soup, fish, and meat. As heat decreases their flavour, coriander leaves typically added before serving. In Indian and Central Asian cuisines, coriander leaves are in massive amounts and deep-fried till the flavour diminishes. During summer, Coriander Eureka plants change rapidly from leafy to seedy (this is called ‘bolting to seed’) and it’s almost impossible to have a crop on hand for use in the kitchen in the hot months. During autumn, winter, and spring, however, coriander stays nicely leafy for a number of months.
Wild Rocket (Arugula) is an extremely hardy leaf which can be added to your favourite salad bowls to add that extra peppery taste to it. This will certainly make a salad bowl tastier. You can grow this in pots or straight in the ground – the choice is yours. If you grow salad rocket in bowls, you can move it into the greenhouse as it gets cooler to keep it growing for longer. Wild Rocket is great to grow in the garden or herb patch. It is perennial so will grow every year producing crops to use in your salads. Wild rocket is more peppery and fierier than the average rocket that you purchase in shops. To purchase wild rocket in shops it is a lot more expensive but so easy to grow. So why not try growing your own. Wild Rocket is also known as wall rocket. There are many differences between the salad rocket and the wild rocket is that the leaves are a lot finer on wild rocket than the salad version. They are also a lot stronger in taste. When using wild rocket to eat you can use it in exactly the same way as the salad version but be warned it is a lot hotter in taste. When planting wild rocket (Wall rocket) plant it in a dry shady spot – ideally near a wall – hence the name it gets. Keep picking the wild rocket often and it will soon grow new leaves on it to eat. Trim it back in autumn for another great harvest the year after. Once your seeds have germinated and are big enough for transplanting you can now look at potting them up if you are growing in seed trays. If you have sown the rocket seeds outdoors space the plants at around 10-15cm so they have room to grow and keep them weed free. The best part of growing something is harvesting it. To harvest rocket all you need to do is just pinch off the leaves as and when you require some for your salad. You will be picking it for weeks over the summer. If you pick the rocket leaves while they are young, the leaves have a much milder taste.