In early America, every mother knew her herbs.
She was schooled from childhood by her own mother to recognize the useful plants and to grow them at home.
Not only could she cultivate the plants, she knew how to prepare them as well. She could conjure up a potent tonic, create warm soothing teas, and season each meal with pinches from the garden or her stores of dried preserved plants.
For Mother’s Day, consider a gift of herbs.
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Gifting Mom a flat of assorted container-grown herbs is the best way for her to learn more about them. She can plant them, and spend the summer watching them mature into fragrant adults.
The best way to sort the wide variety of herbs is by their life cycle. Annual herbs grow from seed each year. Perennial herbs are soft herbaceous plants that return from roots or stems every spring. Shrubby herbs such as sweet bay produce long-lived woody twigs.
To assemble a flat of herb seedlings for Mom, strive to blend both annual and perennial herbs.
Cilantro is the herb that gives salsas their signature punch. Basil is essential to pesto and many other Italian dishes. Both are annual herbs grown from seed each year, just like tomatoes.
Medicinal camomile produces the flowers that make a trusted stomachache remedy. Though technically a biennial, add parsley to this group, too. These fast-growing annual herbs are all grown in the vegetable garden to provide a plentiful supply to pinch, cut and harvest to dry for winter.
Seed-grown herbs may self-sow in the garden to sprout next year, if conditions are right.
The majority of herbs we use today are herbaceous perennials that die in the ground with the frost of late fall. They are popular additions to the garden because of their flowers and diverse leaf colors. Many gardeners grow perennial herbs within their flower borders.
Perennial herbs include mints, marjoram, oregano, tarragon, thyme and fennel.
A few herbs are really trees or shrubs with woody stems and branches. Many are of Mediterranean origin, such as bay laurel, lavender, rosemary and sage. They may have difficulty growing in cold or wet climates, so consider growing them in pots under cover.