As the cold, brisk days of winter begin to set in, your herb garden will need to be prepped for the season. To ensure the survival of your herbs, the first step is to assess their hardiness. Are they equipped to endure the winter chill?
A key indicator of this is the presence of wood-like parts. Consider the sturdy, woody stems of rosemary or the twig-like texture of the stems of thyme. If your plant displays woody branches at the base, chances are it is well-established and will be able to survive throughout the winter. In contrast, herbs such as Basil, Coriander, and Parsley are annuals and need to be replanted at the beginning of every season.
How to prepare your herbs based on their hardiness
Fragile Herbs (e.g. Coriander, Basil, Lemon Balm, Parsley):
These herbs are not sturdy enough to withstand the cold weather so carry out a final harvest, cutting back your plants back to the ground.
Leave the roots in the ground, over time they will compost and enrich the soil.
"In-Between" Herbs or Those Worth a the Risk (e.g. Mint, Young Oregano, Thyme):
Cut back your herbs generously, leaving the stems a few nodes from the ground.
Cover the soil with organic matter and protect the herbs with woollen, felt, or non-woven material.
Hardy Herbs (e.g. Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Sage, Verbena, Sorrel):
These herbs can endure the winter without special care; but winter is the perfect time to care for them, here are a couple of things you can do:
Prune them to improve the shape of your herb bush, removing the lower stems and cutting back the stems in the middle of the plant, this opens up the bush and allows space for better air circulation.
If you’re looking to expand your herb bed, or share them with your neighbours you can lift and divide your herb bush. This means lifting the root ball, untangling the mass of roots in two or more sections. You can then replant the reduced plants separately, or in a pot if you want to bring some inside of your kitchen.
5 Creative ways to use your harvested herbs
After harvesting your herbs, you will likely have an abundance to enjoy throughout winter. Here are five creative ways to use them:
1. Herb-filled Salad: Combine milder herbs like coriander and parsley to create a tabouleh-style salad with diced tomatoes, cucumbers, couscous, and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Full recipe available here.
2. Herby Pesto: Make a flavourful pesto using an excess of basil, sage, oregano, parsley, or a mix of your herbs.
3. Dried Herbs: For herbs like oregano and sage, lay the leaves or stems flat and allow them to dry at room temperature until they become crisp. Store them in a dry, airtight container to be used throughout the winter. Rosemary and thyme can be dried on the stem, once dried the leaves will fall off. Tip: Dried herbs make delicious, warming tea.
4. Frozen Herbs: Chop your herbs and freeze them in an ice cube tray with a drizzle of oil covering all the herbs. This can be used directly from frozen to add to stews or sauces. Check out other food waste tips here.
5. Aromatic Salt Seasoning: Create an aromatic seasoning by blending dried rosemary into a powder, and mixing it with small flakes of salt. To add an extra spice try adding ground ginger, turmeric, cumin, and nigella or black sesame seeds. Sprinkle this over dishes just before serving.
By following these guidelines and exploring creative ways to use your herbs, you can enjoy fresh flavours even during the coldest months of the year.
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