In this riot of green lies flavor.Of all the herbs that I use every year, only the parsley and basil are annuals. One year my parsley even wintered over and we enjoyed it all summer (well I did.) Basil is the most tender and I lose it at the first hint of a frost but, oh, how good it is all summer in salads and pesto–and it’s the finishing touch that magically changes a simple tomato sauce into spaghetti sauce. You can smell the difference almost as soon as the herb hits the pot. If you didn’t like oregano and the sharp flavor it adds to pizza and other dishes, you might spend years killing it in your garden. It has the tenacity of the toughest weed and spreads with abandon by means of the same underground root system that its cousin, mint does. I cut it down once or twice a summer and it grows back fresh and green.
Mint grows wild in our pasture and along the road so all I have to do is gather it and dry some of the excess. Most herbs grow like weeds and if you want to keep them from taking over the area they are planted in you can take the bottom off of a large can, bury it in the ground and plant the herb inside that can. I should have done that with my oregano. Chives are the first herb that I use each spring and I appreciate their fresh mild oniony flavor in salads. Their blossoms, dainty pink/purple flowers, are edible too and I always put them in a salad at least once each spring because they are so pretty. Those flowers go to seed and reseed chives in the most surprising places as the wind and birds carry them to and fro. Chives are supposed to have insect repelling properties.
Everyone loves the fresh smell and taste of mint and it’s used in everything from ice cream to chewing gum. I like to pick leaves of it and eat them raw. One day my grandchildren saw me doing that and I heard a chorus of, “Ews,” and “Yucks.” Cilantro usually comes up from seeds that winter over. Those seeds are actually coriander and are produced when cilantro goes to seed at least a couple of times a summer. Cilantro is an ancient herb that grows wild in the near east and southern Europe. It’s so ancient that its seeds, coriander, were recovered from the tomb of Tutankhamen. I sometimes dry oregano and mint but always dry parsley and basil in my microwave. It’s easy. Put a layer of paper towels on a large platter and spread the herbs over it. Just set your microwave at a medium heat and start for five to ten minutes. I do it when I’m doing other work in the kitchen so I can keep an eye on them. Stir them occasionally with your hands and you can feel if they are dry yet. When you can crumble them easily take them out, cool and crush them in the paper towel. Store them in a jar with a tight lid.