Indoor Gardening with Herbs: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme on the Kitchen Countertop…

January 19th, 2010 § 13 comments § permalink

Windowsill Herb Basket

Hmm… how about a couple of basil leaves and some fresh oregano in the tomato sauce? Yes? And why not add some chopped rosemary to the bread dough? Of course you would like a little sprig of mint in your tea, wouldn’t you? I really enjoy cooking, and I love food – so I can’t imagine a kitchen without fresh herbs. Life would be pretty bland without a bit of natural spice ! In summertime, herbs multitask in my kitchen-garden, serving as lures for beneficial insects, repellents for bad-bugs, beautiful and fragrant design elements, and of course delicious additions to drinks and an endless variety of meals. But why stop growing these tasty plants when the snow flies? Most herbs are no more difficult to care for than any other houseplant, and they will reward your tastebuds for your efforts every day. If you have never tried growing fresh herbs indoors, I encourage you to give it a try.

Many culinary herbs can be grown indoors from cuttings taken from your garden durning the growing year. Oregano, mint, sage, thyme, rosemary and basil are a just a few of the many herbs that can be easily propagated.  Of course entire plants can be moved back and forth, inside and out, as the seasons change. If you grow herbs in pots on a deck, porch or terrace during the summer months, it makes good economic sense to either bring your plants indoors for the winter, or propagate new plants from cuttings for your kitchen windowsill. In addition, you may want to try growing some herbs from seed. Parsley, cilantro, summer savory, basil and dill all do well when started from seed indoors. Herbs started indoors can be planted outside when temperatures rise.

Unobstructed south facing windows are ideal for growing sun-loving herbs indoors, but eastern or western facing windows with clear light will do. What’s most important is that your plants receive at least 6-8 hours of direct sunshine, or a full day of very bright, (if indirect), light. My kitchen windows face west, and the herbs growing on my countertop do quite well throughout the winter. North facing rooms tend to be too dark and chilly for most plants. So, if you live in an apartment with northern exposure, you will have more success growing your herbs beneath a full-specturm light, like the one pictured below…

Intelligent Plant Light – Indoor Grow Light – $39.95 from Windowbox via Amazon.com

Although some herbs, (such as mint, basil and parsley), prefer moist conditions, none of these plants like to sit in soggy soil. Use a good quality potting mix and a well-drained container for your plants. Mediterranean herbs, like rosemary and lavender, are particularly sensitive to overwatering, so be sure to allow their soil to dry-out a bit between drinks. Try to place Mediterranean herbs in your sunniest indoor spot, keeping in mind that warm, dry climates are where these plants originated. Spindly, weak new growth and pale leaves are usually the first indicators of inadequate light. If your herbs are content in their surroundings, they will reward you with steady growth. Be sure to prune your plants regularly, even if you don’t intend to enjoy the harvest, (try freezing or drying your cuttings or pass them along to a friend).

Herbs are generally trouble-free plants when sited in gardens that satisfy their needs. Indoors however, pests usually have no natural predators, and they can occasionally become a problem. White flies, mealy bugs, spider mites, aphids and other uninvited guests may turn up on your plants. If you notice their tell-tale signs,(webs, sticky residue, cottony clusters), attack the problem immediately before things get out of hand. A soap and water solution sprayed on plants, (or used as a dip), or horticultural oil can solve many pest problems. But if these methods fail, look for a safe OMRI approved product in a local garden center. If you are sure that your plant is free of pests, and isn’t overwatered, yet you notice yellowing leaves toward the bottom of larger plants, it may be time to transplant your pot-bound herb to a larger container.

I will be writing more about edible gardens in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you are looking for online seed sources, check out the links listed under “Seeds” in the links bar to the right. Renee’s Garden Seeds is usually my first choice and favorite source for organically grown culinary herb seeds. For more helpful information on growing culinary herbs I recommend the two books listed below, (both in my own library). And for great herb tips online, including delicious recipes, visit the  Herb Companion Magazine website, or subscribe via the link below…

Herb Companion

The Herb Gardener: A Guide for All Seasons – Susan McClure

Your Backyard Herb Garden – Miranda Smith

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Article and photographs copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Rosemary No-Knead Bread from the Windowsill Herb Garden …

January 2nd, 2010 § 13 comments § permalink

Light snow is falling outside and the temperature here in Vermont is hovering around 30 degrees fahrenheit. A winter storm is expected tonight and it is predicted to continue throughout tomorrow. Meteorologists are promising us six to twelve inches of fluffy, new snow here in the Green Mountains. It sounds like I will be doing some shoveling and snow-shoeing with Oli on Monday. This season is filled with many pleasures, but some parts of winter are easier to deal with than others. I am already starting to miss the convenience of  ‘shopping’ for tomatoes and cucumbers in the backyard potager. True, there are stores of potatoes, onions, squash and other produce in the root cellar – but it will be awhile before I can sample the full flavors of spring and summer in my kitchen.

Of course a little bit of summer does manage to migrate into my house for the winter. Edible plants such as mint, oregano, thyme, sage and rosemary line the countertop on either side of my kitchen window. Although these herbs prefer to live in the garden, I usually bring a few, (OK, as many as I can cram beside the sink), indoors to enjoy during the long months of winter. Rosemary is one of my favorites seasonings, and while it can be a fussy winter guest, I like to keep a small plant inside until late spring. I have had good luck growing rosemary indoors when I position the pot in a cool, (but not drafty), bright spot. Never let this plant dry-out. It is important to check the potting soil regularly. But take care not to kill with kindness – this Mediterranean plant dislikes overwatering. Rosemary’s soil should be kept on the slightly dry-side of moist, with a free-draining potting mix.

Although I love houseplants, and I always enjoy the scent of herbs when I brush against them beside the sink, the primary motivation for my indoor herb garden is, of course, cooking and baking. Yesterday afternoon, I mixed the dough for no-knead bread – my second experience with this recipe. And this morning, I baked two loaves in my new Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Round French Oven. This pretty blue pot was a holiday gift – one I have been coveting for years. Beware: this is not an instant gratification recipe. In fact, the entire process takes about 21 hours. But the steps are quite simple, and I must say the results are very rewarding. The bread that came out of my oven today was every bit as good as any I can find within 20 miles of my home. It’s definitely worth the wait. In addition, the fresh herbs, (in this case rosemary), make for a very special dinner loaf and an especially fragrant home during baking.

Over the coming winter months, I will be writing more about edible indoor-gardening and cooking with fresh herbs. After experimenting with this recipe a few times, I thought it might be a good place to start. I’m eager to read about your results…

Rosmarinus officinalis, (rosemary), on my kitchen countertop

Rosemary No-Knead Bread

(Adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe for the New York Times and the original Jim Lahey recipe via Martha Stewart Living)

Ingredients:

(Makes one 1 1/2 pound loaf of bread)

3           cups bread flour, (I use King Arthur), plus extra for dusting

1/4        teaspoon instant yeast *

1 1/2     teaspoon salt, (I use ground sea salt)

1 1/2     cups water, (room temp)

1 1/2     tablespoons fresh, coarsely chopped rosemary, (or other herbs)

Olive oil for coating bowl

Cornmeal, (optional, I used flour for this recipe), for dusting

* If you can not find instant yeast, you may substitute 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast: Warm the 1 1/2 cups of water and add 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast. Let stand 10 minutes, or until foamy. Follow the remaining directions as listed below.

Directions:

First Afternoon: Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large working bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups of water, (room temperature), and blend to a shaggy looking mix. I added the fresh rosemary at this point, but if you forget, you can also add it, (or other herbs), on day two durning the folding process. Use olive oil to lightly coat a second large working bowl. Transfer the dough to the second bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm room, (70 degrees fahrenheit is ideal), for 18 hours. Bubbles at the surface of the dough signal that it is ready to rework.

Next morning: Dust the work surface with flour and place the dough in the center. Lightly flour the top of the dough. Gently fold over a couple of times. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes. Once again, dust the work surface and your hands with a bit of flour and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Sprinkle a plain, smooth cotton towel with flour, (or cornmeal), and place the dough on center. Cover with a second cotton towel. Allow the dough to rise until double in size, (about 2 hours).

After an hour and a half of final rising: begin preheating the oven to 500 degrees fahrenheit. While preheating, place a  2 3/4 – 8 quart heavy, lidded pot, (such as pyrex or enameled cast-iron), in the center of the oven. I use an enameled, cast-iron Le Creuset round, Dutch-style oven with lid, (I prefer this to glass for even baking of bread). Heat pot for 1/2 hour. Very carefully remove the hot container from oven with heavy mitts. Slide dough into the pot and shake to evenly distribute. Cover the pot and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Oven temperatures will vary, so watch very carefully the first time you make this bread.

Remove bread from the oven, roll out of the pot and cool on a wire rack. The loaf will stay freshest in a bread-box or bread-bag, loosely wrapped in plastic and/or a paper bag. Wrapping a loaf of bread tightly in plastic will make the surface soft instead of crusty. It’s best to eat fresh bread the day it is baked. Enjoy !

Start with good bread flour, fresh instant yeast and ground sea-salt for good results…

Next, add fresh, coarsely chopped rosemary to the dough…

Mixing the shaggy, sticky dough on day one…

Bubbles on the wet, sticky surface the next morning…

The shaped dough, resting in an olive oil coated bowl …

The no-knead dough, settled into a heated, Le Creuset French oven…

And the finished loaf, rolled out to cool on a wire rack

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Article and photographs ⓒ  Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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