6 winter herbs to fill your food with flavour
25th February 2019
Continue to enjoy these aromatic harvests even during the colder months of the year with GYO’s tips
The winter season can see little green foliage visible in your veg patch, but there should be an abundance of herbs thriving on your windowsills inside the house. Growing indoor specimens is great for a continual supply of fragrant ingredients throughout the year.
CARING FOR YOUR CROP
Many gardeners pot up their herbs at the end of the outdoor growing season and bring them inside, while others grow them indoors all year. It can be tempting just to leave them on a windowsill and take the greenery when you fancy it, but it is important to look after your crop adequately so you can continue to make the most of the perfumed yields.
Plants should be regularly watered, but do not do so excessively as waterlogged soil will affect productivity. To prevent this issue make sure that the containers the herbs are in have drainage holes, and that there is a saucer or equivalent underneath. Also consider the size of the pot your crop is in, as it may be that the continual drying out of the earth suggests that the container is too small. Be careful to check that the windowsill they are located on receives sufficient sunlight – south-facing is best, as it is essential these herbs are given the chance to warm up. If the plants are struggling with lower light levels then you could try an indoor light used for propagation as this will help make the herbs think it is spring. A popular tip to prevent the cold night air affecting your herbs is to stop them being too close to the glass (especially making sure they are not touching it). When using the leafy yields during the winter try not to over harvest them, too.
Associated with roast dinners, the thin leaves of this plant are characteristic. While specimens growing outside need winter protection, such as horticultural fleece, and will stop producing harvests, those thriving inside can be taken advantage of – allowing a fresh supply of this scented herb even in the winter months. Be careful when snipping off parts of the crop as you do not want to take too much. To keep its attractive shape throughout growth, after its flowering period has occurred chop it back so that the problem of legginess is prevented and its appealing structure is preserved.
One of the most fragrant types you can grow inside during winter, it is perfect to add to an array of dishes, including seasonal favourites such as warming soup and flavoursome stuffing. Thyme prospers in containers and don’t worry if you forget to water occasionally as they can cope with drought-like conditions. However make sure, as with all herbs, that the earth is not allowed to dry out. Not favouring being heavily-watered, it is also necessary that the pot doesn’t sit in liquid – check there is adequate draining to prevent this. Harvest sprigs as and when needed throughout the year.
Hugely popular to grow indoors, chives are known for being a great addition to summer salads with a subtle oniony flavour, but don’t let them lie idle during the colder months as they can still be enjoyed. One of the easiest herbs to look after they are great for beginners and, although during the winter those outside would have long since died down, by just giving a bit of attention to indoor plants you should still be able to make some pickings. If you have had your pot of chives for a while it may actually be the case that the container is too small and that the plant needs to be transferred to a larger one.
Possessing a strong flavour, it is more common to use this herb dried, but it can also be used fresh if desired. A crop which loves the light it is vital it receives plenty of sun. It is also important the container it is situated in has drainage holes, so that rotting doesn’t become an issue. A relative of marjoram, a plant loved by bees, oregano is a must-have for adding that extra something to stuffing mixes and roasts.
A classic addition to Italian meals, basil is delicious eaten fresh or cooked, whether added to soups, pizza or pasta, along with a variety of other dishes. Having a pot of this luscious leafy green on your windowsill will brighten up many recipes. Don’t leave your indoor container plants with wet roots, so be careful when watering this crop. Basil can however be more difficult to look after because it likes to be kept warm as the cold air will affect its leaves.
Traditionally used to flavour delicious winter dishes, sage is another desired addition to your indoor garden. As with other herbs be sure not to overwater this plant as waterlogging leads to root problems – check drainage is possible. The evergreen nature of this plant allows easy picking during winter, and to make sure that it keeps its attractive shape through the year, it can be pruned after it has flowered so that productive growth develops.
• Don’t let crops sit in waterlogged soil.
• Place herbs on a southfacing windowsill so that they receive sufficient sunlight during the day.
• Try not to overharvest pots of herbs so that the plant can recover.
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