Baxter County Master Gardener Program • University of Arkansas System • Division of Agriculture • © 2013 BCMG
A Few Uncommon Ones For The Culinary Ozark Garden
When we speak of perennial culinary herbs sage, chives, thyme, and rosemary are the most common ones grown by gardeners. Both thyme and rosemary can be short lived in our climate, but sage and chives are tough, hanging on in even the toughest winters and hottest summers.
There are other perennial herbs that do well here, but are not common sights in our gardens. One of my favorites is fennel (Foeniculum vulgare). Fennel is a hardy relative of dill with a familiar anise flavor in both the seeds and leaves due to the presence of anethol. The seeds are often used in Italian cooking, teas, and breads. The leaves give a wonderful flavor to fish. It is an easy plant to grow from seed. It is drought resistant, but has the best flavor if given regular moisture. Fennel tolerates full sun or partial shade and is generally not eaten by deer. A mature plant can be between 3-5 feet tall when in bloom. It is a host plant for the caterpillar of the swallowtail butterfly, so plan to plant some to share. There is a lovely bronze-leaf variety that deserves a place in your flower border.
Salad burnet (Poterium sanguisorba) is also easily grown from seed. Only 12-18” tall when it blooms, it grows from a basal rosette. The flowers, small pinkish balls, rise from the basal leaves and provide ample seeds. Give it a spot in the front of the border in full sun, with regular water and good drainage. It is very adaptable to most soils. The tender leaves taste like cucumber and make a nice addition to salads, dressings, sauces, and butters. I like to add salad burnet to coleslaw or mix it with plain Greek yogurt and fresh dill to make a sauce for fish.
Sorrel (Rumer acestosa) or French sorrel is a plant well known and frequently grown in Europe. Here, it is seldom seen. It is one of the first greens to appear in the spring and is usable throughout the growing season, although its sour, lemony flavor is best in cool weather. In the summer, simply cut back the old leaves and flower stalks and new leaves will appear. Provide regular moisture and a sunny location for it to thrive. I have had the same clump for over 15 years. Even without protection, it survives ice and snow. We enjoy the first spring leaves added to our salads, soups and sauces. It gives an extra tang when added to cooked spinach and other greens. Sorrel can be started from seed or small plants can be purchased.
When I was growing up in the North Dakota, every garden seemed to have a patch of horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) growing in a corner. Now you seldom see it except in jars. It is an easy plant to grow; it is not fussy about soil and is drought resistant. But for the best roots, give it a sunny spot and regular water. It can be an aggressive plant so give it plenty of space and expect it to reach 24” in height. It is sometimes grown as a “catch plant” for larva of some moths. If the leaves are ragged and eaten, cut them down and destroy them. New ones will appear in a few days. Horseradish can be started from a dormant root in early spring. The roots can be harvested in late September through November. Gently loosen the soil around a root and sever it from the plant. Do not dig up the whole plant unless you plan to divide it. Harvested roots keep for months in the crisper of the refrigerator. They can also be frozen and grated while still frozen to add to food. Add grated root to mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, or sour cream for a sauce for beef, sausage, or smoked fish. Make your own cocktail sauce by adding it to a tomato base.
I encourage gardeners to expand their use of perennial herbs. They provide interest to your food and can be the backbone of your herb garden. They are great “pass along” plants to share.
Submitted By: Joanne Ragsdale