About the SFMGA

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chives – Oregano – Thyme

By Christina Gale, Master Gardener

These are the three popular herbs to use in cooking.

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

Chives are a member of the onion family and have been around for a long time. Chives grow in clumps like grass and do not form a large bulb underground. The leaves are the source of the onion flavor. A perennial plant, chives are perfect for the home gardener, even those with a brown thumb. If you grow your own, you will be blessed in the spring and summer with lovely lavender flowers shaped like a delicate puffball. These flowers are edible and make a colorful garnish for any dish. However, be aware that the flavor of chives becomes harsher after flowering. To avoid flowering, simply keep snipping the leaves back.

Care: Remove flower stems before flowering to increase leaf production. Chives may be cut to within 1-inch of the ground four times a year to maintain a supply of succulent fresh leaves. The pink flowers can be used in flower arrangements or used in salads.

Oregano (Origanum heracleotium)

Greek oregano may grow two feet tall with a rounded sprawling spread of 18-inches. White or pinkish-purple flowers appear in mid to late summer. Oregano was originally grown in Greece and Italy. It is used as a flavoring for vegetables, chile, wines, meats, fish and sausage.

Care: Leaves or sprigs can be picked whenever available for fresh use. As soon as flowers start to appear it is ready to harvest. Cut to 1 ½-inches above the ground. Oregano dries easily and retains good flavor. Hang to dry or spread on a clean dish cloth in a protected area.

Thyme (Thymus, mother of thyme – Thymus citiodorus, silver thyme)

Thyme is a perennial plant that grows in a soft compact mound about 12 inches across and 8 inches high. Plant in full sun, in moderately-rich and very well-drained soil. Feed lightly once a year in the spring. Plants are quite hardy; in very cold winter areas provide winter protection with straw. Thyme is a non-fussy plant and usually grows disease and pest-free.

Thyme's origins are in the Mediterranean area where it was much loved by the Greeks and Romans. Use it in cooking chicken, rice, grain dishes, vegetables and casseroles.

Care: Trim back after flowering to promote new growth and stop plant from becoming woody and sprawling in the wrong direction. Leaves can be picked at any time. Take only one harvest. Leave 1- to 3-inch stems.