If you grow a kitchen garden, a few culinary herbs will enhance flavors at your table.
Some really useful herbs that are easy to grow here include sage, chives, thyme, rosemary, French tarragon, cutting celery and summer savory.
Summer savory has become one of my favorite herbs. Some folks call it the "bean herb" because it enhances the flavor of bean soups so well. Even snap beans benefit from this burst of flavor, and as an alternative to salt pork or bacon, it's a low- calorie taste boost.
It can improve the flavor of other vegetables too, such as cabbage, tomatoes, greens, cauliflower, collards, etc., as well as chicken, fish, pork, beef and lamb. When you think you're tired of leftovers, try a sprinkle of summer savory on them. Start with a very small pinch. You can add more if you want more.
Summer savory is an annual, easily started from seeds. Winter savory, a perennial, may be used in the same ways as summer savory, but I haven't grown winter savory since I got a case of hives from handling it. I'm not allergic to most plants, but that episode cut short my work with that herb.
Note: If you break out from handling a plant, get out of the sunshine because it intensifies skin allergies.
Both savories were used in the Middle Ages for medicinal purposes, as a remedy for diarrhea, a mild antiseptic, indigestion, appetite stimulant, cough remedy and, like many other herbs, they were said to be effective in completely opposite ways: some said savory was an aphrodisiac, others said it suppressed libido.
Winter savory has a stronger, more piney taste than summer savory.
Plant summer savory seeds fairly thickly in a container for easy harvest later.
Summer savory, like most culinary herbs, doesn't tolerate fertilizer well, but it does like regular watering, full sun and good drainage.
When plants are about six inches high, you can begin snipping off the tops for kitchen use. This will make the plants bushier with more leaves. Remember, flavor is concentrated in dried herbs, so if your recipe calls for a half teaspoon of a dried herb, use one teaspoon of fresh summer savory.
The general rule for herbs is to harvest them before they go to flower, unless flower or seed is the part of the herb you're after. Cut summer savory stalks near soil line when you see buds beginning to form on some of the plants, and lay them out to dry or put them in a dehydrator.
Once they're dry, strip off the leaves and crush them, putting them into a container. They may be used to flavor food or to make tea, for human consumption or as a whitefly repellant. I wouldn't guarantee the latter effect.
Figuring soil temperatures
How do you calculate soil temperature? Plunge a soil thermometer into the soil about two inches at around noon and record the temperature. Do this in the same location at the same time each day for four or five days, then calculate the average temperature.
Protect seeds from elements, predators
If you plant peas or potatoes first, other crops won't be far behind. If the soil is dry enough to walk on without being compacted, you can plant carrots, beets and other vegetables unfazed by frost.
Carrot seed is so tiny and apt to blow away that I often put a board lightly over the seed I've just planted. I do tip it up after three or four days, and remove it when I see a row of feathery green tiny leaves poking out of the soil.
Emerging beet leaves are bird candy, so if you have a lot of birds hanging around your garden, cover those seeds with row cover or sheer curtains weighted with rocks.
Send garden questions to email@example.com or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.