Thanksgiving Herb Guide
Before you can even think about Black Friday and toy and book sales, you have to start thinking about what you're going to put on the Thanksgiving menu. Traditional Thanksgiving flavors can be traced to your garden. Herbs and spices are part of the allure of the holiday. They scent the air and flavor our foods in ways that remind us of opening presents and sitting down to big family dinners. Here's a guide to the herbs to keep in your garden for Thanksgiving.
Sage is a shrub that's as pretty as it is tasty. Its fuzzy greenish-gray leaves make a great border, but sage can be grown in containers as well. The plant likes sunny spots with well-drained soil, but it also likes cooler climates without a lot of humidity. It can be harvested year-round, but if you harvest too much at once, you can dry it to use for later. For Thanksgiving, use it to flavor stuffing or make herb butter with it to rub on your turkey before roasting.
Thyme is a green shrub with dainty leaves and an earthy scent and flavor. It's best to grow thyme from cuttings. It likes warm, well-drained soil and full sun. It can be harvested any time of the year and dried if you want to save it or give it as a gift. For Thanksgiving, it can be used to flavor your turkey, baked in rolls or used to give your green beans another layer of flavor.
Bay leaves come from the bay laurel, which is tree native to Mediterranean countries. It can be grown at home as a tree or in a pot. It likes warm climates with full or partial sun and lots of water. If you live in a colder climate, it's best to grow it in a pot so you can move it inside when the temperatures start to dip. Bay leaves aren't typically eaten; they're usually added to liquids like stock or stews and discarded before serving.
Parsley can be grown from seeds fairly easily. You can keep it indoors or outdoors, though it likes full sun or partial shade. It's very low-maintenance and can tolerate poor soil, but it prefers well-drained soil. It can be harvested all year, and, while drying excess parsley is fine, its flavor is best when it's used fresh. For Thanksgiving, parsley is used both for its beauty and color as well as its flavor. It gives a dish a little more green where it might otherwise be beige and adds a freshness to turkey or chicken stock that you use for stuffing, gravy or soup. It can also give just about any savory recipe a bit of a kick -- if you taste one of your recipes and there's something missing, it may just be parsley.
Rosemary is a unique herb that takes on a pine-like look. It can be grown easily in a pot indoors (it makes a lovely mini-Christmas tree). It also can grow to be 4' or 5' tall, so it also looks great as a hedge in the yard. It likes full sun in a cool climate and well-drained soil. It dries nicely for future use in the kitchen or as gifts. There are many ways you can use rosemary for Thanksgiving dinner: mix it in with roasted root vegetables; with melted butter, brush it on your turkey before roasting; or use it to flavor your mashed potatoes.