Six Herbs for a Shady Corner
Every yard has a semi-shady corner - somewhere the sun penetrates only for a small part of the day. Perhaps its in the lee of some trees or shrubs, or maybe a boundary fence blocks the sun. Instead of settling for ferns, why not transform these semi-shady spots into a herb garden. Although many herbs require full sun, others adapt very well to partial shade.
Here are six herbs for shady spots in your garden, with planting preferences and tips or recipes for using each in the kitchen.
Angelica stands an impressive 3 to 5 feet tall, has large leaves and white flower umbels. If you plant more than one, you'll need to space them about 3 feet apart, and they may need staking. It is a biennial, so you'll need to buy a new plant every year or two to have a continual supply.
The seeds, leaves and stalks of this plant all taste like licorice, and all are edible. They add a sweet flavor to salads, soups and stews. The stems are often preserved as candied angelica, which can be eaten as a treat or used in jams, stewed fruits, and jellies. Angelica is used as a flavouring in several liqueurs.
How to Make Candied Angelica
Candied angelica used to be a common staple in the kitchen. This recipe allows you to candy your own angelica which can be consumed as a sweet or it can be used as a form of crystallized fruit in a whole range of recipes.
- young stems and stalks of angelica
- 600ml (1.5 cups) boiling water
- 4 tbsp salt
- 400g (1 lb) sugar
- 1 liter (4 cups) cold water
In a glass bowl, add the salt to the boiling water and allow it to dissolve. Clean and cut the stems to about 3 inches and place them in the salted water. Cover with a cloth and leave for 24 hours.
Drain and peel the angelica stems, then wash them in cold water. In a saucepan, make a syrup from the sugar and the cold water. Bring to the boil, place the angelica in the syrup and simmer for 20 minutes. At the end of this time take the angelica out of the syrup, lay the pieces on a wire rack and leave to dry for 4 days (reserve the syrup solution).
After 4 days return the angelica to the syrup and boil again for a further 20 minutes. Remove and place on the wire rack, allowing to drain for 4 days once more. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and store in an airtight container.
Chervil can be mass-planted, and makes a pretty sight with its parsley-like leaves and small white flowers. You can use it as a ground cover in a shady corner, around large shrubs or tall herbs like angelica.
Stagger your seeding for a continual supply. It will self-seed, but the flavor of the leaves is best before flowering.
Chervil has a delicate anise flavor, and the leaves are good in soups, salads and casseroles, and make a tasty herb butter. It goes well with fish, spring salads, and spring's fresh asparagus. Stir chervil in ham and cheese omelets, or sprinkle it over grilled meats, especially chicken breasts or steak . Use it in dressings for pasta or potato salads.
Because of its delicate flavor, its best added at the end of cooking or just sprinkled on fresh.
Herbed Omelet With Chervil
- 4 eggs
- 4 tablespoons cream
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. each of tarragon, chervil, basil and chives
Beat yolks and whites separately. To the yolks add cream, salt and a dash of pepper, plus the herbs. Fold the whites into the yolk mixture. Pour into a hot, well buttered oven proof skillet. Turn heat down on low and cook the eggs slowly. When the omelet has risen and is golden brown near edges, place in a 300 degree oven until it is finished cooking. If desired you can place shredded cheese on the eggs before folding over and serving.
Lovage is another tall herb, growing to 7 feet tall. It resembles a giant celery plant with its hollow stalks and umbels of greenish-yellow flowers. It is a perennial, so plant it in late summer or early fall, and the following year new shoots will appear. It grows best when it has a dormant winter, but may die out in colder areas.
Its flavor is celery-like, and it works well in green and potato salads. The leaves may be used to flavor soups, casseroles, sauces and marinades. It may also be lightly cooked as a green vegetable. The seeds can be used like celery seeds.
Potato and Lovage Soup
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cups potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 3 cups water
- Approx. 1 1/4 cups milk
- 3 Tbsp. minced fresh lovage plus garnish
- salt and black pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onions and potatoes. Cook over low
heat for 10 minutes. Add 3 cups of water and continue simmering until the potatoes are tender.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Puree the cooled mixture in a food processor or blender. Place into a clean pan and stir in the lovage and milk slowly, stopping when you feel it's the right thickness. Heat through, and serve with a garnish of lovage leaves.
Parsley is probably the world's most used herb. It is a storehouse of nutrients, and if you only use it as a garnish, you're missing out.
Here are a few ideas for using it:
- Combine chopped parsley with bulgur wheat, chopped green onions (scallions), mint leaves, lemon juice and olive oil to make tabouli.
- Add parsley to pesto sauce to add more texture and green color.
- Combine chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest, and use it as a rub for chicken, lamb and beef.
- Use parsley in soups and tomato sauces.
- Serve a colorful salad of fennel, orange, cherry tomatoes, pumpkin seeds and parsley leaves.
- Chopped parsley can be sprinkled on a host of different recipes, including salads, vegetable sautés and grilled fish.
Italian parsley is the best choice for intense flavor. It' has flat leaves and a looser growth habit than the common curly-leaf variety. This biennial herb can take full sun or partial shade, and grows well in ordinary soil. The seeds are slow germinators, so you may want to purchase starter plants. In warmer areas, it will self-sow after the second year.
French tarragon is grown more for its flavor that its looks - it often has an untidy scraggly look. It is a low growing plant with narrow leaves on drooping stems.
Either full sun or partial shade will suit it, as long as the soil is rich and well-drained. French Tarragon rarely blooms and, even then, makes only sterile seed, so you'll need to buy a starter plant.
The leaves have a licorice flavor, and when you're buying plants, break off a leaf and rub it to make sure you are getting the true French tarragon. It has a very intense flavor, so use it sparingly at first, until you're used to it. It's a suberb culinary herb, used in sauces, soups, salads and vinegars.
Tarragon Potato Salad
- 3 pounds small red new potatoes
- 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
- Salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 Tablespoons plain yogurt
- 2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1-1/2 teaspoons honey mustard
- 1 Tablespoon minced fresh chives
- 1 Tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
Cook potatoes in large pan of boiling water 8 to 12 minutes or just until they can easily be pierced with tip of a sharp knife. Drain.When they are cool enough to handle but still hot, cut in half and place in a large nonreactive bowl. Toss with the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Set aside to cool.
Mix yogurt, olive oil, and mustard in a small nonreactive dish. Add to potatoes along with chives and tarragon and mix lightly. Add additional salt and pepper, if needed. Serve or chill potato salad until serving time.
And last, but definitely not least, mint is a herb that you may find grows too well.
There are many varieties of mints, and all can be recognized by their square stem. They all have a fragrant foliage, and are great for teas, jellies and cold drinks.
These perennials like partial shade and lots of moisture, and you'll find that in the right spot, they'll spread voraciously. To avoid being over-run with mint, plant them in a bottomless bucket or have a bed just for mint.
Shear them back two or 3 times a year to encourage the best tasting leaves. At the end of the growing season, prune back the mint plants and cover the area with a bit of mulch.
Mint can be dried and stored in airtight containers for later use, or used in teas, potpourris and homemade bath products.
Fresh Mint Sauce for Lamb
- Strip the mint leaves from the stems and chop finely. You should have about a cup of chopped leaves.
- Sprinkle with salt.
- Place into a jug, add 1 teaspoon of fine sugar and pour a quarter cup of boiling water over. Stir and allow to cool.
- Add 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, stir well, and serve.
General Tips for Growing Herbs
- Since you probably only need one or two of each herb, buying starter plants can be as economical as starting from seeds, and you'll have instant results.
- Don't plant near trees, where the herbs will have to compete for water and nourishment.
- Make a raised bed, with compost and new soil for best results.
- Plant the taller herbs at the back of a border or corner bed, or in the center of a circular bed.
- Pinching off the growing tips for use is the best way to make your plants bushier and sturdier.