By Melinda Myers
Dress up the table and your holiday meals with a centerpiece of fresh herbs. You and your family will enjoy snipping a few fresh sprigs to season your meal to your own taste.
Purchase plants so they will be ready to harvest for the holidays. Many garden centers now carry herb plants year-round and some grocery stores sell herb plants in their produce department.
Include herbs your family likes and those that complement your menu. Grow plants in individual containers or plant several in one larger decorative pot. Select a container with drainage holes and one that complements your table setting.
Double pot plants when using a decorative container that lacks drainage holes. Plant herbs in a smaller pot with drainage holes. You can set several individual pots in a larger container. Place pebbles in the bottom of the decorative pot. These elevate the inner pots above any excess water that collects in the bottom of the decorative pot. Better for the plants and less work for you.
Use a quality, well-drained potting mix when moving herbs into another container. Be sure to place a saucer or tray under the pot to protect your furniture. Set on a decorative placemat for added protection and add a few seasonal items to complete your display.
Include some basil to dress up a pizza, salad, or soup with just a few leaves. Add some oregano for seasoning any tomato-based dishes such as pizza and pasta. Use fresh thyme to add flavor to cheeses, eggs, tomatoes, and lentil. Lemon thyme makes a nice tea.
Chives’ mild onion flavor is great on potatoes, but consider adding it to soups, dips, seafood dishes, and omelets. Just snip a few leaves and cut them into smaller pieces before adding them to your dish.
Parsley is high in vitamin C and often added to soups, pasta, salads, and dressings. Harvest a sprig at the end of the meal to freshen your breath.
Always water plants thoroughly when the top inch of soil is starting to dry. Basil likes slightly moist soil but not soggy wet. Pour off excess water that collects in the saucer or elevate the pot on pebbles above any water that lingers in the saucer or tray.
And don’t forget the snips. Let everyone add their own favorite herbal seasonings to their meal. Encourage everyone to make the cut above a set of leaves. This keeps the plant looking good and the wound will close quickly. And don’t be timid; regular harvesting encourages new growth for future harvests.
When the herbal centerpiece is not dressing up the table, move the plants to a sunny window or under artificial lights. Avoid drafts of hot and cold air. Continue watering it thoroughly as needed.
Everyone will appreciate the fresh flavor and fun of flavoring their own meals right at the table during your holiday meal.
Melinda Myers is the author of more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally-syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and her web site is www.MelindaMyers.com.