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10 neat things about herbs

Herbs Basil The Green Spot

Ocimum basilicum, sweet basil.

1. Herb or ‘erb. Dropping the h -sound at the beginning of “herb” is an American affectation, so if you’re from south of the border, you can talk about ‘erbs all you want.

If you hail from a place where the H is always dropped, and you say ‘ouse and ‘elicopter, then ‘erb is the way to go.

But if you are fiercely loyal to the u in “honour” and “zed” at the end of the alphabet, you should pronounce “herb” with the H to be Canadian.

2. True herbs. Botanically, most of the plants in a flowerbed are herbs; traditionally, the word herb simply refers to a non-woody plant.


In common parlance, though, we tend to use herb to refer only to plants grown for culinary or medicinal purposes – including lavender and bay, which are in fact woody.

“Herbaceous plant”, which is redundant, is now more common for describing a non-woody plant.

3. Annual or perennial. People like to over winter herbs and are disappointed when their basil poops out.

The reason is not your lack of care, it’s because the plant is probably annual (most basils are) and it is just finished its lifespan.

Cilantro and dill are also annuals. Mint, chives, rosemary, sage and thyme are all perennial. Parsley is a biennial plant.

4. Square basil. Square stems is one of the defining characteristics of basil, and it’s fortunate for botanists that the plant has such an easily identifiable characteristic.

Basil is notoriously promiscuous, crossing with other plants quite freely, resulting in leaves that can be smooth, shiny, curled and even hairy.

5. Minty shade. Mint (which also has square stems) loves a moist, shady spot, so you may not want to grow it in one. It is extremely vigorous.

Sometimes the best way to enjoy an invasive plant in the garden is to plant it away from its ideal conditions.

To be on the safe side with mint, though, plant it in a pot, and ensure that the roots cannot reach the ground through the pot’s drainage holes.

6. The original oregano? Mediterranean oregano, Mexican oregano and Cuban oregano are all from different genera.

Of this list, only the Mediterranean type is Origanum.

Each contains carvacrol, the chemical that gives oregano its particular flavour; this explains the crossover in naming.

7. Rosemary indoors. Rosemary is such a pretty and useful that many an avid gardener has tried to overwinter it indoors and failed.

On the other hand, a precious few succeed, so go ahead and try it.

Place it in your sunniest window because it likes an amount of sun that is hard to replicate indoors. It is also partial to dry soil and moist air.

8. Two ways to preserve herbs. Many people dry their own herbs by hanging them upside down, in bunches, in a dark airy place.

For an almost-fresh taste in the middle of winter chop your favourites and put them in ice-cube trays with water.

Pop out the herby cubes and keep them in a baggie in the freezer until you’re ready to use them.

9. Don’t let them bolt. Flowering of herbs is known as ‘bolting’. Once a herb has bolted, it becomes bitter and more tough.

When you want fresh herbs for cooking, get ’em while they’re young.

Pinch out the flowers when you see them starting; it will encourage more side shoots and a bushier plant.

10. The meaner the dirt, the sweeter the herb. Heavily fed herbs will  develop lush foliage, which is attractive, but at the expense of concentrated essential oils.

For the most flavourful herbs, stick to poor soil.

The Ultimate Guide to Cold Climate Gardening by Bernie Whetter, owner of  The Green Spot



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A slice of cityscape

Ninth and Rosser look north Feb 29 Weiming Zhao

Ninth Street and Rosser Avenue

looking North

Artist: Weiming Zhao


 Iron Earth Soil Re-Mineralizer

Iron Earth is highly compressed, natural, organic humus, formed through the biological breakdown of plant life over 75 million years old.
Add Iron Earth to your garden soil and planter pots to provide the naturally occurring nutrients necessary for optimal plant growth, and excellent plant health.
Also available at The Green Spot
Bernie Whetter

Bernie Whetter, owner, The Green Spot

• Always cut on a board of wood, bamboo or soft plastic to prevent premature dulling of your knives.

Acrylic, ceramic and similar hard surfaces are tough on a knife edge because they do not “give” with the edge.

• Handwash with dish soap and water. Hand dry knife blades from the back to the cutting edge.

• Hone regularly with a honing steel to maintain a keen edge.

• Keep knives sharp. A sharp knife is safer than a dull one because it requires less pressure when cutting. The knife will not slip as easily and your hand will not tire as quickly.

• Store in a knife block or an in-drawer knife tray. Carbon steel knives are best stored where air circulation is present.

• Carbon steel blades require regular care and maintenance.

Over time the blade may react with acidic foods (such as lemons or tomatoes), which will cause the steel to turn dark grey to black, this is called developing a patina.

To avoid discolouration of the blade, rinse and dry immediately after each use.


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