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Herbs have many benefits

Free class is April 2

Staff writer

Diana Costello of Marion has always enjoyed gardening and canning. That interest eventually led her to growing her own herbs to use in canning and cooking.

“When you make spaghetti sauce and use half a cup of dried parsley at a time, it get’s rather expensive,” she said Friday.

But fresh herbs weren’t available in many stores in the 1980s, so she began growing herbs in containers in south-facing windows of her home. She also began going to monthly meetings of the South Central Kansas Herb Society, learning about more obscure herbs and swapping extra plants.

Sage, basil, rosemary, and chives are among her favorite herbs, but other herbs have good uses, she said.

“I love to can fresh vegetables with a sprig of thyme,” Costello said.

Flavoring foods isn’t the only use for herbs, she said. Dill attracts butterflies, something she didn’t learn until she researched a black swallowtail caterpillar she found in her garden.

Aromatherapy is another use of herbs. Many herbs have fragrances that have a calming effect. Rosemary is one of Costello’s favorites for its fragrance.

Herbs can also be used in landscaping. Many herbs have pretty flowers, and other herbs make good ground cover, Costello said.

“We should think more about edible landscaping,” she said.

The first three pieces of advice Costello would give someone interested in growing herbs are:

  • “Go easy, you can always add more.” Some herbs can be overpowering if too much is included.
  • “The first thing people ask is how do you substitute fresh for dried — double.” Because fresh herbs include more water than dried herbs, it takes twice as much to get the same flavor.
  • “They’re incredibly easy to grow. They don’t require really fertile soil.” Some herbs, when they gain a foothold, can almost be invasive.

Costello will teach a free class about cooking with herbs and gluten-free cooking 11:30 a.m. April 2 at Butler Community College in Marion. The class is part of the college’s free class day.

Topics of other classes include what to do before an ambulance arrives, digital scrapbooking, and flint knapping. To register for Costello’s or other classes, go to http://www.butlercc.edu.

Last modified March 23, 2011

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