Selecting Herbs

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In selecting herbs for your home garden, then, it is crucial to recognize which ones are meant for culinary use. In many cases, the old favorites are still the best culinary choices: common sage (Salvia officinalis), common dill (Anethum graveolens), French thyme (Thymus vulgaris), common chives (Allium schoenoprasum), sweet bay (Laurus nobilis), and sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana), to name a few. As Hagen says, "Why reinvent the wheel?"

Janika Eckert, herb trials manager at Johnny's Selected Seeds, mentions the recent trend toward using common herbs for medicinal purposes. Eckert says that they are now working "with small herb growers to find high-quality herb seed," and then they run herb trials to see how best to grow it. Having more herb choices expands as well as complicates the herbal palate. Although most medicinals are edible, they are not necessarily the ones you'd choose for cooking. Some herbs, like the sage 'Extrakta', were developed for a higher concentration of essential oil, for example. Johnny's also introduced an improved variety of 'Dukat' dill (known for its abundant foliage), called 'Superdukat', with straighter stems for easier harvesting and more essential oil for medicinal use. For pickling seed, you might prefer 'Bouquet' dill for its large seed heads or 'Mammoth' dill, which Seeds of Change lists among its old favorites. Seed Savers has recently added 'Grandma Einck's' dill as an exclusive in their line. Grown since 1920 and "a good dual-purpose dill," it features large fragrant heads and abundant foliage.

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