||Turkey Stuffing Herbs
Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on Friday, 23 September 2001
When I got tired of battling the groundhog family that lived under our garage, and switched from vegetable gardening to flowers, I kept my cooking herbs. Luckily, the critters don't go for either the flowers or the herbs. At this time of year, I am happy to have leaves from my own plants to make turkey dressing. The classic recipe calls for four herbs of Mediterranean origin: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
However let me confess right away that I have not succeeded in growing rosemary in Townsend. It's marginally hardy in our USDA zone 5; bringing it indoors for the winter is often recommended. When I did that, the poor thing still became sickly, and didn't make it. Then Ward and I spent a few years in Provence, where rosemary grows wild. After seeing the plant in conditions it likes, I have not had the heart to try growing it here again.
Many thymes do well for me. The one for traditional dressing is common thyme; the French variety has superior flavor but the English is hardier important in wet winters (even with our sandy soil). Give it full sun and not much nitrogen.
Flat parsley often called "Italian" has much more flavor than the curly kind, which is best used only for decoration. But the seed of both is finicky; for example an old saying declares that it goes seven times to the devil and back before it germinates. About ten years ago I switched to a close relative of parsley, Japanese Mitsuba (Cryptotaenia japonica). It has a robust parsley taste and is easy to grow. In fact, it self-sows reliably in my garden; I've never had to plant it again, after that first crop. A biennial, it will grow in part shade.
But the most successful herb for me is sage. Plain Salvia officinalis has great variation in taste; I went around from nursery to nursery, rubbing the leaves to release the aroma, to choose the one I eventually planted. It's quite hardy in my garden, even aggressive: tip-rooting its branches when they get long, sprouting new stems from the roots, even for the first time this year sowing a seedling. I have to cut it back drastically every spring to keep it from taking over. Of all my herbs, it's the most ornamental, with its big, pebbly gray-green leaves and long spikes of little blue flowers.
© Copyright 2001 Catherine Holmes Clark