This page contains information on plants grown in the Carleton College greenhouse. Some interesting recipes, as well examples of how some of the plants can be uses are provided.

This page is currently under construction. Any comments or ideas are greatly appreciated.

Spring 1998 - Herb sale plant information

       Find out how to care for the plants you've taken home and some suggestions for using them:

Common name: Basil
Botanical name: Osimum basilicum
CareSpring Sow seeds in early spring with warmth and watch out for damping-off; plant out around the end of the season. Alternatively, sow directly into the ground after any frosts. Summer: Keep pinching out young plants to promote new leaf growth and to prevent flowering. Harvest the leaves. Autumn: Collect seeds of plants allowed to flower. Before first frosts, bring pots into the house and place on the windowsill. Dig up old plants and dig over the area ready for new plantings.

In containers: Basil is happy on a kitchen windowsill and in pots on the patio, and purple basil makes a good centerpiece in a hanging basket. In Europe basil is placed in pots outside houses to repel flies.  Water well at midday but do not overwater. If that is not possible, water earlier in the day rather than later and again do not overwater.

Uses: Popular in italian cooking.  Basil can also be used as insect repellent by rubbing leaves on skin

Ingredients: 1 Tbsp pine nuts, 4 Tbsp chopped basil leaves, 2 cloves garlic, 3 oz. Parmesan cheese, 6 Tbsp olive or sesame oil Instructions: Blend the pine nuts, basil, and chopped garlic until smooth. Add the oil slowly and continue to blend the mixture until you have a thick paste. Season with salt to taste. Stir the sauce into the cooked pasta and sprinkle with cheese.

Common Name: Calendula
 Botanical name: Calendula officinalis
Care: Calendula is a very tolerant plant, growing in any soil that is not waterlogged, but prefers, and looks best in, a sunny position.  The flowers are sensitive to variations of temperature and dampness. Open flowers forecast a fine day. Encourage continuous flowering by deadheading. It self-seeds abundantly but seems never to become a nuisance. Self-sown seeds normally germinate in autumn and overwinter successfully if temperatures clo not go persistently below 32¡F (0¡C). They will flower the following summer.  Calendula attracts aphids away from other plants.

In containers:Use the bark, peat potting soil. Pinch out the growing tips to keep the plant from becoming too tall and leggy. Deadhead flowers to encourage more blooms.

Uses: Harvest Pick flowers just as they open during summer, both for fresh use and for drying. Dry at a low temperature. You can make a colorful oil.  Calendulas look very cheerful in containers and combine well with other plants. Well suited to window boxes, but not so in hanging baskets, where they tip over and look sloppy.

Common name: Chamomile
Botanical name: Chamaemelum sp.
Care: Spring: Collect offshoots, sow seeds. Fill in holes that have appeared in the chamomile lawn.  Divide established plants. Give a liquid fertilizer feed to all established plants.  Summer: Water well.  Do not allow to dry out.  In the first season of a  lawn, trim the plants to encourage bushing out and spreading. In late summer collect flowers from the Dyers chamomile and cut the plant back to 4in (lOcm) to promote new growth. Autumn: Take cuttings. Divide if they have become too invasive. Cut back to promote new growth. Give the final feed of the season. Winter: Use mulch in Zones 4 or 5 unless snow cover is reliable.
All the chamomiles prefer a well-drained soil and a sunny situation, although they will adapt to most conditions.  Prepare the site well, make sure the soil is light, slightly acid, and free from weeds and stones. Plant young plants in plug form. I use a mix of double-flowered and 'Treneague' chamomile at a distance of 4 6in (10-15cm) apart. Keep all traffic off it for at least 12 weeks, and keep it to the minimum during the first year.

In containers: I would not advise growing chamomiles indoors, as they get very leggy, soft, and prone to disease. But the flowers can look very cheerful in a sunny window box outdoors. Use chamomile 'Flore Pleno', which has a lovely double flower head, or the nonflowering 'Treneague' as an infill between bulbs, with a bark, grit, peat potting soil.

Uses:  Chamomile is a popular and soothing tea.  Collect and dry the flowers for use in tea.

Common Name: Feverfew
Botanical name: Chrysanthemum parthenium
Care:  Feverfew is invasive. It will grow anywhere, but likes best a loam soil enriched with good manure in a sunny position.  Pick leaves before the plant flowers; dry if required for use medicinally. Pick the flowers just as they open; dry hanging upside down.

In containers:  Grown indoors, the plants get stretched and leggy. However, in containers outside all the feverfews flourish. Golden feverfew, having the most compact habit, looks very effective in a hanging basket, tub, or windowbox. Use the bark, peat mix of potting soil. Keep the plants regularly watered and feed during flowering. Cut back plants after flowering as this will help maintain their shape.

Uses:  The young leaves of fevertew can be added to salads, but be warned they are very bitter, so add sparingly.
A decoction or infusion of the leaves is a mild disinfectant, and the leaves in sachets make a good moth repellent.

Common name: Lavender
Botanical name: Lavandula stoechas (French), Lavandula officinalis (Common)
Cultivation: Lavender is one of the most popular plants in today's herb garden and is particularly useful in borders, edges, as internal hedges, and on top of dry walls. All the species need an open sunny position and a well-drained, fertile soil. But it will adapt to semi-shade as long as the soil conditions are met, otherwise it will die in winter. If you have very cold winter temperatures, it is worth container growing.  The way to maintain a lavender bush is to trim to shape every year in the spring, remembering not to cut into the old wood, as this will not reshoot. After flowering, trim back to the leaves, making sure this is
well before the first autumn frosts. Otherwise the new growth will be too soft and be damaged. By trimming this way, you will keep the bush neat and encourage it to make new growth, so keeping it from becoming woody.

In containers:  If you have low winter temperatures, lavenders cannot be treated as a hardy evergreen. Treated as a container plant, however, it can be protected in winter and enjoyed just as well in the summer. Choose containers to set the lavender off; they all suit terra-cotta. Use a welldrained potting soil: the peat, bark, grit mix suits them well. The ideal position is sun, but all lavenders will cope with partial shade, though the aroma can be impaired.  Feed regularly through the flowering season with liquid fertilizer, following the manufacturer's instructions. Keep in a cool (50 F) bright place for winter. Allow the soil to dry out in winter (not totally, but nearly), and slowly reintroduce watering in spring.

Medicinal:  Oil-burn and sting remedy, antiseptic, drop on temple for headache relief, massage oil, aromatherapy for throat infections, skin sores, inflammation, rhumatic aches, anxiety, insomnia, and depression.
Uses: Potpourri-dry and sew into pillow or tie in tulle sachet.
    Culinary: use in jellies, vinegars.

Lavender biscuits:
Ingredients: 4 oz. of butter, 2 oz sugar, 6 oz. flour, 2 Tbsp of freshly chopped lavender leaves, 1 tsp lavender flowers
Instructions: Cream butter and sugar together till light. Add flour and lavender leaves. Knead well till forms a dough. Gently roll out onto lightly floured board.     Scatter the flowers over the rolled dough and lightly press in with a rolling pin. Cut into shapes. Place biscuits onto greased baking sheet. Bake at 450 F for 8-10 min. Remove and cool on wire tray.

Common name: Lemon balm
Botanical name: Melissa officinalis
Cultivation: Lemon balm will grow in almost any soil and in any position. It does prefer a fairly rich, moist soil in sunny position with some midday shade. Keep all plants trimmed around the edges to restrict growth and encourage fresh shoots. In the right soil conditions this can be a very invasive plant, but it's more likely to spread by seed than by rhizome.  Pick leaves throughout the summer for fresh use. For drying, pick just before the flowers begin to open when flavor is best; handle gently to avoid bruising. The aroma is rapidly lost, together with much of its therapeutic value, when dried or stored.

In containers: If you live in an area that suffers from very cold winters, the gold form would benefit from being grown in containers. This method suits those with a small garden who do not want a takeover bid from lemon balm. Use the bark, peat, grit mix of potting soil. Only feed with liquid fertilizer in the summer, otherwise the growth will become too lush and soft, and aroma and color diminished. Water normally throughout the growing season. Allow the container to become very dry (but not totally) in winter, and keep the pots in a cool, protected environment. Repot in spring.

Uses: Lemon Balm is one of those herbs that smells delicious but tastes like school-boiled cabbage water when cooked. Add fresh leaves to vinegar. Add leaves to wine cups, teas and beers, or use chopped with fish and mushroom dishes. Mix freshly chopped with soft cheeses. Lemon balm tea is said to relieve headaches and tension and to restore the memory. It is also good to drink after meals to ease the digestion, flatulence, and colic. Use fresh or frozen leaves in infusions because the volatile oil tends to disappear during the drying process.  The isolated oil used in aromatherapy is recommended for nervousness, depression, insomnia, and nervous headaches. It also helps eczma sufferers.
This is a most useful plant to keep bees happy. The flower may look boring to you, but it is sheer heaven to them. So plant lemon balm around beehives or orchards to attract pollinating bees.

Common name: Mint
Botanical name: Mentha sp.
Cultivation: Mint is one of those plants that will walk all over the plot if not severely controlled.  To inhibit spread, sink a large bottomless container in a well-drained and fairly rich soil to a depth of at least 12in (30cm), leaving a small ridge above soil level. Plant the mint in the center.  Pick the leaves for fresh use throughout the growing season. Pick leaves for drying or freezing before the mint flowers.

In containers: Mint is good in containers. Make sure the container is large enough, use a soilbased compost, and do not let the soil dry out. Feed regularly throughout the growing season with a liquid fertilizer. Place the container in semi-shade. Protect the container-grown mint by storing it in a cold frame or unheated basement for winter. Divide and repot each year in early spring.

Uses: Peppermint is aromatic, calmative, antiseptic, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-parasitic, and is also a stimulant. It can be used in a number of ways for a variety of complaints including gastro-intestinal disorders where antispasmodic, anti-flatulent and appetite-promoting stimulation is required. It is particularly useful for nervous headaches, and as a way to increase concentration. Externally, peppermint oil can be used in a massage to relieve muscular pain.

Common name: Parsley
Botanical name: Petroselinum crispum
Cultivation:  Parsley is a hungry plant; it likes a good deep soil, not too light and not acid. Always feed the chosen site well in the previous autumn with well-rotted manure.  If you wish to harvest parsley all year round, prepare 2 different sites. For summer supplies, a western or eastern border is ideal because the plant needs moisture and prefers a little shade. For winter supplies, a more sheltered spot will be needed in a sunny position.  Pick leaves during first year for fresh use or for freezing (by far the best method of preserving parsley).

In containers:  Parsley is an ideal herb for containers. It even likes living inside on a sunny but cool windowsill, as long as it is watered,fed, and cut. Use the bark, peat mix of potting soil. Curly parsley can look very ornamental as an edging to a large pot of nasturtiums. It can also be grown in hanging baskets, (keep well watered), window boxes (give it some shade in high summer), and containers. That brings me to the strawberry pot, the one with six holes around the side. Do not use it. As I have already said, parsley likes moisture, and these containers dry out toofast, the holes in the side are small and make it very difficult to water, and the parsley has too big a taproot to be happy.

Uses: Parsley is rich in vitamin C and iron, breath freshener, increases mother's milk and strengthens uterine muscle, antiseptic, and for insect bites. In cooking it is used in salads, soups (i.e. tomato)

Parsley Bread
Ingredients: 1 Tbsp. honey, 2 Tbsp. light oil, 1/2 cup lukewarm water, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, 2 Tbsp. dry yeast, 3 cups whole wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups very hot water, 1 cup unbleached white flour, 1 cup stone-ground cornmeal, 1 cup finely minced parsley
Instructions: In a small bowl, combine the honey, lukewarm water and yeast. In a large bowl, combine the hot water, cornmeal, oil and salt. When the mixture has cooled to warm, add the yeast mixture. Add the flours, 1 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. Stir the parsley into the batter. Leave the bowl in a warm place, covered with a damp towel until the batter triples in size. Beat the batter down with a wooden spoon, and turn it into a standard size, oiled loaf pan. Let rise for 15 min. Preheat oven to 450 F. Bake loaf for 10 min. Reduce to 350 and bake for 50 min. or until loaf is rich brown.

Common name: Rosemary
Botanical name: Rosmarinus officinalis
Cultivation:  Rosemary requires a welldrained soil in a sheltered sunny position. It is frost hardy but in cold areas it prefers to grow against a south- or south-west-facing wall. If the plant is young, it is worth giving some added protection in winter. If trimming is necessary, cut back only when the frosts are over; if possible, leave it until after the spring flowering. Sometimes rosemary looks a bit scorched after frosts, in which case it is worth cutting the damaged plants to healthy wood in spring. Straggly old plants may also be cut back hard at the same time. Never cut back plants in the autumn or if there is any chance of frost, as the plant will be damaged or even killed. On average, despite the story about rosemary growing for 33 years, it is best to replace bushes every 5 to 6 years.  As rosemary is evergreen, you can pick fresh leaves all year round as long as you are not greedy. If you need large quantities then harvest in summer and either dry the leaves or make an oil or vinegar.

In containers:  Rosemary does well in pots and is the preferred way to grow it in cold districts. The prostrate and less hardy varieties look very attractive and benefit from the extra protection offered by a container. Use the bark, grit, peat mix and make sure the potting soil is very well drained. Do not overwater, and feed only after flowering.

Uses: Tea drunk in small amounts reduces flatulence and aids digestion, tea can also be used as surface antiseptic, oil can be used as insect repellent.  It gives off delicious aroma in wood fires, soak leaves overnight in water to be used as a hair tonic in final rinse of wash to make hair shine.  Rosemary is good with lamb, casseroles, tomato sauces, baked fish, rice, salads, egg dishes, apples, summer wine cups, cordials, vinegar, and oils.

Vegetarian Goulash
Ingredients: 2 Tbsp of rosemary olive oil, 2 med. onions (sliced), 1 dessert spoon of whole meal flour, 1 Tbsp paprika, 10 oz. of hot water mixed with 1 tsp. of tomato puree, 14 oz. italian tomatoes, 2 sprigs rosemary, 8 oz. cauliflower sprigs, 8 oz. new carrots (washed and cut into chunks), 8 oz new potatoes, 1/2 green capsicum (seeded and chopped), 5 oz. sour cream, salt and pepper to taste
Instructions: Heat the rosemary oil and fry onion till soft. Stir in paprika and cook for 2 min. Stir in water, tomatoes, and rosemary. Bring to boil, constantly stirring. Add all vegetables and seasonings. Cover and bake in preheated 375 F oven for 30-40 min. Remove from oven and remove rosemary sprigs and stir in sour cream plus a bit o paprika. Serve with fresh pasta, rice, or garlic bread.

Common name: Sage
Botanical name: Salvia sp.
Cultivation:  Sage, although predominately a Mediterranean plant, is aufficiently hardy to withstand Zone 5 winter without protection, as long as the soil is well drained and not acid, and the site is as warm and dry as possible. The flavor of the leaf can vary as to how rich, damp, etc. the soil is. If wishing to sow seed outside, wait until there is no threat of frost and sow direct into prepared ground, spacing the seeds 9in (23cm) apart. After germination, thin to lSin (45cm) apart. For the first winter, cover the young plants with agricultural fleece or a mulch.
 To keep the plants bushy, prune in the spring to encourage young shoots for strong flavor, and also after flowering in late summer. Mature plants can be pruned hard in the spring after some cuttings have been taken as insurance. Never prune in the autumn as this can kill the plant. As sage is prone to becoming woody replace the plant every 4 5 years.
Since sage is an evergreen plant, the leaves can be used fresh anytime of the year. In Mediterraneantype climates, including the southern United States, the leaves can be harvested during the winter months. In cooler climates this is also possible if you cover a chosen bush with floating raw covers, as this will keep the leaves in better condition. They dry well, but care should be taken to keep their green color.
In containers:  All sages grow happily in containers. Pineapple sage is an obvious one, as it is tender, but a better reason is that if it is at hand one will rub the leaves and smell that marvelous pineapple scent. Use the bark, grit, peat mix of potting soil for all varieties, feed the plants after flowering, and do not overwater.

Common name: Savory
Botanical name: Satureja hortensis
Medicinal: rub on a bee sting to alleviate pain, use an infusion (tea) to stimulate appetite, and relieve flatulence. Once in demand as an aphrodesiac.
Culinary: Use with vegetables and rich meats. Flavor is hot and spicy, so add sparingly to salads. One of the spiced in salami. Great for vinegars and oils.
Recipe: Beans with Garlic and Savory
Ingredients: 7 oz dried haricot beans (can susbstitute chick peas, or white beans), 1 Spanish onion, 1 carrot roughly sliced, 1 stick celery, 1 clove garlic, 3 Tblsps. olive oil, 1 Tblsp. white wine vinegar, 2 Tblsps. chopped savory, 2 Tblsps. chopped parsley.
Directions: Soak beans in cold water overnight, or at least 3-4 hours. Drain them and put them in a sauce pan with plenty of water. Bring them to a boil slowly. Add half the onion, the carrot, and the celery, and cook until tender. As soon as the beans are soft, drain and discard the vegetables. Mix the oil, vinegar, and crushed garlic. while the beans are still hot, stir emaining half of the onion (thinly sliced), the herbs, and pour over the oil and vinegar dressing. Serve soon after mixing. Do not chill.

 Common name: Thyme
Botanical name: Thymus vulgaris (common thyme), Thymus citriodorus (lemon thyme)
Cultivation: Thymes need to be grown in poor soil, in a well-drained bed to give their best flavor. They are drought-loving plants and will need protection from cold winds, hard and wet winters. Sow seed when the soil has warmed and there is no threat of frost. Thin on average to 8in (20cm) apart.  It is essential to trim all thymes after flowering; this not only promotes new growth, but also keeps the plant from becoming woody and sprawling in the wrong direction.  In very cold areas grow it in the garden as an annual or in containers and then winter with protection.  As thyme is an evergreen, it can be picked fresh all year round provided you are not too greedy. For preserving, pick before it is in flower. Either dry the leaves or put them in a vinegar or oil.

In containers:  All varieties suit being grown in containers. They like a free-draining soil low in nutrients; if grown in a rich soil they will become soft and the flavor will be impaired. Use the peat, grit, bark mix of potting soil; water sparingly, keeping the container bordering on dry, and in winter definitely dry, only watering if absolutely necessary, when the leaves begin to lose too much colour. Feed only occasionally in the summer months. Put the container in a sunny spot, which will help the aromatic oils come to the leaf surface and impart a better flavor. Trim back after flowering to maintain shape and promote new growth.

Use:  Although a medical dose drawn from the whole plant is safe, any amount of the volatile oil is toxic and should not be used internally except by prescription. Avoid altogether if you are pregnant.
       Medicinal: use as tea for a gargle or mouthwash-an excellent remedy for sore throats or infected gums and hangovers.
       Cooking: good with fish or chicken


A great thing to do with herbs is to make a vinegar or an oil. These make beautiful gifts or add interesting flavor to your own cooking.

Herbal Vinegars: great for gravies and sauces, marinades and dressings.
Ingredients: 10 Tblsps. chopped herbs. Ones to try: basil, chervil, dill fennel, garlic, lemon balm, marjoram, mint, rosemary, thyme, savory or tarragon.
2 cups white wine or cider vinegar
Directions: Pound the leaves gently in a mortar. Heat half the vinegar until warm, BUT DO NOT BOIL. Pour this over the herbs in the motar. Pound further to release the flavors of the herbs. Leave to cool. Mix this mixture with the remaining vinegar and pour into a wide necked bottle. Seal tightly. Remember to use an acid proof lid Put on a sunny windowsil and shake everyday for 2 weeks. Test for flavor; if a stronger taste is required, strain the vinegar and repeat with resh herbs. Store as is or strain through double muslin and rebottle. Add a fresh sprig of the chosen herb to the bottle for ease of identification.

Herbal Oils: great for salad dressing, marinades, stir frys and sauteing.
Made in much the same way as the above vinegars.
Basil Oil- one of the best ways to store and capture the flavors of basil
4Tblsps basil leaves, 2 cups olive or sunflower oil.
Directions: Remove leaves from stalks, and crush the leaves in a mortar. Pound slightly, add oil, pound a little more. Mix the leaves with the remaining oil in a tightly sealed wide mouth jar.. PLace on a window sill 2 weeks, shaking every day. Strain through muslin, rebottle -add a few leaves for decoration, identification. This recipe works nicely also on: sage, dill, fennel, sweet marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and garlic (use 4 crushed cloves).

Bouquet garni oil
Combine 1Tblsp. sage, 1Tblsp lemon thyme, 1Tblsp greek oregano, 1 Tblsp parsley, 1 bay leaf, 2 cups olive or sunflower oil. See above Directions.

To make a sweet oil, use almond oil instead of olive or sunflower. Make as for herb oils above. Good herbs to try: Carnation flowers, lavender petals, lemon verbena, rose petals, and scented geraniums.