By Sonny Chenoweth
Growing your own fresh herbs is a rewarding endeavor. Those rewards can be greatly enhance by choosing to specialize and concentrate on developing an Italian herb garden.
Italian herbs are not only some of the world’s best tasting and most famous but they have a rich heritage of being an integral part of the culture of the Roman Empire. As the Romans were building an empire and spreading their influence throughout Europe, Asia and Africa herbs were an integral element of their society.
Everywhere they ventured they took their herbs with them. When they invaded the British Isles in 43 AD they brought with them more than 200 different types of herbs. To this day many of those herbs are still enjoyed there.
Italian cuisine is universally popular. It would be hard to find any city in the world that doesn’t abound in Italian restaurants. Just the thought of sitting down to a wonderful dinner of Italian specialties such as Spaghetti with succulent meatballs or rich lasagna or any number of dreamy pasta dishes will make your mouth water. A prime factor in the creation of these culinary delights is the propitious and masterful use of herbs. Not only did the Romans excel in literature, architecture, engineering and empire building but they were great aficionados of the utilization of herbs in the creation of fine foods. Italian herbs have such a rich pedigree and traditional heritage growing them would add a great deal of extra interest to the endeavor. Imagine the kinship you would feel with the mighty Romans in producing herbs that contribute to fine Italian or any other cuisine.
The first challenge the gardener will face in establishing an Italian herb garden is selecting which herbs to cultivate. There are many different types of herbs included in the Italian family of herbs. And don’t think that they are only meant for flavoring food. There are many other types of Italian herbs such as the ornamentals which can create beautiful landscape designs and flower arrangements with their exotic flowers, leaves and foliage. Italian aromatic herbs are used to create all sorts of sweet scented items. Adding aromatic Italian herbs to a garden will provide you with pleasant aromas straight from Italy and will make you feel like you are strolling through the Italian countryside every time you visit your garden.
A good way to get started with an Italian herb garden is to begin with the most popular herbs used in cooking and then expand from there as the experience level grows. Here are a few to consider; garlic, basil, oregano, rosemary, sage and fennel.
Garlic you say! Is that an Italian herb? Yes, sir it is! Garlic is ubiquitous today but every time you use a clove of garlic in some dish thank an unknown but creative Roman chef from two thousand years ago for it being available for you today.
If you like Italian sausage then you are an appreciator of fennel. Basil not only adds great flavor to many Italian dishes but when planted next to other garden vegetables like tomatoes they improve the tomato’s flavor and repel harmful insects. Oregano provides beautiful purple flowers along with it delicious flavors. Rosemary is a perennial that in addition to its wonderful flavor produces beautiful blue flowers that attract bees to the garden. Start a herb garden today with an Italian influence and you will reap many wonderful benefits.