Gardening principles | Home & Garden

Praying for rain!

Rosemary is a Mediterranean native that grows as a shrub in southern California, Texas and other areas with dry summers and mild winters. Its hardiness in other regions is iffy without protection, because cold, dry winds will quickly dehydrate the leaves. To be safe, grow some of your Rosemary in pots and bring it into a cool room during frigid weather. In any climate, Rosemary’s strong, resinous scent and delicious flavor are perfect with grilled fish, meats, and Mediterranean-style vegetables.

Light, well-drained soil is essential for Rosemary, especially for container-grown plants. Water only as often as needed to keep the soil slightly moist.

Plants need full sun in summer, and it is best to keep them indoors in winter near a sunny south or west-facing window.

Rosemary is ideal for simple topiary shapes. To make a tree-shaped standard, choose a plant with a straight central stalk. Prune off the lowest branches a few at a time and shorten branches near the top to keep them from becoming too heavy. When the plant reaches the height you want, trim the head into a bushy ball.

To store Rosemary for cooking, strip leaves from branches and freeze in a freezer bag. Or dry and store in airtight jars.

If you toss Rosemary sprigs on the coals or grate of the barbeque during the last 10 minutes of cooking it will impart a wonderful flavor and aroma to lamb, veal, or chicken. Rosemary branches can be used as skewers for kebabs or tied together to make an aromatic brush for applying sauce to the meat as it cooks.

Sage is a hardy yet often short-lived perennial. Garden sage is woody, with soft gray-green foliage. The most familiar of the culinary sages is used primarily as a sausage and stuffing ingredient, but it also adds great flavor to breads, cheese, poultry, and vegetable dishes.

Some sage varieties are variegated, which makes them ideal for large containers planted with an assortment of hers. ‘Aurea’ has gold and green leaves, ‘Purpurea’ has purple foliage and ‘Icterina’ has yellowish foliage blotched with green. All grow to 2 ½ feet tall.

Catalogs often describe sages as short-lived perennials or half-hardy annuals. In fact, some annual sages may survive mild winters, while extreme cold or hot, humid conditions may kill some perennials. When you try a new sage, mulch over its roots in late fall, then wait and see if it survives until spring.

Garden sage loves sun and well-drained soil. Water young plants regularly until they become established. After a few weeks, they can tolerate drier conditions.

Pinch individual leaves as you need them in the kitchen. In addition to chopping them into dishes, lay whole sage leaves over roasted meats or reads. To use sage in salads, lightly fry whole leaves in a little olive oil, drain on paper towels and crumble the crisp leaves over the finished salad.

Sage tea is good medicine and has a history as an antiseptic mouthwash and digestive aid. To dry sage for wreaths or potpourri, cut flowering stems about eight inches long, secure a bunch with a rubber band and hang it upside down in a cool place to dry.