Herb trio brightens my windowsill

HERB PLANTERMy sister-in-law gave me this sweet set of Rae Dunn pots for Christmas. They sat empty for weeks as I recovered from ankle surgery, and I pondered what to fill them with once I was up and about again.

Succulents? Always a good idea. Orchids? Probably not, the pots don’t have big enough drainage holes for orchids. African violets? Get real—I’m lucky to keep alive the one I have (knock wood). Grocery store primroses… I love them! They would look cute in white pots. But I like to put primroses on the dining room table. These pots are oblong with lettering on one side, not the best setup for a centerpiece.

I continued to consider my options. Then while writing an article about herbs de provence, I started thinking about photos to accompany the article. I would need to take pictures of potted herbs. Bingo! Herbs would look great in the pots!

Finding fresh potted herbs is a challenge in February. Sometimes grocery stores have them, but it’s hit or miss. They don’t usually carry a wide array of herbs either. I remembered visiting Chapons Greenhouses in the dead of winter a couple years ago, and they carried a nice selection they had grown on the premises.

So off I went. Turns out Chapons had lots of terrific-looking herbs and I enjoyed looking around at all the plants in the greenhouse too. I chose three herbs that are in herbes de provence blends—basil, rosemary and parsley. I brought the herbs home and they fit perfectly into the new pots.

I took the photos and sent in my article, and now I have this sweet trio of useful herbs on my windowsill just an arm’s length from the chopping board. I love tossing roughly chopped parsley into green salads, where it adds a pungent depth to the greens. I’ll snip the rosemary to roast with root vegetables like carrots, potatoes and parsnips. I used a lot of the basil in a vegetable soup I made for a soup exchange (think cookie exchange except with soup).

If you want fresh herbs for your kitchen windowsill, find a few decorative pots you like (make sure they have drainage holes). Then visit a local garden center that carries fresh potted herbs. Choose those you enjoy and that have similar light requirements (most herbs like a sunny spot). Pay attention to watering requirements too. In my trio, the basil and parsley need a bit more water than the rosemary.

Fresh herbs in fun pots make great gifts too!

Use your rosemary!

Got a pot of rosemary growing? Sure, it’s beautiful. It’s really useful too! One of my favorite ways to use it is with roasted vegetables. Choose whatever root vegetables you like. Potatoes are wonderful of course, as are carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, and rutabagas. Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, and squash also roast well.

Chop up whatever you like and place it on a rimmed baking sheet. Above, I’ve used carrots, red potatoes, and butternut squash. Add 2 or 3 sprigs of rosemary and drizzle the whole thing with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss everything with your (washed) hands to distribute the oil. Roast in a 400-degree oven. Give the vegetables a stir after 15 minutes or so. Continue roasting until the vegetables are just soft on the inside and nicely browned on the outside, as pictured on the right, above. Generally this takes about 45 minutes. Discard the rosemary before serving.

Feeling festive? The following rosemary-infused cocktail is simple yet delicious. Perfect for winter!

  • 1 oz. cranberry juice
  • 2 tablespoons rosemary simple syrup
  • 4 oz. prosecco

Chill all ingredients then pour in the order listed into a champagne flute or white wine glass. Give it a quick stir to combine and enjoy!

Rosemary simple syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary

Combine sugar, water, and rosemary in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and stir to dissolve sugar. Turn heat off and let syrup cool in the pot. Strain the syrup to remove rosemary sprigs and any leaves that might have fallen off. Keeps for months covered and refrigerated.

An herb on my windowsill

I’m enjoying a pot of rosemary on my windowsill this winter. It’s an aromatic herb that is wonderful to use in the kitchen. Running my hand over the foliage to release itrosemary-in-a-pot-4s pungent fragrance lifts my spirits on a winter day.

Full disclosure: I have killed my share of rosemary plants since they are not hardy below 20 degrees F and need extra care for wintering indoors. And unless you live in a climate where they flourish outdoors, or you can overwinter yours in a greenhouse (lucky you), don’t expect rosemary to be long lived. But don’t let all this deter you. Rosemary plants are readily available in garden centers and I am here to share some tips for keeping yours happy for at least several years.

Rosemary hails from the Mediterranean where it thrives in sun, sandy soil, and a temperate climate. It naturally grows as a small woody shrub.

You can find rosemary plants in spring at garden centers. Many greenhouses offer rosemary plants and topiaries during the holidays too as festive, alternative evergreens. I bought the one pictured here at Chapons in Pittsburgh during the holidays. I have another one I planted in the ground outdoors in the spring. It has done so well in the full sun and well-draining soil there that I am attempting to overwinter it; I wrapped it in burlap. Fingers crossed.

Two keys for keeping rosemary happy are well-draining soil and humidity. Summer is easy—just place your pot of rosemary outdoors in the sun and pretty much forget it except during the hottest, driest days, when it appreciates watering. When fall approaches and the days start to shorten, bring your rosemary pot indoors. It’s best to bring it in before you turn on your furnace. Set the pot in a cool, sunny window that faces south or west. To provide the humid conditions that rosemary loves, place a tray of pebbles under the pot and fill it with water. Misting the plant a few times a week is also a good idea. Water about once a week, but less often if the soil stays moist.