Herbs in Winter

I use a lot of herbs in my cooking.  Fortunately Melbourne’s climate lends itself to having fresh herbs all year round.  There are even some like coriander and chervil that do better in the winter.

  

Coriander tends to bolt quickly during the rest of the year in my garden whilst chervil tends to bolt in Spring.  My chervil seems to bolt at the end of spring reseeding itself, germinating during summer, and restablishing itself by Autumn.  Whilst chervil generally looks happy all winter I do find an occasionally purpling of the foliage (as you can see in the above photo) which I’ve always presumed is its reaction to the cold.   Correct me if I’m wrong about this.

Also very happy in winter is parsley:

I get excellent parsley crops right through the year although the plants do tend to bolt in Spring and I try to time my sowings right to ensure I have plants at a cropable size when the previous years go to seed.

Some of my other herbs look a little unhappy during winter but they are still harvestable from (in some cases only just).  My mint tends to grow much, much more slowly with smaller leaves and more sparse foliage.

The sage also starts to look a little unhappy as the temperature cools:

 

Whilst my thymes tend to hold up pretty well, it does get a little mildewy which I presume is due to a lack of sunlight.

 

The oregano looks more sparse than it does during the rest of the year:

But it doesn’t seem to mind the cold too much. 

The garlic chives hold up well too, as does the bay tree whose growth slows but as you can see from the growth buds it is still doing something useful.

  

The curry leaf plant stops putting on new leaves and starts to look a little sick.  Its leaves yellow, but in my garden they stay on the plant.

I also have rosemary going strong but it somehow evaded the camera. 

So which herbs can’t I harvest in winter?  The tarragon dies back – although I did notice yesterday that it has started to reappear.  Basil is a Spring to Autumn crop but otherwise most of my favourite herbs grow year round.  YAY!

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21 Responses to Herbs in Winter

  1. Daphne says:

    My herbs almost all die back in the winter. It is why I have to dry herbs for the winter. A lot of herbs I like to use dry anyway though. It is just so much easier to grab a jar than to run out and try to clip then chop something up. Of course things like cilantro don’t dry so I have to freeze them to maintain their flavor.

    • Liz says:

      For me it varies from herb to herb but oregano is really the only one I dry regularly, partially because I enjoy its flavour dried and partially to give the plant a prune.

  2. Parsley is biennial anyway so you need to sow every year. We sow in late spring to replace the lot sown the year before. BY the time the new lot is ready to be planted out – last years is seeding

    • Liz says:

      I need to sow parsley now otherwise I will have a gap, in fact I probably should be sowing seed not typing on the computer…but its quite cold outside…

  3. Sarah says:

    Fresh herbs are a real treat in the depths of winter – yours look good and healthy. Have you tried the green and gold variegated variety of sage? It does well even in a Yorkshire winter, so should be able to handle the worst of the cold in Melbourne!

    • Liz says:

      I will look our for the variegated sage as I’d love to have a variety which really thrives in winter, thanks for the tip.

  4. Nina says:

    I don’t know or grow chervil. What do you use it for? My Thai basil (at least that’s what I think it is!) grows no matter what the weather. It has escaped from its pot and is a little invasive but not as much as mint.

    I have some self-seeded dill, which surprised me and my curry leaf hasn’t yellowed a bit and looks very healthy which surprised me even more. I keep it in a sheltered spot in a pot so the frost hasn’t affected it nor the cold, by the look.

    My oregano looks very tatty and it took a while to harvest enough for the spag bol I made yesterday. The rosemary and parlsey are going very well and the thyme isn’t too bad, either.

    I also have a curry plant (the one with the elongated silver leaves) but I’ve never used it to cook with, have you? It smells like Keens Curry Powder (now there’s a smell from the 70s!) when the sun warms it.

    I just did a count and I’ve got 14 different types of herbs in the garden. I hadn’t realised!

    • Liz says:

      I’m not sure that curry plants are edible are they? Hmm perhaps I should try some dill seed now then. I love dill but often have issues with it but perhaps I’m not sowing at the right time. Chervil I use in mixed herb sauces like salsa verde or in omlettes. I’m not super keen on it on its own but really enjoy it mixed with other herbs. My thai basil always dies off when it gets cold – what does yours taste of? And do you save seed?

      • Nina says:

        Apparently curry plants are. It’s described as ‘cut and cook’ and ‘adds flavour to stews, vegetables and soups’ and is native to the Mediterranean region. I’m not likely to cook with it but I do enjoy the spicy aroma in the garden.

        Having just googled, it, it’s not ‘Thai basil’ but maybe looks a bit like ‘holy basil’. I lost the label years ago. I also alternate between calling it basil mint or perennial basil – I obviously have no idea! It spreads by its roots like mint, has mauve flowers and has a strong perfumed, minty taste. My daughter really likes it and goes home with bunches and uses it in Thai/Vietnamese style stir fries. I don’t use it much but have used it as a basil substitute when desperate – it is quite a strong flavour and a little goes a long way.

        Do you want some? I’d be happy to send you some runners.

        • Liz says:

          There is a perennial basil that sounds a bit like that – I had one for awhile but managed to kill it through complete neglect (the pot fell over and I didn’t notice and then it dried out). Having said that maybe its basil mint. I’ll email you and perhaps you could email me a photo?

  5. My parsley and rosemary are the two that seem to tough it out best through winter. The mint really slowed down for a while, but is looking more robust already. The sage and thyme are mere shells of their former selves and I’m barely able to pick a leaf from them.

  6. Louise says:

    Oh nice summary of herbs in winter. If only my experience accorded with yours. My oregano and thyme are ripping along, but my mint has gone to sleep and the parsley is looking very very thin – alive but thin. I cant wait for basil planting time!

    • Liz says:

      My mint has recently woken up – you may find yours is doing better than you think? Weird that parsley grows better down here, I did plant last December I think it was so it was pretty established prior to winter.

  7. Mark Willis says:

    Like you, I love having fresh herbs available for the kitchen all the time. Here in the UK it is not really possible to grow much in the way of herbs during Winter – it is more a case of getting them to survive, and it’s not generally a good thing to pick their leaves when they are already struggling. I have tried growing herbs on a windowsill in Winter, but they are never good. They just go leggy because they don’t get enough light. Re Chervil: Mine went purple in July (when daytime temps were in the 16 – 20C range) so I don’t think this can be because it was too cold.

    • Liz says:

      RE: Chervil – ahhh maybe its a prelude to flowering, and by the way those are ridiculously low daytime temps.

  8. Lrong says:

    It is a joy to read about your family of herbs… envy your curry leaf plant very much… I should try to see if I can grow them in Japan…

    • Liz says:

      They don’t like the cold so it would just be a matter of getting it through winter but otherwise it should do fine.

  9. kitsapFG says:

    I really do not grow enough herbs in my garden. Most of what I do have are in pots and are growing on the front deck area with a few annuals planted in the garden proper – such as dill and basil. Your post is inspiring me to get more serious about my herb planting.

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