Many people may think that low-water gardening and edible plants are mutually exclusive. However, some of the tastiest culinary herbs are perennials that can find a home in your water-wise landscaping. So don’t just grow herbs in your vegetable garden, mix them into your perennial beds. While some of the culinary herbs need more water than extremely xeric plants, some of the best and most popular herbs are fairly drought tolerant, thriving in Colorado’s front-range climate.
Thyme is one commonly used herb that is fantastic when fresh. Even if you don’t intend to cook with fresh thyme, just picking a fresh sprig to crush in your hands, releasing the wonderful aroma, is reason enough to grow this versatile and hardy herb. Lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus) is a great addition to cooked fish or chicken.
Lavender is one classic herb that loves Colorado’s growing conditions if you amend the soil to make it well-drained. Lavender is not commonly used in most American kitchens, but can be part of some amazing deserts and drinks. The best varieties for Colorado are Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’, Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’ and Lavandula x intermedia ‘Provence.’
Oregano is perhaps one of the easiest herbs to grow in Colorado. In fact I’ve found that some varieties area so easily grown that they can become invasive due to their ability to re-seed. As with many herbs, some oregano varieties are better suited for cooking than others.
Culinary sage (Salvia officinalis) is more shrub like than the above listed herbs. As with the other herbs (most of which are in the Mint family) culinary sage produces gorgeous flowers that bees and other pollinators go crazy for. Culinary sage’s flowers are a gorgeous purple, blooming profusely in early summer. As with thyme, you may be familiar with its dried version, but fresh sage is much better.
A less drought tolerant group of herbs but that are still hardy and a nice addition to small pockets in flower beds are the chives. Regular chives and garlic chives are easy to grow and provide edible leaves and flowers. Toss in some fresh chive blossoms to your next breakfast egg dish, and you’ve turned an ordinary dish into something extraordinary.
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