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Grow, Use and Savor the Fresh Flavors of Herbs de Provence

Who wants to eat a bland meal?  The best way to give food some serious flavor is with herbs and spices.  Not only do they add flavor, but they also can have health benefits.   

 

If you’re not familiar with a lot of herbs, there is a blend that goes well with most dishes.  It’s known as Herbs de Provence.  You’ve likely seen the dried version on your local grocery store shelf with the other spices.   

 

According to Better Health, fresh herbs pack more health power than dried.  You can often find them in the produce section of the grocery store.  The only issue is, you don’t know when they were harvested, and they don’t keep long.   

 

That is why I prefer to grow my own fresh herbs.  You can too, starting with the easy to care for herbs found in the Herbs de Provence blend. 

 

Herbs de Provence History 

 

This blend of herbs come from the south of France in the region of the French Mediterranean.  The most basic blend is made up of Rosemary, Thyme, Savory and Oregano.  These flourish in the region. 

 

The specific area of the French Mediterranean and family recipes determines additions to the blend.  You may find fennel, bay leaf, sage or chervil included.  

 

The one thing you won’t find in Herbs de Provence, is lavender.  It is not used in French cooking, though it is cultivated abundantly in the Provence region.  No one seems to know why or how it happened, but lavender in Herbs de Provence is an American thing. 

 

Potential Health Benefits 

 

Each of the herbs in the basic Herbs de Provence blend have several things in common.  They contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. They all have anti-inflammatory benefits.  Each herb has its own uses in traditional medicines as well. 

 

Rosemary is known for aiding digestion as well as boosting the immune system.  It’s proven to have benefits that include pain-relief, anti-anxiety, and boost memory. 

 

Thyme contains a compound call thymol.  It’s noted as being able to help with bacterial, parasitic, fungal, and viral infections. 

 

Savory has a long history of use for easing pain and soothing stomach upset. 

 

Oregano may help improve gut health.  It has also been used for antiviral and antibacterial benefits. 

 

Seems like a good collection of herbs to have on hand just for possible health benefits. 

 

Growing Your Own Fresh Herbs 

 

I like growing my own herbs.  I have them in herb pots and in garden beds around my patio.  I can walk out and snip what I need whenever I want. 

 

The four herbs in Herbs de Provence originate from the same region.  That makes them easier to care for as their growing needs are similar.  You can plant them in the ground or in containers.  The herb containers are convenient as they can be moved indoors when the weather becomes cooler. 

 

Growing Rosemary 

 

Rosemary is an evergreen plant belonging to the mint family.  It has a woodsy, piney flavor with a little bite of zippiness to it.  It always makes me think of a Christmas tree when I taste it fresh. 

 

It is a perennial plant, coming back every year.  When taken care of, it will go dormant in the winter and return with the warmer weather. 

 

Give 2-3 feet of space in garden beds between rosemary plants.  This will give it the room it needs to grow.  That said, rosemary grows well in combination with vegetables that grow upright. This helps get the most use out of small growing spaces.  You can try plants like kale, broccoli, beans, or spinach. 

 

Rosemary likes full sunshine and doesn’t like its roots sitting in water.  You will want to make sure your soil or container drains well.  The plants are drought resistant.  Once they are growing well, you will not need to water them as much.  Wait until the top few inches of soil are dry. 

 

When it’s time to harvest some rosemary just snip the last 4-6 inches of the stem tips.  This will allow the plant to continue growing.   

 

I planted my rosemary a month ago, and it has taken off.  I snip some regularly and it’s growing profusely. 

 

Growing Thyme 

 

Thyme is another member of the mint family.  I think it has a woodsy flavor that intensifies the longer it grows.  Young leaves tend to have a mellow sweetness to them. 

 

Thyme doesn’t like to share space.  If you are planting in a garden, give it room to spread, 12 – 24 inches.  If you are growing it in a container, make sure it’s on its own. 

 

Much like rosemary, thyme likes soil that drains well.  I don’t know if I agree on full sun though.  I planted mine in full sun.  It did not do well at all, and I almost lost it.  I have moved it to another area that gets shade until the afternoon. It seems much livelier now.  It is a vibrant green and spreading all over its container. 

 

Thyme is easiest to start from a small plant rather than from seeds.  Once it gets going, it will grow all year if you move it indoors for the winter.  Start snipping the herb for the kitchen before it flowers.  Once the plant flowers, trim it back. It will start growing all over again. 

 

Growing Savory 

 

I haven’t found savory plants yet.  Nor have I found it available in any produce departments.  What I have read is that it is very similar to thyme.  It is part of the mint family and has a peppery taste. 

 

There are two types of savory, winter and summer.  Summer savory is the type that grows in Provence, so that is the one I’ll talk about here. 

 

Savory is purported to like the sun and soil that drains well.  They don’t need as much room as rosemary, so 12 – 18 inches between plants will do.  They do grow tall.  If you are planting in the ground, staking them is a good idea.  If you are using a container, be sure it is deep enough, at least 6 inches. 

 

It is an annual, so it won’t winter over.  You will need to plant some again next year.  It’s not that easy to find as a started plant.  You will probably have to find seeds.  Many places carry the seeds including Amazon and Walmart’s Garden Center. 

 

Many cooks share that if savory is not available, thyme and sage are good substitutes.  You can use marjoram if the other two are not available.  Since I haven’t found savory to plant yet, I planted extra thyme. 

 

When you need some savory for your next dish just snip the top section of the matured stalks.  Leave most of the stalk behind.  The plant will continue to grow through the season. 

 

Growing Oregano 

 

Oregano has an earthy flavor making you imagine fresh, green hayfields.  I don’t find it as peppery as the rest of the herbs in this mint family combination. 

 

Oregano is a low maintenance plant.  It will do well indoors or out.  As a perennial it comes back every year. 

 

It is one of my favorite “neglect” plants.  It doesn’t want or need a lot of attention.  It likes part to full sun.  Mine is living in the same area as my thyme on the patio.  I had it in a container with flat leaf parsley.  It has done so well, it graduated to its own container. 

 

As far as watering, good draining soil is best and only water when the soil feels dry to the touch.  If your oregano will be living in the neighborhood with other plants, give them about 10 inches to grow.  They like to play jack-and-the-beanstalk and can grow up to 2 feet tall. 

 

Though they do need room, they play well with other plants like tomatoes and peppers.  The oregano will do the other plants around it a favor by keeping pests like aphids away. 

 

When it’s time to start harvesting some of this herb, you can cut up to 2/3 of the height of the plant.  It will grow back.   

 

How to Use Herbs de Provence in the Kitchen 

 

Herbs de Provence is a versatile blend.  You can easily incorporate it into a variety of meals. 

One of my favorites is in an omelet.  Just chop your herbs and mix them into the egg and splash of milk.  It’s tasty in scrambled eggs as well. 

 

The herbs blend easily into homemade condiments like vinaigrettes, marinades or an aioli.  They can be added to a salad as well.  Having learned from experience, I recommend chopping them up.  The whole leaves can be overpowering. 

 

If you like bread dipping, add the chopped herbs to some extra virgin olive oil.  Slice up your favorite bread and dip away. 

 

I like the flavor Herbs de Provence infuses into soups and stews as well.  For health benefits as well as flavor, add them towards the end of cooking. 

 

There are so many options.  Your openness to culinary adventures is the only limitation. 

 

Time to Enjoy 

 

Growing your own herbs makes them available and at peak freshness any time.  To get both health benefits as well as flavor add fresh herbs to a simmering dish towards the end.   Faster cooked dishes, like omelets, you can use the herbs right at the beginning. 

 

A word of warning:  fresh herbs pack more flavor than dried.  You will not need to use as much.   Start with a little bit and taste throughout your cooking.  You can always add more herbs later. 

 

You can choose to get your fresh herbs from the store or grow your own.  Either way, you’ll be bringing flavor and potential health benefits to your dishes. 

 

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