My Favorite Thanksgiving Herbs
Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday. I love everything about it: the weather finally getting cold in my area, the roasted turkey dinner with all the trimmings and the gathering of family and friends. It’s also the time of year when our garden is producing our favorite types of veggies: cold hardy greens, root vegetables and lettuce. Although my herb garden is winding down and the summer flourishing herbs died away with the first frost, my cold hearty herbs are thriving just fine. The herb quadruplet: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme can be found in several combinations in almost every dish I prepare for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s the perfect blend of fresh and earthy flavors that compliment an array of sweet and savory recipes. From my turkey brine to my cranberry chutney, my trusty favorite fresh herbs are represented.
How I Use the Herbs
Parsley is often underrated. Its ability to deliver a refreshing snap to simple and complex dishes is amazing. The humble herb is best used fresh and as a finishing touch to your recipes. If you feel that your potatoes or dressing needs a little pizzazz, add some parsley!
Sage is earthy and robust. The best partner made for sage is butter, especially browned butter. A great way to take advantage of this full-bodied combo is to melt a stick of butter in a heavy bottom stock pan and fry a handful of sage leaves in it. Toast the leaves until they are crisp then remove them from the butter. Drain on a paper towel. Continue to “brown” the butter until the milk solids drop to the bottom of the pan. Remove the browned butter from the heat. This my friends is the nectar of the Thanksgiving foodie deities. Use the sage infused brown butter in your mashed potatoes or on some corn. As a finishing touch, crush the fried sage leaves on top. You’re welcome.
Rosemary is not a popular flavor infused in most Thanksgiving recipes, but it’s my personal favorite. It’s commonly used on hearty meats like lamb and prime rib roasts, but I think it’s divine on poultry. Not to mention its ability to transform cakes into an extraordinary gastronomic experience. I use rosemary in my turkey brine, as part of the herb rub on the turkey and in my cornbread dressing.
Thyme might have dainty leaves, but its flavor is huge. I use thyme both in recipes and as a finishing herb. At the moment, I have lemon thyme growing in the garden. This particular variety has a light, citrus flavor that goes well with poultry and fish. I personally like to use it to sprinkle on top of freshly baked rolls slathered with butter. It adds a bright finish to any dish.
How to Grow the Herbs
I particularly like these four herbs because they are super hearty. All four of these herbs have been growing in my garden all year. In the early spring, when I have nothing else going in the main part of the garden, I always have these herbs. Even now, with the early winter blast hitting us, my herbs are just fine!
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme really do not need any hand holding once established. Rosemary is the only herb of the bunch that is only cold hardy to zone 7 and above. I do mulch my rosemary bushes in the winter and the only time I have lost any rosemary due to cold weather is when we have had snow or ice accumulations (which in rare for this part of Georgia).
For the most part, these herbs require well-drained soil and full sun. The key to getting a full plant is to actively prune new growth. This will encourage the herbs to keep producing and result in a bushy plant. As far as pests and diseases, I really do not have any. My sage experienced some powdery mildew earlier in the year and I was able to remedy the situation by pruning. The only “pests” I have with any of these herbs is a 12 year old lab mix who likes to pee on one of my rosemary bushes. Believe it or not, even the urine does not have a catastrophic effect; it’s the best looking plant we have there. Unfortunately, we reserve that bush for show and do not take sprigs off of that one. Thanks, Scout.