Documents: Special Interest: Seasonal:

Decorating and Cooking with Holiday Herbs
by Sheena Adams
by Sheena Adams


Sheena Adams, owner of Urban Greenery, a nursery which focuses on organics, education, and neat plants, both ornamental and edible.

The nursery is in Cherry Creek a small community on Vancouver Island and has been open for 6 years. Sheena is educated in horticulture as well as being an arborist.

She has written for local newspapers and magazines and focuses on trends and organic matters. Her spare time is spent with her daughter, Tannis, in the veggie garden and playing with her chickens.

To learn more about sheena you can visit the store web site at drop by for a visit

December 9, 2012

The holidays are the perfect time to bring in your fresh herbs and enjoy them. Whether you enjoy cooking, decorating, or gift giving herbs will add character and fragrance to any project. From a front entrance featuring cement urn with a rosemary topiary or sculpted bay tree to small touches on the table herbs can be a big part of any decorating idea.

Evergreen herbs can be grown year round for harvest in any zone. In warmer zones, such as seven or eight, simply grow outside in a sheltered area, in colder areas grow your evergreen herbs in containers and when the frosts come simply tuck the herbs into the greenhouse, cold frame or bring right inside your home. When bringing herbs inside, the perfect location should be bright and cool, a south facing bay window or balcony door is perfect! Your plants should a get regular watering and a monthly feed.

If your herbs go leggy, then they need more light, if they start to go yellow, increase their feeding and check for pests. A simple way to deal with pests is to simply put the whole container in the shower and rinse your plants with luke warm water.

Evergreen herbs such as rosemary, lavender, thyme and bay laurel are all excellent evergreen herbs for decorating with, they offer foliage, fragrance and texture, they are also extremely long-lasting. When placing the boughs and holly over the banister and mantle this year, slip in a few sprigs of rosemary and pile on the bay laurel, the combination and fragrance is fabulous.

Fresh herbs can be a very useful decorating accent for any holiday table or entrance. A centrepiece or bouquet using fresh herbs such as rosemary, golden sage, lavender or thyme nestled amongst holiday flowers is a natural way to festive up any room in the house. When looking for flowers to compliment your herbs consider roses, tulips, and double peonies, although not traditional holiday flowers the simple addition of ribbon and a pinecone will make it all work!

To keep your “natural” decorations, arrangements and centre pieces looking their best mist weekly with a solution of fresh water and a moisture retention agent such as hot pepper max or no-wilt. These super concentrated and easy to use products are designed to increase moisture retention and reduce wilt, perfect for keeping greens fresh, use them on your wreaths, swags and Christmas trees!

Small terra cotta containers, such as small long toms, set through amongst the dinner table will be decorative and conversational. To encourage your guests to help themselves place small scissors near overflowing pots of parsley, chives or wheat grass. Labelling your pots will allow the gusts to know which is what, a simple paper card attached with a wooden clothespin will work just fine.

For height at the holiday table choose topiaries of rosemary or lavender. To keep your topiaries looking their best trim often, water regularly, and sprits often with an organic foliar fertilizer. Be sure to protect your table by placing a saucer, tray, or silver plate under your container.

For extra touches be sure to include plenty of non-scented Soya candles, herbal vinegars and home made herbal teas. Adding herbs to your holiday table is a simple, fun and enjoyable way to share your herb garden with your friends and family.

Cooking With Holiday Herbs

Herbs are most often grown for culinary use and what better time to enjoy them then during the holidays. Fresh herbs can easily be harvested from the garden or picked up at your local grocery store or winter market. Fresh herbs are best used within 3 -5 days of purchase so make them last on your holiday shopping list. Store herbs unwashed in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper.

When ready to use rinse thoroughly under cold water. Let dry on paper towel. If harvesting fresh, harvest on the “cooking day” early in the morning, using sharp scissors snip 8” long sprigs, rinse and let dry. Herbs are best used when they are allowed to warm to room temperature, this will help the essential oils and flavour release.

Herbs are a valuable asset to holiday entertaining. A simple combination of sage, rosemary, thyme and saffron will add a traditional taste to your holiday turkey and dressing. Mixtures of cinnamon, ginger and lemon thyme will aid in your tea and cider preparation, while snips of lavender will add a touch of provence to your ice cream, serve it up with chocolate mint coffee.

What ever you decide to do, be creative and have fun, after all an unharvested herb is underused and apt to feel left out of the fun!

Spicy Saffron: While it may be the most expensive spice in the world, it is extremely tasty paired up with turkey and dressing. Saffron is the dried stigma of the saffron crocus, or crocus savitus. A few stigmas add taste and orange-red colour to any dish. Used often with rice, bread, risotto and paella it is also enjoyed with poultry and seafood. Although it may seem expensive when purchasing, remember a small bottle goes a long way, and we really do need to appreciate the time spent by the saffron harvester, it must take a long time to pluck each stigma! Be sure to store your saffron tightly wrapped in a glass jar, in a cool dark place. Enjoy!

Holiday Saffron Stuffing

Saffron is a best friend for your holiday turkey. Simply prepare and cook your turkey as usual. This stuffing is best cooked in the turkey, either in the cavity or tucked between the breast and skin, or even better both! This makes a wonderful dressing, the saffron adds a nice taste and colour, and perhaps the best part is the taste and colour of the golden yellow gravy!

Suitable for a 15-18 lb turkey, can easily be doubled!

What you’ll need:

1- Large cooking onion, finely chopped
4- pieces celery, finally chopped
1 – large portabella mushroom, chopped
½ cup butter
¼ cup parsley, 10 fresh golden sage leaves, and 1 – 8” sprig of thyme.
Generous pinch (1/3 tsp) of saffron
1 large farm fresh egg
½ cup dry white wine
1 loaf brown/white or mixed bread crumbs. (1 bag)
Sea salt and pepper to taste, water to moisten.

In a large pan melt butter, toss in onion and celery, sauté until onions are clear, add portabella mushroom, herbs and saffron, bring to fast sizzle. Pour in white wine. Reduce heat and sauté until mushrooms are 75% cooked. In large bowl add breadcrumbs, pour onion mixture over crumbs, and next add egg and salt and pepper. Mix by hand until slightly sticky. You will need to add water to moisten. Stuff turkey and bake as usual.

Holiday Herbal Tea

Easy to prepare this is a great tea to serve when guests simply drop by on their holiday visits or to finish off a holiday meal. Herbal teas are wonderful served warm; children and adults alike will enjoy them. Here is one suitable for all served warm, or for the children chilled over ice.

1 quart of water
3 tsps dried orange peel
2 cinnamon sticks
2 Sprigs 8” lemon thyme
1/8-cup honey

Bring all, except honey to a boil for one minute and simmer. Add honey to sweeten and serve.

Holiday Herbal Dessert

When serving the ice cream with your holiday pie or crumble why not put a new twist on it! Honey mixed with lavender or lemon verbena is the perfect combination. Simply simmer over low heat 1 cup of honey with 1 tsp of finely chopped lemon verbena or lavender. Serve warm drizzled over vanilla ice cream.

Holiday Herbal Hostess Gift

This winter you are bound to be travelling to many friends and having a few enjoyable evenings, perhaps one of the conversations around the fire may be about how the garden grew and plans for next year. It is always fun to find a unique gift to bring a friend. Here is a great gift that is easy to make, easy to transport and is sure to be well received. Be sure to make few extra for those unexpected trips, and don’t forget about a few for yourself!

Terra Cotta “Herb Trio”Planter

What you’ll need

3 – 4” herbs, such as parsley, rosemary, and lavender
3 – 6” terra cotta pot
Small amount of sterilized soil
Chalkboard paint & small brush

What to do....

Paint the rim’s of your pot’s using chalkboard paint and small brush, let dry. Using sterilized soil plant herbs into the terra cotta containers. Using chalk, write the name of each herb onto the chalkboard area, be sure to insert tags from each plant into container. Water well.

* If herbs aren’t readily available, substitute with paper whites or hyacinths.

Growing Holiday Herbs

Evergreen herbs are low maintenance. They provide year-round foliage and seasonal flowers and can be harvested whenever you need them. Plant them in a sunny location in well-drained, compost-enriched soil. An easy and effective way to fertilize them is to apply a slow release balanced organic granular fertilizer in early spring and then again in early summer. To help increase winter hardiness apply glacial rock dust in early fall. This will keep the herbs healthy and provide all the energy they'll need. . Prune lightly throughout the growing season. Prune evergreen herbs regularly either for shape or as you harvest. Do major pruning in two parts - winter and early spring.

Some of our favourite evergreen herbs:

Salvia officinalis - Sage - with baby blue flowers in the late summer and grey foliage year round, this is a must for any herb garden. For contrasting foliage look for specialty varieties such as Salvia officinalis “Aurea” (Golden Sage) or Salvia officinalis “Purpurea” (Purple Sage.)

All have great culinary value.

Rosmarinus officinalis - Rosemary - The perfect herb for containers and for the kitchen. Grown for its fragrance and high culinary use on poultry, lamb and pork. Rosemary is slightly tender and will need protection in colder parts of the country.

Thymus vulgaris -Thyme – Lovely at the front of any perennial border. All varieties of thyme offer colour, texture and fragrance. Tymus vulgaris “Argeteus” (Silver Thyme) offers year round colour and great taste. Thymus x citriodus (Lemon Thyme) will lend excellent lemon taste to any dish. They are low maintenance plants that should be a part of every garden.

“Natural Beauties” for decorating:

These plants are great for holiday decorating, you may purchase them at florists or local farmers markets, harvest from friends, or perhaps your own garden. You may even want to consider designing and planting a small garden dedicated to winter decorating.

Variegated boxwood
Holly, be sure to include berries
Red or yellow twig dogwood
Rose hips
Japanese Maple branches
Viburnm Trilobum, high bush cranberry
Ivy, look for variegated leaves or unique shapes
Hypericum berries
Junipers, be sure to include berries
Nandina Domestica
Paper Bark Birch
Japanese Boxwood
Shrubby honey suckle
Any pine, cedar or fir
Snow Berries
Evergreen ferns




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