Spring 2013: Edible Garden

Spring 2013: Edible Garden

edible garden


Mastering herb gardening at home.


Herbs are among the easiest plants to grow, especially in our sunny climate, which is one reason why many people grow their own herb plants. But there are a few other reasons why it makes sense to grow herbs instead of simply picking them up at any grocery store.

First, there’s the flavor. Herbs begin to lose flavor the moment they’re cut, so the basil fresh from your patio will give your pesto far more taste and fragrance than anything you’ll find in a jar.

Then there’s beauty. Supermarket sprigs don’t give you the purple blooms your garden chives and sage will yield, or the pink carpet of blossoms on thyme. They not only are lovely, they attract butterflies, too.

And, finally, there’s flexibility. Those blossoms are packed with flavor as well as color and add interest to all sorts of dishes. Plus, growing herbs lets you use other parts of the plant, like fennel stems as a bed for baking fish. And then there are all those fabulous heirloom varieties available to the home gardener that you never see in the store.

Herbs tolerate drought well, require little food, and aren’t picky about soil. You can grow them in tubs on the deck, scattered through the flower garden, or in pots on the windowsill.

Choosing Herbs

Which herbs grow well in the Reno-Tahoe area? So many that it’s tempting to say “almost all.” We have so much sunshine that even in the winter it’s possible to grow frost-sensitive plants indoors on a sunny windowsill. I have a sweet bay laurel that produces more bay leaves than I and my family can possibly use, and which has lived happily for years in a pot on the deck during the summer and beside a window in the winter.

Many herbs — such as dill, cilantro, summer savory, chives, and basil — are easily grown from seed. In fact, most all annual herbs (those that only live one year) readily sprout. All you have to do is put the seeds in sterile planting mix and provide moisture, warmth, and light. Seriously.

Others such as lemon balm, thyme, marjoram, oregano, and fennel are a little more finicky, but still will grow from seed. You just won’t get as many seedlings from a given number of seeds.

Divide and Conquer

A few herbs are best propagated by division. These include mint and French tarragon, (don’t be snookered into substituting Russian tarragon, which has a too-robust and overwhelming licorice flavor). This usually means buying them, but if you have a really good gardener friend, he or she literally can cut a healthy portion (one with at least two stems and plenty of roots) off the main plant. Then all you need to do is replant the divided portion.

Once your herbs are established, leave them alone. Herbs thrive on neglect. They prefer moderate water, a little bit of plant food, and (for most) sunlight. They are wonderfully easy on the gardener.

One of the best things you can do for your herbs is to cook with them. Snipping herbs doesn’t hurt them; it stimulates growth. Just be sure you don’t harvest more than the top third of the plant. So get out your shears and bring those herbs into the kitchen.

Kay Fahey is a longtime gardener, restaurateur, and food writer whose mother grew up on a Mississippi farm with a kitchen garden that was measured in acres. The Reno resident owes much of her gardening expertise to her parents, both of who were master gardeners.

More Information

The following herbs grow well in the Reno-Tahoe area


Bay laurel








Lime and lemon balm






Savory (summer and winter)




Salad Margherita

(courtesy of Kay Fahey. Serves 2 – 4, depending on serving size and size of tomatoes)

This super-easy salad is a summer favorite.

3 ripe salad tomatoes

1 ball fresh mozzarella

1 bunch fresh Italian basil

2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and thinly slice tomatoes cross-wise. Slice mozzarella into similar slices. Wash basil and dry in salad spinner or on paper towels. Remove leaves from stems. Stack leaves and roll tightly. Cut across stems into thin slices to create a chiffonade.

Arrange a layer of tomatoes on a platter. Top with mozzarella, then scatter basil chiffonade on top. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat layers until all tomatoes are gone.

Let sit at least 15 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.

Herb Bread

(courtesy of Kay Fahey. Makes one regular-sized and one mini loaf)

Light and tender, this bread is wonderful with eggs.

1 package yeast (1 tablespoon)

½ teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup warm water

1 cup cream-style cottage cheese

2 2/3 cup butter, cut into pats

2 tablespoons sugar

1½ tablespoons minced onion, or more to taste

1 tablespoon dill seed

¼ teaspoon dried thyme, or ½ teaspoon fresh

¼ tablespoon dried rosemary, or ½ tablespoon fresh

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda (or scant amounts at high altitudes)

1 egg, unbeaten

About 2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus about 1 more cup for kneading

Poppy seeds and sea salt for topping loaves

Dissolve yeast and ½ teaspoon sugar in warm water. Heat cottage cheese in saucepan until lukewarm. Add butter, let butter soften, and remove from heat. In a large mixing bowl, combine cheese mixture, sugar, onion, herbs, salt, soda, and egg and mix well. Stir in dissolved yeast. Slowly stir in flour (by hand). Knead to form soft dough. Grease top, cover, and let rise until doubled.

Punch down and place in large greased loaf pan and a greased mini-loaf pan. Grease top, sprinkle with poppy seeds and sea salt, and let rise until doubled. Slash top to help with rise.

Bake in 350 degree F oven for 1 hour (or less, check after 30 minutes).


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Contact Us

edible Reno-Tahoe
316 California Ave., No. 258,
Reno, NV 89509.
(775) 746 3299

Stay updated with our Newsletter

Discover new products, thriving traditions, or exciting food events, festivals, restaurants, and markets – all of the things that are helping to make us a true culinary destination.