Growing Herbs With Vegetables
Here’s a question: why do herbs have strong tastes and smells? The answer is that those tastes and smells ward off insects and animals that might otherwise try to eat them. And that’s why growing herbs with your vegetables is a great idea. Not only does the ‘defense mechanism’ of herbs make them taste delicious to us, we can also harness their pest-repellent characteristics to help protect our otherwise defenseless vegetables.
Some of the best herbs for protecting your vegetables AND seasoning your food are listed below. Note that while there are other herbs which also do a good job of keeping away insects and animals (such as pennyroyal), they’re perhaps less popular and useful for seasoning food, so they don’t have the dual functionality of the ones listed.
Thyme. Great in meat dishes, casseroles and soups, fresh thyme should (unlike most herbs) be added early in cooking, as added later it will retain too much of its bitterness. Thyme repels cabbage worm, so it’s great planted with your cabbages.
Lemongrass. Lemongrass is of course widely used in south-east Asian cuisines like Thai and Vietnamese. In your vegetable garden, lemongrass repels any and all insects, making it a very useful feature no matter what you happen to be growing.
Garlic. Needing little introduction, garlic (which may be an herb or a spice, depending on how you see things) is one of the most well-known food flavorings in the world. It’s often paired with onion and/or tomato and it has given us the delicious snack ‘garlic bread’. For repelling garden pests, garlic is a powerhouse. Plant it close to vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, eggplant and cabbage, and it will keep pests like cabbage worms, aphids, slugs and a host of other nasties away. It’s no surprise that garlic is a favorite among organic vegetable growers.
Rosemary. Rosemary and lamb may be one of the most divine meat-and-herb pairings ever conceived, and it would be wrong to even think of cooking lamb without a healthy supply of rosemary on hand. It has a ‘woodsy’ flavor that complements lamb perfectly. In your vegetable garden, rosemary is a friend to your beans, carrots, and cabbages. This is because it naturally deters bean beetles, carrot fly, and cabbage moth.
Sage. Soft sage leaves are perfect with Mediterranean food in general and with pork. Sage plants exude camphor from their leaves, and like rosemary, this drives off carrot fly and cabbage moth.
Growing herbs with vegetables, known as “companion planting”, is one of the keys to organic vegetable growing. With a little planning, the right herbs can in most circumstances entirely replace your use of chemical pesticides, which are never a good idea when used around something that you’re later going to eat, no matter what they say on the side of the can. So they’re kind of like a delicious pesticide you actually want to add to your food – not a bad deal!