Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Winter Soup Garnishes


If you live in the South you can grow garnishes for your hearty winter soups. My garnishes include cilantro, parsley, green onion and chives. This year we planted cilantro and parsley seed and placed cloches over the seedlings to give them extra protection from cold weather. Covering the seedlings helps retain the heat and keep out the cold.

The soil was prepared with a rich mulch from the compost pile. Cilantro and parsley once established will tolerate temperatures below 28 degrees. Temperatures below 25 degrees are dangerous and can freeze your winter plantings. Humidity and wind can affect the survivability of plants in the 25-32 degree environment. Higher humidity and no wind help the plants survive in this cold temperature window.

These are some plants that can withstand a hard frost, temperatures below 28 degrees: cabbage, collards, green onion, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, mustard, onions, parsley, peas, radishes, and spinach.

Why Grow Garnishes
The reward for growing winter garnishes is experienced when you clip a few cuttings of cilantro and green onions. Only after washing your greens carefully, dicing, and placing on top of your hearty winter soup can you enjoy the visual delight, olfactory aroma and soothing taste that only a homemade soup made with love and affection can bring. The lovely green fresh herbs remind you that you are nourishing your body with vitamins  that are good for your mind, body, and spirit especially if shared with your favorite people.

Parsley and Cilantro
My favorite, flat Italian parsley, (Petroselinum crispum) is easy to grow in a rich, moist soil with full to partial sun. I start the seeds in early fall in zone 7b-8a. We will experience temperatures as low as 5-15 degrees but winter hardy plants can be protected with a blanket on those occasions. I use Botanical Interest seeds because they are generally available in the nursery and offer a wide  range of choices. If you plan ahead, there are many terrific seed catalogs offering high quality, non-GMO seeds. Once the parsley or cilantro is established, at least five stems, it can be harvested by snipping leaves back to the base of the stem. Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is a close cousin of parsley and is a great flavor added to your favorite tortilla soup. I sometimes add a flourish of green onion and zest of lime. Herbs cut from the garden should always be washed thoroughly

Green Onion
Everyone should grow green onions. They are just so easy to grow and maintain. Scallions or green onion (Allium cepa) and bunching onion (Allium fistulosum) are good choices. They are not only a great garnish for soup but salads and eggs as well.

©  Grassroots Horticulture