Herbs are the quickest, simplest, and tastiest way to elevate your dinners from ordinary to mind-blowing. They are even more vital in winter when hearty roasts and homey veggies need a sprig of rosemary or a topping of parsley to bring a meal together. Unfortunately, as gardeners know, there are few plants that grow well in areas with cold South African winters, but luckily, there are several herbs on that list. While they won’t grow exceptionally quickly, and you may have to watch how much you harvest, these herbs are ready to withstand winter weather and keep your kitchen stocked all season long.
Thyme is a kitchen classic and an essential part of any herb garden. Its pleasant savoury flavour is ideal for soups, roasts, or vegetables. We even added some thyme to our cupcakes to balance the sweetness and sour lemon in this video:
There are many thyme fragrances to choose from, including lemon-scented thyme which is ideal for winter cold-fighting teas. As a Mediterranean plant, it thrives in full sun and high heat, but will hold out over winter with some protection from frost. Place a frost cover over the plant in extremely cold weather so you can continue sneakily harvesting under the blanket over winter. Be sure not to harvest more than one-third of the plant and it will be sure to grow back come springtime.
Drought and frost resistant, sage is the ideal cold-hardy herb. In fact, sage thrives in a range of conditions, including in poor soil. Grow it in a full sun position almost anywhere in your garden and it will be happy. Plus, you’ll be happy to have a consistent supply of sage in your kitchen. The fresh fragrance is ideal for chicken stuffing or pasta sauces. Any sore throats from winter ailments can also be kept at bay with a sage tea – steep some dried leaves in boiling water, add a pinch of salt, and gargle every few hours.
Mint is known for being aggressive. With the right care, it will continue that trend – even in cold weather. While the tops will eventually die back in very cold weather, in most regions of South Africa it will hold out and you can continue your harvest all year long. Mint is a great addition to the classic cold-fighting drink, hot toddy. Alternatively, throw a few leaves in some boiling water on their own for a refreshing, garden-brewed tea.
Like thyme, rosemary is a winter kitchen staple. Its savoury aroma is synonymous with cold weather – just the sight of rosemary is likely to trigger memories of traditional winter roasts and flickering fires. Rosemary can withstand cold weather with some protection provided, as long as it remains in a full-sun position throughout the day. While frost-hardy, it doesn’t grow as vigorously in winter as it does in spring. A light hand in harvesting is essential to keep the plant healthy until growing starts up again.
Stock your kitchen cabinets (and your medicine cabinets) with these essential winter herbs harvested straight from your garden. They are sure to make the cold, gloomy winter months in the garden far more bearable.