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Get your herbs ready for growing

(Joyce Trepus welcomes your questions at 503-292-2741).

Herbs are important to me, and more than 15 years ago my husband built six boxes for me and placed them on cinder blocks for easy access. We later added several large plastic pots and some fresh Black Gold soil, and everyone is happy.

These past two weeks I saw two cooking shows on PBS and heard one on PRI that mentioned one of my favorite herbs. It is called beefsteak leaf, shiso leaf or perilla. This colorful herb self sows, and I always have baby plants under the boxes. Added to a bottle of white vinegar, it gives a delicate pink color. It is perfect for making pickled ginger.

Cucumbers are another vegetable not loved by all. The flavor can be attained without the belching when you grow salad burnett plants. Slice the leaves very thin and then chop; these leaves are also very strong, so use carefully.

Most folks usually love basil, and I grow as many varieties as I can buy from Barn Owl Nursery in Wilsonville. That's where I buy all of my herbs and herbal gifts.

I grow borage for the lovely blue blossoms, which I use to garnish salads and brownies. Last week at Barn Owl, I was overjoyed to find a three-year old parsley. With any luck, it will re-seed and grow even older. The chives and garlic chives are growing stronger each day, while the mints are just beginning to peek out of the soil. I love to graze on the fresh herbs, and it is a wonder that any of them reach old age. Now with my black lab grazing too we will just have to see.

We have the following mint flavors: chocolate, orange, pineapple, peppermint, bubble gum, wintergreen, and a few others. The lavender mint did not make it through the winter and I'm trying to find another one.

Scented geraniums are fun to work with, too and can be placed in jars of hot apple jelly and put on the bottoms of cake pans before adding the batter. I like to put a few in canisters of sugar along with a vanilla bean. This fragrant sugar is fun to use when making sugar eggs for Easter or sugar balls for Christmas.

Rosemary and lavender, along with miniature roses and a few bulbs, round out my herb garden boxes. Oh yes, I also have a small bay leaf tree, some tiny pansies, and other edible flowers. Nasturtium blossoms add color and a spicy touch to salads.

Be sure to use ingredients that have not been sprayed or otherwise treated.