Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I’ve gotten spoiled by having fresh herbs available all summer, just an elevator ride away. When I took over gardening chores on the rooftop a few years ago I planted an assortment of herbs in big and small pots and announced to one and all that they could come “pinch-an-inch”. I needn’t have worried that with 100 apartments in the building the three parsley plants, two rosemarys, four basils etc. would be denuded instantaneously. In fact there were only about five of us who were avid herb pickers.

Perennial herbs like mint, thyme, chives and tarragon will winter over here in New York City quite well in 12” pots or bigger, but the leaves die back after hard frost. I replant tender herbs like dill, fennel, basil and cilantro every year, though I often find self-sown seedlings in surrounding pots in the spring, a big thrill for me and I nurture them wherever they pop up.

This fall for Ben’s special daily mocktail dubbed the Plattonic by friend Dan T, I took the entire pot of mint and placed it in a south-facing window where it will produce leaves all winter. The Plattonic is composed of one part tonic water for reducing muscle cramps, one part pineapple juice for masking the bitterness of the tonic, and six crushed fresh mint leaves for flavor, over ice. The pot will be returned to the roof in spring.For a small evening gathering in mid- December we prepared a buffet of tasty food. Ben baked the bread; I made the rest, including roast turkey which when piled up on the platter looked exceedingly WHITE. I ran up to the roof garden and found the rosemary still very happy despite three periods of 20-degree temperatures. I cut lots of stems, rinsed and shook them off, surrounded the turkey with the rosemary. That made it look better instantly and infused a marvelous flavor into the meat. The rest I allowed to dry and sealed in a freezer bag to use all winter as needed. Frozen herbs are far tastier than dried.

Coming soon: growing windowsill herbs in a New York apartment.


Unknown said...

Herbs are great! I love having them in my garden, even the ones that I don't end up using. My thyme, parsley and chive overwinter but my rosemary usually dies and needs to be replaced. Any suggestions, other than bringing it inside? Burlap or straw?

Ellen Zachos said...

The only thing that would make that mocktail better is a big schlug of gin!

Ellen Spector Platt said...

Sarah, I'm very lazy. I tend to use what I have. The pot size must be big enough so the roots don't freeze, but I've actually recycled bubble wrap as an insulator for the whole pot, taping it all around to secure but leaving a small opening at the top so the plant doesn't roast in a warm spell.
If you have straw, weigh it down with evergreen prunings or stuff re-cycled from Christmas trees. The trees don't have to be your own. Go on the street with your pruners when old trees are discarded post-holiday and cut pieces to reuse in your garden. ESP

Ellen Spector Platt said...

To Other Ellen: Tut, tut!

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