Herbs of Winter

January 12, 2011; 11:29 AM ET
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This gardening essay, courtesy of Old Farmer's Almanac, was written by George and Becky Lohmiller.

Indoor herbs needn't be limited to the usual thyme, oregano, mints, and parsley lined up on the kitchen windowsill. There are some that make attractive, if not exotic, houseplants.


One such herb is borage, also known as "beebread" for the numerous bees that it attracts to the garden. In the home, its fuzzy green foliage and nodding clusters of sky-blue, star-shape flowers will attract nothing but compliments.

Use its tender young leaves to add a mild cucumber flavor to salads and cold soups, or steam them up as you would spinach. The colorful flowers can be used to decorate cakes or frozen in ice cubes for festive drinks. See more about borage and other herbs in the garden and kitchen.

Did you know that borage also has a history as natural remedy? The Romans believed the herb to be an antidepressants. See more Herb Lore and Natural Remedies.

Borage is easily started from seed, or small volunteers can be potted up from the garden. See our growing guide to herbs.


The hollow, spiky leaves of chives are wonderful for adding a sweet, oniony flavor to soups and sauces. Diced up, they give zip to omelets, dips, and salads. You can also use the spicy, lavender-color blooms as a cut flower or garnish.

See some great recipes using chives:

Chive Mashed Potatoes

Baked Eggs With Chives

Fish Soup

To prepare chives for wintering indoors, first divide a clump in late summer or early fall and plant in a pot. Chives need to go through a dormant period, so leave the pot outside to experience temperatures near freezing for a month or two. Then, trim back the withered foliage and bring the plant inside to a sunny location. The bulbs will think that it's spring and send up tender new shoots. Bring your chives back to the garden in the spring to repeat the cycle.

See our free Plant Care Guide on Chives.


Bay makes a handsome potted patio plant with a Mediterranean flare that must be brought inside in the winter in all but the warmest climates.

It was once believed that a bay tree protected anyone near it from devils, witches, thunder, and lightning. Nowadays, it protects its owner from the high cost of bay leaves at the supermarket.

Bay trees can reach 40 feet tall in their native habitat but seldom grow to much more than three feet when confined to a pot. The dark-green, leathery leaves are highly aromatic. Use them fresh or dry to spice up meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, soups, and sauces. But go light with this powerful herb-too much can cause a bitter flavor.

Enjoy these delicious recipes using bay leaves:

Mother's Old-Fashioned Homemade Chicken and Dumplings

Classic Beef Brisket

Navy Bean Soup

See more recipes using bay.

Any of these unique houseplants are sure to spice up a bland winter day and always make good scents.

See free herb planting and growing guides for your common garden herbs.

Gardening in January?

The holidays are history, seed catalogs are piled in a basket next to a comfortable chair by the fire, and we're looking for lettuce to grow indoors. Here are some tips on growing lettuce and best indoor lettuce varieties. Read gardening blog.

Ready for 2011?

The perennially best-selling Old Farmer's Almanac Gardening Calendar offers gardening tips, timely advice, and an original full-color illustration.

Plus, an outdoor planting table identifies the best days and Moon phases for planting vegetables.

Learn more!

Read more gardening on Almanac.com


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