Wild About Herbs
Established hotel has a rooftop herb garden

Richter’s Tips on Fall Herb Growing

Find the sunniest coolest spot for the herbs. Our warm houses encourage growth, but if the kind of light, amount of light and length of time is light is shining on the herbs don’t match the heat, herbs die off. Richter recommends upping available sunlight with grow lights, high intensity being the best.

The second step is to ensure good drainage, and this means repotting with potting soil supplemented with vermiculite, perlite or horticultural sand so water doesn’t remain around the roots. Ensure that the pots have drainage holes. You may need to water just once a week, but check daily digging a little in the dirt with your finger.

Eliminate insects looking for a warm winter home on the herbs by dipping the plant in a pail of insecticidal soap mixture.

Richter also shared a German tradition of bringing in herbs such as chives in the fall after the first frost, anticipating not a whole winter of clippings, but rather about a month of fresh herbs, an extension of the season, before putting the spent plants into the compost.

Get your thyme, tarragon, garlic chives, mints and more in the ground now and you’ll be harvesting in May and June while everyone else is hoping for something to clip in August.

By Elizabeth Baird

WILD ABOUT HERBS: If I weren’t already wild about herbs before inhaling the fragrant plants growing in the Fairmont Royal York’s rooftop herb garden, I would certainly be wild about them after the visit. The location is sensational – a rooftop high above the street, on one side Toronto harbour dotted with sail boats, while on the opposite side, shiny towers look down on raised beds of tarragon, garlic chives, rosemary, mint and more. A airy spot of domestic paradise cupped in the city’s financial centre.

A few days ago, chef de cuisine Jean-Charles Dupoire hosted herb enthusiasts, first for an explanation of how important this herb garden is to the dishes he serves at the hotel, and later, inside, for a how-to session for making herbed salts, sugars, vinegars and oils. Leading Canadian and international herb grower Conrad Richter of Richters Herbs joined Chef Dupoire and Food and Beverage Manager John Cordeaux in the herb garden, and while assembled enthusiasts sipped on mint lemonade, shared his secrets for bringing herbs in for the winter (see sidebar).

Next July, the Fairmont Royal York will be offering a special Wild About Herb package to guests and the public. If the Lemon Balm Tarts and the Chocolate Mint Mousse we "experienced" are any indication of the treats Chef Dupoire has in store for Wild About Herb guests, stay tuned for details.

Rosemary Salt: Flavoured sea salt is all the rage these days, but you can take advantage of your fall herb harvest, rosemary, mint, thyme, oregano and sage are ideal, and save yourself a bundle by making your own herbal salts according to the Fairmont Royal York’s method. This chop, whizz and dry method also works for herbed sugars, and if you pick lavender leaves or mint, for example, you can use the sugar to top creme brulee, charm fruit or glaze cookies or tea loaves.

In a blender, combine 3 oz. kosher or sea salt with leaves from 1 bunch rosemary, chopped. Whizz until rosemary is fine and salt is decidedly green. Spread out onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a low oven, 225F, until dry, about 15 minutes. Break up with hands, and store in covered jars out of the light. Sprinkle over forcaccia, rub into steaks and roasts, mix a little into ground beef for patties or season a lamb stew, chops or kabobs.

The Toronto Sun, September 28, 2005.  ©2005 Sun Publishing

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