Memorial Day is the traditional start of summer across the country. Additionally, summer is the traditional time to brush off the barbecue and cook outdoors. Memorial Day also marks the earliest date that many northern gardeners can safely plant tender annuals in the garden, including many herbs that are great for summer cooking on the barbecue.
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Growing herbs close to the barbecue will encourage you to add some to the meats as they cook. Grow rosemary in a pot in the north, but where it is hardy (around zone 6b or 7 dependant on variety), keep a plant close by and make skewers for meat with the woody stems.
Choose a rosemary that is upright and has thick, lustrous leaves such as Rosemarinus officanalis ‘Gorizia’. Avoid the prostrate rosemaries as they are thin stemmed and messy to cook with. Rosemaries that have shorter, less leathery leaves whilst also upright, are great for seasoning, but will not hold up well under the meat on the barbecue or as skewers. Use these rosemary varieties in aluminum packets filled with vegetables and steam them on the grill alongside the meats.
Another great barbecue herb is thyme. Thymes are hardy perennials throughout most of the continent, above zone 4. Again, look for upright stems that do not drape over the ground and get muddy. Both Mother of Thyme and French Thyme (Thymus vulgare varieties) are good choices for upright plants that are easy to harvest and cook with. Lemon thyme (Thymus x citriodorus) is another variety of thyme that is excellent on the grill.
All these thymes make terrific additions to vegetables packets, or inside pockets in the meat itself. Use the lemon thyme with chicken and pork by making a slit in the meat prior to putting it on the grill. The flavor will permeate through the meat as it cooks.
Other herbs to consider for flavor on the grill, include French tarragon (Artemesia dracunculus), or, in the Deep South, Mexican tarragon (Tagetes Lucinda), mints, and oreganos.
So place some herbs close to the grill, fire up the barbecue and throw some barbecue herbs onto the meats to create a great flavor all summer long.