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When you harvest woody herbs, such as thyme, rosemary and lavender, snip off a whole sprig, cutting from the base of the plant. Then, strip the leaves from the stem by running your hand backward down the length of the stem.
With herbs such as mint and basil, you can pinch off leaves, snip out the center of the plant or cut the whole plant back by a third and it will continue to grow. (Cutting back the plant also stops it from blooming — that’s a good thing, because blooming reduces the quality of the herb.)
If you don’t have an herb garden, you may be able to pick up some plants at local garden centers. It’s not too late to pot up a container of herbs or fill an empty patch in your garden.
You won’t need a recipe to use your garden to enhance cocktail hour. Just let your taste buds be your guide. If you want to start out with some tried-and-true pairings, try these:
• Lavender and lemon with gin
• Sage and blackberry with sparkling wine
• Mint and lime with rum
• Mint and lemon with Champagne
• Thyme and raspberry with gin
• Lemon balm and lemon with vodka
• Basil and tomato with vodka
Rhonda Hayes is a Minneapolis-based garden writer. She blogs at www.thegardenbuzz.com.