Purpose: The winters of Buffalo, New York can be particularly harsh leaving some to question how plants can survive in such conditions. Common house herbs such as basil, oregano, and chives might be especially vulnerable to temperatures reaching far below zero and being covered with several feet of snow. The purpose of this experiment is to examine several edible plants starting in autumn, observing their condition in spring, and ultimately if full recovery occurs again the following autumn.


Hypothesis: Given the range of plants to be tested it is not clear which may be native to the temperate zones features a full four seasons. The hypothesis of this experiment is that some plants will find a way and others will lack the will to live.

Methodology: Observations were taken with camera during fall (early October), spring (May), and again the following fall (early October again). Seeds will be collected where applicable in fall and planted if no visible signs of plant recovery in spring.

Results: A total of 12 plants were examined including: basil, mint, pineapple mint, garlic chives, sage, kale, marjoram, honey balm, dill, sorrell, oregano, and catnip. Results are as follows:

Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

The original sweet basil plants were eliminated by the winter conditions and died in the colder weather leading up to snow coverage. Seeds were ample and generated new plants.

Mint (Generic mint Mentha, Spearmint Mentha spicata, Chocolate Mint Methna piperita)

For these three varieties of mint the original plants were killed by the winter. The plants produced ample seeds, however, extended growth (into the lawn and beyond) developed from all three varieties and the seeds were not necessary. Additionally, plants were uprooted and easily relocated to other areas of the garden.

Pineapple Mint (Mentha suaveolens Variegata)

The pineapple mint did not survive the winter. It is unclear if this was solely due to the harsh conditions or overcrowding by other mints and dill.

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

The original chive plants appear to survive during winter although growth ceases and the blades die off. The plant displays some growth in early spring and naturally recovers. Chives also produce ample seeds although to date there has been no success in growing new plants from these seeds.

Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Sage is a hearty plant that partially survives the winter as leaves still remain and are useable despite the lack of winter growth. In spring the plant recovers quickly, unfortunately there are not many uses for sage in Scientific AmeriKen's culinary efforts.

Ornamental Kale (Brassica oleracea Acephala)

The ornamental Kale plant had a rough fall and winter. Initially attacked by caterpillars, the Kale plant is believed to have ultimately succumbed to deer in the deep snow. There was hope the plant would have come back in spring, but better attempts at fending off the healthnut animal community will be necessary for future attempts.

Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana)

Although completely decimated during the winter months, the sweet marjoram plant produced numerous seeds allowing for its successful recovery. The plant emerged later than expected, roughly mid-summer, creating some concern, however as this herb has yet to be used in any Scientific AmeriKen culinary creation the overall concern was minimal.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Lemon balm plants produce mint-like leaves that have a hint of lemon flavor, but taste more akin to fruit loops. The stems and leaves of the plant were completely eliminated during the winter months, but reemerges quickly in the spring months.

Dill (Anethum graveolens)

Although eliminated by winter, this is nature's fail-safe to ensure the world is not taken over by dill. The plant produces numerous seeds that are easily spread far from the plants origin. New plants originating from fallen seeds emerged in early spring leading to full recovery of the plant by fall.

Sorrel (Rumex acetosa)

Sorrel is a leafy sour lemon flavored plant. The leaves die off in the winter and appear to come back in the summer. Unfortunately for this particular plant some surprise tulips (planted by others) rose in close proximity and quickly overgrew the sorrel leading to its demise. Future attempts will confirm that sorrel survives the winter.

Italian Oregano (Origanum x majoricum) and Greek Oregano (Origanum vulgare hirtum)

Both Italian (pictured) and Greek oregano plants survive the winter months, although most stems and leaves were killed. The plants recover quickly in the spring months in addition to ample seed production. Italian oregano is actually a cross of oregano and marjoram plants.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

The catnip struggled throughout the summer and fall months due to predation from cats, which is believed to have lead ultimately to the death of the plant as discovered in the spring. The second plant was well protected from cats and will now be tested in the upcoming winter. The plant has also produced seeds, which in the unfortunate event of the plant's death will be used to resurrect the catnip. Additionally, Scientific AmeriKen is investigating the possibility of acquiring a dog as additional defense against future cat attacks.

Discussion: Life indeed finds a way as 75% of the plants found their way back from winter - despite Scientific AmeriKen's poor cultivation skills. Furthermore, it is believed all the plants would have come back under optimal (cat-less) conditions. Future experiments will expand upon this research and include some classics including rosemary and thyme as well as sorrel, cilantro, and others. Despite the success of this experiment, the bigger - and most important - experiments will be figuring out how to use these herbs in future culinary expeditions!

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