Have you ever considered growing your own herb garden at home? Fresh herbs are a healthy addition to your meals. They smell wonderful and add beauty to your patio or deck. Best of all, you have all the herbs you need for your favorite recipes only steps from your kitchen.
Here’s how to get started. First, decide which herbs you use the most when cooking. Then purchase these plants at your local nursery or farmers’ market. Use pots that are a little bigger than the original containers so there’s room to grow after you transplant them. Make sure the pots have holes in the bottom for drainage (small rocks or gravel added to the bottoms of the pots will also help drainage). Buy a potting mix that drains well and fill your pots, leaving some space at the top for your plants. Then replant your new herbs and give them some water.
Most herbs need at least 6-8 hours of full sun per day. Let the soil dry out between waterings (feel it to see if it is dry to the touch), but don’t let the herbs wilt (they will if they get too thirsty).
Many of the herbs listed below are best grown in a hot, sunny location with well-drained soil (except for mint, which grows better in a slightly cooler environment). Some herbs require more frequent watering than others, so get specific care instructions when you purchase them. Be sure to plant mint, rosemary, thyme, and oregano in their own pots or they will overtake other plants. Other herbs can be combined in the same pot.
- Thyme is an easy-care perennial with lavender flowers. Add it to stock, stews, soups, eggs, and vegetables.
- Rosemary is a perennial with white, pink, purple, or blue flowers. This herb blooms almost continuously in warm climates and is used in Mediterranean cuisine to flavor stuffing, roast lamb, pork, and poultry.
- Sage is a perennial with blue/purple flowers. Use it to flavor stuffing, poultry and pork dishes, soups, and tomato sauces.
- Basil is an annual with lush green foliage. Use it in your Italian and Southeast Asian dishes.
- Cilantro (Coriander) is an annual plant with white or pale pink flowers. Use it to season Asian, Indian, and Mexican meats, soups, and salads.
- Oregano is a perennial with purple flowers. Add it to numerous Italian and American recipes.
- Parsley is a bright green annual plant. It is a staple in Middle Eastern, European, and American cooking and goes well with potatoes, rice, pasta, meats, stews, soups, and salads.
- Mint is a perennial with white/purple flowers. It is easy to grow and spreads quickly. Mint thrives in cool, moist spots in partial shade, but will also grow in full sun. Add it to tea, fruit and vegetable dishes, pasta, desserts, chicken, and fish.
From Garden to Kitchen
For most leafy herbs that have pairs of leaves along the stem such as mint, sage, and basil, cut a sprig just above a leaf pair. The remaining pair will sprout off into two new stems, giving you a fuller plant. For parsley and cilantro, cut entire individual stems near the soil, taking the outside stems first.
When your herbs are ready for harvesting, simply cut and wash. Then add them to your favorite meals and enjoy!
Chef Scott likes to use fresh thyme and rosemary to accent grilled meats (can be cooked with the meat or used in a marinade). He uses fresh basil, dill, and mint to finish seafood dishes.