Having fresh herbs on hand for cooking is such a treat. Fresh herbs can transform an otherwise boring, bland dish into something full of color and flavor, not to mention be a time and money saver.
If you’ve never grown your own herbs, it’s something you should consider. There are a variety of herbs that are easy to grow and many that are well suited for growing in pots or planters, so whether you live on a large estate or a cozy apartment, as long as you have a sunny spot, there are herbs perfect for you to grow.
A few basic tips for beginning an herb garden:
- Drainage. Most herbs prefer moist, but well-drained soil with adequate sun. Very wet soils will not produce happy herbs.
- Not too much. Little fertilizer is needed with herbs. If too much fertilizer is used, plants will produce large amounts of foliage with low quality flavor.
- In plain sight. Choose a sunny spot for your new herbs that will not be out of site, and therefore out of mind, so you can keep them happy, and you will be more apt to use them.
- Keep it manageable. If you’re new to gardening, or limited with space, maybe choose 2 or 3 to begin with. Plus, depending on your style of cooking, you may find there are certain herbs you would use more than others.
- Read up. Every plant has different requirements for sun and soil. Be sure to check (especially if you’re planning on plants sharing pots) what those needs are and if they will work in your climate. Also knowing which herbs are annual, biennials, and perennial will help you decide about how to arrange your plantings.
- This other post on Planning a Garden includes a variety of helpful links and information.
Some herbs that I recommend beginning with:
Basil: Basil is one of my all-time favorites to grown, and to eat. There’s hardly a meal that I can’t find a reason to not add basil to when it’s in season, and with so many varieties, the creative culinary uses are almost endless.
Cilantro (coriander): If you like cilantro you know that a fish taco or homemade salsa with a little fresh cilantro is hard to beat. If you’ve never grown your own, give it a go. Please note, cilantro doesn’t like to be hot. I’ve yet to find a way to grow it outside during the summer months around here, so we use it up spring and fall as it grows quickly during that time for us. We allow ours to bolt and go to seed in the spring to reseed for the fall and again in the fall for a spring harvest. As well as grabbing some seed to grind fresh coriander. Many people don’t know that the leaves of the cilantro/coriander plant are known as cilantro and the seeds are coriander. So you get two for one with this plant.
Rosemary: A hardy plant that makes for a wonderful addition to landscaping. It’s a perennial and in most zones will act as an evergreen. I have a prostrate version planted in different areas around our home. It grows like crazy. I use it not only for cooking, but for cutting and adding to live arrangements.
Thyme: I have to admit, I don’t use thyme as often as I should, but when I do, fresh thyme makes all the difference. And like so many herbs, thyme can be used as a fantastic addition to your landscaping — not just restricted to your garden area.
Chives: A simple sprinkling of chives makes a baked potato, or creamy soup take on another personality all together. And that perky green is flavor for the eyes.
Oregano: Fresh oregano for sauces and soups is a must. We’ve found it easy to grow. One variety we have had success with is Greek oregano. It’s like a patch of green carpet. So fragrant too!
Sage: Leathery leaves of the sage plant are so attractive and can add great flavor to many savory dishes. Such a pretty plant, and I have found very hardy, returning each year. There are variety of sage plants to choose from.
Mint: Mint is a great herb for use in many desserts and beverages, but it’s very vigorous and can be quite invasive (as well as Lemon Balm and other plants from the mint family), so it needs to be planted in a planter. Unless you have a bare spot of ground that you want covered. Even with a planter you should have the bottom lined with landscape mesh or other way to prevent the roots from growing out the bottom and finding their way into the soil, because they will.
I hope this helps encourage you to get growing some culinary herbs to add a little green to your plate this year.
What are your favorite herbs to grow and use to add fresh flavor to recipes? What are your favorite recipes that utilize fresh herbs?
Happy growing! AND happy cooking!