Herb plants smell incredible, and they are beautiful. Fresh herbs will enhance and accentuate the taste of your dishes. As a group of edibles, herbs are the easiest to grow. Therefore, if you have never planted or grown anything, start with a herb garden. In these challenging financial times, growing your own herbs can save a lot of money. Most importantly, you can grow herbs even if you don’t have a garden or even a patio. You can plant most herbs in pots or other indoor containers. I suggested some unusual repurposed containers here.
Starting your herb garden
You can start growing your herbs from seedlings or seeds. If you plan to plant them outside, it’s best to wait until spring, and make sure you wait for the last frost to pass. You could ensure a steady supply by planting the shorter-lived herbs over several months. The tag on seedlings or the seed packet will have important information.
Basil is a classical Italian herb
Basil likes the heat of the full sun and well-drained soil. It’s a thirsty plant that needs frequent watering, and a pot with drainage holes will do just fine. Basil is an annual herb to use in salads, pesto, pasta sauces and pizzas. You can dry and even freeze it to ensure a year-round supply. Please take note that your basil will stop producing those tasty leaves when it goes to seed. Therefore, harvesting often and pinching off the tops can prevent seed forming.
Chives is a herb with a green onion flavor
The onion-like taste of chives is less intense than raw onions and pleasant to eat fresh. It grows quickly, but note that it also spreads easily and can take over your garden if left uncontrolled. Chop and sprinkle chives over meals, soup and salad. It also adds flavor to chili, zucchini fritters, baked potatoes, nachos and delicious when paired with cheeses. Chives like semi-shade or sun.
Cilantro is a two-in-one herb
Cilantro is the leaves of the plant, and when it goes to seed, you get coriander. This herb likes some shade during the hottest hours of the day. The taste is a mix of citrus flavors and parsley, and you can use the leaves in rice dishes, pasta salads, Mexican cuisine, guacamole, salsa and bean dips. You might want to keep in mind that cilantro plants do not like being moved.
Dill is a sweet and lemony herb
If you plant dill in a sunny spot, it needs little attention, and it could grow as tall as six feet. It also spreads quickly, so keep your eye on it. Dill is a favorite for pickles, fish dishes, sauces, egg dishes and cheese spreads. Cooking can diminish the flavor, so it’s best used fresh.
Mint grows aggressively
Mint shoots underground runners that can take over any space. Therefore, plant mint in a pot — even outside. Mint can even push roots out the drainage holes of pots if you don’t cover the holes with landscape fabric. Favorite uses include summer salads, especially those containing watermelon or strawberries. Also tea and other beverages because it is refreshing and sweet.
Parsley is a popular biennial herb
Parsley likes sun and well-drained soil, prefers outdoors, and it will grow for two years before you have to replant it. The taste is slightly bitter but as refreshing as lemon juice. Cooking parsley fades the flavor. Therefore, it is mostly used fresh in pasta or rice salads. It is perfect for pesto, paired with walnut, lemon and garlic.
Rosemary, evergreen Mediterranean perennial
Rosemary grows perfectly in a pot, and prefers a sunny spot. The aroma and flavor is a mix of pine, pepper and lemon. Pairs perfectly with meat dishes, roasted vegetables, homemade breads, tomato based sauces and roasted nuts. Rosemary works well in aromatic bouquets around the house.
Sage is another evergreen Mediterranean perennial
Like rosemary, sage is drought-tolerant and essential in Italian dishes. The plant needs no special care and likes medium light, water and soil. Moreover, it loves sharing spaces with other herbs such as rosemary and oregano. The flavor is earthy and popular in sauces, soups, sourdough, roasted potatoes and roasted vegetables.
Thyme is perfect for rock gardens
Thyme needs full sun and little water. It is versatile and has an earthy, mildly peppery, sweet flavor. You can use it in marinades, sauces, baked goods, eggs, soups, and it makes magic when tossed over roasted cauliflower.
Oregano, aka pizza herb
Oregano needs little attention, partial shade and not much water. It spreads its seeds around, so it can take over if not watched. The flavor is slightly bitter, savory and spicy. Oregano pairs well with soups, sauces, meat dishes, roasted veggies and dough if you bake pizza crusts, sourdough bread and crackers.
You can slow-dry herbs to ensure availability throughout the year. Other options include making pesto to freeze, and you can even freeze herbs in ice cube trays with a bit of olive oil.