During these crazy times it is great for us to get outside and put our focus into productive projects that provide an opportunity to use our pent up physical and emotional energy. Edible gardening projects provide a chance to use our bodies and our minds and will offer us some nutritional sustenance in the coming months.
I was thinking about one of the first plants I successfully grew (given my long time history as a plant killer) and recalled that I had been able to once get a rosemary plant to thrive in a pot on our condo balcony many years ago. Visits to the The Herb Farm in Fall City in the 90’s (back when it really was just a little herb farm) inspired me to learn about using herbs in cooking.
I’ve decided that herbs can actually be a “gateway drug” into edible gardening! To honor my “addiction” here are some thoughts to get you started!
Growing your own herbs is a great thing to do for many reasons, but two of the best are that they require very little tending or watering once established in the garden and the herbs you grow yourself don’t require any plastic packaging or transportation! Think of the money you can save – given the average cost of 3-5$ per package at the grocery store.
A well planned herb garden can provide seasoning and flavor to your cooking throughout the year. Add basil to your pizzas this summer and cut sage and rosemary from your garden to go with your Thanksgiving dinner!
To start your herb garden a little planning goes a long way. Think about which flavors and fragrances are your favorites. Consider a location that is near to your kitchen (either indoor or outdoor) to make it easy to access, which will encourage you to incorporate these fresh flavors into your cooking.
To design your own perfect herb garden, answer the following questions:
How much space do you have to use? Will you utilize a container or prefer a plot of space in the yard?
What herbs do you purchase a lot of? Are there herbs you would like to add to your cooking but don’t bother with them because you don’t have them on hand?
Once you answer these questions you can determine how many and which plants you might like to grow. Herbs come in a variety of heights, colors, and textures which will create a fun and interesting garden space or container at your home. You can utilize starter plants to get a jump on production for the woody plants like sage, rosemary and thyme, but plan to use seeds for the softer herbs like basil, cilantro and parsley.
Here are my Top Ten herbs to grow – with ideas about why and how to use:
- Chives – sprout early in the spring with a mild onion flavor and pretty pink flowers which are a nice addition to salads
- Parsley – not just a garnish! Has many different leaf sizes and styles, grows well from seed and provides fresh flavor to salads and dips; it overwinters and is early to sprout
- Rosemary – strong and sturdy, drought resistant, it can be chopped into dishes or thicker branches can smoked while cooking meats and even used in cocktails
- Cilantro – grows easily from seed and can be planted in the spring and again in late summer; tends to bolt in hot weather but does well in the cooler months
- Basil – fragrant and delicious – what would tomato and mozzarella even be without basil! But basil likes warm weather, so don’t start it yet!
- Sage – also sturdy and drought resistant, comes in green and purple varietals, great garnish for chicken or potatoes – leaves can also be fried and added to pasta
- Thyme – many varietals to choose from, lemon flavors and more – small leaves are easy to strip off the stems and add to soups, roasted root vegetables
- Chamomile – a lacy green herb with yellow flowers, fresh cuttings can be steeped into a tea
- Dill – sprouts early, produces flowers that are edible, and seeds that can be dried
- Mint – who doesn’t love a mojito or a chocolate dessert with fresh mint as a garnish; can take over a container, so does best in a pot by itself
Follow these tips and you can build a productive herb garden that will supply flavor to your cooking for years to come. Think about the words of Simon and Garfunkel in Scarborough Fair for inspiration…”parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme”.
Please let me know if you have any questions! Happy planting!