Herbs - the gateway drug?
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 get a rosemary plant (thanks Aunt Sharon) to thrive in a pot on our condo balcony many years ago. Visits to the Herb Farm in Fall City (before it got all fancy) were also an inspiration to learn about using herbs in cooking. I’ve decided that herbs were actually my “gateway drug” into edible gardening!
To honor my addiction, I’ve come up with the Top Ten reasons to grow your own herbs! Herbs: 10. Are easy to grow from seeds or starter plant 9. Can live on for years in your garden without replanting 8. Don’t require a lot of water 7. Grow well in small spaces or containers 6. Can be dried and stored for later use Other Benefits 5. Herbs you grow yourself don’t have any plastic packaging 4. Herbs don’t need a lot of attention once they are established] 3. The more you cut from herbs - the more they grow 2. You will no longer throw away herbs that go bad in the fridge And the number one reason to grow your own herbs…. The money you will save! (average cost 3-5$ per package!)
A well planned herb garden can provide seasoning and add brightness to many dishes you will cook throughout the year. Imagine cutting sage and rosemary from your garden in November to go with your Thanksgiving dinner!
Here are my Top Ten herbs to grow:
1. Chives - sprout early in the spring with a mild onion flavor and pretty pink flowers which are a nice addition to salads
2. Parsley - not just a garnish! many leaf sizes and styles, grows well from seed and provides fresh flavor to salads and dips; overwinters and early to sprout
3. Rosemary - strong and sturdy, drought resistant, it can be chopped into dishes or thicker branches can smoked while cooking meats and used in cocktails
4. 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 (and doesn’t taste like soap - at least to me it doesn’t)
5. Basil - fragrant and delicious - what would tomato and mozzarella be without it
6.Sage - also drought resistant, comes in green and purple, great garnish for chicken or potatoes - leaves can also be fried and added to pasta
7. Thyme - many varietals, lemon flavors and more - small leaves are easy to strip off the stems and add to soups, roasted root vegetable
8. Chamomile - a lacy green herb with yellow flowers, can be steeped into a tea
9. Dill - produces flowers that are edible, and seeds that can be dried
10. 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
For 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.
Group your herbs into planting containers or designate a small plot as the herb garden. These types of plants have a variety of different heights, colors, and textures which will create a fun and interesting space. Utilize starter plants to get a jump start on production for woody plants like sage, rosemary and thyme. Plan to direct seed the softer herbs like basil, cilantro and parsley. Follow these tips and you can build a productive herb garden that will supply flavor to your cooking for years to come!