Love to cook? Don't love to cook? But love to eat? Fresh herbs are the best way to add flavor and nutrients to your new recipes and old favorites. Imagine snipping fresh herbs for all your meals just a few short steps off the patio. Chives for egg dishes, Basil and Oregano for your marinara, grilling with Rosemary and Sage. Herbs are far more than just a garnish and window dressing. Herbs are rich in antioxidants and have long been touted for their healing properties.
Growing fresh herbs turns your garden into a scented encyclopedia of plants with multi-purposes. A little research turns up volumes of remedies from digestive ills to snake bites. Providing antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties as teas and tinctures. Always use common sense and research to learn about the parts of plants to use and interactions with currently prescribed medications.
Some of the most common culinary herbs are: sage, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and basil. Here's a look at those and other must-grow herbs:
Common Sage (Salvia officinalis) is a woody based plant with very fragrant leaves. Choose the quintessential sage green colored version or the variegated purple one, both have roughly textured leaves that release powerful fragrance when bruised. Grown in full sun and well drained soils. Chicken, pork and fish dishes usually get dibs on this spice.
Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is an aromatic plant with a spreading habit. Small rounded to ovate leaves grow on stems up to 2.5' tall. Flavors are most strong just before the plant flowers, so regular shearing is required. Used in Italian cuisine as well as stews, soups, rice dishes.
Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis) is a woody shrub-like plant with needle-like foliage and quite fragrant. It attracts butterflies and is native to the southern area of Europe and Asia. Grown in full sun and well drained soils. Steeped in a pot of simmering water with lemon slices it will freshen the air in your home. Cut long stems of rosemary to use as skewers for your barbecue.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) a low growing woody based sub-shrub with tiny ovate leaves and a powerful aroma Growing 4-8" tall in full sun. Don't be fooled by the limited size of these leave, they pack a savory flavor that puts the thanks in Thanksgiving.
Lemon Thyme (Thymus citridorus) is another popular species of Thyme with a distinct lemon flavor. Each tiny leaf has a golden edge giving this plant a shine.
Basil (Osimum basilcum) is a popular easy to grow herb. Growing to 3 feet
tall, in well drained soil and full sun. Continually pinch the flowers that form to help the plant keep it's best flavor. Pesto is a summertime favorite, but keep an eye out for these innovative tastes: Basil Lemonade, Basil Avocado Hummus and Basil ice cream. Keep it fresh all year round by filling ice cube trays with fresh snipped basil and olive oil and freezing the cubes.
Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is a herb plant whose flowers are edible, as are it's leaves and its seeds. The seeds are called Coriander and ground to a powder that adds a tart lemon like-
flavor to dishes. Cilantro leaves are chopped and added to southwestern recipes, also delicious when the whole leaves are tossed into a salad mix. Easy to grow in well drained soil with full sun. Keep the plant trimmed for an abundance of leaves, and plant a few extra to set flower to collect the coriander seeds.
Difference between herbs and spice? Spice is the part of the plant other than the leaves, the bark, berries, roots, flowers, seeds - as in coriander seeds. Herbs are considered the leafy part of the plant.
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are related to the onion and garlic family. It grows up to 12" tall and sport edible purple flowers in May. Full sun, rich well drained soil, it's easy to grow and its mild onion flavor is easy to love in egg and potato dishes.
Dill (Anethum graveolens) is part of the celery family and the only species in the Anethum genus. Growing up to 3' tall in well drained soils and full sun. The feathery foliage is strongly flavored and often used in salads, dips, salmon dishes. It's flavor is best as it begins to flower. The seeds are borne from umbels of yellow flowers (which are edible before the seeds develop) in summer and are collected to flavor pickle brine.
Hang small bunches of herbs for drying to have throughout the year, or infuse your favorite olive oil with herbs, you'll always have the bounty of herbs to enjoy.
Ready to kick your herb and spice rack into high gear? Let us know what your favorite spice blend is and we'll help you get growing.