I look at basil as the introductory herb- and herb gardening snowballs from there. I grew tomatoes in a container on the porch of our apartment in college, something my roommates thought was ridiculous until we had an abundance of fresh tomatoes and I made my favorite summer salad- sliced tomatoes with whole basil leaves and sliced fresh mozzarella. One of my co-workers suggested I plant basil around the base of my tomato plant- and it’s been a staple ever since, the two automatically going together every time I put together a container garden. I look forward to summer because it means I save money- a seed packet for Flat Italian Parsley costs less than a bunch of fresh parsley at my super market and gives me way more than I can use in a week. And I can certainly justify spending money on a packet of cilantro if it means I can make homemade guacamole and toss fresh sprigs in my salad for a few weeks.
Fresh herbs have enjoyed a comeback over the last few years in the cooking world (for many of us, they never left). And they are extraordinarily easy to grow from seed- either in containers, small pots, window boxes, or vegetable gardens. You can even spread herb plants throughout your perennial garden, as most herbs have attractive flowers (and some have edible flowers) and blend right in with a cottage-garden feel. Herbs like full sun, but if you do have partial shade, make sure you have afternoon sun for your plants. There are annual herbs, biennial herbs, and perennial herbs- so read your packets carefully. And while most herbs like well-drained soil, a few that are woody, such as rosemary and thyme, actually prefer a grittier, sandier soil. Interested in growing some herbs and spicing up your garden- and your cooking? Here are a few staples to get you started:
I did mention that it was my favorite, right? Whether you choose Sweet Basil or Large Leaf Italian Basil, you’ll be plucking leaves and searching for more and more recipes to use your bounty! Basil is excellent with tomatoes, but also good roasted on bread with a little cheese, or even as an extra additive in homemade lemonade.
Prized by cooks for it’s peppery flavor, use tarragon to flavor meats and sauces.
Get ready because dill gets massive! Dill seeds grow into tall plants with gorgeous flowers- and they give you so many leaves for seasonings, you’ll be snipping and sharing all season long.
Coriander seeds and cilantro leaves come from the same plant! Use both the leaves and the dried seeds for seasoning; they’re a favorite in both Mexican and Indian cuisine. Cilantro is a favorite in salads and salsas.
This is my go to- I use it in tuna salad, sprinkled on pasta, chopped up in tabbouleh. I prefer growing flat leaf parsley but have also grown the curly leaf version with much success.
Interested in growing a small, table-top container herb garden? Make sure you pick varieties that won’t get 2-3 feet tall (so…avoid dill!). Herb garden planters look perfect in the kitchen, and they make great gifts!
What herbs do you grow? Have a favorite? Let us know in the comments!