Growing your own herb plants is good for your soul, as well as tempting your palate, easing your pocketbook, and beautifying your plantscapes.
Fresh herbs are the best way to guarantee your standing as an excellent cook. They add flavor, color, texture and aroma to foods; there's rarely a dish that can't benefit from fresh-snipped herbs. Buying cut herbs in the grocery is extremely expensive, but growing them is unbelievably inexpensive. They require little to no care and will thrive in just about any full-sun location.
They're easy to grow, and in fact most herbs grow like weeds. Best of all, herbs make lush, attractive container plants, so whether you live in an apartment with no garden space, or a home with plenty of space but you have no desire to tend a garden, consider the delight of having an herb garden on your patio. They also have uses outside of the kitchen, like fragrance oils, medicinal salves, incense, and potpourri.
There are a few things to remember, if you plant herbs in containers. Strong-scented herb plants like cilantro or mint tend to bleed their flavors onto other plants if they're too close together. So, it's best to use individual pots if you're not sure which varieties are compatible planted together. Provide a bright spot and adequate water, and your herbs will be ready to add to your culinary creations any time you want them. Bring them indoors before the first frost and keep them in a sunny windowsill for continued late-season decorative foliage and flavorful cooking uses.
Many herbs, both annuals and perennials, do exceedingly well in pots. Some varieties of rosemary can be formed into a topiary plant, and others are more sprawling and if allowed to spill over the edges of the container, are equally attractive. Rosemary can be used fresh or dried, and its piney fragrance and flavor makes it a nice complement to most meat and veggie dishes. Read, Favorite Herbs for Container Gardens to find the top 10 herbs for growing in containers.
Both sage and thyme come in a wide range of interesting and colorful leaf shapes and colors. These herbs are popular for flavoring poultry, green vegetables and stuffing. Thyme is especially common in Mediterranean recipes. There are many varieties of both herbs, each with its own subtle flavor differences, including citrus fruit scents. Sage maintains its bold flavors when dried.
No kitchen should be without basil. Snip the leaves as you need them, and the plant will continue to flourish and produce more. Basil is indispensable in Italian foods like tomato sauces, pesto, pizza and salads. Basil is another herb with multiple varieties and colors ranging from deep green to intense purple.
Chives add a delicate onion flavor and they're delicious raw, cooked or dried. Both curly and flat-leaf parsley are another versatile flavor and color enhancer, whether used raw or cooked into recipes. Parsley is known to add abundant nutrition in addition to a delicate green flavor. Marjoram has a more complex, slightly spicy and sweet, bright flavor likened to a mild oregano. And speaking of oregano, there are lots of varieties of this pungent and aromatic herb, including the popular Greek oregano, that are used fresh or dried in ethnic dishes around the globe.
Happy herb gardening!