Add a pinch of fresh basil to your spaghetti sauce, a sprig of rosemary to roasted potatoes, and let dill take your pickles to the next level! Imagine having access to fresh herbs at your fingertips all year-round. If you love to cook and love to garden, now is the time to cultivate this spring’s hottest culinary hobby – a kitchen herb garden.
Starting an indoor herb garden is easy! You don’t have to be a Master Chef or even have a green thumb. Herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow and require very little maintenance. They’re fun to experiment with when adding flavour to your favourite dishes and even if you have the tiniest of kitchens, you can start off with just a few small pots.
A garden variety
The best idea is to start with herbs and flavours you use most often in your cooking. If you enjoy Italian food, grow basil and oregano; if you like to saucy up your soups, toss a little thyme into the pot. Egg dishes are fans of cilantro and chives, while a must-have for Mojito lovers is mint. Here are quick flavour profiles and uses for the top culinary herbs:
- Basil: Sweet and sometimes spicy, this is a must-have for every Italian dish. Pinch off individual leaves and add to salads, sandwiches, and pizza – or try your hand at homemade pesto.
- Chives: With a mild onion flavour, this herb is great in stir-fry, omelettes, and soups. Mix a little into butter or cream cheese to top your favourite tater.
- Thyme: Spicy and slightly clove-like, it’s great in stews, meatloaf, and vegetables. Lemon-thyme has a citrusy flavour that’s perfect with roast chicken.
- Rosemary: This fragrant herb has a piney flavour that works beautifully with chicken, pork, and lamb. It’s also great in tomato sauces and is delicious when infused in olive oil.
- Parsley: A popular garnish, this mild bitter herb adds colour and fresh flavour to soups, sauces, and salads such as tabbouleh. Raw parsley is also a breath freshener.
- Cilantro: Slightly pungent with citrusy notes, this exotic herb is traditionally used in Middle Eastern, Mexican, and Asian cooking. Add to rice or crushed into sour cream for a topping for chilli and tacos.
- Mint: Sweet, cool, and refreshing. With dozens of varieties from peppermint and spearmint to apple mint and even banana mint, this herb is a wonderful flavouring in dessert and jellies. It also complements lamb and makes a delicious tea.
Earn your green thumb
Getting your kitchen herb garden started can be as cheap and easy to as costly and complicated as you wish. From pre-planted kits to mini-greenhouses with LED grow lights, it’s best to start small before investing in a lot of gadgets and gear. Here are a few simple things you need to get you growing:
- Herbs love the sun, so choose a bright space such as a large window that gets a minimum 4-5 hrs of light. Plus remember to rotate the plants so both sides get the sun.
- Creative containers from terracotta pots to tin cans add style to your décor, but the most important thing is your containers are at least six inches deep and have a hole to allow for drainage.
- The dirt on dirt is to use a fast-draining potting mix. Garden soil is too dense and will smother the plant roots.
- Sow your seeds! Sure, you can buy a plant from a garden centre, but a $5 packet of seeds will give you 20 plants to raise from scratch.
- Get planting! Soak seeds for a couple of hours, then fill your containers with soil and place the seed about three times deeper than the size of the seed. Don’t overwater.
- Herbs are ready for harvest when the flower first buds. Snip only a few leaves from each plant – the more you leave on the plant, the faster it will recover. Use fresh, dry, or freeze for a later time.
With a diverse variety of culinary, aromatic, and even medicinal herbs to grow your kitchen will become a hothouse of possibilities.