Growing your fresh herbs, Start a Herb Garden
You do not need a big back yard to grow herbs, just a cozy spot on the porch or on a window sill,
For many people, this class of herb is the most recognizable and the most useful.
Even those who have never used herbs in their own cooking, know what some
fresh basil can do to a meal . . the difference adding oregano can make in
spaghetti sauce . . .or how some fresh chives can make a baked potato come
Culinary herbs — also referred to as sweet herbs – are those plants, whether they
be annual, biennial or perennial, that have tender roots or ripe seeds. They also
possess an aromatic flavor and they have a great taste.
As long as humans has been eating, we have been literally spicing up cooking
with herbs. Paleontologists have discovered the ancient Egyptians used herbs
even before the pharaohs ordered the building of the pyramids.
Similarly, the ancient Chinese naturally turned to the plants in their gardens in
order to enhance the flavor and appearance of the meals.
And of course, you need look no further than the Bible to see how herbs were
not only used, but actually prized by many. You’ll find references to taxes/tithes
paid in herbs like mint, cumin, and other herbs deemed valuable at that time.
One particular herb that has really kept its status among cooks as a must-have
down through the centuries is parsley. Others that are little known today are
such herbs as hyssop, rue or horehound exist, which are seldom used daily in our
And this is a shame. If mankind in general had kept pace seriously cultivating
some of these herbs, then the flavors of them could have been remarkably
improved throughout history. And would make cooking today even more
But mankind’s loss is your gain. Since some herbs are so difficult to find, growing
them yourself is really the only option. And now, you have the wonderfully
thrilling chance of growing these in your own back yard — or even right on your
Which Herbs should I grow first? Great Question, before you set out to the nursery, Please read this article!
That’s why I’ve developed what I call my Top Ten List of Herbs to Grow”. These
are not only some of the most commonly used herbs in cooking, they represent
some of the easiest ones to grow. And I’ve also provided with this list, what type
of soil and other essential growing conditions for success.
Colin’s Top 10 culinary herbs.
With this list in hand on your first trip to the nursery, you’re bound to have success
in finding what not only works in your yard but choices that will mesh well with
your taste buds.
Basil is the best herb for making pesto, no question. Basil leaves have a warm
and spicy flavor. You need to only add a small amount of this delightful herb in
such dishes as soups, salads and sauces. Basil is also particular suited, by the
way, to season any dish with tomato flavoring. Don’t hesitate to use basil to
enhance the flavor of your meat, poultry or fish. You can even add it to your
morning breakfast omelet.
You’ll want to start your basil plants early in the spring, preferably in a
greenhouse or a sun-drenched windowsill. Early in the summer transplant this
herb to your garden. Or, if you have the courage, sow basil seeds directly into
her garden early in the spring. Or a good tip is to try your hand at both
methods, just in case those seeds don’t catch.
Who doesn’t love some fresh chives on a hot, newly baked potato? If you’re as
mad about this herb as me (have written a book devoted to chives), then
you’ve already noticed that chives have a mildly onion taste. This makes them
an excellent addition to salads, any egg and cheese dish, cream cheese,
sandwich spreads and sauces. And, oh, by the way, don’t restrict chives to just
the baked potato. Taste how it adds a little zing to your mashed potatoes as
If you plan on growing chives from starter plants, then you’ll want to get these
into your garden in the early spring. And you’ll want to give these plants plenty
of room. My recommendation is to plant them a good 9 to 12 inches from each
If you decide to plant the chives seeds, then plant them in the fall or the spring,
digging down a good half inch and setting the seeds in rows that are spaced
about 12 inches apart.
Now this is a versatile herb. Its versatility is so great that different parts of this
plant are actually known as different herbs. Grinding the dried seeds to use
them in your meats, like veal, ham or pork? You’re using coriander. Using the
leaves to add to some Indian or Asian dishes? You’re actually using cilantro.
And of course you can use the roots of coriander as well. If you can’t use them
right away, don’t worry you can freeze these. They can be used to flavor soups.
Or chop the roots and serve with avocados. You’ll find this is delicious.
Even a novice herbalist should have no problem growing coriander from seeds.
Sow the seeds in the early spring. Dig a hole about ¼ inch in depth. Plant them
in rows that are just about a foot apart. Once the seedlings appear, you’ll want
to thin them down some, making sure they’re at least 6 inches from the other.
Here’s another herb that you can use both the seeds and the leaves. Both of
these parts have a sharp, slightly bitter taste.
How To Grow a Happy Herb Garden
Don’t Be Afraid to Actually
Use Your Herbs . . .
Using your herbs regularly in cooking has
two distinct advantages. First, of course,
it adds an added dimension to your
cooking that not only will impress you,
but your spouse and even your children.
But using these herbs regularly, you’ll also
be keeping your plants shaped nice and
If you’re not quite sure what herbs go
with what foods, experiment. Oh, you
could look it up on the web to get all the
“authoritative” answers. But by
experimenting with different herbs in
various dishes, you may hit upon a
combination that’s perfect for you.
A word of advice here though: start small
and then increase. Fresh herbs are much
stronger than those bottled things you
buy in the store. So a little goes a long
Besides, it’s much easier to add more of a
specific herb to a dish.
But if you’re ever in doubt about how
much to use — just use your sense of
sight. When the herb is flecked evenly
throughout your chosen dish, you
probably have enough!
Whether you use it fresh or dried, you’ll
find it a most tasty addition to fish, meat
and poultry dishes. But don’t be afraid to
add it to salads and soups as well. And
many people use the leaves in potatoes
and even in omelets. Another way to
enjoy the unique taste of dill is to sprinkle
a little on sliced cucumbers for use as a
Dill is another easy plant to grow from
seed. Plant your seeds in the early
spring, about ¼ inch deep. You’ll want to
make sure you leave at least 9 inches
between the seeds. Once the seedlings
appear, be sure to thin them, still keeping
them that 9 inches apart.
If you enjoy fish then you’ll have to try
fresh fennel the next time you create that
delectable sauce for your fish. You can
also use it with pork and veal. Many
people like to use fennel in soups and
salads as well.
The leaves of fennel have a sweet flavor.
The seeds, though, have a sharper flavor
Want to try your hand at growing fennel
from seeds? It is easy enough to do so.
Plant your seeds in groups of three or four about mid-spring. You’ll dig a small
hole about a ¼ inch deep. Place the seeds about a foot and a half. Once
these grow into seedlings, you’ll want to thin them.
Ah, what would a herb garden be without mint. Mint is an essential herb
whether you plant a culinary herb or medicinal herb garden (or a little of both)
Use the mint leaves to brew into a nice, satisfying hot tea. Or use them to add a
dash of sunshine to cold drinks as well. Mint is also a great garnish. Spearmint,
specifically, is used to make a mint sauce or jelly.
Mint has historically been the spice of choice for anyone who’s preparing lamb.
Sprinkle the dried or fresh leaves over the meat prior to cooking it.
You can start planting your mint in fall or spring. You’ll also have the best results if
you begin with the actual roots of the plants. Plant four- to six-inch pieces of the
root. Make sure they’re about two inches deep and a good 12 inches about.
Then make sure to water these guys well. Check the roots occasionally. They
are quite aggressive. By this, I mean they seem to easily overtake the roots of
neighboring plants. You can easily prevent this by sinking boards or brinks about
one-foot deep around the beds.
You may also take an extra precaution when you first plant them. Plant them in
the garden bed itself, but enclose a plastic bucket with no bottom around it.
That keeps them contained for a specific depth.
For me, parsley brings back memories of my father. He had parsley planted
everywhere., at the insistence of my mother it must be said. And she used in
everything, but especially in soup.
In addition to soups, parsley makes a great addition to salads, casseroles and
omelets. And of course, it’s an attractive garnish for meat and fish, as well as
any dish that features onions. It is a great herb to have fresh to hand for
If you’re planning on growing the plant from seed, start planting them in midspring
if you want to use the herb in the summer. Plant the seeds in mid-summer
if you want fresh autumn and winter parsley.
Before you plant the seeds, it is a good idea to soak them overnight. When this
plant reaches seedling stage thin the bed out and make sure the plants are
between nine to 10 inches apart.
How To Grow a Happy Herb Garden
If you’ve ever eaten sweet sausage with sage, then you know how awesome
this herb can prove in enhancing a recipe. The dried leaves of the sage plant
are also a traditional addition to the stuffings of chicken and turkey. Many chefs
additionally use sage with lamb and pork as well as a variety of cheese and
Sage is another plant that can easily be grown from its seeds. You’ll want to start
planting in the early spring if you plan on doing this. If you prefer, though, you
can be starter plants from your local nursery. If you’re going this route, you can
wait until mid-spring to set these out. Just be sure to plant them about one-foot
apart. And watch out for the beautiful flower.
If you think anything like I do, you hear the word tarragon and immediately think
vinegar. And it is indeed a great flavoring for vinegar. Up until now you may
have run to the store to buy your tarragon vinegar. But consider waking up one
morning, picking some tarragon from your garden, placing it in vinegar,
steeping it for two to three weeks and then enjoying your own homemade
But vinegar is just the start of how this plant can dramatically change your
eating habits, given a little time and experimentation. The leaves of this herb
have a taste that is something akin to anise, which makes it ideal for a variety of
dishes. Try placing the leaves in soups and stews. From there you can
experiment with salads.
But don’t let your use of this versatile herb stop there. Think egg dishes as well as
any type of soft cheese. Let your imagination soar when it comes to your use of
This is another herb that seems to have been made especially to season lamb. If
lamb isn’t your meat of choice you can still enjoy the flavorful benefits of
tarragon with fish, steak and even vegetables.
When you grow this herb though, don’t try to do it from seeds. You just won’t
have great joy. Instead, visit your local nursery and buy some small plants. You’ll
dig and plant these in early spring, making sure they have lots of room to grow.
In this case, give them at least 18 inches from another, these guys get pretty big.
Yes, thyme is a must grow for any self-respecting herbalist.
Thyme is a great seasoning for just about any meat. Rub the chopped fresh
leaves (you can use dried as well) onto lamb, pork veal or even beef before you
even put them in the oven.
This herb also goes to work for you in various other capacities too Consider
adding it to eggs, or cheese dishes as well as vegetables. And don’t be afraid
to experiment with it on your fish or poultry either. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Once you’ve tried all that though, use thyme as a great seasoning for soups,
stews, stuffings and even rice.
I even know one person who brews her thyme to make tea. She just adds a bit
of rosemary and a sprig of mint to go with it!
You can start this herb from seeds. Sometime in mid-spring make shallow rows
for the seeds about one foot apart. When the thyme seedlings are established,
then you’ll thin them out placing them about six inches from each other.
If you don’t feel up to starting thyme from seeds, you’ll want to plant your
nursery-bought seedlings about mid-spring — again keeping them at least six
inches apart, preferably nine inches if you have the room.