There is nothing more satisfying than growing your own food. My kids and I are dying to get our garden going out here at our new farm, but the 16″ of rain in 10 days that we got recently has kind of slowed all of our outdoor plans until things dry off.
Herb gardening can be done inside or outside and herbs are relatively hearty so they’re a great way to jump into gardening. Here are 4 easy to grow culinary herbs to get started growing now so you will always have fresh ingredients on hand.
4 Easy to Grow Culinary Herbs
Basil – Basil tops the list because it is so versatile and is super easy to grow from seed. All you need is a small pot and sunny windowsill and you can have fresh basil at your fingertips all year long.
After all, what could be better than juicy tomatoes paired with fresh mozzarella and fresh-picked basil? Top with a balsamic reduction, some good extra virgin olive oil, and a little salt and fresh-cracked pepper and you’ve got a delicious and easy lunch entrée or dinner salad.
Basil is also an important ingredient in fresh pesto recipes and it pairs beautifully with tomato-based pasta sauces. For a unique twist, add julienned basil and Brie cheese to sourdough bread for a fabulous grilled cheese sandwich. If you want to get even more creative, plant a pot of purple basil to make a beautiful and delicious purple basil jelly.
Cilantro (Coriander) – This herb does double duty. The fresh leaves (cilantro) of young plants are a staple in Mexican cooking. Fresh cilantro is a key ingredient in homemade salsas and also adds a unique flavor dimension to salad greens. It can also be used in a wide variety of marinades for beef, chicken, pork and vegetables. It is especially well suited for marinating meats for fajita recipes.
Cilantro is also very easy to grow from seed. You can extend the life of your plant by keeping it plucked down and keeping it in cooler areas. In spite of your best efforts, however, it will eventually “bolt” to form lacy flowers that will set seeds that can be harvested. Those seeds can be lightly toasted and ground down to create coriander, which is much more mellow in flavor than its fresh counterpart and is a nice complement to many recipes.
Rosemary – Rosemary can also be started from seeds, but you may find it easier to pick up small plants from your local garden center each spring. They can then be brought indoors during cooler weather, but you will need to keep them moist and provide access to a sunny window, preferably with a southern exposure, to keep them happy.
Not only is rosemary delicious in marinades for roasted chicken, pork, or beef, it also imparts a wonderful earthy aroma to roasted new potatoes and homemade focaccia bread.
Rosemary is also a very pretty plant with decorative appeal. It adds structure to the herb garden with its elegant upright growth habit. Plus, it can easily be shaped to look like a Christmas tree. As a result, rosemary makes a lovely hostess gift around the holidays.
Thyme – This is another classic culinary herb that is so easy to grow. Fresh thyme is a staple in many types of cuisine and adds a distinctive flavor to meat-based dishes and is wonderful in stews and soups, as well. For a special treat, grow lemon thyme to add an unexpected hint of citrus flavor to your dishes.
Another thing to love about thyme is its beauty. It has a beautiful growth habit that makes it ideal in pots next to taller herbs like rosemary. Use it outdoors to edge walkways and paths to add a fragrant element to your landscape, but don’t use those plants for cooking, especially if you have pets.
There are sooooo many more culinary herbs that are fun to grow, but these are not only useful in the kitchen, but a great start for beginning gardeners.
What’s your favorite fresh herb?