HOW TO Start an Herb Garden
Here are some tips to help you start an herb garden that will give you the culinary herbs you need for flavor, health, and nutrition in your meals. Before you begin, determine which herbs you will use most often in your recipes. The list below contains the most commonly used herbs, the types of meals they can be used for, their health benefits, and how to grow and sustain them successfully.
The most common herbs that are listed below include:
Cilantro (or Coriander)
Peppermint (or mint, spearmint)
Basil is one of the most popular kitchen herbs around the world. It’s refreshing and remarkably versatile. Known for it’s anise-like flavor and intense clove-like aroma, dried or fresh, basil is great for cooking or for creating an invigorating atmosphere anywhere in your home.
Best used in recipes
It can liven up a pasta sauce or salad, even a cocktail or dessert. There’s pretty much nothing that basil can’t hang with, which is why it should be the go-to herb for most of your recipes. There are many varieties — the sweet Italian kind, known as Sweet Genovese; Thai basil, most often used in Asian cuisine; and Purple Opal basil, a fun addition to cocktails — there are actually more than 60 types of basil to choose from. To get the strongest basil flavor, add fresh leaves in at the end of your cooking (though that may vary with the recipe). However you use it, don’t be shy. Experiment with adding basil to recipes you might not think to use it in. We promise, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It always pairs nicely with tomatoes and white cheeses, which makes it a staple in Italian cooking.
Some common recipes include lasagna, salmon, bruschetta, Caprese salad, pesto, Chicken Parmesan,
Health benefits include:
Basil, of course, is used to add flavor to a variety of recipes, but what may surprise you is the many benefits of basil that make it well-known for its immunity-enhancing properties. Basil extract, or basil essential oil, is proven to help prevent a wide range of health conditions, which makes it one of the most important medical herbs known today.
Grows best in:
Grow your own basil from seed by sowing indoors in the early spring, then transplanting outdoors at least two weeks after danger of frost has passed. Basil can also be easily grown from clippings. To get the most fresh basil leaves from your plants, be sure to remove the flower stalks from mature growth when they appear. Alternately, you may want to leave some flower stalks as basil blossoms smell wonderful and will attract pollinators to your garden.
Soil: Basil does its best in well-drained, moist soil with a neutral pH. I add a rich compost to the soil at the beginning of the season. Not much more soil amendment is necessary. In fact, if the soil is too rich, basil loses some of its flavor intensity.
Sun: Basil grows well in warm environments that receive about six hours of sun each day. I have a couple of basil plants growing in an area that receives only four hours of sun, but they aren't as prolific as the others. My best basil plants actually grow in an east-facing area that doesn't get the scorching, midday sun.
Water: Give basil water when the soil is dry to the touch, doing your best to water the plant at its base and not all over its leaves.
Spacing: Depending upon the variety, basil grows anywhere from 12 to 24 inches in height. Space basil plants 12 to 16 inches apart. If you're limited on space or only grow in containers, consider spicy globe basil, which tends to form a small, mounding habit.
Companion planting: Plant basil among other herbs and vegetables with similar lighting and watering needs, like tomatoes or parsley. Some even say tomatoes taste better when they neighbor basil. Plant basil alongside chamomile, lettuce, peppers, and oregano. I even like to keep a few pots of basil on my back porch to deter mosquitoes.
CILANTRO and CORIANDER
Cilantro is high in antioxidant vitamin C, as well as several vitamins and minerals.The powerful flavor and aroma of Cilantro makes an excellent seasoning for meats, salsas, and Caribbean dishes. Coriander seed adds a warm spicy flavor to chicken, vegetables, and soups. Cilantro is a popular herb popular around the globe that resembles flat leaf parsley at first glance, but at first sniff, transports you to the Mediterranean, Mexico, Asia, and India. Cilantro gives a fresh boost of flavor, without the addition of sea salt or other seasonings.
Best used in recipes
Cilantro packs a ton of flavor. Its bright and refreshing taste has the ability to liven up a dish with just a sprinkle on top. But this herb can do so much more than garnish dishes. Cilantro is the main ingredient in many sauces served atop grilled meats, it stars in fragrant Thai dishes, and some would argue that it’s essential for a good guacamole. This versatile herb is used in everything from guacamole and salsa, to curries, noodle dishes, and chimichurri sauces of Argentina. it pairs nicely with vegetables, meats, and spicy recipes. It is commonly used in tomato-based salsas, fajitas, and adds life to some of the lesser bold fish like cod and grouper.
Health benefits include:
Not only does this flavorful, bright herb have unlimited culinary applications, but surprisingly to many people cilantro benefits the body and has many known healing properties. It is also a revitalizing herb that aids with digestion and relieves inflammation that may cause gastric upset. Coriander seeds are known to have a positive impact on blood sugar, reducing stress in the liver and pancreas which promote better production of insulin as well as improved digestion.
Rids the Body of Heavy Metals, like arsenic, cadmium, aluminum, lead, and mercury can become resident in our tissues leading to heart disease, hormonal imbalances, neurological conditions, infertility, and so much more. Cilantro, also known scientifically as “Coriandrum sativum”, has been shown to bind these toxic metals together, loosening them from tissue, and facilitating their elimination from the body.
Cilantro is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and the caloric value is nearly nonexistent. It is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamins A, C, E, K, calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium. Just a ¼ cup of fresh cilantro provides 270 IU of Vitamin A, and 16% of the daily value recommended of vitamin K.
The vitamin K and calcium content of cilantro help to build strong bones, teeth, and hair. Cilantro is considered the “anti-diabetic” plant in some parts of Europe, and research shows that it helps to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, supports healthy cardiovascular function, and much more.
Cilantro benefits your sleep cycle naturally and calms nerves, and can improve sleep quality through its natural sedative effects. A recent study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology found that high levels of cilantro extract produce the same levels of anti anxiety effects as the popular prescription drug, Valium (diazepam).
Grows best in:
Grow your own cilantro and coriander by sowing seeds directly outdoors during spring and summer. Once flower buds develop, leaves will become scarce. Harvest cilantro leaves as available and allow to re-sow from coriander seeds that drop from harvested plants to continue growing throughout the season. Harvest coriander by clipping dried brown seed stalks and placing them upside-down in a brown paper bag. After a few days, seed pods will split and release coriander seeds.
Soil: Plant cilantro in well-drained, loamy soil that has a pH between 6.5 and 7.0. Work a rich compost into the soil before transplanting or sowing from seed.
Sun: Cilantro thrives in full to part sun; however, cilantro will bolt when the temperatures climb. It is very sensitive to heat and, as a survival mechanism, the plant quickly sends up flowers and goes to seed.
Water: Water regularly to keep the soil moist.
Spacing: Plant seeds in succession, sowing 1 to 2 inches apart in two-week intervals. This ensures a longer, continual harvest. When an older plant bolts, there will be a newer plant to harvest.
Companion planting: Plant cilantro near dill, parsley, and basil. For positive results, I like to plant my cilantro alongside my tomato plants. Their added shade enables me to stretch my harvest in the warmer months.
Varieties: Cilantro can prove frustrating, since it is so quick to go to seed in the heat. Look for slow-bolting varieties, such as Costa Rica, Leisure, and Long Standing.
Dill is native to southwest Asia and India, though it's now grown world-wide. Any sunny windowsill or patch of garden will do, really. The stems are fairly tough, but the lacy leaves are tender and flavorful. You can buy dill dried, but the flavor isn't quite as deep. Dill has been around for centuries for both food and medicinal purposes. In the food industry, it’s primarily used for making those dill pickles that are commonly placed on grilled burgers and sandwiches. Dill seed, dill weed oil and fresh dill are the typical forms of dill and are often used by the food industry for added flavor in baked goods, snacks, condiments and meat products, and as ingredient in liqueurs. The fragrance industry has even taken advantage of dill by using it to produce soaps, perfumes, detergents, creams and lotions.
Best used in recipes:
Dill is fantastic with fish of all kinds. You can use it in a marinade or sprinkle it on toward the end of cooking. We sometimes like kneading dill into a bit of butter to melt over the fish and spread on our dinner rolls. Dill is also a nice pairing with many root vegetables, like potatoes, carrots, and parsnips. Fresh dill is also a lovely addition mixed in with salad greens. It's the perfect bright flavor next to sweet butter lettuce and spicy arugula. You can also mix dill into cream cheese, sour cream, or yogurt to make a quick condiment or dip for chips.However you choose to use it, add dill toward the end of cooking. It's strong flavor is surprisingly delicate under heat and can diminish quickly. Some common recipes include creamed spinach, baked baby carrots, tomato salad, potato salad, baked salmon, tuna fish salad or sandwiches.
Health benefits include:
Dill weed provide a surprising amount of health benefits, both mentally and physically. Dill weed is a good source of calcium, manganese and iron, and as an antioxidant food, its flavonoids provide anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties that give it a whole host of incredible health benefits. A study conducted by the Department of Biostatistics and Demography at Khon Kaen University in Thailand looked at dill’s effects among students with primary dysmenorrhoea, also known as painful periods or menstrual cramps, that were in their late teens or early 20s. While the effects were not strong, some evidence of effectiveness for several supplements was clear in that they reduced some of the discomfort and pain associated with cramps, including dill.
Dill weed may actually work as a natural remedy for depression. A study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics aimed to investigate the antidepressant and analgesic properties of the aqueous extract of dill from the South of Morocco. Extract of the dill plant was administered to subjects and showed a significant antidepressant and analgesic effect when compared with the drug references (sertraline and tramadol).
Dill weed also provides amazing cholesterol-lowering benefits.
Grows best in:
Dill is easy to grow either indoors or in a garden, making it a great addition to any herb or vegetable garden. All you need is a sunny location and slightly acidic and well-drained soil. The best way how to grow dill is directly from seeds rather than from a transplant. Planting dill seed is easy. Dill planting is simply done by scattering the seeds in the desired location after the last frost, then lightly cover the seeds with soil. Water the area thoroughly. Care of Dill Weed Plants Growing dill plants and caring for dill plants is also very easy. Dill weed plants grow best in full sun. Other than this, dill will grow happily in both poor and rich soil or in damp or dry conditions.
Choose a location that gets 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day. If you’re not sure about the conditions in your garden, spend a sunny day watching the way the shadows fall throughout the day, then pick the sunniest spot for your dill.Dill is self-sowing, which means it produces seeds which will grow new plants, so choose a spot where you’ll want to grow dill for the next several years.If you don’t have a spot that gets 6-8 hours of sun each day, plant it in the sunniest spot you have available. Dill can tolerate some shade but it won’t be as bushy. Allow the soil to almost dry out between waterings. Dill doesn’t like too much water; however, you shouldn’t let the soil get completely dry or the plant could die. Check the soil each day by rubbing a little between your fingers, and add water when it starts to feel dry.If you over-water the dill plant, it may turn yellow.
MINT and PEPPERMINT
There are two main kinds of mint that we use for culinary purposes: spearmint and peppermint. Both have squared-off stems with bright green, spear-shaped leaves. Peppermint has a sharper flavor and more intense aroma, while spearmint tends to be more delicate and sweet. They grow everywhere and in a wide variety of climates, which is why the herb is found in so many world cuisines.Peppermint also contains the chemical menthol. This chemical affects the nerve endings in our mouths and makes our brains think the mouth is cooler than it really is. This is why minty beverages are great to sip while eating spicy foods.Peppermint is an excellent deterrent for many kinds of pests including rodents, ants, and spiders. Plant this pungent herb around your home and garden to keep harmful critters at bay.
Best used in recipes:
Spearmint and peppermint can be used interchangeably, in sweet and savory recipes, alike. It pairs well in everything from savory dishes with roasted meats and rich sauces, to lighter dishes, like simple vegetable side dishes, beverages like mojitos and tea, and desserts.Mint also has a number classic pairings. It is fantastic as a rub or in a sauce for lamb, and it pairs perfectly with fresh p