“An herb is a weed you can eat!” ~ Bartell Desmond
I know, I know – it is only January. For most people the weather is still too cold to think about gardening, but for those of us in southern climates it is the perfect time to do some planting!
Why herbs? Herbs are a great plant for beginning gardeners. Specifically:
- They are easy to grow
- They are versatile. You can grow them outside in a garden bed/box or inside on your windowsill.
- You can never have too much. Unlike some vegetables (cough eggplants cough) you won’t ever get sick of fresh herbs. They are great for cooking a variety of dishes. You also can dry them and store them in jars during the gardening off-season.
- It is cost effective. Buying fresh herbs in the grocery stores is so expensive. Growing them yourself is much cheaper (bonus it is also more sustainable for the environment).
- They taste better! The fresher the food the better they taste and it doesn’t get much fresher than picking the herbs straight from your garden before cooking!
Did I convince you to start your herb garden? If so – here are 5 herbs you should start with.
Herb 1: Parsley
Good parsley is so underrated. There are two types Italian (my favorite) and curly. Used as a garnish in many dishes, fresh parsley is actually quite delicious. Most importantly parsley is super easy to grow making it perfect for a first herb garden. It is hardy, does well outside during the warmer months and can be transplanted to a pot to take indoors during the colder months of the year. As soon as parsley is well established it can be cut any time for use!
Herb 2: Basil
Basil was a MUST on this list because I use it the most regularly out of any of the herbs in my garden. From fresh pestos to antipasto to various other dishes basil is a versatile and delicious herb. Basil is an annual which means you will need to replant about once a year. Just like parsley, you can grow basil either outdoors (as long as the temp is over 50 degrees) or indoors. You harvest basil by pinching the leaves off right above the next leaf bud. This encourages growth of the plant. Remember don’t store fresh basil in the fridge – store it in a glass of water at room temperature until you are ready to use it.
Herb 3: Cilantro
I love the taste of fresh cilantro. Cilantro is a 2 for 1 cool season plant. It is considered a 2 for 1 plant because it has two uses. The cilantro leaves are used for many dishes particularly in Mexican food like guacamole. The seeds are commonly known as coriander and are used in many Mediterranean, Indian and Middle Eastern recipes. The most important thing to note about cilantro is that it has a very short lifespan (so don’t get upset if it dies on you! This is totally normal.) You can ensure a steady supply of cilantro by planting seeds every 2-3 weeks.
Herb 4: Mint
Did you know there are many different flavors of mint? Peppermint, spearmint, orange mint, chocolate mint so many great mints to chose from! Mint are perennials meaning they typically live more than 1 year. They are super hardy but can become pervasive in the garden so make sure you give them plenty of space to spread out! Leaves of the mint plant can be harvested and like other herbs – the more you harvest the more it grows!
Herb 5: Sage
Sage is a strikingly beautiful plant. Yes – I did say strikingly beautiful. The leaves are well rounded and textured. The color is great (a lovely green-gray) and it smells good too! I am sure the other herbs have a crush on the sage plant. When you think of sage you usually think turkey or other poultry but it can also be used in teas, vegetables and sausages. It is also super easy to grow and can be harvested throughout the season as needed.
Happy planting and eating
~ The Gardening Dietitian